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Patrick

Dungeons & Flagons

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Day 1

 

It starts in a tavern (don't these crazy escapades always?). A noisy, smoky and stinking watering hole, precariously perched on the lakeside with centuries of moss and lichen clinging to the walls. Its a decrepit place, worthy of nothing more than destruction, its only saving grace being the serving of ale. And it is this that brings the dozens of patrons, poor and poorer alike to come and drown their sorrows in copious amounts of the cheapest and baddest stuff available. Stuff in this case being any of the quarter dozen drinks on offer. Poor beer, atrocious beer or something which even in its wildest dreams does not envisage being called whisky but is sold as such.

 

As I said, it starts in a tavern and a bad one at that. You might ask what starts? Well...how the hell should I know? This is still only the entry for day one that I write in this moldy journal. Note to future readers: if anyone finds this journal, mold does indeed indicate age, the age of the book, not that of the writing. The original text in this tome has disappeared, allowing it to be reused.

 

Why do I write you might ask. Well, it's not every day that the king's men come barging in to a tavern, suddenly conscripting every able (and then some) man for an expedition. An expedition to where? How should I know? One thing's for sure, the tavern's supplies are coming with us and having almost everyone drunk all the time makes for slow going. Since I can hold a pen while belting out marching tunes, I was given the role of official chronicler of this sorry group. Two dozen soldiers and forty peasants. A formidable force. For drinking that is...

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Day 2

 

The plot thickens. That is if plot refers to the 'whisky' served by our dear innkeep. Almost half of the stuff has already gone stale and the rest was quickly gulped down, to "save what's left" as some had said. By my best guess this time tomorrow we'll be stopped a mile down the road and the ditch will be filled with what was left...

 

We made six miles today. A great distance considering how drunk everyone still was. I sense a pattern here. Stocks of drinks dwindled by a quarter of the first day. By the time we leave civilization, we won't have any alcohol left. The commander of the soldiers, a lowly sergeant is not as stupid as I had thought. He wants us sharp by the time we reach danger.

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Day 3

 

Bloody rain. Soaks everything worse than...worse than...bah! Worse than anything. My mind doesn't seem to want me making any comparisons today. We made a good two miles before getting bogged down by the mud. Most of the peasants were still sleeping the last night off and the others did not want to pull without them. Disgusted, the captain had ordered us to camp. Of course that order woke everyone and soon after the drinking was well underway. At this rate my initial prediction will be too long.

 

Innkeep's daughter sidled up to me last night. Seems that she wants to get away from her da'! And I was the lucky winner. Did not get much sleep last night and don't want to write much today. She still wants to get away from him after all...

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Day 4

 

Stinking smoke greeted us this morning, rising in several columns off the East. The village of Heather. Sacked by bandits some said, burnt to the ground by a noble's army others added. The soldiers said nothing, but two of them have been gone since the morning, along with the two horses the soldiers had with them. No one else seems to have noticed and I'm keeping it to myself.

 

Oh wait, one of them just got back...

 

...well, we still don't know who had sacked Heather. But one thing I overheard the soldier reporting in private to his captain was that all of the villagers were put to the sword. Apparently it had been a gruesome sight. Again something I should keep to myself, don't want the others to panic.

 

The innkeep leaves tomorrow morning with the empty barrels. He wants to take his daughter with him. We'll see about that...

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Day 5

 

A blackened eye and a bruised ego. That is what the innkeep now has. He left first thing in the morning. But it's not me who gave them to him, but his own daughter! She's a feisty little thing, though my bruised thights have already experienced that.

 

The sergeant felt almost like a slave-driver today, driving us very hard. I think he fears that someone might be following us. The guard has been doubled tonight, but he hasn't told us anything about it. Lack of alcohol has started showing tonight and some of the peasants are getting disgruntled. They are starting to realise what they might have gotten into now that their thoughts are clearing. I guess they'll be a showdown tomorrow.

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Day 6

 

Riders to the south were shadowing us the best part of the day and today the sergeant showed us that he could be a much better slave driver than yesterday. My exploits during the night had tired me out and I had trouble following the marching soldiers, but others fared even worse. Old Pete fell behind around midday and still hasn't gotten to our camp three hours after we have stopped. I fear the worst for him.

 

Sergeant called me over after nightfall and asked to see what I had written so far. Had no choice but to show him. I'll have to watch what I write about him in the future.

 

Tanya, for what is how the innkeep's daughter is called, actually seems to genuinely like me. Had she just wanted to get away from her father and slip away, she would have had more than one chance today. We went past two villages today and while one of them seemed to be completely deserted, the other was teeming with life. But she chose to stay. I won't complain...

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Day 7

 

Old Pete never reappeared. He's been written off by the sergeant. Poor sod. He had been a good man, over forty when I first met him. He should never have come along with us on this mad dash to...where the hell is it that we're going anyway? I think it is time to ask the sergeant...

 

Four hours have passed since I have written the above lines. Just as I was about to ask the sergeant, a hail of arrows out of nowhere fell among our sorry procession. The soldiers responded immediately, but after an hour they all returned, having found no trace of the attackers. We travelled on for several hours in the night, stopping only when the oxen were ready to fall from exhaustion. I only hope that we shall live to see the morning. Five peasants and a soldier had died in the ambush back at our previous camp. A heavy toll.

 

I have to go comfort Tanya. She's not taking this mortal danger too well.

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Day 8

 

Today was a mad dash. Every man for himself. I...helped Tanya along. I've grown fond of her. In the morning the sergeant sent us along the road, saying that if we reached Quorl we'd find shelter there. The whole day riders flitted across the horizon, but none came near us. We passed the burnt remains of farmsteads and scorched fields.

 

Quorl was no better. Once a thriving town, it has been burned down to the ground. No shelter, no food, no water, nothing useful can be found among the ruins. We made a small camp at the base of one of the broken guard towers and hoped to see the morrow.

 

Sergeant reached us well after nightfall, coming with just two of his men. They look to have gone through battle and don't seem in a good shape. They're keeping to themselves though.

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Day 9

 

We stayed huddled in a rice field the whole day, briskly sent there by the sergeant and his men before the sun rose. I think Tanya has caught a cold. She kept shivering the whole day. She did not want to talk about it. Haven't seen the sergeant since dawn, he said he'd be watching over us though. There is a glow to the south as though the whole horizon were on fire.

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