Tales of a Horse Thief, Cycle 2 Part 7e

Tales of a Horse Thief, Cycle 2 Part 7e

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As the final few days of their stay in GreensBridge passed, the city underwent a noticeable change. Labourers started returning from the countryside, those employed at the larger farms who’s late summer crops had been harvested and who’s autumn crops were not a significant part of their operations. As well, folks from the Marches came into the city for the harvest festival, which ran for the three eight-day period during the beginning of autumn. With pouches full of weight, folks crowded the markets and shops, buying goods and supplies for the upcoming winter.

Loden and Asta had discussed their travel plans, he had surprised himself when he offered no resistance to her intent to head for Swampdon. Their timing was such that they should be able to reach the city in the trees before the winter settled. If they were delayed and forced to winter somewhere other than their intended destination then they had the weight they would need to accommodate themselves.

He was having a difficult time arranging their supplies. Despite the large saddlebags, sacks and tarps he had purchased from Roburns, they were inundated with support from the temple. The priestesses had brought warm clothing, food and medical supplies. The small room they shared was crowded with their equipment, Loden spent a considerable amount of time during those last few days organizing and reorganizing everything in an attempt to make it all fit on three horses. He eventually decided that they would need a fourth horse.

Peyla had given them some food, though she informed him that it had been magically fortified and should last through the winter so long as it did not get wet. She claimed that one of the small loaves would sustain them through a day. She had given them four compact bundles, each of eight loaves. Each loaf was wrapped in waxed paper, each bundle wrapped in an oil skin and then rolled up in a sack. Loden had been deeply effected by the gift, he regretted that she had not been interested in travelling with them.

On the appointed day, Loden returned to the Grey District to get the ammunition. The streets were busy, often crowded, it took him longer to get to the artificer’s establishment than expected. He was extra alert for pickpockets and had decided to wear his harness, hoping such a display would dissuade the more opportunistic thieves. At one point he spotted a goblin trailing him, seemingly the same fellow that had previously been curious about him, as he was still wearing a sack with beans stencilled out in bold letters. However, the little monster did not follow him into the dwarven area of the city.

He did not meet with the artificer again and was instead served by one of the man’s younger kin. Thankfully introductions only took up the late morning. He was more than pleased with what he was given. In addition to one hundred prepared cartridges, packed in two sturdy wooden boxes, he was given a new harness with a reinforced pouch that held a dozen prepared rounds, and a set of cleaning tools. When he inquired about the short swords he was told the master would be crafting those blades over the next couple of years, they would be held in expectation of his return. He thanked the young dwarf who had served him and made his way back to the inn without mishap.

On Asta’s suggestion he had sent a note to Gor Shardarahn, informing the man of his intent to purchase three or four of his best riding horses. A message was returned confirming his appointment. In expectation of making said purchase Loden had sold off some of his valuables. While that interaction had been somewhat unusual, the money lender had been more than happy with the transaction and Loden had nearly eight bars worth of gold. He had also kept a pouch of the more transportable Eldra pieces; bracelets, broaches, rings and small figurines.

The day of their planned departure, dozens of priestesses had turned out to see them off and a wagon had been provided by the temple to transport them and their gear to the Tannican District. They had a slight delay as they waited for the last of the food to be delivered, but not long after sunrise he loaded three large sacks of beans into the back of the wagon. He was amused to note the sacks had been boldly labelled with what they contained, reminding him of the not so sneaky goblin that he had seen in the Grey District.

Crossing the bridge from the main island to the Tannican District was the first chance Loden had to get a close look at the famous structures that had given the city its name. He was amazed by what he saw and knew he was looking at one of the smaller bridges. The arch of the bridge levelled to a flat stretch, a third of the length of the structure, four statues of dancers were above the main support columns. All the statues were covered in bird droppings. The bridge was nearly half a yat long, the river churned below them.

They passed under a fortified gate at the far end of the bridge, disinterested guards looked on as they went by. Loden noted that the gate looked like it had been built by the Brv-rocht. The island of the Tannican District was smaller than the main island of GreensBridge, maybe a quarter the size. It was still decently populated with a variety of peoples, though there was a noticeable dominance of Tannicans. Certainly the Cathedral of Light tried to dominate the centre of the island, but one could still see plenty of the ancient Eldra structures in all directions. The domes and spires of the Tannican buildings seemed out of place, surrounded by a hodgepodge of freeholds structures.

