We gathered together in the town hall, in the Mayor’s office, to hear what Arietta had come up with. A small meal had been laid out, and we shared a miraculous bottle of wine which had remained unharmed after the raids. Thornbridge and his wife were there, still mollified and depressed, along with Morden, Derreck, Arietta, Zao, Seneschal Eliron and myself. Arietta, with Zao’s help, showed us a few maps, pointing out weaknesses in the defences of the city I had not seen. She began to detail some fantastic ideas: by filling up the old moat with tar she could create a wall of fire. She suggested several additions to the current militia, such as throwing pikes, a rotation of watchers from the towers, a redesign which would make the bows easier to fire and also an organised system of resupply for the wall.
I myself proposed my own additions to these plans, including the formation of two teams: a magic-using healing team and a crack-squad who, during an assault, could go behind enemy lines and cause maximum dissension and chaos. Also, Arietta had not considered the use of siege ladder-toppling sticks. Finally, I proposed a mandatory training regiment with Thoren and Oriana for the troops on the wall. Even with the simplified bows, their performance at the last attack was so poor that, without training, the whole effort could be futile.
- equip the wall with tar, fill the old moat with flammable material to create a wall of fire.
- Added pikes to throw at the staircases and trained Militia for it
- Assigned rotation of watchers from the towers
- Redesigned the bows to make it easier for inexperienced archers
- Organised a workforce as re-suppliers for the wall
My additions to The Plan
- A team of spell casters using healing wands
- A “Commando”-style unit to fly behind enemy lines and attack from the rear, causing chaos: me, Nullvian, Morden, Dereck
- Long sticks for knocking seige ladders down from the walls
- Mandatory additional training with Oriana and Thoren
We discussed amongst ourselves for a while, and I took the opportunity to gauge the Mayor’s state. He protests that he is fine, but his eyes show a broken man. He no longer has the same shine and optimism as when I met him, scarcely more than a week ago. Losing his own private fortune has done much to depress his spirits, and he cannot see beyond this calamity. I reassured him as well as I could, but I fear that he will resign before long.
I raised the point publicly with this trusted core of people that the populace is in danger of starving and freezing to death. I have opened talks between Dereck and Seneschal Eliron to begin supplying the worst-off in the city, the poorest who are most affected by the rising fuel and food prices, with food I bought today and the coal we are expecting from Ulden. Obviously these will have to be rationed, but it becomes a matter of humanitarian necessity to keep people supplied.
(Incidentally why is it always ‘humanitarian’? Why not ‘draconarian’? Or ‘angelatarian’? Dragons are very sympathetic creatures too, after all, and angels are famous for their mercy. It seems very unfair that humans seem to have paragonised their own qualities into their language, and revile dragons with being harsh, as in ‘draconian’.)
As an additional solution to both the lowering temperatures and morale, I’ve also suggested that Eileen Thornbridge lead a weaving and spinning drive in the townhall. Hopefully the lure of a warm room and company will be enough for women to pitch in and weave some warm clothing for our boys on the wall, who are currently freezing cold. For the men to know that warm clothes are coming, and for the women to spend time together rather than sitting cold and alone at home, this will make all the difference. Eileen seemed amenable to the campaign, and hoepfully this will give her a sense of purpose. I will provide them with all the wool I bought from Yolanda, and I’ve asked Dereck to oversee the finances with that.
Before I could wrap up the meeting on a positive note, Seneschal Eliron spoke up rather glumly, to inform everyone (which they already knew) that the city is bankrupt – there is no wheat in the granary (or almost none) and no money in the raided treasury. I told them that sometimes a ship needs a rudder, and sails and a navigator with a good direction, but in a storm it needs a sturdy crew who can trim the sails, batton down the hatches and hang on tight. Of course there are problems, big problems, for the longterm survival of Roderick’s Cove. But in the meantime, it’s important that we hang onto the sails and weather the storm. Shelyn will provide.
When the meeting was done, everyone left slowly until only Arietta was left. I invited her to walk with me back to the inn. Despite my feelings towards her at that point, she was new in Rodercik’s Cove and I could imagine that she felt alone and sad; she certainly seemed a little upset when I thanked her for all her hard work. We sat together with a drink and I tried to get to know her better.
