Demons of Karis Forest Chapter 1: A Surprise

Demons of Karis Forest Chapter 1: A Surprise Dedicated to Daniel who’s pestering is the only reason I decided to write this story at all You are playing as 17 year old Derrick Kiso, a farmer’s son living in the southern region of the fantasy nation of Adrumir. It is a world of secret magical societies, brutal cutthroat political schemes and centuries of brutal bloody conflicts. Adrumir themselves have been at the heart of much of the chaos, a relatively new nation that has sprung onto the scene first as a humble city state having minor border conflicts to an industrial powerhouse with rapidly expanding borders and constant victories in battle. In the past century Adrumir has been the story of the world, an unexpected powerhouse that carved a place for itself on the map. But, its a story you have only heard from afar, you live in the breadbasket of Adrumir in the southern provinces, a territory dominated exclusively by fertile lands and widespread agriculture. As farmers your family and your whole community have avoided the draft and have lived in peace since Adrumir annexed the territory nearly a century ago. Still, the world is a dangerous place and soon nowhere even your humble hometown will be safe, only cunning decision-making and calculated risk-taking will keep you alive and healthy when the time of danger comes.


Chapter 1
Early dawn sunshine trickles in through your window falling upon your drowsy face. It’s harvest season in the prairies and you have another long day of grueling labor ahead of you. As you rub sleep from your eyes you consider the life you have here it’s been hard, your family has grasped and clawed for everything you’ve had Adrumir’s relentless war machine hasn’t brought conflict to your doorstep, but they are the only legal buyer for your grain and in order to fund their desperate wars, they offer you rock bottom prices. You glance out the window of your second story bedroom as the morning sun sheds its light on your humble homestead the wood and stone building you live in is small but sturdy your grandfather’s crowning achievement was to piece it together with all the money he saved over his life much safer than a wooden home especially with somewhat common wildfires on the planes. The rest of the farm isn’t so beautiful within a gated yard is a barn for the animals in visible disrepair and grazing in the yard is a pair of workhorses perhaps in worse shape than their dwelling. Both are getting quite old and more concerningly one walks with a slight limp as he searches for grass to graze in the early morning. Times have been hard and the future looks to be rather dim as Adrumir last year entered into yet another open conflict with their neighbors to the east in another bid to expand their borders. But, that has been the tale for as long as Adrumir has been a nation, as soon as one war ends another begins. “DERRICK wake uuup!” a voice calls from downstairs snapping you from your reverie. Its your mother calling you, you’ll be needed on the farm, daylight is wasting and you need to bring in the harvest before the first frost of winter comes and ruins your efforts. Still you are woefully tired from several days work and the thought of another day of hard labor is weighing heavily on you you could.

You cajole yourself for even thinking of leaving your father to take on your workload, though your bed is tempting, your parents raised you better than to do that.You plod down the stairs rubbing the soreness from your muscles and make your way to the humble kitchen where your mother, Ann, has a fresh loaf of bread ready and is in the process of frying several eggs.

“You’re up rather late, thought I’d have to go and snatch your covers from you like when you were a child” she says with a smile on her face, as she deftly flips the eggs from her pan to a nearby plate. “Hurry up and eat, the food’s still warm and there’s fresh water on the table”

The smell of fresh food goes a long way to clearing the fog from your mind and your mother’s pleasant demeanor helps to shake your sour mood. You thank her for preparing the food and give her a quick if slightly dangerous hug as she continues to fry up more breakfast.

With that out of the way you quickly scarf down the fresh bread and eggs, pausing only to wash it down with cold swigs of water. As the food in front of you dwindles, you ask between mouthfuls “Dad decide to get a headstart on the day?”

“That man has a death wish, the way he works himself to the bone without so much as a thought to stop long enough to grab a bite to eat!” she pauses for a second, realizing she only half answered your question, “yes he left before sunrise, muttered something about patching a leak in the barn roof I think, but to be frank I was half asleep.” she says with her usual smile.

