One: Ordered by Gods
Berrona Eoselunday to Berrona Claireselunday
All Sorts of Crossings
Arek was standing on the deck of the ship, watching Moradin`s Horn, a eight-star formation, in the sky above. Not so long ago, he had watched the same celestial formation from the opposite side of Lake Dakar. Legend said the All-father would blow this horn and call out warriors past and present in the final battle with the creatures of darkness, forever banning Chaos. “Chaos…These past few days have been nothing but chaos. And we are lucky to be alive.” Arek thought as he recalled their group’s flight from the Devourer of Souls and the battles against That Which Hunts the Night. Even in the Enclave, they had been surrounded by Chaos. Where had Janarl’s people fled to? What else had escaped from the Devourer? Just then, Arek realized he missed Order. He missed the regular daily routine of being a Claimer. He missed the kinship and the sense of being exactly where one needed to be. He missed his discussions with his fellow clerics and the scheduled prayers neatly dividing various parts of the day.
That was gone and now he was chasing a dream with people he hardly knew. “We have done good, great good in the last few days. Perhaps we have delayed our quest but the Federation is safer now. Theses are my comrades now and we must see this through.” Arek had already gone over this rationalization but he couldn’t stop thinking about the Claimers. Woden had asked if Arek was worthy of Unity. Arek was not certain then but his last encounter with Zayda and Folha had given him back his strength in more ways than one. Looking over the intricate carvings of Unity, Arek swore silently to Moradin that the Claimers would be back for the greater glory of the Maddock and the Soulforger. Perhaps he was now caught up in something much bigger, but order, his order would rise again.
* * *
“Humans are a strange lot.” Arek thought as he looked at the variety of people surrounding him in the long line leading up to Cauldron’s eastern gate. Farmers, beggars, warriors and thieves. Dark skinned, pale, short and tall. “All so different. And so many of them.” Arek thought of the humans he had grown to know closely. He had been closest to Domaldi. The language of honour and duty was one the dwarf could understand. He thought he could understand Nimbus as well. But he was not certain now. Nimbus had changed since the destruction of the Temple of Sss’Raast. Somehow he had merged with Sentar. “How magnificient that must be! To be one with earth and stone. To feel, know and remember all that has transpired in a given place.” Yet Nimbus was different, he was going down a different path. Arek reminded himself to ask a few more questions during his Celestial tutorials with the Monk. Tiberio seemed also to be coming into his own. The human bard had impressed Arek in the last few days, fighting bravely, trusting his instincts and providing unsuspected resources. Thalazzar was another story. “The wizard has never let the group down and is effective in battle,” Arek admitted as he remembered the clawed demons Thalazzar had summoned. Yet the wizard clearly had his own agenda. They all did, of course, but Arek was becoming less and less comfortable with certain aspects of the wizard’s personality. Their encounter with the Kobolds in the enclave had revealed much. Arek wondered to what length Thalazzar could be trusted. “And I have to talk to him about that damn kobold he insists on keeping around!” He was sure Frankie would want to join in on that conversation.
Arek could see Tiberio about 100 m ahead of him, gently strumming as he waited in line. Nimbus was somewhere ahead as well. The group had decided to split up so as to attract less attention to themselves as they entered Cauldron. The news they had heard on the ship from Dunwater was not good. The fall of Sunfalls to the Horde, censure and draft orders, the fall of Zulary, …More chaos. Judging by the how much he had moved in the last few minutes, Arek had a few hours to think things through before he reached the gate.
* * *
“State your business. Refugees must stay to the right. Why do wish to enter Cauldron?” a lanky, clearly overworked guard asked Arek as the dwarf finally reached the city’s gate.
“I am a courier from Riot’s Gate with business to attend to in Cauldron” Arek answered.
“What kind of business?” the guard asked, looking attentively at Arek’s clothing and armour. “You do not look like a courier? Why would anyone use a dwarf for a messenger?”
“I am a representative of a Kronos banking consortium. I usually operate out of Riot’s Gate for my northern associates. And yes, usually we use other couriers. But this matter is delicate. As for my dress, you well know that the roads have not been safe of yet,” Arek answered.
“What bank are you dealing with in Cauldron?” the guard asked again.
“Not a bank, this time. A shipping company. Zephyr, one of the aerial shipping companies that uses Cauldron as a hub. My partners are seeking an investment opportunity.” Arek calmly answered again, remembering the name from one of the sailor who had recommended this form of transport for trips to the South.
“Investment? Got any quick tips for an easy way to earn gold?” the guard leaned forward.
“I am afraid I cannot help. I provide information, communications, and security for my partners. They do not share their strategies easily.”
“Hurry it up Grodek, we have hundreds waiting back there!” Another guard insisted.
“Hmmmph. Kronos dwarves indeed. Can’t get tighter with your treasure than that. OK, I’ll need to see some paperwork.”
Arek handed him a leather dossier with several banking documents he had picked up near Göesse. He doubted the guard would understand much, even if he read dwarvish.
The elaborate seals and titles convinced the guard. “Fine, fine. Move along. You will need to register your stay with the local militia when you find lodging. You can do that tomorrow, they are already swamped and there is no real hurry. But if you find out something about plans for Zephyr, you know where to find me,” He said as he gave back the documents to Arek, slipping a piece of silver as he did so.
“We understand each other sir,” Arek answered, risking a brief smile. Arek moved into the circular shaped city, looking for Uncle Ogres’s Monocle, where he would meet his friends in a few hours.
* * *
“Domaldi? Alive?” Arek had suspected as much once he believed they had set their friend’s soul free, knowing the knights of Heironeous would see their trial through. Still, hearing those words spoken by Frankie’s uncle had shocked Arek. “Keep him safe Moradin. He may have a part to play in all this yet.” As much as Arek was pleased to hear about Domaldi, he could not forget Nimbus’ tale of the Earth Weird and of Woden’s warning. “This wizard is not to be trifled with if he can summon as powerful an earth spirit and have it do his bidding,” Arek had mentioned to the others as they were eating in the common room of the inn, prior to a group of barbarians’ foolish fight. Arek knew they had lost precious time with their detour in the swamps, but they had, after all, picked up signs that Woden’s apprentice had gone through the temple of Sss’Raast and was moving south. At least she had still been alive then. They now had good reason to get moving again, and fast. Arek looked up to see the aerial vessel and back down to Frankie’s uncle. For the second time today, Arek smiled.
Thalazzar's Busy, Busy Day