Kapti Van Ken
Kenfort always felt so distant from the river that ran it through. So different and far from the people up and along. Not even the well-trodden dirt path connecting the charcoal burner camp not a half day's walk along the river to the town itself brought it home.
Unless the wind turned south, casting the faintest taste of roasting wood over the town. Not thick enough to make a smog, not recent or near enough to still be warm. Instead, the cold charred taste. It was not the smell of home for everyone, mind you. Those in the city most certainly still preferred their natural aromatic persuasion.
So it was perhaps just Kapti and Brook Van Ken that thought that smell was homely. It was Brook's home by all meanings. Kapti's less so. It was the hint of it that was home to he, who had found the woods so pleasant in his aging state.
It was down that well-trodden dirt path that he now road. Shifting and swaying with the cart and carriage, and the pair of horses that pulled it forward. A mile marker along here, a stick effigy there. These were all things well-known and recognized to the man. It was only two years ago that Brook set down the effigy to ward away ghosts that walked the same path as his father Kapti. And so Kapti now looked upon such little things with fondness.
Other things he saw, too.
Smashed branches and foliage, and a bush gone nearer to Heaven than any man. He saw a boar and suspected it went off along the distance.
Or days old scratch marks in a tree. Something sharper marking its home.
Even just the bare footprints of a child in the mud followed by a shoe-clad bowing pattern in the mud with a deep sole. Ghost stories and whispers written all along the path for the watchful to observe. The bored to learn. And so it was that bored and watchful Kapti made his way for that distant and ever near Kenfort. His namesake. When the land first became Ken, a small group called themselves Of Ken, and it remained.
When it came he finally reached Kenfort by the North gate he waved at the guardsman standing watch. Thomas, if he was remembering correctly. Either way the familiar face was waved in by a familiar stranger and they offered each other the respect of a nod. It was obvious by the ash stains on the cart what Kapti was here to peddle to the people of the town. The Coal Man had come to town with his fuel for the flames of society. When his cart had spun itself around the center of town once and settled into his position his first customers had already began to collect and wave at him small bits of coin and work.
Hellos and goodbyes were brief, and the material exchanged hands even quicker. Shaped for good charcoal. It was good. The day was restless and chilled as the refugees came through and, finally when his work was done and his cart nearly empty, he felt the compelling urge to tend to the church. When he arrived at the church the strangers had already engaged in their adventure, unbeknownst to he. He was not a religious man of any greater sort save for some old rites and rituals that he performed more out of habit than faith, but he had recently taken up praying at the church as a way to think and process when he was struggling.
So as he stood he grabbed his splitting maul, a trap, and two of his tomahawks, before placing each gently onto its place on his belt. He crunched down onto the ground from his seat on the carriage, and paused to pat the rump of one of the two horses. He had long forgotten its name, and it was old. Not withering. Well fed and fit, but still old. Its hair was bleached and ancient.
He turned around the carriage, and pulled a sack's worth of charcoal from the back and contained it in such a vessel before moving towards the church. Once at its steps he took it all in for a moment, the size of it. The grandeur and religiosity of it.
He stepped inside and offered a quiet, "'Ello, brought shum coals." Then awaited a response in the entryway.