Another damp day. Another cool breeze. Another day free from that hole called Lorkin. As we crest a hill there is a settlement in the distance. There is a keep that sits on a river bank, and a small village. From the distance it looks like an average town, even though it looks like most of the town is inside a small palisade. There is something strange about it though, something that nags at the back of my mind. The settlement is much smaller than Lorkin and Mikka says this should be Noron’s Keep. As we approach he shares what he has heard of this place. There are many stories about Noron.
Noron and his sons have been here a long time.
Collect tribute from travelers.
Many sons, but never mention of daughters
Merchant caravans avoid this road.
Noron is a giant.
Mikka says he has been hearing these tales all his life. The road ends at the keep so it seems we must pass though. We could skirt it, the road seems to pass through and along the river, but by now we have probably been spotted and so to avoid trouble and to gather information we press on.
The gates of the palisade are closed and as Vilija reaches to open them I recommend at the very least she “hello”. She does and the response comes not from the other side of the gate but down the palisade. I am the tallest of our party, but I feel short as this man approaches. Guess the rumors of Giant’s blood have some merit. The stranger walks forward juggling 6 stones. He asks for a dagger which Vilija tosses him. He incorporates the dagger in with the stones. This seems to bring some delight to Rella who excitedly offers her dagger as well. He jovially accepts and now he is juggling two daggers and six stones. I take a quick glance at the men in our company. They look a little uneasy, preferring to remain silent and cautious. I also say nothing preferring to take in as much as I can mentally for sorting later. Our new guide tells us we can stay in the barn, all travelers do..Unless father likes them…then they stay in the keep. I can’t put my finger on it but something screams creepy.
There are times I wish I was a child Rella’s age. She speaks without thought. On this particular day she is telling this stranger how she loves hunting…even people’s animals. Sweet merciful gods…the things that come out of her mouth. The giant does not seem to take offense but is amused by the sharp “RELLA!” that tumbles from our sister’s lips. The giant recommends not hunting his fathers pet and hands back the daggers before casually tossing the rocks over the wooden barrier before he opens the gates of the palisade. The smell here is much better than Lorkin. Instead of the smell of shit and piss there is an earthy fragrance on the wind. Most of the fields are withing the safety of the wall and as such there is a lot of livestock here.
The Giant introduces himself as Fodorin. He stands about 6’5" with chin length light brown hair and hazel eyes. Not knowing much about giants I would say his face resembles someone not much older than Vilija. Rella begins to say something about what Mikka had said and a quick meaning full look from me cuts her short. Vilija attempts to engage our new guide while I take in the town and get a feel for the place.
The town has a range of ages here and many of the people seem to be wearing a lot of jewellery. Many are adorned with rings, necklaces and armbands. It seems a bit strange, but looking around I see no one in the village that looks destitute. The populace is not fat, but no one seems to suffer from to little food. Even back home there are poor people, but not here it seems. The clothing here is a little finer as well. More woven fabrics and less leather and fur. Most of the people I see have a distinct Jarin look to them. The houses are all well constructed and the town has a well and a millstone. The people go about their business and seem on the surface at least content with their lives. Those that do take notice of us show nothing more than curiosity. Not many people travel this road and now I can guess where that tribute goes.
As we walk I can hear Rella going on about our journey and where we come from, where we have been and where we are going. Sweet mercy child they don’t need to know everything. There is a flash of something that catches my eye. As we are passing what looks to be woodworker or timber wright’s home the door opens and someone steps out. Upon catching sight of us he steps back in and quickly closes the door. I do not recognize the man but obviously he did not want to be seen. It was unlikely that it was Fodorin this man was trying to avoid. I suspect Noron and his boys know everyone in this town. I do not know him, and it seems unlikely someone Rella or Vilija would know would be here. Was that reaction due to Mikka…or Tâber the mysterious? I file away the house and the action and will revisit it later. As we approach the keep there is a commotion up ahead. Looks like three more of the sons. The main man I see is huge, taller than Fodorin and built like a warhorse. He has black hair and grey eyes. Our friendly giant tells us this brother is called Lescath. He is, with apparent ease, holding up a pair or green eyed, red haired twins.
