Walking to Tharda

A Letter Arrives.
The call to adventure!
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On the High Seas - 3 perspectives

RAJAVIA

Well this is it. I see the ship we are going to board at the end of the pier. The “Grey Gull”. Ships are more Vilija’s specialty as she is training to take over the family business. To me is looks like a floating box with a sail. I recall Dafyl mentioning something about the captain being from her clan, and I already can see Vilija talking and making connections. Must be easy when you are that pretty. Ranulf says I am pretty…but judging by the amount of girls who always seem to hang around him in the markets, he says that a lot.

Uhg…..I really don’t want to do this. I have never been on a boat, and I have heard tales from others passed around of seasickness….gods preserve me but I bet my new lock-picks I will be retching over the side before the city is even out of view.

I can see a few of the brats watching me as they move through the dock crowds. Always ripe pickings here if you are fast enough. I gesture, acknowledging them before I hear Vilija calling to me to hurry up. My trunks have already been loaded….why I need so much is beyond me. that many clothes would seem to indicate that we will be there for a while. I am carrying my satchel, and the things I value the most are there.

The necklace, some small gems I can fence, my spare lock-picks and a change of clothes. I have my good picks hidden on me as well as my dagger and a parting gift from Ranulf…sturdy new nun-chuck.

I board the ship and a short while later we set out. The sway of the ship was minimal in dock, but as soon as we hit deep water I begin to feel it, the churning in my stomach. I still see the last vestiges of the city as I race to the edge of the deck. This trip is going to be long, and very very unpleasant.

The days begin to Blur, and all I know is the stench of vomit and the rolling of the ship. The good news is after the first day there was really nothing left to throw up…not that my stomach was really aware of that fact. Some days I lay on the floor of the cabin willing my stomach to be still, others I hang over the deck and share my bounty with the sea.

The waters are getting rough, and I hear whispers of a storm. Gods could this trip get any worse?

RELLA

Today is finally the day! We are leaving and the boat is really big. I went with Vilija and met the captain. He has a bushy beard and looks a little scarey when he is not smiling, but he seems very nice. We have a room on the ship, which is called a cabin. And there are no other passengers. It feels strange walking, because the ship is always moving under your feet. I explore the ship as it is loading. I have never been on a ship like this before and I want to know everything. I watch the sailors as they begin to prepare to depart and soon I feel the boat really rock as we head into deeper waters. Raja does not look very good, she is sitting on a crate with her head in her hands.

I lasted longer than Raja but I am sick too. The ship moving is making me throw up. Vilija is out of the cabin a lot, because it is stinky here. Some times Raja and I are outside the cabin with Vilija. I don’t sleep at a lot because my stomach hurts. The captain says soon I should get better…I hope so because I don’t like being sick….Aunty never told me what to do if I was sick on a boat.

VILIJA

The day finally came for us to board ship. Lýdan was able to get us passage on the Grey Gull, captained by Rurik al Lâarsel. He is a member of my mother’s clan and for that I am grateful. And though I had the barest of acquaintances with him, his familial connection was comforting. Also, a man of such age was surely a wily seaman and that inspired confidence as well.

I wasn’t sure about my sister’s. Rajavia was sulky and surely. I hadn’t seen much of her lately and I felt some small regret. I knew she has drifted from us since mother’s death but first the duties at temple and then the cares of the business demanded more time away from the family. Raella was quite excited. She kept going on about all the things Aunt Arien taught her. I’m not sure where she thoughts we are going, but I hadn’t the heart to tell her we wouldn’t likely be needing any survival skills in the city.

As we pulled away from shore it felt like a door closing on my life. Standing on the deck, the salt spray catching in my hair, the horizon stretched before me like the first leaf of an unwritten book. Just waiting for the ink to start flowing.

While I settled well to the rythyms of the voyage, I could not say the same for my sisters. Neither found their sealegs and I was grateful for the bracing wind as the cabin was rife with the smell of their sickness. After a couple of days they seemed to settle, though neither had much appetite and both kept to the cabin. I, on the other hand, quite enjoyed the company of the crew, learning a couple of their sea songs, a few with salty lyrics, and sharing their meals. I also spent a fair bit of time learning to navigate by the stars. Mostly I tried to avoid the cabin.

After about a week of fine weather we hit the storms. For a couple of days the ship tossed on the rough seas and rain. I found that I needed to find shelter below in the cabin. My sisters seemed the worse for wear but neither became violently sick again. After several nights of rocking there came a knock on our cabin door. Upon opening it we discovered one of the sailors, Tâber al Chéler by name standing in the dark.

He told us to be quick, that the ship was on fire and the Captain had sent him to help get us safely off. The deck seemed strangely empty, even in the dark, but we could see smoke rising from the cargo hold. Grabbing what was easily to hand, we followed Taber across the streaming deck. We climbed over and down into one of the small boats that stood waiting for us. After a few tense moments, Taber cut us free and we rowed for all our worth to get as far from the Grey Gull as possible. I had often heard my brother tell of small ships drawn down to the deeps when the larger ships floundered and that was a fate I was determined to avoid.

We quickly lost sight of the ship in the maelstrom of waves which rocked the small boat precariously. Somehow we managed to keep moving. It seemed an eternity before Raella spotted something on the horizon. It was difficult to tell what in the darkness, but Taber felt confident it was the surf beating against a shoreline so we headed in that direction as best we could.

It was still dark when we made landfall. We dragged the boat up as far as we could. The mud sucked at us, for we had landed in a mired reed locked delta. So boots removed, we grabbed up what provisions we could and made for higher ground. Once we hit the sparse tree line, Raella set us to making camp by showing us how to make a shelter and get a fire going.

