The Fall of Frostbreak Pass

People called it the Burgundy Bower, for the color of the leaves on the trees. Cid Algier called it the Shop, because he didn’t like being seen as sentimental, and also because he worked there.

The bower was nestled in a corner of Frostbreak Pass, a clearing occupied by many folk of many persuasions. If you followed the road one way, you’d be in the Woodlands. If you went the other, you’d be in other lands.

Many wagons would come rolling through, loaded down with cargo and people going both ways. If one of them lost a wheel or broke an axle or the like, they’d take it to Cid and his Shop to repair it. And if people broke down, they too could come to Cid.

He was an apothecary and woodworker and alchemist and many other things. He knew the plants of Frostbreak Pass, both the hardy herbs that grew defiantly upon the snow-coated hills and the more gentle flowers and fragrant blooms of the lower slopes. When Glenna Laboeuf brought her girl Allie, sick with fever, Cid knew the ways to make a poultice that let the fever fight the illness she had without hurting her in the process.

A member of the Eyrie Dynasties, a fellow named Couscous Lamont, set up shop in the Pass one season. He gathered a few of the people of the Pass together, such as Cid, and told them he wanted to wet his beak on the lucrative traffic coming through. They understood, yes? They’d cooperate, yes?

They understood. They would not cooperate.

Couscous wanted Cid to charge people labor costs for wagon repairs. Naturally, Couscous would get a cut. And for what?

“For sending travelers your way, of course!”

“But they come to me already.”

Couscous was disappointed, and told Cid he’d see things differently in time.

Glenna and her husband Matt weren’t happy either. Theirs were the first, and loudest, voices calling for Couscous Lamont and his people to leave the Pass. They didn’t mind newcomers settling down - what they minded was people not pulling their weight, but instead throwing it around.

More and more, Cid would find Allie in the Burgundy Bower, playing with his tools. Matt and Glenna would be traveling, or agitating, and they didn’t want to take her along for safety reasons, and they didn’t want to leave her alone at home. Cid understood very well. Couscous Lamont’s men hadn’t yet snatched anyone out of their homes, not at that time, but everyone sort of understood what was on the table. And yet they resisted.

To keep Allie from breaking anything important, Cid would make toys for her. He’d create small wooden puzzle-boxes that would twist and turn and unlock themselves, and tell her to play with those. She’d solve them more quickly than he anticipated, so he created other things. Soon his shop was full of knick-knacks and doodads and things, and when Allie was done with one, he’d give it to another kid - someone in town, or someone passing through. They’d coo and ahh, and their parents or guardians or friends would smile appreciatively.

When Allie wasn’t messing with his stuff, she’d sit on his back, holding onto his horns like she was trying to steer him. She got bigger and bigger and heavier and heavier, and finally he told her to stop that. And when he saw her face squish up and her eyes squeeze and water, he built a harness so she could sit comfortably without hurting his back.

Things got worse pretty fast. Matt and Glenna would come to the Bower with injuries, or bring someone else who was hurt, and Cid would help them out. They weren’t fully vagabonds, not yet, but they definitely lived in the forest part of the time. Cid wasn’t sure about that lifestyle, not then, not yet. He was still content to mend wagons and wounds, to build toys and tools.

Then one day Couscous Lamont’s expensive home burned to the ground. And the next day, the goshawks came, wearing armor and carrying spears, and rounded everyone up. They charged some people with the crime, and took them off to do bad things, and pretty much everyone knew who’d done it, including the Laboeufs, but that didn’t seem to matter. It seemed like it was more important that someone be hurt - anyone - than that the guilty parties be punished. And that was probably why everyone who’d been rounded up agreed that the Laboeufs were right, that Couscous Lamont needed to leave the Pass, and if he didn’t do it under his own power he’d be hauled off in a box on a wagon.

Over the next month, Cid made a lot of spears, a lot of arrows, and some shields. He wouldn’t do it while the goshawks were watching, of course, but there was only so many of them and plenty of folk in the Pass willing to get up to mischief to draw their eyes elsewhere. So Cid’s merchandise made it into the forest one way or another, and into the hands of the vagabonds that were accumulating in response to the Eyrie man’s growing list of outrages.

