The problem was what to do with the dog. It was obviously a very recognizable dog as I had seen no others that size on the streets of Lorkin. We discussed a variety of ways to get the dog out. In the end, Mikka took him out to the edge of town, assuring us the animal would come when Mikka whistled for it.
I managed to get a couple of hours of very restless sleep in. It was difficult for the dark was still being split with cries of pain and anguish as the tortures at the Keep continued.
It was finally time for us to leave. We packed the bulk of our belongings on Mikka, creating the illusion that he was our pack mule. And we carried his weapons. Lyssa and Fenra were downstairs when we reached the common room. Raella was sad that she wouldn’t get to see Arlyss again but there was nothing to be done for it. We said a final farewell. It was with a very deep breath that I stepped across the threshold.
The guard at the gate let us through with no issue, as did the guard at the second gate. It seemed that the one I had spoken to earlier had indeed passed the word of our early departure. The boat was still there, tied to the dock, bobbing on the river. I let the others pack the boat, and secure Mikka’s place as I chatted the guard. I was surprised that he couldn’t hear my heart pounding. But the man was sleepy. And after an exchange of blessings in Father Sarajin’s name, I got into the boat and we pushed off. Raella took the tiller and the rest of us at the oars.
Once we rounded the bend and the dock slipped from view we put back into shore. Mikka whistled and the hound Gram came loping into view. We got him easily on board and then took back into the river.
As we worked our way around the island I glanced at the small mausoleum just off its shore. Pale green will’o’wisps danced over the stone. An eerie sight and another reason to put Lorkin far behind us. I was not afraid, but things unnatural always made me feel uneasy.
We finally swung the boat around the island and began our trek back. Mikka told us there was a town on this side of the island, Shese, which owed it’s fealty to Lorkin. And which we would avoid. He also told us that the trailhead was marked by a fort, again a place to steer clear off. We saw the fort easily in the dark, marked by a few torches. The boat slipped past and mercifully no alarm was raised. Keeping the fort as a marker, we disembarked. Once on shore we divided the supplies evenly between us and Mikka took back his weapons.
The tide was now moving out and the ground was looking marshy. But we managed to push the boat into the current. Hopefully it would carry it far out towards the sea before anyone found it. Using the torches on the fort wall as beacons, we steered our path around it and onto the trail proper. When dawn light finally broke we had moved several miles inland and the fort was out of sight.
That first day was rough going. My feet were a blistered mess when we finally stopped for the night. Raella drained the blister and applied a soothing salve. I bound my feet and took what rest I could. I was thankful we had negotiated for the canvas, for the day had been rainy and wet, as was the night. Nor did it seem that we would see and end of this weather soon for we were now into the fall. Not the best time to travel, but hopefully we would make Kaldor before the winter started. Three months. And I was not sure how long the trip would take us.
Several more days passed. Bleak and cold. We didn’t speak much, just tried to push ahead and put as much distance between us and the accursed Lorkin. Raella had some success foraging and made up some more potions for her healer’s kit. She also caught some small game, rabbits and squirrels. But it was a welcome change from hardtack. Gram was as strangely quiet as his master.
On the fourth day, after we had set up camp, Raella and Mikka had gone out to hunt and forage. They both came racing back into camp, breathless, warning of soldiers on the road. At first I thought we were being hunted by the Jarl’s men, but these men were coming up from the south. Taber and Mikka put the fire out and we hunkered down to hide. I was grateful our camp was not visible from the road.
I had never seen Mikka so frightened. He said these men were the Anesia, the Jarin Rebels. Hard and dangerous men to be avoided. Raella said they were moving down the road, warily, that they has scented our fire. They had spoken in hushed whispers of Ilvir. We heard them pass on the road and for a long time afterwards we still waited in silence. After that night we only made fires to cook our food and then put them out. Choosing to sleep in the cold rather than to risk discovery.
But there was no one else on the trail. We began to move out of the marshlands and into forested hills. Off to the left we could see the mountains rising. Somewhere in that place where mountain met forest would be Noron’s Keep.
It is dark when they wake me up. it’s time to go but I am still sleepy. I remember Mikka saying the dog will come when he calls and he is out right now taking the dog to wait for us. I get to carry his bow when we leave the inn. it’s a little different from my bow, not as nice.
