Session One Hundred Forty-Eight - December 1, 2018

Wherein the ongoing story of the FtF campaign may be found ...

Session One Hundred Forty-Eight - December 1, 2018

Postby Matt » Fri Jan 11, 2019 1:58 pm

Kelen 9, 733

The recent battles against orcs, not to mention two dragons, had taken their toll. In addition to needing a new shield, Baron Ewen Ravinargh’s armor needed repair work that went beyond normal maintenance. Thus, the morning of ninth day of Kelen found Ewen, Goreg, and Arva making their way to Clan Klarazhal. The mountain breeze was chilly, and the taste of the air threatened snow to come.

“After that last battle, I need to replace my shield,” Ewen said to Goreg. “You were pleased with the shield from Clan Klarazhal?”

Goreg nodded. “I was. It took a knockin’, kept on blockin’.”

The dwarves were happy to see repeat customers, and so soon. They promised to repair Ewen’s armor and to provide him with a new shield complete with painted arms in a day or two. When Ewen asked how much it would be, he was informed they would let him know when he came to pick up his goods.

While Ewen was negotiating, Arva idly asked one of the dwarves if Clan Klarazhal exported to Kaldor on the caravan. Informed that they did not; she learned they crafted for local consumption. Clan Makrad made weapons intended for the export business.

Thus, Ewen, Goreg, and Arva again braved the mountain air. Fortunately they did not have to go far; Clan Makrad was headquartered kitty-corner to the clothier the party had inadvertently visited the morning they left on the wyrm hunt. Once inside the shop, it was almost uncomfortably warm. The building was a combination workshop and warehouse. All along one wall were separate bays each containing a forge, bellows, barrels of water, crates full of steel ingots, and one or two dwarves hammering away. Along other walls were racks upon racks full of weapons. Some were already being packed into crates for the upcoming caravan.

The party did not buy anything, but in their capacity as representatives of the Queen asked questions about the caravan. They learned that Clan Makrad sold weapons to all four of the mercantile clans. They were paid by the mercantylers for their work, and had no responsibility or care for the goods after they left their hands. Clans Garibath and Rakin consumed about sixty percent of Makrad’s output. Of the two remaining, Clan Tharin bought the least amount, but not by much. They mostly crafted edged weapons, swords and daggers for the most part. They did not export much armor, but did export shields.

Clan Makrad did not know when the caravan would set out; it would depend on how fordable the Guthe was. It would probably be in about a month. One of the first caravans would consist of silver to pay for grains from Kaldor. They had heard the Vikings had seized that caravan the year prior, but as they had already sold their weapons, and it was only the one year, they were not concerned as it should not affect demand or the ability of the mercantile clans to pay them.

Arva asked one of the dwarves which clan made the jewelry bound for the caravan, and was informed that was Clan Zaridoth, located west of the canal near the corner of Monubul Street and Khi Way. For his part Goreg got it into his head that he wanted his sword engraved with the name ‘Foulsend;’ he was probably jealous of the awesome engraving on Baris’s new axe. The dwarves of Makrad chuckled and said they did not do such work, but he should go to Clan Mazrabul for such adornments.

Arva and Ewen made their towards Clan Zaridoth street, while Goreg headed to Clan Mazrabul. Clan Zaridoth was apparently quite busy getting ready for the caravan. The jewelers shop was a buzz of activity, dwarves scurrying about on various tasks. It appeared to be a counting house for shiny stones. None were set in jewelry, and some were not even cut. No doubt that work would be done by artisans in Kaldor. Arva asked one of the dwarves on duty if she could make an appointment to talk to someone in charge. “How does your Agrazhar look?” As that was five months hence, Arva declined. It was suggested that she speak with Clan Radrith, located near the Taniz Gate.

