This piece is from ElfWood, another Harsh Realities Setting book set to come out in the not too distant future now. ElfWood is a dark fantasy setting, which is to say it is a fantasy setting complete with elves, dwarves, magic, dragons, etc., that attempts to explain why the famous fantasy tropes exist (I.e. Why do elves love Nature so much? Why do Dwarves love stone/mountains?), etc., but all of the Harsh Realities Settings and Mini-Settings are designed to feel like a lost, hopeless, Godless world desperately in need of heroes and grace. Each of these settings are also designed with a meager helping of The Gospel, a Christ analogue of some sort, and some form of the Mosaic Law. ElfWood is a dark fantasy, so it is everything fantasy should be, with a twist, of course, and all the darker sides of fantasy as well. Magic has a cost, for instance, and the "fairies" (Drey) of this world are more akin to vampire bats than glowing pixies that tinkle like bells.
A couple notes to help you along:
Vyrden are the Wood Elves of Lakates, and the dominate people and culture of the world.
Windsormen are near legendary, ancient, golem-like, magically animated wooden statue men.
Drey are the "fairies" mentioned above. That average about 12 -18 inches tall and prefer to fly by their leathery wings.
Vyrdigrit is another name for a Vyrden soldier.
Chirk is a giant, squirrel/rodent-like domesticated mount and beast of burden.
Aspenwells Checkpoint, Bramblestone, Vyridia
The thick forest walls to either side of the narrow Caravaner trail allowed little visibility in any direction. Even a Drey would find the brambles and thickets difficult to navigate without flying above them. It was an older path not regularly used these days, with some degree of overgrowth. The lack of chirk or other pack animal-pulled wagons left plenty of low hanging branches and other forms of plant life stretching out into the open for a taste of sunshine and water. Travel was difficult in places, but recent foot traffic had thankfully cut a path through some of the worst of it.
A small crowd of travelers had formed at the checkpoint ahead. Not more than twenty individuals, mostly day-laborers, pilgrims, or traders, by the looks of them, and not one of them cared to give as much as a sidelong glance at the lone traveler in the heavy, hooded cloak. To them he surely appeared no less than a pilgrim on his way to some far off destination to pay his respects to the gods or seek guidance and wisdom from the elders at the temples. Not a great many just traveled to see the world, after all. There was not all that much to see on the average Vyridian income, and most would not know what they were seeing if they did see it. The traveler, however, preferred to keep moving as much as possible. He had seen plenty, and understood much more, but that was not what drove his wanderlust. Not even close.
He broke off the flood of memories that started to swell within him and forced himself to observe details of those around him. The smells, the heights of individuals, their selection and make of clothing, even some of their faces, though he preferred not to be seen himself. That thought caused him to readjust his hood subconsciously as he lowered his head a bit. It was an overcast day and had been drizzling at day break. He could likely pass for a traveler trying to avoid the mid-morning, cool, seabreeze as long as he continued to tread carefully.
Eventually, the Vyrden guard checking papers in his line waved him forward. He appeared to be a well-built Vyrdigrit, tall with broad shoulders and thick arms. His face was lean with a strong jaw, and he held his expression firm and neutral as he had been trained. He was not there to pass judgment, even though everyone well knew the Vyrden predispositions.
He patiently waved the traveler forward.
"Papers.", he requested evenly before his eyes widened briefly.
The guard checked himself, straightened, and then corrected his initial request after clearing his throat.
The traveler paused. He hated this part. It was insulting, and had no true positive outcome for anyone.
"I have papers. You may call me Pehtro'vas Oarsmann.", he offered as he held forward a thick booklet of heavily marked, stamped, and worn papers bound and strapped in plain, but weathered leather.
There was a brief pause before the guard responded.
"I will not.", he said curtly as he eyed Pehtro suspiciously, and yet almost superstitiously all at once.
"Designation, Windsorman.", he said raising his voice with both authority and to gain attention.
Pehtro's eyes closed in both sadness and in an attempt to remain in control of himself. He took a deep breath and exhaled slowly.
"Please, sir, I have my papers.", he repeated calmly.
The Vyrden guard's ire got the best of him at this point.
"Designation! Windsorman!", he shouted this time.
"Or be detained for obstruction of justice, suspension of commerce and passage, and suspicion of things unnatural!", he continued to shout as his wood-grained flesh flushed around the face and neckline ever so slightly.
The nearby guards halted their lines and several other guards stepped closer from their posts just off the path.
Pehtro glanced around at their movements with a calm that he should not have possessed. He casually looked over each one, but internally he was assessing them and what, in the blink of an eye, he could do to them.
A thrust of his left hand into the young guard's throat would drop him to the ground gasping for air. He could then vault over him, while muttering the command word that turned his smallest left-hand finger into his trusty ironwood staff. Without missing a beat of his wooden heart he could lay out the two nearest guards, one with a broad stroke of the staff, the other with a Taurim-like kick to the abdomen. Another two would fall unconscious as they rushed headlong into a hurricane spin attack performed with the staff, and the last three would be little challenge for his root-gouges, and nearly impossible to predict M'raak-inspired jambyas.
"Very well, sir.", Pehtro agreed with a calm, soothing voice as he put his papers away.
"Designation: 91A, Bankalli's Fury", he said flatly while making a point to steadily meet the guard's eyes.
The guards, however, as well as all those nearby, simply went silent and stared. Pehtro took another deep breath and closed his eyes. He hated this part.
The tall, stout guard before him stepped back and to the side trying to stammer something while unable to take his eyes off Pehtro.
Pehtro took that as his queue to move forward and did so.
He had nearly made it past the outpost when he heard the guard faintly, quietly utter something from behind him.
He hated this part.