I dont remember much on the way to the boat, mostly just walking and Vilija talking to guards. When we leave we stay close to teh shore and Mikka whistles. The big dog comes running and hops in with us.
It is my job to steer the boat. Vilija says something and I look behind me to see weird glowy things on a small island. They make everyone a little scared and everyone rows harder. I steer the boat around the big island and then quietly past a city and a fort. Vilija says no one can know we are here. We leave the boat, the others push it into the river while I wait next to the dog. he is so big I could ride him like a pony.
We sneak past the fort and travel down the road. We take lots of rest stops and at the end of the day make camp. it is easier now because we have a big square of canvas. Mikka starts the fire while my sisters and I look at our feet. there are small blisters which will get worse. Aunty Arien told me what to do if something like this happened. We poke the blisters and squeeze out the stuff inside. Then I take my healer’s kit and smear a paste on and then we wrap our feet. In the morning they are sore, but it does not hurt too badly to walk.
it’s raining. I don’t like the rain. We travel for a few days and every day it rains at least a little. I am happy we have a shelter. Mikka and I are able to hunt some rabbits and squirrels and even though we have not seen anyone we only have a fire long enough to cook and then it gets put out. I am able to find some Verlilk and make some more medicine to add to my healer’s kit.
On the third day I go hunting with Raja as the others set up camp. Vilija wanted to come, but she is always so bossy. When we are out in the woods Raja takes my arm and puts her fingers to her lips. I stay very still and listen. there are people on the road. They sound like they are moving up the road towards where we have camped. We always camp off the road but these are the first people we have seen since leaving Lorkin. Raja and I hurry back to camp as quietly as we can. Tâber and Mikka start throwing dirt on the fire as Raja says what she heard. Then Mikka and I move quietly towards the road to listen. The men speak Harnic and I can understand some of it. I hear Ilvir and I think he is one of the gods but I am not sure. my family all serve Sarajin. They say something and Mikka gets very pale like he is scared. The men on the road know someone is nearby, they say they can smell fire. They move in groups down the road and we sneak back. I tell the others what i saw and heard.
We settle down to take watches and break early the next day. We keep moving south, and it is still raining but everyone seems to be happier the farther away from Lorkin we get. We make camp again. it has been 6 days since we left the city. We’ve only seen the one group of people on the road and no one else. This make Vilija happy. I hope we get to a place with a bath soon. Everyone is starting to get a little stinky.
I raise my concerns about Mikka’s pony to Vilija and Tâber. That dog will be a dead give away. I have seen no other dogs in Lorkin that even come close to Garm. We go down and talk to Mikka about the problem and he says he will take Garm and have him wait for us near the river. We can then pick him up after we take the boat. This is a weight off my shoulders…the less to draw attention to us, the happier I will be. This place stinks in every way and I cannot wait to get out of it. I take a few hours of sleep and while Vilija rests I make sure everything is packed and secure so that we can just leave. when it is time I wake the others, Rella is sleepy and does not want to get up. She says she will miss Arlyss but i tell her we will invite the family to come visit us in Chelemby.
As we load up we give Mikka the majority of the burden to give the illusion he is less than we are. Lyssa and Fynre are there to unlock the door and bid us safe journey. We slip out and move silently through town. I am praying the guard passed on that we were leaving. I am also praying that it does not make us look guilty. I look back to make sure Mikka’s face is well hidden in his hood. Rella is carrying his bow and I his axe. I have left him his dagger in case things get ugly.
We make it to the first gate, and I hold my breath as Vilija speaks quietly to the guard atop the gate. There seems to be some hesitation on his part but we are let through. The key here is no matter how anxious, do not look back. Do not make any move that may be suspicious. I know we are being watched. We pass through the second gate with no trouble and I breathe easier when we are packing things into the boat. I can feel the movement of our craft as the tide is coming in. Rella takes the tiller and the 4 of us steer, swinging close to land so that we can pick up Garm. Once we get out into the river I concentrate on just rowing. each stroke is farther from this place and I cannot row fast enough to get away from it. Vilija says something and I look up, and disquiet seeping into me. There is a small island in the river near Lorkin. It houses some sort of mausoleum. There are….things flying around it. The night is dark, and the moon a small sliver in the sky. But the things near the crypts glow with an eerie green light. They seem to float lazily on an unseen current, and they glow. They don’t seem to have a real form, but appear as wisps of light. We all row faster.