You shake your head, if the disrepair of the farm and the futility of your labors was a weight on your shoulders that applied doubly to your father, he always felt he owed your grandfather to keep his inheritance secure. “He’s resilient Mom, I don’t expect he’ll be keeling over in the fields any time soon.” You say in a reassuring tone.

“Oh I know, all the same take some food out to him and insist he pauses long enough to eat it” she says handing you a large chunk of bread in a small sack.

With that, you are already behind on your day as is and so you bound out the door and jog lightly to the barnyard.Hired hands are already starting to show up to help with the day’s labors two men and a boy from the nearby town of Imsidar, normally the harvest would require at least five additional men to help with the significantly increased workload, your father decided to hire three men and a boy (at half pay) to try to squeeze some extra profitability out of this year’s harvest. As you get closer you identify the workers.

The two men are Jallir and Tavryn Hinkswellow, twin brothers with a solid work ethic, but somewhat unlikable personalities.

The boy is Philip Tarron, a long time friend of yours and only one year your junior. As you approach you see no sign of Gustaf Tarron, his father and the final hired hand for the day.

What you can see is Jallir and Tavryn clearly having a laugh at the state of your horses. “Got one foot in the grave that one” Tavryn says with a smirk
“Better than the blackie there” Jallir chimes in, “I’ve seen more lively specimens at the morgue and I wager we’re better off having the chickens pull the cart”

Tavryn looks up from his conversation long enough to shade his eyes and notice your approach, “looks like the Kiso daughter wants to come watch the men work” he says with a grin far too large for the quality of his taunt.

Jallir picks up where he left off “I do believe that’s a boy” he says with mock surprise “hard to tell with those narrow shoulders and girlish figure, but he certainly isn’t pretty enough to be Ann’s daughter”

Philip hides a smile, Tavryn and Jallir have been picking on you all week for your genetic disadvantages, despite your father’s solid build, you grew up slight and even sickly at times, no matter how much hard farm work you put your back to, you haven’t been able to grow to a respectable mass.

The Hinkswellow twins picked up on your insecurity and have been picking at you day in and day out as their primary entertainment. It doesn’t feel right to let them get away with their taunting, but you’ve never had a particularly quick tongue to keep pace with their jabs. Still at this moment a few retorts spring to mind.

You could go on the offensive and target their parentage, it’s been long rumored that the Hinkswellows were the product of an incestuous relationship that turned so sour both parents (or siblings) killed themselves shortly after

their birth. It feels like justice to pick at a sore spot of theirs, but on the other hand it might well be crossing more than a few lines.

You could mock their intellect, neither knows their letters, or numbers, but all the same their quick wit and sharp tongues often substitute for typical intelligence.

Of course there’s also a tried and true joke about their mother, you have several committed to memory, not the most original, but it could work with some clever phrasing

Or maybe you are overreacting, thinking over your options has taken the wind out of your sails a little bit. The time for a retort is almost past you decide to say:

“Girlish figure? I just got back from your mother’s house and she said I was the biggest man she’d ever been with, though perhaps she was talking about something else”


