“The messenger has returned,” Bamadar announced. He had to shout to make his voice heard above the thrumming of rain on the oiled skin canopy stretched over the pavilion.
“Step in, Bammer, and dry your beard,” the queen summoned. The soggy soldier lifted the heavy fabric of the door flap and stepped into the dimly-lit pavilion. He shook his head and shuddered his shoulders like a dog shakes itself dry. Turning his attention to the thane’s table, he bowed before the queen. Kristryd reclined next to trueheaded old Bagbag. Her son Pegli sat on her other side. No others were present. “Well, you look comfortable and dry!” Bamadar observed.
“Don’t leave the man standing in the rain,” the queen scolded.
Bamadar raised his eyebrows in surprise. “You would have him enter your pavillion?” he asked for clarification.
“Before he melts or floats away,” she insisted.
Bamadar shrugged and stepped back out into the rain. A moment later he returned with the messenger, an equally soggy traveler, shivering with the cold. He stooped to enter through the low-cut canvas door flap. As the traveler stood to his full height, Pegli leaped to his feet in astonished disbelief. “Mother! That’s an orcblood!” he stated the obvious in protest.
“I recognize him,” Bagbag observed with distaste. He narrowed his eyes and sized the man up. “Claimed to be a Duchyman and a vinter.”
“Billy Locks of Gliddensbar, m’lords and lady,” the orcblood executed a quick bow toward the dwarves reclining at table. Somewhat self-consciously, he edged nearer to the hot coals burning on the open brazier at the center of the room. His pig-like eyes darted from face to face as he warmed himself. The glow of the hot coals burning cast a play of shadows which made his orcish features the more devilish.
“Mr. Locks has proven himself a servant most reliable,” Kristryd offered in his defense.
“One of your horse-flesh traders?” Bagbag asked with a dismissive snort.
Kristryd ignored him and focused her attention on the half-orc. “Were you able to deliver my invitation?”
Billy Locks nodded eagerly. “Yes, m’lady. That I did. Ol’ gundygut’s lonely ear went all atwitch with the news. He’ll take yer bait fer sure.”
“What’s this? With what have you baited the trap?” Bagbag asked.
“We are the bait,” the queen explained. She turned back to the half-orc, “How long before Hroth comes?”
“He’s gathered his headmen, and all the tribes too. They’ll be already on the march by now.”
“They won’t march in the rain,” Bagbag asserted.
“Oh, they’ll march in the rain, they will!” Billy Locks contradicted the wise loremaster. “Hroth’s promised plenty o’ spoils, and he tells them they’ll be wintering in Tringlee and Jurnre too.”
“Mother, what have you done?” Pegli asked wide-eyed and wary.
“How many does Hroth bring to the field?” Kristryd asked the spy.
“All of them!” the half-orc promised.
Continue reading “Hail, Kristryd”