Here is the second Chapter of my second major story. Now Kendall and his new friends have arrived back in Elversult, and they are just beginning to see the scope of things that are facing their home.
If anyone would like to volunteer to beta the coming chapters please email me at concerns and questions are welcome comments deemed malicious will be filed in the appropriate place.
The concept of Immortality as used here is originally the property of Panzer/Davis and Rysher, I may have altered it a little to suit. Forgotten Realms are owned by TSR publishing. The Cleric Quintet is a series of books written by R.A. Salvatore and set in the Forgotten Realms. The character of Kendall Sackett is loosely based on the Sackett family first introduced by Louis L'amour in his western novels. No copyright infringement is intended. This story is free to read, and to share as long as my pen name is attached to it. It is not intended for paid publishing in any way.
'So, this is Elversult.' That was the first thought that came into my head as the walls of the city came into sight. It had been a long ride from Spirit Soaring, instead of retracing our route directly north back the way we came, we chose an alternate route home. First we struck east from the Library until we left the mountains near Caradoon, then we headed north east across the Shining Plains until we reached the Long Arm River. We followed that around the north shore of the Lake of the Long Arm. Apparently Renley's ancestral home was located at the other end of that lake, where the river continued on at a place called Long Arm Ford.
Once we passed the Northern shore of the Lake of the Long Arm we picked up the road from Starmantle to Teziir. From Teziir we headed west back to Elversult. Apparently although this route was longer than the one they took to Spirit Soaring, the better terrain and the fact we were able to use a road for part of the journey actually made this route faster.
The most unusual thing that happened on the journey was when a group of insect people tried to kidnap Morgellyn from the party. The Thri-Kreen, as I found they were called later, either has a taste for or a grudge with Elves. Heck maybe both. They were strong agile warriors with a hard chitin outer layer that provided them protection like a human's armour. They were able to dodge the arrows from our bows, and they could leap into and out of close quarters with ease. Fortunately they were just as susceptible to fire from my .357 as anyone else. We made short work of them.
On another occasion we passed a hunting party of nomadic Centaurs. They lingered briefly, probably to assess the possible threat our party could have to their clan in general, but they quickly moved on once Renley identified himself as a Paladin of Torm. If a few months ago, you'd of told me I'd be riding a horse across a primitive world swapping traveling directions with a passing Centaur while riding with a full blooded elf, and dodging groups of oversized bugs, I would have thought you would be a candidate for the nut house. The diversity of life in this world was just amazing.
Along the road to Teziir, there were signs of bandits, but they showed little interest in our group. They must have figured our party looked to well armed and too experienced to be the easy prey. Not to mention the fact that there were none of the fat slow moving wagons you'd find in a merchant caravan that would promise a bandit wealth and riches. For the most part we passed unmolested.
Teziir was a sprawling un-walled city made up of teaming slums next to soaring temples, and merchant compounds. The people walking the street had a furtive look about them, as if they have expected to be jumped around the next corner.
Then there was the watch of Teziir. How can you describe such a fat slovenly useless looking collection of people who are supposed to be responsible for keeping the peace? At least twice I saw drunken brawls erupt from taverns out into the street. The first time the watch was there egging on the brawlers, and the second time both brawlers were watchmen. We only spent one night in Teziir before we were on the road again the next morning to Elversult.
Elversult, in contrast to Teziir, was a much different city. Although not as large, Elversult itself was surrounded by a high wall. It was early afternoon when we finally arrived at the Eastern gates of the small city. The guards at the gates appeared to be more alert then anything I saw from the watch in Teziir, and they appeared to be better armed and equipped as well.
Morgellyn had told me during one of our many talks that the obvious prosperity of Elversult was due to the fact that it was a crossroads for three major caravan trade routes. Routes to the north lead up through the Storm Horn Mountains to Northern Cormyr and the Dale lands beyond. To the east the routes lead to the sea ports Teziir and the much larger Westgate. But the far the most important trade route was to the west. This caravan route was pretty much the only trade route between the Inner Sea areas and the people who lived on the western coast of this continent.
The commander of the guard at the gate recognized Renley and other members of the party immediately. He welcomed them back to Elversult. After a few words of greeting, Renley asked the captain to pass word along to the watch commander Pierstar that we had arrived back in the city.
As we left the gates, Renley led the party across the city to the inn where we would be making our home over the next several weeks. Elversult was not as large as Teziir, but it appeared to have the makings of a well run city-state. I did notice that here and there, there were groups of men armed and armored and wearing different colored and stylized armbands patrolling some of the streets. This was in addition to those I saw wearing the two crossed maces tabard of the city watch.
