Lords of Chaos
AKA:…………….Wallace Hawthorne Merriweather III
Profession:….Watcher of the Kingdom of Anivere
Family:…………Sixth born son of Baron Horatio Merriweather
Marks:………….Possible scar running from left temple, across the nose and on to right cheek.
Crimes:………..Wanted for the brutal murder of the heir to Earl Blankenship
Wallace Hawthorne Merriweather III
_“To the firstborn son the responsibility of continuing the duties of the fathers title, to the second born son a commissioned officer in one of His Majesty’s military divisions, to the third born son a noble career in the priesthood, to the fourth born son a vibrant career in the arts, to the fifth born son a calling to the healing arts, and finally to the sixth born son a time honored duty of digging pits for outhouses.”
Wallace was well aware of the progression of career duties for noblemen’s sons. Except for the outhouse duty. That duty had been created by his five older brothers. Wallace Hawthorne Merriweather the Third was the sixth born son of Baron Horatio Merriweather in the small kingdom of Anivere. The Baron was a very stern man concerned with the duties and proper execution of responsibilities. Each of his sons was apprenticed with an expert in their assigned career paths and each placed high within their particular academic establishments of learning. Everyone that was except for Wallace. There really wasn’t a pre-ordained profession to place a sixth son so in reality any would do. Wallace had to be apprenticed to some place that was actually taking apprentices and those were few and far between. One day, just before his thirteenth birthday, Wallace was informed by his father that he was being apprenticed to the Watchers, and it would be to the best of everyone’s interests if he did not tarnish the good family name by failing the apprenticeship training.
The Watchers were a group of men and women that were associated with many legends and heroes. They were the men that patrolled the King’s forest, enforcing laws, capturing spies and arresting poachers. In times of war they were used as scouts and runners, dashing through the forests to deliver orders and defend the kingdom. Duty! Honor! Vigilance! was their motto and many a bard sang glorious songs about watchers with names like Ghost, Hawk, Cheetah and Eagle Eye, each accomplishing daring feats to save the kingdom.
Each watcher was given a nickname sometime during their apprenticeship. It was usually something humorous that others initially badgered them about but then it became a serious title and that was how they were referred to for most of their lives. Of course everyone wanted an awe inspiring nickname but those were reserved for students with exceptional talents. Most of the other boys in Wallace’s apprenticeship class were comfortable in the forests and overall would do well. That could not be said of Wallace. His goals were twofold; first to avoid flunking out of the program and secondly not ending up with a nickname like “Wall Eye”.
Wallace’s tutor was “Ghost”, a Watcher of legendary feats and many a song. At first Wallace was hoping that he was assigned to Ghost because the wise Watchers saw some special skill within him. In later years he started realizing that only Ghost had a chance of training him up to minimum standards and that his father’s influence had probably helped as well. Ghost always mockingly addressed Wallace as “your royal highness” for not many of the noble class were apprenticed to the Watchers. In the second year of apprenticeship the cadets would go on patrols with the local forest indigenous people, the Kwatatto. These were a quiet but proud people that used short bows and arrows dipped in a quick-acting paralysis venom. What they lacked for in clothing they more than made up with abundant tattoos.
The first week of apprenticeship was horrible. They had to run a through the forests for long distances. They had to sleep on the hard ground with only a cape for warmth or protection. That was fine on dry warm days but on cold wet days it just produced miserable and spotty interrupted rest. Wallace hated the dirt that was everywhere. It was in his hair, on his face, in his boots on his clothes and in his food. Most of his food had to be gathered by hand from the forest and there were no servants to prepare it. One of the most horrible things was that they expected him to perform bodily functions out in the wide open spaces before god and the whole kingdom! At the end of his first week he was required to kill and dress a rabbit. That almost did him in. The only reason he didn’t throw up his meager breakfast was that he refused to go through life being called “Puker”.
