Copyright Laurie Mahaffy 1999

The Journal of Talae Coldfoot of the Tribe

As Translated by and Annotated by:

Torvald Bonecruncher 

2nd of Rebirth:

Tony arrived at the inn this morning with Orlanda. It seems that she arranged babysitting for her kids so that she could help us shop. At first I thought that she would be a hindrance to us. After all what could a noble lady, especially one so wrapped up in 'Tonyismsí, possibly know about equipping a party of adventurers? But I liked Tony so I held my tongue.

Our first stop was a pawnshop that Orlanda said that she frequented. I guess that with time on her hands she spent it shopping. I had no interest in the goods in this shop but Leythan wanted to sell a lance and Liulni needed some things.

It was in this shop that I came to appreciate Orlanda. Her time spent shopping had paid off for her, and us. Leythan sold his lance for more than I would have paid for it, Liulni got her things for a fraction of the usual price and the shopkeeper was sweating and stammering by the time we left.

The leather workers at our next stop seemed to be similarly affected, though not to the same degree. I ordered a special frame pack that was to be modified to allow me to easily carry my spare tridents. It was also to have a quick release strap so that in a fight I could easily drop it. I saved enough on the price of the pack to order a helm as well. Both would be ready in five days. We should be back from dealing with the bandits by then.

Liulni ordered a collar for Savanah. Leythan ordered a collar as well. He doesnít have a beast so I donít know why he needs a collar. Oh well, I think that Leythan is a bit weird anyway.

I never saw anything that Orlanda did to cause this loss of wits while she bargained but her victims all seemed to take one look at her heaving bosoms and just loose all their good sense. Iím sure it was more than her 'attributesí that caused the response, but I never did figure out what.

Our next destination was a general store. As we approached the street to the shop we noticed a barricade manned by several soldiers of the 17th Legion. They stopped us and said that we would have to go around to the shop by another route. I was in a good mood on this shopping trip so I turned away and moved toward the next street. No problem.

As we got out of earshot of the soldiers I overheard Tony saying,"Those were not all troops of the 17th Legion. I donít think that that is an official roadblock."

"Well," said Leythan, "lets go try to cut through a building and see whatís up."

I think Leythan is always spoiling for a fight, or an orgy, but I had no reason not to go with the party. As he led the way towards the back alley Tony sent Orlanda to the nearest Legion headquarters to bring some real guards. I suppose he wanted her out of the way in case there was a fight. It wouldnít hurt to have back-up either. Tony is clever when it comes to strategy.

The four of us now entered the alley. It was narrow and smelly, as all alleys in the Stone-Dwellerís cities are. About half way down the block Leythan found the back door of a restaurant. He went through the kitchen, startling the cooks and scullions. I followed closely behind. Liulni and Tony followed me.

As we got near the front of the room Leythan began to move more cautiously. I took my cues from him. He had a better view of the street so if he were being cautious I would be too. Just as the patrons started to talk loudly among themselves and the waiters were asking our business Leythan dove under the table right beside the door. Thinking that he had been seen I dove under too. And scrambled out more quickly than I thought I could.

Under that table was a mass of fur and teeth like I had never seen before. I nearly panicked. What was happening? Where had Leythan gone? Then my training kicked in and in an instant I knew what had happened to Leythan. He had Changed. Great! Nice of him to tell me he was a Were. Well that explained the collar!

Leythan had stalked to the door in the seconds that I had lost to fear. I stalked after him as quietly as I could. The noise in the room had calmed so I guess that Tony was handling the diners.

Ahead of me, just to the right of the open door, Leythan stood looking over the street. I slipped out to join him but my shoulder brushed the door and the little bell rang out into the quiet street.

'Hey, what are you doing?" shouted the soldier at the roadblock." I told you to stay in there. Oh, itís you again. Reg, weíve got trouble," he called to his companion.

I just stood there, stunned; I had alerted them to our presence.

"Take care of them fast Drew, itís almost time," called Reg from the barricade.

As Drew advanced he drew his sword. I readied two harpoons and started to try to talk my way out of this situation.

"What is the purpose of this roadblock?" I asked.

"None of your business!" snarled Drew. He walked toward me like he meant to skewer me.

I saw out of the corner of my eye that Leythan was coming up beside me. I guess that Reg saw that too because now he was trotting down the street to join Drew. I gave up talking; itís not what Iím good at anyway and waited for Drew to come in range.