Lescath’s speech is slowed and in a way seems simple, however that is not a word I would ever use openly to describe someone who could snap my neck with 2 fingers. He seems to be chiding the redheads, telling them if they want to fight do it where they wont bother anyone. He sets down the twins who glare at each other before parting ways. The black haired giant greets his shorter brother before making his way to the keep.
As we cover the last short distance Rella again begins sharing to much information. Fodorin guesses that it would take up 2 months to get to Tharda. I can live with 2 months. As we approach the keep we pass through a much more fortified wall. From here it is clear what was strange from a distance. The keep is huge, and of course why wouldn’t it be…giants live here. The keep is three….extra large….stories with a battlement atop it. Within the keep’s walls are a vegetable plot and the barn. There is a mix of tall and average people here. The regular folks seem to be servants, mostly late teens or early twenties. They are being overseen by a Jarin woman. None of the servants look unhappy. Whatever Noron is doing in his utopia seems to be working.
And speaking of Noron, there is the man himself. All 7 foot, black haired, shaggy beard, of fur wearing Giant. We are introduced to the lord of the manor and he insists we stay with him in the keep and again there is that creepy feeling. Vilija offers her last bit of jewelery as payment for our lodging but Noron refuses saying there are other ways to pay. Songs and entertainment. We are shown to the barn where we are given a chance to clean up. It’s not Lyssa’s steam bath but it will do. Vilija of course pulls out her best. I just opt for wearing what I have that is cleanest. Rella explores the barn and it seems to be built to house regular sized animals.
We return to the keep and are seated at the head table. There are 11 sons in total, no tall women. Seems strange, but something tells me curiosity may not be a good thing. The woman from the garden is introduced as Myrsis. She shows respect to our hosts but certainly takes no crap from anyone, no matter how they may tower over her. I like her. We also meet Wylin, the stewart. Older gent in his sixties I would guess. We are introduced to all the sons, even the ones we have already met.
Lescath – we met him in the town
Fodorin – who guided us to the keep
Karak & Jorath – the red haired twin menaces
Prender – Blond with pale grey eyes.
Roscaler – The image of his father. Black hair and bushy beard. He has three fingers on each hand, but it looks unnaturally natural, not a disfigurement.
Terem – black hair and blue eyes. everything that comes out of his mouth is snide. He certainly has the feel of a bully. i would not want to encounter him away from his father’s protection.
Unaron – Black hair and green eyes. He walks with a slight limp and endures the ridicule of his brothers over some incident involving Gargun.
Gwayn – even more than Roscaler, is the very image of his father. it’s like looking at two Norons.
Boridos – Shaggy black hair with a thin beard. He seems sullen and surly and keeps mostly to himself. a man…giant…after my own heart. Perhaps the one so far I can relate to.
The last son, Diunath, is out hunting. Most of the sons with the exception of surly and snarky seem curious and happy to have visitors. The feast is good. I eat and drink sparingly but everything I have is delicious. During the course of dinner Vilija asks about the land past the river. We are in luck….more gargun. Can’t get enough of those little bastards. Over all it’s pretty much the same story we got in Lorkin. Dangerous. the next settlement is about 15 leagues. Tonot in Kaldor. To cross the river we will have to travel upriver to the ford. There is a little voice in my head…one that anticipates Vilija will ask for one of the boys to travel with us as far as the next settlement…yep there she goes. Blah blah recompense….blah blah Teshal….blah blah. with our luck we will get snarky or sulky. Won’t that be a nice addition to Tâber the mysterious and Mikka the silent and his pet war pony.
Without giving her an answer Noron calls for dinner to be ended and chairs are set up around the main fireplace. Time for entertainment.
We are walking towards a keep and town. Mikka says this is where Noron lives. Mikka says he is a giant and has lived here a long time. A giant! I would really like to meet one. When we get to town I do! There is a giant outside the wall and he is juggling rocks. Vilija tosses him a dagger and he adds it to the rocks. That is really neat. I offer him mine as well and he takes it.