We set watches through the night and when mine was over I fell into an exhausted sleep. My last thought as I drifted off was to thank Aunt Arien for teaching Raella. I was guessing that her skills might well come in handier than I had originally thought.

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Welcome to Hârn - 3 Perspectives

RAJAVIA

The gods have decided…this trip will get worse. The good news is I am not throwing up. The bad news is that the “Gray Gull” seems to be on fire and we are evacuating. There is shouting, and people running about, and black billowing smoke coming from the hold. We are ushered out of our room by a sailor and rushed to one of the smaller row boats. Much of the next little bit is a blur. We dropped into the sea and began rowing. The difference in movement coupled with adrenalin kept me from feeling ill.

Did I mention it was raining? Yes…raining, in a rowboat, in the middle of the sea. Maybe Sarajin is punishing Vilija for abandoning him to run the family business…..and we’re just along for the ride. Maybe the gods just hate me. At some point Rella calls out she sees something and the sailor confirms it.

Land. And not just land, but delightful swampy, mucky, sludgy land. I take off my boots. My feet are already soaked through and I don’t want to risk losing a boot in the mire we are now attempting to haul this boat through. Once far enough we salvage supplies and make our way towards the treeline. This boat seems awfully well stocked. I will have to ask Vilija later if that is normal.

Thanks to Rella I am able to make a fire while Vilija, Rella and the sailor, who says his name is Tâber, make a shelter from some branches and evergreen boughs. We spread out wet cloaks over any gaps. They are already wet so more rain wont matter and we’ll at least be not getting wetter. During my watch I make sure my picks are dried and oiled. i may not need them out here, but that is no excuse to let the get rusted.

The morning comes and finally the rain stops. Based on what I know I suspect we are somewhere near the Anoth Delta. See…those geography lessons paid off. This day is rather uneventful. Tâber and Rella go off hunting while Vilija and I attempt to spread and dry out our things. There is a discussion between the two of us about the provisions on the rowboat, as well as the presence of Tâber’s personal satchel. It raises questions. The day is uneventful and the hunt unsuccessful. The provisions we dragged from the boat include fresh water and hard tack. It’s a pretty bland meal but at least the ground is not moving and the food stays down.

The next day I go hunting with Rella and little sister bags a red deer. I am not sure what Vilija and Tâber did all day but when we sit down and start cooking we do discuss the fact we cannot stay here. After some discussion we decide to head north along the coast line in the morning.

Murky dreams. Darkness, something wet holding me down, fliting shadows. I wake with a start in the dark morning. Unable to sleep I take the last watch.

The third day dawns bright and clear. I hear birds and the sun filters through the trees. My things are finally dry and I start packing my things. Vilija and Tâber have decided to check the boat out. It will be safer then trudging overland, and I am sure there are some villages that we will find easier from the water. Rella wants to forage, she and Vilija getting into a rather heated debate about Rella going off on her own. Of the three of us I would suspect that Rella probably is the most at home in the wild and the best equipped to deal with it. I attempt to catch Vilija’s eye and indicate for her to stop. I miss Ranulf. he and I could have whole conversations without ever saying a word. Eventually Vilija either catches on to what I am trying to communicate, or she just gives up telling Rella to stay near the camp.

Once Rella leaves I slip out after her and follow her discretely. I figure it’s the best way to go. Vilija gets her way, Rella isn’t alone, and Rella feels alone which makes her happy. Of course, she does not stay close to camp. We head out deeper into the woods and wouldn’t you know…trouble finds us. There is a girl…who is running from something. She races by Rella and shouts something to her as 5 things burst out of the bushes. Stealth forgotten I race out and grab Rella telling to her run. And run we do. The mystery girl breaks off in one direction and I choose to pull us in another. Hopefully this will split the pursuers, which is does. Now there are only three. Rella stops and shoots, hitting one in the arm before we take off again. But it is only a matter of time before they catch up.

The fight is mostly a blur. I parried and attacked one. At some point Rella shot again and then Tâber and Vilija came bursting through the trees. I had taken a spear to the leg and Rella dressed it before we made out way back to camp. The boat was sound, and we packed our supplies and began heading north along the water.

The rest of the day was thankfully uneventful. We did see something further out in the water, some sort of sea beast, which caused up to move closer to shore but the creature moved off and left us alone. There is an island, with a dilapidated cabin and a run down jetty. there is another boat, but it is submerged and looks pretty old. Vilija says we will tie to the jetty overnight and explore this island in the morning.

Maybe we can scrounge supplies front the cabin. Everything looks deserted. The only thing interesting is there seems to be an unusually large tree further in. It dominates the forest around it.

VILIJA

We awoke to glowering skies but the rain had stopped. I gave Taber one of my bracelets to thank him for his help. He seemed embarrassed but I was glad that he took it. Together we worked to make the camp more comfortable and to start drying things out while Raj took Raella out hunting. Baby sis was so eager to show her skills.

The hunt was unsuccessful. But we had fresh water and hardtack from the boat and so while not an extravagant meal we did not go hungry.

The second day brought us some sun. Raella once again went hunting, taking Taber with her this time. As Raj and I worked around camp she mentioned Taber’s pack, which he had stowed away under some bushes. The strange thing was, I did not recall him having a pack the night we escaped the ship. Which then brought me to thinking about the provisioned longboat. Neither of the two small boats were equipped. Barrels were kept on deck alongside, should they need to be put to shore for water and provisions. But the boats themselves were always empty. And that got me to remembering the night we had escaped the Grey Gull. The deck had been abandoned, despite the storm and the fire. Doubts began to surface regarding out savior. Both Raj and I decided that we should keep an eye on him. While he had acted only honorably towards us, there was that little voice whispering inside.

