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The Fireside Tales - Chapter Fifty-Six
Chapter Fifty-Six: Turtleback

"Nothing is as it seems."

Compared to Magnimar, Turtleback Ferry was peaceful. Men and women walked up and down the roads of the small town and conversations buzzed quietly. Water could be heard splashing against land as well as the bells of the ferry. It would have been a lovely place to live in. Yet, as the three heroes and Shayliss made their way through the crowds, they could feel some kind of dark and suffocating energy around the town. It was intangible, yet unmistakeable. There was something walking among, or even in, the citizens of Turtleback.

At first, Shayliss thought that it was fear. She rationalized that with the ogres only a few miles outside of town many would be right to be afraid. But that was not it. People were talking and laughing. If the town was covered with fear then they would be rushing to get back into their homes. Silence would blanket the town and its people. However, everything looks normal. As if they did not even know that the ogres were near.

Then she got it. She understood what it was because she felt it herself, even if she did not know what it was at the time: the power of the Sihedron Rune. It was evident when she found her sister's corpse. The remnants of that power covered Valtyra whenever she returned from a quest. Whatever was going on here, it was not just simply orges taking a fort. There was a force behind it all.

"You feel it too." Lotho whispered.

Shayliss looked over at the halfling. He had not rested since the Lord-Mayor visited Sandpoint. Those bags were still under his eyes and seemed to get even worse. Now his eyes were completely red save for the irises and pupils. Yet, he seemed to be upright.

She narrowed her eyes in concern, "Yeah. It was at the mill."

He nodded, "Some of the citizens have the mark on them."

"They do?"

"Look around."

She did and found that he was right. None of them were obvious, and some were even well hidden. Yet, the black ink's shape was unmistakable. It appeared on ankles, wrists, forearms and the backs of necks. As if it was a mark of a cult.

"Why would people willingly put that thing on their bodies?"

"Innocent." He said, "Maybe it is a calling card. Maybe it is a mark of a group in the town. There is no telling. But they are unknowingly being used."

"How?"

"It has to be Xanesha's sister. She mentioned in her letter that she was using a method 'more refined.' Maybe tattooing them like this is part of her method."

Shayliss tilted her head, "Method of what?"

"Extracting the greed." Lotho simply said.

Shayliss nodded as if she understood. She had the feeling that she was going to get nothing else out of him, "Are we just heading for the Fort then?"

"Unless there is a detour." He said pointedly. Shayliss got his point. He was not going to go on a manhunt for Valtyra. No matter what.

She was going to reply when a sound made her turn her head. Behind her, a goblin was suddenly on Bubnug's horse and whispering something in his ear. The Firelord listened intently and when the report was done the goblin suddenly vanished into the crowd. Shayliss did not even get to see the goblin dismount. One moment, it was on the horse, the next it was moving through the crowd.

Wow. Bubnug's training was actually working.

"Fighting at fort." He said, "As well as southeast of it. Both groups fighting ogres."

Lotho gave Shayliss a meaningful glance, "Alright. We ride for the southeast group first. Lead the way."

Bubnug nodded and kicked Strider into motion. Maneuvering around the innocent townsfolk, the riders headed out of town.


Do you have any comments, questions or concerns? Please leave a comment or email me at sean.francis@rivalcastmedia.com!

Also, you can follow me on Twitter for updates on The Fireside Tales, or just random statements I may make: @Miggnor23.

I'm quite lost. Can I see the previous Chapter?

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Next Chapter Coming On March 17th!
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