Meanwhile, Goreg found himself in the shop of the most expensive weaponcrafter on all of Harn, Clan Mazrabul. He told the dwarf he spoke to he wanted to name his sword ‘Foulsend,’ because of all the orcs it had killed. Five, to be precise. Upon hearing of all the orcs he had killed, the dwarves were much more amenable to this young outsider in their midst, and even agreed to lower the price by five percent- one percent for each slain orc. Perhaps to avoid what he suspected had happened to Baris, he requested the engraving be in Lakise.

Arva and Ewen found themselves in the shop of Clan Radrith, who could make time for them. Unlike Clan Zaridoth, they had finished work for sale. The rings, bracelets, necklaces, and other items of finery on display were pleasing to the eye, although the designs lacked a certain uniqueness. The two spoke with a dwarven jeweler named Melnur Radrith. In response to their inquiries they learned that Clan Radrith did business with all four of the mercantile clans, but Clan Zaridoth did not. They believed the Zaridoths only worked with Garibath and Tharin. The prices of the jewelry varied, but almost all of the unset stones had roughly the same price. The clan did not pay a fee to the King for their charter, although they did pay property taxes, and all guild dues were paid directly to the crown.

Arva was eyeing a bracelet of silver with pearls when Melnur handed it to her. “Please, take this. It is the least we can do for the ambassador from Kaldor.”

Arva thanked the dwarf graciously. “If I might trouble you further, do you know who I could speak to in the mercantile clans, a midlevel contact to begin discussions with?”

Melnur provided Arva with four names. Melden of Clan Horik and Hata of Clan Rakin were both humans, while Jaspur of Clan Garibath and Hrar of Clan Tharin were both Khuzan.


That evening Cekiya chased Ewen’s new dragonette around the palace, trying to acquire some scales. Meanwhile, Goreg examined the books the party had taken from the wizard who had been controlling said dragon.

The magic books were bound in leather and secured with iron. Eager to learn something about magic, Goreg excitedly opened the first book, only to stare in confusion. He flipped through the pages, but they were all the same. Instead of words, or even strange symbols, every page was covered in Xes. Some were smaller, some larger, others seemed arranged into a pattern.

The squire took the book to the Baron. “Lord Ewen, this book is all Xes; this must be some fey work.”

“Interesting.” Ewen took the book in hand and stretched out his mind, trying to get a sense of where the book had been, but nothing came to his minds eye. He dismissed the squire and sent for Melori. “What do you think of these arcana?” he asked when she arrived.

After inspecting the book, Melori said she suspected the Xes were evidence of some sort of warding spell. “The larger Xes could be pictures, and the smaller Xes words. Some of the magic coming off of it bears the hallmark of Fyvrian dweomers.”

Kelen 10, 733

A chill wind crept through the windowsill. Outside the window snow fell on the city, giving it a glimmering coat of shining crystal. Arva, sitting at a table covered with the accoutrements of a scribe, shivered. As she got up and headed to the fireplace, a few errant snowflakes landed on the table but melted instantly. The woman tossed another log onto the fire and sat back down.

She was composing the same missive four times, seeking an audience with representatives of each of the four mercantile clans. She wished someone would invent some sort of mechanical device that had four pens, so that a scribe would only need to write a copy once. She considered suggesting such a device to the dwarves, but now that it was warmer resolved to get back to finishing the first missive.

After an initial greeting from The Embassy of the Queen of Kaldor, the letter requested a meeting in a casual setting “to discuss the present situation and ways to improve it.” No, that would not work, Arva thought. Dwarves disliked change; she did not want to start out stating that she wanted to change things. She crossed out “improve” and wrote “address.”

When Arva was halfway through the second version of the first copy of the letter, Sir Baris wandered in. “You know, I’ve been thinking of ways to convince the dwarves of the need to change the route. They don’t like change, so we need to convince them that this is not really a change. Have you ever heard the story of the ship that went to sea, and each time it came back to port one plank or another was changed. After many years, all the parts of the ship were different from the original, but people kept saying it was the same ship. Aethel said each change was close enough to the prior version to be considered the same, and thus the ship in the beginning was the same as the ship in the end. He also told me about this paradox of a tortoise who always gets a little closer to the end of a race, but never finishes. I don’t remember it very well, but I think we can use these ideas to convince the dwarves we aren’t really changing anything. If I take ten steps different from my route last year, it is still the same route. Well, if ten is the same, twenty must be, because the only difference is ten from what we already know is the same. Thus, five hundred must be the same, and so forth. So, logically, going to Kiban is the same thing as going to Gardiren.”

