The Amassing chronicles of the Herald Cam Woodmonger


Chapter One

Beginnings

I, Cam Woodmonger, come from a simple family and started life following my father’s role as a wood-gather but my intellect was spotted by a herald who took me under his wing after we had performed a great service for him. This was a wealthy noble herald, Nicorant Surroy the King of Arms, of influence. As a reward I was taken into that person’s service and started training as a Herald. I have finished my basic training as a herald and been sent to Scancoleas a Pursuivantto report on any wrong emblazons, pick up any news of note and help with any outstanding cases for the Kings Law. I have found that the city bailiff Sir Moribund doesn’t like having me around; I suspect he might have things to hide. His lackeys are making life difficult for me in various ways but nothing I feel I can take to court as yet. I have only been here a week but have met Sir Leatonay who also seems to have annoyed the bailiff. Maybe he would be a good knight to take up with, young and adventurous. I have also met a talking bear a big creature that seems to be staying at the same inn I am, he also seems to have upset the bailiff. I wonder if the Bailiff just doesn’t like those he doesn’t know or have power over.

My two new companions and I are having breakfast together getting to know each other as we have only just met and know little about each other. It seem that Yogi, the talking Bear, has come from Black Island over the amassing bridge connecting the island and the mainland, were we are now. Apparently he woke up from his sleep a few days back having been visited by the god Swordbrother and transformed from a normal brown bear to a taking one. He has been given armour to wear when needed over his fur and been made a Divine of the Swordbrother. He was told to come here to help people. He also seems to have upset the local bailiff Sir Moribund, he seems to dislike having a bear in his city. His lackeys have taken any opportunity to stir people up against him. Yogi wonders why the Swordbrother sent him here, maybe to help people against these bullies. However that might require some support and he wonders if I might be that person as I also seemed to have upset the locals in some way. Yogi is staying at the inn where I am also staying. By working here for a few days a week the inn gives yogi shelter in their barn, he is supplying them with eels from the river as the local fishermen do not like him trying to fish at sea. Sir Leatonay, my other companion, is here training under the bailiff after being trained and knighted by his Grace Count Lucan of Black County. He also seems to have upset the bailiff along with his young page Trist, he seems a nice person and one who seems to upholding the proper chivalry of a knight and trying to help those below him in need of help and not throwing his weight around. It appears that Moribund’s sons are Squires under Lord Black’s lordship and that Moribund feels that Sir Leatonay is penalizing his sons and helping Sir Leatonay.

Suddenly, Moribund makes an appearance. He’s a squat, round, pugnacious man with a moustache far more impressive than his personality, who wears an exotic red waistcoat that stretches and strains over an enormous pot belly, secured by three brass buttons threatening to pop at any second. As he sits down, there is a twanging sound and the buttons fire from his impressive belly, shooting in random directions, in the attempt to get out of the way of the missiles the breakfast table itself is upset, causing food to be scattered all over the place, making breakfast a thing of recent memory. Moribund watches this chaos with an implacable expression, and restores order with some loud harrumphing, followed by some theatrical coughing, and then bellowing ‘Order!’ at the top of his lungs. When all are listening, he begins. “The city Ordinances is quite clear on the matter of the civic duty of every individual to assist in the safety and wellbeing of the town. It also makes clear that I have the facility to select those individuals for specific duties when the safety and wellbeing of the city is in jeopardy. It is, and I am, and I choose you.” He wears a smug expression as he surveys us. “Several fishing vessels have failed to return from short trips out to sea. Two days ago, when the most recent missing vessel was seen, one of the good people of the town, watching from the cliffs, said that she saw the boat coming around the headland of Silkspindle Island, where it promptly vanished, dragged under the water without so much as a warning. The boat did not sink. It was tugged under the water. There is no wreckage, there are no bodies. Now, as you may know, Silkspindle Island belonged to Coddefut the magician, sadly no longer with us, and the island has been derelict for more than twenty years. Perhaps it remains so. But it strikes me that the island is the best place to start in investigating what is behind the disappearance of our good fishermen. You are to go there, take a look around, see what you can discover, and report back. Very simple and very civically minded. Your family and friends will be proud of you. You will be able to boast of your adventure far and wide.”

We appear to have no choice in the matter even though we are happy to help, after all it might make our lives easier with the bailiff. We do ask the inevitable question of how we are to reach Silkspindle Island, Moribund smiles the kind of smile usually associated with certain malicious ogres known to eat small children: “Why, by boat, of course…  Even if we didn’t want to help the five Burley Brothers his enforcers, Brutal, Butcher, Bastard, Bonehead and Bludger all nearly as big as Yogi, standing nearby make it clear we have no choice. We manage to argue with him to get a little time to grab armour or weapons, even though Moribund was still spitting out that we need to go and that there is no danger, all of which seems a little confused. Sir Leatonay says that he is sure that his grandmother mentioned him while she was teaching him about magic; he believes that Coddefut came from Lyoness as magicians are under more control there.

