《The Butcher of Gadobhra》Chapter 27: Late Night at the Tavern


Several centuries before.......

"You are certain that this will stem the tide of darkness that seeks to engulf our fair land and muddy the tides of magic?" The speaker was a tall, handsome man clad in golden armor that looked like it had never seen combat.

Which it might not have. High Paladin Agravaine had been 'busy down south, smiting evil' during the war here in the North. He had made a habit out of missing the great battles of the day and was generally busy in the capitol with one thing or another.

Agravaine was speaking to a pot-bellied man with greying hair, worn sandals, and a patched and faded robe. The Archdruid didn't see why he should waste time with fancy clothes when he preferred to be wandering in the forests and getting his hands dirty. Such as this project; he straightened up from planting a seedling and looked at the paladin on his white horse. "Didn't say that, and if I had, surely wouldn't say it that way. Not a bard."

"So all this planting of trees and grass is just a waste of time?!"

The druid planted another couple of trees and motioned for his helpers to move on without him. "Well, maybe a waste of your time, since as far as I can tell that's all you do. But not a waste of mine. You came riding up on your fancy horse, which is suffering from roundworms by the way, then made some fool statement about tides and darkness. That told me you had no clue of what we are doing here."

Agravaine looked offended, his horse looked panicked, and his squire looked curious. The squire spoke up. "I'm sure the High Paladin has a very good idea of what is going on here, but I must admit that I myself am a bit clueless. Could I beg an explanation of you? You are planting Rowan trees and grasses?"

The Archdruid nodded. At least someone would be carrying back word of what they did here to the capitol. "Think nothing of it, young squire. Teaching the clueless is always a noble task."

"Yes, we are planting Rowan. It's a good tree, resistant to Dark magics, and helps the other trees in the forest to resist the Dark’s influence. But we plant more than Rowan. Hollywood for sure, as it will fight the Dark magics and ground them, preventing the black wind from moving across the land. Oak lends the forest strength and vitality. Apple gives the forest fertility to spread and regrow from fire. And sassafras has its own magic. Old magic. Older even than the Dark. Together we plant a forest that the Dark magic of Gadobhra cannot easily move through."

"And that is not grass, it is sedge. It loves the damp meadows and grows well in dark spots in the forest. Sedge is tough and hearty, and it actually loves the Dark magic and absorbs it. The forest traps the Dark, the sedge absorbs it."

The High Paladin had grown bored and wandered off. Neither his squire nor the Archdruid were bothered by this. The squire looked to where shepherds were moving huge herds of cattle up from the south. "And the cows? They eat the sedge grass full of Dark mana and…poop it out?" The Archdruid nodded, happy to have an intelligent student.

"Indeed, that is their purpose. We can't "stem the tide". What nonsense. What we can do though is deal with the problem. The cattle will process the sedge as part of their diet, naturally returning it to nurture the soil. Dark Magics are un-natural owing to their birth in the demon realms. By making them part of the natural growth cycle we neutralize them. Since we can't destroy the Ancient Demon cities, we can at least hide them from sight, and use natural plants and beasts to limit their influence."


"Won't the Dark magic harm the cattle? It generally has a bad effect on natural beasts and shortens their lifespans?"

The Archdruid smiled, "Ah, nice to deal with someone that studied at least the basics of the types of magic. Yes, ingesting Dark magics will shorten their lifespan and speed up their growth and maturation. To combat that, we have modified the cattle we are moving to these meadows. Their reproduction rates are closer to rabbits now. They only live a couple of years naturally, but will breed constantly and mature quickly. They have a preference for foraging on the sedge. We'll be keeping track of how they breed for the first few decades, but I have hopes what we do here is both stable and sustainable. "

The squire nodded. "Not as glorious as smiting demons. Not that I'd know, we always seem to miss that part. But it seems to be a better solution. Fighting the un-natural with nature. I'll make sure that a report of your activities here makes it to the Emperor's desk."

The old druid nodded. "That, I am thankful for. So thankful I'll go cure that poor horse's innards. Bearing the weight of Agravaine is enough burden for the poor beast without dealing with roundworms as well."


