Category Archives: Rivervale

The Wall

“The Wall”
Second Edition

This book tells the story of how the resourceful halflings of Rivervale constructed a mighty barrier.

Long ago, longer than could be counted by the turning of the seasons, our fellow kinsmen set out to build a barrier against the predators that lurked in the shadows.

This wall that they built would be built two more times, for even more dire reasons than before.

Sit, young one, as I tell you this tale of what people can do when they put their mind to it.

Our kinsman from time gone built this town out of love and cooperation.

Though they would all live in harmony, there were dark shadows that lurked just beyond sight. Sometimes our ancestors would lose a family member to the darkness that took the form of snarling, hungry dogs.

After much talk, our ancestors agreed that something must be done to stop this.

Gathering all of their courage, they would leave at dawn to travel beyond the tunnel leading out past the safety of their village.

By the time the sun would set, they would all return carrying bundles of rocks they had gathered.

Once they had a pile of rocks as tall as a mountain, they began to construct what would only known as the “Wall.”

After much hard work, the project was done. Spanning as high as six feet into the air, the Wall would protect our ancestors from the vicious dogs that anxiously awaited an easy meal.

The Wall did much to save our ancestors from an early fate and lasted many years. Their need would become far greater as the seasons would pass.

As giant peoples began to tread outside the tunnel, our forefathers believed themselves safe, having built the Wall.

They would not foresee that the goblins would come, however. And when they did, the Wall did little to stop them from climbing into our peaceful town.

Learning from the past, our ancestors surmised that if the first Wall was enough to stop the evil dogs, then a bigger wall should be able to stop the goblins.

They knew they could no longer build with stones, for they had gathered all they could find to construct the first Wall.

Then one day an ingenious halfling came up with another idea.

Sending forth large groups of brave and courageous men and women into the Misty Thicket, Rivervale would wait anxiously for their return in the evening.

Soon enough, much wood was harvested from the trees and brambles of the thicket. In the end, the wood would be piled high over original Wall, doubling the height of the first version.

This would keep the goblins out for many years to come.

All was well within Rivervale for many, many seasons. Time would pass and the earth itself would grow angry.

When the rumblings subsided, our ancestors would find that they had been given a protection greater than the Wall ever could – they were separated from the rest of the world.

No longer would they need to worry about enemies coming to harm their way of life.

But little did they know that the goblins would take advantage of this situation.

For you see, just as out forefathers would prosper, so would the goblins. Not waiting for the worst to happen, our ancestors began building another Wall, this time higher than anything imagined.

This time, our ancestors began building a wall that would tower over the other Walls built in the past.

Choosing the largest of oak trees, they began to chop them down and line them up, one by one.

To this day, gaze about and you can see the fruits of their labor. The Wall spans a length never before seen, and is taller than even the greatest of giants.

But pay attention young one. If you look at where the Wall was lined, you may wish to ask yourself, “Was the Wall meant to keep something out, or maybe to keep something in?”

The Storm Shepherds – The Downpour

This book is one of the Storm Shepherd series titled “The Downpour”. It is the story of how three people had come together to fight the darkness encroaching upon an enchanted land.
The three heroes, having come together at last, proceeded to detail all of the events that led them to meet that day. The halfling druid learned much about the faith of the Storm Father from Danalithenis, who called him by his old name, Karana. Throughout their discussions, something came over Gremius. As he listened to the stories of faiths gone by, he realized that what was missing from his life. Belief.

When Danalithenis was done telling his tales, Gremius stood up and drew his sword. They looked at him and saw a single teardrop fall from his eyes, falling into a stone beneath his feet. He threw his sword down and repented for everything he had done in his life, asking Karana for forgiveness. What he was especially sorry for was those worshipers he tortured and killed. At the moment he finished confessing, his sword changed into a shepherd’s crook… but one made of glowing steel, and with a pointed blade extending from the bottom of the staff.

When Danalithenis heard everything Gremius confessed, he realized that he had befriended an evil man. Even now, after all these hundreds of years, the corruption of civilization still followed him. In anger, he threw down his bow on the same stone and proclaimed that he would rather die than let the shadow of corruption taint the world any longer. At that moment, his bow changed into a small glass sphere.

Gremius recognized that sphere as the one from his dream that brought him here. As he stood up from his crouched prayers, Danalithenis could see that his blackened Freeport Militia armor was gleaming silver, like the sheen from a newly fallen rain. Tammin, the old druid, said that the time has come to pass. Now is when they would fight the darkness. She explained her full vision to the pair. When she was done, they knew they were all tied together stronger than any friends could possibly be.

