The nights sleep in the inn was a welcome change to the road side. Maruc pulled out his neck pouch and poured the 2 golden coins into his calloused hand. He cast his mind back to last night, the hot food the watered wine and praise the Immortals the armour fitted.
It must be a sign.
Maruc made his way to the Innkeeper and paid for the lodging and carefully placed the change back into his pouch.
He blessed the landlord and asked where the nearest Halavist church might be found.
The landlord, having only local knowledge, shrugged his shoulders and told Maruc that the his best hope was to try Specularum, the great city not one weeks travel along the road from here.
Maruc thanked him, and purchasing food for his onward journey he set off along the path set before him by the guiding hands of the Immortals.
* * * * *
Backbroken, Feldard Scarredbrow sat with a mug and thought back on the trek that had brought him here–one hundred and seventy miles through impassible mountains, though thankfully over half the journey was through the dull, but well built Darokin Tunnel. Still he had managed to almost be driven insane with frustration by the overcautious gnomish guides sent to guide him along. On those few brief occasions where it looked like a little action might break the monotony, the gnomes were careful to stop and watch for hours before travelling miles around out of their way. Unbearable.
Since reaching the road south past Selenica he had been left to continue his search alone and he was grateful. He was less than eager to meet Hernane again, and had been told–more or less, that it was mainly important that he look for her, not so much that he find her. The concensus, and Feldard agreed wholeheartedly, that she would not be long away from the glories of Rockhome before the homesickness would goad her back on her own. Feldard’s errand was mostly to assuage the anger of her father.
He thought it good, because she was impossible. Every time he had spoken with his betrothed he found himself redfaced with anger chewing on his beard. Besides she could be anywhere. Still undaunted he had asked those he met along the way directions to the regional capital. It seemed fair that she would make her way to a large city where the presence of a dwarf would cause less stir amongst the populace. He was lucky enough to encounter a trade caravan headed to Specularum.
Expecting action, or at least some interesting conversation with colorful foreign craftsman, he was suprized how lazy and uneventful the journey was–and exhausted he began to sleep a lot. He’d never get used to sleeping in a wagon, bumping along a good three feet off the ground. No thank you. It was a long and dreary trip and he was glad it was over with, and good riddance.
Now safely in the foreign quarter of the city, with an inn to sleep in by a busy port, he felt as if finally his journey had begun in earnest. He sat drinking in the common room, lost in thought, listening to the bard strum a lyre and sing. He felt a tingle of excitement. Any time now…adventure and glory.
* * * * *
Probation. A straight job, and reporting to the Town Hall twice a week. Severely hampers the lifestyle. Two months of this. Ach!
And then! A chance to escape this grind! On one visit to the Town Hall, an offer! Or rather an order. Take a message to the main Church in Specularum.
“But I’m not in the Church of Karameikos,” Nicolai replied to the official.
“I know, but you do this, and you can consider yourself released from your probation.”
Too good to be true! To the centre of things and then … freedom!
A peaceful journey south with the monthly caravan. Walking all the way. Sore feet. Aching knees.
After delivering the message, look up an old friend, and a night drinking. Then, tomorrow will take care of itself. Just try to stay on the straight and narrow.
* * * * *
Dejected, Saeth trudged away from the great keep of Duke Stefan. The nerve of that guardsman. “Too young to join the brigade.” Why, she’d been learning to hold a sword before that farmboy was out of split pants! And she’d come so far to join, even enduring the nonstop chattering of that balding ship captain—walking down the gangplank into Specularum had seemed like walking out of a prison.
Still, the swordswoman knew that it couldn’t be helped. The Duke’s men made the rules, and if they wouldn’t accept her fealty, she’d find something else. Their poor judgment was their own concern. Fingering her pouch, she figured she could rent a room for some time, and then… well, she could always hire onto a mercenary band, or find some merchant in need of a guard. Something would come along. It always did. And if she couldn’t find a suitable tale elsewhere, she could always come back to join the Callarii brigade in a century or so. In fact, she could come back even if she did write an epic about her exploits elsewhere—composing two great poems would be even better than one.
Comforted by that though, Saeth turned her attention to finding lodging. As long as she was in a great city like Specularum, she might as well find a comfortable bed. Humming a stanza from Kaourantin the Unlucky and the Three Ogres, she continued down the muddy street.
* * * * *
Counting them a second time, just to be certain, Miklos once again wondered what he would do once his small stash of coins emptied. After all, he couldn’t go running home anymore–not for a year, anyway–he was supposed to be self-reliant, after all.
Fortunately, they would last for a while, and and were certainly more than enough to enjoy himself for the duration of the festival. In fact, he rather looked forward to meeting up with Gregor for a pint or two that evening… and looking at the sun, he’d better get moving. Wouldn’t want to keep his friend waiting! Miklos broke into a run, hoping he’d make it to the Roaring Lion in time.
* * * * *
A subsistence diet of root vegetables and mushrooms does nothing for the soul Maruc decided. Day after day of toil on the road made him realise the hardship of the occasional pilgrim that had happened upon his lonely cloister. Frugal use of his food and water saw that he did not weaken over the journey but his muscles weren’t used to the abuse he was subjecting them to now. Especially the extra weight of armour. He’d tried to carry it in his back pack, but it was easier to just wear it in the end. At least it kept him warm what with all the padding.
Specularum was a coastal town he’d discovered from a traveling tinker. The ships where a marvel apparently and the sights and smells where an experience like no other. The architecture and marketplaces where you could buy anything you could think of, it sounded marvelous.
It sounded unbelievable to Maruc, whose life had been somewhat restricted in comparison to others.
As he’d drawn closer to the city the tales that he heard of it became darker and more sober. Tales of muggings and dark guilds of whom it would be better not to cross. Certain people to avoid, areas and inns in which not to linger….