Arva blinked. She wasn’t aware Sir Baris was philosophically inclined. Although his logic seemed to leave a lot to be desired.

An hour later the fire had died down but Arva continued scribbling away. Finally the letters were complete, and stated that the Baron wished “to discuss ways the present situation could be improved but maintained in its fullness.” She closed by stating she could be found most evenings at an inn called the Golden Wheel for an after-dinner drink.


“Lady, what is your pleasure?” the young waiter asked Arva. She and Goreg were in the Golden Wheel hoping to meet with a representative of one of the mercantile clans.

“Ale for now,” Arva replied.

The man rattled off six varieties of ale in a cadence that exhibited extensive practice.

Arva, not having quite the discerning palate for ale that Baris did, chose the fourth one at random, if only because she could not quite remember what the first two were called.

“I’ll have the same,” Goreg said.

As it turned out, the fourth ale was a honey porter with a hint of cinnamon. Arva sipped her drink, while Goreg attacked his as if it were an orc.

The Golden Wheel was a hive of activity. At least a dozen serving girls whisked about carrying drinks, and the two men behind the bar seemed to fill pints non-stop. Other servants carried piping hot trays of food hither and yon. Fortunately for Arva and Goreg, it was a human size establishment; the clan that ran it was made up of a mixture of humans and dwarves, as were the customers. The tables were all square, although the stools were an odd height, a little too short for a human, and a little too tall for a dwarf. The sounds of laughter and mugs clinking together filled the room. A dwarf sat in a corner playing a lute accompanied by a human woman singing a song about a maiden who lost her virtue, but did not care as she had known true love.

While waiting, Arva made small talk with Goreg. How were his studies going, books they had read, possible last names for the squire. The ale must have run through him, for Goreg soon excused himself to use the privy.

Arva stared at her ale, lost in thought.

“Would you happen to be Arva of Kerryn?”

Arva looked up and saw a brown haired human woman at her table. “I am.”

“Greetings. I am Hata Rakin.”

Arva motioned to an empty chair. “Please, join us.”

After receiving her own drink; she knew it by name and not number, Hata got down to business. “So, you represent Kaldor?”

Arva nodded. “You represent Rakin?”

Hatta nodded. “Yes, as you can tell we are a mixed clan. I was adopted into Rakin as a child, and I was raised and educated to be one of their point-people with Kaldor on the caravan trade.”

“I recently came into the Baron of Ternua’s employ. Prior to this trip, I served as Lord Ewen’s secretary. My brother accompanied him before I.”

“How fascinating.” Hata took a swallow of ale. “There were great changes in Kaldor from the previous season.”

“Yes, we have a new queen,” Arva confirmed. “Unfortunately the old King became indisposed after a battle with the Vikings; his clan chose a new ruler.”

“What happened to him?”

“A wound took rot.”

“But he lives?” Hata asked.

“Yes.” Arva sipped her ale, deciding how best to explain the king’s current circumstances. “But his mind no longer serves the kingdom.”

“So your new Queen did not slay him in the town square in single combat with fell magic?” Hata asked with a slight smile.

Arva shook her head and returned the smile. “No.”

“Well, nothing like first-hand information. How can I help you?”

“As you are aware, the caravan was taken by Vikings last year.”

“Yes. Several dwarves were killed.”

Arva had not been aware of that. “My sympathies for your loss. The Queen wishes to avoid any chance of that happening this year, and sent my lord to see what both sides can do to prevent a repeat occurrence. As you are the point person you have the most experience with the caravan. Before I give our thoughts, do you have any suggestions on how to make sure the incident does not happen again?”

