Hargus Hurryhouse Adventures - Book 1, Chapter 5

Finding Fubdo

Outside the tavern, it was turning out to be a beautiful morning. Sunlight streamed through the trees, and the sound coming from the nearby market guided the party to their destination. The smell of baked goods and roasted meats mixed with clean air and pine scent for an almost intoxicating combination.   As the group approached, they could see the market was set up in a circular fashion, with the different merchants surrounding a central fire pit and a message board upon which were posted a variety of notices. As they approached, they could see the merchants straightening up their displays and presenting their goods in the best possible way. There were already some customers visiting the stalls, accompanied by the sounds of laughter and good-natured haggling over the price of eggs.   A brewer was offering free samples of his new mead, and a blacksmith had his sharpening wheel spinning to grind the edge of an axe. And then there was the cheese. A glorious display of a variety of cheeses, accompanied by some cured and dried meats from the next-door butcher's stall. Near the northern end of the market, a tailor displayed beautiful ornate robes as well as much more affordable shirts and tunics.   Agnese gestured toward the message board. "Let's see if there's any information there that might help." As they approached the board they could see a variety of notices, but one in particular seemed relevant.     Thieves have been stealing my grain and feed shipments. Will pay 300 gp for capture of thieves. (Only 100 if they're dead). See Fubdo at his farm.   "Just as Hurryhouse described. We only need to know where his farm is located. Perhaps we should ask the merchants," Beivalur suggested.   Ninette spoke up quickly. "No need. We passed his farm on the way into the village. There is no reason to alert the rest of the village to what we are doing. As far as they know, we are simply travelers. We have been asked to keep secrecy, after all."   Agnese agreed. "If that was the farm, then we have what we need. " He paused. "Where's Nightglade?"   Courtenay had wandered off and made her way to the farm stand at the west side of the market. She was talking excitedly to the man behind the stand. She looked back at the party and waved them over. Agnese's eyes narrowed angrily. Beivalur did his best to contain a laugh, mostly succeeding.   The group began to walk over as Courtenay called out. "Hey, guys! You gotta try this cheese!" Agnese muttered something under his breath. " I just met this really nice man who works at a farm that makes this cheese. He says they make the Royal Koronni cheese! That's the Barcellus family. He said the farm owner, Fubdo, hasn't had as much cheese lately because of some trouble with getting supplies. Isn't that terrible? Poor Fubdo!" She winked at the party.   Ninette nodded and said "Oh the poor man! That is terrible! Completely awful! I hope someone can get to the bottom of this travesty!" Their voice was somehow different, with a sweet sound and the appearance of being "oh so concerned". "I hope this won't affect this year's festivals," Ninette said.   The man behind the table answered, "Not yet. But if it doesn't get fixed soon, it might make for problems with the next festival. Fubdo really doesn't want to disappoint the Royal Family."   "Who would do such a thing? It's not those nasty orcs from the north, is it? They're such brutes!" Courtenay was laying the charm on thick.   "No ma'am, I don't think it would be. We haven't had any trouble with orcs in years. They leave us alone and come into town for services. We really haven't had any issues in quite some time. It always happens at night, so I suppose it's possible. Personally, I think it's something coming down from the Dead Hills. I won't go near that cursed place." The merchant had a look of genuine fear in his eyes as he spoke the words.   "My, that's frightening," was Ninette's response, matching Courtenay's tones. Agnese simply rolled his eyes. He couldn't believe the merchant was falling for their act.   "It is ma'am. I've heard of strange noises and fearsome creatures back in those hills. It's no wonder that the mine closed and the town back there disappeared. I think they were taken over by demons or something evil." The merchant seemed to be enjoying the attention he was getting and it looked like he was embellishing for his audience. He stood a little taller and his chest puffed out as Ninette and Courtenay kept up their ruse.   "Someone should do something about this!" Courtenay blurted, perhaps a little too strongly. The merchant's eyes opened a bit wider in surprise. "Well ma'am, Fubdo posted a notice up on the job board there. Surprised your friends didn't see it. They were looking right at it!"   "Well, sometimes they don't see what's right in front of their faces!" Courtenay said teasingly, watching Agnese clench his jaw. "I'll take a small wedge of the dry cheese, please. Is this all the cheeses you have?"   "No ma'am. Fubdo has a bigger selection back at the farm. That'll be four silver, please. You can go see him anytime!"   "Well, thank you, sir! You've been most kind!" Courtenay gave him a smile, paid him his silver, and turned back to the party. "We should go see what Fubdo has to offer, don't you think?" Agnese mumbled under his breath. Beivalur nodded, with a grin on his face. He thoroughly enjoyed watching Courtenay and Ninette's "show".   