Thus, the Storm Shepherds, as they called themselves, worked to push back the blight that was tainting the lands. Danalithenis used his skills as a tracker to find all of the creatures that had been afflicted, allowing Tammin to cure them – or in the case of those who were too far gone – for Gremius to put them out of their misery. As a team, they were able to prevent the ever encroaching darkness from spreading across the land

For the next several years, they would win victories against the darkness that would begin to taint the land. They soon enough realized they would not be able to do it alone, so they recruited followers. They found a small village of shipwrecked refugees living along the coast and talked with them. Many of these people, elves just like Danalithenis, joined them in their battle

The elves would tell Danalithenis of the sad fate of Faydwer and how they came to live in this enchanted isle. This would have normally crushed Danalithenis, but he now had a new cause – to fight the blight. Holding his newly crafted bow and the clear crystal sphere, he vowed that if he could not save the Greater Faydark, then he would save this enchanted forest.

In addition to the elves, the Storm Shepherds gathered a group of followers from the village of Rivervale. With everyone working so well together, it wasn’t long before the Storm Shepherds attracted the attention of those responsible for the blight. Soon enough, creatures of darkness would begin to pursue the three companions, seeking to ensure the Shepherds would not destroy all of their hard work. Many battles were fought against these fiends, and most of them were won.

As battle after battle passed, the years began carrying on. Soon enough, Tammin would succumb to one enemy she could not fight – Time. One night as she lay in her bed, too weak to stand anymore, she asked to see both Danalithenis and Gremius. She told them of one final vision the forest, screaming in agony, had given her. She patted them on the hands, told them they knew what had to be done, and closed her eyes.

On one fateful day, the followers of the Storm Shepherds found the bodies of Danalithenis and Gremius in a small clearing in the forest. Clutched in the dead elf’s hand was a black sphere that swirled with a frightening darkness. The followers would later take up the name of their leaders and keep fighting the darkness as the Storm Shepherds. To this day, they continue to protect both their enchanted lands and that mysterious black sphere.

The Storm Shepherds – Tammin Whipperwillow

This book is one of the Storm Shepherd series titled “Tammin Whipperwillow”. It is the story of a young woman who has been given a divine gift and the responsibility that comes with those gifts.
Tammin Whipperwillow knew from a very early age that she was different. Whenever she would help her mother collect berries cooking, she would always say hello to the squirrels and they would say hello right back. Her mother would always laugh whenever Tammin would tell what the squirrels were saying, but Tammin didn’t understand what was funny.

It didn’t stop with just the squirrels. She would hear the birds talking about where to find the best grubs or which of the apples were ripe. Her mother always called her a “good luck” charm because Tammin always knew where to find the best fruit to gather. Not until Tammin was twelve years old did she realize that no one else could hear what the animals were saying.

One day, as Tammin was playing outside her family’s home in Rivervale, a dog came up to her and had an urgent look on his face. Tammin asked the dog what was wrong, and the dog told her that Lubby, Mayor Fatbottom’s son, had fallen into the well. Tammin quickly told her mother that Lubby was in trouble, and the whole town ran to help him.

When they asked her how she knew it happened, she told them the dog told her. Everyone laughed, except for old Dripple Smitherish. Later that day, Dripple stopped by their house. Dripple announced that Tammin had been called by the Storm Father. From that day on, Tammin would learn all of the teachings of the Storm Father, in addition to her numbers and letters.

As she grew older, she learned that she not only had the ability to speak with the animals, but could also sense the patterns of the weather. During the construction of the Third Wall, she would be asked if it was going to be a clear day to do the work, or if hopefully it would rain.

Not everyone believed she had the powers she claimed to have. Many people who knew the stories of the Storm Father claimed that he was a made-up god. They claimed praying to him would be as useful as praying to have Rivervale Island become part of Antonica again. She would always dismiss these claims, for she had been told by the forest why she was given these powers.

One day as the wind whipped up, it began to speak to her. She realized the wind was actually the voice of the forest. It told her that the Storm Father was with her, but not in the way that she thought he was. The forest went on to tell her that Tammin was one of the three people that could save her.

When Tammin asked what she needed to do to save the forest, the clear sky broke with rain. Wind gusts swirled the rain around in such a way that it formed a series of patterns that Tammin vowed not to forget. The rain first showed an old man holding a shepherd’s crook, then a crystal sphere that was broken in half. Darkness swarmed from the broken sphere, spreading throughout the forest. Soon the rain of darkness was so thick, she couldn’t see the forest.

