As I write this article, I am sitting on a stump in the middle of what may be the worst squalor I have seen in all my days on Elyria. I am being held in a cage made of roughly hewn logs, bound together with hempen rope and spikes. Some rotting straw has been scattered on the ground, presumably as a bed. The stench makes me wonder if it isn’t meant as a privy, however. My captors have been gracious enough to provide me with a scrap of parchment and some charcoal to write with, and I have been asked to write a tale of their “bravery and, ya know, how we’ve stood up to that barstid up at the castle (they presumably mean our beloved Duke – his keep is a short distance up the river)”. Not a one of these louts can possibly be literate, but I will do my best to tell you, dear reader, from what I’ve seen here at this den of thieves.
This morning I was on my way north, following the river road to the Ducal seat to interview the townsfolk about his Grace’s most recent levies to support the conflict along the Western borders. One moment I was walking along, the next I heard a footfall behind me and I knew no more. I awoke some time later, surrounded by a gang of toughs. Each seemed more brutish than the last, and their unwashed stench almost overwhelmed me. Their leader goes by the charming sobriquet of “Gasher”, and he explained my situation to me.
“Y’see, writer man, what we’ve gots ourselfs here is a bit of a misunderstandin’. That fat arsed pollock up t’castle, he run every one of us out of house and home, he did. Take ol’ Jiggy there,” he said, pointing at a one-eyed gentleman who had been staring at me unblinkingly with a most distressing grin on his face. “Jiggy was a barber not that long ago. Damn good one too.” This explained the razor which ‘Jiggy’ was fondling, clearly. “But that sod and his bloody taxes! Jiggy lost everyfin! So now he’s one of us, and we ain’t gonna give up until the people put that barstid in his place!” A ragged muttering of agreement passed between the rest of the men.
Apparently this motley crew makes its living by kidnapping travelers and ransoming them back to their families, along with more prosaic highwayman activities. About 10 men call this camp home, somewhere in the wilds off of the river road. An informant from the town I had spent the evening in last night had apparently passed word of my status as a writer in the Elyria Herald ahead to the bandits, and they believed that Master Wilshire would be willing to pay for my release. That, along with the story, I have been ordered to write was enough to make them think I was worth the effort.
The camp is stirring, a man has just ridden in with a sack of coin. Apparently the Herald felt that I was worth the ransom, praise Ao! The scabrous scoundrels are on their way over now, I shall show them the article and tell them it is a testament to their heroic deeds, et cetera.
Editor’s Note: This article was next to the unconscious body of Mr. Belleme as he lay in the street outside of the Elyria Herald this morning. His clothing had been removed, and a note had been written on his chest: “I was a scribe, you illiterate swine. -Gasher”