The Fiend's Fouling of Farmland

            Where is it?

            The clouds rode thin and high upon the wind. The hot summer nights in Haeville were not always so humid and uncomfortable. It was an unsettling mood that gathered around the farmland and the quiet village.

            Where is the stone that bears our tender kingdom's fates?

            Many a knight and squire were to walk the land, questing for kings and striking a livelihood with errands for the ordinary. Some became heroes, of which the minstrels sang and the poets rhymed. Their vesper-spangled banners were lifted high, and their crusades brought Qurr to the lands that had forgotten magic. They returned in broken armies, bearing spices and odd tidings.

            If it won't be here, then I shall rend the people and the land until I find it.

            The ravens gathered to watch, for a knight of shining armour and stalwart steed was passing the borders of the cozy community. From treetops and the shoulders of scarecrows, black eyes watched.

            The man shifted upon his horse, and moved beneath his armour with uncanny mobility. He turned, one foot loose from its stirrup and passing over the horse. And then the other slipped out, and he dropped to the horse's side.

            A farmhand, in the nearby field, turned from his work as the knight approached. He smiled, though his hands clutched his hoe nervously.

            The armour was bright. It seemed to have a luminescence of its own. And as the man stomped through the rows of crops, the plants seemed to turn away from him and nearly wilt. It was as if he bore an aura of decay and blight. Immediately, a sword was drawn and met the farmhand's throat.

            The young boy quivered, nervously, but dared not move.

            It was an iron blade, gleaming with ornate gold lining around the hilt. It was etched with sculpted figures striking beasts with battlements.

            "The Windsmire merchant said he sold it here," the knight said to himself, nostalgically recalling the torture of a man, "to a bard."

            And the boy heard him through the helmet, "Sold what?"

            The swordsman's eyes managed to catch some light between the vertical slits of his visor. But he did not answer.

            The farmhand, still fearing for his life, decided to draw attention away from himself, "Sir knight, where is your squire?"

            Again, the knight did not answer. Yet this time, he chose to speak again, in a stoic voice, "Where does Johm, the great bard of Haeville, make his dwelling?"

            His hand shaking, the young man pointed down the road, by pastures and farmhouses, towards the village. There, houses and buildings were clustered around a large well.

            The sword moved steadily, an inch closer to the apple of the young man's throat.

            "The only house with a blue door," the worker added. "Has a flower garden out front, and a thatched roof."

            Satisfied, the knight began to sheath his sword, but not without purposefully drawing a drop of blood from the adolescent's neck. He warned, "Speak of this to no one, or I will cleave your flesh as well."

            The farmhand watched as the knight walked back towards his horse. He knew the bard had left home. And he knew he had to warn someone. However, he was no faster than a knight on horseback.

The End

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