The Blackwood Campaign Setting
Riverman and Woodsman
Once, there was a man who lived in the cities along the river who was invited to visit his cousin in the woods. The path to the woodsman’s home was long and tiring, even though the woodsman had moved down from the mountains for the winter. Because the snow had fallen heavily all over the Blackwood, the riverman found it very hard to get on, and soon became tired and hungry.
When he reached the home of his cousin, he was greeted warmly by the woodsman and his wife. They gave him a place by their modest hearth, and pulled out their best food for a feast. They had strips of salted venison, dried berries from many different bushes, and on the fire was a stew made from boiled roots. Outside their home, a stream came down from the mountains even in the dead of winter, and they had fresh water whenever they wanted.
The riverman ate his food politely, and spoke to his cousins about their life. “You have such a small home,” he said, seated on a stump that had been made into a stool.
“It serves us well,” replied the woodsman’s wife.
“Yea,” said the woodsman. “We have food to eat, a roof to shelter us from rain and snow, and walls to hide us from the elves. Trolls do not often come to this part of the woods, and if they do I shoot them with my bow.”
The riverman was appalled. “How can you live with such meager food to feed you, and with so many dangers around you? Come to visit me in my home in the city. If you spend just one week with me, you will never want to return to your home in the woods!”
In a few days, when it was time for the riverman to return home, the woodsman kissed his wife goodbye and went to see what life was like in the city. The path back was much easier for the riverman, for the woodsman knew the best ways to move across the snow, and knew which paths were easiest.
When they reached the city, the riverman welcomed his cousin into his home. “I live in the estate of my employer, a wealthy noble. We will dine in a nice tavern, just down the street.”
The woodsman had been to a tavern many years before, but it was a small thing along a lonely road in the Wood, and had little to offer him. This tavern was large and warm, with many tables of people eating all kinds of delicacies. There were cakes and roast pork, and capons and bread fresh from the ovens.
The riverman and the woodsman both ate much food, but soon the woodsman began to grow thirsty. The riverman called for beer, and when it arrived he only drank a little, since he knew the winter beer was strong. The woodsman had only had fresh water to drink, though, so he thought the beer was a wonderful thing.
Soon they left, and the woodsman danced down the street, whooping and shouting and bothering people in their homes. A thief saw them going merrily on their way. He grabbed the woodsman by his shoulder and put a knife to his throat. “Give me your money,” the thief said.
The woodsman was startled, and wrestled with the thief, taking the knife from his hands and killing him. A woman saw this from a window, and shouted for the town guards.
“Hurry,” cried the riverman to his cousin, “You have killed a man, and you must leave before you are thrown in the dungeons!”
The woodsman laughed. “Your food and beer may be nice, but no man should be thrown in jail because someone attacked him. I’ll take the woods and the hills any day, and you can keep your nobles and your thieves for yourself, cousin!”
With that, the woodsman fled the city, using the tricks he learned as a hunter to avoid capture. When he returned home, he kissed his wife. “Ancestors preserve me from having such a fine home and such fine food and drink. Why I only just got away with my life!”