Wallace had two things in his favor. Being much smaller than his brothers and friends he generally did poorly in competitions of physical skills such as wrestling or fencing. As such he focused on archery. He also found that he had a joy in running through the forest. He loved running, jumping, dodging rocks and leaping logs. It was as if he got energy from the forest itself. He often thought of himself as a deer and he could run effortlessly for hours. None of the other boys came close to him in either of these two feats and truth be told it is probably the only reason why he didn’t wash out of the apprenticeship.
In his third month of training Wallace was following Ghost through the forest and kept hearing a distant whomp-whomp-whomp sound. Each burst of the noise was made up of a score of beats. It started off slow and accelerated then the last three beats slowing down again. To him it sounded like a couple of people beating a hanging rug but he knew it couldn’t be that. After hearing it a dozen times he finally whispered “Ghost! What is that thumping noise?”
Ghost paused to listen. When it started again he said, “I’m not sure. What do you think it is your highness?”
Without thinking, Wallace blurted out, “it sounds like a couple of people beating a rug with sticks”.
Casting all stealth aside, Ghost groaned loudly. He stood up, spread his hands wide above him while tilting his head and arching his back. With great theatrics he shouted out “Why hast thou placed this curse upon me? Have I not been a righteous man? Am I not a just and patient man? Have I not performed my duties with great honor? Is this about that serving wench?” Wallace watched the sky for a few moments half expecting a loud voice to reply. After a while Ghost looked back down upon Wallace with a twinkle in his eye said, “you are very astute your highness. It is a little known secret that gypsies have been invading the King’s forest and have been cleaning their rugs herein. They spread their foul dirt, dust mites and chase out forest creatures with their dust bunnies. We shall use this as a training exercise where you can show me the skills you have learned thus far. Lead on your highness. Let us go forth and capture these dastardly gypsies then turn them over to the Sherriff!”
Wallace already knew there would be no gypsies at the end of his search but he did want to show off his skills and he wanted to find out what was making this curious noise. He took the lead trying to hunt down the noise maker. Much to his chagrin he made way too much noise, snapping branches, stumbling on rocks and once tripping and sprawling face down in a creek. Every time he got close to the noise it would suddenly stop only to be shifted over a couple hundred yards in another direction. Wallace tried to find the source of the noise all morning but it was always just out of reach. He was getting more and more frustrated. Finally, around midday, Ghost stopped him. In sign language Ghost motioned to Wallace that he would take the lead. They sat for a few moments and waited. When the thumping started up again Ghost took off at a sharp tangent to the noise, quickly moving to a low hill off to their right. They both belly crawled up the short incline and peered over the top. There was a log a short distance away. Atop the log was a bird about the size of a large chicken. It thrust its chest out, fanned a very colorful and banded tail and then started drumming its wings. Whomp! Whomp! Whomp! Ghost started laughing. “Here is you gypsy your highness! Quickly now… arrest him!”Around the council fire that night Wallace savored a mouthful of fire roasted Ruffled Grouse. Ghost stood up and elaborated to the others about the great search for rug beating gypsies. The audience supplied a hearty amount of cat calls, laughter and ribbing. After that a very mockingly somber ceremony was conducted where Ghost presented the banded grouse tail to Wallace. He dipped a grouse feather in a mixture of blood and soot and drew symbols on Wallace’s face. While performing this duty he bestowed upon Wallace his Watcher’s name… “Thumper”. While not as awe inspiring as some names, Thumper was a far better nickname than Puker so he was happy. Thumper is was.