Distracted as he was with sight-seeing it took a while for him to notice certain oddities going on around him. He had seen a small group of armed men near the docks and warehouses, again as they rolled past a series of grain silos. Furthermore, there were people up on some of the roofs, and it was one of them signalling to another of his fellows that drew Loden’s attention to their presence.

They came to a wide boulevard leading towards the western gates, there too he saw a couple of small groups of armed men at ground level and a few others scattered across various rooftops. The majority of these people were certainly Tannican.

The priestess driving the wagon moved to the side of the road in front of a large stone stables, nearby there were other similar holding areas for various livestock. As they unloaded the wagon, placing their belongings just inside the property gate, a couple of Tannicans came out of the stables. Loden greeted them, “Good day gentlemen. I’m Loden, I’ve an appointment.”

The younger man said, “Yes, of course. I’ve brought a number of our best riding animals to the yard. This way.”

Loden gave a nod then quietly said to Asta, “Once everything is unloaded, send your associate back and keep an eye on our goods. Something is going on. Expect trouble.”

She smiled and nodded, giving the Tannicans a sideways glance.

Loden followed the men to the nearby yard and was happy to see nearly a dozen beautiful horses had been brought out for him to look at. Along a fence were saddles and other gear. He did not waste much time and asked for the four horses that were black, or mostly so, to be brought over. Feeling a sense of urgency he quickly inspected them.

He chose three of the first four animals and encouraged the younger man to get two of them saddled as he asked the older fellow to bring one of the other animals over. This one was mostly white with brown socks and a swatch of brown across its forehead. He was looking her over when the bells of the cathedral tolled, the horse flipped her ears at the noise. The bells rang a dozen times, though it was not yet the ninth hour of the day.

As he started to negotiate the price with the older man he took the white horse over to the others, he put bridles and leads on two of the horses as the young man finished securing the second saddle. As he was doing this a score of men, riding two abreast exited from the stables on large warhorses, the men riding them were Tannican and all were armed. He noticed the two men he had been dealing with made a point of not paying attention to the departing cohort.

He made a pretense of being concerned about whether or not Asta would be satisfied with the horses and led a couple over to the gate as he continued to negotiate. “I’d been hoping for a matched set, so unless you have another black horse of the same quality I can only offer you five bars for these animals.”

The older man was clearly dismissive of this line of reasoning, “These are the finest horses east of Rogh Mohk Talh, eight bars is a generous price.”

The younger man’s attention was torn between the business at hand, Asta’s shapely figure and whatever was going on off towards the gates. Loden noted the score of mounted men that had just departed paraded off towards the centre of the island.

He put saddle bags on one of the horses, secured Asta’s bedroll and suggested she should mount and see how the horse responded. He gave her a hand up, as she seemed a bit intimidated by the tall horse. “These are in fact fine horses, but one can easily see that you have not given me the best of your horses. Six bars is a fair price.”

The older man scoffed, “You likely don’t–” A shrill whistle sounded from the direction of the gate. Whatever the man had been about to say was cut short as he glanced in that direction.

The younger fellow asked, “What’s going on?”

From the area of the gate a chorus of shouts and screams rose. Another whistle sounded towards the centre of the island. Loden hastily checked the saddle the young fellow had put on the other horse. The older man went to the yard’s gate and started to secure it. A small group of men ran along the road, an assortment of weapons in hand.

There were more whistles, shouts, a nearby scream, the horses were getting agitated. Loden took hold of the reins of one of the horses and tried to calm it. Asta seemed fine, though her horse was skittish, she was looking around at what was happening beyond the yard.

Loden asked the younger fellow, “Give me a hand.” As the youth talked calmly to the horse, Loden started securing the extra supplies. It was not a great job. The youth seemed genuinely confused as to what was going on, but a glance to the older fellow showed him watching events beyond the yard with expectant enthusiasm.

Loden picked up the shovel he had bought, walked over to the gate and knocked the other man upside the head as he was distracted. Asta had managed to gather the lead for the other two horses. Loden swung the gate wide. He had not been able to load all the equipment yet, so he grabbed his saddle bags and bedroll and mounted. The young man fled towards the stables.

Loden glanced to Asta, she nodded. Putting heals to flanks, they raced towards the bridge and the gatehouse which was presently under attack by Tannicans. There were bodies in the street and more around the gatehouse, Loden could see that the Tannicans had already forced their way in, though the gates remained open. He and Asta passed through, racing for the far end of the bridge, ahead of them, people scattered out of the way.


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