FreeHolds Adventure, Cycle 1 Part 4b

FreeHolds Adventure, Cycle 1 Part 4b

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By the afternoon of the next day he held a bit of regret for the lack of sleep and for the odd feelings in his guts. Tipper set a steady pace, rarely allowed them to stop and never for long. When he had suggested a longer rest Tipper had muttered something about winter, though they were about as far from winter as one could get. Adwin had also suggested a slower pace, but the woman was determined they would get to GreensBridge as soon as possible. She had complained that Mokha’s cloak could be seen from one horizon to the next and she demanded he take it off.

He was starting to drop behind by this point but was not overly worried. He would catch up by nightfall, that would be alright for today. As he plodded along the road his mind wandered; he remembered meeting Shak for the first time after having done mushrooms the night previously. Swampdon was a great place for mushrooms and many other hallucinogens, herbs and extracts, natural and alchemical. Plus a city built in the trees was a wonderful place to play.

Swampdon was one of the oldest cities in the northern Freeholds or, as many preferred, the fairest amongst the Free River Cities. Though the fact it was surrounded by swamp and only a few hundred yat south of the Great Barrier Mountain Range, thus typically cursed with a long winter, left many from the more southern River Cities less inclined to consider it as anything more than a novelty. Yet its wooden houses and business, built on platforms sprawling through and across a half dozen or so ancient hardwood trees, coupled with its abundance of medicinal and recreational plants had made it one of the best known cities on the northern continent. Only GreensBridge was more popular.

On a crowded platform a hundred feet above the ground Shak and Mokha had spotted each other across the main thoroughfare. They had both stopped, causing a bit of congestion around them and they smiled at one another. Shak had shouted over the noise around them in perfect formal Tannican, “Is there a reasonable cafe anywhere in this barbaric tree-house?”

Mokha had responded back in kind, though unlike Shak’s sub-continental accent, Mokha’s accent carried the lighter eastern mainland tones. “In fact I do, there are a few to chose from. Where depends on your talents or, as the locals would say, your weight.”

They manage to move through the crowd and after a brief discussion they both realized that they shared the status of Aggedrah, or sacred minstrel, both were fabulously dressed in a wide variety of bright garments and accessories. While Mokha had been in the city for a few months, Shak had arrived only days ago.

Mokha took Shak to his second favourite coffee house, Takken Hall, which was owned and run by a Tannican Gor family and was the main gathering place for Tannican expatriates in Swampdon. The establishment had strong connections to the House of Rashammon though the proprietor claimed his independence and denied his connections with Rashammon were anything more than economic. Still, it was one of the few places in Swampdon where one could get good coffee or Tannican foods and entertainment.

They had spent hours acquainting themselves one to the other during that first afternoon, drinking coffee, sharing a hookah and telling the tales of how they had ended up in Swampdon. Within the Aggedrah lineages they were more closely connected than either would have expected, both of their instructors had trained under the same master. Their paths of experiential mysticism were nearly identical, though their training had taken place at opposite ends of the Tannican Empire.

Later that day they had rented a room from Takken Hall’s proprietor and hired one of his harem women to keep them company. Shak had been surprised the woman was not a slave and while Mokha may have questioned how free she actually was, he did enjoy informing Shak of the FreeHolders disdain for slavery, kings, emperors and for other civilized behaviour. Such attitudes were more entrenched the further east one travelled.

That chance encounter led them to decide that they were well suited for each other and had been the beginning of a professional and personal relationship that had lasted through the years until Mokha’s most recent abduction by the bandits near Lekas. He dearly missed his friend and hoped that Shak had managed to find some civilized refuge. Knowing Shak, he had likely backtracked to the nearest town, somewhere where his skills would be appreciated.

A barking dog pulled Mokha from his reverie and he saw a small group of travellers on the road, heading in his direction. He waved and smiled as they moved closer, three men, two women, four children, two ass drawn carts and a couple of dogs. He stepped aside to allow them the easier passage of the trail and bowed. He received a brief nod from one of the men and stares from the others. No words were exchanged and after they had passed one of the younger children had loudly asked a parent why the mans skin was brown. He did not hear the response but watched them move along until they were out of sight. They too kept an eye on him until they had moved well past.

A glance to the sun indicated that Mokha had been lollygagging a bit, he had best hurry if he was going catch up to the others before nightfall. He took another pinch of stimroot and quickened his pace.



Mokha reached the camp a bit before dark. Tipper was off in the grass singing to the sun. Adwin was by the fire, feeding it small pieces of branch gathered from the dead dulmak they had chosen to camp beside. Adwin greeted him pleasantly enough and passed him a bit of food, again in the odd metal bowl, of which both he and Tipper each had one.

Mokha munched on the food even though he did not feel particularly hungry. When Tipper returned from the field she also sat down beside the fire and looked at the two men. Adwin continued to feed small sticks to the fire, Mokha finished his food and wiped the bowl clean with the sleeve of his tunic. He drank some water and waited to see what Tipper was going to say.

“Sometime tomorrow or the day after we’ll be moving into Sharlok’s FreeHold.” She began, to which Adwin gave his usual noncommittal nod and Mokha just stared at the intensely bright aura that she was projecting. He’d not seen the like before and wondered if she was a mage or maybe even Eldra. Though he doubted it, he had not seen her cast a spell nor demonstrate the ability to draw energy.

She went on, “I hope we can maintain our pace, but given the fact there will be many more people around than what we’ve grown accustom to, there are bound to be unforeseen delays. I’d suggest being polite and moving on quickly. From our friends in Lekas we have learned that the present Lord Sharlok is an ambitious and confrontational ruler. He is actively seeking to expand his borders and already claims a ridiculously large domain.”

Mokha thought that she was taking this overly seriously, he took out a pipe he had made earlier in the day from a toadstool and a hollow dried reed he had found by a small roadside spring. He stuffed a pinch of Lef’s smoking mix into the pipe, it was a nice blend of tobacco, hemp and red-grass.

Adwin seemed to be taking everything she was saying very seriously. “Alright, so, why not just go around if you think it’s going to be a problem?”

Mokha snapped a long flame into being, it danced on the end of his index finger, he stuck it into the bowl of the pipe, inhaling once, twice and a third time. Big clouds of smoke puffed around his head. He coughed a couple times and cleared his throat. When he looked to the other two the conversation had stopped, Adwin’s mouth hung open in surprise and Tipper had risen to her feet, hand on the small hatchet she kept on her belt.

“Oh, excuse me, how rude. Did either of you want some?” He proffered the pipe.

Tipper’s voice had a dangerous edge to it, “You never said you were a mage.”

“Neither did you.”

That seemed to confuse her, he took a long haul on the pipe and enjoyed the relaxing sensation that spread through his body while at the same time his mind sharpened. So, she was likely not a mage, and if he was not careful she might leave him dead on the side of the road.

Adwin finally spoke up, “You’re a mage.”

“Of sorts. Not a very good one, but I know a few things. Though it generally works better with music.”

Tipper was still gripping the hatchet, ready to pull it free, “Are you a priest of the Illuminated Order?”

“Oh gods no!” He puffed.


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