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Angel of Dawns
The Front Tier to the Scarlet River: Crag Mouth #3
© 2023 James LaFond
NOV/13/23
As the wayfarers journey east along the beaten clay earth track, the grazing grass seems to be fairer the further east one goes, begging the question why flocks and herds are kept west of the shrine. The ground is high light clay and not good for planting. The many small hills and low end morains, pushed into place by giants ages ago, are thickly wooded with alder, maple, oak and pitch pine.
The Scarlet Mountains to the north march further south the more eastward one goes, with some being seen in the distance in the direction taken by the strictly westerly track. That, where the track seems to reach the foot of the most southern peak, is, the traveler has been told, where Willow Hamlet stands as the very last outpost of the Front Tier of Bund.
The shrine of the Angel of Dawns is formed of black and red stone taken from nearby end morains. The winged roof eves of the open loft are pleasing to the eye and apparently impractical. Most astonishing is that the 20 foot round tower has a westward reaching hand of long delicate feminine proportions laid into it, seemingly reaching out to the traveler from the western walls. For the majority rock of the construction was glassine obsidian to black and gray slate and the minority rocks were scarlet sand stone stained with ochre that were inset so as to form a westward reaching hand of Dawn.
Though no fire has been seen trailing smoke from this location, or any, during the day’s march, a fire is lit in a red brick kiln before the shrine. The beaten track wraps around the kiln, with the chapel dominating the space with its long evening shadow. A well is visible to the north by ten paces, the road around the kiln having obviously often served to herd livestock.
Three figures stand about the kiln, in an attitude of parley, rather than menace. A fourth figure is seen standing under the angel wing eves of the open loft, 18 feet above the ground.
These four men will judge the strength of the party, no matter their number. A strong party will be treated as guests, have their mounts cared for, will have mutton and rabbit prepared to eat and will be given honest information about Willow Hamlet in hopes of reward.
These men pose as agents of the Sheriff, though nothing has been said of them back in Barrier Town. They operate as porters, guards, horse thieves, murderers and even outright brigands depending on the strength of the party. The only weak party that will not be molested will be a holy man charged with tending the shrine, who they will serve and not molest, though they might beg somewhat for donatives.
These men are:
Gallant, a tall, angular-faced swordsman, armed with a rapier and a main guanche, wearing a boiled leather cuirass and gauntlets over loose pants and wide cuffed shirt, all shrouded by a worn black cloak. His boots were once rich but are very worn. He is literate, speaks an upper class dialect unfamiliar to Bund and is a formidable swordsman, but not fool hardy. Any man who seems his to be near his equal he will negotiate with, having little confidence in his fellows.
Crumb is a thin, slightly short, bald man with one eye patched over and possessed of a bushy white beard. He is armed with a hatchet and a knife and is usually engaged in firewood collection, a service these men provide for strong parties. He is dressed in a threadbare wool shirt and canvas trousers and goes barefoot. [0]
Tick is a small red-headed youth armed with a knife and three throwing daggers in his broad leather belt. He wears a dirty buckskin tunic, a buckskin head band to confine his unruly locks and goes barefoot. Tick keeps watch in the loft and is quite fearful of combat and fittingly accurate with his daggers.
Brick is a block-headed man with a black mop of hair, armed with a club and wearing a fleece vest and kilt. He is obviously stupid, strong, and to Gallant, loyal.
Large black and brown bears do journey down out of the Scarlet Mountains and may pose a danger to unwary lone travelers. There is a mountain lion who has developed a taste for dogs and hunts by night.
Gallant and his men, if they had made some kind of arrangement with the party, will not accompany them, claiming falsely to be charged by the Sheriff with guarding the shrine.
The shrine contains a working fountain, constructed above a pressurized spring, which does give off steam. The water of the well is very different. Female pilgrims will be asked to sleep sitting in the fleece lined brick chair next to the fountain and tell of their dreams. Men sitting in the chair are thought to be cursed, and youths turned into a hermaphrodite. Gallant does maintain this much of a command of the angelic lore.
The altar is worked in rose pedals from a block of red limestone raised on an obsidian block. A small cresset for burnt offerings occupies the center of the modest altar. Protruding from the east wall over the altar is a relief statue of a youthful winged woman extending her hand towards the west.
Blessings and curses may be dispensed based on the actions of the traveler about the fountain, altar and chair. Silver coins have been deposited to the number of 9 in the steaming fountain waters [which are said to be healing and may be drunk from without causing affront] and have not been molested by Gallant and his men, who are quite poor. Though they are not men of much faith, the four of them have become increasingly loyal to the Dawn Angel and believe in her powers. It pains them that there is no attendant chaplain, and any lone man of learned type they will seek to convince to stay, and offer to “serve” him, to include preventing him from deserting his post.
A small hearth of brick has seen much use and is kept clean against the west wall. It is vented through an internal chimney that pierced the wood plank roof above and gives off smoke from a hooded tin pipe. This is the stealthy camp site of gallant and his men, who clean it for visitors and offer the space tot hose they judge strong or faithful.
Half a day east from the Chapel goat flocks will be encountered, tended by 6 dogs, two youths, Dan and Clem, and a man, Essaw by name. These flocks will be well spread out and not encountered together. Due to the lighting of the kiln at dusk the previous night [1] the goatherds will be expecting travelers. Each is armed with a sling, a stave, a small knife and accompanied by two wolfish collies with grisly black coats. They graze separate by day and camp together under or within the walls of Willow Hamlet by night.
The Scarlet River is a ghastly red gash, a 30 foot deep canyon with a stream at its base. The rocks are of red sand stone. The river can be forded on foot and by horse at many points. This requires a careful crossing or a serious fall might occur. It serves as a treacherous natural moat for the small village on its eastern bank.
Notes
-0. Based on the author.
-1. Gallant and his men typically refrain from lighting a fire outside that issues smoke unless there are visitors, and prefer to camp inside using the small hearth.
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