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Burnsider

The Last Smoke [PK]

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Fredegar Puddlefoot lay on a cot in Last Light, his breath labored. He sighed, and it brought on a new coughing fit. One of the medics put a cloth to his mouth and the sputum came up red and black. The black was new; soot from the flames that he had inhaled. One more thing. He could not feel much, the herbs he had been given had taken that away thankfully. His hands, mostly useless now, lay on his stomach, wrapped heavily in gauze. He closed his eyes and smiled.

 

He had done what he could during the battle against the infernal horde, treating those on the field before taking them to the medical tent, wrenching Boris Oceantoe away from the flames at the cost of his own hands, beating an imp to death with his shovel. It was more than he had expected to be able to accomplish at the age of one hundred and sixteen. He looked to his right and nodded at the pack that lay by his cot. “If’n ya’d be so kind,” he said slowly to the medic. “Oi would ‘preciate it muchly if’n ya’d go in there and fetch ma pipe and leaf.”

 

The medic shook her head. “I can not allow that. After the amount of smoke you have inhaled, a pipe is liable to cause even more damage.”

 

Fred gave her a tight smile and shrugged, a movement that took an immense amount of effort. “You and Oi both know that ‘tween tha cancer and tha smoke inhalation, it’s a mattah of when, not if. Please. One. Last. Smoke.”

 

The medic shook her head again, but it was done hesitantly. Then, a pause, and she moved to get the pipe and packed it with fine Hillsborough leaf, picked in the early spring and hung in the caves of the Common until mid-summer to dry. She lit a flame and placed it in the pipe, putting it in Fred’s mouth. His lips had trouble sealing around the pipe, but eventually he held it between his teeth. He inhaled and the taste smelled like home.

 

For the briefest moment, Fredegar Puddlefoot, of the Pennywhistle Puddlefoots, sixth of his name in nine generations, and mayor of Hillsborough was back on his front porch, rocking in his chair. He could smell the smoke coming from his chimney, a rabbit stew on the pot, a Pennywhistle Pie in the oven. He could hear the slow lap of waves on the nearby shore and a heron warble in the nearby woods. And, for a time, deep in the lands of the demons, Fred felt like he was at home. His lips curled into a smile and the pipe fell from his lips. The pain was gone and he exhaled one last time.

 

The medic closed his eyes and put a sheet over him and went to tell the others in the camp that there would be one less soul at Last Light when the horde came upon them once again.

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“The last of a dying breed. A true hero, and a true friend.” Edward Oceantoe stood above the corpse, a sheet covering the face on that brisk and dry morning. He took a puff of his pipe, ”May he be with Sean in the Fields. I’ll handle the shite going on down here.”

Edited by VWebb
.

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Ex-Thain of Brandybrook, Micah O’Connell, greeted Fredegar in Knox’s wheat fields,

“Welcome ol’ friend.”

______________________________

Falco Goldworthy, despite having barely interacted with the Puddlefoot, was deeply saddened upon hearing about the passing of his fellow weefolk, “A real shame daht... can hardleh say I’m surprised ‘owevah. ‘e was in quite dah state aftah daht fight, ‘n not dah youngest o’ halflin’s ‘round. May ‘e rest comfortableh.”

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Greta sat numbly in the tavern as she listened to tales of the battle; already horrified by what she had seen, her despair was only worsened by the news of Fredegar Puddlefoot’s passing. Though her interactions with him before the battle had been few and not particularly pleasant; she had watched as he heroically climbed the ladder to rescue Boris Oceantoe, and knew that his sacrifice had been of the utmost merit. And even if it hadn’t, the death of any fellow halfling, especially on the field of battle, is a tragedy.  She lamented briefly, that Fredegar would not live out his final years in the comfort and tranquility of Brandybrook as she would. It was unfair. ”There is nothing more disgusting than war.”

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Lulubelle released a heavy sigh and recalled the quiet exchange between herself and Aesilnoth the Stone Night before, after Fred had wandered off to rest..

 

 

“A greenhorn of wartime. I don't believe he truly understands my words. Beyond a literal sense.”

 

“'S gud t'see uh ol' lad wi' fire still in 'im though..”

 

“I can only pray I have similar spirits when age begins set in.”


“'S long as e'eryone follows ordehs, they'll come back alrigh'..”

 

 

The Dwarf brings her fist up to her breast in silent respect for an old Halfling, who still had the courage to fight.

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Filibert Applefoot sighs ”Guess oi nay did enough medical work on ‘im...”

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The elf would learn some days later of her former student passing. She might’ve cried had it been unexpected. Yet, at the end of it, it was expected and she’d braced herself for the inevitable. Off she went, fetching her own pipe and smoking blend, lighting it up and sitting on the steps of the clinic, a place she’d grown to know the halfling during his midlife years. She stares on quietly, exhaling the sickly sweet smoke and recounting to herself the years that had come before.

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As another soul was swept into the wheat fields, there sat a stout looking halfling, leaning against an oak tree. 

 

Fred would recognize the familiar face.

 

"Howdy partner… ya did good down there."

 

He stood and smiled to Fred.

 

"Welcome home, friend."

 

--------------

 

Fred was one of the last few halflings alive who personally knew Burt's father, Benedict. The passing of the old'un pained Burt, but even more so the nature of his death.

 

Ashamed of himself, Burt stayed in Brandybrook. Unable to muster the courage to go help like his father did, he lived at the mercy of the Inferni and watched as halfling after halfling was carried back to the village and laid to rest.

 

He wept in his burrow, in a world he didn't know anymore.

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