Raella was ecstatic when she returned, the two of them carrying a small red deer between them. There was no way to smoke all that meat without sending up a big signal as to our location. And as we were unsure of where we were we decided to keep the fire small and carefully cook a chunk of the meat. The day was spent doing just that and scouting around to see if we could determine where the fates had cast us up.

The following morning I took Taber with me to go and check on the state of the boat. We had decided that it would be better and probably safer to travel north by water as opposed to shore. And given the nature of the area we found ourselves in, probably faster as well. Raella asked to go out and search for herbs and wild plants to supplement our diet and I asked her to stay within earshot of the camp as Raj was staying to start packing things up.

It was a tiring trudge through the muck and mire but we eventually reached the boat. Flipping it over, Taber examined it and declared it to be seaworthy. With that settled we headed back to camp. When we arrived back we found neither girl in camp. Which did not initially concern me, I suspected Raj had just wandered off with Raella to help her forage.

A short while later Taber though her heard the distant calling of his name. And that could only mean the girls had found trouble. I saw Raella’s short sword laying by her pack and grabbed it up as we ran from camp in the direction Taber heard the sound coming from.

My heart beat frantically in my chest. We came upon them fighting off three horrible, squat humanoid creatures. One was attacking Raella, one on Raj. I could see my sister was wounded, having taken the creatures spear through her leg. A third creature stood off to the side, one of Raella’s shafts through it’s arm but it looked about ready to attack anew.

Quick as a flash, Taber’s axe whizzed by me and struck the creature menacing Raella. It screamed as it fell. And then I was flying after the beast that my little sister had wounded, calling on Sarajin for strength. I slashed at it, struck, felt the blade slice into flesh. Then a second axe came flying in and took it out. But I continued to hack at it till I was sure it was dead.

But that time the other two were both dead. Raella was tending to Raj’s wound. She looked up at me and asked if we were going to go after the other girl.

It seems that when Raella came upon the beasts there had been five, chasing a young girl. Raj had arrived in time to get Raella running and they went in an opposite direction to the girl, splitting the hunters into two groups. We had no way of knowing which way the girl had run. We had no decent tracking skills among us and Raj was wounded. I insisted we return to camp, grab up our things and make for the boat. Oddly, no one argued with me.

It took a bit of work but we finally got into the water. For a while we sailed into the steadily hot sun. Once we saw something sinuously sliding through the deeper waters and moved ourselves closer to the shoreline. But other than that we saw no sign of anything or anyone, other than the seabirds wheeling overhead. Not even a wisp of smoke to indicate a settlement.

As day started to wan, we came to a small island. There was an old dock stuck out into the water to which was tied a dilapidated old boat, half sunk. On shore what appeared to be an abandoned cabin. From the middle of the island rose what appeared to be a very large and unusual tree. We halloed but there was no answer. Not wanting to wander off into the darkening day, we tied up to the dock and decided to camp by the boat should we need to make a hasty retreat.

If this was the Harn that my father loved so much, I was not impressed. All I could hope was that we would reach a settlement in the next couple of days and arrange for better transport.

REllA

The boat is burning! There is a sailor named Tâber who is helping us get to one of the rowboats. There is black smoke and people shouting. Vilija tells me to keep watch for anything once we are in the water. It is cold, and we are wet but I keep watch like I am supposed to. Its very dark and stormy so it is hard to see things but I do see something and I point it out to them. Tâber says it might be shore so we go that way.

It was land! But it’s very gross and muddy. Vilija and Raja take off their boots so I do it too, and the ground is slimy and cold. We pull the boat out of the water and then take stuff towards the trees. I remind them of the things Aunty told me. We need to build a shelter, then a fire, then find food. I tell Raja what to do to start a fire and she does while me, Vilija and Tâber make a shelter. We spend the night in the shelter, but we are still wet and cold.

Its morning now, and the rain has stopped but its still cloudy and looks like it could rain more. Tâber and I go hunting but we don’t find anything. The next day Raja and I go hunting and I shoot a deer! I show Raja how to prepare the animal before bringing it back to camp. Everyone is very excited that I was able to bring back food like this. Raja even said “good job little sister”

The deer was very tasty. We cooked all that we could because Vilija says we have to leave tomorrow and get back on our journey. She is going to look at the boat with Tâber. I am going to look for plants to eat. Vilija says I cant go by myself…she says I am a kid but I say I am old enough. We argue for a long time but finally I get my way. They leave and Raja stays in camp. I go off and look for plants.

I find lots of things that will be good to eat. I think I hear something in the woods but when I look around I don’t see anything. A little while later I hear something big in the bushes and a girl appears telling me to run. I don’t know why she is there but as five strange monsters come through the bushes, Raja is there grabbing me and telling me to run as she pulls me away. I see the girl go one way and Raja pulls me in a different direction, when I look back now there are only 3 monsters.

I stop and shoot one, and I hit him in the arm before Raja pulls me and we run again. I start screaming for Vilija and Tâber. I trip. I didn’t see the branch on the ground and I fell. Raja stopped and pulled a weapon I had never seen her use…it looked looked like two short shafts tied together with rope. She fought while I tried to get up and shoot another arrow. The monster attacking me fell when an axe hit it. I looked and saw Tâber and Vilija running towards us. Big Sis was really scarey, she was all wild and screaming at the last monster who tried to run away.