Ozzy, Rolly, and Ben had somehow ended upstairs in the garret Suzette had taken over. "Isn't it wonderful? There are two dirty windows, a fireplace with a clogged flue, and huge piles of ancient stuff that I can sort through. Oh, and a teensy spot of the floor for my bedroll."

The boys knew the trap they were in, but failed to move fast enough. Fatigue and drink slowed their minds, and made them susceptible to her smile and doe-like eyes. "If only I had three strong men to help me clean it up."

Rolly looked at Ben and Ozzy: "I smell a trap, boys, be on your guard!"

"Too late." Ben said resignedly, "She has us surrounded".

None of them were really tired. They had adapted to not sleeping much. And hauling a bit of trash downstairs wasn't a problem. "Ok, how do you want to go about this Ben?" Ben loved solving problems like this, and Ozzy always pushed him into the lead where he excelled.

Ben ran over to one of the windows on the triangular end walls. "Let’s see, I see the ridge beam and yep, it has a steel eye to thread a rope through for a pulley. This wall is just pinned with wooden dowls. See? We can remove the window and surrounding wall, leaving an opening to haul things up and down. Second floor has the same, it's how you bring up heavy furniture and such."

"Rolly, run get a couple hundred feet of rope. We have tarps here covering the old furniture. Let’s use those to take the trash down and haul it to the village firepit. Suzette keeps what she wants and anything else worth keeping we store in the barn. This place is pretty huge if we clean it out."

It didn't take long to get started. Having three times the normal stamina, and special abilities to haul, see in the dark, and forgo sleep went a long way. Not that there weren't small pauses as certain treasures were uncovered....

"MOOSE! I see a Moosehead!! Dibs!!!" Rolly began clearing a path to the treasure he'd found. It did indeed look something like a stuffed moosehead. Ozzy could see it was probably a very ugly sedgebeast with huge mutated horns. But if Rolly wanted a moose, it was a moose. "This is awesome, it's just like my great-grandfather’s I have back in my storage in the other world".


Ben found quite a few small things for his room. A bookshelf, several blankets and pillows, a candle holder and a small chess table. Ozzy suggested keeping all the furniture in the barn and letting the other workers pick through it. The huts were cramped, but they'd been told that work on better housing would start soon.

A ton of the items were just junk: moth-eaten clothing, decrepit woolen blankets, a broken dartboard, a spinning wheel with rusted gears, tables and chairs from the tavern that had seen better days but had never been repaired. They started at one end and cleared to the other, sending load after load down to the courtyard and away to either the barn or the burn pile.

Suzette kept a set of furniture for herself. There was a large bed that needed a new mattress, a vanity, wardrobe, and other homey pieces that she set up at one end of the now spacious room. She also kept two large worktables that were twins to the tables in the basement. She had ideas about doing some small brewing and alchemy on her own.

Cleared out, Suzette’s area still only took up less than half the space. Before they took all the furniture down, she approached Ozzy. "You know, there's room for you up here too."

Ozzy put a dumb smile on his face. "Why ma'am, this is so sudden! I'm flattered and tempted, but my mama always said stay clear of barmaids, Valkyries, and women with batwings until you know if they have honorable intentions. So, I have to ask, just what are your intentions ma'am?"

This got him a punch in the chest. "No, I wasn't asking for that. Well, not now. Who knows? I'm just saying that you could move in up here and we could put up a dividing wall. Better than living in that little hut. You'd have an actual bed and room for some furniture."

"And a moosehead! If Ozzy is living up here, he can take care of Mr. Moose for me. I like to sleep out with the animals, but Mr. Moose is a city feller. He likes a roof over his antlers." Ozzy hadn't even known Rolly was nearby. He was getting sneakier all the time. Rolly promptly hung the moose head in what was now Ozzy's half of the room.

Ben laughed at the whole show, "Give up, Ozzy. Who wouldn't like to have a moose for a roommate?"

Ozzy sighed, "How do these things happen so fast? One minute I'm single and the next I have to provide for a barmaid and a moose? I'll have to take a second job."

Suzette smiled happily. "I have one! It was one of the reasons I wanted you here. Derek will need a couple of bouncers now. With what people saw you do, you're perfect. You can just sit downstairs most nights and relax in the tavern and keep people polite. "

Ozzy sighed again. "A moose, a barmaid, and a second job. You were right Rolly, it was a trap."