It turns out that Arietta had been on Yolanda’s ship only 12 days. Before that, she had been exploring the Lands of the Linnorm Kings, and Yolanda’s crew had apprehended her in the capital, Kalsgard. Originally she had left Tian because she didn’t like the projected future she could see eeking out in front of her, as a diplomat, emissary and biddable servant to her father, the Emperor. From there she travelled to Absalom, which she too called one of the most wonderous places in the world. She told me that, after Absalom, everything was a bit disappointing for a while, until she had the realisation that beauty lay not only in buildings and manmade artifice. I asked her if she found Roderick’s cove parochial, and her answer did interest me greatly. She described it as an ‘opportunity’. For her, apparently, an opportunity to escape her destiny. But she described it as a beacon of hope of the edge of civilisation, and that gave me cause for hope myself that I may have misjudged her. I do not know how our relationship will blossom, but I have hope that she will prove to be honourable and an advocator of spiritual beauty.
We bid one another good night, and though she still seemed in low spirits she rallied a smile.
Morden and Zao were sat outside enacting an experiment – they were trying out how it is to do a shift on the wall. This was somewhat aided by smoking and drinking. As I bid him goodnight, Morden whispered to me “2 more hours”. I can assume from this that I may expect to see him tonight, which I confess makes me happy.
Morden did come to be 2 hours later, and I was awoken by incredibly cold feet. We joked and embraced for a while, until he made a strange comment about a foxtail. I became serious then, and told him, after some false starts, about what had happened today with Arietta. After speaking to him for a bit, I realised that I am afriad of her, intimitated by her because I couldn’t stop her. In my adult years (few though they’ve been) those who could turn a social situation away from my control and make me feel so impotent have been rare, except for Ellesar. He used to tell me that even my tongue was golden.
Morden told me that I was judging Arietta too harshly, and that my own moral standards were far too high. I protested for a while but, eventually, was forced to concede that he was right. In turn, I asked him why he pretends to be mysterious “like a fart in the night – no one knows who dealt it” (curse that dwarf acolyte humour, it’s hard to shake). He tried to deflect the question and, though I pointed this out, he still gave me no answer. He told me that he’ll be here in the morning. I’m curious to see if he will be. For now, I can just enjoy being close.
6th Kuthona, “Moonday” of the year 4711, Evening
Abandoned Farmhouse, close to Roderick’s Cove
Well, I don’t doubt my choice to be out here in the freezing cold, and I’m glad that Shelyn granted my eyes the strength to see the fire in the abandoned farmhouse so far from the walls of Roderick’s Cove. I could certainly wish it were warmer though, and that soup seems a long, long time ago…
He did stay until morning – Morden, I mean – and I might venture so far as to say that his choice proved extremely rewarding for us both. I hereby rescind the threat of the doggy door. Mysterious though he may wish to remain, that man holds nothing back in bed, and I like it.
We rose late, breakfasted together and discussed our plan for the day. Morden intends to assist Zao with the day’s training. My tasks were more varied, but their aim was the same – with the Mayor absent from public and morale low, my job today was to hit the streets, participate and be seen. First I checked on the food surplus with Seneschal Eliron, who seemed content going over numbers. I stopped in with Ulden to see if the coal was coming up yet. It will be a few days before this happens, but I have switched their priorities from the starmetal to coal. We’ll have plenty of time to excavate adamantium when the city is no longer under seige. Ulden and his family seem well, and he also let me know that Andanan and Iryani have moved to an abandoned house in the North West of the city, close to the river.
Next, I checked in at the open room of the townhall where Eileen was preparing the the weaving drive, and helped her bring her loom downstairs. I have not the first idea about weaving, and it was one of the arts I stayed away from at the monestary – maybe there was something about innately unnerving about all that flammable, oiled wood and wool.
My next stop, just before noon, was to Zao. I wanted to see if there was anything I could assist with, and also see if he had encountered Arietta, since I had not seen her that day. Not, I hasten to add, that she had done anything wrong; I merely wished to ensure that she was settling in, and had everything that she needed. He hadn’t seen Arietta, but Zao put me to work carrying barrels of tar outside the gate, and setting up the fire-wall. It was a nice public assignment, and the men seemed to feel safer outside the wall with me around. I also ferried grain up to one of the guard towers by the sea – probably the safest place to keep it since the granary was ruined. During all this, people would stop me and kiss my hand, call out their thanks to me as I passed. It was very moving, and also an affirmation that I was doing the right things.