Early in his second apprentice year Thumper was running trails delivering a message when he came upon a strange sight. In the middle of the trail was a long whitish mouse thing just a little longer that his hand from fingertip to palm. It stood on two hind legs and hissed at him. “Pardon me Sir Knight but my duties demand that I pass along this trail”. The white mouse thing considered that for a moment then hissed at him again. “I see. You say you are Sir Winston and you demand fealty or payment to pass”. By now Thumper had figured out this was a young weasel or ferret. It was certainly way too young to be out on its own. It looked starved as well. “As a King’s man I cannot provide fealty but I could possibly pay you with a piece of pemmican if it pleases you”. Thumper reached into his pouch and broke off a small piece of the fatty meat bar and offered it to “Sir Winston”. The weasel quickly snatched it and devoured it. He did not hiss again but regarded the large intruder. Thumper broke off another piece and that quickly disappeared as well. The third time Thumper offered a treat the weasel grabbed it, ran up his arm and quickly wormed his way into the surprised Thumper’s knap sack. He had dawdled with the rodent far too long and needed to get back to his duties. As there was nothing in the knap sack that could be harmed, Thumper shrugged and headed out. That is how Winston entered his life. The small animal was intelligent and learned a few tricks. He grew in size but was always a bit small compared to others of his kind, just like Thumper. Winston often accompanied Thumper on his forest patrols, watching from the safety of the pack or even perching upon Thumper’s shoulder. Being intelligent and curious got him into trouble more often than not but it was never anything too serious.
Thumper’s trouble started almost two years after graduation. He’d been on patrol in the western section of the forest with an older Kwatatto named Kantos. They’d heard a scream and ran down a trail to find its source. Thumper burst into a clearing where two young men stood before their horses. A third man, larger than the other two, was on the ground pinning down a young Kwatatto woman. She was struggling and it was obvious she had been struck severely across her face, some blood was flowing from her mouth and nose. “Get off of her!” Thumper shouted. He noticed that Kantos had held back and was nowhere to be seen. The pinner slowly rose to his feet with a nasty sneer. Thumper thought he recognized him but wasn’t quite sure. “Well, well, well… lookee here guys, it’s a tiny watcher.” The others started chuckling and slowly spread out advancing on Thumper. The young woman was trying to crawl away and was sobbing loudly. Thumper realized that he was in a dangerous position and if these men were going to be violent he would quickly be beaten or even killed. The three started hurling insults at him, mocking him. Thumper hoped they were just bullies and if he stood up to them they’d back down. Maybe he could get out of this by just talking but they seemed to bolster their own bravery by their constant bantering.
In every fight there is a certain tipping point where you know everything is just going to ignite. It’s that point where either common sense will prevail or violent actions will follow. Thumper knew they were there and common sense would not be the course for the day. His only chance was to start it and hope the surprise knocked them off their game. It would be stupid to attack the largest of the three, the one that towered over Thumper. So that’s what he did. Two things happened at the same time, Thumper punched the big man in the nose knocking him backwards and a Kwatatto arrow appeared in the thigh of one of the other two. The quick acting venom took its toll, that man’s eyes rolled up into his head and he collapsed. The third opponent quickly drew his sword and slashed a weak blow across Thumper’s face leaving a cut from his upper left temple, across his nose and then the lower right cheek. It would leave a scar that Thumper would carry the rest of his life. An arrow appeared in that man’s shoulder and he went down. Both the big man and Thumper had drawn their swords and the former charged. Thumper parried his opponents sword thrust and instantly reposted. He knew his counter attack would be easy to block but pressed it anyway. An arrow appeared in the arm of his opponent and the needed muscles to block Thumpers thrust did not obey. With a shock Thumper felt his blade slide into the heart of the big man. The man’s eyes went wide then he collapsed next to his friends.
The forest was quiet except for Thumper’s heavy breathing and the sobbing of the woman. Kantos quickly came out of his ambush, another arrow nocked and pointed at the fallen trio. When none of them moved, his face became enraged and he spit on all three of them. He crossed over to Thumper and quickly dressed his face wound then he knelt beside the woman and quietly talked to her in their native tongue. He rose and helped her to her feet, she was still sobbing. Kantos looked to Thumper, still with rage in his eyes, he nodded once then turned and escorted the woman away from the clearing.
