June 17, 2000
The scribe comes into the square with the latest news from Med. I spend my last copper to buy a copy of Mudslinger The headline reads "Disaster in Trellor", reading on I see that Trellor has been flooded and people are starving from lack of food and other vital supplies. I think to myself, here's a chance to fill the bank balance a bit.
Standing up and stretching to ease the ache out of my tired limbs, I make haste to my locker to drag out my travel gear. As I open my locker and blow the dust off my equipment, it gives me time to reflect. It has been a while since I last did a trading caravan. Picking through all the dusty old equipment I keep in my locker, I am amazed at the junk that I have collected over the years. Disgusted and dejected I slam the lid shut, vowing one day to come in and clean out all the trash from my locker. Giving the locker a kick for luck, I head for the bank to see about getting the money for some sort of wagon to haul a load to Trellor.
Standing in the line at the bank, I hope I have the funds to buy a covered wagon instead of just an open wagon, knowing the profits are far better with a big covered job than any other type of transport I could get from the traders. I spot Shasta waiting in the queue as well, I call out to her, she turns and waves.
I call out, "See you outside?"
"Yep," she says, "No problem."
I get to the counter and enquire how much is in my account and I am surprised to find enough money for a covered wagon, the cost of the load and food for the journey. I am overjoyed, thinking I was going to have to settle for second best.
Outside the bank I meet with Shasta, giving her a friendly hug and a hearty lick, she giggles.
"How have you been?" she asks.
"Fine, yourself?" I reply with a smile. "Heard about the disaster at Trellor?" I ask.
"Yes, I have in fact and I am thinking of doing a run up there myself," says Shasta.
"Great," I said, "Want to do it as a team? split the profits 50/50?"
"Super," says Shasta, "But I have to get supplies first".
We move quickly towards the markets so we can each purchase a good supply of hardtack for the journey.
"We have to get horses for this run, it's not a short one," I tell Shasta.
"Okay," she says, "You know where the stables are here?"
"Yep, follow me," I tell her.
We race to the stables and get ourselves a couple of nice warhorses, mine, a large white stallion all of seventeen hands, Shasta gets a smaller, quieter looking grey. Reining in we race pell mell for the Med city trading post to purchase wagons and loads.
Arriving at the trade post we can both see its not going to be a cream run, the queue here is longer than the one at the bank. "Just grab anything," I yell to Shasta over the noise of the crowd, all frantically buying every type of transport available and rapidly filling their wagons and mules, and racing out for Trellor.
Not even knowing what I take, I just grab my covered wagon and ride, with Shasta right behind me. Peering through the dust ahead of us I can see large groups of fellow traders all heading as fast as they can towards Trellor, just like us. Settling the horses to a steady trot, keeping an eye out for signs of ambush ahead I ask Shasta how she has been and catching up on old times.
She laughs, "One good thing about all these people rushing to get to Trellor first, they will clear the road ahead of us."
I laugh with her, "Yes this is true."
The sun starts to set with a vivid orange and the clouds turn to a soft amber glow. "Want to camp for the night or do a redeye?" I ask her.
"Keep rolling, we both need the money and the number of people headed there is going to cut into profits sorely", she says.
So we continue on into the night with the sounds of the horses hooves bouncing back off the trees, the iron shod wheels of the wagons sounding like the grinding of bones in the still of the night. The moon rises full and white with a brightness that sends shadows of the trees onto the road. Suddenly there is a noise off to the right, just a shuffling of leaves, not much.
"Sshhh, think there may be an ambush up ahead Shasta," I whisper to her. She quietly just nods her head in agreement with me, more noises and a quick shadow darts across the road up ahead. Shasta stands in her stirrups and mutters an incantation under her breath.
"Kobolds ahead," she whispers.
We pull the wagons to the side of the road and tether them so as not to have them stray, I grit my teeth and dismount, 'kobolds are just knife work', I think to myself.
Tying my horse to a convenient post, I grip Seeker - my blade - tight in my hand and start sneaking off the left side of the road, keeping the road in sight to my right. I move slowly and silently, I hear a noise just ahead. I scan ahead to see what I can see.
'Damn, two kobold archers,' - oh well, whispering a quiet prayer to my god I leap into the bushes and sink my dagger into the back of the closest kobold. With a deft twist I pull it from its back and plunge it in again, it makes a gurgling sound as it sinks to its knees dead. Before I get to pull Seeker out of its back, the other kobold leaps at me with a nasty looking sword, I duck its wild swing and stab at it with Seeker, slicing it open with my first swing and then, as I swing back, I kick the kobold in the face causing it to crumple to the ground like a wet sack of grain. I wipe my blade on the shirt of the dead kobold at my feet then crawl forwards again.
The killing goes on and on as I sneak down one side of the road, then up the other side, surprising most of the kobolds and sending them to quick deaths. Not that the little thieves deserve them. With blood up to my elbows and seekers handle slick and slippery with kobold blood I meet back at the horses with Shasta, she rushes up to me and hugs me.
"l thought they had got you, you have been gone so long," she says with a slight catch to her voice.
In the moonlight I thought I saw the glint of a tear on her cheek.
With much bravado I whisper, "Nah, they can't hurt me, too tough for them one at a time," beaming a smile at her.