Hata explained that she did not have any ideas on that front. She was not familiar with what had happened other than that he caravan was lost and many died, including people from both Azadmere and Kaldor. She understood that the Order of the Lady of Paladins was practically wiped out.

“Yes, the only survivor of the Order of the Lady of Paladins traveled with us for a time. Sir Aeomund.”

Hata brightened. “Oh, you know Sir Aeomund?”

“Yes, he was supposed to come with us, but was diverted by his Order on a new task.”

Hata looked off into the distance and sighed wistfully. “Yes, but he was so very serious. I am very happy to hear that he survived. I had thought him among the dead.”

Arva suppressed a smile. “I am glad there is a happy note to this.”

Hata shook her head and got back to business. “The easiest possible solution would be to add more guards to the caravan, but I do not know if they would be available or not.”

“That is our thought as well, but it many not be as economical to do that. The caravan was attacked outside Gardiren. The Earl of Neph …” Arva stopped herself. “Well, let us say that the response time was not what could be wished for. Also he suffered a heart attack, and his son now holds his place.”

“A new queen, a new earl, a new baron of Ternua,” Hata ticked the items off on her fingers.

“We are not fond of all this change, ourselves,” Arva said. “What was suggested was an economical alternative to adding more guards; in years past I believe Clan Garibath came via Kiban.”

“Yes, at the Naniom Bridge the mules load onto barges, travel down the Nephen river to Kiban and have their first fare there. They then travel by cart to Tashal. Whereas we travel by cart from Naniom Bridge to Gardiren, and then from Gardiren to Tashal.”

Arva nodded. “We would think that until the threat of the Vikings can be established as no more, perhaps all of the caravan could travel to Kiban.”

“That is a big ‘perhaps.’” Hata looked up quizzically. “There are dozens of obstacles.”

“The barges, for one.”

“I didn’t think of that,” Hata said. “You’re right, there probably aren’t enough barges. Beyond that, we have legally binding contracts with factors in Gardiren. They are the first port of call, if you will. Those contracts were already negotiated this winter. I haven’t seen them, but they are the same every year. But they are contracts. In order to break them, we would need a year’s advance notice, so we can’t do it this year. And the caravans are already beginning to muster; it is Kelen, after all. There are members of my clan, and I don’t speak for others but I suspect they would want more than a single year’s trouble to change what has been going on for hundreds of years.”

“Of course,” Arva said. “These are mere suggestions in lieu of adding extra guards.”

“Extra guards aren’t an issue. The end buyer pays for those via higher costs, not us. But, as you are speaking to me and not my brethren ...” Hata’s voice trailed off. “Is your liege familiar with one Greon Bastune, Baron of Kolorn?”

“Yes. Yes he is as a matter of fact. He is well aware of the entire family. He likes to keep an eye on them. They are neighbors.”

“Does your liege understand the art of compromise?”

He understands the art of negotiation, Arva thought. “Yes,” she said.

“Allow me to lay another card on the table.”

Goreg returned from the privy. “Hello! I am Goreg.”

“A pleasure to meet you,” Hata said. She turned back to Arva. “The Baron of Kolorn owes us a great deal of money.”

“I understand that to be true for a lot of people,” Arva said.

“He is one of our biggest defaulters. He has been unable to pay the principal on his loan for some time, and in the past year has even failed to pay the interest.” Hata smiled. “We have graciously added the interest to his account.”

“As you should.”

“We have been contemplating ways of liquidating the account,” Hata explained. “Up until recently it has been a matter of some discord in our clan. But we think we now have a solution. We will sell you the debt. In so doing we will then support your position of shifting our commerce from Gardiren to Kiban. One additional proviso: we have a certain expectation on the books of profit from Gardiren. If it doesn’t come up similar at Kiban, you will make up the difference. The debt of Kolorn is £318 and three quarters.”

“And the target profit number?” Arva asked.

“We can’t reveal that,” Hata said. “We can only reveal if we meet it or not. You know, competitive secrets and all.”

