Snapgallows is a town in Thrubmorton Fens, Ansium, lying to the West of Fentor Hills. The best description of this place can be found in excerpts from the "Bounder's Journal of Tillehn Cope", by SeerBlue, Era unknown.
Snapgallows is a grim and hard edged village of middling size, a pale shadow of the clave, Haughley, which once stood in its place in times barely recalled by the folk now.
Much of the old encircling walls, a marvel of stone work in their day, still stand, but are in disrepair. The locally quarried limestone blocks, once true edged and crisp, are now crumbled by the harsh Thrub weather. Several of the defensive towers are now too unstable to man, except in the direst need, and for much of the northern stretch, the wall has decayed to the point of being more of a breastwork littered with jumbled limestone blocks than a protective barrier from what wanders out of the Fens.
The local folk, especially the Seven Families, Snapgallows self appointed wardens, have the skill and coin to repair the wall, but few dare to travel beyond the summit of Snapgallow hill, on even the brightest summer day, so naught is done. Their fear springs from the words of the last man sentenced to be stretched by the neck on the summit, when it was still called Gwillam's Seat, after an odd rock formation that looked much like a Deacons Chair, that crowned the low peak.
Alfert Kier was his name, a local tanner of goats skin for gloving, who one day found himself at odds with a few of the heads of the original Seven Families; as his new piddle vats sat up wind of their homes, and soon after that, was charged with wijjery, or witchery, as it is known in the more southern lands.
His trial was quick, as the very same men who found the smell of tanning skins repugnant sat astride the board of judgment. Most villagers, some who had traveled in from many miles out, for the days "entertainment", as few thought Alfert a wijjer, still stood outside the doors of the hall buying sweetwater and Satches, when the sentencing bell was tolled, 3 times for Damned, and one Alfert Kier sentenced to be hung atop the hill at sundown,,,,for "bewijjering 13 pair of goatskin gloves, said Wijjery causing Fine and Upstanding members of the Keog, Hafe, and Loach Families (all part the Seven Families) to commit acts against the vows of marriage and decency."
The speedy trial led to the local expressions, among the rougher folk, "Quicker than Kier", as in "I will be done quicker than Kier", and "watch your piddle" for "don't cross the Seven Families".
Alfert's stretching was not handled as well as his trial, the Seven Families had long ago mastered the politics of power and persuasion, but hanging a man was a skill gone stale in Haughley, and it was thought any old rope, and any old drop, would do the trick.
And much to the Seven Families ire, and the villagers amusement, Alfert did not go peacefully, a man as tough as cured goatskin he was, with the tongue of a viper now that his time had been cut to mere hours. He meant to speak his mind.
Someone, a few say Hermus Loach, others say Pentor Hafe, ordered Alfert gagged, with his own gloves, before he was half out the hall, before he could put to words what many knew to be true about his accusers charges against him.
The large crowd of stunned townsfolk jostled along behind the stumbling Warders and the kicking Alfert, past the last of the village houses and up the old quarry road to the summit, where the local timbersman, named Fick, had cobbled a simple post and beam hanging tree together, above Gwillam's Seat.
Anther Keog, of this even the drunkest of the soppers in Hebbies' Ale House agree, perhaps in fear of the large crowd deciding Alfert was not a Wijjer after all,immediately ordered Alfert hoisted onto the back of Gwillam's Seat hissing "Damn the setting of the sun" as he draped the rope about Alfert's rather thick neck himself.
A quick jerk of the rope to seat the knot, and an even quicker kick to the back of Alfert's knees, and Alfert dropped. Now, it is said Alfert was not a small man, by any means, some referred to him as Ample Kier, behind his broad back, and the drop from the top of the back of the Seat to the rough stone "setting" itself was some twelve feet.
Gravity took over, and the thin rope sliced through Alfert's thick neck quick as, well, Kier. Alfert's body thudded, stiff legged, onto the seat and fell hard against the limestone back and stood there,this unforeseen turn of events sent more than a few brave men scurrying down the road to Hebbies' Ale House with their coins ready.
