Grimm Tidings

Chapter 22

Voltag and Yolanthe made way through Tzanasport unmolested. No one in the city knew that Baltrog and Grimestoke had left, so they continued in their furtive routines. The few guards that had run from the castle had disappeared in the slum that surrounded the city, abandoning their uniforms in an attempt to become invisible to the two fighters who has slaughtered their comrades.

Outside the city walls the smells and squalor of the tent city worked to Voltag and Yolanthe’s advantage. They were both stained and covered in other people’s blood, so they fit in with the marauding thugs and lowlifes. They quickly found a horse dealer and paid his exorbitant price for two beaten-down nags. The dealer assumed they were criminals on the run and asked no questions. Within an hour the two fighters were on the road to Seatorn. They rode until it became too dark to continue safely. They made camp, but did not start a fire. Before sleeping Yolanthe lit a small torch by which to read the documents she had taken from Grimestoke’s armoury.

“They seem to be plans,” she said to Voltag, who was almost asleep. “For some sort of machine called an ‘augmenter.’ Something about magic forces being expanded.”

“Humph,” said Voltag, turning over in his bedroll. “Stuff and nonsense.”

“I hope so,” said Yolanthe, snuffing the torch.

They awoke at dawn. The clouds had dispersed over night and the day promised to be bright. They began to ride right away.

“How long to Seatorn?” asked Voltag.

“Two, maybe three hours,” replied Yolanthe.

They rode in silence for a mile. The clouds of the previous night blew in-land and they found themselves riding in brilliant sunshine.

“You were willing to die before letting go of that axe,” said Yolanthe.

“You were willing to let me die for that rope,” said Voltag.

“It’s the only thing that I have left that belonged to my father,” said the half-elf. “Does your axe belong to your father?”

Voltag shifted uncomfortably in his saddle. “It belongs to the eldest son of the Grimm clan. Which is me,” he said.

“So your father is dead?”

“Not that last time I saw him,” said Voltag.

“Then why do you have the axe?”

Voltag looked at Yolanthe, about to say something cutting, but when he saw honest curiosity in her face he paused. She did not deserve his anger.

“I took it,” he said, looking away. “When I left my clan, I took the axe. I should not have done that.”

“Why did you take it?”

“Pride,” said Voltag quietly. “I vowed to dip its blade in the blood of the man who wronged me.”

“The elf who stole your fiancée?”

“Even him,” said the dwarf.

“And what happened to you finger?” asked Yolanthe.

“I cut it off when I swore my oath,” said Voltag. “Because it bore a ring given to me by her.”

“That’s some oath,” said Yolanthe.

“It is indeed,” agreed Voltag. “And I am bound by it.”

“There are runes on the axe,” said Yolanthe. “What do they say?”

Voltag grunted. “Very old runes. Can’t hardly understand them. Something about a future king of my clan.”

They rode in silence for another hour along a road that became broader and better maintained every mile. At the spot where the dirt road became cobbled, they could see the distant wall of Seatorn. An hour later, they were at its gate.

Voltag marvelled at the size of the Wall. It was not the height that impressed as much as the length. For although the Wall was a full 100 feet tall, it was almost a three miles long, stretching from sea to sea along the width of the peninsula. It seemed to go on forever, a great, blank structure made of stones so precisely cut that even the dwarf was impressed by the workmanship.

The gate was a massive structure of wood and iron. It sat well back from an iron portcullis. Because the Wall was so thick, was in fact a giant occupied building, the passage beyond the gate through the Wall was more of a giant tunnel than a mere opening. A series of stone structures forced people passing through the gate to zig-zag left and right as they passed through the Wall. A direct charge against the city would have been impossible. At the end of the tunnel was another massive gate. There a squad of Landguards interrogated newcomers.

“Name and business?” one of the guard asked Voltag and Yolanthe.

“Voltag Grimm, of the Grimm mountain tribe and Yolanthe. We’re here to meet with Kerimos, a fella you work with,” said Voltag.

A look of recognition spread across the guard’s face. “Of course. Go through, turn left, follow the Wall until you come to a sign that says ‘council office.’ Go in there, top floor. He’s been expecting you.”

Voltag nodded and the two stepped into Seatorn.

It was the most beautiful city the dwarf had seen in his travels. The streets were all of cobblestone. The buildings were limestone with red tiled roofs. Most had decorative wainscoting painted white. There seem to be a public fountain on every corner, and old women could be seen sweeping the streets of refuse on every block. The city-side of the Wall was more impressive than its massive, blank other side, for here the Wall was decorated with innumerable glass windows, shutters, flower boxes, pendants, flags, even kites being flown from the highest levels. The people seemed prosperous and busy.

The dwarf and half-elf made their way through the crowds along the Wall until they came to the council office. They explained their business to another guard who directed them up a flight of stairs. When reached the top they found Kerimos sitting on a bench in a hallway outside of a pair of great doors. He jumped to his feet when he saw them.

“Is Baltrog dead?” he asked without hesitation.

“No,” said Voltag. “He ran from the city. Took the little one with him.”

“The gnome is wounded,” said Yolanthe.

“Do you know where they went?”

“No,” said Voltag.

Kerimos stared at both of them, hoping for more news. When it was clear no more would come, he slumped down on the bench.

“His place was full of maps of this city,” said the dwarf. “He means to do something here.”

“I believe you’re right,” said Kerimos. “But I don’t know that I can convince the council. They have no stomach for war. They believe Seatorn is impregnable, and perhaps it is. They think the problems with the roads are caused by bandits and fires.”

“We can talk to them,” said Voltag.

“No,” said Kerimos. “They don’t know you. They’d suspect you were spies.”

The council chamber doors opened and a servant beckoned Kerimos in.

He turned to the dwarf and half-elf. “Wait for me,” he said.

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