The river is dark which works to our advantage if we are being watched. We make it around the head of the large island and turn the boast quietly slipping down river on the other side. There is a city, Shese, which pays tribute to Lorkin and a fort at the head of Noron’s Way. We slip quietly past both, beaching the boat downriver of the fort but close enough we can see the torch light from the parapet. Securing our things we push the boat back out letting the now receding tide pull it downriver. We distribute the supplies evenly and using the torchlight as a beacon skirt the fort until we reach the trail. Not wanting to be caught in the open we travel parallel to the road but hidden int he long swampy grass.
I have not walked like this in…well ever. I doubt I will even be able to pull my boots off. Tâber calls several rest stops during the day and by night my feet are throbbing. Did i mention is was raining…..no? Well it is also raining. Does it ever not rain on Harn? We break for the night and Rella oversees the shelter construction while Mikka sets a small fire. We decide that we will have a fire only for cooking, and just a small one, putting it out when we are done. Hesitantly I pull my boots off and there are blisters everywhere. Big blisters…..small blisters…..some the size of rocks. I lance them and with salve from Rella’s healing kit I cover and bind my feet. The next few days will be rough.
The night passes as does the next day. It rains on and of, and my feet throb but not as badly as they could have been. We see no one but Rella does manage to forage some sort of medicinal plant and adds it to her kit. Again we take several stops. Vilija seem to think we are making better time than i think we are. We do not break at the crack of dawn nor do we set camp at dusk. In addition to not walking during all usable daylight, we break several times a day. Not that I am complaining….each step is farther from Lorkin and closer in theory to Tharda.
Night passes again and we arise on the third day of leaving. We have seen no other people on the road. A fact I find a little disquieting. Were it not for the game Rella has hunted I would be greatly uneasy here. The day is wetter then yesterday but still relatively uneventful. We break for the night and as the others set camp Rella and I set off to the words to forage and hunt. While we are there I hear something…a sound I have not heard in days. Armor. There are armored soldiers on the road. And judging by the sound they are traveling north, and will certainly pass the camp. While off road, this is usually the time of day we have a fire. I grab Rella and we move swiftly but silently through the woods back to camp. Garm hears us and gives a soft “woof” alerting Mikka to our presence. I do not often have a bow trained on me, but right now it is not important. I tell them there are people coming and right away dirt is tossed on the fire to smother it. Rella and Mikka creep towards the road to catch a glimpse of who it might be. When they come back Mikka is white as a ghost, he whispers only one thing. “Aenghysa”. Aenghysa…the name the Jarin rebels took for themselves during the uprising. well i guess the rebels are not just a myth. That they frighten Mikka is at the same time troubling and confusing. These are Jarin….his people. But I suspect they do more harm than good for he and his kind in Lorkin and the surrounding area. Rella mentions one of them said something about Ilvir. Ah Ilvir…the crazed god. I don’t much know about his doctrines as I am always dragged to Sarajin’s temple. But I have heard he does not often take an interest in mortal affairs and spends his time creating strange creature. Like Naveh and Morgath I think Ilvir is feared. Not because he is “evil” but because he is so unpredictable. But I will pray to him too if it means that we can just get to Tharda and then go home.
An uneasy night passes and we break…the fourth day. It rains again….big surprise. I think the rain only stops long enough to give us a glimmer of hope that we will be dry. The day passes as does the night with no other sightings of travelers or otherwise on the road. The fifth day is very much a repeat of days 2 and 4. Walking….Raining….no other travellers….Again the night passes.
We are now 6 days from Lorkin and I could not be happier. Sure my feet hurt, my legs hurt, I am sick of hard tack, I stink, everyone else stinks, I am damp all the time and it’s cold at night. But I am not in Lorkin. Each day brings us marginally closer to Kaldor. My hope is we can reach it before it gets really cold. The winter months will start to loom soon and I would not want to be caught traveling during their bitter cold.