When she asked whom the other ones that could help, she was shown a man with a sword and one with a bow. The one with the sword laid his weapon down on the rock in front of her and it became a shepherd’s crook. The one with the bow laid down his weapon and it became a perfect crystal sphere. She asked where they were, and where she stood, the trees began to slowly change with the seasons, building up in speed, until she saw many seasons pass before her very eye. Then all returned to normal.

She called out to the forest and asked it what she needed to do when she met the other three. The forest remained silent. She called out again, and the forest still remained silent. She knew that the answer would come one day. For now, she would wait. Wait for as long as she needed to.

The Case of the Lost Lute

The Case of the Ayonic Lute
I have begun to develop a fascination with a magical lute called the Ayonic Lute. While passing through the Thundering Steppes I happened upon a curious bard by the name of Maestra Orlita. She was a ruling member of a miniscule quintet of bards that call themselves the Chaos Orchestra. Having piqued my interest in eccentric quintets, I decided to seek out the four remaining bards of this orchestra. What I found were two lyricists in Qeynos Harbor and two within East Freeport. Offering little save ancient songs, the lyricists went on to ignore me and force their out of tune melody upon the citizens of the great empires of man. If I were to find out anything more about the Chaos Orchestra, it would be in city records.

These words have yet to reveal themselves to you.

These words have yet to reveal themselves to you.

These words have yet to reveal themselves to you.

I found the “belly of a giggling fish.” To be more precise, I found the theater of the Laughing Trout, a tavern in Rivervale. I found a peculiar xylophone made from bones, the hagralaphone. This curious musical device emanated with arcane power. I discovered that the hagralaphone was made by woodworkers from Bogbottom Mills. Tracking down the halfling shop was an easy enough task, but it was overrun with goblins. I did find the descendant and current owner of Bogbottom Mills, Camfred. He told me that his ancestors created the hagralaphone out of the bones of an evil troll witch named Hagralazoo. They did this by order of the legendary bard, Vhalen.

I journeyed to Antonica to find the Bell Tower of Vhalen. It is there that Vhalen fell to a great horde of undead. It is in the ancient tower that I spoke to the vision of Vhalen, a projection of the bard that now is bound to Ethernere. He said that Hagralazoo, the troll witch and arch nemesis of Rivervale, had taken the cursed Ayonic Axe from the Chaos Orchestra as they fled Katta Grove. She tricked them into destroying themselves in a final concert. She then used the axe and its bardic powers to begin a series of secret concerts in which she would collect the valuables from the deceased audience and the unwitting bard whom she tricked into wielding the melodic axe.

The vision of Vhalen said, Hagralazoo lost the axe to an unwitting accomplice, Kelkarn. She had hoped the bard could assist her in completing an arcane composition that she had stolen from the mysterious sage, the Drafling. The composition could remove the curse from the axe, allowing the witch to use it. However, the composition was incomplete. Kelkarn was a well known bard and the troll witch came to him on a misty road during his many travels. In the guise of an old crone, Hagralazoo persuaded the bard to display his talents. She then gave him the Drafling composition and asked him to complete it. If he did, the Ayonic Axe could be his- a lie!

These words have yet to reveal themselves to you.

Hagralazoo never made it back in time to recover the Ayonic Axe thanks to the Drafling. When she did, she found the axe was removed. It vanished via the black market auctions of Freeport. Vhalen was able to find the Ayonic Axe and hide it. As luck would have it, the Drafling was an asssociate of his! Vhalen requested the remains of Hagralazoo be used to create the Hagralaphone. The unique xylophone could summon the troll witch back so that she could reveal the composition that Kelkarn completed. Many years living in the land between life and death may persuade the troll witch to reveal the location to Vhalen or another bard such as myself.

Remembering Rivervale

Many brave halflings fell defending Rivervale and the Misty Thicket during the Age of War. This is the story of the defense of the Misty Thicket.
The sight of the orcs reminded Gemma of the talk in Rivervale the previous week, that goblins and orcs had teamed up in the Northlands as the “Horde of the Inferno.” Watching the tide of invaders pouring into the Misty Thicket through the breached wall, Gemma realized that the Northlands weren’t the only place where such coordination had been happening. She turned resolutely and headed to Rivervale. Someone had to warn them!

Arrows whistled past her but Gemma ran swifter than she ever had in her entire life, ducking into the trees to dodge anything aimed her way. The sound of the battle, while fainter, still rang in her ears. How had they kept the orcs a secret for so long? When she reached the outskirts of Rivervale, Gemma paused to catch her breath, her eyes darting from one familiar, beloved landmark to another, in a sorrowful farewell.