Alfert's head, well it bounced, thunk, off the seat and rolled forward some ways, finally stopping at the toes of the gathered elders of the Seven Families, here to see an end to a tanner.
Beyond a few shrieks from a bobbin or two, and the sound of hobbed boots clattering downtrail to Hebbies', not a sound was audible. The gathered townsfolk stared in disbelief at the still standing body and the wide eyed head,dumbfounded.
Anther Keog scrambled down from his perch upon the seat and elbowed his way through the crowd, to place his boot squarely upon Alfert's skull, eyes beaming with a look that only those who rule through intimidation and subterfuge can wear.
It is said, by many, even in these days, though the details are sketchy and varied, due to the ensuing panic which soon overwhelmed the crowd, and bring Hebbie more custom than he had ever seen, that Anther raised one gloved hand to point at the standing,headless corpse , that hand gloved in Alfert's finest leather, and then opened his mouth to speak, when a faint cough was heard, from the vicinity of Anther's boot, from Alfert's gloved stuffed mouth to be exact.
Anther's words stumbled in his mouth and his hand dropped slowly, those in the front of the crowd pushed back into those behind, roughly, and two bloody gloves shot from Alfert's mouth, splattering Beddam Keog, Anther's crowish wife,with dark blood.
"Git your filthy boot off me head, Keog," Alfert's disembodied head bellowed. The crowd surged back, as far as it could into those behind, with Anther and his cronies from the Seven pushing the hardest, it is said.
"Twiddled me Trial and Botched me stretching you did,Anther, and all for Piddle", Alfert, or at least his head, railed, "No peace for me now, and none for you and your fiddlin Seven Families, either. Three curses upon you I call, curses upon all ye who spoke me dead, and their get for eternity".
By now half the villagers were near to madness and off for the safety of the village cellars, but a few, those who had no reason to fear Alfert in death, as they had stood by him in life, and those who could not let the chance to hear a good cursing from a bodiless head pass, no matter how much piddle warmed their boots, stood their ground.
"Smell ever of goats piss will you, I say, gurgled Alfert, "even in Death, so foul shall you smell that only the old quarry digs shall accept your bodies,,,Hallowed ground and common dirt shall not..."
Alfert's mouth spat bloody phlegm onto the ground, "So I spake, so it is". A raspy wheeze and Alfert bellowed shrilly, loud enough to rattle Ale glass in Cloud Reach some say. "In death you shall answer to me, whom you spoke dead, and your corpses shall forever walk the fields my goats once grazed, whenever the wet wind blows from the Fen, bleating miserably like sheep , and craving the flesh of your kin. So I spake, so it is". Alfert's blood rimmed lips pursed and he spat again, the blood hissing as it hit the dry earth before him.
Alfert wheezed horribly, and the remaining villagers shuffled in a bit to hear his final curse, wondering what could top smelling of goats piddle and bleating corpses.
Alfert's mouth smacked open and closed, a sickly wet sound that caused more than one man to fetch his Ale and Satch up, then, almost as one, the villagers took half a step closer, Alfert's eyes popped wide, the blood shot whites crimson in the dying sunlight.
"Oh, PIDDLE" he wheezed, and his head flopped over, still.
Here ends the legible text of The Bounders Journal of Tillehn Cope, as far as it concerns the Cursing Day of Alfert Keir.
Annotation by SeerBlue
Tillehn Cope, who in days past, spoke at length to those who stood upon Snapgallow Hill, as it is now known, on Alfert Keir's Cursing Day, notes in his Bounder's Journalthat these events, as reported, are true, vouchsafed by men of Faith and Standing. Namely Wosul Hayer, Pother; Tomas Blogate,Glover; and Henr Smit, Chanter, Church of the Heret. Descendants of these three men, esteemed in their time, know the tells well, and their recitation of the events, as they related them to me, all agree.