Raja got hurt. I looked at her wound and wrapped some bandages around it. We went back to camp and got everything and took it to the boat. Vilija says the boat will be safer. Tâber is showing me how to steer the boat. We are stopping at a strange and creepy island. there is an old cabin here, it looks like it is falling apart and there is a ship here, but it is under the water. Vilija says we will stay here tonight and continue in the morning. Tomorrow I am going to go with Tâber and look for plants to make into medicine.

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Arriving at Lorkin - 3 perspectives

RAELLA

I wake up in the morning and the others are already up. They are talking about splitting up to explore the island. Before we do Raja spots something and points it out. It’s a large bee. much bigger than I have ever seen, and it looks like it is chewing on the other boat. We look around and Vilija says she sees something on the shore. She has to explain where to look but I see a raccoon watching us. Before I can say anything Vilija and Raj decide we are leaving.

We leave the island and row more. The others don’t make me row but I get to steer the boat. We ask Tâber if he has fishing line so I can fish and a big fight starts with Raja and Tâber. I am not sure why but Tâber gives me some line and I am able to catch some fish. After a while we come to a large river and Raja says we should go up the river. We see a lot of smoke along the sides of the river but it looks like there is a city up ahead.

We pull into the dock and Vilija talks to the guards. One of them calls one of the fisherman and then hits him telling him to get us water. How mean! I don’t like the guards but Raja shakes her head at me so I wont say anything. When the man comes back I slip him a coin and quietly say thank you.

We go to the inn. I am not sure what Vilija says but the lady at the inn Gives us all big hugs and gives us a room and some tasty food. We even get a steam bath. Its nice to be clean. When we go back to the inn it is very full of people who want to know all about us. I get lots of sweets and people keep asking me questions.

Vilija says it is bed time, and Tâber says he will sleep near the door. I try to stay up but the bed is soft and warm and I am to sleepy.

RAJAVIA

The night is uneventful and the sun finally comes up on another clear day. We discuss splitting up when something catches my attention. Its a bee, much larger than any I have ever seen before. It’s sitting on the partially submerged ship and it looks like it is….eating? the wood. Creepy. I look around to see if there are anymore when Vilija points out something on the shore near the treeline. It’s a raccoon. Just sitting there watching us. There seems to be something attached. Part of me wants to investigate, but we have no armor, some no real weapons and I am still injured. We decide the best action is to leave. As we pull away from the island the sounds of nature increase, almost as if the island itself had been silent. Out here the sounds are all around us, but on the shore…the land had been quiet.

On the boat Tâber is asked if he has any fishing line, and he pulls some out of his pack. it seems odd and so since Vilija wanted to confront him about his pack I decide to just go for it. The confrontation gets tense, I can tell he is hiding something. Vilija doesn’t back me up at all, putting the conversation off for another day. To say I am angry is an understatement. She was the one who wanted to confront this, and then left me out to dry. I let the subject drop, but I know he is hiding something. On the plus side Rella did catch fish.

We come to a river mouth and I insist we head upriver. We can always come back but it is likely to have settlements. As we travel upriver we see smoke on both shores and what looks like a city up ahead. As we approach we can see the banners have a distinctive Ivinian flare to them. We pull up to the docks and I notice something that sets me at unease. There are two distinct classes here. The ivinians and the Jarin. In Chelemby we have people from all over and there is not so much segregation. Here however it was clear the Jarin were being oppressed. It makes me feel ill. it was demonstrated when the guard slapped a fisherman and then told him to bring us water. I could see Rella open her mouth but I shook my head and she remained silent. We are told there is an Inn called the Spawn’s Hollow, not the most inviting name, run by a man called Fynre Gelemaar. We have to wait for the Jarl’s man to come. Vilija is playing the poor traveler card, even though I know she has far more money then she is claiming.

The Jarl’s man arrives. His name is Asta Galdesaan and Vilija convinces him to wave docking fees for 1 ten day period. I pretty much let Vilija do her thing and just watch, paying attention to everyone who comes and goes, to the dark looks the Jarin shoot the guards and to the guards themselves. Once she has finished negotiating we make our way to the inn. There we meet Lyssa, the innkeepers wife. I do not think this woman really understands the concept of personal space. Vilija works more of her magic and we have a free room, free food and a hot steam bath.

The bath is nice. I take my most prized possessions in while Vilija is talking to Lyssa. The woman takes all out mucky dirty clothes and for the first time since leaving Chelemby I feel clean. Tâber’s coat is a point of interest. It is finished on both sides making it reversible…its strange and just another thing to add to my mental list. When we get back to the inn the place is pack. I feel like one of those freaks or oddities I sometimes see in traveling shows that pass through our city. Everyone is staring and it makes me very uncomfortable. I take a seat near the Jarin but that does not save me from the crowds. I indicate a sore throat and they leave me alone. Why wouldn’t they….Vilija is far more beautiful and more than happy to play their game. Rella while shy is a huge hit with the patrons because she is so cute.

We retire for the night and I sleep closer to the window. I keep my satchel close by and let sleep take me. In the morning if possible there is an even larger crowd. I wolf down my breakfast and slip out taking a walk through the town. This place stinks..in more ways than one. Outside the pallisade I find a Chandler and a furrier. I also find a larger house that has been splattered with dung. When i approach one of the Jarin children they seem intent to avoid me. I catch the eye of one and raise a finger to my lips. Flashing a silver coin I entice him over and ask about the house.