Running up and down the streets, Gemma cried out the news of the breach in the wall. The Leatherfoot Brigade units that were still in Rivervale ran past her toward the Misty Thicket. Gemma reached the doorstep of her own home and paused. She’d left it in such disarray this morning; could she bear to have some filthy orc pawing through her treasures? With a quick shake, she said angrily, “They’ll have to come through Gemma Pathfinder first.”

There was no time to dawdle. Emma burst into the house, yelling for her mother to get the younger children and head to Freeport. “Gemma! What’s the matter?” her mother asked, but it was clear from the frightened look on her face that she already knew. They hugged quickly. Gemma kissed the tops of the youngsters’ heads. She jerked open the trunk in which they kept their family’s prized possessions and pulled out an ivy-etched leather jerkin. She would wear it into battle.

“I will meet you in Freeport. Gemma, be careful!” her mother said, joining the throngs of families heading toward the Kithicor Forest. “And Bristlebane hope there are no orcs in there yet,” Gemma said under her breath. She took one last look around the disordered room where she’d lived all her life. Chairs were overturned, breakfast on the table spilled and uneaten. “Good bye,” she said softly, shutting the door and for the first time, locking it behind her.

It seemed that all of Rivervale was running someplace. Gemma joined a group of soldiers heading back toward the Misty Thicket, although from the sounds of it, they might as well stand still — the battle was coming to Rivervale. Thick black smoke rose into the air; the invaders had set fire to the Misty Thicket. Once again the desire to run — she should go with the families and protect them! — came into Gemma’s mind. She stopped running.

The sound of heartbroken crying caught her ear over the din. Gemma followed the sound to the doorway of the Rivervale schoolhouse. She found the school mistress sitting on the doorstep, shaking from the force of her tears. “Get up,” Gemma said somewhat crossly. “Get up, Winda…you’ve got to get the children and get out of here.” Winda shook her head, “They’ve all gone; they’re safe. But I’m so scared, Gemma!”

Gemma pulled Winda to her feet and took her hands. “It’ll be fine, Winda. You just head over to Freeport now with the rest of the families. They’ll need a school teacher, you know.” Chatting as cheerfully as possible, Gemma got the school teacher walking away from town. “Maybe you can get the older ones into a different room now,” Gemma said, bringing up a subject dear to Winda’s heart. Winda hated having the older children disrupting the younger ones at their lessons.

“That would be…good,” Winda sniffed. “Oh, Gemma, thank you!” Winda smiled. The battle sounds returned even louder. “I can’t go out there, I just can’t,” Gemma thought, fighting the desperate urge to run. She grabbed Winda’s hand and pulled her along the nearly deserted streets along the road to the Kithicor Forest. “The families aren’t much ahead, Winda, you just got to….” The halflings stopped running; on the road before them stood a half dozen orcs.

“Run, Winda!” Gemma pushed the school teacher back the way they’d just come. She pulled out her short swords again and faced the invaders, her feet planted firmly apart. Winda screamed and took off, shrieking as she made her escape. The orcs hadn’t seen them until then, but now they jogged purposefully up the road. One of them threw a javelin at Gemma, catching her in the shoulder. She fell, thinking, “It’s like falling asleep.”

Memories of Misty Thicket

Many brave halflings fell defending Rivervale and the Misty Thicket from the Runnyeye goblins’ assaults during the Age of War. This is but one of their stories.
The old folks often spoke of the days when they could take a picnic to remote spots in the Misty Thicket, enjoying the fragrance of flowers filling the air, the hum of bixies and bees searching for nectar and dappled sunshine filtering through the trees. These good old days had long since disappeared into a rosy past, for ever since Gemma could remember no one went out on picnics. The Runnyeye goblins and other more nasty things hunted in their woods.

The Runnyeye goblins had always been a problem for the halflings of the Misty Thicket. There had always been dangers scattered through the Thicket (which made Gemma suspect some of the old folks’ tales of picnics there were falsehoods), but a long wall kept the goblins at bay. Lately however, the goblins had gotten bolder and assaulted the wall repeatedly, causing parts of it to almost crumble faster than the halflings could repair it.

Some of Rivervale’s residents talked of fleeing to one of the bigger cities. They were at nearly the halfway point between Freeport and Qeynos, so folks gathered in the taverns to debate the merits of moving to one or the other. Halflings loved a good debate, but they preferred their topics to be more esoteric such as whether it was colder today than it had been the prior day. They did not enjoy the thought of leaving their beloved homeland.