The boat taking them over to Silkspindle is a barnacle covered pinnace owned and rowed by Welchet and his oldest son, Choate. A morose pair, they groan and grumble as we embark, moan and grumble as they row, and do the same as they reach the island. And with good reason, it turns out that several members of Welchet’s family are among the disappeared, and he doesn’t want to add to the tally. It only takes about 20 minutes to row out to the island, but Welchet wastes none of that time with silence. With a sour expression and a whining voice, he moans about how they’ll no doubt join the missing, dragged to the ocean’s depths, be drowned by malevolent currents, or devoured by monstrous sea-eels. When Brutal one of the Burley Big Brothers threatens to break his skull, Welchet ceases only long enough for Chaote to take up the misery and, by the time, Bonehead, another Burley Big Brother has made a similar threat, we are at the island.


We are made to disembark and have only the clothes we’ve arrived with, plus the weapons we grabbed before we left. Bonehead Burley throws a heavy burlap sack onto the shingle beach. ‘Here you might need this’ It contains the following:
Two coils of reasonable rope, 30 feet in length
10 iron spikes, plus a wooden mallet
A round mirror, cracked and chipped
A crowbar, good for forcing doors
A ball of good twine, 70 feet in length
10 candles, each providing light for about an hour
Flint, steel and tinder
A pouch of dried, bitter-smelling herbs, that Yogi tells us that when burned, create a thick acrid
smoke capable of filling a small space for some time
A single hand trowel, of the kind used by avid gardeners
A whistle made of a what looks suspiciously like a finger bone
A bright red kerchief, decorated with yellow spots, it can be used as a bandage, small picnic blanket, or a fetching bandana.
“We will go back now,” the Burley Big Brothers shout at us. “We will be on the beach over there,” and he points to the distant mainland. “We will come back just before sunset, so
you have all day. If absolutely necessary, we will return if someone stands on that rock over there and waves the red kerchief in a vigorous motion like this…” and he demonstrates a frantic waving pattern reminiscent of someone suffering a form of seizure. There is something in the Burley Big Brother’s tone that makes us very aware that this is only to be done in the direst circumstances. So it looks like we have most of the daylight hours or so to see what if anything is happening around here by exploring Silkspindle Island and tower. The pinnace is turned around by the brothers, and Welchet and Choate row back towards the mainland, in a much jauntier mood and with greater speed, than on the outward trip, there is no sign of any reason why boats should disappear.

The rocky island is a lozenge-shaped outcrop of low rocks that is 120 feet wide and 180 feet long. The ground is a mixture of shale, stone, boulders, and packed earth that rises quite steeply up to the tower itself, which is situated at the southern end of the island. We have been deposited on the North West shingle beach, and reaching the tower’s entrance is a simple matter of the following the packed earth footpath, which is helpfully lined with artfully arrange sea shells, guiding the way. There are a few small bushes poking out through the rocks; harsh, stubby and thorny, and at first glance, not in the slightest bit remarkable. However Yogi notices that the bushes seem to have some sort of creeper growing on them, not unusual on trees but a bit odd for a bush. Also these tendrils are greyish green and stand out a bit on the bark of the bushes.

We draw weapons and follow the shell lined trail up to the tower; the path terminates at a door facing south. The door looks sturdy and is made of planks, of Elm according to my knowledge of wood, they are weathered and there is only a knocker on the door, no handle or window. The brass knocker resembles a gurning gargoyle with its head hinged at the neck so it can be raised and banged against a brass plate behind. I use the knocker, rat a tat-tat. The knocker changes to a fleshy face merging seamlessly into the door. It blinks at me licks its bulbous lips with a black spilt tongue and turns its eyes on me with thinly disguised distain. “Have you an appointment?” it asks in a rich voice. I start to say who we are but don’t get far before it lets out a loud raspberry with a lot of spittle and turns back into a knocker again. I wipe my face with my arm and bash the knocker twice with my fail. This has no effect on it so I knock again. Again the face appears and asks if I have an appointment.  This time I say yes and start to name us, it announces that “His Magnificence Coddefut will be available tomorrow after breakfast,” and prepares to resume its inert form. My quick mind realises that this knocker isn’t that clever and say it is already tomorrow.  The knocker licks its lips and a door handle appears and the face turns back to a knocker.  It seems we are able to enter, I wonder what else this tower has in store for us.

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