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Two Trails - Title

Chapter 19

The following two days were the same as the first, except Lorelei belatedly made up for her failure to fill them in about the day-to-day lives, habits, customs, village layouts, and habits of her former tribe. At night, and when they stopped for lunch, she drew maps in the dirt, making models for them to memorize of the tribe’s favorite camping spots, trails, and fishing holes on the Wolfhead River, as well as the best places to hunt buffalo from an ambush. By the time they reached Far Point they were confident they could find their way around with little difficulty and knew most of their major customs.

Each night before they retired for the night they used one of the communication mirrors Gerald had made for them. He’d made a lid for it with hinges at the top; Storm thought it looked like a somewhat larger and flatter version of Captain Kirk’s communicator. A number was etched on the rim under the mirror which identified that particular mirror.

Using it was simplicity itself. Flip up the lid, speak the command word – ayin – then the number of the mirror you wanted to call, and presto!, the mirror on the other end blinked until it was answered or the caller got tired of waiting and closed the lid. Ayin was from the Old Tongue and meant eye or sight, which to Storm’s way of thinking seemed appropriate. Based on his description of telephones, Gerald also added a buzzing sound that could be turned on or off. Once the person the other end flipped back the lid on their mirror it was as if a small window had opened between them. They could hear and see each other perfectly. The lid could also be used as a brace to hold the mirror in an upright position like a triangle. Redundancy was Storm’s middle name in the Marines so he had Gerald give them two communication mirrors in case one of them was broken or lost.

Their nightly talks with their friends back in Zered kept them anchored but also tended to obscure how much ground they were covering. Their pegasi were fast fliers. By evening of the third day they’d covered the 300 leagues to Far Point, the first stop on their journey to the Biqah.

Far Point, so named in the early days of Ingold, had originally been little more than a troop outpost, a walled palisade for the protection of the kingdom. The original wooden walls had long since vanished and the outpost had grown into a small, stone-walled village about the size of Breckinridge. There was a small military contingent under the command of the local mayor, but the King could override his authority or commandeer the men at a moment’s notice.


There weren’t any major trade routes near Far Point; there weren’t any roads larger than deer trails through the rugged mountains so most people preferred the normal roads which took them through Robling before turning north. Lorelei had taken that route in the opposite direction coming south when she set out to find Storm.

Most of the other trade routes on the Plains of Aroon stayed close to the Coast Mountains, on the seaward side or the inland side, before turning west at the city of Knife Edge across the Plains of Aroon to the strategically placed city of Bridge Meir, across The Fingers, the four rivers that fed the massive Crater Lake. It was so large it was more of an inland sea than a lake. From there the roads continued on to Coldwater then south to the Ingoldian city of North Gate, which was generally considered to be the eastern most end of the Cliff Road.

The mountains of Ingold were at their narrowest point just to the west of Far Point but Mount Wainsford, named for a long-ago adventurer who died there, was too high and cold to be traversed even if Frost Giants hadn’t lived there – which they did.

The result of this isolation was that Far Point was only nominally part of Ingold. In theory it owed allegiance to the king but in practice it had long since virtually become its own city-state like Zered. Durin took a quick moment to remind them of it as they glided in for a landing just outside of town.

“Sodan was looking fer a shortcut to the Biqah fer his caravans a few years back and his men found out da hard way dat da people of Far Point might toast da king, but if ye insist too hard on his law bein’ followed ye might wind up in the da dun-dun-geon,” he explained. Their pegasi landed at a trot, bouncing him around, making him stutter over his last words.

Ralt shrugged indifferently. “I don’t think any of us are in a position to insist on Ingoldian law,” he pointed out.

Their pegasi slowed to a comfortable walk as they approached the outskirts of town. The original wooden palisade may have disappeared but the inhabitants had erected a rough stone wall like the ones that often separated one field from another, only higher and wider. It was old and weathered.

Outside the walls were wide fields freshly plowed in anticipation of an early planting. The smell of freshly turned soil filled the air. Lorelei spotted a spire of a temple of Tartak peeking over the wall on the north side of the city. She indicated it to them. “I wonder if the priests here have started that nonsense about outlawing other gods?”

“Don’t know, don’t care,” Storm said flatly. “We’re only here for one night, replenish our supplies and push on at first light. Let’s not start anything we don’t have to.”