“The debt is a strong possibility. The target number, not without knowing what we would be exposed to.”

“Well, we might be willing to cap your risk.”

“That is fair,” Arva said tentatively.

“Let us say, £1500.”

Arva swallowed her drink to cover her surprise. “I will take this information back to the Baron of Ternua. I suggest the next step could be for you and the Baron to meet.”

Hata shook her head slightly. “I think it would be more appropriate to have a general agreement in principle: We divert to Kiban; we’ll figure out the barge problem later. You buy up Kolorn’s debt, and guarantee us similar profit in Kiban, with a suitable cap.”

“The debt, yes, the guarantee I must bring to the Baron.”

“I would think the next thing would be a meeting between Lord Ternua and our clanhead Eiki Rakin.”

“Since we are guests and have idle time, I am at his schedule. When do you suggest?” Arva asked.

“How about tomorrow?”

“Dinner? Here?”

“No, your place,” Hata said. “I’ve always wanted to visit the Palace of Tisokin.”

“I look forward to tomorrow evening, then.”

“There may be a few other members of our clan present, but they probably won’t have anything to say.”

“This has been a most satisfactory and productive meeting,” Arva said. “Thank you.”

“And thank you for the ale. Number four is my favorite.”


“So they are looking to get this debt off their books,” Ewen mused after Arva and Goreg reported on their meeting with the representative of Clan Rakin. He hoped he could acquire the debt at a reasonable price; he would then own the debt and any associated collateral. The Baron smiled. The fact that Bastune had so extended himself ultimately redounded negatively to his liegelord, Ewen’s father-in-law Vemion. Ewen had impounded over £200 owed to Vemion, but as far as the Earl was concerned that silver could have left for Azadmere.

If Ewen took on the debt, it would come off the books in Azadmere, and Bastune would owe him the money. But what price to offer. The Baron was sure Clan Rakin had long ago made up their principal; their interest was undoubtedly so usurious they recouped their investment in the first few years. They simply wanted to pad their profit. If he knocked the price down to £200 he would be out nothing, and would simply pay the debt with money he had taken from Bastune.

This was going to be a most interesting dinner.

Kelen 11, 732

The next morning Ewen made his way back to Clan Klarazhal to pick up his new shield and his repaired armor. The new shield was of course of excellent quality and his arms looked brighter than ever. Additionally, the dwarven craftsmen had done superior work repairing the armor, and had even improved it. From the look one of the dwarfs gave him he got the impression they thought he did not deserve such quality work.

A journeyman dwarf handed Ewen his helmet. “I understand this was dented in battle with a huge orc?”

Ewen nodded. “Sergeant Kelak and I fought the enormity side by side.”

“Yes, well, then we are very pleased to repair your helmet on the house.” The dwarves only asked for a single crown in payment for all of the work they had done.

For his engraving, Goreg was charged 36d. However, the dwarves discounted it 2d for the five orcs he killed. He admired the engraving, “Foulsend.” ‘With this blade I shall someday slay Sir Ritzar Martaryne,’ the squire thought to himself.


“How great to greet Baron Lord of Ternua,” the dwarf Eiki, head of Clan Rakin, said in broken Harnic.

“So honored you here that are my abode temporary,” Ewen responded in similarly skilled Khuzan.

Eiki barked a laugh. “Good!” he said, again in Harnic.

Clanhead Eiki was accompanied to dinner by Hata, as well as two other dwarves named Graim and Noi. Ewen greeted them in the entry hall of the Palace of Tisokin.

Hata curtsied. “My Lord Baron,” she said in Harnic with a small smile. “Congratulations on becoming the Baron of Ternua.”

Ewen nodded. “Thank you. When were you last in Kaldor?”

“It has been two years my lord.” Hata said.

“Much has changed in two years.”

“So your factor has told me.”

