|Orland in all its glory|
Two days had passed since the mercenaries had left Briarmoot and they had gone by without incident. The inhabitants of the small village had been glad to see the back of them and waved them off with clenched fists and curses, once a suitable distance had opened up between them and the warriors obviously.
Reven sat astride Fang at the head of the troop and idly played with the silver hoof necklace that he had taken as his trophy. It wasn’t the first time he had been set upon without provocation but the assault on him and his men had been well planned, despite its poor execution. He would like to meet those responsible for the plan as he was in no doubt that the fools that perpetrated it didn’t have the brains to fashion it alone. More so, he wanted to know what the reason behind that attack was. He had upset many people in his time but he could recollect none that worshipped “The Great Pig”.
He tucked the pendant away and cleared his mind of his wonderings. By this evening he would once again behold the great West Gate of River Rise. His thoughts drifted back to the last time he was there and his friend and comrade in arms, Borengar Steelskin. Maybe he would search for his old friend whilst he was there. It had been well over a year since they had shared each other’s company and he very much wanted to see the old dwarfs face. They were staying in the city for two nights rest and recuperation before pushing on to Engleheart and eventually their fabled prize.
The mercenaries parted ways shortly after arriving at River Rise. A swift ale was shared to celebrate their safe arrival and then they went off in search of booze, brawls and less than wholesome women. Reven had to find somewhere he could house Fang. He hated leaving the hounds side, he was his best friend after all. He had considered camping outside the city but he was in no doubt this would only lead to trouble, especially considering their recent engagement outside Briarmoot. They made their way through the streets toward the more affluent northern part of the city, Reven certain that he could secure lodgings here that could accommodate the both of them. Despite being a lowly mercenary, he was not a poor man. The abilities of he and his men commanded a good price back in Blackcliff and they were kept busy enough to not have too many opportunities to spend their earnings.
Reven made his way to the main arterial route that ran northward through the city. The Forest Road was wide and full of traffic. Carts of goods were being brought in from the north and taken to the docks in River Rise’s centre and likewise from the docks, up to the cities north gate and the lands beyond. The part of the street where Reven walked was lined with merchant’s shops and inns. Their gilded facades hid the tenements that sprawled behind them. Drunken sailors spilled out of the ale houses whilst fops and merchants rode high in their saddles looking down on the human flotsam that floated past them. Fang afforded Reven a wide berth as man and beast alike scattered out of the hulking warhounds way. The mercenary pondered the emptiness of the lives of the people he was surrounded by and was thankful of the freedom his profession afforded him. Despite its dangers he would rather live by the sword than suffer under the yoke of some unscrupulous lord or rich merchant.
The road remained busy as they continued but the shops and inns were replaced by large houses with wide forecourts and sprawling drives. The larger, upper class inns were also located here and Reven was sure he would find somewhere suitable to stay on one of the side streets that led off the main road. The North Gate loomed far off in the distance and Reven knew he didn’t want to get that far as again the road would be choked with drunks and freshly arrived travellers as well as less than fitting lodgings.
As darkness tightened its grasp on the city Reven headed off the Forest Road down a street where the firelighters were going about their work. The more well-to-do areas of the city had fire globes mounted on poles that would illuminate the streets. The firelighters cast the simple spells that would keep these globes burning through the night, balls of flame leaping from their hands and igniting the magical orbs. It was quite a sight and most of the firelighters added a degree of theatrics to their jobs, making wild gestures with their arms before letting loose their spells. Reven had enjoyed the spectacle on his previous visit to River Rise and stopped to watch as the globes ahead of him came to life, their yellow glow slowly spreading up the street.
Five minutes further down the road he found his lodgings. The Rest, as it was called, was a little run down compared to other buildings on the street but it had a large empty stable and sold hot meat and cold beer. Reven settled Fang in the open stable whilst discussing payment with the proprietor. The man was the first Reven had met in a while that wasn’t taken aback by Fang. He said he was an ex-soldier and has spent many campaigns in the company of beastmasters and their mounts and seemed genuinely pleased to be up close to Fang’s magnificence.
Reven made arrangements for haunches of meat to be brought to the stables for his companion and a hot bath and cold beer to be poured for him. He ate with Fang and the owner, Peter, and shared their tales of adventure until his bath was ready at which point he removed himself to his room with several more beers and sunk into the hot water to wash the build-up of travel grime from his body. Before bed he checked on Fang from the window of his room, the mental link he shared with the hound meant that he knew he was alright but visual confirmation was always reassuring. The only surprise being that Peter, the proprietor was curled up in the stable with him. With a wry smile Reven crawled into bed and fell into a deep and troubled sleep.