Journey of the Messenger, Cycle 1 Part 1a

Journey of the Messenger, Cycle 1 Part 1a


Part 1) Ijah Gahm


Jander Town, now Janderton by the locals, once Els’Maritha, had been an anti-climatic experience in Ijah’s opinion. Ever since she and BogWalker had reached Brisken they had been hearing of the wondrous city of Jander Town. A fantastic place, built by a powerful earth-mage named Jander Probancruq, or so everyone had said. The truth was different than the stories however. Sure, the mage in question had built a great wall around his town, raised towers high above the hills, including the largest, most phallic tower she had ever seen. He had also created a number of other buildings of truly massive and unique architecture. More impressively, he had created an excellent water system for bringing fresh water to every house and had also allowed a second system to remove the waste from the town. There was a large smithy with a foundry for which the local druidess had built a filtration system to minimize the out-gassing. It was the cleanest town she had ever seen. There were the roads as well, perfectly built, surrounding the place for at least three days walking in any direction, with a way station every ‘yateer’, or about twenty-three suri. There were a couple of extensions that connected isolated, yet significant sounding communities, Bowder to the west and Trom to the east. Amazingly, the project was said to have had the blessing of the local wild-folk, built specifically to have a minimal impact on the lands around the town.

Yet, despite the intelligence, power and skill that had gone into creating the town there was only a small fraction of people living there as compared to what it had been built to accommodate. Including original residents, new residents and sightseers there were less than a thousand people in a town designed for five times that number. Also, the mage in question had been absent for the better part of a year and no one seemed to know where he had gone. The last anyone had seen him, Jander had flown off in a magic airship he and his dwarven friend had created. Meanwhile a mercenary from the Principalities and the local druidess had been left in charge of the place while he was away. They had instated one law: cannibal law. All crimes, from petty thievery to mass murder fell under that law. If you committed a crime in Janderton, you were fed to the cannibals. Ijah had been unsure if there were even any actual cannibals in the place, yet there was no crime, or at least no obvious crime, despite about a third of the population being transient.

There were other oddities about the place, namely the druidess and some of the things that she had created. There was a tavern, one of the few wooden structures in the town, made from living pear and apple trees that had been shaped together to form the building. The trees had somehow been forced to cross pollinate. Not only was the tavern made from living trees, but it was in bloom and producing fruit throughout the year; pears, apples and a hybrid of the two. The druidess was said to have made a number of hybrid spiders, one breed had been made to specifically hunt down goblins, they were as large as medium sized dogs. Ijah had seen one of them with her own eyes, truly it had been disturbing. There were rumours of other strange spider-creatures, but Ijah had not seen any of the those. By the decree of the druidess and in accordance to Jander’s willingness to keep the wild-folk happy, all the local woodlands were protected. Only a small fraction of the trees could be harvested each year, making wood more valuable than silver in Janderton.

According to the locals, the original locals, this had all come about in less than three years.

She had not been the only Kereshi who had been drawn to Janderton to investigate the claims of this magical city. There had been sisters from the GreensBridge operation, as well a remnant group from Elquin. Shortly after her arrival they all had met, outside of town, and shared their knowledge about what was going on locally. They took the time to transcribe the various reports the women from the three operational areas had been carrying, each group taking a copy of the other groups reports. A couple of the other women had actually met the druidess, only one of them had been present before Jander’s disappearance and her report on the man was not favourable. The general consensus was that Jander represented a threat to the Great Plan. Some of the women from the failed Elquin operation would be staying on to make sure Jander was killed. He was clearly the sort of mage, and the type of man, that had to be eliminated or the world would suffer for his existence. Some of them had felt the same about the druidess, though most of the women were uncomfortable making a judgment on her.

Ijah had stayed on a few days longer, mostly for the company of other Kereshi, partially to make sure she had a good first hand account of Janderton. A couple of days before her planned departure she had happened to meet one of the Aggedrah, a fellow by the name of Shak. They had spent an afternoon in the strange, living tavern and though he had only recently arrived he had additional information that none of her sisters had gleaned. According to Shak, not far from here, near Bowder, was a Rashammon opium plantation. The new baron, the southern born mercenary, had taken control of the operation and had freed the women who had been held captive there. Ijah was surprised that Rashammon had an operation this far east, and equally surprised that the mercenary had freed the enslaved women. He had not seemed the sort.