Ewen led his guests to the great hall where the staff had prepared a mouth-watering meal of eel, pork roast, and pheasant. Sir Baris had tried to add pork sausage to the menu, but Ewen nipped that plan in the bud. A fine ale and apple brandy nicely complemented the meat. While the Baron was responsible for paying for the food and drink (to the tune of forty-eight Khuzan pence), the staff handled all the rest. They did an excellent job, allowing Ewen to focus on his negotiations with Eiki.

“My understanding is that Arva and Hata have discussed our concerns of the upcoming caravan season and the dangers on the road,” the Baron began.

“She has spoken to me of such,” Eiki said in a gravelly voice.

“We are concerned to insure that all of the goods arrive in Kaldor this year, which tragically they did not prior. Allow me to extend my condolences. I understand members of your clan and other Khuzan lost their lives in last year’s tragic events. I hope that nothing similar happens this year.”

The dwarf nodded his acceptance. “Yes, that is the way it should be.”

The Baron nodded. “Agreed.”

“Hata and your factor have discussed some preliminary ideas.”

“Indeed. I believe those ideas are worth pursuing. I was surprised to hear that the late Baron of Kolorn had apparently had extensive business with your clan.”

The dwarf paused for the briefest moment. “The ‘late’ baron?”

Ewen nodded. “Greon Bastune, the previous Baron of Kolorn unfortunately fell at the battle of Ovendel Field, which is where our King and his army and nobles such as myself marched to combat the Vikings that had fallen upon our northern lands.”

The dwarf shook his head. “This is why battles are a bad thing.”

“Sometimes it is necessary, as when we slay Gargun.”

Eiki raised his cup. “But to slay Gargun is the highest good.”

Ewen raised his cup as well. “It is a good that we have indulged ourselves in lately.” He took a sip of ale. “To our satisfaction and enjoyment, I must say.”

“So I have heard.”

Ewen returned to the subject of the late Bastune. “The Baron acquitted himself well in this battle, and fell valiantly. He was a worthy knight, regardless of his business acumen. His son and heir is a peer of mine. A neighbor, in fact.”

“Lyndar!” Eiki exclaimed.

The Baron shook his head. “No, Lyndar was slain sometime before his father fell, unfortunately.” Ewen wisely left out the fact that he himself had slain Lyndar; it was this act that precipitated his marriage to his lady wife Thilisa.

“You live in a very violent place!”

“Sometimes it seems like that to us as well.” Ewen remarked diffidently as he filled his plate with eel and some vegetables. “Tarien Bastune was the eldest surviving Bastune, and he is currently the holder of the barony of Kolorn. I understood when last I was in Kaldor that he was in some arrears, and experiencing considerable difficulty in paying his liegelord his feudal dues.” Again, Ewen wisely left out the fact that it was because he himself had intercepted such payment that Kolorn was having financial difficulty.

The dwarf sighed. “He owes everyone it seems.”

“I don’t know if he was fully familiar with the extent of his father’s obligations.”

“I assure you I have the paperwork to make it all plain to him.”

“I understand, I just worry if the man is capable of satisfying those obligations,” Ewen said.

“I have no doubt that he cannot!”

“I understand from the conversation Hata had with Arva that Clan Rakin may be interested in finding some way to close the books on this debt, and to move forward, so to speak, given the uncertainties of the situation.”

“Close the books, you say,” Eiki said. “My lord, if I didn’t know better I would say you were a member of the mercantylers guild yourself. Yes, we would like to close to books on Kolorn. Three hundred and eighteen pounds and fifteen shillings.

“Are you referring to Kaldoric or Khuzan pounds?”

The dwarf smiled. “Why, Khuzan, of course.”

“Is that clearly indicated in the paperwork you referenced earlier?” Ewen asked.

“Clearly? No.”

“Then it sounds to me it is a matter open to negotiation.”

Eiki chuckled. “It sounds to me you are not the fool the Baron of Kolorn was!”

“If I may speak freely.”

The dwarf waved his hand at the hall of the palace. “You are here. Not to mention the host.”

