A Debt of Copper [Part One]

It was on the sixth day that Eryn uncurled from the depths of her iron place and found the village astir once more. Margaret had brought her milk and bread this morning, her worn plump cheer openly replaced with a troubled brow and anxious eyes. She told her of how a strange man had arrived late last night at the Brandied Pig, like a winter shadow out of the autumn rains. He had ensconced himself in a corner seat, ignoring the open stares of the villagers and the chilly silence that fell.

The man was neither tall nor wide of build, but outsiders were far from ordinary in these parts and times, so his presence had drawn every eye in the room. The barkeep, Iven, had hailed him without so much as a gesture in reply. He did not ask for drink or bed, but remained hunched over the empty table, his face and attire shrouded by a thick grey traveller’s cloak that swept down to the floor.

Curiosity had quickly turned to wariness, then to a dark fear, and the common room had emptied a short time thereafter. All had left, save him, and there in the inn did he stay the entire night and morning. It wasn’t right or normal, said Margaret as she wrung her creased hands, for a man not to speak his intent when he entered an unfamiliar town, much less not speak at all. Not normal at all.

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The World Undersea

The World Undersea (Image)

Artwork by Tommy Chandra

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From the memoirs of the late Jarod Grimes, of Edgewall:

There is a patch of shore, nestled in the distant reaches of the enigmatic South, where the fearless and faithless go to drown. It is no small blessing that the journey there from lands civilized is long and arduous and fraught with peril, for I fear that should the mountains that keep its malevolence at bay crumble into dust, the allure of its accursed madness may prove too much for even the most sensible of good folk.

At first glance, the beach looks innocuous enough, even pretty. The craggy slopes that line it are shingled and steep, but its cerulean waters sparkle brightly in the sunlight, and its pale sands are soft underfoot. Indeed, the casual visitor – were there any – would have little reason to suspect anything amiss as they walked across its length, but for the odd scrap of abandoned clothing and the inexplicable silence of nature.

But on moonless nights, furtive silhouettes break from the surrounding groves and stride forth into the lapping waves. Where they exit the treeline they sometimes leave a small heap of worldly effects – but often by this time they have none left, having spent all their worth in the last villages on a final spree of drink and debauchery. The figures clutch chiselled fragments of sharpened rock close to their chests as they wade intently through the dark water out to sea. Once they can walk no further they stop, and as they grip their makeshift knives tight even the wind stops breathing.

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