19 March 2012
Present: Ferrisa, Frelest, Goran, Wulfric, Zanatos
Two pyres were built: a crude pile of sticks for the bandits and a proper funerary pyre to honorably send the family of Hralf Haraldsunu to the afterlife. Gates were repaired, outbuildings secured and provisions gathered from the stores of Hralf.
While two of the party remained at their newly-won stead, the others continued north toward Aslov. A lone rider on horseback approached from the way they had come, a large man with long auburn hair and long beard gathered in braids. He wore a bright chain shirt, bore a gold/black round shield on one arm and gripped a long single-bladed battleaxe in the other. After a wary moment, the party exchanged greetings with Aethelred the Tall, whose keep stood nearby to the stead of Hralf. A small village lay several miles farther west and the folk there considered Aethelred their Hearthmaster, for he was mighty in battle and fair-minded. He sought an accounting of the events at Aethelred’s stead and the party’s story, corroborated by so many witnesses, among them Iron Guild warriors, was deemed truthful and sufficient. Aethelred offered to speak with them further when they returned to the stead to take up residence, then galloped back south.
After another day’s travel, the party entered the fertile farms and fields that surrounded Aslov. The Icebarrier mountains towered in the distance and the black smoke of many fires issued from the walled city of Aslov. The farm folk of the outlying steads gazed northward in wonder and worry. Two days ago the fires had started, they said. Refugees from the north, fleeing famine and war, clustered around the three great gates of the city. Others, unwilling to wait patiently to die of starvation, headed south.
It was decided to send Zanatos ahead to make contact with the recipients of the grain and iron, and to arrange for protection of the caravan from the throngs outside the gate. Moving quickly and with purpose, Zanatos completed his mission unhindered, except by desperate folk begging for food or coin. Twenty guards of the town constabulary would emerge to form a shield wall around the wagons and escort them to the High Quarter. The Iron Guild, whose mission it is to protect caravans and trade routes, would provide no assistance without payment.
The party approached the Great South Gate and dozens of refugees pressed forward seeking food. The constables emerged with clubs and shields to keep the throng at bay, but several among the crowd were armed and attempting to incite violence. A single sword thrust toward an Iron Guild guard but he cracked his spear haft on the hand that wielded it, after which a mighty warcry from Wulfric cowed the remaining instigators. The party passed within the South Gate without further incident.
Aslov looked like a city under siege. Smoke rose from many parts of the city, especially near the city’s mill. There had been a food riot two days earlier and the streets were filled with the starving and dead. Aslov guardsmen and private mercenaries hired by the city’s many merchants were posted at every important intersection and building, giving the impression of martial law. The mill was surrounded by burning wreckage and cordoned by guards who allowed no one to enter or leave the block. Grain and flour was now raised and lowered to the site from the High Quarter wall on makeshift lifts.
Shipments were finally delivered: grain to the granaries, supervised by a young lad named Wilkin who had responsibility beyond his tender years, and steel to a representative of the High Constable. The party’s diligence and sense of duty were recognized with a referral to Rodgar ap-Annwn, a merchant in need of security for his own shipments. He would meet them that evening at the Last Chance Tavern by the South Gate.
In the interim, Goran volunteered his services to the Sisters of Mercy at White House, the nearest thing Aslov had to a hospital. Zanatos and Frelest sought knowledge at the library of the Temple of Var.
The party arrived at the Last Chance and made the acquaintance of the proprietor, a retired Hearth Knight named Jorg Nader, who told tales of battles beyond the Icebarrier. Rodgar arrived late and joined the group for a round of drinks. The city was still well-stocked with drink but food was scarce. His proposal: take a wagon to the mill town of Dunross, pick up a shipment of flour and bring it to the baker at Dalsetter. The flour would be worth its weight in gold scields and must be protected from harm and theft. He provided the group with a map of the area around Aslov. They set out with the empty wagon the next day at first light, heading southwest to Dunross.
A small raiding band of orcs of the Eye Piercer tribe, know for their archery and black garb, botched an ambush and the party defeated them with steel and coldfire. One of the two Iron Guild guards was brought back from the brink of death as Goran healed a grievous arrow wound. Several miles on, the party discovered a dead horse and rider, possibly killed by the same Eye Piercers. The rider carried a note from Dunross to Aslov about a plague of rats that threatened their grain supplies and very survival.
As the sun set they discovered a travel tower of the Road Wardens, built at intervals along trade routes to provide shelter to travelers. The tower was deserted but an empty wagon and two dead draft horses were found outside. Each horse bore the bite marks of some animal and the wagon cover bore the emblem of Dunross, crossed barley sheaves over the letter D. Inside were the skeletons of two people, flesh gone and gnawed to the bone. Rats were suspected, in great numbers and of unusual ferocity. The party moved everyone, including the horses, inside the tower and barred the door for the night.