Guest post by Ronan Chantry
Emerson Berengar watched the strange group of men approach his fire. His men stood ready but relaxed as the group did not appear to be looking to cause trouble. It was obvious that they were not men to be trifled with but also that they were not meaning them any trouble. They approached in a loose formation, swinging stout black cudgels as they came bearing an odd-looking banner. The leader was a handsome, stout, older man with dark eyes and mostly dark hair with flecks of silver.
“You are Emerson Berengar, called Thane of Northwich?”
“I am. I prefer to be called Brother, though. Would you and your men like some coffee?” He couldn’t place the accent. Had he heard it before?
“Coffee is a good way to measure a man, but I have your measure from a reliable source already. I would like to explain my errand. I am O’Hagan, these men are of my family. We keep a small place to the west of here. The man with the Shepard’s Crook came to me and asked me to offer my services to you. He said that you would be able to make use of our unique abilities, so I made haste and came. The Shepard Man is held in high esteem by us.”
“He is held in high regard here, also. He has a church building and a school here.”
“Is there a place we can talk privately? With a cup of coffee, of course.”
Emerson gave orders to make the guests comfortable while he and O’Hagan walked to the other end of the clearing and sat on a couple of rocks and sipped.
“Strong and black as the devil’s own heart! We shall get along fine, Emerson Berengar, called Thane of Northwich. Brother of Jeptha.”
“Thank you. What is this ability you wish to speak privately of? And how do you know Jeptha?”
“He is our friend. He and our people have many things in common. He and we are victims of old wive’s tales.
“To hear the old wives in the country we were driven from, we can read other men’s thoughts and control them with our minds. It was said that we had dark, prophetic powers and used enchantments and divined by spirits and could make others do our bidding. It was rumored that with an angry glance we could force a man to throw himself off the cliff.”
“Old wives would serve the world better by staying at home and raising children and not go off being busy biddies in things they don’t know.”
“Aye, lad, ‘tis true enough, that.”
“So, what was the truth?”
“We have always had a gift for observation. I can tell by looking at a man who and what he is. The dirt under your fingernails, the type of callouses you have, the type of dirt on your clothes. These things and many others all tell your story. We can, by observation, tell where a man has been and what he has been doing.
If you observe and know the truth about a powerful man who is on trial and tell it, he will seek vengeance. This man had duped the villagers into believing he could transform common lead into gold and we exposed his ridiculous lie. Well, even though he was ruined and forced to leave, before he did, he stirred up doubts about our family, saying we had forced him to drink a vile potion and controlled his mind. The rest of the work was done by human nature.
“The power of gossip is such that a rumor can fly around the world twice before the truth can put its shoes on.”
“Well, you are always welcome at my fire and to drink my coffee, but why did the Man with the Shepard’s Crook send you to us?”
“He said there is a great evil attempting to take over the whole land and you are in a war already, whether you are physically fighting or not. He suggested a couple of things. Rumors of our reputation have spread, especially among the sailors that frequent the island I came from.
“Sailors are a superstitious lot and long before any physical fighting happens, something will have to be planned to be going on in La Longi Harbor. Their superstitious nature makes them extremely susceptible to our ‘mind control’ power and extraordinarily fearful of us. You see these small pins we all wear? It is the banner of our family. There will be a sailor or two who know it.”
“I cannot disagree, especially since you are following the advice of the Shepherd Crook Man. If you could do me a favor, though…”
“Anything in my power, Brother.”
“If you see a young boy that looks like me, or if you see Jeptha, please tell them I am looking for them.”
“Aye, lad. I saw them along Northwich Creek and they are headed back to Northwich. That Caydon thought he would go with Jeptha to La Longi. I spoke some sense into them and they are coming back.”
Emerson Berengar was relieved. ” I must tell Netty and Hannah!