Ben managed to get the removable section pinned back in place. The room still needed a heavy cleaning but was much better. The four of them elected to all just sleep there tonight for a couple of hours and get up with the dawn. They'd deal with the burn pile and the extra furniture then.

The rooster woke them as the sun was just peeking over the horizon. They all headed down to the kitchen to find Granya and Bettie already baking. Suzette helped out and sent Rolly and Ben to get the milk and eggs. Ozzy started picking up loads of trash and dumped it all in an area on the outskirts of town reserved for trash burning. He returned just in time for fresh bread and coffee.

Billy was being uncharacteristically generous and had ordered a big breakfast for the workers. They each got trays of bread, eggs, meat pies, apple tarts, and a large pot of boiled coffee. This was greeted enthusiastically by the workers. Billy came out of his hut accompanied by his new assistant, whom he introduced. "This is Llaya, or Assistant Manager Vandergilt. She'll be working under me from now on. Her workers should be showing up in a couple of days. Ben, I'll need you to pick them up at Rowan Keep and guide them all here." He smirked looking side-eyed at Llaya. "I'm hearing the roads are pretty treacherous these days."

Jorges spoke up. "We can get most of the road done today. It'll run straight up to those rocks from the edge of town by the barn without a twist or turn. We cut a lot of trees to clear the route. We were wanting to know where you wanted the wood."

"It's fine there for now." Wood was low on Billy's priority for today. Building was for after he got past those rocks. "If you have the people for it, turn what you can into large timbers for building and the rest into firewood for the smokehouse. Just put the piles along the roadside, easy to grab it from there."

"Ozzy, you said the Legion was coming back down?"

"Yep. I loaded them up a wagon of hides and another of meat. They seemed happy with that and are sending two wagons back for more meat. Should clean us out except for the newest stuff. Rolly and I can just keep filling it up. No shortage of cows to turn into jerky."

"Fine, you and Rolly keep working on that. Steady income is good and the Legion pays well." Billy looked at the crew and considered. They'd actually started to get a lot done – more, it seemed, the less direction he gave. He would just let them just get to work.

"Hey, Jorges, a thought occurs to me. We're going to need some new buildings for housing workers. Why don't you lay out some places for them? Nothing like these huts. I'm sure you and the carpenters can come up with some plans. Maybe four sleeping rooms and a common area for each? Use your imagination. You folks will move on into the new places, and we can use the huts for Llayla and her crew."

"Speaking of that," Ozzy added, "we helped Derek clear out some storage in the tavern and he donated the old furniture to our crew. That can all go to the new places. It's stored over in the barn."

"Better and better." Billy liked things that cost him nothing. "Ok, road building, new houses, and the slaughter of many sedgebeasts. Bettie and Suzette can cook us up lunch and dinner and bring it out to us. "

Bettie nodded and Suzette smiled "You got it, Mr. Billy." The two of them walked back to the tavern. Most of the men stared at them. Not at Bettie, she moved like your mother in combat boots. Suzette, by contrast, was walking with a roll to her hips that didn't seem humanly possible, and might not be.

With that the workers headed out. Billy was left with a scowling Llayla. "Just who the hell was that little hussy?" Llaya had developed an instant dislike for Suzette. Normally, she held the center of attention in any group of men, but not this morning. She was invisible.

Billy was well aware of this and enjoyed how upset Llayla was. Anything to throw her off balance and keep her there. "Her? That's just Suzette. One of the amazing hires I made. She's turning a great profit at the tavern after just a few days. Hell of a brewer. And did you see those ears? Just packing in the customers."

"I saw her ears. They need trimming. What the hell are you pulling bringing in non-humans?"

"Nope, pure human when we started out. Some twist of the game. A few of the workers have ‘heritage.’ She picked up some extra CHR, and a hell of a set of...ears. She sells a lot of ale; like I care about how she does it? Bottom line, Llayla, bottom line is all that matters."

Llaya did her best to shrug and smile. She knew changes were coming soon. She'd be taking over. Billy would be gone and she could deal with the little tramp then. Looking that good this early in the morning just wasn't allowed in Llaya's world.

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