To this day remnants of the Seven Families still reside in Snapgallow, though they refused to speak. Their power and influence is greatly diminished, as the Village is more grim and fallen than ever, and, in truth, no other place will have them. For no amount of cinnamon oil from the south or rosewater from Kwourin can cover the scent of aged goat's piddle. The dwindling generations have grudgingly accepted the fate Alfert set before them, yet forced to remain in Snapgallows they poke and prod with what little power remains to them. Much to the dismay of those who would rather see them gone.
Alfert spoke true, hallowed ground and common dirt will not suffer the burial of one of those he cursed, or their descendants, as several early attempts, made when the Seven Families still held Haughly in their grip, to bury their dead outside of the digs, failed. It is said the soil would roil and shudder as soon as the corpse and casket were lowered from the deadwagon, and would not stop until it was taken away. Furthermore,early attempts by members of the rather odious first generations to escape Snapgallows altogether inevitably ended with the return of a shambling corpse, or two, and a hasty burial, with Village coin, of the "Sevener"on the next holy day. Until then the corpse, or two, would be locked in the deepest cell of the old Haughly Gaol, the then, and now, current residence of the much maligned Oboro Family of the Seven Families.
Still to this day, bleating sheep are often heard beyond the hill when the winds come from the Fen , though none graze them there, a hardy semi feral goat called a Quarrier being the preferred livestock, and more than a few foolhardy sops and brash younglings, wishing to prove themselves brave, speak of seeing fleshless corpses grazing the stubble grass. The sops are soon sober for life and the younglings far less brash after a night beyond the hill. Sensibly, for a Village that has a history of rashness, the land to the north of Snapgallow hill is still a place avoided, by most, so the walls still lay in ruin, as the area is only crossed, and then only on Holy Days, when it is necessary to inter another of the Seven Families departed in the old Quarrier digs.
Interestingly, locals speak of one soul who would in their great granda's days, and seemingly, still in this age, travel the length of the Quarry road, all the way to the summit, alone, to place fresh gloves on the withered hands of Alfert Kier, on the anniversary of his death. They name her Lisbet, and freely admit it is a name they invented purely for the sake of not having to say, "that old woman with the purple bow topped wagon, you know, the one who tells old stories at Harvest Burning".
I do mean to seek her out myself as I journey, as Tillehn Cope writes of just such a woman, and wagon, in his Journal. A journal as old as the very hills that shadow me now. He named her not Lisbet, but called her BumbleMouse, perhaps for the same reason the Snapgallow Villagers named her Lisbet, and others have named her Sloanne, Bien, or Bug; she gives no name when asked and "that old woman with the purple bow topped wagon, you know, the one who tells old stories at Harvest Burning" is rather a mouthful.
Alfert, or in truth, his head, called 3 curses, yet spoke only two, as it was accepted, after much discussion in Hebbies' Ale House that "oh,PIDDLE" was not a curse. This has led many to believe that the third, unspoken, curse, is the cause of the mysterious disappearances of several trader's caravans traveling south into Snapgallow from Threeways, caravans usually financed by the Seven Families, and perhaps also the explanation for the odd fenlights and sporadic clattering emanating from the abandoned quarry which lays beyond the digs, where the Seven Families are interred.
I have seen, and never hope to see again, the leathery remains of Alfert's body still standing on Gwillam's Seat, freshly gloved, a reminder to all that it is a place of power, though whether it be the Dark Power of Wijjery, or an Ancient Majick related to the Seat itself, or the All Preserving Power of Goats Piddle is unknown.
Alfert's head was never recovered, as by the time a few Villagers had drunk enough Ale, to fortify themselves,and dried their boots over Hebbies' cook stove, for the hike back up the hill the next day, it was gone. Leaving only odd hacking noises on the wind and the tale of Alfert's Third Curse, and the deadly power it could bestow upon whomever found the head....
Basically a tale of Piddle...
-- SeerBlue and the FHCO Inc. (Four Happy Carpet Orcs)