North from Essle
Essle… I don’t think I understand why anyone would want to live there! Too many people, packed together like in Sewe. Clean water has to be brought by lighter from Tilis. Too dangerous… We did spend a couple of days with the Order of the Sworn, before going on. We bought some nice knives, sold our paint (the merchant from the Rising Sun came to visit us at the Order house), did our business with the Temple of Mizran (the same merchant could do all of the bills of exchange for us).
The most fun was the obstacle course! The Order has a second island, and they use the island to train themselves. There are two teams: one makes the obstacles, physically, but especially with semsin, and the other team races the course. And if you are caught, you switch: the person who made the trap starts running the course, the person caught makes a new trap. Lots of fun, especially if you run the course when it’s dark!
I cheated, though, near the end I decided not to jump the wall of power someone had put there, but sneaked through the water. Most people took the course as if they were soldiers making an attack, but I’m a thief, and I took the course like a thief. It was surprisingly effective.
From Essle to Tilis. Tilis is, of course, the birthplace of Princess Lyse, and we took the chance to visit her brother’s inn and taking a look at the house where she was born. Unfortunately, nobody was home since Princess Lyse’s Grandmother was bringing back some stolen children, all the way to Rizenay. It did feel like a bit of vacation for all of us! We saw the other sights, had fun dancing outside the inn, and sitting out in the warm weather — it still was warm even though it’s getting close to the Feast of Múzran.
The next morning Princess Lyse’s Father and Mother would leave for Valdis, and they had invited us to come with them. They have one other shipmate, Moryn, who is also pretty gifted. The first part of the journey was very pretty — this is how I imagined Valdyas to look! A very wide river, now and then a waypost or an inn or a small village, mostly on the west-bank of the river. But soon we were getting close to Lenay, and since we’re half a dozen budding grandmasters all firmly committed to Anshen, it seemed a better idea to Lyse’s Father, Jeran, that we’d walk around Lenay.
Trying to enter Lenay over the river might have caused problems…
So we did, and we had about half a day’s walk, quite nice, actually, until a middle-aged woman started getting curious about us. Six youngsters, all from different places in the world! She wanted to know our story and offered us a ride on her cart. Very nice of her, sure! But she was with the Nameless, and we had to hide ourselves quite carefully, and there were many things we had to gloss over in our stories. But “we want to visit your Queen” was an acceptable reason for travelling, it seems, and she seemed to like her King and Queen, even “though they’re both with the Nameless!”
From Lenay to Valdis is long, and dangerous. There are the rapids, and there are the remnants of Erday, which is now mostly a huge sinkhole on the west bank, so deep that nobody knows how deep it is. We didn’t stay in inns any more, but camped out instead, on the mostly deserted east bank.
One morning, it was still dark, our tripwire seals got triggered. All alert we went in search of the intruder. It turned out to be two boys, both very young, and painfully thin. They had wanted to steal some of our food! Of course they were welcome to it. They told us that they didn’t have anything anymore at home, because their lord had taken their harvest, and had forbidden them to catch rabbits or fish. Only the lord and the river-folk are allowed to catch fish, it seems! And that just cannot be true! Everyone knows the Queen of Valdyas has made the most just laws in the land, and we decided to take the whole familiy to Valdis, so the Queen could hear them, and do something about it.
So, we went with them to their place, to find their parents and little sister. On the way, they told us of the Eraday, that seems to be the men with large hats, who terrorize the countryside, robbing, stealing and raping and doing as they like. The house was little more than a hut, with a couple of small, devastated fields. Their kitchen garden had been trampled by horses, and everything had been destroyed!
So it was not that hard to convince the whole family to come with us, and that they’d be safer with us than staying here.
And when we were past Erday the eldest boy, Ervan, pointed us at two men riding horses, wearing, indeed, very large hats, and told us, “That’s them! Those two have trampled our garden!”, well! We couldn’t do anything directly, but we made bees out of ryst, and made the bees swarm the horses, poor dumb animals, and yes! They threw their riders, and from what we saw, one of them at least had broken bones!