Tasso, Luna, and I came down from my room to find Fergus, Josef, and Willie already sitting at breakfast. The three humans had worked up almost as much an appetite as we three littlelings, so we took another table and called for our own food. Tasso and Luna aren’t as comfortable around humans as I am, so this helped them relax and enjoy the meal while still getting used to our companions. I mentioned to Luna that she’d have liked Belaldur – and it struck me, with Belaldur and Ja’Kar dead, there were only 4 of us Falcons left. Perhaps it was time to begin recruiting again – maybe that ranger, Harris, with whom I’d shared cider two days past? I’d have to remember to look him up once we returned from our journey.
After the rest of our company – Boraen, Nann, and Talvi; Beth, Pyrea, and Wikton— trooped down to the common room, Josef and Willie went to gather our horses and get the cart loaded. The rest of us reviewed again our goal.
The three swords of Boraen’s vision were spread out – some folk who’d adventured from here before had a broken sword, but it might be reforged. Another was somewhere in the city of Irecia. The last sword seemed to us likely to be in the mountains to the Southeast, where tribes known to Boraen dwelled. We’d gathered supplies and prepared to set on a great journey to see if these tribes would recognize his kingship and relinquish the sword. Not the same as the clans rolling across the plains of Irecia, but still it thrilled me – surely the open road would open my mind to possibility!
I felt ill at ease and hemmed in by the towns and the walls. I had wrested control of a druid’s circle from one who had allowed it to be twisted from its true course by a tricky, predatory plant. That felt good, but my obligations made me hand it back to members of that circle with admonitions to clean and reconsecrate the grove. Fighting the anti-life creatures of chaos also felt good – rescuing the goblyns with Ja’Kar’s help was the first time I’d really felt I’d made a difference! – and defending folk of all sizes from the depredations of the orders of orcs was even better. But with no real place or mission yet I felt a bit adrift.
Along the way South, Luna taught me more of her knotwork – and Tasso was a good sport at letting us bind him to a horse and then work his way out. I tried to teach them some simple skills of stealth – Luna took to this, but Tasso was almost as clumsy as a human. Maybe his strengths lie elsewhere. They certainly don’t lie with pickpocketing or diplomacy!
As we approached Lord Winwright’s land, I exchanged rueful glances with Wikton. Perhaps I had done him a disservice, handing him over to Winright’s justice. Surely we could have had a marvelous adventure, and Winright was practically a Lightbringer anyhow. A huge armed camp flew Marshall Roehm’s flags, byon either side of the road west of Winright’s tower. While most of us went to check the camp out and hoped to see the Marshall, Tasso stayed behind to tend the horses with Nann and Josef and Willie.
We spoke to Shelly, a captain guarding the entrance to the camp. Boraen introduced himself as our leader and declared we needed to ride south to save the land. All very grandiose, and as I exchanged glances with Fergus, he mouthed, “I thought we were more an autonomous collective.” Shelly welcomed us and told us we must speak to the Marshall Roehm. The rest of our party came up, and to my dismay, I saw Tasso knocked out and thrown over his saddle, nearly dead. Boarean quickly gave first aid. I hadn’t time to get to the bottom of this before Shelly returned to escort us to the tower.
Shelly took us past Mongo, the wildman guard of Lord Winwright. Mongo was bellowing at servants from the tower as they struggled to load up Winwright’s belongings onto a wagon. He took the time to greet Wikton, I saw.
In the Great Hall, Marshall Roehm stood before a table of maps with his new second, in a heated discussion with Lord Winright. Throwing his hands in the air, Winright walked over to a pile of boxes and chests, glowered at Wikton and glanced at me. He pointedly checked a few locks before storming out of the room.
Roehm was delighted to see us, and he greeted me with great courtesy. He looked with interest at our new companions, as we explained we needed to go South and East ton a mission to push back the chaos. We had found signs that the Lightbringers, the rebellion and invasion, the Black Riders, the orcs, the Master of Chaos, Irecia were interconnected.
Roehm’s troops held the road here, after havng their siege of Steltin broken by a force from the Southron Duchy – irregulars and tribesmen, as well as Kevlin’s men and the Lightbringers. Roehm didn’t want to storm and pillage Steltin. The town was part of the Duchy of Irecia, and he needed unity to push back the orcs.
The Southrons were all led by tribal chiefs from the mountains to which we were headed. Four captains, led by a short “Bearman.” Boraen explained that he, not the Bearman, was rightful king over these men and would command their obedience. Marshall Roehm raised an eyebrow at this but nodded politely, and went on.
The Southron forces had also brought a mage able to summon and control gorillas, flying cats, and stone golems. He knew a flaming brands spell, too. He and a guerilla force of Southron irregulars struck with no pattern Roehm could discern save that they stayed away from the main camps of the Southrons.
Winright then swept back into the room with servants and hubbub, removed the last of his chests and boxes. Wikton offered casually to remove Winright from the list of Marshall Roehm’s concerns. Roehm considered it, but ruefully declined. No, we must avoid spilling innocent blood. Even the Southrons, invaders though they were, would be needed if he was to drive out the orcs.
Tasso had come to by the time we got back to the horses. He was woozy and weak, and I performed a healing spell and asked what had happened. I got the story from Tasso, with Josef and Willie and Nann chipping in details.
Tasso had thought it would be wise to practice his pilfering on Josef – but Josef caught him at it and knocked Tasso out with a single blow. Nann stopped Josef from slitting Tasso’s throat, but it was a near thing nonetheless. I told Tasso to give one gold piece to Josef for attempting to lift his pouch – one doesn’t do that to a comrade-in-arms! – and one to Nann for saving his life. He complained but complied. I told Josef that Luna and Tasso were my charges, to leave discipline to me. Appeased by the gold piece, he agreed, and apologized for his temper.
Tasso was hurt and confused and quite distressed to lose so much money. I told him again to not steal from his companions, and explained how that sort of thing gave us a bad name among all the bigfolk. But I’d told him to practice his skills, he protested weakly, and these noisy, stupid humans were little better than thugs. Beth then leaned down and broke his nose, reminding him not to steal from the company, or assume littleling speech was unknown outside our race.
Humiliated and angry, Tasso spat out, “Now I see the violence inherent in the system! How can you be friends with this bunch?” It made for a cold night: Tasso slept next to Luna, both a bit away from me, as I lay awake, alone, and troubled.