“It seems to me that there are some realistic grounds for Clan Rakin to be concerned that the barony of Kolorn as it is currently comprised may never be able to settle this debt. It is an extravagant amount that you mention.”

“He was an extravagant man.”

“Living beyond his means, it appears.”

The dwarf sipped his brandy. “So we came to realize.”

“It is a matter for regret for all of us when men turn out to be not as they seem.”

“Indeed, and yet men of greater probity must somehow soldier on.” Eiki smiled ruefully.

“Are you familiar with the Baron of Kolorn’s liegelord, my lord the Earl of Vemion?” the Baron asked.

The dwarf shook his head. “No, I have not met the gentleman, but I know of him.”

“I am inclined, based upon my understanding of the good Earls’ character to question whether my Lord the Earl of Vemion will feel sanguine about satisfying the Baron’s debts should he become aware of them.”

“You should know,” Eiki said. Is he not your father-in-law?”

Ewen blinked. “You are well informed.”

The dwarf grinned. “People say things.”

“He is my father-in-law. Although I go my own way, even if my shield is quartered with his arms.”

“I noticed that.”

“So, we have come to the pith, perhaps, what Arva of Kerryn and Hata of Rakin here discussed, which is the possibility that you may enjoy a better chance of satisfying at least some of the debt that you in retrospect regrettably extended to the Baron of Kolorn, by dealing with me as opposed to my father-in-law.”

“Arva of Kerryn and Hata Rakin did indeed establish a good rapport.” Eiki chewed a bite of fish and paused for a moment in thought. “The Earl of Vemion, I know him not. Certainly he has not had the eggs to travel the Silver Way.” He pointed his fork at one who had shown such courage. “You and I can come to an agreement, I think. But we are talking about more than just debt: there is a little matter of a river diversion.”

Ewen suppressed a smile. “Yes, indeed.”

“So let us not separate these two conjoined issues, let us discuss them together like two civilized people.”

“Certainly,” Ewen agreed. “The river diversion would be of mutual benefit, I think, to my kingdom, my Queen, as well as to your clan, as it would avoid the unfortunate trap of repeating our movements for the benefit of rapacious Viking marauders, who have no business interfering with our commerce.”

Eiki put some pheasant on his plate. “No one likes rapacious Viking marauders.”

“Not civilized people like you and I, sir.”


“I understand that making such a diversion would involve some potential risk for your clan that you might not make the same profit that you would expect to at Gardiren,” Ewen said.

The dwarf nodded. “It is a concern.”

“I understand there are some legal niceties of contract as well.”

“There would be inconvenience if we would not meet our obligations under the contracts.”

“I assume you have litigants to deal with such things.”

“Such men could be found.” Eiki raised his cup for a servant to re-fill it. “It would not stand in the way. But if there is nothing else, it would.”

“There have been voices in the councils in Kaldor who have suggested that perhaps some tithe or tariff be levied to help pay for additional security to insure a caravan following its initial route not be lost as it was last year.” Ewen sipped his ale, allowing the dwarf to consider that. “Her grace the Queen wishes to avoid interruption in our previous commerce, and has entrusted me to come here as her emissary to find another way, which brings us to the table here.”

Eiki waved his hand in dismissal. “Such a tariff is of no real concern,” the dwarf said. “We have debated amongst ourselves for many years, ‘can we raise prices?’ If a tariff is proposed we will simply raise costs to meet it. In the end, nobody pays costs but the ultimate buyer.”

“I am but a military man,” Ewen said, though he was of course far more. “But I understand that as prices increase, demand may fall.”

“That is true for commodities, but it is not true for objects in limited supply,” Eiki explained. “We have held back, and could increase. The protection you mention; what did you have in mind?”

“It seems only prudent, in light of last year’s activities that both sides assist in adding additional men-at-arms. I, as you may be aware, along with my small party, acquitted ourselves well despite some loss. I would be willing to accompany the caravan back to Kaldor.”

“How far? To Naniom bridge, or Gardiren?” Eiki asked.