I moved over next to Morgellyn, "What's with the guys with the armbands?" I asked.
"I don't know," said Morgellyn, frowning. "They weren't around when we left a few months ago."
"They have the look of private militias," I said. "From what I have seen there are at least three different designs of armbands. That probably means there are at least three different militias operating in the city."
"I'm wondering why Yanseldara would allow such groups to operate inside the city." She responded.
Yanseldara was the ruler of the city. Morgellyn had told me some of the more recent history of Elversult over the last few tendays we were traveling. Apparently, Yanseldara came to power here about a year ago at the head of a popular revolution. The previous government was extremely corrupt, so much so that the normally apathetic people of the city rose up against them. Now Yanseldara was attempting to build a close knit law abiding community, while she had the support of the people, certain forces like the Cult of the Dragon would like nothing more than to return to the previous more Cult friendly government.
We had traversed the entire width of the city coming to the Western Gate of the city before Renley turned through a small set of gates into and enclosed yard of a rather prosperous looking in called "The Sword and Scabbard." The yard was on the left hand side of the inn proper. As we entered the yard, on my left there was a line of privies, probably used by both the staff and patrons of the Inn. The right side wall was actually the wall of the inn itself. There was a door leading into the interior of the inn, and further down the wall was a series of small barred windows. The Inn was a two story building, the lower floor containing the taproom/bar as well as living areas for the owner and staff. Attached to the rear of the inn was a large single story extension containing the kitchen. The aroma of fresh breads and cooking food floated on the air coming from this open building.
At the far end of the yard was a good sized barn for stabling horses with a hayloft above. On a couple of side buildings in front of the stable was an active black smithy. As I rode up to the stables I could see inside as a rather large man was beating a glowing strip of metal into a horseshoe. On the far side of the barn were two large storage sheds. A covered well was nestled between the smithy and the main entrance to the barn.
Currently a wagon loaded with hay was parked in front of the storage sheds, and two men were throwing the hay bales from the back of the wagon through the second story doors to the hayloft. All in all this looked like a very neat and tidy operation, something that would not have been all that out of place in my world back when I was a child.
We unloaded the horses, and stabled them in the barn, and walked towards the inn proper. We walked in through the door into a large room. In front of us, scattered around the room was a collection of round tables, along the far wall was a collection of high backed booths. Immediately to our right in the corner was a low stage where currently a minstrel was playing rousing tune on a lute and singing for the crowd. Apparently it was the tale of some noble knight attempting to rescue a woman of dubious moral character from the attentions of a lecherous suitor. It was quite funny.
The inn was run, according to Morgellyn by a Dwarf by the name of Theros Steelshanks. I would have to assume that the Dwarf in question was standing behind the bar off to my right, currently engaged with what seemed to be a rather heated conversation with a fairly tall well muscled man wearing a red armband on his sword-arm.
"Come on, Theros," the man said, "this city's crime problem is striking closer to home all the time. Right under this very roof even! And where were the Maces?"
The man's voice was rising as he grew more strident in his tirade, "I'll tell you where they were, the good ones were off on the other side of the city dealing with something else, while the rest of the buggers were sitting around with the thumbs up their arses."
"I'll mind ye not to come in here and raise ye voice at me," said the gruff sounding dwarf, "I was around in this city when ye biggest concern was wiping ye runny noise. Ye know ye still ain't so big I can't knock ye down a peg or two, Breggo!"
"My apologies," replied Breggo in a somewhat calmer voice. "But you know I am right about this. The Maces are undersized and under strength. Things are getting worse out there, and something has to be done. That's what we're doing, something to help out."
"Aye lad," said Theros, "I can see that, but am not ready to give up on Yanseldara, just yet. Besides, I have my own bouncers and lads to keep a lid on things here, and I'm not nearly so old that I can't still swing a mean axe."
"At least consider what I had to say," Breggo said with a sigh. "We could certainly use someone of your skill and experience."
"Bah," said Theros, "Ye go and play at being a watchman I've got a business to run and customers to keep."
The man turned and walked towards the main doors leading to the street. Obviously preoccupied he brushed right by Lucius as he headed to the door without even noticing him at all.
"Renley, you over stuffed prig of Paladin," shouted Theros. "I see ye are back from ye travels. All alive and well I see, with a new face in the mix too."