My first toss missed Drew entirely but my second caught him in the shoulder and sent him to the ground. Beside me I could hear Leythan engaging Reg. Drew did not seem to be moving so I advanced on the reinforcement coming from across the street. I heard growling and screaming from behind me so I knew what Leythan was doing but I had no idea what had happened to Tony and Liulni. I hoped they were all right but I was busy at the moment. I drew two more harpoons and went for the reinforcement. As he charged with his sword I fired my two missiles at him. First one missed again. Second one hit his hip. I drew a net and trident and prepared to melee him but he looked down the street and started to run.

I was not going to let him get away! I wanted to know what was going on so I chased him down. The harpoon in his hip slowed him significantly so catching him was no problem.

"Surrender!" I shouted in his face.

I was not too surprised that the man threw down his weapons. I had accepted surrenders before. I was surprised to see Drew, who was evidently not as wounded as I thought, running towards me. He was throwing down his weapons and shouting for me to help him.

I know that I am a fearsome warrior but this was a new experience for me. I was just regaining my composure when I saw the cause of his behavior. Leythan was just lifting his bloody muzzle out of the chest of poor Reg. There was still a chunk of meat in his teeth. At that moment I was willing to defend poor Drew from the werewolf.

I stood over the soldier, blocking his escape and waited for Drew to reach us. Drew was very careful not to appear threatening to me but he was anxious to get far away from Leythan. When he got within trident range he stopped and cast a fearful look over his shoulder.

I was just about to sling my net and reach for some rope when I heard an unfamiliar voice bellow "Everyone stay where you are!"

Orlanda had returned with reinforcements. These men really were from the 17th Legion. As the legionaries approached I caught some furtive movement out of the corner of my eye. I turned my head to look but couldnít see what had caused me to turn. Further down the road I did see Liulni and Tony coming towards my group herding another man between them. Following them were a handsome young man and an elf with silver hair leading their horses. This was turning into quite a party!

After we were questioned by the sergeant and cautioned to remain in town for at least 30 hours the soldiers left with the three prisoners. Liulni, Tony, and I walked Orlanda home and continued on to the Last Stand with the handsome man and the elf. Leythan was nowhere to be found. I guess it was him that I glimpsed slinking away. It was probably for the best since the sergeant was really interested in the eaten man. I guess I would be too!

I found out the details of what Tony and Liulni were up to while I was taking prisoners and Leythan was snacking. Over some good ale in the common room I was told the identities of our two guests. They turned out to be Kinsa, governor Trilliaís nephew and Melu his servant. The 'road blockí was a trap for them and the false soldiers were assassins. Tony and Liulni foiled the attempt at the other end of the street and saved the lives of the noble and his elf slave.

Over dinner with the pair we learned about Kinsaís most recent 'questí. I got the feeling that he skips from one 'questí to the next like he changes his socks. Anyway, his most recent way of idling his time away was in a search for 'Gambo Visií. Kinsa told us that this 3,000-year-old hotel appears and disappears like magic. Legend has it that the Bheyla used to go there to trade. Those that returned said they traded for silver arrows but many never came back.

During his research into the 'Gambo Visií Kinsa learned that the hotel was thought to be trapped in a 'moving magical poolí. The last time that it disappeared was 12 years ago. Now it seems to have reappeared about a day and a halfís ride south east of Thorn. I was interested in going to check out the area and Kinsa gave us his blessing to go find the hotel, if it exists, saying that he would find another quest. Tony was also very interested in the 'Gambo Visií. He asked even more questions than I did. I think that I could convince Tony to come with me to see if we could find it.

Liulni was quiet during our talk with Kinsa. Once I heard her speak to Melu in a strange language and Melu replied in the same language. I donít know what the exchange was about but I think Liulni is up to something.

Leythan is still missing.

"Well, itís time that I go and check in with my uncle," said Kinsa. "Heís probably heard about the attempt on my life. Iíll put in a good word with him for you guys. Maybe he will do you a favor in the future.

"Iíll walk you out. I want to check on Ice before bed," I reply.

As Kinsa and I leave I notice that Melu lingers to talk to Liulni. What are they up to?

Ice was glad to see me. She is not used to being left alone all day. As I was getting some extra hay for her bedding I felt a hand on my shoulder. I spun quickly and reached for my weapons.

