February 5, 25NA
Bruce Courdry looked over the lists that John Black had turned in. The last time stores had been this low was that first winter, when most of the food they had was scavenged canned goods and a few poorly salted game animals. Still, no one had died from starvation this winter and the town's spirits were high. It was a nice change from those early, chaotic years. Years where death came sometimes with no warning.
"Bruce…?" A voice asked tentatively. Nancy Healy was looking expectantly at him.
"Sorry, Nan, I was wool gathering. What was that?" He turned his attention to the rest of the council: Grumbar Brightaxe sitting at the far end of the oval table; Joe Kirk looking like he wanted to back at the stables rather than making policy; the aforementioned Will Black looking like he'd just come from a shift behind his bar; Simone Reilly, broad of shoulder from years of farmwork; Nan, her concern bleeding away into an expression of soft indulgence; and Reverend Greg Jansen looking irritated and slightly red faced. In the back corner making hurried notes in his cramped script in a book of bound pages was young Gary Moore. Moore had gotten permission to attend the Grayson Town Council meetings when he offered to combine his notes for the town broadsheet with the meeting minutes.
"Sorry, Reverend, what where you saying?" Bruce said, hoping that he was giving the man a proper tone of penance. Jansen was a good man, but was feeling increasingly redundant in a world that seemed ready to supply its own miracles.
"I was saying: I think it's disgraceful that we pin a medal on that boy then he makes us put him in a cell. He should be living up to expectations, not down!"
"Ahh, let it be, Rev'r'nd," Grumbar said in a voice that sounded like gravel rolling down a hill. "Y'kenna 'spect 'em t'change his spots in a day. My understand'n was tha' boy was trubble from a ways back. Fact of things is this: He'n his frein's saved this town. Y'kenna pick an' choose yer saviors." Inwardly Bruce groaned. Grumbar's words were chosen to draw Jensen out into another religious debate.
Bruce cut in before the Reverend could speak up. "Desmond has been a model, if depressed prisoner. While he didn't give up who commissioned the papers, he's taken his punishment and not said a word of protest." He gave a sympathetic look to Jensen, "Sudden celebrity has never really been an inducement to moral behavior. I think that we need to chalk some of this up to experience on both sides."
There was a general murmur of approval down the table and no vote was called since no actual issue was put up for one.
"Now, if we can move on, I think that Joe has some business to bring up. Joe?"
Joe stood and cleared his throat. He had two reports in his hand and glanced down before beginning to speak. "The Greywinder Logging camp reports that some aggressive animals have been sighted and one early tagging team was attacked by some creature they described as an "owlbear". Two men dead, one nearly so. Severus Brown hasn't shown back up yet, he apparently spend the winter at some camp he'd found deep in the Greywinders. They're asking for the Heralds to look into it." He switched pages.
"Some of the lower passes in the Appalachians are opening up already and my kids are making their first delivery runs of the season. As you know, we have a lot of holdouts up there and they insist that roving orcs and goblins aren't gonna drive them off their land. The Lucas stead, the Granger stead, and the Walden's place all show signs of break-ins sometime in the winter. Timmy Jackson says that he found old bloody handprints and footprints at the Walden's. Something killed all their livestock and seems to have eaten it on the spot. No sign of the families. I'd like to send the kids up to have a look. I can't have my service heading up there if they aren't safe. By midsummer I'm gonna have about a dozen delivery runs going up there, most of them alone."
Bruce frowned. Technically those families weren't part of Grayson, by their own choice. But Joe was right, part of the responsibilities of their community was to keep the area safe. And if it was just missing folks, it might just have been that they gave up and moved on, it had happened the first few years, still did occasionally. But the slaughtered livestock? And animals, twisted new ones, attacking the loggers? Bruce knew about the portal in the heart of the woods. He and Gwythr had been there. Maybe these things were coming from the other side? And there was still some kind of large predator out there…
"I'll call Aideen in and we'll see which one we can send them on. We'll get Pete Dalton to put together a patrol to check out the other one and see what can be found." Once, that would have been him, going out to deal with these problems. Not now. Heavy is the head and all that. "Any other business? Grumbar, wasn't there something about Rapid Run giving you problems with the shipments of iron for the anchors at the coast…"