There's a mighty, tall rock around these parts that the locals call 'The Spindle'. At a rough guess it's 300 feet to its highest, peaky point and is about an hour ride from the Gallow Path, a spur from the Great Northern Road. Legends tell of an old hermit that lives in a cave about half way up the spindle and if you give him a packet of pipe weed and a hard-hitting joke, he will tell you a bit about your future.
I've been trundling along this road on my lonie for three days since I picked up this stinking dead wizard, 'Gazoo the Magnificent' - now 'Gazoo the slightly stiff and smelly' for a healthy gold bounty and to be deadly honest I've got a bit out of sorts in my own head. When you've accomplished deeds and smacked up the monsters that I have, your memories play tricks on you and you start getting attacks of the philosophical. The monks of Etta Bree explained philosophy to me once, but I still didn't give their gold back.
Anyway, I resolved to seek out this Spindle hermit and tell him a joke or two. I also happened to have a pouch of Wheezers Best pipe weed on me and I've always been a sucker for divination magicks.
Covering the waggon and the stinky wizard with long grass and brush wood, I set off with Bluebell, my horse and Lord Cleaver across my back towards the towering Spindle rock with a spring in my step, although my shoulder still hurt something rotten from the arrow I'd taken from Black Jacksie’s bowman some days ago. I should have poked his other eye out but that's just not me anymore.
Some time later I find myself at the foot of the great standing rock and begin to climb. When I was a lad my best friends used to call me Stephan the Manky. Apparently a Manky is a hairy creature that swings around the giant Dustle trees in the jungles of Abwakaan. Years later I found out what ‘Manky' really meant and a man got hurt quite badly in the Broken Shield at Tythe. Nice Inn, but I’m barred.
I am a good climber though and it didn't take long to find the cave entrance. I lit a torch with flint and steel and ducked in. 'Hallo! Hermit! I have pipe weed!'
'Come warrior. Come in and show me your weed' came the hermit's rasping voice.
I stepped into an expansive, flat cave lit by a large magical globe that bobbed around the ceiling. Apart from a few blankets and a cooking fire there wasn't much going on really. Quite dull, but then what did I expect? A hunched figure sat picking his nose, smiling at me.
'Stephan Strongblade is it?' Says the Hermit
'The one and only' says I. 'I've come for a bit of your divination'
'Feeling a bit lost are you? Lack of direction? Wandering?' He wipes snot on his blanket and chuckles into his ratty, grey beard.
'I don't like explaining myself old man. I've got the weed and a joke, how about we just step on. I've got a manky wizard waiting for me downstairs and he’s not getting any fresher'
'Tell me the joke Strongblade' He starts wobbling a tooth and lies back on his blanket, all bones and dirt. His feet have fungus on them, like lichen on an ancient Oak. Smelly bastard.
'What do you call an old man with a bump on his head?' I launch a gold piece at his skull with vicious accuracy.
'Owwww!' Says he clutching his baldy head. 'That wasn't funny'
'Made me laugh' I threw the pipe weed on his lap. 'Your turn' says I
'Very well'. The old bastard sprinkled some powder into the flames of his cooking fire with little in the way of theatricals and murmured some of that chanty stuff that makes your spine prickle and your plums crawl up. Slap my arse if his eyes didn't flash green and roll back into his head.
He speaks in a weird, high voice...
'Stephan Strongblade. You are going to meet a woman who is half bear, half wolf, half bird and ALL lady.... and.... You will see many, many things.... and.... Someone is about to steal your smelly Wizard'
‘Shit’ That got me up and moving.
He called after me as I ran from his cave
'Have you got a pipe?!’
I got back to where I’d left the waggon and the old shit was right. The waggon and wizard were gone.
There will be blood tonight! Or tomorrow maybe. Depends how good my tracking skill is.