Hello everyone, this is Asclepius, with the next chapter of a wonderful story from Belladonna Rose, entitled
Black Rose Chronicles
Background music by Smartsound
Heading across the rope bridge she nodded to the guards again on both sides. Then made her way towards the swampy area. Here is where she was told the bandits hide out. At first glance it did not look like a great hiding place. Making her way through she took out a couple of the pesky bandits and checked them for heirlooms and such of the Solace Bridge survivors. She found a couple. Making her way across the nasty waters she saw a cabin on stilts. This must be the hideout. As she walked up she saw a small tombstone with a candle and flowers. With a sad memoir or ode to a young girl. Lilianna. That is the name of the daughter of the couple in camp. Strange this be way out here. As she rose up from the stone she felt a light tap on her shoulder. Turning she was face to face with a haggered looking bandit.
“Was a sad day when my Lilianna died. I swore I would always remember her sweet angelic face.”
Puzzled Bella stepped away from him.
“Are you the one who stole the painting from her parents. If so I would appreciate if you could return it so they can move on from this horrid place.”
Chuckling under his breath he turned and walked towards the cabin. “Aye. I took it cause it belongs to me. Lilianna painted that portrait of herself for me so that I could remember what she looked like. Before she could give it to me the Bridge was attacked and she died to those foul undead things.” Clearing his throat trying to hold back his anger he went on. “Her parents found it next to her body and took it….claiming it was their. When I saw them come into camp I snuck in and looked through their things and took the painting.”
Bella looked down at the ground mulling over what he said. Does she take the painting from him in a fight or does she disregard the whole thing.
“I understand it means a great deal to you. But it means a great deal to them as well. They lost their daughter horribly and this is the only thing to give them piece. Would you not part with it for that fact.”
He looked her up and down and grinned. “Ahhh you be one of them Outlanders here to help set the world to right again. Nah. I keep it. They can deal with their grief just as I have. If it werent for them and their peddling ways they would never of beenin Solace Bridge and my sweet Lil would never of died. They can rot for all I care.”
Walking over to a small campfire he squatted down and looked up at Bella. “I have a copy you know….of the painting. Not as good as the original but you can take it…they can have it and never know the difference.” He poked around the embers waiting for Bella to answer.
Not really knowing which way to go she decided she would take the copy back. If they never knew she created it to begin with they might not know the difference. She struck a deal with the bandit leader. “Might I know your name sir. I am Belladonna Rose.”
“Aye. Pleasantries escape me of late. My name is Yardley. “
“I have decided I will take the copy back to them. But mind you if they see it is not the true painting I will be back to take it from you.”
Trudging back to the camp Bella approached the couple by the campfire. She softly cleared her throat to get their attention but they neither one looked up. Stepping in between them she stood the painting gently infront of them and when they glanced up they both gasped in surprise.
“Ohh My. It is the painting. However did you find it?” the gentleman asked. The lady burst into tears and hugged her husband tightly. Bella could see they were both happy and overjoyed to see the painting.
“My name is Belladonna Rose and I was told you were looking for this. One of the guards told me to search the bandit camp in the swamps so I made my way there. I talked to a man named Yardley and he admitted taking it. I explained your grief and he handed it over to me.”
“Lady Langston and I greatly appreciate your service.” Smiling he handed me a small pouch full of coin and shook my hand vigoursly. They seemed to be pleased enough and so I bid them farewell.
As Bella started to move away she overheard Lord Langston tell his wife they had just enough funds to make the trip to Ardoris. There they can get back to their lives again. Smiling Bella walked to the one merchant tent to grab a bite of something to eat. Timothea the merchant told her how proud she was that she was able to retrieve the painting and set the Langstons at ease. Offering her a warm bowl of stew she talked about Farmer Filmore. Expressing how nor he or his farmhand Dawson had been to town in a while and asked if she could check on him.
Bella smiled and said she was heading that direction anways so she would check in on the old farmer. As she ate her rough meal she ran through the list of people she needed to track down. A scout by the name of Rhoswen was on the way to the Filmore Farm. She would check in with her first. And then move on . She needed to stop at the alchemist shack near the cemetary and see if Master Ackerly had the medicine ready for an ailing man in camp. And also to head to the old village and check out the disturbance by the Ebon Cultists. It was going to be a long day for sure.