I am told it belongs to Old Man Gwaemyr. He was the clan chief before the Ivinians took over. They keep him around as an example. The child says it was the Ivinains that decorated the outside of the house. Not wanting to keep him too long I slip him the coin and he vanishes. I continue inside the western gate and I see a lumber mill, and a timber wright. there is the sound of a blacksmith and in the distance I see a Temple to Sarajin. it seems a little ornate for this place but before I can investigate there is a scream down the streets. I arrive to see a crowd gathered around a decapitated woman. There is a small child crying over their dead mother. I scan the crowed. I see fear and unease in the Ivinians, but among the Jarin…those not schooling their faces to neutrality I see a gleam in their eyes. This will not end well.

VILIJA

It was an uncomfortable night in the boat but I felt it was safest. The morning bore proof of that. As we ate a meager breakfast and sat around discussing how we would proceed Raj spied an enormous bee on the side of the rotting ship tied up across from us. While it could have filled the palm of my hand, it paid us little mind as it chewed away happily of the wood. But it made me question exploring the ship for any salvagable goods as there was the strong possibility that the bee had a hive of friends close to hand. And then I had to end Raella’s wish to go find some herbs in the woods behind the cottage. For from under cover of those trees a raccoon stood, watching us. That in itself was not odd, except for the large vine that seemed to be sprouting from its back, extending curling tendrils. We decided to put back to sea and hastily departed the island. And although the air had been redolent with sound, as we pulled from shore we found that it was in a world that excluded the island and wrapped full around us as we plied further into open water.

As we continued to move up the coast Raella asked for some fishing line. Taber had a bit in his pack and that started Raj questioning, rather vigorously I might add, Taber about the night we had abandoned the Grey Gull. Mainly around the fact that the small boat had been outfitted before he had come to fetch us, and that his bag had already been packed and stowed. I had always suspected that Taber was concealing something from us, but this was not the way I would have tried to ferret out the truth. But Raj seems to have little patience for tact and subtlety. I fear that maybe a result of the freedom we had let her enjoy at home and quite possibly an attitude from the crowd she had run with. In the end, I judged that he wasn’t guilty of any nefarious activity, but there was something still he was keeping hidden to himself.

About mid day we began to look for some likely spot to find anchorage for the rest of the day. It was then that we came upon the river proper. We debated for a bit continuing our travel up the coast or entering the river and travelling up current. As both Raj and Taber believed the city of Lorkin was close by on the river we chose to go further inland. That was the correct choice it seemed, for shortly thereafter we began to see smoke on either side of the river, and soon we were sliding past some small farms and villages. Ahead we could see evidence of a much larger settlement. And quite soon we were pulling into the docks at Lorkin.

It was a place I felt immediately discomforted by. There seemed to be a mix of Ivinians and Jarin. But whereas at home all cultures merged and lived as one, there was a very distinct divide here for the Ivianians treated the Jarin with great contempt. The captain on the docks struck the poor man, a Jarin, who was sent to fetch us water with quite the imperious tone. Raj displayed a wise stoic silence, tough I could see that the action bothered Raella immensely. I asked the guard to send for someone of authority to treat with us for I was unwilling to part with coin for the dockage fee in such a place. I did, with some measure of pride, see Raella slip a coin quietly to the Jarin when he returned with the water and mouth a silent thank you to the man.

Shortly thereafter one Asta Geldesann arrived. A large and pompous man, full of self importance. I pulled out all the charm I could muster and related the sad tale of our becoming shipwreaked with naught but the clothes on our backs. All our possessions lost to the sea and appealed to his sense of honor and charity regarding the docking fees. He agreed to wave them for a ten day. We then were directed to where the local inn was and agreed to meet on the morrow for he had the books that detailed which ships were due in over the next course of weeks.

We found the way to the inn fairly easily. But I was further disturbed by the corpse hanging by the gate. The sad remains of what could only have been a Jarin fellow.

Our arrival at the Spawn’s Hollow brought the bustle of the alewife Leyssa. I again recounted the harrowing tale I told on the docks and it seemed to spark some motherly instinct within the woman, for there was much clucking and hugging as we were seated and warm food was brought for us. She also set aside a room for our use and ran up the steam baths. Fed, bathed and in clean clothes, we returned to the hall to find the place packed. Hours were spent retelling over many times the story of our ordeal. I worked hard to enamour myself to them, listening to their stories, singing with them and making a pretence at drinking more ale than I actually did. For I did not know how long we would be in this place and we would rely heavily on the charity of these people. Raella was especially beloved, for her tender age, and she was fairly smothered in attention and treats. Both Raj and Taber were quiet. I think because Taber holds a bit of the Jarin look. I will need to watch out for him. And Raj? I could not imagine how that girl’s mind moved.

We finally excused ourselves and retired to our room. Taber quite gallantly slept by the door to ensure we were not disturbed through the night. I was determined to keep watch for part of the night but soon succumbed to the feel of pillows and a mattress beneath me.

In the morning the common room was even more crowded than the previous evening, though I had hardly thought such a thing would have been possible. Leyssa was doing a brisk trade with our arrival so I began to feel a little easier about any debt we may have been accruing. After breakfast Raella decided to return upstairs for some more rest. Raj was gone, having slipped away earlier after grabbing up a bite of bread and cheese. I left the Inn with Taber and we set off to meet with Asta. It was strange walking the streets, where everything appeared to be so normal but underneath there was such tension.

We reached the compound of the Geldesaan clan without incident and were shown in. Of note, we did pass the temple of Sarajin on the way to the compound. It seemed a little too ostenatious for a place like this but I had decided I would visit it once my business with Asta was complete. For while I followed my daily ritual of prayers faithfully, I had not prayed in temple since leaving Chelemby and the thought that I might here brought a sense of peace and calm to my soul in this otherwise unsettling place.

