15 Chaitra; 2280 ER
The candles are burning less bright at this hour but the conversation is not. The cups of wine and tankards of mead have been replaced countless times, but as the business at hand is of importance, water has been added, to Bears dismay.
“I say again, mo’sharah, we cannot hope to assist with the taxes in the outer regions, we cannot spare the soldiers to guard the tax caravans. We need to reinforce the critical supply lines for the greater city area, they villages on the outer rim will need to fend for themselves for some time.”
“This is not good enough, we cannot increase our garrison without monies to pay them, where will we get the gold to pay the soldiers to guard the supply lines? We need the outer villages more than they need us right now. They’ve survived for centuries by themselves, but this city needs manpower.”
“We have already sent emissaries to the northern Gnomad Tribes and to the Seven Cities, they will be more than happy to open trade again now that the Great Tyrant is dead. Our gold will be there once we need to start paying the troops, until then they will need to make certain sacrifices, I’m sure they will understand”
The conversation continued for some time in a similar fashion. Discussions of national security, expected amounts of grain, predicted inundations of rivers etc. Baer spoke at length with some people about the surrounding areas and what the rebels were doing. Grash was, somewhat predictably, not partaking of the discussions. Neither was Marjora at this time.
The conversation dwindled towards the morning, Baer decided to make his way to the ante-chamber and take a nap. Jalana had had a few drinks and had fallen asleep at the table of discussions, political bickering had never interested her. Grash was still, predictably, nowhere to be seen. As the twin suns made their way above the jagged horizon in the east towards the sky proper the nobles, generals and entrusted servants left the room in small groups. Still squabbling about minor issues and pressing urgent matters.
“Rise and shine, Jalana!”, Baer said as he entered the room mid morning with a plate of meats and fruit and a jug of coffee. “We’ve much to do and the day is getting away from us!” Baer placed the platter in front of Jalana as she groaned and lifted her head from the table. A piece of parchment containing figures of fig plantations still stuck to her face. She turned to look out the window, the parchment fluttering back to the table, "What hour is it? " she asked, fixing her hair back with a chord of help and eyeing the food hungrily.
“Well past early” laughed Baer.
“What does it matter anyway? What issues concern us, the heroes of Dharma?” She asked between bites of dried fish and fruit. “There are no duties that need or attention, no folk to be saved.” She took a large sip of the coffee. “Where will Baer go? Back to your wilds that your…old master is…gone.”
Bear knew she spoke of Leo, the recently departed ruler of Dharma. “He was no master of mine… he was my friend.” Baer replied in even tones, “and to be honest, I don’t know where I will go now that I am no longer bound to this place.”
There a knock on the door, and a messenger came in, bowing profusely and standing apologies. “My apologies, but I have a message for Mr, I mean sir, I mean, I have a message for Grash.” And looked about, expecting him to be there.
“He is not here, but we can pass it on, what is it?” Asked Jalana, annoyed at being interrupted. The man took out a small parchment and handed it to Jalana. He made his apologies and walked out, closing the door behind him.
After some moments, they opened the scroll and saw that it was a language they’d never seen, full of sharp points and flowing text. Beautiful as it was, neither could decipher it. “Probably one of Grash’s many enemies looking for him” muttered Jalana jokingly, although they both knew it could very well be that.
“I hear there are troubles in the west.” Said Baer, “Orcs have begun their raids early this year, and there are whispers of great discoveries made by the half-lings in the forests.”
Jalana listened and saw the glint in the mans eyes, they spoke of wilderness, excitement and most of all, adventure. “So let’s go there,then.” She replied with a mouth full of hummus. “I have little holding me to this place, besides the food.”
Baer laughed, taking a large piece of meat from the tray and ripping a generous size chunk off with his teeth. “It’s settled then! Well go soon as we have supplies and you’re packed.”
Jalana stood and rested her hands on her scimitar and readjusted the beautiful shell on the cord about her neck and smiled, “I’m ready.” And they left.
Some time later there a noise like running water and a shuffle. A side door, not easily seen if you didn’t it was there opened and out came Grash fixing his belt.
“Where’d everybody go?”
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“Sir, I couldn’t possibly take the money. After everything you have done for our city, plus, if Falca heard that I had taken the liberators’ gold she’d feed my eyes to her birds!”.
Baer looked at Jalana questioningly, “Sounds fair to me.” She shrugged and took the reigns offered to her by one one the palace stable boys. The horse was strong and Jalana could see that it had been treated well, but she memories of blood and pain in her thoughts as she stroked its neck. This house had fought in the recent battle for the city. “Rest easy friend,” she whispered “I’ll take good care of you.”
“So I expect that the journey will take four or five months on horseback, if we meet no trouble. The going will be hard, but the folk of the West Winds are friendly enough, and should they require or help, they will be glad for it.” Explained Baer as they trotted down the throughfare to the western gates of Dharma. All about them the citizens were rebuilding and organising their lives. Traders had come back to the city, not as many as there were before the tyrants rule, but it looked like it would get better. Not all the people offered friendly faces add they passed, not overtly hostile, but not welcoming either.
“You would think all should be happy to be out from under the clawed foot of the Rakshasa, but the more I learn of people the more I see the forces of balance at play. Many have lost station and wealth at his demise.” Mused Jalana as they need the gate.
They heard from the gate guard that a trade skiff was heading out to a village towards the west that very day and that the merchants would be more than happy to take them along. The two agreed as it would take nearly two months off their journey.
They loaded their horses onto the skiff and set out. The journey took a few tendays and was rather uneventful. They got to the village and with their horses they set out to the west after buying a few supplies, planning to live off the land, which both of them were used to.
After a few days they passed two men on the road who greeted them and continued on their way. A few hours later they the same men traveling, but this time without horses. They puked up their horses and stared.
“Well met travelers, how can we help?” Asked Baer as they approached him. The two men had vacant expressions on their faces and didn’t speak. When they got to Baer they suddenly attacked. Revealing themselves as a kind of shapeshifter. One of the horses was killed in the fight but they were both relatively unhurt.
They made their way on they found a group of people claiming to be from the towns to the north, saying that they were heading towards Dharma in search of work. During the night a hooded assailant attacked, brutally injuring Jalana. The assassin didn’t relent, although with the initial surprise spent the fight leaned heavily in the heroes favor. Jalana took the form of a great Baer and bear fought with abandon, wanting to slaughter the assasin. Jalana vicious though, taking out his throat before they could ask questions.
Apparently they still had enemies to consider.
They again made their way west, and on camping one night under the stars Baer had the first watch. He sat looking at the heavens he noticed a beautiful white stag in the distance that seemed to have a single horn on its head. He blinked and it was gone.
The next day as they unpacked they noticed a small figure watching them behind a rock and immediately gave chase, wary of the previous attacks. With Jalanas ability to lengthen their strides they caught to the figure just as got to the border of a small forest.
“Well, run fast you can. Well, I think I’ll leave you to it. " and disappeared into the forest, and they followed.
After a little confrontation with a dryad, the two met with the little halfling again who introduced herself Michi’in. She said she loved nearby and would love to show them her village.