“We can still get in and out through Kithicor,” more than one person would say stubbornly. Still, unsettling news was trickling in from that quarter as well. A large army of ogres had risen in Oggok far to the south. To the northwest, orcs and goblins under the banner of the Hordes of Inferno were attacking barbarian villages and towns. It was harder and harder to be upbeat and cheerful when the news from outside was so dismal.

Gemma Pathfinder belonged to the Leatherfoot Brigade as her family had for generations. The unit to which she belonged was a part-time unit whose most distinguished moment in history occurred when a load of hogs bound for the market escaped their owner and Gemma’s unit was dispatched to round them up. Since that incident, they were nicknamed the Hog Dodgers, which while not very flattering had been good for a round of drinks before times got so dark.

The Hog Dodgers were now called up to full-time patrolling of the Misty Thicket’s southern border. When not actively patrolling, they helped rebuild and reinforce the ancient walls that separated them from the Runnyeye goblins. As the days passed it seemed that more and more of their time was spent repairing the wall. Gemma wondered how much longer they would need to keep up the pretense that a wall of stones, lathe and plaster could keep out invaders bent on their destruction.

Rivervale’s leaders were in a quandary. If they advocated leaving, they were accused of not having faith in their own army. If they said everyone should stay, they were considered to be unaware of what was going on in the world. When election time came, several halflings from different factions got into a fist fight that erupted into bloodshed and violence. In their own town, in Rivervale! The world was definitely not the same place the old folks remembered.

Gemma pondered these unhappy events. She’d never been particularly political but that halfling would turn on halfling in the city streets just went to show….what? That they were all violent beings after all? That they were scared? That they were angry? All of these things? She wheeled a load of rocks to the wall and felt discouraged by the futility. How could a wall keep out the world anyway?

“They’re coming through!” hollered one of the guards at the gate in the wall: “They’re co–!” Gemma dropped the handles of the wheelbarrow and unsheathed her short swords. She paused for a minute in confusion, looking first to the left then swinging quickly to her right. The shouts came from all around her now and she did not know which way to run. As with the elders facing election, her mind went both ways: run away and stay to fight.

“For Rivervale!” she cried, the side of her wanting to cleave the briskets of the goblins winning over the part that wanted to hide until it was over. She ran toward the direction from which the battle sounded the loudest and ground to a halt, staring in horror at the sight before her. Entire sections of the wall had been pushed over to either side of the gate and pouring through the wider opening were legions of goblins and orcs.

Leatherfoot Tales: The Last of the Teir’Dal, Part One

The Houndslayer’s adventures continue as he and his comrades make their way through the dangerous regions of Kithicor and Nektulos.
Debate rages through history as to the origins of the dark elves, or as they call themselves, the Teir’Dal. Considering how different they look, it’s easy to see why folks might think they’re not elves. Looking at them closely, though, one can see the tilt of their eyes and the ears and realize they really are elves. Sometimes folks call them elves and sometimes Teir’Dal.

Battles are fought every day in some form or other through the world. It seemed to Gumpy Nattoo, whom the Kithicor rangers had named “the Houndslayer,” that it would be much simpler if they could get from point A (Rivervale) to point B (First Gate) without anyone else trying to stop them. But no, that would indeed be too simple. Though the units traveled through Kithicor quickly and silently, they still ran into occasional problems.

Gumpy was tasked with relaying messages between the halfling’s Leatherfoot units and the Kithicor ranger units. As they were traveling through the woods quickly and as silently as possible, Gumpy’s messages were often late by the time they reached their destination. “And I’m about ready to pass out,” Gumpy said under his breath. “Any more running around and I will name them Gumpyslayer.”

On one of his fruitless treks, Gumpy unexpectedly encountered a group of gnomes. In the past several months, gnomes from Ak’Anon on Faydwer had been seeking refuge in Rivervale from an advancing force of dark elves. These gnomes, however, were not heading toward Rivervale but rather, away from it. “We’re with the Leatherfeet,” said one of them when Gumpy approached. “We’ve got a mechanamagical device that we’re finishing up for your fight.” “Oh,” said Gumpy blankly, “that’s nice.”

Meeting up with the gnomes wasn’t the first time Gumpy wished he hadn’t slipped out for a snack during the Sarge’s briefing. When the units camped down for the night, he tried to overhear any discussion of the forthcoming battle so that he might know their plan. He felt as though he may as well be on the dark elves’ side as he had no idea what the halflings and Kithicor units were going to do once they reached the First Gate. And what of the gnomes?