True to his word, Asta had prepared a list of shipping for me. It seemed that the next vessel through would be in 2 ten days, a ship bound for Melderyn. The other alternative, albeit, the harder one would be to travel back to sea and around the dangerous rocks to try and reach one of the outer holdings and from there take ship. There was the the third option of travelling further inland and find our way across country which Asta assured us was the path to certain death.

As I was privately discussing these options with Taber we were interrupted by a high pitched scream from outside. We all went rushing outside and found a young child screaming, weeping in the streets, her mother’s dead body laying beside her, the mother’s head some few feet away. As I scanned the crowd I saw many things. The Ivianians very scared. The Jarin were a mix of alarm, concern and a few showed traces of satisfaction. I briefly caught sight of Raj through the crowd though I’m not sure she saw me.

Beside me I heard Asta sigh and mutter: “Oh, not again.”

At that moment I decided we needed to leave. I did not know how or where we would go. Only that I did not want to stay in Lorkin for another day.

View
Trouble Brewing

RELLA

“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.

RAJAVIA

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.

VILIJA

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.

View
The Night is Dark and full of Terrors

RELLA

I didn’t sleep well. I work up a lot because I thought I heard things. In the morning I didn’t want to go outside so I spent some time playing in the main room of the inn with Arlyss. Sometimes we play games and sometimes we tell funny stories. We spend the whole day inside and before dinner I ask Tâber when we can leave and he says he does not know. We have dinner and Vilija and I spend some time with the other kids playing games and telling more stories. When we go up to bed I don’t see Raj, but when i wake up during the night she is there.

In the morning Tâber and I stay at the inn while Raj and Vilija go out for a while. When Vilija comes back she has a healer’s kit for me. It has salves and wraps and plants to make healing poultice.

During the day I spend my time making arrows and Raj surprises me with a handful of new arrowheads. I take a nap and when I wake up its dark and no one is in the room. I ask Lyssa and she says Vilija is outside. She gives me a funny look when she says the others are upstairs. I rub my eyes and pretend I am sleepy and go back up. After a while I hear something and look out the window. I try to climb down and get caught. Vilija is really mad at me. Raj is there with some strange boy, maybe he is her boyfriend. And Tâber is there as well. Vilija and the boy go in the front door and after a few minutes a rope is lowered from out window. Raj ties it around me and Vilija pulls me up. Raj and Tâber climb up and we talk about leaving in a few hours. Raj and Vilija bought supplies when they were out and we are going to leave before the sun comes up in the morning. the boy is coming with us, and he has a dog as well.

Vilija says we should get some sleep and I crawl into the bed and close my eyes.

RAJAVIA

Through the night I sit at the window listening. Our room faces North which does me little good as we are on the north edge of the town. At some point I notice Tâber is not there and I mark that down in my mind. The dawn breaks and the tension over the city can be felt in every breath I take. We go down for breakfast and I eat quickly excusing myself back up to the room. Vilija knows I plan to go out the window and up to the roof.

I scramble up, having a little difficulty finding footing on the thatched roof, but I am eventually able to pull myself up to the peak. I settle in watching and listening as the day passes. The gates to the inner city are still closed and there is some activity inside the walls and from the sounds I can follow it to the western gate, but only the sound, my vantage point is not high enough to see anything. As the sun sets I hear Vilija call up for me, we are expected for dinner. I slip back in and join everyone for the evening meal. As we eat I notice that Tâber has a new weapon. Not only does he have a new axe but he gift’s Vilija with a new sword. How he acquired them I do not know, I did not see any money in his pack when I looked through it and it makes me trust him even less. I know he is hiding something.

Vilija knows I plan to do some scouting tonight as while she and Rella entertain the family I excuse myself and check the window. I see no one and slip out dropping silently to the ground. There is a nearby drainage ditch and I make my way along it towards the eastern side of Lorkin. The ditch ends at the docks and I slip into the shadow of the city and observe. Our boat is there, still tethered to the dock. I don’t see movement but I recall there is a recessed area of the wall where the guards were. Slipping away I cross the ditch and skirt the edge of the beach to get a better view from across the narrow inlet. There is movement from the alcove and I can confirm only one guard. There does not seem to be a visible increase of security here. There is only one problem to my eyes. the tide is out, and so our boat is not actually floating but resting in muddy shallow water. We will have to find when the tide comes in. The gates are still closed and after about half an hour has passed I make my way back along the ditch towards the inn. the night is eerily quiet except for the occasional scream from the keep. I get back and after checking to make sure I see no one I signal Vilija and she tosses down a rope. I re-enter the room and share what I have discovered. We discuss the issue with the tide and come to a decision on what our plan of action is going to be.

We have decided that we will take the boat upriver. On the other side of the river is Noron’s trail. We will swing the boat back downriver on the other side of the large island we can see from the banks. We will then cut the boat adrift and make our way south along the trail until we reach Kaldor. From there we will decide the next leg of the journey. As for our “official” story we are heading upriver to the Fur road and traveling along that south to Kaldor.

In the morning we head down to breakfast and Vilija inquires about the tides and heading up river. The innkeep and his wife warn of the barbarians….always the barbarians….but agree that sticking to the boat would be the safest route. They share some news that they have heard that the Jarl and his uncle spent the night torturing Jarin in the keep. I ask where they heard that and the innkeeper makes a point that I should not ask. We are treated to a tale of the Jarl’s uncle who it seems is just as sick as Taarbri. A former pirate, and current shipwright of Lorkin, he boasts of at least 1000 rapes. I find it highly unlikely, but who am I to trample is delusions of deprivation.