"Wait, itís me, Leythan!" came the hasty explanation from the dark.

"Leythan! Youíre lucky that Iím tired or you would have been skewered."

"Iím too quick for you to skewer that easily. Is Liulni all right? I couldnít stick around after the fight. I thought there would be too many questions."

Sheathing my weapons I told him that he was right. "Questions? You bet there were questions! How could you not tell me what you were? I covered for you the best I could, but the Legions are not happy. Youíd better stay out of sight!"

"Iíll lay low until we leave town but I need to see Liulni. Iíll sneak up to her room now and we can all meet there to plan our next move."

The rest of the night was spent examining some weird keys that Leythan and Liulni had.

3rd of Rebirth:

Today we just hung out at the Last Stand. We were still not cleared by the 17th Legion to leave...

It feels like forever that I have been stuck in this tent! Torae says that I canít leave until the council decides who is responsible. I am not to blame! Itís not fair!

Drea started the whole thing. He was the one! Teasing me. Calling me a freak because I am bigger than he is. Heís just a scrawny little whiner. I donít even remember hitting him that hard.

It is my second day of house arrest. Drea and I were confined to our tents until the mess could be sorted out. Because Drea and I live at the same tent and Drea is the natural son of the Strongbows I was confined to the council tent.

It all started innocently enough. The men were all out on a hunting trip. The women and children were out gathering grain. I was left to watch over the corral and keep an eye on the camp. Drea was sulking in the tent because he was left out of the hunt and gathering grain was beneath him (he thought). The sun was shining brightly and a cool breeze kept the flying pests from bothering me as I sat near the horses braiding some grasses for a necklace for Chloe.

Thwack! A clod of dirt hit the back of my neck and sent sand trickling down my back.

"Freak! You big Lizzard!" shouted Drea. "You should be fed less. Maybe you would shrink to normal size."

This was not the first time Drea has tormented me because of my size. He and Byar often amused themselves at my expense. This was not the first time, even, that Drea had initiated a teasing session, but it was, however, the first time he did it without Byarís bulk to back him up. It was also the first opportunity I had to do something about it without anyone else interfering. I decided to show Drea just how dumb it was to taunt someone who was bigger than him.

The second clod of dirt hit my shoulder as I turned to face my adopted brother. I lunged at him with all the fury stored up from a thousand insults. He tried to backpedal and lost his footing, falling hard on his back.

"Get up you belly crawler!" I screamed in his face. "You boot licking son of a lizzard! Iíll show you just what someone who isnít a scrawny excuse for a man can do!"

Drea was scrabbling to his feet as the last of my curses rang in his ears. His right fist missed my head by the thickness of a harpoon. His left scored on my stomach but I was so filled with hurt and rage that I didnít even notice it. I swung at him. I hit him once, twice; I couldnít stop myself. My blows raining down on him from above due to my 'freakishí height. Then he was on the ground again. I walked away. I reached for control. Finally, I thought, heíll leave me alone.

I had just reached the opening of the coral when Drea hit me from behind with the force of an unbroken stallion. We hit the ground together and rolled apart. I looked at him across the space of a harpoon throw. His nose was bleeding and he had a split lip. We were both breathing hard from our scuffle.

"Leave it alone Drea. If you come at me again youíll be sorry!"

"Iíll kill you, you freak! Iíll get rid of you once and for all!"

As he panted out the last word Drea charged me. My back was to the coral gate. Together we crashed into the rails and went through them. We both lay among the horseís hooves stunned for a moment and then I went berserk. My vision went red and my mind fled to some small spot way back in my head.

The next thing I knew Drea was unconscious at my feet and all of the horses had wandered off. I did what I could for Drea. I carried him to a shaded spot and cleaned the worst of the blood off his face. He was just waking up as the women returned.

It took all night and most of the next day to round up the herd again. I wasnít allowed to help. I was under house arrest. So was Drea. The council will decide my punishment by tonight...

4th of Rebirth:

We finally set out for the village that we were supposed to save from bandits. Tony, Liulni and I left the inn after waking the cooks to buy travel rations. We had forgotten to buy food for our trip until now. Assassination attempts tend to distract me from shopping.

Leythan joined us outside the South Gate. The minute we were out of sight of the village he Changed. I was not nearly as shocked as the first time but Ice needed me to calm her a little and she stayed as far away from the were as she could. Savanah seemed to take the 'new Leythaní in stride. I suspect she had seen him this way before.

