Jun 28, 2022 6:07 PM
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Firewood gathering duty is very important.

And also very much for people who don't have the patience and self-control for panning for mana, or working in the trinket forge, or looking after kids, or patching up houses, or growing a vegetable patch.

There are half a dozen briars - mostly human, a little bit tree round the edges - out in the woods today, not in any particular formation, mostly just wandering along and occasionally picking up a nice fallen branch and adding it to their bundle.

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The thing about Adventures that Brant didn't like is that they involved a lot of walking.  He didn't know how the pumas and deer and the other animals did it - they always talked like it was the easiest thing in the world to hike through the forest all day.

He stopped under an umbrella-nut tree by a stream and cracked and nibbled a few nuts, but it was really for an excuse to rest a few minutes.  When he got back up, he splashed his feet in the stream in hopes that'd make things that'd make things easier.  It didn't, really, even though his shoes could take the wet.

But a few minutes later, when he got out of his snit enough to notice, he gasped and stopped dead-still.  The grass and moss wasn't blue anymore.  It was green.  Had he already come so close to the Emerald City?  Or had that been a magic stream!?  He whirled around - but he couldn't see any blue behind him either.  He gulped.

But then he swallowed and pressed on.  Now he really wanted to find other people, especially if they knew anything about that magic stream.

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The first briar who spotted Brant fancied herself as a bit of a scout, so she approached slowly, her brown and green clothing blending into the scenery.

This was entirely spoiled by the second member of the firewood party to spot him, a tall excitable briar man who called out "Hey! Hey, we've got a wanderer over here!" and started loping quickly towards him, bellowing "Hey! Don't worry! You're near Foundhome now!"

At least four of the firewood hunters were now converging on Brant's location, although the first was still remaining relatively stealthy in case someone needed to see what happened and fetch help...

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"Hey!" Brant waves to them in excited relief.  "Where am I?  You know about any magic back thataways, like the stream?"

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"Hi there!" replies the friendly shouting briar, who has just sprinted to close the distance without noticeably being out of breath. "You're in the woods near Foundhome - that's in Oakways in Miaren, if you weren't expecting to be here? And yeah, the stream's magic, that's why we settled here in the first place."

"We should get him back to the Steading," says the second to arrive in talking distance. "What's your name, kid? Uh, if you don't mind. I'm Alfwyn Foundhome."

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"Oh, it's a [i]friendly[/i] magic stream?"

He waves again to the second person.

"I'm Brant.  Er, from Ezania in the Munchkin country.  Er, I don't know any of those places?"

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First briar: "I've never heard of those places either! I bet Allegra will know, though, she's been everywhere. Want to come down to the Steading and see if she's about?"

Alfwyn: "It's not a very talkative stream, but it's friendly enough."

Third visible briar, just catching up: "The stream makes mana crystals. We don't use them much, but they're very expensive, so we can buy all the things we need with them."

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He nods at the suggestion of going down to the Steading.

"Mana crystals?"  He looks confused.  "But - what do they do?"

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The briars start to gently herd him in, presumably, the direction of the Steading.

First briar: "All kinds of things! Like, anything you can normally do with magic, but when you've run out; or they power rituals for doing bigger things, like knocking down a fort or raising a magic one or making the crops grow better..."

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He notices the herding, but before he can get really upset, he gets distracted.  "Oh wow!  So I just need to scoop up some of those crystals and - uh - I guess I could try the magic countering words..."

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Alfwyn: "Uh, don't go scooping up any crystals without Allegra's say-so - I'm sure she'll let you try one if you've got something interesting to do with it, she loves hearing about what new people can do and trying things out, but they're kind of everyone's property and it's mean to just use them without permission."

Ahead, the trees start to thin out, and a number of extremely haphazard looking wooden buildings are clustered on a slight rise.

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"'Course - I don't mean to be a wicked wizard!  But I'm meaning to fix my best friend!  Disenchant her!"

