Poisonroot - Chapter 8
The Mayor of Everywhere is a character that we use in D&D. He's a short guy in a black robe with a book and a wonderful bald spot. Essentially he's the character we use when we need a mayor or another official.
He makes a cameo appearance here as the Mayor of Deep Round.
Trip awoke. It was warm, dark; too warm, suddenly. He took a deep breath, stale sweat and worse filling his nostrils. He was suffocating, buried under a pile of bodies, quiet breathing all around him. He let out a howl of fear, struggling against the weight of so many people on top of him.
Muffled sounds from outside; then blinding light coupled with an easing of the pressure. He squinted his eyes.
“Soon have ye out of there, lad,” a voice said. Victor’s voice.
As the big man lifted the still-living bodies of the villagers away, Trip struggled up onto his elbows and looked around. A crumpled pile of brown hid a vaguely man-shaped lump. As his legs came free, Trip stood up, leaning against the earthen wall.
“Killed it. Never seen ought like it afore, though.” Victor walked over to the lump and prodded it with one booted toe. “Some sorta plant-thing; seems to have bin controllin’ the villagers. When I killed it, they jus’… collapsed.”
“On to me,” Trip said, ruefully rubbing his aching back.
“Better that than dead,” Victor muttered. A groan came from the villagers and suddenly the old man’s sword was in his hand as he slowly advanced. Trip got ready to run.
“Oh, my head,” the voice said. It was a fat voice, perfectly matching the man who stood up. “Where am I?”
Victor sheathed his sword again. “Under the Church. What c’n you remember?”
“There was a harvest celebration. A messenger came from the Church to speak to Father Liam.” The man brushed his trousers down self-consciously. “We went to the church for the celebration… I must have been taken ill.”
Trip caught hold of Victor’s hand and turned so that the man couldn’t hear. “Harvest. That was three weeks ago.”
“Aye. Whatever’s been goin’ on here, it’s been goin’ for a while.”
“My clothes… they’re ruined! Why are all these people on the floor here? Who are you, anyway?” The man was wearing some sort of chain around his neck. He took out a handkerchief and mopped his balding head. “This is outrageous, I say!”
Victor sighed. “I’m Victor Junn. This ‘ere’s… John. John Junn.” Trip opened his mouth to protest; Victor hand clamped down on his shoulder, tight as a vice.
“Victor? As in, the Victo-“
“Ah!” Suddenly wreathed in smiles, the man smoothed down his shirt. “I am Gilligan Haynes, Mayor of Deep Round. What brings you here?”
“’T’aint exactly the time or place. Right now, let’s get these people upstairs. You got an office?”
“Why certainly, it’s-“
“Let’s go then.” Victor picked up the legs of the nearest villager.
“Well, I…” The Mayor dithered for a moment, then sighed and picked the unconscious man up under the arms. Wordlessly, Victor began to walk them towards the exit.
The sun had been over the horizon for a long time as the Mayor poured steaming water into three cups.
“Koruan tea, imported from the capital,” he said. Trip took his cup and sniffed it; it was minty with a hint of lemon. He held it gingerly between his hands, the porcelain heating up quickly.
The Mayor harrumphed loudly and sat down. “This tale you’ve told me, Victor; it’s impossible to believe had I heard it from anyone else. You, of course, your reputation precedes you.”
Victor grunted. Trip tried to smother a yawn.
“True enough, though, there was some correspondence here dating from various times over the last few weeks. Mostly asking about late orders.” Waving a sheaf of papers vaguely in the air, the Mayor took a sip of his tea. “Most strange.”
Trip put his cup down on the desk. “You said a messenger came from the Church on the day of the harvest celebration?”
The Mayor got a mat out from a drawer and fussily slid it under the cup. “Yes, a tall fellow; cloaked, didn’t want to meet me. Went to Father Liam’s house. They talked for a while; we didn’t see the poor Father until the harvest that evening.”
“Must have been the first time you all gave the tree blood, whether you realised it or not,” Victor said.
The Mayor nodded. “This is beyond me, I’m afraid. Matters of religion and that strange plant creature you killed! It’s imperative that word of this gets to the High Father at Fennica.”
“So send a hawk.”
“Mr Junn, of course I will be sending a hawk, but don’t you think this needs some sort of human contact? Besides, so fantastic a story; would you believe it? No, this needs proof delivered there.”
Trip, who had been trying not to burn his tongue on the tea, suddenly caught up with the conversation. “Fennica? But the High Father is in Rootholme.”
“Boy, it seems you’re behind the times. One of the pieces of correspondence I missed out on during the… absence was a missive from the Church sent, at great expense I would imagine, to every member of the Church’s staff. The Rootholme sanctuary has been attacked by treacherous Gargorians and the High Father has relocated to the next largest Church property, that being the church in Fennica.”