Taking a few coins from her pouch she bought a few staples to get her through her journey. Again she saluted the guards at the bridge and crossed over. This path was starting to get too familiar. By now the bandits along this road had decided to leave her alone. She had dispatched enough of them over the last day or two so they wanted no part of her. She finally reached the stone bridge which was the first indication that she was heading into new territory. Before she crossed she noticed the bushes shuffle a bit and there was a young woman in guard clothing. This must be Rhoswen. Approaching cautiously she introduced herself to the girl. In return she learned that Rhoswen and the guard Quentin were in love and she was greatly worried about him. He had moved on up the road to scout around and had not returned. Bella assured her she would find out where he was. Another task Bella thought.
Making way over the bridge she passed a few more bandits. Same as before. They turned and went the opposite direction. In the short distance she saw a wagon on the side of the road. Full of arrows and what looked like claw marks. As she got closer she saw blood on the ground which lead towards some rocks to the left of the road. She followed the trail. There sprawled on the ground face down was a man in guard clothing. Next to him a note. She read the note and exhaled slowly. Quentin.
Putting the note inside her vest. Hoisting the dead guard onto her shoulder she grunted making her way back to the road. Ahead she saw the sign for Filmore’s Farm. She would leave the boy there and retrieve him later. Making her way down the path to the farmhouse she saw the old man walking about. She approached slowly as not to startle him
“Ahhhh so ye found me worker did ya. Knew he would end up dead sooner or later. Thank ye for returnin him to me.” He pointed towards the small shed and told me to take him up there he would deal with it later. Inside the dusty cobwebbed room was a small bed. And on that bed was a young man filled with arrows. Dead. She laid poor Quentin on the bed alongside the other boy and went back out to talk to the old man.
“Pardon me sir would you be Farmer Filmore? I was asked by Captain Kinsey to check on you while I am out this way. And sorry to tell you but that boy I brought in was one of the Captain’s scouts killed out by the road.”
“Ohh. Damn. Thought it might be Dawson. He has been gone a long time and thought that be him.
I be guessing he will show up sooner or later.”
Bellad shook her head. Apparently the old man wasnt that worried that he didnt check the shed for his missing help. Not her concern at the moment. She asked if he were alright and he expressed that his prized pet Betty went missing and that if I would be kind enough to take a few moments to find her. Telling Bella of the wolves in the area that have been harrassing him. She nodded slowly and set off to look for Betty. Since when did she become such a bleeding heart. Something must of rattled her brain in that shipwreck.
Off she went past the barn and into the rocky terrain behind the farm. Sure enough a large pack of wolves were pacing about in a small den under a rock outcropping. She moved in and took them out one by one as they attacked. The pack leader then pounced on her from above the rocks but she quickly took care of him. There on the ground was a collar with a coin shaped object hanging from it. On the coin the name Betty was engraved. She quickly took the head of the leader and headed back to Filmore. Once she tossed the head on the ground at his feet she handed him the collar. Sniffling he went inside his home and brought out a nicely made leather tunic and handed it to her.
“Thank ye stranger. You did me a good deed by finding my poor Betty. Here take this and may it help you on your journeys.” Sniffling more he moved on to his house and shut the door behind him
Well if that dont beat all. She looked at the tunic and saw if was finely crafted. Pulling off her vest she put the tunic on. Nice fit indeed. This should come in handy. She yelled to Filmore that she would be back to get Quentin on her return trip. No response. Oh well. Leave him be.
Back up the road again she looked at the scribbled map that Kinsey had given her. The cemetary was up ahead. It was near on to evening and the sun was starting to dip below the mountains. Not a good time to be around a graveyard you fool. Laughing at herself she moved on. From the corner of her eye she saw a large rambling form coming towards her. Stopping she pulled her bow out and aimed. As it approached she saw it was covered in blood. Moving a lot like those zombie creatures. No way was she about to get into a fight with that thing. Firing as fast as she could she shot at the thing. And it quickly went down. When she got to it she saw a book laying next to it. Ballad of Bloody Bone. For heavens sakes. This is what those children were going on about. Well that is one thing now off my list. Wiping the book off with some leaves she put it in her pack. As she turned her head to look back at the corpse she realized it was gone. Looking around her she got an ill feeling about that creature.