Brant looks around the village appraisingly.

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"Oh - your friend is cursed?" asks Alfwyn. "Or does she just need an enchantment replacing?"

The village is a collection of wooden buildings which look like what happens when you build things with no plan whatsoever. There are a couple of somewhat neater buildings, one on the edge towards the forest which is a long thin building with lots of doors, one somewhat centrally placed at the highest point.

It is the second that the briars appear to be taking him to.

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"Yeah.  Cursed, I guess you'd say."

Brant's judged the village as clearly built pretty recently, unless it's one of those strange weird idea-tribes that he's heard of.  But then, most of them wouldn't be trading so much.

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As the group pass through the village 'streets' - the small pathways that are left between houses - a few people look up, smile and wave at the newcomer, but he seems well looked after so none come over to interfere.

The first briar knocks on the door of the slightly tidier house. "Allegra! We've found a wanderer and he's from a weird sounding place!"

The door opens to reveal a middle-aged lady slightly leaning on a big leafy staff, with a burn scar on her left cheek and a big tattoo down the right cheek.

"Hi there," she says, in that kind of slightly awkwardly enthusiastic Adult Trying To Talk To A Child voice. "Welcome to Foundhome! What brings you here today?"

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"Hi!  I'm Brant, from Ezania in the Munchkin country!  I was on an Adventure when - I think I got caught up in some magic that took me here, unless you're somewhere near the Emerald City?"

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"Unless someone is calling Seren the Emerald City - which wouldn't be terribly far off, it is pretty green as cities go - I have absolutely no idea where any of those places are," replies Allegra, attempting to maintain some cheerfulness but it is rapidly wearing off.

"Would you like to come inside and sit down? I think this might be one of those long explanations.

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"I guess."

Brant doesn't like taking up her invitation right after she was talking to him like a really little kid, but he does want to sit down again.

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The inside of the fairly tidy house is one big room, with a bed in the far corner, a few sturdy wooden chairs around a mostly clear table with a couple of wooden cups and bowls, and many chests of drawers, shelves, and a couple of workbench surfaces covered in papers, thin books, and miscellaneous objects.

Most of the briars that had been accompanying him peel off, but Alfwyn hangs around at the door.

"Oh, uh, do you want something to eat or drink?" asks Allegra, noticing Alfwyn still hanging around. "I don't know how far you've travelled or how tired you are." She seems to be becoming more business-like, or possibly more distracted and uncertain.

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Brant sinks down on one of the chairs.

"Something to drink; thanks?  I was eating in the woods."

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"Apple juice or water? We can also do tea if you'd rather; apple juice I've got here, I might send Alfwyn for a jug of water anyway."

She moves an empty wooden jug off a work surface onto the table, picks a clean wooden cup off a shelf, and opens a couple of cupboards in search of juice.

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"Oh, apple juice!"

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Allegra hands the empty jug off to Alfwyn and pours a cup of sweet brown-ish apple juice for Brant.

"So, Brant from Ezania. I don't suppose there's some simple explanation, like Ezania and Munchkin Country are just places over the border in the Marches? Have you heard of - the Empire, the Virtues?

And I suppose I ought to ask - are your parents, or similar, likely to show up at my door demanding an explanation? We don't hand people back to anyone they want to get away from, here in Foundhome, but it would be good to know if I should be posting sentries."

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Brant shakes his head.  "Never heard of those places.  And, uh, my parents know I'm out adventuring."

He's a little confused about why she thinks his parents would be demanding an explanation.

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"...okay. Do you know how far you came after the last place you recognised, and do you think you could get back there? Do you even want to go back, or are you 'adventuring' away for good?"

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Brant plops down the cup of juice and sighs.  He wishes he'd been watching better.  "It was a little after that stream by the umbrella-nut tree.  When I looked up, the grass and moss was green.  I looked back, but I couldn't see the blue grass anywhere."  His head sinks further.  "But then I might've just been walking too far without looking."

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