( A fragment from the Lost Chronicler’s Tale of the End of the Great Houses; possibly the notes of a student, writing hastily as the Chronicler spoke. )
… Listen! Among the many struggles and catastrophes associated with the return of the Draconis, not all were stories of honorable struggle. Some, although reckoned by blood as counted among the Noble, chose to turn craven in their obeisance to the new Powers in the land.
Among these were the leaders of House Draejan, those stemming from Constantine’s Branch. In exchange for petty commercial concessions from the new overlords, Draejan’s forces cooperated in the hunting down and extinguishing of their traditional rivals, House Raylinth, until none were known to still be abroad in the land. The Draekjan, as they were now called by many, had complete concession over the lucrative tanning, mining, cartage, and gate rights — a sizable portion of which they handed over to their masters with extreme precision and regularity.
Herodian the Younger might have been mistaken for a townsman, a grasping merchant by his dress and demeanor. He was fat, and covered his belly with a wide belt of fashioned gold, inlaid with gaudy jewels. But he stood in true generation from Constantine and he from Falheim. Herodian had never seen a battle he couldn’t buy his way out of. He was not known to have seen any battles at all.
At this time, he was bent on adding — to the other accounts of his tollage — the lumber rights and grain millage from the great wheel on the river. This was steady income, and of no interest to his Draconic masters, or their lesser servants, and he coveted the additional coins. Even in such times, food-growers and herders needed wood for their barns and fencing, and would find a way to pay. In not in coin, then in service. Herodian did not scruple at demanding any form of service, many of them vile or simply cruel.
The mill was situated at a fall of water by the eastern edge of the Savage Woods. In those times down to our own, no one enters (and few ever leave) the Woods, fearing what dwelled within A few members of House Dilathi were thought to survive within, relatively safe from the predations of the Draconis due to the resistant wood of the native trees, and the efforts of a few greater Druids. If the Fae had portals within, they were never spoken of.
The millkeep was a fair, respected half-orc named Glum. He ran a fair mill, a brisk business day and most of the night, and kept everything in order.
On a fair day in September — I recall it in full, said the Chronicler — Herodian rode, or rather, rolled, up upon the mill, with a dozen spear-carrying henchwards in tow, bypassing the line of peasants and demanding to speak at once to Glum.
With a deep, rumbling grunt, and heave of his arms, Glum disconnected the mechanism that spun the grindstone, and it slowly spun to a halt.
“What is it?” he bellowed as he came out.
“You are Glum, the Miller?” queried Herodian, speaking through a lackey.
“I am. State yer business, I have orders to fill, and ye see the line.”
“Very well. Upon examination of the accounts, my Master finds that you are 10 years in arrears on this operation. How will you make satisfaction?”
“WHAT? Outrageous. Everything on this side of the river is House Dalathi, and has been for years uncounted.”
“The Dalathi are all dead,” murmured Herodian. “And these are new times. I could have this stream redirected, and whom would your mill serve then?”
Just then, three wagons emerged from the forest, the drivers hooded and cloaked and the horses huge and ringed with fog, or perhaps it was sweat from the effort of their labors.
Herodian thought he saw a chance to gain some profit. “Seize them!” he ordered, and his henchwards pushed forwards, ready to seize the wagons and the horses. By force if the woodmen were inclined to fight.
A screeching came from the woods beyond, as if from the rubbing of great treelimbs in a gale. A dozen Treants emerged, striding between the wagons. With their long limbs, they grabbed the frontmost of Herodian’s men, two apiece, and continued marching towards the river.
Herodian stood upright in his stirrups a moment, in shock. And then he turned his horse and made to ford the river, to safety.
A laughing voice from the shadowed woods was heard, “Thus Herodian abandoned his odious claim.”
A few of the henchwards managed to sprint, and swim, into the river and back to their homes.
Glum laughed. Turning back to his work, he offered a terse observation to those of his customers within earshot.