“Gargorians? But no-one lives in Gargoria,” Trip said.
“Hm. Change o’ plans, then,” Victor rumbled. “Takin’ you to Fennica; nearer, anyway.”
The man shuffled to his feet and began to walk around the table, hands behind his back. “Here’s what I propose; I give you a small sack of, shall we say, samples; take them to the High Father, and take your words; convince them we need aid. Monetary aid. Tell them to send money.” He wandered back round to his chair and sat down.
“Now, look here.” Victor stood up as well, hands flat on the desk. “I don’ jus’ work for nothin’, y’know. Besides, I’ve already got a job.”
Trip yawned again and stood up next to Victor. “We can’t just forget about all this, though, Victor. Look; why don’t we take the evidence at least as far as Fennica?”
“You’re carryin’ it, then,” Victor replied, and turned to leave.
“Can’t we at least rest a day?” Trip asked.
“Don’ see why not. I take it our rooms are free?” He left the question hanging in the air, his back to the room.
“I, er, I suppose I can have a word with the barkeep.” Victor nodded once and left, the door banging behind him. Trip looked at the Mayor, who smiled nastily and pointed at a burlap sack in the corner. A few twigs were poking out of the top and one long tendril that looked disturbingly like a human hand made entirely of wood.
“All yours, boy,” the Mayor said. Trip picked it up; it wasn’t heavy, thankfully, and he took one last look around, fixing everything in his head. Then he left, walking as quickly as he could to keep up with Victor.
Most of the villagers waved as they passed the next morning, Trip staggering under the weight of both Victor’s bag and the sack. Victor kept the pace up, not returning any of the greetings; Trip watched his back retreating further and further up the road as he tried to handle the luggage.
“Thank you, young one, for your help!”
“Oh, really, no need to worry, I’m glad you’re-:
“Young man, you’re a credit to your order!”
“Why, thank you, sir, I-“
“Please, young man, take this small amount of food as thanks-“
“No, thank you, we didn’t do it for-“
Finally struggling out of the growing crowd, Trip saw that Victor was already almost a half mile down the road. Groaning, he adjusted the bag straps and tried to pick the pace up.
The sun was especially hot, beating down mercilessly on Trip; a couple of hours down the road was enough to make his habit rub against his skin in awkward places and the straps of the bag rub raw spots on his shoulders.
"We'll never get anywhere like this, lad."
Trip looked up, heat-fuelled anger fighting with his urge to act like a grown-up. Victor was leaning nonchalently against a fence-post, chewing on a piece of grass. Trip sighed and dumped the bags onto the floor.
"I can't do it, I can't carry them both. All of it, it's too heavy." He slumped to the ground, all strength suddenly gone, as if the admission had robbed him of his last energy.
"Din't you get a good night's sleep last night like I said?"
Trip's mind flashed through a few images of the ceiling of the room they had shared, the floor cold against his back, the old man's snoring reverberating around the night air.
Victor sighed and tutted. "Give it 'ere, then, if you're not up to the task."
Without any further argument Trip passed him the sack of evidence. Victor took it, opening it as he did so.
"What is this, anyway? One Tree, that mangy… looks like half a corpse in here!"
Half a corpse? Trip felt his breath coming faster and faster. He had carried it from Deep Round - would have carried it on to Fennica…
"Reckon we can do without all this. Here." Trip looked over at Victor, who was pulling sap-covered body parts out of the bag, and had his sword out. "Hold this."
With a quick slice Victor cut off the hand-shaped tendril that he had noticed earlier - no, he realised, the actual hand of Father Liam - and passed it to the boy. Trying to keep down the rising nausea, Trip took it.
"I'll jus' get rid of this," Victor muttered, taking the sack behind a nearby tree. Trip couldn't take his eyes from the stump of the hand; a large droplet of sap was forming there, growing in size.
It dripped onto his exposed leg.
Trip let out a cry and dropped the hand, scuttling away backwards; the hand bounced towards him as if pulled on a string. Victor was back in sight within a second.
"What? Are you all right?"
Struck dumb with fear and revulsion, Trip could only nod. Victor sighed and lowered the sword. He went back behind the tree and brought the sack, now significantly smaller, back out.
"Reckon I should carry this. Give that 'ere, lad."
Gently he reached down and took the severed hand, placing it in the sack. "Next town's not far away, lad, we'll get somethin' hot inside ye there."
Trip felt his heart begin to slow slightly and he licked his dry lips. "Thank you," he said, getting up. Victor nodded and turned back onto the path.
Without another word of complaint, Trip picked Victor's pack up. It was, he thought, by far the lesser of two evils.