“Are you always this lazy?” I hear this and open my eyes to see a girl my age looking at me. She has blond hair and look a little bit like the lady who runs the inn. I tell her I am not lazy and she asks why i am still in bed. I start to tell her at home I am up very early all the time and she starts poking me! So I get out of bed and get dressed while I tell her about home.
Her name is Arlyss and we go downstairs together. She says she works with her mother and father here at the inn and she knows who i am. We go outside and Arlyss shows me around town. She thinks my life is very exciting and says nothing exciting happens here. She starts telling me about some people who came up from the south and went exploring but only one of them came back, and he was crazy.
I ask if she has brothers and sisters and she tells me about her two older sisters Marlene and Sharlene and her younger brothers Arn and Hans. I tell her about Vilija and Raja. I tell her sometimes Raja disappears and I don’t see her for days. Arlyss thinks maybe Raja has a boyfriend! We laugh because boys are icky and why would anyone want to kiss them. She says her sister Sharlene is all silly about someone called that Arnison boy.
She asks if I like to climb and I tell her I do so she takes me to the temple of Sarajin and we climb up a tree onto the lower roof. From there we climb all the way to the top and we can see the whole town!
It is really neat up here. The breeze is nice and there are no mosquitoes. We both hate those nasty little blood sucking monsters. She points out people to me as the pass on the streets, they look so small from up here. She points out a pretty lady who she says is Kyli, and her little daughter Tyli, who is walking near the temple.
I see something strange. There is something shimmery near Kyli. Its not a shape, but more like the wiggly air you see on a hot day sometimes on the road. It is only a few seconds but then Kyli doesn’t have a head anymore. It’s on the ground and I watch her fall. It seems very slow…her falling. Her daughter is screaming and Arlyss says we should go. She says something about a specter and we need to get back to the inn.
On our way down she slips and falls, I reach out grabbing her before she slides off the roof. That is lucky, because I fall as well and she saves me. I drop to the ground and we both leave trying to get out of the walled part of the city.
The gate is shut, and the guards tell us we can’t leave. I don’t like that…I want to go back, I don’t know where my sisters are and this is a little scarey. Arlyss shows me a way to get out of the town….a place we can climb over the wall.
When we get back to the inn Arlyss tells her mother what happened, and lady Lyssa tells us to quickly find Arlyss’ brothers and sisters and come back. When we do Raj is there she takes me and we go upstairs to wait for Vilija. It’s a little while later when Vilija and Tâber come in but we all decide that we need to leave. Raj says it might be safest to sit tight, she says something about meeting with the old man tomorrow after dark. I don’t know who that is, but there are a lot of things I don’t know about Raj. We talk about what we should do and which way we should go. Every time Raj makes a suggestion Vilija or Tâber say that it is dangers. Raj gets angry and asks what their not dangerous plan is. We stop talking and each of us think quietly.
I am scared, and I want to go home.
Dead bodies are rarely a good thing. Dead bodies with heads laying close by are even worse. Dead bodies with head laying close by the day after I have arrived at this back water keep are even worse. This well not end well.
I see Vilija across the way but I prefer to slip back out the way I came. I learned long ago that the one thing that holds value no matter where you go is information. I had considered paying a visit to Old Man Gwaener and it seems like now is as good a time as any. I move quickly, blending in with the shadows as best I can, leaving the walls of Lorkin before they seal them off. I arrive at the dung splattered lodging and slip around back quietly knocking on one of the closed shutters. No matter what this man may be now, he once was respected and I will not deny him that now. I use his title, regardless of the fact it may no longer be valid….Trehan Gwaener.
A voice answers and instructs me to come to the door. I curse internally. The whole point of back here is not to be seen from the streets. I slip around and scan the road, taking note the gates of the inner city are now closed. Moving quickly I reach the door, letting the voice know I come seeking advice. A slot on the door opens and through it the need for me to come around front is obvious. This man’s life is in danger. There are bars, preventing would be killers from slaying him as he opened the slot.
