Ice-Spear Road Enterprise
With a recommendation that they bring their copy of the inquest findings to Graf Volan, and with Yemmi tagging along like a mild hangover, the six companions set off along the Ice Spear Road bound for the far east of the Border Kingdom. Three surviving spare horses were apportioned them, to act as pack horses.
“See, I got this gig we could run,” Yemmi elaborated to Celo and Morath. “I set up in each town, selling keepsakes of Vivo’s or a look at the Basin o’ Blood. You know: a silver gets you a snip of the old guy’s beard, another silver a look at” – here his voice dropped theatrically – “the very basin that ran with blood on Vivo’s last day. I figure, you’re the smooth talker Celo, an’ Morath you can run security.”
“Thanks, but no thanks, Yemmi,” Morath drawled. Celo grinned but declined as well. They both looked forward to basking in the King’s favor for a while.
The days passed uneventfully. Yemmi left them, with no regrets on their side, before they reached the Ymir Pass region. As he explained, his “keepsakes” would only sell well within a week’s ride of Hieratgate.
Tales of marauding Cimmerians bands around the pass were partially confirmed by the odd sighting, though to Bardic’s eye the “marauders” looked more like family groups than the supposed bringers of fire and the sword. None interfered with the six, all of whom looked hardened mercenaries.
As they neared the easternmost region news of King Luchistheyrns’ whereabouts increased in certainty. Following the news and road both, they swung south to the capital, Luchisthan. The court was indeed there and all the panoply of lords, ladies, knights, squires and the vast array of lesser ranks filled the city. The stories told of ill success: King Luchistheyrn had led an expedition in alliance with Byrthunia: an expedition that had been flung back out of Hyperborea with great loss. “Marauding devil-beasts” seemed the most popular account of the foe that dealt so brusquely with the royal cavalcade.
Graf Volan – or Graf Semren as he insisted they call him – proved a man well into his middle years, no warrior he but with keen wit; wise in statecraft. Pulling on his long drooping mustache – an eastern kingdom fashion – Semren welcomed the heroes six, and advised them to clean up and garb themselves fit for court so that he could present them and the treasure to the King.
Edric called in on the city’s temple of Mitra while awaiting the finishing touches of Semren’s tailor. Having introduced himself and made a suitable donation, he sat down for a comfortable confab with the local high priest, Viautho. He learned a little more of the regional situation; and that Jamila, one of his Burel Brothers, had been seeking him.
Only a few days later the six were introduced by Graf Semren to the presence of the King. Luchistheyrn, as they had been briefed, was the son of the Hero-King Luchis. He bore the heroic good looks of his sire, but lacked the moral fibre. He valued manly bluffness and straightforward speaking, which suited the six before him.
Having handed the sealed treaty over, they named their boons:
- Vorel sought the truth behind the killing of his family, and justice against the perpetrator;
- Alleto and Bardic were content to join the King’s Guard for the next six-month;
- Celo and Morath were likewise content to join the King’s Borderers;
- Edric asked that Mitra be specially honored on the next high day, and for patronage against the Damsons.
While Luchistheyrn shrank from taking direct action against the Damsons – as the might of Aquilonia backed them – he assured Edric of his protection while in the kingdom.
After the audience Semren met again in private with Edric and Vorel. His own Grafdom was mostly in the hands of Aquilonia: all the land south of the Gates in fact, as well as the city now known as Ravengard, was in his fiefdom. He felt they had common cause. Edric, outlawed in Aquilonia, an enemy of the Damson Friars who held a fortress on Roaring Pass. Vorel, outlawed in Aquilonia, an enemy of Baron Amuran who held the land west of Roaring Pass. Semren Volan, an enemy of Aquilonia who held most of his lands.
“While the King can risk nothing that might lead to renewed war with Aquilonia, I feel sure something unofficial could be tried, to dislodge the Friars, seek justice from Amuran, and weaken Aquilonia in Ravengard.
“Your comrades may be too busy with matters east and north to be of help to you. There are crises of alliance with Brythunia and of danger from Hyperborea. But in me, you have an ally. Let us unite in seeking for a weak spot where we may strike to all our benefit.”