Sagescrub Valley, in the foothills of the great western mountains, was not particularly popular with the settlers that had been flowing into the wilds. Its hilly ground had poor, rocky soil that could only support a homestead at certain places, and even then the tilling of fields was rocky and fraught with backbreaking labor. Even with the assistance of someone with the Art, whose magic could move boulders if not mountains, it was a hardscrabble life. And although that same rockiness meant that they had never held the land in high esteem, the wild folk who had once foraged there freely were highly ambivalent at best about outsiders.

The only people that made the journey either prized their solitude or had their reasons for not wanting to be found.

Seven people had chosen to brave the difficulties and settle there anyway. The Cuttergrilles, a dwarf couple, had built a waterwheel on the creek and mostly got by fishing and foresting. They also ground anything for anyone, no questions asked, and word had it that Mr. Cuttergrille was on the run from the government back east for illegal grinding of glitterdust.

A couple of halfling mushroom farmers, the Butterhollows, lived near the valley’s subsidiary peaks. Mr. Butterhollow came from a family of seventeen, and Mrs. Butterhollow had a total of twenty-one siblings that had made it out of childhood. They were there for the solitude and the very occasional use of the Cuttergrille mill for making ‘shroom flour.

Goris Sluffer and Minerva DeLouise ran a valley farm of their own, quite successfully. But they were also each married to someone who was not their current farming partner back east, and Goris had an orcish father besides. Sagescrub Valley was far from judgmental and prying eyes, as well as their respective spouses and children.

And then there was Jinny Witchazel, who had a small plot from which she was barely able to glean enough food to get by, and even that required a heavy use of the Art, in which she was quite exceptionally gifted. She was about a month, give or take, from increasing the valley’s population to eight with the birth of her first child. None of the other Sagescrub residents had asked who the father was, and she had not offered the information.

The others were friendly, and Jinny offered her services as a hedge-wizard in exchange for the necessaries that she couldn’t get elsewhere. But the stream of people coming to see her from both the wilds and the towns, from the mountains and the Old Mission, made her neighbors keep her at arm’s length.

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