Eldra looked around at the children seated in front of her. All seemed eager for another of her stories. She smiled pleasantly. “What kind of story would you children like to hear today?”
A young girl, no more than eight raised her hand high. “I want to hear something about heroes fighting a great evil.”
Another child joined in. “Yes, Eldra, something exciting!”
“And with romance, or a broken heart.”
All the children began to chatter at that point, and Eldra held her hands up. “Now, that is a very tall order, and such grand requests from such small children.” Eldra stroked her wrinkled chin. “But I may know of such a story.”
“Are there heroes?” the first girl asked again.
“Heroes. That is a strange and troublesome word, is it not? Let us say that there are those who rose to the call when it came upon them. And they did so at great cost to them. But would you call them heroes? Maybe not at first, for our story starts out rather ordinary.” Eldra smiled broadly. “Of course, that’s how the best stories always start…”
“Our tale begins in the town of Terrian’s Stand, a town nestled in the foothills of the great and mighty Gurrteck Mountains. This town held a small shop. A shop run by a LowMan named Tarik. Tarik’s shop sold all manner of strange and odd things. From dried bat wings to the fangs of a Drolling Snake from the islands of the Clanholds of Men.
“Tarik was in the midst of looking at an albino pelt, captured by the Woodsman’s son. Now he goes by the name of Kerrick. Kerrick was a stout young man, and quickly learning the skills of his trade. He had a reputation for being an excellent shot with his bow, and he was catching the eye of many of the town’s matchmakers. But Kerrick was not interested in such things, or at least that is what he told people. He simply lived with his father, trapping and exploring the woods.
“While both of these folk were in Tarik’s shop, the Right, Honorable Sheriff Rufus entered in with one of his town guards. The Sheriff was in a bit of worry, for he’d received reports of strange, circular areas of dead plants. Even some dead animals. He asked Tarik, since he was knowledgable of such strange things if he, and even Kerrick would examine these, for one of these dead circles was in the woods Kerrick called home.
“They agreed, and Derrick, the guard who came with the Sheriff, Tarik and Kerrick set off to find the first circle. In the woods north of town it was. It measured nearly thirty feet in a circle, and everything within it was dead or dying. Most peculiar was that the circle seemed to cut straight through the trunk of a tree. Part of the tree was dying, while the rest seemed yet still very much alive. The trio explored, and curious Tarik stepped within the circle. Nothing happened to him, but he did discover that someone had dug something into the ground. Digging on his own, he found it. Nine inches deep into the earth was a smooth, gray stone. Tarik plucked it out and stuffed it in his backpack.
“They moved to the second report, that from the good farmer Belding Tendriss. Farmer Tendriss was worried; worried why this was happening to him and his farm. He feared a curse from the gods, but felt he’d done nothing to anger them so. Again, they located the circle, and the stone hidden within, and Tarik plucked it free.
“Another circle, and another farm. This time the farm of goodman James Johnfen. Like Farmer Tendriss before him, he felt he’d done nothing wrong, but Farmer Johnfen suggested that perhaps Farmer Tendriss might be to blame. He may have brought a curse down upon the town, after getting into a feud with a trader who knew a powerful wizard. The group later learned that Farmer Johnfen also might be to blame. He did not attend the yearly Harvest Thanks ceremony where all the farmers pay tribute to a successful year. Perhaps he brought a curse.
“Finally, the crew paid a visit to the makeshift camp of Torris Raftman, a boatman who often worked the river. He showed the heroes where he haid laid for the night, and where his dog, Grady, had died. Again, all seemed the same. Tarik plucked this stone as well.
“Now with so many stones, Tarik suggested securing them in a chest. Having a sturdy one fetched form his shop, the group placed all the stones in the chest and hid it along a line wall one the edge of the Johnfen farm. From there, they returned to town.
“After conducting business, the group set to meet once again, but fate had something in store for them. A scream in the dark brought forth a surprise attack by hobgoblins! The savage beasts charged through the streets, grabbing bystanders and throwing torches. The heroes moved to stop the ones they could, and proved successful. Even Tarik, a simple shopkeep proved his skills with a small crossbow true, taking down one last goblin before he escaped with a frightened child. Kerrick Greebolt, the woodsman’s son, also shot true with his bow, fellign many. Torris, the raftman scored solid strikes with his stout staff. Without thought for his own safety, he rushed into a burning shop to rescue those trapped inside.
“Our heroes thought themselves safe, despite the sounds of combat several streets over. They could not have been more wrong.”