Lord Parli Peppia Probancruq was on a mission. His brother was in trouble and he intended to make sure Jander knew what troubles were heading his way.
There had been rumours over the last few years that Jander had run off to serve some bumpkin FreeHolder lord. Certainly his oldest brother was not a topic that was brought up in casual conversation around the rest of the family anymore, especially their father. Though it seemed Jander, the third of his name, had made his own mark on the world just like he had always bragged. In fact, he had built his own city of magic towers, off in the Kaffern Hills in a place called, or once called, Els’ Maritha. According to the information Parli had collected, everyone now called the place Jander Town or Jander’s Town.
Of course, Parli and anyone else who would listen to Jander knew just what a wonderfully powerful mage he was, gifted beyond most others. One of a thousand to be a mage so powerful, one in a thousand to be a mage at all. When they were younger Parli had been so very jealous of his brother. He had always hoped he too would have a talent for magic; his family line was well known for consistently producing gifted children. Yet, of his siblings only Jander and little Kavassa had been so blessed, the first born and the last born had the gift, the other seven did not.
The downside of being a mage in GreensBridge, or so Jander had said, was his fellow mages and the staid institution known as the Arcanium. Officially, they were concerned with protecting the city from dangerous magic and powerful artifacts. While Jander’s opinion was that they kept control of magic, not to protect people, but rather for the sake of controlling magic and the people born with the gift. He had claimed that within the Arcanium’s Red Tower were thousands upon thousands of magic artifacts hidden away that would be helpful, not harmful, to the people of the city.
That was at least part of the reason Jander had left GreensBridge. Parli also knew that Jander had left to escape his birthright. A very gifted mage he may have been, but Jander did not have a disposition for warfare or personal combat. In fact, his one claim to martial fame had been winning the light-weight unarmed combat competition one summer while attending university. A competition where the majority of participants had been well-to-do women. As his father’s heir, Jander would have eventually become the Warden of the Western March. A title that came with the responsibility of commanding one third of GreensBridge’s military forces.
Jander was not the sort who would train with sword and lance, nor did he much like horses. He did enjoy reading and sitting by a window, watching the world outside. He enjoyed research and writing papers, delivering oral presentations. He had done very well at GreensBridge University. He had been the first mage in many generations who had mastered earth magic. Parli was not sure how that had come about, such lore was said to have been forever lost after the last Elemental War. Regardless, Jander had graduated with high honours and the expectation, beyond his birthright, was that he would become a high ranking member of the Arcanium.
Many of the powerful families had expected that Jander would eventually become the Count of GreensBridge. Instead he threw it all by the wayside, in favour of pursuing his own goals away from the scrutiny of his peers in the Arcanium, away from the duties of his birthright and the expectations of family.
Truly, Parli was ferociously proud of his oldest brother.
So, when he had heard the rumours that the Warders of the Arcanium were planning an expedition to Els’Maritha, with the intent of reigning Jander in and bringing him to justice for breaking the rules of the Arcanium, he had decided that he would be there first. He would warn his brother that the Arcanium was coming after him. It had seemed like a good idea at the time.
Now he was less sure. Heavy winds gusted from the northeast, sleet, rain and hail had been coming down since before dawn. The Green Road was now covered in a layer of crunchy, frozen precipitation. Given the direction that he was headed, he had no choice but to ride into the wind. His cloak was partially wet, partially frozen and no matter how tightly he clasped it, the gusts often blew his hood down off his head. Realistically he had expected to face some bad weather, there were reasons most people did not travel this early in the spring. However, the reality of it far exceeded his expectations.
He glanced behind, to make sure his travel companions were still with him. He had hired the two sell-swords on a recommendation from one of his friends. Not that he had told anyone what his intent was, but he had made a number of inquiries regarding the hiring of protection. After all, he could not take any of his family’s household guards or servants, not without jeopardizing his plans before he had even set out. So, while there were no mercenary companies operating out of GreensBridge, there were always brawny people looking for work. While such folks were often hired to protect caravans and thankfully they typically were quite capable of surviving in the wilds, Parli had been hard pressed to find anyone willing to leave so early in the spring.
Still, he had offered generous rates and the two he had hired did not seem to mind the idea of an early departure from the city. He wondered if they were regretting that decision today.
Time seemed to pass slowly as they made their way eastward. The weather was relentless. Parli let his mind wander, as usual it drifted towards thoughts and imaginings of some of the women he had spent time with over the past year. At first it help keep him warm. He wondered if his gift was with women. There were few who could resist him; his good looks, dashing demeanour, his excellent taste in clothing, even his family name all lent themselves to women being unable to resist his charms.
There was that woman Tipper who had repeatedly brushed him off during the early parts of the winter semester. As well, the followers of Thray’s teachings were generally disinclined towards anything that may be considered fun. Otherwise everyone else seemed to find him irresistible. His solstice orgy had been very well attended, people would be talking about it for years, he assumed.
A gust of wind pulled his hood down again and little icy needles stung his face. He struggled for a while to get his hood back in place. One of his hirelings had come up alongside him, bundled as he was Parli could not tell which hireling it was. He was pointing ahead of them and shouting, trying to be heard over the wind and the falling ice. “… dangerous, my lord. We should seek shelter…” The wind gusted, drowning out the man’s words, though he pointed ahead of them again.
Parli scanned the way forward and noticed enough precipitation had accumulated that it was difficult to tell where the road was. Ahead and to the left he could see the darker shapes of buildings. He stood up in his stirrups, alarmed by the amount of ice and snow he shed, and looked back. His other hireling lead the pack horse and trailed behind by about fifteen paces. Parli sat down and looked to the nearer sell-sword, “We should seek shelter at those buildings!”
“Good idea, my lord!”
Parli lead the way towards the buildings. They came to an inn and stables, there were other buildings nearby. Parli could smell wood smoke and cooking food. The sign above the door read Crossroads Inn. They dismounted and lead the horses to the barn, the two structures offered some relief from the weather. They pounded on the barns main door for some time before anyone responded, though it was the smaller door off to one side that opened, only the top half. A bearded fellow looked out at them, he seemed surprised.
Parli moved towards him, “My good man, could you be so kind as to open the doors?”
“Ya, right. But it’ll be this one here. Big door would let all the heat out.” He struggled to get the lower half of the door opened and after a moment resorted to smacking the frame with a wooden mallet until it unstuck.
“Ya’ll need to unpack the carry-horse, won’t fit otherwise.”
Parli lead his horse through as his hirelings dealt with the luggage. All the cows, goats, horses and chickens had keep the place decently warm. There were two other men and a handful of youth sheltering here. Parli asked, “Who is it that owns this establishment?”
“Marshal Blue Butterfly, but Mangus Reedman runs the establishment for her.”
“Aye, I think Mangus might be a Maldorn name.”
Parli looked at the scruffy youth but was unsure if the kid was having fun with him or not. “Is Master Reedman over at the inn?”
“That he be, sir.”
Parli went to find Mangus Reedman, thinking it might be a good idea to take a couple days of rest.