As it began to get dark, I flew up into the air to see if I could get a view of Arietta. Oriana had told me that she was dressed in white, and after a few minutes I saw her towards the North of the city.
I landed behind her; she was dressed in long, white trousers and a baggy, white shirt – the clothes looked a little ceremonial. When I inquired after her day, she said that she’d been spending some alone time; apparently she is unused to having so many people in close quarters. We agreed to meet at the inn shortly and, since I was in the area, I headed off to speak to Andanan and Iryani.
It wasn’t hard to find their house and, as I knocked on the door, I was rather worried that the whole structure would cave in. Iyriani’s manner was very sweet – she told me that they wanted a place more private than the inn, and had chosen to squat in the house. Andanan came up, and it seems that he has been putting his powers to good use, hollowing out a room beneath ground. I have no idea even if they eat and drink, or if they require warmth, but I offered them the hospitatlity of the city if they needed it. They seemed to be more interested in working for their money, so I offered them work rebuilding the inn, or in the mines with Ulden. Andanan also showed me a coal seam he’d found, and I offered that Ulden would buy the coal. I left them together, basking in their happiness, and turned towards my temporary home, the inn.
Arietta was already there drinking tea, and I joined her with a bowl of soup. It wasn’t bad, but I sure do miss a good steak. I spoke with Arietta again, and we spoke of the gods, of her father, and of how it is to walk amongst the humans whislt being so very different from them. She also apologised to me for her behaviour of yesterday, though I told her that she needn’t. An easier feeling grew between us, and we chatted idly for a bit. She also passed on a message from Zao – that Morden won’t be coming today as he’s doing a shift up on the wall. With that, she went to bed.
I greatly admire Morden, making a sacrifice in this way. He trained the men all day, and takes yet another shift at night. Knowing how cold it was out there, and feeling like an extra morale-building stunt would be in order, I asked Oriana to pack up some hot soup. I flew up to the wall and distributed the soup, chatting for a few minutes with each man, making them feel good about what they were doing, telling them that warm clothes were on the way. I left Morden until last so I could spend some extra time with him. He looked so chilled that even his markings were pale, and downed the soup in one grateful gulp. As we stood in the cold, both shivering, I caught sight of a light, in a far off, abandoned farmhouse. Morden couldn’t glimpse it at all, and I doubted my eyes for a moment, it seemed so faint. But it was there.
When I told Morden, he tried to dissuade me from going, telling me that it was probably Orcs. But I couldn’t leave it alone. I knew that I couldn’t sleep at night thinking some poor traveller or farmer was out there unprotected. So I flew beyond the wall to have a look; it took a while, but it was well worth it. I landed close enough to the farmhouse to look through a window, and saw a whole crowd of humans inside. Their auras were clear enough to be sure that they weren’t in league with any Orcs, so I stepped up and knocked on the door.
There was an instant silence inside, followed by some steps and hurried whispers. I called in that I was a Paladin of Shelyn and meant them no harm, and at last the door creaked open to reveal a massive man, taller and wider than me. He looked angry and afraid, and both he and his comrades brandished tools. Realising that I must appear threatening, I took a step back and bowed to them; that seemed to do the trick, and they invited me in. There were tens of them, maybe as many as two-score, and all ages, huddled about the fire. They were travelling away from their home – a village called Asbeth which had been raided and burnt by the Orcs. Their lord, a Sir Arronius, had left as soon as trouble looked to be brewing, along with his family and all the goods he could carry. He left his people to fend for themselves. There were a few men there, but more women and plenty of children. This was all that was left of a village of hundreds.
As we talked, it became clear that they were hoping to enter into bonded agreements with the Lord of Rodercik’s Cove or, if not there, with whoever would have them. They had no food, and few enough fighting men. If I had not come along, I fear that they would not have made it to Roderick’s Cove. One by one, they settled back to sleep. I have been writing up this day in my journal, in between dozing and keeping an ear open. I must confess that I am grateful for the fire. I know not how I will feed all of these people, let alone those of Roderick’s Cove, if the seige continues. All I know is that I must do everything in my power to keep these people, and those like them, safe from the darkness and depravation of evil and from the suffering they bring.