Legends of the Three Pillars
he next day the sun broke through the morning cloud early, bathing the house in a warm spring glow. Kraag and the woodsman ate a morning meal of oat gruel with fruit and honey. They then headed out to fell and dress a tree before a mule team would come to drag it to the brother in laws mill. While they walked Kraag once again took up his history…
Before we left the town Garra had some information about the trip ahead. The safest route was if we stayed near the cliffs by the sea and as far from the forest as possible. About 7 days out we should come across another small village whose head man is Droga who, according to Garra, paid a tithe to Slavetown and was not to be trusted. We would have to stop there to re-provision. Julian managed to get some trade goods from Bentil to help us get supplies from Droga’s village and made a personal deal for some obsidian shards.
We set off and arrived at the village in the afternoon of the seventh day, in front of us was a small town with a well repaired palisade. The villagers were not so welcoming as the folk of Garra’s village but after they had made sure we were not a threat we were allowed to enter. As we walked to the centre of town as few of us noticed a small child dart down between two houses where Watcher could see him talk to a cloaked man who then entered one of the buildings. When we asked a passing girl who lived there she reacted with real fear and stammered out “no one” before fleeing.
After looking at each other in confusion we headed on to the market and found the ale house and trading post, it consisted of a thatched roof held up by poles and not much else. After a short round of bartering by Julian we procured food for our travels and headed on even though it was late in the day and raining hard, Garra’s warning still clear in our memories, we were determined to put some distance between us and the town. It turned out that we were wise since in the middle of the night we heard two men searching and Kalieb heard one say “Dane said Kuragga would have our guts for garters if we don’t find them.” We guessed they were looking for us.
We continued on down the coast for another three days and at noon on the third we crested a ridge and found Slavetown below us, we estimated it could hold between three to four thousand people. The walls were made of six meter high logs with a gate house constructed from 6 huge tree trunks, with archers watching out from the tops. Inside the remains of a Carathan keep with sections rebuilt with timber betrayed the origins of this outpost. Below the cliffs ships lay at anchor one with black sails with a large red X on them; with dread we noticed this matched the design on one of the shields that was on the beach when we first woke from the wreck.
We approached the gate and Julian tried to gain us entry but was loath to hand over any trade goods to the gate captain to do so. After a heated debate the captain was challenged to let us in if one of us could beat him in an unarmed fight, he agreed if it was champion versus champion. Since Watcher was the only one who had shown any skills in bare fist fighting Julian pushed him forward as our champion and while he stretched we waited to see who would be brought out from the city. After about 10 minutes we heard the sound of a crowd approaching and in the middle of some other guards was a burly figure that massed almost as much as two normal men, we all looked at Watcher who suddenly looked decidedly unhappy.
While Julian tried to make some side bets the crowds champion stepped into the ring made by the people watching, as he did they started chanting his name, “Kur-ag-gah, Kur-ag-gah”. Cassandra managed to enhance the sunlight shining into his face to distract him at times throughout the fight. Watcher entered warily and the fight was on.
Kuragga stepped forward with surprising speed and landed a blow to Watchers side before he had time to really set himself, they both then struck out to no effect. Seeing the futility of trying to best Kuragga in a stand up fight Watcher then tried a variety of ineffectual moves while dodging all the blows aimed at him, these included an attempt to downtrow the hulks pantaloons, a wheel kick to the head and foot sweep that felt like kicking a tree trunk. Finally with a sense of desperation Watcher reached into his bag of dirty tricks and, ducking a swing, reached up below Kuragga’s loincloth and clutched his vitals warning Kuragga to hold. Expecting Kuragga to freeze, Watcher was completely unprepared when he was wrenched into the air above Kuragga’s head and his back brought down sharply across Kuragga’s shoulders. Seeing the pain he was in I sent out some creation spirits to heal some of the damage; in a normal, fair, fight I would not interfere but when we were trying to save those kidnapped by slavers, one of whom was the foe in the fight, fair play did not apply. Kuragga then threw the struggling Watcher to the ground and attempted to stomp on him but missed as Watcher rolled to his feet.
As they squared off for the next phase of their battle a female’s voice cut through the cheering demanding to know what was going on. The next moment a tall, striking looking woman entered, a Carathan who we soon learned was Mileen, Dane’s second in command. She was dressed in green leathers, carried a bow and sword and walked with the slightly rolling gait of a sailor, she entered the ring bringing the fight to a stop. In short order she sent the guards back to their duties and told the gate captain that we were not to enter without paying the toll, as the guards filed back in Cassandra somehow managed to mingle with them and entered unnoticed.
A few minutes later, after Julian begrudgingly handed over the toll, we entered Slavetown. Heading down one of the main streets Julian came to a sudden stop, head to the side, staring at a symbol down the street above a factors door. Memories came flooding back as he recognised it and his past association with it when trading. Entering he met the factor and quickly arranged a line of credit based on his holdings elsewhere. After an extended conversation he had learned the lay of the land in Slavetown.
The current king was a Carathan called Dane, also known as The Butcher, more than a thousand men answered to him many of whom wore hawk feathers to show their allegiance, his grip on the “throne” had held secure for 6 years. His second in command was Mileen whom we had seen earlier and Kuragga was his enforcer.
His largest rival was Trysta, another Carathian but this one haled from the west march and still wore her clan’s tartan. She boasted three ships to her fleet and many more men on shore.
The next three were Marder, captain of the largest ship in Slavetown, Yan Yeddir a captain who was willing to try anything and Seteph, entrepreneur and information broker. By all accounts Trysta, Marder and Seteph had an informal alliance. There were many other minor captains that would tack to whichever way the wind seemed to blow. The ship with black sails and the red cross had sailed while Watcher had fought Kuragga and nothing was known of the crew or captain.
During the rest of the day Azo, Cassandra and Kalieb bribed their way over the maw to the slave pens and the sky ship tower and learned the lay of the land. Julian, Watcher and I went to see Seteph and Julian made a deal that we would try to find out which of Dane’s mean was messing with the merchandise as a proof of our abilities. Meeting up again we learnt that Danes pens were the only ones with any people in them. We then split up and Watcher and I headed to the keep where watcher traded insults with a door guard before discussing the possibility of taking service with Mileen, she was only interested in why we were here.
While we were gone the others once more crossed over the maw but this time returned without Cassandra. Once night had fallen Cassandra snuck into the pen and then entered the dormitory where she almost caused one girl to scream before she managed to talk to Beleeni. From her she learned that Arcost, who brought the food and drink was the one taking favours. More worrying was the fact that Chendra had been brought the day they arrived by mysterious cloaked figures, they must have been waiting there just for her and the only thing that Beleeni could identify them by was their smell; in that they reminded her of Watcher the elf.
With that Cassandra told Beleeni to hold strong and that a rescue was planned and then she retreated back out of the compound to wait in safety for morning. The rest of us had returned to our inn to sleep. The next morning we were awoken by the crashing and banging of boots on the stairs…
Kraag looked up at the sun beating almost straight down on his head “Time for lunch aye laddie” the grunt of agreement was all he needed and the two sat down to share a loaf of bread with cheese and a few mouthfuls of water from the nearby skin.