Lyssa and her husband, who she so often playfully calls “that good for nothing lazy oaf” agree that it would be best and safest for us to leave as soon as we can. Vilija and I head out to town, Vilija to arrange some supplies and I to gather information.

There is smoke in the air. Something was burning in the night in the western part of the city. I Pray to whatever gods come to mind that it is not the old man’s house. I cannot just run off and check, so for now I will bide my time. The Chandler is across the street so we visit him first. Like so many others here, this man is a bit of a horses ass when it come to the Jarin. I hang back and let my sister do what she does, and I have to admit Vilija is good at her game. I didn’t really take time to appraise her ring, but the merchant is more than happy to take it. With is we are able to secure a good number of items. She is very free with our “plans” to head up river. Before we make our next stop I may have to take her aside and tell her to tone it down. The information should be casual, and should not be repeated. We take our new goods back to the inn. Vilija has managed to barter several needed items.

Rope
A square of Canvas
2 lanterns and Oil for them
4 Water Flasks
fishing kit
2 backpacks
4 bedrolls
Cooking Pot
Healers Kit
Wood Axe
and 40 man days of hard tack and dried food.

it’s a good thing we really only have the clothes on our backs, or else we may not be able to carry all this overland. I still need to speak with the Trehaen tonight about a local guide. We leave the inn and head to the city. Vilija wants to talk to the harbor master. I am not sure if Lorkin has such a person but we do need to find when the tide will be coming back in so we can leave this gods forsaken shit hole.

I again hang back and leave Vilija to work her charm. The guard says he will pass on the information to his replacement that we will be leaving with the morning tide. the morning tide of course being early enough that the city should just be rousing itself. When we leave the docks Vilija returns to the inn and I continue through town. There is an obvious lack of dark hair on the streets. I see not a single Jarin and the Ivinians who are here can be classed into two specific groups.

Those looking for trouble, and those trying to avoid it. I keep my head down and try to blend with the latter group. I pass the shipwright. There looks to be a long ship in dry dock, undergoing repairs. Given what I now know of the proprietor I steer well clear. I stop in on the western edge of the walled part of Lorkin, where the blacksmiths are working and negotiate for some new arrowheads for Rella. I imagine she will be doing a lot of hunting over the next several weeks. I head out the western gate after listening to the venom spewed by the guard about the Jarin while I simply nod and mmhmm in the right places.

The old man’s house is still standing. A little more dung covered than before. There are scorch marks on the wood as though someone tried to torch his house. There is a hovel down the street which was not as fortunate. The smoke still billows from the ruin. I do not linger, but make my way back to the inn. I have an appointment to keep tonight and I suspect we will be leaving early. I return to the inn and give Rella her arrowheads. She is delighted. We have supper and discuss our plans to leave early.

Our early departure gives me a reason to retire early and as soon as the sun goes down I am out the window. I follow the trusty drainage ditch in the opposite direction from last night. Slipping out I scan the street and knock at the old man’s door, whispering the word he gave me. The door opens and I slip inside. The Trehaen looks even older today and I imagine he is not long for this world. Perhaps it will be a welcome relief when death finally comes. There is someone else here as well. Or rather two someones. The old man introduces Mikka, his great grandson. He is the very image of the “dirty Jarin” the gate guard went on about. He is short, dirty, long dark hair, but his eyes are far older than he looks. Like Ranulf, he has seen much in his years and most of it unpleasant. The second someone is less a one and more a thing. Some sort of large hound. Gods preserve me. That beast will stick out like a sore thumb. Why couldn’t he have a small dog…something we could pack in a bag…..oh no….he has to have his very own pony sized hunting dog. Should add some….who am I kidding….this will just make leaving all that more interesting.

I inform the Trehaen that we can pick up Mikka and his….dog, who I am informed is called Garm, up river but the old man insists I take him with me now. Given the current unease in Lorkin his request is more than reasonable. I take a few minutes to talk to Mikka, who says nothing. I make sure he understands that I view him as an equal, we all will even though we may act superior while we are within the confines of this city. Once away from Lorkin he will be a companion, an equal free to continue with us or go his own way. He nods that he understands.

I thank the old man, and ask that his gods grant him peace in the difficult times ahead. Mikka and I slip out and back to the drainage ditch. the pony, while large is still pretty quiet as we skirt town. I can hear some sort of disturbance come out the western gate and given the mood of the crown we pick up our pace. Where ever the mob is going it is not the old man’s house. I wonder if his position affords him some sort of sick protection cause the Ivinians want to continue to use him as an example. I hear Mikka call for Garm is a hushed whisper. There is a quality to his voice that makes me wonder if he is just whispering or if there is damage to his voice and that is why he did not talk in the old man’s house.

We make it back to the inn and Vilija is waiting outside. There is a tense moment as Rella comes scrambling down from the window. Watching Vilija yell quietly was very amusing. Tâber appears and suggests we head inside. Where was he? When did he leave? What was he doing? All these things get marked down in my head to file away later. It does nothing to raise his credibility with me. Vilija leaves Rella with Tâber and I and takes Mikka and the pony in through the front doors of the inn. Even from back here I can hear the click of the door bars being opened. So much fear.

There is a bit of a delay but a rope is tossed down. I tie it around Rella and she gets pulled up with Tâber and I climbing up after her. Well that explains how he left the inn. Sailor my arse. Vilija informs me that our “guide” is in a room downstairs. She says there was a look on Lyssa’s face, maybe of recognition. I am not sure what story my sister fed our hosts, but I feel that they are discrete and can be trusted to a certain extent. It is clear they do not harbor the same hatred that many ivianins do. The night we arrived there were Jarin in the inn, seated separately but I imagine it was as much for their protection as it was for peace in the inn.