The gnomes proved a chatty group and Gumpy found himself tagging along with them more and more frequently as their journey continued through Kithicor. Every so often, an arrow would whistle out of the dark and take out one of the gnomes. For a few minutes thereafter, the remaining gnomes whispered anxiously, but in time they forgot their caution and would chat normally again. Until the next arrow whizzed in, whereupon they began whispering anew.

From their incessant chatter, Gumpy learned that the gnomes, while fleeing the battle, were also doing a favor for the high elves in Felwithe. The high elves were concerned that the dark elves would overtake the city by keeping it besieged. They’d asked the gnomes to head to Neriak to stop any reinforcements from leaving, and in turn the gnomes appealed to the Kithicor rangers and the Leatherfoot’s elite units for help.

“But what exactly are we going to do?” Gumpy asked one of the handful of gnomes left. “Why, it’s easy-peasy!” laughed the gnome, patting his chest confidently. “You see, we gnomes know there’s one way in and out of Neriak and that’s the First Gate, right? So, we’re going to take this mechanamagic device and…” At that unfortunate moment, an arrow struck the gnome and Gumpy learned nothing more about their mission.

“There won’t be any gnomes left at this rate,” Gumpy thought. “I wonder what he had in his pocket?” Slipping his fingers into the dead gnome’s coat, Gumpy located a small jumble of sprockets — or were they cogs? he could never remember — and pulled it out. It looked interesting, but Gumpy wished it had been something like venison jerky instead.

“Here, I’ll take that, son,” the Sarge’s whisper nearly caused Gumpy to leap out of his ivy-etched jerkin. The Sarge added, “Hopefully, we’ll have at least one gnome left by the First Gate or we won’t know how it’s to go together. Come on, then!” All around them, Kithicor rangers emerged from the shadows of the trees, each grabbing a gnome by the scruff of its neck before disappearing again.

Leatherfoot Tales: The Houndslayer, Part Three

The final part in the Leatherfoot Tales: The Houndlayer book tells of the Houndslayer Gumpy Nattoo’s triumphant return to Rivervale with the lead unit of the Kithicor rangers.
To commemorate his receiving the nickname “Houndslayer,” the Kithicor ranger squad leader insisted upon slicing off the dead wolf’s tail and tying it to Gumpy’s belt. Gumpy felt a bit foolish having the tail flopping about as he and the rangers continued to Rivervale, but the rangers seemed to set a high store by his showing it off so he said nothing. He had found over the years that the less he said, the better off he ended up.

As the sun rose over the river which gave Rivervale its name, Gumpy and the Kithicor rangers entered the town. Smoke curled from a few chimneys, but the halflings were given to sleeping late. Gumpy said, “If anyone’s awake, they’ll be at a pub.” Even though Gumpy told them it wasn’t necessary, the rangers darted from one patch of shade to the next, looking both ways before they crossed any road and generally being so stealthy as to draw attention to themselves.

Having gotten the rangers to the inn, Gumpy went to the Sarge’s home to rouse him and tell him about the visitors. The Sarge seemed put out that Gumpy was there so early in the morning, but he threw on his uniform and accompanied Gumpy back to the inn. Wrinkling his nose, the Sarge said, “Gumpy, I don’t know where you got that mangy tail from, but I’d get rid of it; it stinks.”

The ranger’s squad leader and the Sarge held a quiet meeting together, during which time the Sarge furrowed his brow so intently that his eyes were nearly shut. At the conclusion of their discussion, the Sarge clapped Gumpy on the shoulder and told him, “Gumpy, you done us proud. The rangers are impressed with you and they’ve asked me to have your unit work with them on their mission. Good work, son.” Gumpy thought this sounded like more work. Hard work.

The Kithicor rangers and the Leatherfoot’s elite scout unit gathered together in Rivervale’s ranger guild hall, where both the Sarge and the ranger squad leader took turns explaning the mission to the troops. Gumpy slumped dejectedly in his seat; the mission was as bad as he’d expected. The Leatherfeet and some of the Kithicor units would be heading to Neriak’s Foreign Quarter within the hour. “And I haven’t even had breakfast yet,” Gumpy thought sadly.

“Troops,” the Sarge said in his booming voice, “We’ve been hearing for many days now about the war going on over to Faydwer. Them gnomes as have come to Rivervale report a great loss of life. Them dark elves and such are burning and pillaging as they go, and we got to help stop them afore those pesky elves come this-a-way.” At this moment, Gumpy slipped out for a snack; it sounded like the Sarge would be carrying on for a while.

