After the Scouring – Alex’s Journal

Alex Harding is one of the characters in my Thursday game: a brash, cocky and invincibly cheerful thief and con-artist. Nineteen years old, she has never know anything but the blasted world after the scouring. The following is written by her player, Laura Tucker:

Okay, if I’m being really honest about it (and this is just between you and me) I have to admit that it is kind of my fault that we got caught up in this job in the first place. Of course, there are a number of mitigating factors. I don’t think we can blame the existence of bars and taverns on me and I know I’m not responsible for the brewing of sweet, sweet wine. You also can’t really hold me accountable for the blathering of snitches or for the fact that the New Sarum guard don’t really have a sense of humour or an ounce of generosity in their entire bodies. I really should have kept my mouth shut though. I mean, I know the Prince takes a dim view on provisioning expeditions into Salisbury. It stirs up the polymoths, which makes everybody’s life miserable, and, while I know the ends justify the means, not everybody seems to understand that.

So there we were, me and Jasper, in a cold, miserable, damp cell waiting to be tried for indiscretions we hadn’t even committed yet! Jasper’s my partner by the way. He used to be a soldier until he met me and realised there were actually far more interesting things to do in life than guard caravans in the Prince’s name. He complains. A lot. On the plus side though, he’s a good man to have around in a fight and has even managed to wriggle us out of a few sticky situations in the past. Not this one though. We were headed to trial and it didn’t look promising. Of course, I could have got us out of the cell in a second with the chicken bone I stole from the madman in the other cell, but getting out of New Sarum would have been tricky and we’d have ended up on the road with no weapons and no gear, with winter biting at our heels. Even I’m not that good!

Guess the spirits must like us though (well, one of us at least). We were summoned by the Prince’s seneschal, a cocky git who goes by the name of Conrad Flaxton. It turns out there is this brother at the Temple of the Spirits who’d been “chosen” and was off on some sort of pilgrimage around the north before he headed off to some city that doesn’t exist (don’t ask). The Prince, not being one to look a gift horse in the mouth, figured he’d use the pilgrimage as a cover to send secret messages to people he couldn’t be seen to be talking to. That was where we came in. Conrad needed some undercover guards who weren’t obviously the Prince’s men to try and make sure the Brother got to where he needed to go without getting himself stabbed or eaten on the way. Given that I’m not inclined to cut off my nose to spite my face, and the alternative was looking like a sharp drop and a sudden stop, we agreed to the job. Conrad, being an untrusting soul, (can’t imagine why…) also sent along a babysitter – a minor member of the nobility by the name of Brian Jackson, on the understanding that he was ostensibly in charge. Jasper and I figured the important word in that sentence was ostensibly.

So we met up with our travelling companions. Brother Aldwyn seems an alright sort of bloke, except for the fact that he seems to be surrounded by floating heads which he spends far too much time talking to. I’m a bit concerned about these spirits. I don’t think anyone’s explained the concept of “inconspicuous” to them and they seem to have a tendancy to want to make a big entrance everywhere. On the plus side, I did manage to convince Brother Aldwyn to bring apple cake for provisions, so it’s not all bad. Brian’s alright too, for a noble, although it does worry me that he seems to have had a sense of humour bypass. He doesn’t seem intent on lording it though so I suppose we don’t need to hang him upside down from a tree by his heels yet…

First day out was miserable. According to the unwritten laws of starting out on a journey it was, of course, raining. Sprits forbid the weather should be warm and dry! We were heading northeast to Maiden Castle but, given that’s it’s heading into winter and the roads aren’t really the safest place to be for a party as small as ours, we decided we’d head cross-country. Good for the life expectancy, bad for the legs. Every silver lining really does have a cloud I suppose and most of them seemed to be following us that day! At least it was a quiet day and we managed to find a hospitable smallholding, Harrison’s Hold, where they gave us hot food and comfortable beds. The only downside was, given that they were all related, I couldn’t reprovision. Even though they’d never catch me communities like that always blame the outsiders when things go missing.

Second day was worse. Sleeting and windy. I swear, the spirits may like Brother Aldwyn, but the world bleeding hates him! One of the Harrisons had warned us the night before that there may be trouble further north, but we didn’t see anything and therefore figured we wouldn’t take the massive detour east.

Next installment should reveal why perhaps that detour east might have been an idea, and what horrors lurk in the ruins of Blandford Forum…

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