They pause for a moment, before Tavryn bursts out laughing and after a brief moment of surprise Jallir joins in. Phil covers a smile with his hand in the background. “Not usually so quick witted this one,” Tavryn says wiping his eyes “I suppose he’d have got us good if our mother were still alive.” Jallir nods in agreement. They don’t seem particularly bothered by your remark, but they both looked at you with some respect for pulling it out of nowhere. They go back to talking about the horses and leave you alone. For your part it feels good to finally bite back a little and if they like you because of it, all the better.
You’re about to go and start chatting with Phil when you see your Dad making his way from the barn, it looks like he has the leak under control and now it’s time to get to work. You run to meet him before he gets to the idling group. “Mom says you need to eat some of this before you get started” you say, passing the bread to him and add, “she’s worried about you, you need to take care of yourself.” Your Dad is a stocky, gruff sort of man and you’ve often had a hard time getting a read on him, but in this moment you think you catch a flash of guilt run over his face. It quickly passes and he smiles at you and grabs the bread, “thanks for bringing me this, I’ll admit I was so worried about rain spoiling our harvest that I didn’t even consider eating.” He munches on the bread as he approaches the group. “Right men, time to get to work we have another long day ahead and daylight is wasting. Tavryn you and Jallir get the horses hooked up to the reaper and wagon. Put the blackie on the wagon this time and make sure we don’t overburden him I’ve noticed his leg isn’t holding up very well.” Both men nod and get straight to work leading the horses to the barn to get them hooked up to their respective burdens. Your Dad turns to Phil, “us three will start the day binding the stalks, but after noon, I’ll let you boys take a turn driving the horses.” Then as if noticing for the first time, “where’s Gustaf gotten off to? It’s not like your father to be late” he says to Phil.
Phil grins at your Dad, “no not usually, but you may well guess why he is” You father grunts in recognition, Gustaf is a stable man, he serves as a shopkeep in the nearby town of Imsidar and much like his business he’s reliable. He only helps with agricultural projects like harvest, or fixing a barn or two in order to avoid the draft, but as much as he would never want to serve the army it’s certainly his greatest weakness. Whenever news from the frontlines trickles into Imsidar, he excitedly hangs on every word, listening to new tales of bravery and of battles won and lost. “Suppose a messenger’s come down the railway to enthrall your father for hours then?” Phil gives a quick nod, “It seemed pretty serious this time, the messenger was dressed a little fancier than usual, some sort of official message from the king to the territories, or so he said.” “Hmm, I’ll admit I’m not much for war stories, but that would have captured my attention too. Still, if he doesn’t show up soon I’m going to have to dock that man’s pay…” As he speaks a lightly jogging and very disheveled Gustaf Tarron comes into view, he’s a good ways up the road but as soon as he’s within eyesight he picks up speed. “Speak of the devil,” your father begins “I wonder what has him so worked up today.” Eventually he gets to where you’re standing and takes a moment to catch his breath, you take that moment to regard him. Gustaf always struck you as a funny looking man, tall and thin with wild unkempt hair and a perfectly manicured beard.
“It’s over!” he proclaims, “Einora has bid for peace and has accepted all terms and cessions” Gustaf’s eyes twinkle as a toothy smile fills his face. “I’ve heard that before, hell, my son’s hardly a man and he’s heard that three times already. Peace makes way for another war.” “Well, if that’s the news I came to bring you, then I’d deserve a dock in my pay, instead I might ask you for a raise. The war is over and the king is making a show of saying there are no more wars to come. Which means as of the first of next week, the King has decreed…” he pauses for dramatic effect, “you will be able to take your crops to the open market my friend” he says while handing over a small pamphlet. Shock passes over your father’s face, “is it actually happening…?” he mutters as he glances over the notice. “And no more draft for me to worry about dodging” says Gustaf with a grin, “but I thought I’d start with the news you really wanted” Your father looks up from the pamphlet and smiles wider than you’ve ever seen before, “well, I suppose some bad news has to come with the good, that was my only hope to be rid of you. But seriously Gustaf, this is incredible, you should go tell the twins the news and tell them they can take the day off if they’d like I need to go tell Ann”
Gustaf has already taken off to share the news before your father’s finishes talking. “As for you boys, I think you might appreciate going to town for a day like today, there will certainly be celebrations and it’s a piece of history you’ll be able to share with your children one day.” Phil seems ready to leave with just that said, you can’t tell whether he’s happier about the war ending, or getting to avoid a day’s work. All the same you don’t feel quite so good about running off to take part in some silly celebrations and risk losing your harvest to an early frost. Open markets, or not you can’t sell what isn’t safely in the barn. Still your father seemed ready to call it a holiday and it’s not like you and Phil can handle the job on your own. You decide to: Express concern about the harvest
“Are you sure we should be going to some celebration, even with better prices we should try to get our crops in. It’s been a cold fall, if we lose half our crop to frost it won’t matter how much we make.”
He looks at you with a glint in his eye, “not one for sentimental things are you. I understand, I’m the same way and believe me if I could convince the others to get to work on a day like today I would, but the twins will want to go tell their families and it’s a miracle Gustaf came to see us at all. This is exactly the sort of thing he’ll want to soak in and remember for the rest of his life.” he reaches into his pocket, “still the day needn’t be lost, I think it’s best you go into town anyway, but while you’re there check with the locals and see what other farmers are looking to do with their crop see if any buyers are being lined up, and while your there bring back meat for dinner.” he says pulling two coins from his pocket, “even if I don’t much care for a party we should still celebrate in our own way.”
He pats you on the shoulder and sends you on your way.