"You pickin up more strays again, Ranger?" he laughed as he turned to Stannul. Obviously he was referring to my presence among the companions.
Taking this as a cue, I stepped forward and offered my hand to the dwarf.
"Name's Kendall Sackett," I said as stepped forward to offer the typical wrist to wrist hand shake greeting of this world. "And as for being a stray, I imagine that is as best an explanation as any."
"Hey, you grumpy dwarf," spoke up Lucius, "we have been standing her almost five minutes now, looking parched and dusty, and you have yet to offer us an ale." The bard managed to pin a look of outrage on his face. "Where is that famed dwarven hospitality that everyone always talks about?"
"Maybe hospitality ye right out the front door with the toe of me boot, ye good fer nothing singer," grumped the dwarf as he moved behind the bar.
At first I thought that the dwarf would look ridiculously short standing behind the bar sized for humans, and then Theros stepped up upon a plank, bringing him up to more of a conversational level with his customers.
Without further prompting, the dwarven bartender quickly served six mugs of ale from an open cask behind him, and poured one cup of wine which was apparently for Dorian.
Marin, who was the unofficial money handler of the group stepped up the bar and negotiated rooms for the party. Renley, Stannul and I would share one room, while Marin and Lucius shared a second. Morgellyn and Dorian each got their own rooms, the former because she was the only single female and the later because he insisted that he needed the solitude for his studies.
Once everyone had their gear settled upstairs in their respective rooms, we all settled around a table in the main taproom downstairs. When Theros came over to refill our mugs and take our order for supper, Lucius broached the subject of what was happening when we walked in.
"Its all about human impatience if ye ask me," begins Theros. "I'm a guessing they're expecting Yanseldara to fix everything overnight, now that it looks like the lass can't fix everything they go and form their own private version of the watch to patrol the streets around their homes and businesses."
Apparently, according to the dwarf, the local crime rate in Elversult has been on the rise for quite sometime. There were reports of citizens being attacked and robbed and even killed in the streets and in their homes. The first of these groups were formed not long after Renley and his friends left on their mission to Spirit Soaring. They call this neighbour protecting neighbour. Now there were several of these groups operating all over the city. It's gotten to the point that now these groups have been clashing over control certain neighbourhoods. Rumours are running all over the place that these groups are nothing more then fronts for secret societies and criminal organizations, like the Cult of the Dragon or even the Harpers.
The city watch, called The Maces of Elversult, have been chronically undermanned for years, and that's only become worse since Yanseldara came to power. Pierstar, the new commander of the watch, has been cleaning out the most corrupt elements of the Maces, further reducing the available man power to patrol the streets. They have had neither the time nor the man power available to police these private armies.
The worst part about all of this was that these groups were becoming better and better armed blood was now being shed in the streets, and the Maces were just too busy putting down petty crime and squabbles to effectively put down these groups. Ironically, these citizen protection groups which were intended to help protect the citizens have only made a bad situation worse. All in all, it was a sign that the popularity that Yanseldara gained when she swept to power the previous year was vanishing like smoke on the wind.
"How does Breggo fit into all of this?" asked Lucius. "I know the man, and I can't see him becoming involved with criminals or even the Cult of the Dragon."
"Breggo," began Theros, "went and got hisself his own group. He partnered up with an ole adventuring friend of his, from back before he settled down. She's a priestess from one of the shrines over on Temple hill. Anyway they call their little army the Overmoor Trail Protective Group."
"I know that Breggo carries weapons in his store," inquired Renley, "do you think he could be behind all those weapons now appearing on the street?"
"Bah," grunted the dwarf, "I've seen the cheap pig iron swords these citizen groups are carrying. Breggo, may be a lot of things, but he he's a warrior, so he knows enough not to rely on a cheap sword in a fight. His store has nothing but the good stuff, the crap being passed off as swords in the streets these days aren't fit to air out a stinkin Orc's skull."
"Won't a cheap sword kill someone just as dead as an expensive one?" asks Dorian, as someone who obviously wasn't all that familiar with swords.
"Aye," said the dwarf, "but that sword is just as likely to get ye killed in a fight, when it shatters on a shield or another sword."
As Theros departed with our dinner orders, I could see on the faces of my friends that the home coming they have just received wasn't what they were hoping for. It seemed to me that Renley's friend Yanseldara's hold on power in Elversult might be slipping through her fingers, along with the dream of a close knit law abiding community.
'So this is Elversult,' I thought once again to myself.