Finkle Herdcaller woke to the rooster’s crow in the predawn light. He rolled over and whispered in Kaarhi’s ear, “Wake My Love, a new day is dawning.” She was already awake, having heard the rooster herself, but she enjoyed her part in their little ritual, and groaned, “Five more minutes My Heart.”
After pulling on his trousers, Finkle shifted over to the boy’s bed and shook the foot of Gelkon, his first born, as he was to continue his education of a Master of the Farm. The attack on the caravan the previous day had caused Finkle quite a bit of concern as he had not heard of so many coming that close to the city in a very long time. He decided he would spend the morning inspecting the fence for wear or weakness while Gelkon organized the harvest.
Stepping outside, he breathed in the earthy scent of his farm and headed to the barn. Even though he had enough hands to tend to this sort of task, Finkle still preferred to milk the aurochs himself. He found the simple repetition of the job to be calming and helped him organize his thoughts. He had an odd feeling this morning, but he felt a little eased when he finished a couple hours later.
He left the barn with the bright morning sun full on his face, which meant it was time for the final part of his pre-breakfast routine and he prayed to Chauntea, asking for a bountiful final harvest and for the good health of his herd through the dry months ahead. He then took one of the buckets of milk to the kitchen where he could already smell the baking bread. He devoured a hardy breakfast of eggs, warm bread and smoky sausage. Sieko, their youngest daughter, insisted that she get to sit on daddy’s lap as she had fallen sleep during dinner the previous night so, “Tha’ didn’ coun’.”
After breakfast, Finkle saddled his favorite horse, Dimena, and whistled for the dogs. He took anything he might need to make minor repairs to the fence, but if there was anything major, he would have to come back. He headed to the North section first, since that was the most likely direction from which trouble would come. He was relieved when he found only the usual wear and tear and that he only needed to make some minor repairs. It is one of the larger farms so it still took all morning, and as he was approaching the farmhouse, it was already past midday.
He noticed that Essoth and some of the other guards from the city were paying a visit. Finkles first thought was, “Did I miss something?” and he almost turned back. Realizing it might be his brother making an unexpected visit, he spurred Dimena on. When he came close, he noticed that Kaarhi was crying and that Essoth was trying to console her. Dread overtook Finkle as he realized that something most have happened to his brother Resmuk. His fear was confirmed when Essoth began, “I’m so sorry, Finkle, there’s no easy way to say this…”
Essoth explained how they had been trying to split the Cube, but it had gotten bigger than they realized and that Resmuk had fallen in the line of duty while he was saving a mother, and her little girl who had become too curious. He also told of how some idiots from the West got overzealous (one of them an Elven Witch even!) and killed the cube before they could split it. He and the guards offered their condolences and asked if there was anything they could do.
Finkle insisted on seeing his brother before The End, even though they were recommending strongly against it. It was a quick ride to the Temple of Urogolan, where Resmuk’s body had been moved to. The sight was almost more than Finkle could handle, it was much more horrific than they had described, or at least more than he had been willing to hear. He regretted not being closer, they only saw each other a few times a year, even though they lived so near each other. They had often fought when they were young, and even as adults, they rarely shared the same point of view. He did think his brother fit well in the guard though. As Resmuk had no other family, it would fall to Finkle to make arrangements for Resmuk’s End. So he said a silent prayer to Waukeen thanking her that he had been more prosperous than most over the last several years.
A few moments later, Essoth returned and with an uneasy look on his face. “I know you hav-“
“Just out with it, Essoth” interrupted Finkle.
“Well The Counselors have decided to send those idiots to retrieve a new cube, so we will need someone to drive the cage and an aurochs. I was thinking Gelkon might be able to.”
“No, I’ll drive; Gelkon can run the farm for a day. I want to meet those fools anyway.” After a pause, he continued, “You know, they probably saved some of your lives, even if they did take it too far.” With that, Finkle hustled off to prepare for the journey.
As he approached the meeting house, he noticed a couple elves an attractive woman and a man standing in an awkward silence among some of the city guard. Most of the guards had an uneasy look about them, and were eyeing the elven Witch with caution; she didn’t seem to notice and was the only one smiling. The guards escorted them all to the gate, which Finkle thought odd, so he presumed the four must have pissed them off somehow.
It was nice to be in the wild though the elf “Witch” (if she really was) seemed to be unusually interested in the aurochs. They made some small talk and the elf male seemed very concerned about a particular herd of elephants they passed. They also seemed to struggle with how the cube helps keep the city clean and how the city maintains them. The Beautiful one even thought that Finkle farmed them. He had thought of asking how it was done where they are from, but he forgot to, he did appreciate the distraction though.
They made good time and arrived at the cave shortly before sunset. They finally came up with a plan to catch the cube and they asked Finkle to shovel some elephant shit into the cage, seeming to think that the smellier it was, the better it would attract the Cube. As he had never seen a nose on a Cube, he wondered how it could smell, but they are from the West, so maybe they knew something he didn’t.
Suddenly, the Witch revealed her power and instilled a bright light into their equipment! None of the others seemed alarmed by this, so Finkle tried not to draw her attention as he did not want to become a newt, like in the stories he’s heard. It was the most terrifying and yet beautiful thing he had ever seen. He stood there stunned as the three ventured into the cave. The Man stayed with Finkle and the cage in case something came along while the others were in the cave.
Finkle soon came to his senses (with the help of a fine whiskey the man reluctantly offered) and soon, the cage was full of odorous manure. Finkle climbed onto the top of the cage and watched the moons float across the sky. Just as he fell asleep, the three returned from the cave dragging a corpse of someone they killed, luring a smaller Cube than Finkle had expected. He presumed that the one they had brought here last time must have split on its own somehow.
They still didn’t seem to have a plan to get the cube into the cage and asked Finkle to throw the corpse into the cage once the cube got close enough. This instantly brought back visions of his brother to the mind’s eye and it was all he could do to remain standing. He managed to get out that he couldn’t do it and they decided to just throw in the body and close the cage behind the cube.
The elven male shared some letter they found in the cave to the Man, though he didn’t seem to have much to say about it. It was late, and Finkle was tired but he wanted to leave as he didn’t like the idea of the cube’s “brother” coming out looking for food; or whatever else may be “coming home.” They decided to push on to Lut Gholein that night.
About two hours later, they were set on by some goblins! The Four made quick work of them though, and the elven woman made some more amazing things happen using her Gift.