Journey of the Messenger, Cycle 1 Part 2a

Journey of the Messenger, Cycle 1 Part 2a

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Part 2) Berri


Berri BogWalker had volunteered to travel with Ijah for any number of good reasons. The first and most important to her was getting away from her family. Away from her aunts, cousins and her mother who all too often looked on her with pity or disappointment, as if it were her fault she had not started dribbling blood from between her legs or had not bloomed into a mature woman. As if it was her fault she had not presented as the ideal of beauty that most of her female relatives were considered to be.

What did it matter if someone else considered you beautiful? Especially since most of her family lived their entire lives in a stinking swamp.

The second reason she had volunteered to escort the Kereshi messenger on her southern excursion was for the chance to see more of the world. When would she ever get the chance again to travel south, to meet the famous sorceress, Igma Kalit? To see places like the Republic of Caffern or the Kingdom of Maldorn, GreensBridge or even Brisken? Most of her kin had never left the Swampdon area, a good number had never even left the swamp.

What was the point of life if you only ever did what everyone else you knew had done? There was more to life than herbs, catfish and hunting trolls.

The third reason was Ijah herself. Not because she was the most amazing woman Berri had ever met, which she was. Nor was it the fact that Ijah possessed the calm assurance and deadly physique that put even Berri’s most capable kin on their guard. Nor even the fact that Ijah had become something of a living legend in and around Swampdon, ever since the war started. Nor the fact that Berri owed her a life debt, twice over. Those were all good reasons and maybe they all helped make Berri feel the way she did, Ijah inspired her to be the best Berri she could be.

Given the choice of being inspired or mucking around in a miserable swamp, who would choose not to be inspired?

Berri’s mind snapped into focus when she spotted the bodies. She stopped, gathered Horse’s lead and observed. Two men, or what was left of them after the dogs, wyrms and insects had their way with the corpses. They had still been on the move when Ijah had caught up to them and neither of them had put up much of a fight. She draped Horse’s lead over a bush and circled the area, the bodies had nearly been picked clean, only insects had much interest in what was left. She spotted a couple of crow feathers, the tracks of a pseudo-vulture and a larger four legged wyrm, something the size of a wolf and plenty of dog tracks, maybe as many as a dozen. She saw a castoff rag of clothing that had been used to wipe a blade clean and she found Ijah’s tracks. Oddly the trail lead eastward.

Berri looked to the east, saw nothing of interest then spent a few moments looking southward. Either direction offered open plains and there was no indication as to why Ijah had gone east instead of south. The Madden Hills were three or so days south of here, to the east the wastelands were a bit over a day away, that was the picture Berri held in her mind from when she had looked the maps over, at least. Maybe she had misread something, that happened often enough, though more so with words than images.

Or maybe she had missed something here? Had someone ran off eastward and Ijah followed? She circled back around the mess and gathered Horse’s lead, then headed eastward for a while. There was no sign that anyone but Ijah had gone this way. She followed the trail for a couple of yat and still found nothing to indicate why the Kereshi had gone east, she certainly had not been in a hurry, judging by the consistently shorter than usual stride. Had the woman travelled through the night? She studied the eastern horizon for a while but saw no movement nor anything that gave reason for this divergence.

“What do you think Horse? Maybe she got knocked on the head and wandered into the wasteland to die?” Horse did not respond with anything more informative than a flick of her tail, a few flies buzzed around.

“I don’t see much point in going that way. Come on, south is where we need to be heading.”

Berri kept part of her attention on the terrain, but soon her mind was wandering again, jumping from thought to thought as it always did. She wondered why there were wyrms this far south, why Ijah had gone east, if the Madden Hills were really haunted. What was going on with the war against the Tannicans, were her sisters behaving themselves, why were there two moons and how come one of them was often out in the day?

Many yat later she stopped to make camp, fed herself, gave Horse a few of the withered carrots that the kind folks from Pesh had given her after delivering the girls to safety. Not really girls, young women. They had been so grateful for her help getting them home and their kin had been overly demonstrative of their appreciation. It had been strange being treated like some sort of returning hero, especially considering she had not really done much. Regardless, the families had come together and held a feast in Berri’s honour. When she left the next morning they had sent her off with loaves of fresh bread, a round of cheese and a sack of last years root vegetables for Horse.

She settled onto her bedroll, her thoughts drifting towards the time she and Ijah had spent in Janderton. That place had been something else! Imagine being so powerful you could raise walls and monumental sized buildings from the ground itself. She had been disappointed when they had not stayed long in GreensBridge, barely ventured off the docks. They had only been there long enough for Ijah to exchange information with the other Kereshi. However, after they had arrived at Janderton, Ijah had told her that they would be staying for a number of days and they had investigated the town thoroughly.

There had been a common hall which had been anything but common, in fact it had been one of two buildings that had really stood out as being unique, as compared to all the rest of the amazing architecture the mage had created. Aside from its unusually angled roof and bulbous walls, the eastern quarter of the building had windows of shaped crystal, even the east end of the roof was of crystal. The mage, Jander, had built the structure to encompass a proud oak and a beautiful indoor garden had been created around that tree. Fountains and pools were plentiful, people often came to bathe.

Not to mention the rest of the great hall had consisted of two and a half levels of wide open chambers through the central axis of the building, larger than the great halls of any freehold lord. There were six stairwells, two spiral ramps down into the eastern garden from the second level and so many cunning little nooks and crannies. The upper half-level was an inside balcony overlooking the lower second floor and parts of the garden area, private alcoves had been evenly spaced where one could observe without being observed. Most amazingly there was only one obvious support column, built at the point where stone and transparent crystal met, where all the odd angles of the roof also met and the ramps from the ground floor to the second level spiralled around.

Above her, Berri noticed the cloud cover slipping away, the stars appeared and Masri, near full, cast its pale light across the landscape. Though she was tired, her mind still raced. She started counting stars, much as she had done during the three previous campaign seasons when the war and the threat of violence had kept her awake. As she counted the stars she wondered what was happening this year with the war.

So far Swampdon had not let the Tannicans get closer than a hundred yat from the city, most of the fighting had taken place much further out than that. Thanks mostly to the horde of Pwhanna that had arrived the same summer as the Tannicans. Not to mention, the arrival of a freeholds army, four months later, consisting of folks from all over the eastern freeholds and many hundreds of Loopee from the foothills, lead by an odd assortment of various freeholds clergy. The Tannican army had been shattered and as autumn had started to settle across the land, bringing frost and turning the colour of the leaves, the surviving Tannicans had retreated westward.

However, the Tannicans had returned the following year with two armies and more siege platforms, war-wyrms and heavy cavalry…

Berri’s thoughts slowly became muddled, she had counted well over two thousand stars before sleep finally came.


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