“I thought we were discussing a possible river diversion, which would send us through Kiban,” Ewen said.

“If we are going to barge down the River Nephen from Naniom bridge to Kiban, there is no danger down there. Why do we need more troops?”

“I think you and I both know that it is an open question of whether the capacity of the barges to bring all the goods to Kiban is there or not.”

“I would say it’s not. But then, did you prepare?” the dwarf asked.

“My understanding on leaving Kaldor was my lord the Earl of Balim was seeing to those arrangements,” Ewen replied.

“The Earl of Balim? He has a good reputation.”

“Having said that, my offer to accompany with my group, the caravan, all the way to Kaldor, and if need be, to accompany them through Gardiren, and assure their safety, stands, if such an offer is made on the Khuzan side. I would add that such an arrangement would serve as insurance.”

“Insurance is a thing,” Eiki said. “Who can insure any outcome? But good faith is good faith. Let us consider one part of our negotiations complete. Let us return to the other. For me, it cannot be separated.”

“As you said.”

“Let us talk about the debt of the Baron of Kolorn. What do you propose in this matter?”

Ewen smiled. “You will understand of course that I did not come to kingdom of Azadmere to make good some portion of the debts egregiously run up by my peer.”

“No. But it is part of my problem,” the dwarf said. “You want me to help solve your problem, I need you to help solve my problem.”

“Perhaps we should first discuss what was the nature of the collateral the Baron of Kolorn used on this loan.”

“Well, I am loath to tell such a sordid story. It seems that the Baron of Kolorn had a house in a really nice district of Tashal.”

Ewen suppressed a smile. “Yes, I believe I know the neighborhood well.”

“I guess, as I have been told by my people, that his wife lives in the house! Apparently, she is pulling a train with every nobleman in the kingdom.” Eiki pointed at the Baron. “You, for all I know.”

“No, but my colleague Sir Baris Tyrestal is familiar with the lady.” Ewen indicated his vassal knight.

Baris choked on a bite of fish, and quickly quaffed some ale to wash it down.

“I don’t know if the Baron wanted revenge, or was just looking for a piece on the side himself. He wanted to buy a little pied-à-terre in another place in Tashal, but he didn’t have the money to do it. And he didn’t want the money on the books, so he borrowed it from us. £50 to buy the house where he kept his mouse. You are familiar.”

“Some men operate that way.” Fortunately for Ewen his woman on the side, his sister Rahel, was a woman of means and he knew she couldn’t be bought anyway.

“Then he didn’t have the money to keep it up.” The dwarf sighed lamentably, though there was a gleam in his eye. “So he borrowed that too. And it just grew over the years.”

“And his collateral?”

“Yes, the house for the mouse. The collateral does not cover the debt in any way. That was our mistake. If we could attach his big house, where his wife lives, we would. But we can’t. So there is collateral that would transfer with the debt.”

Ewen nodded. “I will offer one hundred and eighty Kaldoric Pounds.” This amounted to fifty-six percent of the outstanding debt.

The dwarf grinned. “Accepted. But here is the deal. You pay one hundred eighty Kaldoric pounds, you own Baron of Kolorn’s debt and the collateral. I will shift my trade through Kiban. But I need a down payment. Ten percent seems reasonable to me.”

The deal was as follows:

Ewen received a debt of 43,200 Kaldoric pence; £180. The collateral on the debt was a house in Medrik, Tashal. Ewen owed a down payment consisting of 10% of 180 Kaldoric pounds in Khuzan coinage. On the spot he paid Eiki 14 Khuzan crowns and received 160 Khuzan pence in change from the dwarf. Ewen owed the remaining 90% (38,880 Kaldoric pence) at the summer fair in Tashal to Clan Rakin. Failing that, Ewen would become a debtor to Clan Rakin.

Ewen was pleased. He had learned earlier that Clan Garibath was still using the Kiban route. Now Clan Rakin would do so, and thus the two largest clans would take the alternate route. Half his job was done, and it would put pressure on the two smaller clans to go the same way.
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