As you follow the path back into town you finally have a chance to talk with Phil about the news. You’re about to, but he beats you to it. “I was starting to get scared, you know? Dad’s little tricks to get out of the draft work alright for him, but a young guy like me? They would have gotten me sooner or later. Didn’t want to fight in any foreign wars.”

You nod along with him, “I was actually considering enlisting next year, even if I could have avoided the draft by keeping up work on the farm, you see the state of things our family was getting by, but we couldn’t afford to keep it up much longer if I left I might have been able to send some money back, but it wasn’t something I was looking forward to.”

He looks at you with a grin, “don’t think they let girls in the army, even now days”

You slug him in the shoulder and the two of you continue your trek and good natured conversation until Imsidar is within view.

As you enter the edge of town, you can see it’s alive with excitement. Given the short notice, it’s not quite a proper festival but the streets are filled with people discussing the recent news. Mildred the baker is handing out free treats to passers by and before you know it Phil has abandoned you to line up for a cookie.

In the chaos you aren’t sure how much you’ll be able to get done, so you figure you should prioritize something. Your father asked you to pick up meat for dinner and to try to figure out how to offload your crops under the new decrees. You also wouldn’t mind looking for the messenger that came into town earlier, surely that man has a bunch of stories and maybe even better information than the locals when it comes to finding outside buyers. You also aren’t opposed to the idea of grabbing a cookie. You decide to: talk with the locals


You wave goodbye to Phil and start looking for people you recognize. You first encounter Samuel Gibbons who you had heard was growing corn on the other side of town. You engage him briefly, but find he’s in the same boat as you and he doesn’t know what he’ll do. That proves to be the story of the day. You meet up with a half dozen other farmers from the local area and the consensus is the same, it’s been too long since open market selling was legal and no one in town has a clue how to ship and sell their crops. Mitch Greyson provides the only useful tidbit, that he plans to take the train up to Yorim to see if a bigger town will be filled with buyers looking to take advantage of the new influx of cheap crops. It’s a good idea, but unfortunately it’s probably everyone’s idea. Every small town from here to Dauthmir will likely send representatives to strike up a favorable deal in large towns. What you were really hoping for was someone in town that had been selling their crop to a black market buyer during the war and with the newfound legalization already had a supply line. But, either no one you found does, or more likely no one wants to admit it. After a few hours you decide you’re wasting your time chatting with a bunch of clueless, or tight-lipped farmers and decide it’s time to make your own fortune.The farmers can only repeat what they’ve heard, you need someone from out of town to give you something from the outside. Your first thought is the messenger and he’s easy to find. The problem is, he’s regaling an army of townspeople with stories about the war. There’s no chance you’ll get close to him and anything he says will be public knowledge anyway. Then it hits you. The railway! It’s basically impossible to transport anything in, or out of town by any other route. The conductor might have a tip about buyers, or at minimum news from the places he’s passed through.