Her messengers satchel had increased in importance and value, especially with firsthand accounts regarding some of the tragic happenings in Elquin. She now had little choice but to make sure she reached East Port, West Port if you were from Maldorn, and see the messages delivered to the Kereshi there. They in turn would make sure it was taken back to the homeland. However, her main objective had not changed. At the request of the Swampdon Council and with the concurrence of her wives, her first objective was to seek out the sorceress, Igma Kalit and request her aid in dealing with the Tannican necromancers who had arrived at the front towards the end of last summer. The Council was of the opinion that the sorceress was the only one who may be able to help them, she reputedly was a good necromancer. Ijah was skeptical that such a thing could exist.

“Ijah! Come look at his.”

Ijah turned back, her initiate, a FreeHolder from the Swampdon area had stopped where Jander’s road had ended, she seemed to be studying the spot where the new road became the old road. Their pack horse was not far from the girl, munching on scrag-grass.

“BogWalker! Let’s keep moving.”

The girl gathered the reigns of the horse and jogged towards Ijah. She was tall, lanky and late to bloom into womanhood. Pale skinned, despite living most of her life outside with icey blue eyes and light brown hair, she was all elbows and knees. Ijah felt bad for the girl. She was slow to learn and despite over two years of initiate training she had not developed a bit a gracefulness. In other aspects she was more fortunate than most freeholders, she had been born into a matriarchal family and as a child she had been raised living in the swamplands. She knew more about surviving in the wilds than most people twice her age.

“Did you notice the way the mage’s road was finished? How it connected to the old road?”

“I saw. What of it?”

“It was as if the stone was liquid.”

“He is an earth mage.”

“Yeah, no-kidding. That’s why he’s famous right. Imagine building that place and all those roads in three years. Do you think when we come back this way we can stop here?”

“I don’t expect to come back this way. But if we do, you can be assured that we will be stopping there again.”

She gave a quick nod and jumped to the next subject that popped into her mind, “So, the locals, I mean the real locals, they say the sands of the Sudakkar have been encroaching faster and faster over the last few generations. They said they’d lost over six towns in the last thirty years! Parts of what used to be Allark’s Hold and are now wasteland, scrub grass and ruins. Ever since the orcs came here. You know they say there are still orcs in the wasteland. Never expected that, not this far south.”

“How about less talking and more walking. Here, actually, let me check the horse first. Wretched animal.”

“Sure, you got her.” BogWalker dropped the reigns and headed southward. They had moved into the Gallator Barony of Allark’s Hold earlier in the day. It was a sparsely populated area. They had passed by two villages so far and they had both been crowded behind modest defensive walls with few outlying homesteads. There was an air of desperation at both villages.

The horse and equipment were fine, if the old nag survived the journey she would only be good for a glue pot by the end of it. Ijah followed along behind BogWalker for the next many hours, they crossed a couple of low lying fields and dry, spring-time streams. Much of the land was likewise dry, the plants sparse or struggling, scattered pines and small copses of spindly trees dotted the countryside westward. At one point they actually passed over a small drifting of sand, perhaps two rogh high, that had accumulated across the road. It did seem as if the Sudakkar was encroaching into the area. This was contrary to earlier information she had been provided. Her people had believed that the wild-folk once built and maintained earth-machines throughout the wasteland, and those machines kept the sands at bay and a large swath of the arid land had been green and fertile. Based on the maps they had started the mission with, the region known as the Sudakkar Wastelands should have been about 300 suri southeast, mostly along the northward side of the continent’s southern mountains, now called the Maldorn Mountains. She would make a note of it and talk to the mapmaker when she was in East Port.

After catching up to BogWalker, the girl had kept silent for many more suri, they moved through the land, walking together for the rest of the afternoon. Near sunset they saw a keep and small town in the distance, but they made their camp out in the wilds, a few suri from the nearest outlaying homestead. There were a lot of goats and sheep, though the crop fields looked like they would only provide enough food for the locals. The two of them ate hard bread and dried meat, drank some water and looked after the horse. They threw a tarp down and a couple blankets, hung their clothing in nearby bushes and lay down together to share body warmth, though it was summertime across the northern continent Ijah still found the nights cool.



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