We mount our horses and recover our wagons and head on down the road, knowing we still have to meet up with the captains of the kobolds who will be sitting in the middle of the road waiting to trigger the ambush. We come upon the two captains, who leap to their feet and call out to their comrades in the bushes.
I slouch forward on the pommel of my saddle, "We got all your cronies and if you want to die like the rest, then let's smack."
Leaping from my horse I rush at the two captains as they rush at me. I hear Shasta mutter arcane words and a lightening bolt flies over my head and strikes the first kobold in the middle of its chest - it falls to the floor a smoking charred crisp. Leaping over the body I fall on the second kobold, pushing Seeker deep into its chest, the warm rush of blood over my hands signaling the death of the remaining kobold.
"Well now that's that over with, maybe we can get this show on the road," I tell Shasta. As I mount my warhorse, I wipe my hands free of kobold blood on its neck so I can hold the reins. We start moving towards Trellor picking up speed to make up time for the unsuccessful kobold ambush. Moving quickly through the forest it gets lighter as the sun peeps over the horizon ahead of us.
"With this speed we should be in Trellor by nightfall," says Shasta.
"Don't speak too soon," I tell her.
As we ride down the well paved road, the sun shining. A soft wind blowing, our capes flutter in the breeze. We top a small crest in the road and come across a wagon on its side, the horses just dried blood in the road. As we get closer, we can see the wagon looks as if it had been picked up by a giant hand and thrown on its side and ripped apart. My stomach drops,
"l have seen this before," I tell Shasta,
"What is it?" she asks,
"l think its the work of the Demon Lord and his dogs," I say. "Listen," I tell her, "If anything, you know, bad, happens, remember that temple we passed a few miles back?"
"Yes," says Shasta.
"We will meet there, okay?"
"Alright, but will it really come to that?" Shasta asks.
I just nod.
Riding past the wagon we come across more wagons, some plied on top of each other, the stench of death fills the air, they all look as if they have been torn to pieces by a thousand rabid mouths. At the bottom of the slope we come across a huge pile as if they had hit a brick wall or an invisible barrier, there must have been twenty wagons heaped up in a twisted tangle of wreckage, dripping in blood, the whole thing looked like some macabre sculpture. Stopping we peer ahead down the deserted road, we can only see about three hundred yards down to the left curve in the road, but we can see or hear nothing.
I tap my spurs into the horse and move forward a bit and take the lead. As we approach the bend the smell of blood and death is so great it makes our breathing difficult, the stench is so overpowering. Rounding the bend we see the reason for the bad smell, blocking the road is the giant carcass of the Demon Lord. As we watch the corpse turns to ash before our eyes and is blown away by the breeze. With a happier step we continue on our journey.
The sun get higher in the sky and the horses need resting so we stop for a feed and to let the horses rest. While we are eating a huge shadow crosses over us, looking up both of us gasp in astonishment. A dragon is overhead and seems to be looking for someone, and it's a big red dragon so it isn't looking to give someone a lift!! Lunch is over; in a mad scramble we mount up and ride fast, the horses flailing hooves crushing the remains of our lunch into the gravel of the road. The wind streams through our hair as the dragon lands close by to continue its hunt, spurring the horses faster and dragging the wagons at top speed the horses snorting and gasping for breath we have to push them unmercifully, so that we do not end up as dragon lunch. Hearing the scream of frustration we see the dragon take to the sky and go off in search of slower prey. Shasta's horse lets out a strangled gasp and collapses from exhaustion,
"None too soon," says Shasta, "If that had have happened just a few seconds ago we would have been toast."
I agree with her, "Last thing we need would to be killed by a dragon, that would really cost us profits." I laugh.
As the sun starts to set we come out of the forest and see the spires of Trellor in the distance, the smell of sea in the air. Pointing towards the road I show Shasta the little groups of other fortune hunters headed to Trellor ahead of us. From where we are they look like small black dots with brown cotton wool puffs behind them, it looks like the whole of the City of Medievia is heading for Trellor at a great rate of knots.
Riding down to the trading post, the horses splashing through puddles deep enough that our feet were getting wet. Peasants were headed away from Trellor with their pathetic little bundles of possessions on wagons, sleds, wheelbarrows or on their backs. Sad eyed children looking up at you as you ride by, enough to break even the toughest heart, but I knew if I gave just one crust to one child we would be mobbed by the children and their families, and we didn't have time for that. Even from here we could see the faster traders riding back with saddlebags full.
Pulling into the trading post with what looked like hundreds of horses of all types and sizes milling around it, the yelling of the laborers unloading wagons, the cracking of whips as the horses were being rounded up and herded into all too small corrals. We pulled up at the doors to the trade post.
A perspiring, bedraggled man barked, "What's yer load",
We had to confess we hadn't even looked, peering into the inky darkness of the covered wagons, we found that we had both brought food, heaps of food. The trader couldn't get to our loads quick enough. We sold everything and retrieved the deposits on our wagons, and rode away to make camp and divide up our profits.
Shasta and I made our fortunes that day. Next time your in Med city look over in the North East corner of the square, you will see a large tree. Under that tree is a chair, a nice soft chair, and in that chair you will see someone sleeping quietly. If you look closer you will see he is wearing brand new boots. That man is me. Just wave as you go by, and I hope you have the luck that Shasta and I had.