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The Piggyback Acorn (Chapter 1-11: Alchesmith's Forge)

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The wooden door of the Forge, three inches thick and reinforced with iron ribs, clangs against a delicate bell. Cold, damp mist hangs in the foyer, stinking of molten metal and all sorts of exotic substances. Woodberry shivers. The handle of his Q'uonan's axe strikes the door frame, forcing him to dip low to enter.

Q'UONAN: "Zudin, this place is much like my homeland..." WOODBERRY:"Ew, it makes my eyes sting."
Stacked from floor to ceiling against each wall, leaving only a small patch of open floor in the center of the room, are strange objects of every shape and color. Filthy piles of cloth and leather, hunks of contorted weaponry and household tools, colorful jars filled with powders, insects, glowing liquids, preserved animal parts, and bones.
WOODBERRY:"Anyone here...? We're looking for... someone... um..."
Q'uonan inches toward a cluttered counter resembling a work station. Further inside, an ashen black forge glows shades of green and…

The Piggyback Acorn (Chapter 1-10: Monumental Responsibility)

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WOODBERRY:"What's so interesting about that hunk of stone?"
Woodberry tugs on Q'uonan's ear, urging him away from Needham's Tavern. Down a gentle slope of wild grass, Sir Soanso paces around the Bryn Colledig Monument. He mutters beneath his helmet.
SIR SOANSO:"Young and old... the soil hungers for us all to return to its embrace. Oh, my soul... what are we, but leaves in the wind?" WOODBERRY:"...Sir Soanso?" SIR SOANSO:"Hm? Ah! Graceful Woodberry and Brave Q'uonan! My new friends have found their way!" WOODBERRY:"Are you feeling all right? I hear you've been standing here for a while." SIR SOANSO:"I confess, time does seem to escape one's perception whilst contemplating the names written here. So very many lives lost... and yet, who stops to remember, but once per year?"
Q'uonan shudders, glaring at the dozens of moss-covered stones beneath his feet.
Q'UONAN:"All of these, it marks the graves…

The Piggyback Acorn (Chapter 1-9: Needham's Tavern)

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The Tavern goes silent when Q'uonan enters with Woodberry. Over a dozen  people dressed in combinations of cloth, leather, and metal are seated at each table: Some alone, some in groups of two or three. Colorful weapons rest in holsters slung over the backs of each chair. The scent of sizzling, charred meat hovers all around. Fat candles housed in glass lanterns line each table, multiplying the orange warmth of the room. Stuffed heads, horns, and antlers of exotic animals hang from the walls all the way up to the second floor, where a wooden balcony separates the tall ceiling from a row of closed doors.

The Tavern Chef sneers from a doorway behind the polished wooden bar on the right. He vanishes  with a grunt and calls for someone. Woodberry spots the girl from the window sitting alone at the farthest table in the left corner: Glaring at us with large, unblinking eyes framed by long brown hair. She wears a tattered red dress which may have been quite beautiful a generation ago.
Q&#…

The Piggyback Acorn (Chapter 1-8: A Puff of Smoke)

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Woodberry leans against one of the chains holding the Tavern sign up. She swings it back and forth.
WOODBERRY:"Mama always warned us that humans were strange. They smell funny, demand gifts from you, ask all these questions..." NUGGET:"I assume most people haven't interacted with Faeriekind very often." WOODBERRY:"For good reason! Look over there. That one's been staring at us for the longest time." NUGGET:"Who?" WOODBERRY:"That girl, scrunched in the corner of that window. She isn't blinking. I think she wants to eat one of us." NUGGET: "I doubt she sees me. It is no help that you are drawing attention to yourself."

WOODBERRY:"I'm bored! This is the longest I've ever waited for anything in my entire liiiife!" ???: "Oh? Looking for some adventure, little one?"
Woodberry jumps behind the chain. The sign stops moving. A lean man with a chiseled face and dark hair rests a foot against the Tavern wa…

The Piggyback Acorn (Chapter 1-7: Bryn Colledig)

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The dirt road gives way to stone bricks divided by gravel. Q'uonan panting slows as he ascends the final slope to Bryn Colledig. His gaze fixes on the dusty logs at his feet, half-buried in the hill to form shallow stairs.
Q'UONAN: "Do the people of the south not fear waste? They use many trees for building."
WOODBERRY: "Isn't that what all humans do?"
Q'UONAN: "The clans from which I come, we build with ice and stone. Wood is much valued for fire only, no building."
Q'uonan slaps at his leathers, then ruffles hair violently, producing a cloud of dust, leaves, gnats and twigs. From the East, a delicious scent rolls down from a two-storied building with windows stained in the colors of sunset. Q'uonan stumbles toward it, passing Sir Soanso in the center of town, who faces a tall stone Monument, as promised, with his arms crossed. We hear the Barrel Knight muttering underneath his helmet.
SIR SOANSO:"Hmm... Dominus Decimus. Passed fr…

The Piggyback Acorn (Chapter 1-6: Entering Town)

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WOODBERRY:"Giddyap, Horsie! Leg it!" Q'UONAN:"Yaaaahhhhh... ugggghhh..." WOODBERRY: "Mush!"
Q'uonan's sandals clap against a dusty road, surrounded by an ocean of overgrown hills. He groans climbing each slope and thunders down with careless stomps. At the summit of one especially steep incline, Woodberry shades her eyes with a tiny hand.
WOODBERRY: "Look! Way over there, at that smoke! A real-life human village! At last! I tell ya, after all this sitting and bouncing, I could certainly use a break to stretch my wings..."


With a primitive grunt, Q'uonan's pace intensifies.
WOODBERRY:"Hey! Watch out!"
The exhausted mount slams his full weight into what appears to be a scarecrow, wearing a barrel and an old war helmet, standing watch on the other side of a summit.
SCARECROW: "OOF!" Q'UONAN:"AUUUUGH!" WOODBERRY:"EEK!"
Lifting Nugget away the nick of time, Woodberry watches the bodies of two men k…

The Piggyback Acorn (Chapter 1-5: Maiden Quest)

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Maiden QuestQ'uonan moves slowly in the dark, pulling his knees high to gain better traction over pokey spidergrass and murky puddles. 

WOODBERRY: "Do you know where you're going? It feels like we've been wandering for hours." Q'UONAN: "It is said this land is cursed... Perhaps the wood changes shape to lead men in circles. For many days and nights, I have encountered no one." WOODBERRY: "I see humans all the time. Granted they aren't always alive, but they're... y'know, fresh." Q'UONAN: "..." WOODBERRY: "Maybe they're hiding? You look pretty scary with that axe on your back, after all. Used to swinging it around?" Q'UONAN: "...It is specialty of my people." WOODBERRY: "That's good. I'm pretty good at hiding, myself. You could say that's the specialty of my ."
A twig snaps ten meters away, behind thick brush.
WOODBERRY: "Eep!" Q'UONAN: "Be no fear, Wood-D…