“…and that’s the orders, troops!” The Sarge finished speaking as Gumpy returned, his belly full of bacon, cheese toast and scrambled duck eggs. Chairs scraped the floor all across the hall as the Leatherfoot’s elite troops stood to leave. “What’s the order? What’d I miss?” Gumpy asked the nearest soldier, but there was so much noise in the room he couldn’t get anyone’s attention. “Come, Houndslayer!” cried one of the Kithicor rangers, “You travel with us!” Gumpy sighed, “Great.”

“We travel through the Kithicor Woods, thence to Nektulos,” said the ranger, patting Gumpy’s shoulder. “You will be our emissary, Houndslayer, delivering dispatches between the units as you are well-acquainted with the woods.” Gumpy tried to explain that he wasn’t as familiar with the woods as the rangers credited him, but his new friend laughed merrily and said, “Nay! Nay! Your modesty is all too well known to us, Houndslayer! Now, let us prepare for the coming battle!”

Gumpy had never paid much attention to the gnomes that had been showing up in increasing numbers within the past months, but now they lined the streets of Rivervale alongside the halflings, waving farewell to the departing troops. “We won’t be sneaking up on anyone anytime soon,” grumbled Gumpy, “since everyone within a hundred sprockets of here can hear the racket.”

The Kithicor ranger unit with Gumpy was the last to leave Rivervale. Turning to look over his shoulder at his home town, Gumpy felt a lump in his throat and his eyes stung as though pricked by tiny needles. “Must be getting old,” he thought wiping his eyes with the back of his hand, “That’s the last breakfast I’ll ever have at the Egg Pan. Forgot I’m allergic to duck eggs again!”

Leatherfoot Tales: The Houndslayer, Part Two

his part of the Leatherfoot Tales relates how Gumpy Nattoo received the name “Houndslayer” during the Age of Turmoil.
After meeting up with the Kithicor ranger in the woods, Gumpy felt his luck had changed. For one thing, the ranger shared his rations generously. For another, they were heading back to Rivervale. Since the Sarge had only said the test to become a Leatherfoot Brigade scout involved finding his way home, and never mentioned whether Gumpy might take help where he found it, Gumpy knew he’d get into the scout unit without trouble. What a great day this was turning out to be!

The other Kithicor rangers were much like the lad who had found Gumpy in the woods. They dressed simply and with little adornment other than having ivy etched on every article of clothing, armor and upon the hilts of their weapons. Gumpy found that the ivy theme carried even unto their undergarments, which discovery he made entirely by mistake by stepping off the narrow path and coming across one of the rangers who was, as they said in Rivervale, “contemplating life.”

The rangers were a jolly bunch, if silent, and Gumpy felt completely at home. They treated Gumpy squarely as though he were one of them. When they encountered any enemies, Gumpy was allowed to protect the rear of the unit quite valiantly. It was during one of these times that Gumpy found himself face to face with a large hound that looked as though it hadn’t eaten in days. In fact, it looked pretty enraged.

“Nice hound. There’s a good puppy,” croaked Gumpy, trying the technique which had always worked for him in the past when he delivered mail in the Misty Thicket. The hound was not taken in by his cheerful demeanor and circled around, fangs bared. Gumpy glanced over his shoulder. It sounded like the Kithicor rangers had not finished off the undead attackers; he was on his own.

The hound pounced and Gumpy dodged. He drew his weapon (a nice, ivy-etched gladius that one of the rangers gave him) and circled around again, keeping his face toward his adversary. Between encouraging the hound to “be a good pup” Gumpy found himself dodging more and more frequently. Where were those Kithicor rangers now that he really needed them?

With a snarl, the dog lunged forward and closed his jaws around Gumpy’s left arm. Surprised and in pain, Gumpy whacked the dog on the top of its snout with the pommel of the gladius, which caused it to release its grip. Blood began to seep out of the puncture wounds the dog’s fangs had made in his arm, soaking through his leather sleeves. Gumpy growled fiercely, “No dog bites Gumpy Nattoo and lives to tell about it!”

Crying aloud, Gumpy lunged at the dog, stabbing it with his gladius. If the hound had seemed enraged earlier, its anger was nothing compared to Gumpy’s. Despite its protective cover of thick, matted fur, the hound was staggered by the force of Gumpy’s blows. As it leaned to correct its balance, Gumpy lunged again and stuck the gladius directly into the hound’s neck, slaying it instantly.

Standing over the dead dog, Gumpy was filled with remorse; this could have been some poor child’s pet simply gone astray in the woods. And now it lay lifeless before him on the narrow ranger path. Rangers! He better not have lost them! Turning quickly around, Gumpy found himself face to the ivy-etched breastplate of a Kithicor ranger.