After a short walk she was at the edge of the graveyard to the left and across the road to the right was a worn shack. Skeleton creatures were walking around outside the front. Running to the edge of the broken down wall she shott a volley of arrows at them and heard more noises from behind her. Running around the wall she ran straight to the shack threw open the door and slammed it shut behind her.
A finely dressed man turned quickly and looked her up and down. Apparently those things didnt bother him in the least. “Ahhh another Outlander. You can tell Kinsey I dont have her medicine ready yet. Missing an ingredient and I cant get into the graveyard to get it. Those pesky bone clankers wont let me out the door.”
Confused Bella looked at the old man. He turned back to his table and started muttering something about an olfactory gland. What in the world was that. She tapped him lightly on the shoulder and asked what it was he needed.
“Ahh yes. I be needing that gland off them zombie critters in the graveyard. Tis what I need to make the cure for that poor man in the camp up the hill of Kinsey’s. Like I said cant get past them bone clankers. And what be your name girly.”
“Belladonna Rose sir and yours.”
“ I be Ackerly Master of Herbs and Fine Medicines”
“Well Ackerly sir. If you allow me to rest the night here I will be willing to get your gland things for you so you can finish the medicine. Then I can retrieve it for Kinsey on my way back through. I need to get to the burned out village to report on the Ebon Cultists there and then retrieve a fallen guard and take him back to the camp.”
“Well aint ye the busy one today. There be a cot over there you can take your rest at and probably best to wait til morning. Them critters outside there dont like the daylight that much. So make yourself comfortable and we will get to work come morning.”
With that he went back to his work and paid Bella no attention afterwards. Laying down on the cot she curled into a ball and tried to sleep. The moaning from outside was distracting and the clatter of bottles from Ackerly didnt help but she soon fell asleep.
The sun started shining through the cracks in the back wall of the shack and she could smell something very pleasing as she rubbed the sleep from her eyes. Ackerly was cooking something on the stove. Turning he smiled as he walked over handing her a plate of fried eggs. This would be very refreshing to Bella. She hadnt had eggs in a long while. Eating quickly she took the plate and put it in the bucket by the stove. Then started gathering her things for the day. Ackerly told her what to look for from the zombies in the graveyard. Warned her to turn off the valves that were spewing green gas everywhere or else she would end up like those critters. With that he waved her off and went about his business.
Slowly opening the door she notice that the skeletons were no where to be seen. Good for that. Keeping her bow at the ready she set out across the road. She had left her pack at the shack so was able to move a bit more quickly. Once she went through the gates she could hear that horrid noise from the zombies. Gurgling and moaning as they seemed to gasp for the last strains of air and humanity.
After the third or fourth creature she finally got the gland from one. Wiping off her skinning knife she headed back to Ackerly. And anxiously to beg for a pan of water to wash. This ‘do gooder’ business for sure a messy job.
Entering the shack the old man turned and smiled. “Ahh I see you made it back alive. Good good. And did you get the gland I asked for.”
“Of course I did or else I would not be back. I do not shirk my tasks dear sir.”
“Yes yes…i see that. Dont get your knickers in a twist. Just surprised a lady as yourself was up for that task. Most folks tend to either not go or come back looking as green as the gas over there. Some folk just dont have the stomach for nasty business as that.”
She handed him the jar with the gland inside and grabbed a pail for water. She went out in the small courtyard and found the working pump. The water was cool and crips but felt good against her skin. She was never of a mind to not enjoy a good wash whether it be warm or cold water. That was one thing the crew teased her about. How clean she liked to be. She giggled softly to herself remembering that small bit about the crew.
When she went inside Ackerly told her he would have the medicine ready by the time she passed back through again and that he had no doubt she would make it back safely. Bella thought it odd that he held so much asteem for her without even knowing her. That was fine by her.
Again she was off into the unknown. Ackerly told her the old town wasnt too far down the road and she should have no trouble finding the cultists. He told her she would find them in two spots as he had seen them when he was foraging for herbs. And he warned her as well as they were a nasty bunch of evil for sure. She thought to herself…what part of this journey hasn’t been nasty.