We finalize plans and I spend a little time packing things up now so that we can just leave when the time comes. Vilija says she will not be able to sleep so I ask her to wake me in a few hours.

Gods be good let us leave this place in the morning and never come back.

VILIJA

The afternoon dragged on. For a while Raj climbed up on the roof, trying to see what was happening. I went down and spent some time with Lyssa and Fenra. They seem to be decent folk, not holding to the traditional view of Jarin most of the Ivinians in town seem to have. Raella joined my in the common room, playing with the children. I don’t know where Taber disappeared to.

I discovered that Fenra was born in Lorkin. Though he travelled extensively throughout Orbaal as a Skald and Entertainer. He met Lyssa in Geldeheim. Despite the fact that she so often complains about him, she must love him very much to follow him to this place. By supper Taber had returned, lovingly sharpening a great axe we had not seen before. I know he didn’t have it on our travels. I asked if he could sharpen the gargan sword I took. Instead he offered me a nice new sword. I am not a warrior, though I have had some training as per my father’s wishes. Yet the sword felt very comfortable in my hand.

Over supper Fenra informed us that Jous, uncle to the Jarl, has joined in the torturing of the Jarin rounded up in response to the murder. Jous, by their accounts, is a cruel and violent man. A former pirate, he boasts of a 1,000 rapes. Now he had retired to Lorkin and worked as the shipbuilder. Another reason to leave this place, a place that habors in its bosom these hard and violent men. No wonder the ghosts stay here, taking their payment in blood for sins past.

Night passed slowly. There were the screams. And these mixed with the smell of smoke. The town was so quiet, like a shroud had been drawn over it. Raj slipped out at some point. When she came back she told us the boat was still there, but the tide was low. We would need to find out when the tide came back in.

Morning came far too soon and I had had far too little sleep. Still, after breakfast, I took Raj and we went next door to the Chandlers, a man named Gaard. I used what charm I possessed, and the gold ring my father had given me when last he was in Chelemby, to negotiate for supplies. I tried to think of the long journey on foot that lay before us as I arranged for the supplies. We got enough to see us more comfortable than we had been on the pre-Lorkin nights but not so much to burden us down.

Leaving the supplies at the Inn we then went to the gate. It was opened for us, then closed behind us. The streets were almost empty. And those who dared to walk them walked warily. We could still hear some screams form the Keep, but not as savagely as during the night. And there was still smoke rising from the Jarin quarter outside the western gate.
Raj and I got to the harbor without any one stopping us. As she said, the boat was still there. The guard seemed almost casual as he leaned against the side of the wall. I asked about the tides, for the boat was a float at the moment. He said that they can in a couple of hours before dawn. I asked him to let the watches coming after him that we would be leaving with that pre-light tide. He said he would and we returned to the city.

I went back to the Inn as Raj went off on some errand of her own. I think she wanted to make sure the old Jarin was alright. Back at the Inn I spent the day sitting in the common area. There was so much tension in the air so I tried to alleviate it with some songs and games with the children. Raella helped me, singing with me some of the old songs from home. I felt incredibly homesick at that moment. And for a while I pondered what might have happened had I declined father’s request. Raella, by comparison, was very cheerful. I think in part that was because she was so delighted with the healer’s kit I purchased for her. I gave Lyssa and Fenra one of two remaining silver bracelets as payment for their kindness and generosity. I think the gesture moved them.

Raj returned and with silent looks conveyed that all was okay. I don’t know where Taber had once again gotten himself to. Supper was a quiet and solemn affair. My one consolation was that Lyssa and Fenra agreed that we should leave with the dawn tide and get out of Lorkin. Raella was pleased when Raj gave her a dozen new arrowheads and went off to promptly make some new shafts.

After supper we all went back up to the room. Raella protested that she wasn’t tired but was soon asleep. Taber still hadn’t come back. And Raj slipped from the window to go and rendezvous with the old man. I felt so restless up in that quiet room. Finally I went down. I got Lyssa to let me out into the yard as I said I needed air. What I truly needed was escape. These last few hours before would be the hardest.

After a long while Raj returned with a dark scruffy boy she names Mikka. He had with him the largest wolf hound I had ever seen. This boy was to be our guide. And with that hound, I saw all chances of our making a quiet get away evaporating. Nonetheless, there was nothing for it but to go forward. At that moment Raella awoke and decided to climb down from the window to join us. I was so angry at her. And then Taber stepped from the dark and cautioned us all to silence.

I took Mikka and the hound and went back to the front door of the Inn. After a moment, Lyssa answered my knock. Her eyes widened at the sight of Mikka and I suspect that that meant she knew who he was. I told her we had hired him earlier in the day to help with the trip up river. But due to the growing danger of the Jarin quarter he had come earlier, hoping to avoid danger. She said nothing but gave him a place to sleep in the store room out back.

Once back upstairs I lowered the rope and we got Raella safely up back into the room. Raj and Taber followed in quick order. It was now only hours before we would have to go to the docks. And I didn’t think I would be able to sleep. Raj asked me to wake her in a couple of hours and then drifted off.

I sat in the dark. So wide awake. And I wondered how anyone could sleep.

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Lorkin's Behind and the World's Ahead

VILIJA

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.

RELLA

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.

RAJAVIA

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.

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Look up....Way up....

RAJAVIA

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.

RELLA

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.

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.

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