The story so far: The Santa Creda Adventurers Guild has gotten through one meeting and one event, with a few ominous moments at each. Each of our POC characters has been introduced and we’ve gotten a glimpse into their lives. Now they are getting together for their first big group outing, a walk to Herald Rock, an abandoned town a few miles from Santa Creda.
POV: Marshall Cooper
Lead in story: Marshall – The Monk
Author’s Note: Now that the characters have been introduced, I am posting the story in smaller bites. Expect more posts, but with only 700 – 2000 words.
Marshall was the first to show up at Manny’s Breakfast Van, the food truck that was regularly set up by the railroad tracks near the western edge of town. It was just past six in the morning, and the sun was reluctantly rising over Santa Creda, pushing rays of light through the haze. Marshall ordered a bacon, egg, and cheese breakfast burrito and a large latte. He took a seat at one of the picnic tables and set his pack down on the ground next to him.
Marshall had camped out before, usually making the hike to Barnett Cove, a secluded beach on the other side of Rockfish Peak. Barnett Cove was one of those idyllic little circular coves you see in pictures, but not really accessible by boat or car. You had to make the walk. He kind of wished they were walking there today.
Marshall had a small tent, a sleeping bag, several bottles of water, nuts, beef jerky, and a dozen granola bars. He also had his crank-powered radio/flashlight, a small hammer, a multi-tool, and a first-aid kit. In addition to his pack, he had his walking stick, a five-foot hand-carved wooden staff he’d picked up at a yard sale. It was sturdy and had a good heft to it. It made him feel supported. It was also a pretty handy weapon, though Marshall had never had to use it as such. Marshall thought about the drawings he had seen of the shillelagh in that hidden room. At its heart, the shillelagh was just a stick, but he didn’t want to meet up with the business end of it. He thought about that for a moment. What have I gotten myself into?
Happy and Aadi showed up shortly after Marshall had sat down. The two emerged from a trail that came out of the woods. They had apparently both eaten breakfast, but Happy bought a couple of cups of coffee. The two sat down with Marshall and chatted for a few minutes. Happy said he had been up to Herald Rock a few years back. “There are so many abandoned buildings, you never know what you’ll find in them. There must be a dozen spooky dolls lying around. I didn’t mess with those. I didn’t want to spoil the vibe for the next person.”
“I’ve never been, but the cats speak highly of it.” Aadi said.
“You speak to cats?” Marshall asked.
Aadi nodded. They pulled out a sketch pad and flipped through several pages until reaching one with a drawing of a small blue building with broken windows that tilted at about a ten-degree angle. “One of them said there are coins here.”
“Cats know what coins are?” Marshall asked.
“Some cats,” Aadi said, “Most… no.”
Marshall nodded. He had told himself, when he was asked to create this guild, that he would not question these sorts of things. The question of whether Aadi could talk to cats was not up to him to prove or disprove. Whether Agnes was possessed by a yōkai or a nature spirit was not his concern. If Jack said they were helpful, then it was best to assume that they could do what they said they could do until proven otherwise. “Let’s keep an eye out for that building,” Marshall said.
Catrin and Jack showed up ten minutes later, both arriving in Jack’s brown Peugeot, the one he called Betty. Betty did seem to have a disposition. It was one Marshall would call cautiously curious and ready just in case there was a fight. Catrin was carrying Marshall’s old backpack and sleeping bag. He’d given them to her a week before when she’d tried to back out of going. Jack had also donned a backpack, but it was small and appeared empty or close enough to empty not to matter. Marshall started to say something but thought better of it. Jack knew what Jack needed.
Nick arrived next. He had a full backpack and carried the pole he used for picking up garbage. Marshall knew there was a sharp point that came out the bottom when he needed to get something off the ground. Marshall guessed that this qualified it as a spear. Happy wore a buck knife strapped to his belt. Marshall wondered if anyone else had something that could be used as a weapon. Nick got some food and a coffee, but sat at a separate table than the rest of the team and only picked at the food.
Marshall thought about going over to see how he was doing, but then Tilly arrived. She wore hiking shorts and a gray t-shirt with an unbuttoned long-sleeved shirt over it. It was the most casual Marshall had ever seen her dressed. She had a backpack and a walking stick. All of her equipment looked new, and Marshall hoped she had broken in her shoes, or she could be in for a painful journey. Tilly sat down with them and everyone greeted her.
“Is Agnes coming?” Tilly asked.
“No,” Marshall said, “She said she was in no shape for a walk that far, and sleeping on the ground sounded like hell on earth.”
“Fair enough,” Catrin said. “I can’t say I’m looking forward to that part.”
At 7:15, they all set out, walking along the railroad tracks.