To the walls they came,
A bright-built burg, Hauberk-held,
Such a spirit protected this place,
Its treasures and spoil, eternal.
But now it is the captive of the Red Men,
Bound and boiling with plots.
Fire Day, Disorder Week, Dark Season to Gods Day, Disorder Week
The prisoner struggles but Kragar and Orvald have him firmly held. Neela suggests they kill him outright.
Orvald agrees and draws his knife. “Unless anyone can give me good reason to spare him we should kill him.”
“I can give you a reason,” spits the prisoner in heavily-accented Theyalan. “If you value your clan you will let me go.”
Drawing breath, the captive continues. “You have won this day. I doubt my mistress Erianda the Red will do much to punish you for it. To call in favours with the Lunar Provincial Governor and turn out a Regiment for a punitive expedition is more than this defeat is worth. However,” the Lunar goes on, “if one of her fellowship is killed or maimed you can be sure that the Army will march, your steads will be burned and your clansmen sold into slavery. Is that a good enough reason for you, Barbarian?”
The companions are silent a moment. Neela asks Kragar if what the prisoner says is true. The troll shrugs and says that it could well be.
Reluctantly, the three Kendring agree to spare the prisoner’s life, to tie him up and leave as fast as they can. Dawn is approaching and they want to be quit of this pace, so they quickly subdue and bind the man and leave him lying on the frosty grass.
Fastulv is still limping from the curse the red-and-blue witch put upon him and the sword-wound he received is bleeding. Neela bandages her friend as best he can and Kragar, shedding much of his cargo, agrees to carry the shepherd. The party sets off across the Tenth Ram steadland towards the border with the lowland Frithan Clan.
Neela cajoles the weary companions along, afraid of the Moon witch and the trolls of the Following Dark that are chasing them. Keeping a steady pace they reach the border with the Frithans and make a prayer to the clan wyter that they mean no harm and wish to pass unhindered. Then they dive into one of the lowland woods, hoping to travel the Frithan lands unseen.
As dawn rises they move through the forest, untroubled by witches or troll pursuit. Passing close to the treeline they hear a commotion and Orvald goes to investigate. He sees a herd of cows in distress, some stampeding. A couple of animals rush towards him in the woods. Then he sees the cause of the commotion. It is a Thunder Lizard, a great Triceratops lumbering across the Frithan pastures. It is surrounded by Frithan men, some with spears, trying to goad the great beast away from the herd it disturbed. Grateful for the distraction the monster provides, Orvald leads the party away through the woods towards Jonstown. They are now weary from the hike but they agree to push on to the city.
It takes much of the morning to travel across Frithan land, avoiding the King’s Road, but soon they are approaching Jonstown, one of the great cities of Sartar, founded by Hauberk Jon, a great Hero of the Orlanthi.
The city unites several Orlanthi tribes in a confederation. The Cinsina, Culbrea, Malani and Torkani all maintain tribal houses there. The city is built on three hills with the old city built on the highest hill, overlooking the new city that encompasses the other two hills. The city has a stone wall, indicating that the magic of princes was used to found it. Towers guard sections of the wall.
Hooded and robed, Kragar leads the group to the Main Gate where Lunar soldiers guard the entrance. As the troll no longer carries him, Fastulv has to limp alongside. Orvald and Neela are nervous, expecting trouble, but they are waved through. Kragar explains he has paid the guard a ‘merchant tax’ to enter.
The three Kendring walk into the main square of Jonstown. Neela has been here before but for Orvald and Fastulv this is an alien experience, full of noise and sound and bustle. The first thing they notice is the overpowering smell—the city is like an open sewer. Then there is the press of strangers, none of whom appear to give the traditional greeting, but pass on by, giving the open-mouthed newcomers funny looks.
There are non-humans amongst the city throng. The group see Dwarfs, Centaurs and a minotaur amongst the crowd. There’s even a troll there, barging through the crowd with a gaggle of trollkin in tow. There seem to be a lot of Lunar soldiers about too, including many who are off-duty. Strangely, they seem to ignore the group.
“We are hiding in a crowd,” Kragar tells a nervous Orvald.
As the crowds part before them, they encounter the Cattle Market. This is something they understand and Fastulv in particular takes time to gawp at the fine beasts. There are sheep there too, including some breeds the shepherd hasn’t seen before. In front of the cattle pens a line of butchers stand, waiting to be hired, their tools laid out in front of them. Slaughter Day is coming and soon they will be busy.
Kragar has to drag the group away from the animal pens, leading them into the Merchant’s Quarter and towards the Gilded Beard Inn, though narrow streets lined with houses, some with more than one story. There are many people around, and feral Alynxes too, padding the streets on the hunt for food.