Thumper looked around. Two of the men would regain consciousness in a few hours and have splitting headaches. The big one was quite dead. He tied all three of their horses together and threw each body over a saddle. He noticed that they were very nice saddles as he tied each man onto a horse. Then he led the horse string back to the Watcher’s fort to make his report to Ghost.
Ghost met him at the front of the post and listened to Thumper’s hasty report. As Thumper spoke Ghost walked down the horse string lifting the heads of each captive and staring at him. When he looked at the last one, the big man, he turned white. “This is Thomas, eldest son to Earl Blankenship”.
Ghost took a moment to think then he turned and shouted, “Swimmer! Take these horses and men to the Sheriff. Report their attack on the locals.” He paused for a moment then continued, “take Cheetah with you too. Thumper, you stay here in the fort”.
Thumper didn’t sleep well that night. A few hours before dawn someone shook him awake. Cheetah. He looked worried. “Thumper, the Earl is demanding your arrest for the murder of his son. He will be here in the morning with the Sheriff and a warrant bearing the King’s seal. If they bring you back you will be swinging from the gallows by the end of the day.” Cheetah stared at Thumper for a few seconds to make sure he understood the import of his words then stood and walked out the door. Duty! Honor! Vigilance! Thumper shivered. By morning Ghost and every other Watcher would be his enemy. It did not matter if he were innocent or not. With the King’s seal they would have a duty to perform and none would back down from it. Thumper jumped out of bed, quickly grabbed his bow and opened his pack for Winston to jump in.
Then he ran.He ran for hours. He knew he could not get away and was delaying the inevitable. He had to put distance behind him and by the same constraint he could not take the time to cover his tracks. If they had horses they would run him down by the end of the day. Shortly after dawn he began to realize someone was following him and they were gaining on him. He started looking for a place to make a stand but nothing looked good. He was tired and now becoming depressed at the realization of his short future. Finally he came out to a river that could not be easily crossed so he turned to wait for his captors. He could fight but in all honesty the men and women chasing him were his friends and he knew he wouldn’t do anything to hurt them. They were just doing their duty and he did not wish to harm them. The group would probably be led by Cheetah since he was one of the few that could catch Thumper.
Instead of Cheetah, Kantos came down the path. He was accompanied by another older man and a youth. Through broken common tongue Kantos indicated that his two companions were the father and brother of the woman they had rescued the day before. They would help. Thumper could continue to run and the three Kwatatto would follow at a slower pace covering his tracks. Thumper doubled back along his trail. Hopefully his pursuers would think that he entered the river to throw them off. They would waste a lot of time walking up and down its banks looking for the place he came out. If he got really lucky they might just conclude that he drowned. That did not seem likely but at this point Thumper was grasping at any hope that came his way. After a short double back Thumper changed course again, a course that would take him over the border and into the Middle Kingdoms.
That flight had been almost a year ago. A few weeks after that crossing the border Thumper began pondering some oddities. It would have been protocol to send Thumper on to the Sheriff and make a report himself. It was also protocol to only send one man on a mission like that. Ghost had ordered Thumper to stay at the fort and he not only assigned a second Watcher to the detail but it was the fastest runner of them all. Did Ghost suspect the trouble to come? The Watchers would not have had to act until they saw the warrant so there was no duty to secure Thumper. Did Ghost nudge the situation to give Thumper the time he might need to get away?
Thumper had been working odd jobs, mostly scouting ahead for merchant caravans, trying to spot ambushes. Someday he’d like to go home. He kept tempting himself. He did not know for a fact if there ever was a warrant for his arrest. Maybe it was all a big mistake. Maybe it wasn’t. It wasn’t worth the risk.
Winston agreed. Merchants ate well and the food they provided was too good to pass up. It would be much better to stay here and work the line rather than risk the supply of good food. Although, much to his chagrin, merchants tended to neglect the savory taste of good mouse meat and the occasional beetle. Perhaps, with time, they might be persuaded to see the error of the culinary ways. One could always hope.