Old sunken eyes regard me. He is Jarin. I am Ivinian. Back home that would not matter, but here it matters far to much. I request admission, stating plainly that it would be to neither his nor my benefit for me to be seen here. The door is unbarred and opened and I slip inside taking a moment for my eyes to adjust. The man before me is old. Very old. He is slightly stooped with long white hair that blends into his snowy beard. There is a weariness in his eyes, and not due only to his advanced age.
I thank him for seeing me and he leads me to a table. The presence of more than a single stool leads me to believe that others still seek his guidance. The home is austere, what furniture is here looks old and many times repaired. He offers a seat and I take it, and while initially I decline the offer of ale I relent wishing not to offend my host.
There is a little bit of a language barrier, his dialect and accent being different from what we speak back home, but it is close enough that we can understand each other. I inform him of who I am, more or less, and inform him of what happened in the market place. Judging by his reaction this is not something new, nor something that will be good for his people. I describe the woman who was killed and he tells me that she was the 4th wife of the ruling Jarl. A man by the name of Taarbri. Based only on what I have seen I cannot imagine this Taarbri to be a fair and just Lord.
I ask if this has happened before and the Old Man recounts the tale of the Specter of Lorkin. Many are the stories, but no one knows the truth. A gruesome tale, and the more he recounts the legend the more I feel this indeed is not the best place to be.
The current year is 724 TR. In the mid 600s the Ivinians swept through and began their conquest. For 20 years the Jarin fought until Lorkin was taken by Clan Hjaida. Around the turn of the century a Jarin Prince named Arynn Ochaid and his family were killed, sparking a large rebellion. One such Jarin, a man by the name of Gweffryn formed the Aenghysa…in the old tongue it means “Ourselves Alone”. He and his men began a campaign of sabotage and raiding against the Ivinian Overlords. Gweffryn took Lorkin and drove out the Ivinians. Despite losing surrounding lands Lorkin held strong. For 2 years the Aenghysa held Lorkin until one day Gweffryn was found, his head removed from his body. His death demoralized the Jarin and it was only through the intervention of Gweaner that the Jarin were not eradicated. He negotiated the surrender, an act that shames and haunts him to this day, Lorkin was retaken by Clan Geldaanstar, and both the Lord and his son were cruel and brutal. Since Gweffryn’s mysterious death 20 members of Clan Geldaanstar have died in the same fashion. Some say that it is Gweffryn’s spirit, taking vengance on the Overlords. Jarl Taarbri belives that it is Jarin Rebels.
Gods preserve me but this place stinks. It seems Jarl Taarbri not only lost his father to the specter, but his latest wife, ivinaian royalty. Her death will be a large blow for him. The old man says every time the specter kills, 5 Jarin are executed. With the importance the jarl places on the latest victim, the Jarin will be lucky if the executions are limited to 5. Gods I hate this place. I ask my host about leaving and what he can recommend. The old man points out that my leaving town my seem like guilt, I counter with my arrival may be interpreted as the herald of this event. We discuss possible routes.
Up river is the city of Leriel. Overland about 240 km. Between here and there is a place called Taunheim, about 60 km up the road.
There is a path across the river that heads south called Noron’s trail, it leads to the kingdom of Kaldor.
We can take the Fur Road, which heads west then south and it ends in the city of Olokand, in Kaldor.
We can return down river and take our chances along the coast.
None of these options are not without danger, in fact none of these options are without extreme danger, but we need to leave and the sands of time are beginning to dwindle. I ask the Old Man if there are any Jarin who may consider traveling with us as companions. They would know the lands better and their council would be invaluable. he knows of a few who may consider coming with us. If I can free even one person from this shithole then I consider that a job well done. I tell the old man I will return the next day after dark and ask him for a word to whisper at the window so that he knows it is me. Kartoffeln. I slip out the back window and take the long way back to the inn, arriving while Rella is out with the innkeeper’s daughter rounding up siblings. When she returns I thank Lyssa and take my sister upstairs. We are joined shortly by Vilija and Tâber. There is discussion about our options and Vilija and Tâber point out the dangers of each path. Frowning I simply ask them their plan, and if it lacks danger…and of course there is no easy road open to us.