“Well done, Gumpy!” the ranger said in amazement, calling for his comrades. They crowded around Gumpy and the dead dog, patting him on the back and honoring his achievement. “Tweren’t nothing but an angry hound,” muttered Gumpy in embarassment, “Any halfling could’ve done it in.”

“Listen to his modesty; he calls the enraged dread wolf a mere hound!” cried the ranger squad leader. “Brave are the halfling warriors with whom we shall work!” Patting Gumpy on the shoulder, the leader continued, “I name you ‘Houndslayer’ for you have single-handedly killed a beast of great power.” “Houndslayer,” said Gumpy thoughtfully. “I like the sound of that.”

Leatherfoot Tales: The Houndslayer, Part One

This book is a retrospective of Leatherfoot Brigade scout Gumpy Nattoo’s earliest adventures during the Age of Turmoil.
History is written after something happens and tells future folk about the past. That’s what this is about: the past. When you’re walking through any village, look to the elders to remember the stories of how different things are now from when they were young. No matter their age, they’ll remember things that shouldn’t be forgotten. This is the beginning of one such tale.

Way back afore time began, the halflings lived in and around Rivervale, the most beautiful place in the world. Generations lived amongst the forested surrounds and didn’t think much on what lay outside the borders. Some folk ventured out and came back with all sorts of outlandish tales. They were generally scoffed at, but over time, some of the most outlandish tales turned out to be true. Rivervale wasn’t as isolated anymore.

As things became more turbulent, the Leatherfoot Brigade beefed up its ranks. Most young halflings associated with the Leatherfeet in some way or other, mostly because there were good discounts for the soldiers at the local taverns. When Gumpy Nattoo joined up, that was his primary concern: could he sleep in his own bed each night, and how much of a discount did he get at the Weary Foot Rest?

Gumpy’s first assignment was to accompany the old Sarge out to Kithicor Forest, which had been a pretty place in the old days, but was now overrun with some of those outlandish things that folks didn’t talk about after dark. Parts of the Forest still held the mysterious dark that made it a beauty spot; in some places, folks couldn’t see the sky for the trees.

“It’s lunch-time!” exclaimed the Sarge as they paused on the edge of a clearing. “How can you tell?” asked Gumpy. “By the rumble in my belly, son,” said the Sarge, “Let’s sit a spell and I’ll tell you the real reason I brung you out here.” They sat on a couple of burnt tree stumps and snacked on some dried fruit, crusty bread spread with butter and jum-jum, a few apples, a jug of honeywine and a half a dozen types of cheese. It was a light meal, for they were a days’ journey from Rivervale.

“Son, you’ve heard the rumors of all what’s going on in the lands,” the Sarge said. “You’re taller than most halflings, every bit as sneaky as the next fellow, and crafty besides. I need you in the Leatherfoot Brigade’s scout unit.” Gumpy was flattered and said so. The Sarge nodded, “Yep. So I’m going to up and leave now, and you find your way home. That’ll be the test. Good luck.” Before Gumpy could protest, the Sarge disappeared into the trees and what’s more, he took the rest of the food with him.

Gumpy was kerflummoxed, but only for a moment. He had heard rumors of an elite unit of scouts, but no one ever came out and said who they really were. Any talk of them at the taverns always ended with someone singing a boisterous song that made idle chatter impossible. Gumpy stood up, measured the direction of the wind, observed the slant of the shadows and light, then headed off. In the wrong direction.

Hours later, Gumpy stood scratching his head industriously and wondering where in Norrath he had landed. He was pretty sure he was still in Kithicor, but in the name of Bristlebane, what were all those dark elf dragoons doing all over the place? He’d been used to the sight of the undead, but the dragoons were something new. Furrowing his brow, Gumpy retraced his steps, wishing fervently the Sarge had left some of their provisions with him.

He was surprised to find how much easier it was to follow the tracks this time. Though some of them seemed to lead in circles (no doubt to confuse the enemy), there was one clear set that trampled through the underbrush directly to the place where he and the Sarge had had lunch. Pleased with his progress, Gumpy was ready to follow the trail again when a Kithicor ranger melted out of the woods and nearly gave Gumpy a heart attack. “At last!” said the ranger, grasping Gumpy by the shoulder and marching him off into the dark.

“We’ve been waiting for you,” said the ranger. “You are indeed most crafty; I have been tracking you for hours.” Gumpy felt it best to say nothing and simply nodded. “Once we have met up with the other rangers, we will proceed to Rivervale to learn more of our mission,” continued the ranger, adding, “I am impressed with your skills; let us break bread together while we walk.” Those were the most welcome words Gumpy had heard all day. He followed the ranger into the woods.