That was a quick week. I actually finished A Trolling We Will Go last Thursday. Then started editing it right away. I also started Trolling Down to Old Mah Wee, book 2 in the Trolling Series.
“Humphrey, best come over here son. I be needing to speak to you.” Humphrey looked up from where he was stacking the wood he had been cutting. The man talking to him was not his father, for his father had been dead a very long time. Sheriff Daniel had kept him from an orphanage in the city and had helped him be raised by the families in Gladeton. Now Humphrey was the woodsman of the village. Near enough a town now, and needing a second woodsman if the growth continued. So many families that he could not keep track of all the names. More than three thousand, said Michael who handled the post for Gladeton and all this part of the Kingdom Valley of Torahn.
So many families that Torahn’s ruling body, the Council of Twenty-One, since there was no longer any king these last fifty years, had authorized a second post officer to help Michael. And Michael was a fit man in the prime of his life.
Humphrey said, “Aye Sheriff, how can I help you this day.” Sheriff Daniel always said he had been friends with Humphrey’s father. The Sheriff said that they were of an age, and the Sheriff was now nearing fifty. The gray in his beard and hair, Sheriff Daniel said, he had earned.
“Got word from Torahn city today. The Council says it needs men to go up to the Old Forest and patrol. The Sheriff of Forest’s Edge is a friend and he wrote me also saying things were rather peculiar now.” Forest’s Edge was north and east of Gladeton, and it was the closest town to the Old Forest which fringed the Teantellen Mountains.
Humphrey always liked the ancient elf way of naming them, for humans called them the Tall and Lofty Mountains which was not near as charming. The Old Forest was called Karasbahn in elvish, though Humphrey was sure that only a handful of the families in Gladeton would know that.
“It’s bad is it? How many of us are going to go, then. Who will cut wood for the village when I am gone.” Sheriff Daniel had thought things might be turning worse and knew Humphrey would be one of the militia who would have to leave if need be. He had asked Humphrey as early as Fall to work all day stockpiling wood, or find a bride. Married men were taken to serve after the unmarrieds.
It had been easier to chop wood. Most girls in Gladeton thought Humphrey stocky and slow of thought. The light brown hair that he kept cut close and framed his brown eyes, revealed a strong dimpled chin, cheeks that were rosy when he had just one ale, and were like two little balls when he laughed, which was often enough.
“We’re sending about twenty of you lads for now, but I am sure they will want more before all is said and done. My friend wrote that the Elves and Goblins, in the Old Forest have never given them as much trouble as they begun to have this last year, and Winter just over. If they are hungry up north like we are here, then it’s going to be bad. Worse I fear than the Council understands.”
Humphrey knew that the Sheriff wouldn’t be telling this to the other men going. He was being treated special for Daniel had always cared for him. “I thank you for telling me. Should have taken a bride, eh,” Humphrey smiled as he said it.
“I am not sure when this all over, that would have done you any good. I am not sure I won’t be going to the Old Forest as well, or the Tall and Loftys. I am hoping the Giants don’t stir.”
Humphrey nodded, “It has been the Winter for it, that is sure. When do I go? When do I and the others leave.”
Daniel shook his head and Humphrey knew the man was not pleased, “I saved the telling last for you. I’ve known you long and know you can say your goodbyes quickly to any you choose to. You and the others leave in the morning. I’ll have maps, food and some coin for you. Least we can do if we are sending you all as our representatives. You’ll leave early, a couple hours after sunrise. Peter, Han’s son will come and work the wood here. With all you have done, he need not do much chopping to keep the town supplied You’ll find your croft waiting for you when you return.”
Humphrey nodded and shook the man’s hand. He felt the Sheriff did not want to say ‘if he returned.’
They had discussed what he needed to take. The leather militia harness and the chest piece of chain he had of his father. The sword he practiced with when he worked amongst the militia twice each week in warm weather, and once each week during the cold winter. His best pair of boots, and he pressed tight his second best, for with marching and fighting, boots wore out quick. All his socks as well. Cold feet, and he would be dead long before he reached any patrolling in the Old Forest that the Council of Torahn wanted done.
Sturdy bedrolls and a kit for mess. Needle and thread, his vaguest memory of his mother was her darning clothes for him and his father. Then the last piece of equipment he had would be the axe. Not the ones he chopped the wood with. Or the greater ones he felled trees with. The war axe.
A little longer than Humphrey was tall, and Humphrey was two inches taller than six feet. It had been forged by Majister Burns, the blacksmith. Everyone laughed believing his name was from the flayed flesh he got in his own fires, but Humphrey had watched him work often and never seen ought but the occasional spark fly and hit the man.
He and Majister Burns were standing next to each other on the stoop of The Crowing Rooster, one of the four taverns of Gladeton, each having their jack of beer when a party of dwarves marched by. Twelve, a full dozen. One though was armed with an axe that was no plain weapon. Double headed with the blades curving in more than a half moon on each side.
“Ha, do you think you could wield such a weapon.” Majister Burns was half jesting but for all that Humphrey was stocky and slow of speech, he was very fast when he used an axe to cut wood, or practiced with a blade during militia duty.
“It would have to be longer to be of any use to me of course. Perhaps a haft so high and thick so that when swung it would have power to it. A thin haft will snap.” Humphrey used his hands to show what he meant.
“Boy, you don’t think I know about hafts?” The man made all of the ones he used. “I was making a joke but you think you can swing something like that, then I’ll make you one just to see it.” A half year ago, just when Sheriff Daniel had said things sounded strange near the Old Forest and asked him to cut more wood, Majister Burns gave him the axe.
Two weeks later at militia training none of his friends could stand against him, and even the veteran soldiers of the garrison who gave the instruction had a time of it. Gladeton was a quiet village and they had not twenty men for the garrison. Most having seen their full term of service and with families had looked for a soft posting. By the end of two twelths, none of the soldiers either could stand against Humphrey and his double bladed axe.