Courtenay simply chuckled as they walked out of the market and onto the road toward the farm. Agnese finally let loose. "The information was right there on the notice board! We're supposed to do this quietly without bringing attention to ourselves. Is that what you call discreet?" He was red in the face, probably from holding in his frustration during the whole exchange.   "Information?" Courtenay laughed. "What information? All it said was 'go see Fubdo'. Now we know why he wants help, where the attacks might be coming from, and we have an excuse to go see him. Did your little notice give you that? Hmmm?"   Agnese wasn't going to concede the point, but neither was he going to argue it. Courtenay was right. They did have more information. "So what, we're just going to walk over there and ask him for some cheese?"   Ninette provided the answer. "He has posted for help. It is apparently well-known as the merchant had no hesitation sharing it with us. Nightglade's ruse gives us a reason to go there without raising any suspicions. So we can go to the farm, speak with Fubdo, and see what can be done. I suggest we walk over now."
  The group started the walk over to Fubdo's Farm, a short distance from the market. Cows were in the fields grazing, contained by a stone wall that surrounded the property. To the north, trees lined the edge of the property. As they approached, they could see a very large barn and a small farmhouse. A few individuals were working near the barn breaking down hay bales to feed the livestock. A few chickens ran around the grounds near the house, pecking at the grass and seed nearby.   As they approached the gate to the farm. a short rotund man with a ruddy complexion and friendly countenance came out of the farmhouse to greet them.   "Hello! I saw you walking down the rod and thought you might be coming here! Welcome to the Barcellus family farm! I am Fubdo Barcellus. Have you come for some cheese? I am a little low on some varieties at the moment, but I'd be glad to let you sample what I do have!"  
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"Would you be Fubdo?" asked Beivalur.   "Yes, that's right! Fubdo Barcellus. I am the current owner of this farm and the cheese production here. And who might you be?"   "I am Beivalur, Master Barcellus. My friends and I saw your notice on the board in the village. May we speak?"   "Oh, that. Yes, it's been quite the trouble for our production. Please, come inside. We can sample some cheeses, enjoy a bit of wine, and I can tell you what has been happening."   "Wine? I'm always up for a bit of wine!" Courtenay couldn't help herself. Fubdo let out a hearty laugh at her enthusiasm. "Well, then, miss, by all means, let us retire to the tasting room!"   The five of them walked up to the farmhouse, with quick introductions as they walked.   Fubdo led them into the main room of the farmhouse, which was laid out as a wine and cheese tasting room. The room was filled with the wonderful aroma of ripened cheeses, with an occasional whiff of the pungent varieties. Along the walls were a vast collection of glass cloches, each with a small wheel of cheese beneath them, some whittled away to small wedges. Also on the walls were a variety of wine bottles and goblets to match them. Many appeared to made of blackglass, a hard but brittle stone, difficult to shape and easy to break. Their dark black coloring made for a striking contrast to the light-colored shelving and cabinetry.   He explained what had been occurring. "My shipments come in mainly from Lawcrane, usually on carts carrying other supplies. Seed, ingredients, other items. There are other things on the carts as well, usually heading up to Orsholon City. Lately, the carts have been intercepted, but the only things being stolen are the seeds and grain. The more valuable items are left behind. It's very puzzling. And at night someone steals a chicken or some hay. It's all very odd."   "Could it be someone from town?" asked Agnese.   "I suppose it is possible. But the townsfolk know if they are in need of anything, they only have to ask. The Barcellus family has been very fortunate and we never turn away someone in need. They'd have no reason to steal." Fubdo shook his head as he answered.   "Is there someone who might wish to harm you? An enemy perhaps?" asked Ninette.   "Not that I know of. I am friends with all of the other farmers and cheesemakers in the region. They often come to me for advice on the process of making our cheese. Of course...I don't tell them everything," Fubdo chuckled. "More wine, anyone? I know it's not midday yet, but it's never too early for the fruit of the vine!"   Without hesitation - and with a mouth full of cheese - Courtenay lifted her glass for more. "Sure! This is great cheese, by the way!"   "It should be. My family has been making it for more than 1400 years. The original cheese cultures. These were crafted by my ancestors for just the right amount of bite without being overpowering. A strong initial taste that disappears almost as soon as it's swallowed. This cheese is the base with which we start to make the Koronni."   "The Royal Cheese?" asked Courtenay before taking a long swig of her refilled wine glass.   "Yes," replied Fubdo. "We start with this cheese base and add the cultures for the Koronni that produce those beautiful blue veins. It then takes about 4 years to ripen."   "So if not townsfolk, and not competitors, and you can't think of anyone who would want to do this - who's left?" Agnese was thinking out loud, but Fubdo took it as a question.   "I honestly don't know! That's why I posted for help! But I am expecting another shipment tomorrow morning early. They'll probably be just outside of the village by evening. The driver usually stays at the Aerie Inn. Maybe you can meet him before he arrives and see if you can find out more? Maybe protect the shipment?"   Beivalur spoke up. "Barcellus, is there anything special about the things that are being taken? are they perhaps rare, or expensive? Perhaps something sought after?"   "No... these are just regular supplies to plant fields and feed my cattle. Or chickens that supply the farm with eggs. Nothing of note."   "Perhaps we should meet the driver before he arrives in town. He must be somewhere along the Orsholon/Lawcrane Road. Would you accept our help, Barcellus?" Beivalur asked.   Agnese shot Beivalur a look. He had agreed that he would help Hargus with his issues, but he had seen himself as the leader. Thus far, he felt relegated to flunky.   "If you would be willing to help, the reward still stands. 500 gold if you return him here so we can find out who is responsible for this thievery." Fubdo welcomed the help.   Agnese decided he needed to take back control. "Alright. Let's head toward where the cart should be and see if we can intercept him before he gets raided. We can figure out how to catch the thieves after we talk to him. Thank you Fubdo, for the information, and the snack."   "No! Thank you! And please, take some cheese with you as thanks!" Fubdo replied. "i appreciate your offer to help and I look forward to your success!"   The party grabbed wedges of cheese and made their way out the door of the farmhouse. As they proceeded to the gate, they waved back to Fubdo and started down the road toward the village. Agnese, still frustrated by his "loss" of control, spoke up. "Do you think the three of you could perhaps check with me before you commit us to something?" There was an edge, an anger in his voice, a marked expression of displeasure.   Beivalur seemed surprised. "Did we offend you Oatspell? I was of the impression that we were to work together to solve this problem at the behest of Hurryhouse. I see nothing that logically goes against that. Did you have another idea for how this should be done?"   Agnese looked at Beivalur, and slowly answered "No."   "Well, then, it seems we made the right choice! But you may be right Oatspell, we could have consulted you before we each took our own actions. Perhaps we might gain your trust that we can make these decisions. And we may gain that trust in you."   Beivalur hit a point that Agnese had not considered: He did not trust them yet. But then, they had no reason to trust him either. He would need to earn their trust. And we would need to find a way to trust them. He nodded toward Beivalur and continued down the road.
  After stopping at the Aerie Inn for a few minutes, the party met at the Dragon's Stein and discussed their next moves. After a short discussion, they decided - together - that they should continue down the road to see if they could find the cart before nightfall. Since they were walking and the cart was being pulled by a horse, there was a good chance that they would come across the cart closer to town.   The suns had already risen to their zenith by the time they hit the village outskirts. While not overly thick, forests were not far off the road and would provide excellent cover for a thief in the night. Agnese was keenly aware of this, looking for ways that an attacker could surprise an unsuspecting traveler or cart. But where would they go? Carrying sacks of grain or other goods would be difficult in the forest. And taking the roads would surely get them caught. Meanwhile, there were no settlements nearby. So, where would they go?   The party had traveled about 10 miles before the suns started falling behind the trees behind them. They had yet to encounter the cart and decided to camp out near the road and wait. The cart would likely not travel much during the night, but it should at least pass them to make the delivery on time.   Settling themselves down on a slight rise to the north of the road, the four made themselves comfortable and took out some of Fubdo's cheese upon which to snack. It was indeed a delicious cheese, and it was apparent why it was sought after. But it was still puzzling as to why someone would want his basic supplies. They held little intrinsic value and could be replaced fairly quickly. Also in question: Why did Hargus Hurryhouse care?   As darkness fell across the small clearing they were occupying, all of the party snapped their heads to the sky, seeing something that grabbed their attention. Or did they? They all looked at each other. Yes, they agreed; we did just see that. But as soon as they turned their heads toward the sky, it disappeared.   "Okay, I'm not crazy. We've all seen that thing in the sky more than once, right?" Courtenay looked for validation that she wasn't the only one seeing this apparition, seemingly any time they were under the open sky.   You are not alone, Nightglade. I have also seen it. And as soon as I see it, it is gone. I feel as if something is watching us, or perhaps watching over us." Beivalur seemed unperturbed by the vision.   "Yeah, I don't feel as if it's looking to harm us. It's just weird. And the way it disappears? Double weird." Courtenay went on talking, as could be expected. "where is this cart? Shouldn't they have been here by now?"

