Sheriff Duncan Kettleborn released the latches and locks on his tomb. The air was still quite cold and would be for several days. Spring was here and he had a year before he'd return to the tomb. Pestle was always slow to awake after Falcon's Winter. Duncan always got out as early as possible. He could still see the last blue waves in the far east. However crime was always at the worst this time of year. Many people are broke after preparing for the winter and try to get out and at people's valuables quickly. Personally Duncan opposed the commercialization of survival, but as the sheriff didn't have to pay for his tomb he had little ground danger to himself and much if he opposed the system as it stood.
Lost in his thoughts and still stretching outside his tomb Duncan did not notice Deputy Phil Larson walk up behind him.
"We've got a suspected homicide. Woman froze to death outside her tomb key in hand. Strangest thing I've seen for awhile." Phil speaks everything in the same monotone. One reason Duncan found him invaluable, the deputy never got riled up or emotional about crime. He was always focused sometimes too serious. It has been said he leaves his tomb before it is safe and that he survives with magic. Duncan doesn't care about such practices, but the people of the Outer Wilds live there to stay out of the magical conflicts of the "civilized" regions and therefore don't trust those who practice magics. For whatever reason or ways Duncan is certain Phil has been out for at least a day now.
"Guess I've spent all my vacation stretching. Lead the way Phil." Duncan was still stiff. His provided quarters were scant and tight, but they were better than most could afford. Originally used as mines the miners lived down in the vaults year round and once the mine dried up the owners added gates and enclosures and made them tombs for rent. Used to be everyone lived underground out in the wilds. Slowly and violently civilization comes sooner or later. Duncan just shrugged at this thought and continued following Phil. It wasn't far to the Vault it was only across the thorough fair. All the vaults rested on the mountain side of Pestle. They look like a line of giant coffins. The sheriff guessed that was in fact what they are.
"She melted out a bit, but otherwise she is the same as when I found her." Duncan didn't like what he was seeing at all. There were always people who got trapped out in the winter, but this was not normal. She had her key in hand and was at her door. The way she looked off towards the mountain like someone had been standing there. If there had been someone there how were they still alive.
"Lets move her quick. Last thing we need is people thinking we got an ice walker in town. We'll check out her tomb once we have her at the Doc's." Duncan shivered at the thought. Wizards that lived for Falcon's Winter when there powers manifested 100 fold. Most of them were mad and extremely violent. The time following winter was when they released there pent up fury. Many an Outer Wild town has been taken over by an ice walker. Turning the place into a small winter kingdom. At least for a month or two when there power would finally wane. Then they'd usually disappear only to return with Falcon.
"You really think we have an ice walker boss?" Phil sounded alarmed. This was unusual.
"No, but I know how gossip works here. Pestle will be stringing up anyone with a cup of ice by weeks end if word gets out." Duncan hated to admit it was true, but survival out here lended itself to a level of phobia.
They had her wrapped up nice and neat for Doctor Vivian Garnet. She would be out in the next day or two and she would want to look at the body. Lucky there was plenty of ice in the town to keep the corpse fresh.
Back at the tomb Phil turned the key and opened the first gate no problem. The men crouched down and walked down the steep steps to the next gate. This one as smaller and thicker. Opening it they saw the place had been left untouched. Whatever happened to the girl it was not a robbery. The little six by six by six room as even smaller than the sheriff's. He understood why so many went insane during Falcon's winter. A week of captivity like this can ruin anyone's mind.
Looking in her cupboards they saw she had the usual provisions. It was regretful that the mine owners would claim her assets, but such was how the law worked. Concerning everything she left in the tomb. They stumble on their first luck when Phil saw a journal wrapped in her bedroll.
After perusing for a few seconds Phil looked up, "Her name was Jocelyn Rivers. Her family were very wealthy only ten winters or so ago. Some say that there luck ran out. She was the last surviving heir to the estate. Which was scant at this point. Apparently she had to work at the Golden Sun just to make ends meet. I'd say once we speak with the Vault Officer we will need to go there."
"Sound like a plan Phil. Once you've finished reading the journal leave it on my desk at the office. I need to finish the rounds."
"Alright boss. Don't be out too late you know it'll still be cold."
"I got my duster it'll be fine. Thanks for the concern." With that Duncan crawled his way out. And all he could think of was what he'd dreamed over and over in the tomb.
P.S. I hope you are looking forward to Part 2. Something that I always strive to think about in my world creation is who has the power. As you can tell the Sheriff is more of a figure head. Sure he stops lawlessness, but the true power is held by the Vault owners. Since survival is always paramount it is an easily held power.
Saturday, February 1, 2014
Jocelyn looked up and saw the alignment of Falcon, Estaria's largest moon, and she knew winter would hit within the hour. She was rushing to get home. Anyone caught outside would die within minutes of exposure. As she ran through the all but empty streets she chastised herself for taking the winter closing shift at the saloon. She knew the dangers, but the pay had been too tempting. She was too receive 3 Griffon Marks assuming the bar lasted the week. She had closed everything properly and knew she would get paid. Now the only question was will she survive the next hour.
Jocelyn noticed a figure as she passed the alley beside the Golden Sun, the tavern she works at. The eyes shown red from the silhouette.
"My dear, would you be able to give a Dog to a poor man? It is all the money I need for a shelter. I will die otherwise." His voice was strange and not entirely real. She didn't want to stop she felt like she had no time, but she couldn't let him die. She searched her pocket and found a single Dog Coin. It was all she had left after stocking up on supplies and she knew a huge pay day was coming.
"This is all I have." and she threw it to him. The man caught the coin and smiled. Or at least Jocelyn sensed that he had smiled. It was then that Jocelyn felt the first wave of winter rush over her. She nodded to the man and ran.
"Thank you!" he shouted at her from the dark of the alley.
She was still about twenty minutes away from her personal shelter. She was poor and couldn't afford one of the nicer shelters. It was expensive to heat the larger spaces. She always felt claustrophobic inside her tomb, but she would live.
Her breath was starting to burn both from exertion and the cold. But she could see the rows of doors that were part of her vault structure. This vault structure housed about 40 individual tombs and 10 family tombs. No tombs were connected to prevent any breaks that could take out the entire vault. Her vault was on the opposite side she was getting so cold.
Falcon was rising a cold blue orb that filled the skyline. Larger than the sun this orb of death marked the new year. Everything would be born again once Falcon finally set. Falcon passes around Estaria once a year and all regions mark its path around Estaria instead of Estaria's path around the sun.
She was finally at her door, with no time to spare she reached in her pocket. She couldn't feel it. Ripping her pocket out it was empty. Where was her key. The vault door was unmovable without a key. She swore to the Fifteen and turned out her other pockets two at a time. It wasn't there. The office would have closed hours ago. Just like everything else in Pestle.
Already everything started to go numb. Breathing was pain she huddled against the door barely able to search her pockets any more. But that was her only hope.
Her fingertips could feel nothing. The cold was inescapable. Jocelyn fought back the impending, but it was too much. Pulling her hands from her pockets she slowly opened her fingers which were turning black. And in her palm sat the key. As she died she thought she saw the red eyes staring at her from the white darkness of Falcon's Winter.
Not sure how many parts this story will be, but it is based off of a campaign idea I had. I don't get to role play at all any more. So, I decided to write the story. The world of Estaria will become more richly detailed as you read, but it has been very fun for me to mentally design.