Then one day, everything started burning. It was the Big Day, when Couscous and his men and the well-armed goshawks were either going to be driven out, or the Pass would stop being the Pass and start being an Eyrie territory.

Glenna came, wearing heavy wrappings and carrying a hunting bow and plenty of arrows, with feathered fletching taken from fallen goshawks. She came with Allie.

“Cid, take her and leave the Pass. We’re going after Couscous. If we make it, we’ll follow your trail. Don’t worry, we have friends from here to Dyer’s Rock.”

Allie was huddled up against her mom, crying. Cid carefully detached her, slung her into the harness he’d made, and hugged Glenna. Then he packed up everything he could, picked up the heaviest wrench he could find, and fled into the darkness.

“You can hand caps down to me, but I can’t hand them up to you.”

This comes out of nowhere, as Cid is tending a cookfire. Allie is playing with the knitted cap her mother gave her, and that Cid has fixed up a few times.

“What do you mean?” Cid asks.

“You got horns.”


“But my cap doesn’t have holes for horns. So you can’t wear it.”

Cid hauls an iron cookpot over the fire and starts pouring water. The herbs and nuts for the soup will come later. That, unfortunately, means time for conversation.

“I could just make holes in it, couldn’t I?”

Allie gasps. “But you close up holes! I seen ya! Why would you make holes?”

Cid is a little exasperated already. He spent half an hour gathering firewood after a day full of rain, and he just wants to eat. “For the horns, the thing you were just talking about.”

“Don’t make holes in my cap!” Allie clutches the toque to herself protectively.

“I’m … I’m not going to. What were you talking about, then? Handing down and handing up?”

Allie think think thinks. “Oh! When you give clothes away, it’s a hand me down. I don’t hand myself down, but it’s what they say.”


“So if I return clothes, it’s a hand me up.”

Cid has to admit the logic is sound. But he doesn’t have to admit it aloud. “Come here, I’ll show you how to prepare marjoram.”

“What’s margarine?”

“Marjoram. It’s an herb that was brought here a long time ago.”

Allie watches carefully as Cid cuts, discarding unwanted bits and deftly scooping the rest into the cookpot. He shows the faintest hint of a smile. “Marjoram is sensitive to cold. That’s why people like it in Frostbreak Pass. It’s rare, so people don’t taste it much, but it’s sweet so they enjoy the taste when they can get it.”

“Uncle Cid?”

Cid doesn’t look up. He knows the question that’s coming next.

“Are we ever going back home?”

He sighs, and keeps cutting, separating the bits of herb from each other. “Your parents should be coming for you once they’re done with their business. But after that, you’ll probably have to go somewhere new.”

“I wanna go back home.”

“Allie, home’s probably gone.”

The girl looks ready to cry, and Cid feels awful for not knowing what to say. But it’s true. Doesn’t she deserve to know the truth?

He forces a smile to his face. “Come on. We’ve got the leeks and mushrooms left to go. I’ll let you use the knife if you’re really careful.”


“Hammer,” Cid says. Allie hands him the hammer. There’s a few minutes of banging.

“Pliers.” Allie hands them over. There’s a minute of twisting.

Cid stands up, looking from face to face. The pilgrims look back at him, some grateful, some fearful, some curious. A few hours after their wagon broke down, this dirty vagabond and a kid carrying a toolbox two sizes too big for her emerged from the forest - the forest! They’d already started to make camp by then, and this was startling at first.

Several folk might have been bandits. But one? And then he offered to fix their wagon. Certainly it was some kind of answer to prayer. But what an answer!

Cid can read their thoughts from their faces. They don’t know what comes next. Honestly, neither does he.

One of the pilgrims finally, stumblingly, breaks the ice. “How can we, er, how can we repay you for your kindness?”

The pair of them left Dyer’s Rock awhile ago. The Laboeufs said they could follow him that far. But how does he maintain the trail?

He glances down at Allie, then back to the pilgrims.

“Tell 'em Cid fixed your wagon. Cid Algier’s the name. I’ll fix anything for anyone.”

He and Allie melt back into the forest, leaving behind the pilgrims and the story they’ll tell.

That’s all I got for this bit of background. I enjoyed trying to find a suitable writing style for Root in the first post and I think I did okay.