Of late, I’ve been feeling my age, though I don’t like to admit it. So much has happened in the short week since the meeting at my hive house.
The Roost Marshal has been elected as leader of the Farrow Lake Militia, and their numbers are growing daily. Forden and Alcestia have been recruiting in the Western Woods and the militia can now boast a prowlgrin cavalry of thirty strong. The white trogs and the webfoots show great understanding of one another, and together with Phineal Glyfphith and his extraordinary phraxmarine, they have been charged with defending the Farrow Lake itself.
The Roost Marshal and the rest of the militia have established posts to the east and expect to encounter the army of mire-pearlers any day now.
I must admit to feeling rather old and useless in the midst of all this activity, and I was ruminating on such matters yesterday evening when Captain Gart Ironshank found me on the veranda of my hive house. I was gazing out across the beautiful, tranquil waters of the lake somewhat forlornly when his phraxcraft came in to land beside my jetty.
‘Greetings, old friend,’ Ironshank said, with his usual good humour. ‘I’ve just come from a meeting with the Roost Marshal – a meeting which I think you’ll find interesting, Hedgethorn.’
‘Why in Sky and Earth’s name should an old crock like me be interested?’ I grumbled. ‘Prowlgrin riding’s beyond, I’m too old to go tramping into the woods with the militia, and Fennith and his webfoot friends don’t think much of my swimming…’
‘Feeling sorry for yourself, old friend?’ said Ironshank, pulling up a chair and sitting down beside me. ‘Well, none of us can afford that luxury. There’s a battle coming and all of us have a part to play.’
‘That’s easy for you to say,’ I replied. ‘You have your phraxlighter to ferry supplies to the militia, not to mention patrolling the Eastern Woods. But what can I contribute?’
‘More than you think, Hedgethorn,’ the captain replied, with a smile, ‘and the Roost Marshal agrees with me. He has a mission for you.’
‘A mission?’ Now he had my full attention.
Ironshank sat back and put his arms behind his head. He looked at me levelly. ‘You are one of the first to settle at the Farrow Lake. You’re liked and respected. When you speak, people listen. It is a gift, Hedgethorn, and the Roost Marshal wants you to put it to use in the cause of freedom.
‘Fine words,’ I said, staring back over the lake towards the mighty Five Falls cascading from the ridge in the distance, ‘but what exactly does he want me to do?’
‘Go to Great Glade, at the head a small delegation of Farrow Lakers and seek an audience with the Great Glade Council. They must be made aware of the threat we face and be persuaded to intervene.’
‘It won’t be easy,’ I said, but already I could feel my pulse quickening and the aches and pains vanishing from my limbs. ‘The mire-pearlers will have allies in Great Glade who’ll want to silence us…’
‘If anyone can do it,’ said Captain Ironshank, clapping me on the shoulder, ‘it’s Hedgethorn Lammergyre!’
So, here I stand, an old grey goblin in his best topcoat and tilderfelt funnel hat, on the deck of the Varis Lodd, a sky tavern bound for Great Glade by way of the Midwood Decks. What an adventure! At my side is a brogtroll named Luggins, an Eastern Wooder with great strength and a good heart, and a yellow-eared waif by the name of Threnodesse, who lives in a cave in the ridges to the south. Luggins will handle the heavy lifting and act as a bodyguard, while Threnodesse will be my secretary, as well as a valuable pair of eyes and ears.
Gart Ironshank dropped us off just in time to board this magnificent vessel, and now we are steaming over the great Deepwoods, leaving our beloved Farrow Lake far behind. What awaits us in the great city, I can only guess at…