We made good time to the village. It had not rained recently so the 'roadsí that we followed, though they were not much more than paths, were easy to walk. I suspect that rain would make them muddy. Mud would make for slow travel.

Other than a sunburned nose I weathered the trip fine. Leythan must have been uncomfortable under all that hair. I must ask him sometime how he manages.

"Leythan," says Liulni, as we near the village, "you should Change to human form now. We wouldnít want to scare the villagers."

"Yeah," I say, "donít eat anyone."

Liulni laughs at my joke but I wasnít really joking. I saw what Leythan did to Reg in the ally in Thorn. Leythan doesnít seem to think it is funny either, and he immediately Changes. Ice and I both relax a little.

After we exchange greetings with a villager who was sent to meet us, we were escorted into the village proper. The elders filled us in on what had been happening to them. Bandits had been raiding the village almost weekly, and sometimes more frequently. Anyone who resisted was killed, so the rogues were more or less taking what they wanted.

The most recent raid was the worst. Three days ago, in broad daylight, the brigands abducted a 14 year-old girl. On hearing this I immediately made preparations to go and track the scum down! Tony, however, was adamant about not going out so late in the day.

"By the time we track them down, if we track them down, it will be getting dark," Tony said. "We need to think about what we are doing if we are going to help these people."

"You can stay or go," I said. "Iím going!" I canít abide the neglect or abuse of children. Leaving this poor girl to her fate with the bandits was more than I could stand for. Even if she had been with them for three days already I HAD to try to save her. I was supported in my decision from an unexpected source.

"Iím going, too." Liulni declared. I was surprised by the determination in her voice. If she wanted to come I was glad of the company. It took only a few minutes to question the villagers as to where the girl was last seen. By early afternoon we had set out to track some bandits. Tony and Leythan joined us. I guess they did not want to be left out. Leythan was probably due for his fix of fighting or sex, and since the sex aspect was the more difficult to come by he settled for fighting. Tony, who knows?

Our starting area was barely in sight to the north of the village, just on the edge of some woods. I scanned the ground for tracks and found only traces. Using the traces as best I could I set out northwest. Because I was tracking I took point and the rest of the party followed in a loose group.

After an hour I became unsure of the trail I was following. I didnít tell the others but the detour that we had had to make around a very thick grove of trees had thrown me off. I kept on in the general direction that we had been heading in hopes of reacquiring the trail. After another hour Tony said, "Itís been two hours since we left the village, I think we should turn back now. The bandits may be raiding the village while we waste our time out here. Besides I want to be fresh in case they come tonight."

I was sure that I had lost the trail now so I reluctantly agreed with him. "Tonyís right. We canít do anything for that poor girl now. Tomorrow I will try again."

"Just a little longer," said Liulni. "I know she must be near here."

I didnít ask how she knew. She seemed to know things that others didnít but I really thought we were off the track. I used Tonyís arguments to persuade her to turn back so that I wouldn't have to admit that I had lost the trail. Reluctantly we turned back.

I spent the entire journey back to the village tormenting myself with visions of what might be happening to that poor girl. Rape. Torture. Humiliation. They all danced through my head, one after the other. I felt useless.

Trapped in my own morbid thoughts I didnít notice that we were nearing the village until Tony pointed out a plume of dust approaching the village from the northeast.

"Hey what is kicking up that cloud over there?" he asked.

Turning I peered in the direction that he was pointing. "I think that it might be horses," I replied after some consideration. Great, not only did I fail to save the girl but Tony was right about the village being attacked in our absence. I broke into a run to try to cut off the attack. Leythan also started to sprint and soon left me in the dust. At least he is good at something besides fighting, fornicating and eating. Liulni was a blur as she Leaped by me.

After a brief chase we managed to capture one of the riderless horses. In the stirrup was a boot with a bloody foot still inside! The rest of the evening we spent theorizing about the riderless horses and the foot. I slept fitfully that night; I kept imagining terrible things happening to the poor girl. I was finally able to get some sleep after I vowed to myself that tonight would be the last night she would have to spend in captivity.

Authorís notes

I welcome any feedback you might care to offer. Please send them to the series editor at rjcampbell@home.com and carbon the Senior Editor at nhmc1@eng.cam.ac.uk quoting the title of the story. Alternatively just post your comments on the Fiction Discussion Board.