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by Photo : João Guimarães
Editing: Kahuna The Elder

  As if on cue, a cart pulled by two horses came barreling around a corner to the east. Agnese looked and saw the driver had fallen between the horses and was tangled in the reins. His head dangled precariously close to the thundering hooves of his horses and threatened to kill him if they should strike him. They would have to act fast.   Beivalur rose and ran, his massive body moving much faster than one would imagine for a man his size. He stood in the middle of the road and brought his hands together to form a pyramid shape, with his fingertips all touching and his index fingers and thumbs making a triangle. He bowed his head, closed his eyes, and began reciting an incantation silently. His lips moved as he continued, but no sound emanated.   The horses and cart continued to barrel toward hi on the road. Agnese began to run for the road, fearing Beivalur would be trampled. Big though he was, he would be no match for these two draft horses at full gallop.   The cart came closer and closer. Agnese would not reach Beivalur in time. Just as it appeared Beivalur would be run over, the horses slowed to a walk, then came to a full stop just inches from the Mosae's hands. Beivalur opened his eyes, then reached out and stroked the muzzles of the two horses, to which they responded by gently nuzzling into him.   Agnese stopped short for a moment, amazed by what he had just seen. His pause was short-lived, as he heard the sounds of the driver shouting for help. Agnese rushed to the driver as Beivalur continued to calm the horses. In short order, the reins had been untangled, and the driver sat on the side of the road.   "Are you alright?" Agnese pulled his canteen from his waist and offered the driver a drink. "Are you hurt?"   "No, but I don't know how much longer I could have held out. Thank you for saving me!" The driver appeared shook up, but uninjured. "Something has to be done about these thieves!"   "How many of them? And where did this happen?" asked Agnese.   "Just around the bend, past the tree line. It was only one, but he surprised me. He jumped onto the wagon from the trees and held a knife to my neck. Told me to stop the wagon and lie face down on the floorboards. As far as I could tell, he only got a sack of grain, which is odd, because right next to it was a box of weapons I'm taking up to Orsholon City for sharpening. He didn't even look in the box. He just grabbed the sack and jumped off. I stood up when I heard him jump off, but the horses spooked and I fell forward. II was just able to grab the reins to keep from falling under the wheels. "   Agnese looked up to see Courtenay running toward the trees. "Oh, for the love of... Beivalur, take care of this man!" Agnese ran to follow Courtenay. Damned impulsive woman!   He caught up with her just at the tree line, and they could both see where the horses had started running. "Looks like at least one reared up, based on the torn-up road right here," Courtenay pointed to a roughed up patch of the road. "If he's carrying a sack of grain, he couldn't have gotten far." Agnese was furious, but he also knew they had a chance to catch the thief.   "Look there." Agnese had spotted something on the ground. "Grain. The bag might have been torn in the process. Let's see if we can follow it. Maybe there is a trail of spilled grain."   It was unwise to travel too far from their compatriots, but this was a chance to catch the thief. Searching around the site, they found a faint trail of grain on the ground. The suns were already dropping in the sky, and it would be dark soon. As they followed the spills of grain, they heard a cry of pain and cursing. They ran toward the sound and what they came upon was not what they had been expecting.
All Images created BY Kahuna the Elder, with source materials from Pixabay, Pexels, Unsplash, Artbreeder and public domain sources.

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