She gave her husband an arch look. “Look who’s talking; Mister Cautious himself,” she joked.

He grinned unapologetically.

The guards at the gate weren’t as trusting as the ones in Zered. They waved them to a halt. One of them, old and grizzled stared at them suspiciously. “State your name and business.” His voice was wary but matter-of-fact.

“Storm, my wife Lorelei, and our companions; Ralt and Durin,” Storm answered minimally. Each of them nodded as he called their name. “We’re passing through. We need lodging for one night and somewhere to purchase supplies.”

“Where are you headed?”

Storm was tight lipped. “Somewhere else.”

The old soldier snorted indifferently. “Suit yourself. One copper apiece to get in.” He stuck out his palm.

Sometimes cities actually charged admittance, sometimes it was merely the soldiers padding their wages, but either way it amounted to pay or leave. He nodded at Ralt who handed over the money without comment. The soldier dropped the coins in a battered wooden box then nodded at the other guards. They called to someone inside and the gates slowly swung open.

Storm inclined his head at the soldiers and led his friends into the city. Once through the gates he found it not unlike Zered; there was the same profusion of color and noise, stale smells in the air, noise, traffic, and dirt. “After a while I can’t tell one city from another,” he snorted. “They all look alike.”

“They might look alike but Far Point is definitely colder than Zered,” Ralt argued. He shivered, pulling his cloak tight around him. Once on the ground the envelope of warm air around the pegasi disappeared, leaving them exposed.

He had a point. The massive stone blocks in the buildings and roads stubbornly held their winter cold in spite of the thin sunlight coming through the clouds. The difference in temperature outside the city and inside it was noticeable.

Storm waved to catch the attention of a man driving a delivery wagon. “Where’s a good inn for the night?” he called.

The man barely spared him a glance. “The Buffalo’s Head, just up the street,” he answered shortly. If news of the price on their heads had made it this far, either it wasn’t common knowledge or the descriptions of them weren’t good enough for the general populace to recognize them. Either way, it boded well for their peace of mind.

Storm headed up the street following the directions. He glanced at his companions. “Have any of you ever been here before?” They all shook their heads. “Me either. Alright, keep your eyes open for any shops where we can refill our saddlebags.” They nodded.

Halfway to their destination Lorelei pointed down a side street. A large storefront with barrels of tools and racks of clothes on the cobblestone streets in front of it, was the second building on the street. It looked to still be open. Storm nodded. “As soon as we’re settled in our rooms, go get our supplies,” he told Durin. If Ralt was their cook, Durin had become their supply sergeant.

“Aye,” he nodded.

The Buffalo’s Head inn, whose weather beaten sign clearly displayed a carved buffalo head above the printed name, appeared no different than a thousand other inns throughout Gaia. They knew before they went in what to expect and they weren’t disappointed. The tall thin owner who introduced himself as Lon, sized them up at once as having money along with fighting skills to match. As such they were valued if somewhat dangerous customers. He quickly assigned them rooms and sent his stable hands running to take care of their mounts.

Durin dropped his saddle bags and backpack in his room with an unceremonious thump and headed out to buy supplies. Stumping along the streets toward the store Lorelei had spotted he found himself either ignored or given only a cursory glance by the city’s inhabitants. The lack of attention or curiosity was so marked he found himself wondering at it. Dwarves weren’t unknown but were still uncommon enough to arouse interest whenever they made an appearance. He’d lived in Zered for over twenty years and was still the object of quizzical stares from time to time.

Why wasn’t that happening here, he wondered?

The store he was looking for had a sign carved into the shape of barrel bulging full of tools, bolts of cloth, sheaves of grain, weapons, clothes, boots, eggs, and other such items. It also provided the answer to his unasked question the moment he turned in.

Three dwarves were at the counter haggling with the proprietor over the price of some picks and shovels laying on the counter. All of them glanced up at the sound of his footsteps, swept their eyes over him in a disinterested glance then immediately turned back to their dickering.

Durin felt his eyebrows go up. Well, he thought, that explained that. There must be a colony of his kind somewhere around Far Point. Maybe when their business with Lorelei’s tribe was done, he could come back and look for a wife.

He snorted at his conceit. Married? Him? Ha!

What kind of woman would want a wandering warrior like him? Women liked their men to come home at night and he’d never been one to do that. He dismissed the idea and turned to his shopping.

If Storm had been there he could have warned him about famous last words.

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