Grange had been around for a while, longer than most. He knew the lay of the land and he knew people. As well, far more esoteric things; the cycles of nature, the lay of the stars and the lore of the Rovers.
He was no sage but he was a thoughtful man and not really a mage, though when most of your family dabbles in the arts you tend to pick up a bit. He knew war when he saw it coming and he certainly knew war when it was coming for him.
He also knew the horrors of war better than most of the folk around him these days. There were still a few who remembered the Winter War, still a handful or two in Wikkersak who had fought on one side or the other. Though, sadly, even they seemed to have forgotten the worst things that happened during that time and almost none of them understood that the fever came because of the war. Or, if it had not been the war, the war had made it worse.
Either way, since his niece had shown up with news of a mind-mage in Aramy, six days ago, and asked his help to smuggle a couple of her friends to safety, he had seen more than enough to understand turbulent change was coming his way.
He had not yet returned home since he had rolled into Wikkersak early in the afternoon. He had seen his oldest at the yards, and told him to make sure news of his return reached home. Still with the grime of the road about him, he sat at his desk, filed the log of his just finished trip around Sharlok’s Hold and tended to updating his will and the business papers.
Grange looked up from the books he had been working on, Dorn stood in the door of the office.
“Yes Dorn, problem?”
“No boss, just thought you might want to know, I just booked another two people for the next coach.”
“Sounds good, looks like we can keep the large coach at the ready then.”
“Aye, that’s what I figured.”
“Are you able to meet me back here this tonight, after the evening meal, a bit after sunset?”
Dorn gave a surprised look, “Sure thing boss. Problems?”
Grange let out a breath, somewhere between sigh and a snort, “Of a sort, though it’s mostly business. I’ll fill you in this evening.”
“Very best. I might take off a bit early then?” A brief look of concern clouded Dorn’s face.
Grange nodded and dipped the quill he held into the inkwell, “Sounds good.”
“Right then, Palk is out in the yard if you need anything.” Dorn turned and his footsteps receded to the far end of the building.
As he continued writing out the third copy of his will, Grange’s mind drifted back to the first time he had met a representative from the Roburns Transport Compnay. Ignat Kroftof from High Fort, nearly thirty years ago in GreensBridge. The man had gone on so confidently about how his company would be delivering people and letters from one end of the continent to the other and that good roads and waterways were the smartest investment to make in any area you wished to do business with.
Skeptical though he had been, it was that conversation that later would spawn his own business here in Wikkersak not long after he had decided to settle down, away from his birth family. Before Roburns Trading Compnay had even set up a road or a relay station anywhere near Sharlok’s Hold. Grange had done well for himself, especially during the first dozen years.
Now Roburns Trading Company were offering cheaper rates than Grange could compete with and their road project had the full support of the ever ambitious Lord of the Hold. Most recently the Lord of the Eastern Reach had sold prime land within the town of Wikkersak to Roburns. Lastly along with the other dire news, his niece had told him that a Roburns survey team had moved through Darner’s Hold, looking to hook their main route up to a copper mine the Maldorn military had in the Northern Sudakkar Waste. Apparently the mine had been there for nearly a decade now and the family was in a bit of a tizzy. The rest of the news Tipper had brought was too grim to think about right now. Though it was the sort of thing he could not ignore.
Everyone was worried about the Tannicans, no one could see what the Maldorn were doing.
When Grange had finished his book work he gathered his cloak, hat and short sword from the chair by the office door then he retrieved the small sack of items his niece had left for him. He checked the doors and windows to make sure they were shut and also checked to make sure no one had left lamps, candles nor either of the small stoves active.
He moved through the heart of the city of Wikkersak, though to his reckoning it was little more than a glorified town, to the northern end where the modestly well-to-do had decided to make a community. Many of the buildings in this area had been Elquin in origin, some of them many hundreds of years old. Though, like his own small homestead, some folks had chosen to rebuild, typically taking up more than one of the older Elquin properties, reusing the old stone and the foundations where they were able.
Someone had followed him from the company yards, nearly to home. That someone was one of the marshal’s men, Grange recognized him, though he was typically assigned to the south end of town. It appeared things might be moving a bit quicker than he expected. Still, the course ahead was clear and he did not let on that he was aware of being followed.
He entered his property by the carriage gate and ambled casually down the lane to the carriage house, waved to his wife when she stepped out the kitchen door.
“I’ll be in after a while, I’ll clean up first.”
“I’ll put clothes on the porch for you.”
He nodded. He spotted his oldest across the main yard splitting fire wood. It made him think of the luxury he may have to leave behind. He waved his son over and stepped into the carriage house.
He dragged out the harnessing for a two horse team, his son arriving in time to help him lay it out. Then they opened the main doors and inspected the wheels and axles of the family carriage, sound as he knew they would be, but still better to check before it was needed. After the inspection Grange made sure the doors were shut then he asked his son to prepare the carriage for a long trip, two extra wheels, full covering protection from the sun, extra water and fuel for the lanterns.
“Pa, where are we going?”
“You’ll hear in a bit, if you have any light left after the carriage is prepared, you might want to see to the saddles for a couple of the horses.”
His son was burning with curiosity, but thankfully had learned a long time ago that listening to his father was a good idea. He left him to the assigned tasks and went to the main trough near the well pump to clean up.
As he was getting dressed on the porch his wife came out and gave him a hug, “Oh, I missed you. Worried about whatever mischief you and you niece were cooking up.”
“Everything went well in that regard.”
“Good. Any big news?”
“Lord Sharlok has set up a training camp just a bit north of the southern border tower.”
“The one near Bowder?”
“Yes, that one. Sharlok also has asked his lords to raise an additional levy to be sent there for training.”
“What’s he need another army for?”
“I’d imagine he’s planning another campaign.”
“Where? For what?”
“That’s the real question, but certainly it follows his previous pre-campaign buildups. Maybe Williks or Allark’s Hold.”
“Whatever for? That’s too far away.”
“Well, we can eat whenever you want.”
“I’m going to walk around the property. Then I’ll want to sit down with everyone before we eat.”
“Tad is over at my sisters. Should I get her?” His wife’s voice had gone a bit higher, concern crinkled her brow.
“No, she’s too young to really understand at this point. But I’ll explain before we eat.” He gave her shoulder a reassuring squeeze and kissed her cheek.
The walk around his property did not take long, he made sure the back gate was secured, gave the outbuildings a quick inspection making sure shutters were latched.
One of his neighbours called out across the back wall, “You expecting a storm Grange?” Folk tended to trust his weather sense over most others.
“Not as I can sense. Cooling wind from the north later, might bring light showers.”
“Right then. Have a good evening.”
“You too, peace be with you.”