There are few or no inns in the countryside. In the Orlanthi communities hospitality is more likely to be in the homes of people who like to hear news from strangers. But here in the city there are real inns offering food and sleeping space to travellers. The Gilded Beard Inn is a three story tallhouse with a brewery in the basement. The main room is low roofed and dark and a far door is open near the cooking area. A lot of people stand outside eating and drinking, as if the place has overflowed. Inside, people can barely hear themselves above the babble. Following Kragar’s example, Orvald and Fastulv make use of the weapon rack by the door for anything longer than a sword or knife.
Kragar goes to talk to the landlord and ask for a messenger to be sent to the temple. Then the foursome sit at a communal bench where they are served stew and small beer by serving boys. They are elbow to elbow with locals, including an Orlanthi who is telling anyone who listens about his fights with the Broo. Neela strikes up conversation with an inkmaker serving the Jonstown Library but she tries to avoid talking with the Lunarite in civilian clothes who breaks bread just across from her.
Kragar leans over to Orvald to tell him they are being watched but asks him not to be alarmed.
Soon a sage comes, in a crisp woollen robe. He has a trimmed beard in the style of the Lankhor Mhy sages. The sage’s name is Yend. He leads them up some narrow stairs to a small private room containing a bench, a couple of chairs and a table. The Kendring sit on the floor for the conversation that follows.
Yend introduces himself as one of the Free Sages of the Jonstown Library. He asks Kragar if he brought proof of his identity. Kragar nods and from his robes brings out a pouch, from which he extracts an obsidian spear head, pitted and embossed with runes, including the darkness rune. Though it doesn’t glow or show any obvious magic, it has a strange dark gravity to it. Yend is clearly surprised and asks if it really is the head of Black Arkat’s Spear? The three Kendring are impressed. Arkat may be hated in the clan mythology as a human who traitorously became a troll, but he is acknowledged as an implacable fighter of chaos who defeated the Devil Gbaji. Kragar tells Neela, Orvald and Fastulv that if they are captured and tortured by Lunars or the Following Dark trolls, they should make sure to tell their captors that they saw this holy relic.
Yend says he will take Kragar to meet Minaryth Purple. When Fastulv asks if they could meet the sage, Yend politely declines. He tells the companions to go to the Cinsina House on the high hill of the old city. It is just up the slope from the Lunar garrison. They will be looked after there. Then he tells them to return the following day and meet him at the inn close to noon.
Following directions that take them up to the Old City, Neela, Orvald and Fasulv wearily climb the hill to the Cinsina Tribal house. They are met by a guard armed with a stave who gives his name as Jarstak of Pavis. Jarstak offers the Greeting and a blanket for them to sleep on the floor. As Fastulv is still lame from his encounter with Erianda the Red, and bleeding from his wound, Jarstak recommends he goes and sees the Sisters at the House of Peace. They should be able to heal him. Neela bears a cut from Erianda’s scimitar and agrees to go with the shepherd. At the Chalana Arroy temple they are dealt with by crisp-robed, stern-voiced Sisters of the Order, who begin the healing process. As Neela and Fastulv are fussed over, Orvald takes the opportunity to get some well-earned sleep.
Next day, healed and rested, the trio head back into the new city. Neela is desperate to see the Craftsman’s Quarter and takes them to find the smithy of Kilbrand the Bent, one of the notable smiths of the city. Kulbrand finds a little time to meet the out-of-town smith. He takes a look at some of her work, in particular the spear Trollbone she made for Fastulv, and declares that she shows promise. He will be taking on apprentices in Sea Season and offers her an apprenticeship should she want it. Neela says she’ll think on the offer.
Leaving Kulbrand’s smithy the three companions make their way to the Gilded Beard Inn to meet Yend. They find themselves in the same small private room as the previous day. Kragar is not there. Yend tells them that Kragar and Minaryth have departed on a quest. He cannot say where. Then he gives them this message:
“Minaryth Purple, bearer of the two-headed lawstaff, asks Bold Oflir Six-Fingered, Chief of the Kendring, if he would lend aid to the rebel cause. Queen Uddag of the Following Dark has been turned by Lunar agents and has eyes on the Kendring land. The Queen and her counsellors have embraced a troll heresy and pit themselves against orthodox trolls. A great war is coming between the Dark Men, and the Kendring Clan will not be able to avoid being drawn in. They will need to defeat the Following Dark. Ask whether your chief would be prepared to receive an emissary to discuss strategy. The rebellion is prepared to send aid to the Kendring people—magic and an Army.”
Neela, Orvald and Fastulv bear the message back home beneath a red moon that is starting to wane. They stop in Goodhaven for an audience with Olfir the Chief in his curtained-off quarters. Olfir listens carefully but seems suspicious of the offer. What is this magic and what is the Army offered by the rebels? He must talk with the clan ring before he’ll agree to accept an emissary. He says he’ll send for Orvald when he has made a decision.