I start to tell him about how I like hunting. He seems very nice but Vilija gets mad over something I said. The giant, who says his name is Fodorin takes us through town. I tell him Mikka said…but then I see Raja give me a look. It’s her ’don’t you dare’ look. I don’t see what the problem is. Mikka did say they have been here a long time. Fodorin laughs and says yes, his father has been here a long time.
Before we get to the keep we see three more giants. Two that look the same and one really big giant. it’s amazing. We go to the keep and we get to meet Fodorin’s father. I miss my father. Fodorin says it should take us about 2 months to get to father.
Noron is nice. he says we can stay with them in the keep. We get to get cleaned up in the barn and I get to look around. The barn is not made for giants, it’s made for regular people. I ask Noron if there are any secret passages and he says no. he seems friendly
At dinner I tell all the big giants about how I am a hunter and how I saved Vilija and Raja in the woods by showing them how to start a fire and build a shelter. I like the giants, and they seem to like me. Vilija is being Vilija and taking to people. Raja is being Raja and not saying a lot. One of the giants is a lot like Raja, he doesn’t talk and hangs in the back. After dinner it’s story time. This will be exciting. i want to sing some songs with Vilija.
The trip took far less time than I thought it would. Or maybe we were just becoming inured to travel. But a few days later we crested a hill and there spread out before us in the next valley was Noron’s Keep. The keep had a fortified wooden palisade around it. Beyond were a small village , farm fields and orchards, also enclosed in a lesser palisade. Mikka told us that he heard stories of how Noran and his sons collect tribute from those on the trail and how men called him a “Giant”.
The trail lead down to a gate in the outer palisade. It was closed with a simple latch, no lock. Leaning there was a young man, quite tall, juggling. He introduced himself as Foderin and asked for our knives, which he incorporated into his juggling, but kindly returned them when we asked. He said he had come to the gate to watch for something interesting. I didn’t know how to take that. But I guess three red-haired females an sailor a boy and a large dog we not the sort of party one usually saw on this road.
We asked if we might see Noron and he smiled, leading us into the village.
These people we of obvious Jarin descent. They watched us out of curiosity with no malice. A welcomed change from Lorkin. They seemed prosperous. The tribute was obviously shared with Noron’s people. The fields we passed through we harvested but they looked bountiful.
We came across a very large man, larger than Foderin, whom he said was his brother Lescath. The man was holding up a pair of large red-headed twins, one in each hand and very slowly telling them to behave. Mikka was awed by the size of these men. And Foderin laughed, amused. I noticed that while appearing casual, Taber was none the less observing everything.
Out of the corner of my eye I caught a flash in a doorway, someone watching. But when I looked they had already disappeared behind a closed door. That was stranger to me than the giant men. And it left me to wonder who it might have been. It felt like they had not wanted to be recognized or that they had recognized us and hid. Strange for I was certain we knew no one in this place.
The Keep itself was a three story building with an embattled roof within the greater palisade. This gate was open as well.
There was a kitchen garden in the outer yard and a middle aged woman stood there, supervising the harvesting of the garden by a gaggle of younger servants. Again it struck me that everyone seemed content with their place. Foderin led us over the small bridge into the Keep proper where an older man with a big shaggy beard stood in the doorway, him being well over 7 feettall and who I suspected was Noron.
We were led into the Great Hall. The walls were hung with tapestries. 2 of them stood out as odd to me. The first showed stylized figures of men pointing to the sky and scribed in unfamiliar writing. The second showed a mountain lake below a towering cliff from which cascaded a waterfall.
We were invited to wash up in the barn, which we did. It was obvious that a part of the structure also served as housing for guest. Once we were washed and tidied we were directed back into the Great Hall.
Noron seated us at his high table as guests of honor and we were introduced to his eleven sons, all giant men. The boys seemed very happy to see new faces. I did notice that one son, Roskeller, had only three fingers on each hand. And it looked natural, as is he had been born that way. Most of them were very genial, though there was one gruff fellow who’s name eluded me.
Noron told us that there was a ford just up the river where we could cross. And from there it was about a nine day journey to the Keep at Tonot, which marks the border of Kaldor. By my reckoning I figured we could then travel down to the capital city of Tashal where I knew one of father’s business partners lived. And he would be able to either put us up for the winter or help us caravan to Tharda.