I suggest we remain put, I will need to scout out the docks to see if our vessel is even obtainable….And I want to keep my meeting with the old man.
The streets were definitely feeling unsafe at the moment. Jarin were vanishing, dispersing quickly in fear. Ivinians seemed torn between despair and rage. I grabbed Taber and we headed for the Temple of Sarajin. It seemed the safest place at the moment. Close to hand and I wasn’t willing to risk trying for the gate back to the Inn. I tried to signal Raj but she had already disappeared. Not sure where she had gone but I felt she was able to fend for herself. I was thankful we had left Raella back at the Inn.
In the door to the temple there lounged a well-dressed one-eyed man. The priest. He surveyed the scene with interest, seemed perturbed by what was unfolding. I asked for sanctuary. He regarded me coolly as this was an unusual request. We Sarajinians are not like the Peonians or Laranians, seeking sanctuary in times of peril. But I explained that the temple was safe and we were strangers in the town and had no wish to be entangled within the webs of what was happening.
Marter Julaar, for that was his name, led us inside. It really was a spectacular temple. So grand and very out of place within Lorkin. He offered us refreshment and asked a moment to pray. He left us and I prayed.
“Greslyn, grant me the courage to do what must be done. Give strength to my sword and will so that I may see my sisters safe. Blessed Bronwyn, may I dwell in the shadow of your shield so that its power flow in my veins. In that power may I keep my sisters from harm. Father Sarajin, in your courage I find courage as I walk the way of peril and death. My heart and hands are steel. Your will is my will.”
What was Taber feeling in all of this? The man was stoic. A mystery. I let him know that there was no obligation for him to take us further. Thanked him for all he had done so far. He said he had been told to safeguard us and he would continue to do so. But by whom? And to what end? I always felt the swirl of secrets from him. But I held my questions. He had done us no harm. And I would hold fast to him until he gave me reason to do otherwise. If he had secrets I was willing to let them lie. For now.
Julaar returned with refreshment, some small beer. He told us of the troubles plaguing Lorkin. Of the deaths, the story of the haunting by the slain Jarin noble. That 5 Jarin have paid for every murder in the past. This time, given that the victim was the favorite wife of the Jarl, I feared there would be a stronger reprisal. I felt a shiver run down my spine. The sooner we left the better.
With Julaar as our guide, we were able to make it safely through the gates and to the Inn. Just before we crossed to the outer city there was a wild, anguished animal scream from behind us. I turned to see the Jarl charging towards the murder scene, a mad man of grief and rage. I was grateful when the gate closed, shutting me away from the city proper.
Lyssa had the Inn boarded up tight. She let us in with some relief. The Inn was empty. Raella was there, with the Innkeeps children. We hustled ourselves up stairs. Thankfully Raj joined us, seeming none the worse for the mornings travails.
Raella told us of how she had left the Inn with Lyssa’s youngest daughter. How they had climbed to the roof of the Temple. From there they had witnessed the murder. She said there was a shimmer in the air and then the head went missing. She was trying to be brave but I could tell the whole incident had left her shaken. As well it should. It seemed that there were, in truth, powers at work beyond the mortal realm.
We began to discuss how to get out of the city. No route seemed better than any other. It was finally decided that we would travel up river past the islands, letting it out that we were heading towards Lariel and the Fur Road. But once past the islands we would double back and take Noron’s Trail, leaving the boat to drift out to sea. Hopefully, if there were trouble hounding our heels, we would be able to outstrip it, if only for a while.
Raj had been out covertly to speak with the local Jarin leader. She had arranged with him to get a guide. But the old man needed until the following evening to make the arrangements. Not my desire to stay another day. But the time would afford us a chance to better prepare for the coming journey. And hopefully avoid any entanglement in the tragedy.