A tale of the fortunes and misfortunes of a group of mixed origins, as they try to make life in The City.
'Reliance upon others is weakness for the strong,
It was on a small farm, about 35 miles from The City, where his life began. The farm was right up by the mountains, not on the heighest peaks, but neither in the foot hills. The was a small community of farms, clustered in villages or isolated, and everyone knew everyone else.
The scenery was, as old farmer Maudley said, 'Purely maargnificent.' The farms were all on high, rolling pastures, but immense cliffs and snow-capped mountains. Indeed, the snowline only stopped about a thousand feet up the mountains in summer, and the snow covered the farms by October. But the area was cold all the year round, and often in shadow and rain as it took the sun until midday to rise properly over the cliffs and mountains that backed the farmsteads. There was always the danger of falling rocks and getting lost in bad weather conditions, but there were no monsters in the area. Even if they were, many of the adolescents joined the local militia until they had to work on their families farms. The Militia was very popular, mainly as a social venue. All the members met up every night to go on their patrols, so they spent their time talking and gossipping.
So, inspite of all the natural dangers, it was still a pretty good home.
The actual farms couldn't farm crops - it was far too cold all year.What they did farm was anything that produced milk or wool. This meant obviously cows and sheep, but also yac, lamas and Alpacca. Each farm had its own mark, to distinguish their animals from the others, and there were thousands of animals roaming up high. For the part of the year when the water wasn't frozen, the animals were left to roam high, by the mountain lakes about eight hundred feet above the village. They seemed a long way away, since it was a steep climb to get up there and you couldn't see the tiny basin they were in from the village. This area containing the lakes wasn't owned by anyone - so everyone used it - and the farmsteads weren't needed until winter.
One dark winter's evening Dall's future was decided. A party was being held in the Hammerson house. Everyone from 'Wee' John Pudley to Govenor Rothschild had been invited. All the fires were lit, and everyone was getting as drunk and fat as possible in the time allowed.
"Great party Dall!" shouted Dall's friend Jake Witterson.
"Thanks Jake." Dall replied in his very innocent and calm voice. Dall was a sensible man, nineteen years old, very strong and very kind. It was very hot and comfortable inside.
"Take him out." ordered one of the cattle thieves. His voice was bitter and coarse. One of his men raised his crossbow and fired. The militiamen dropped down. If he was dead or not didn't matter. Know one would hear him.
"Thank ye milord." said Guren, Dall's father.
"This food is most excelent."
Two of the militia, each wearing huge woolen cloaks, ambled along their patrol. Suddenly one of them, Luke Fizben stopped. "What is it?" his companion asked in a worried voice.
"Look ahead." He pointed. "That's young Bobby. He's dead."
"Oh my God...What kiled him."
"There's a crossbow bolt in his belly - wait! He's still breathing! Let's get him up to the Hammersons' place."
The two young men picked up the injured Bobby and carried him up the hill, towards the blurred lights of the farmstead. But when they got there, chaos had already begun.
"What's going on!" yelled Luke. "Bobby's been wounded."
"Take him inside," Dall shouted. "Some cattle thieves are goin' for OUR cattle! We've got everyone we can and were gonna sort 'em out!"
"Alright - but be careful," Luke replied.
Dall was gone before he'd even heard the advice. Over by the cattle, all hell had broken lose. The Militia descended upon the thieves like locusts. There wasn't much fighting - the cattle had been saved, and most of the thieves had retreated upon discovery. However, about fifty yards away there was fighting. Guren , Patricia and another two of sons were fighting seven of the thieves. One of the boys had a sword, the youngest a pick and Guren was armed with a great two handed sword. One thief was hacked down by Guren, another two by his sons - blood staining the snow. Then Dall arrived. He had huge physical strength and he laid into a thief with a huge hammer. Only three remained - one obviously the leader. His bitter and coarse voice came out - as did three crossbows:
"A little present - with my regards." He fired his bolt straight into the enraged Guren's stomach. Guren gave out a cry of pain and crumpled to the floor. The two other thieves also fired, one killing Patricia instantly and the other killing Dall's youngest brother.
"No!" shouted Dall in a mixture of rage, guilt and grief. He ran to Guren's body, while Lance, his elder brother went to his younger brother James.
Guren was in a bad way. He could hardly breathe or speak.
"Da...D...Dall.." he managed to mutter.
"Yes?" Dall, a strong man, was in tears.
"T...ta...take..m...my..sword.....a..a.....and," he paused, trying to catch his breath.
"Yes?" dall replied, clutching the word tightly, to the point of pain.
"Avenge Me!" shouted Guren, with the remainder of his strength. He then fell silent.
After a long pause, Dall, Lance, and their other brother Falsen carried away the dead.
"I will avenge my family." He said alloud.
The funeral was over. They'd had that while everyone was together the night before. There was an air of grief about everyone as he went to the Hammerite Chapel. He'd explained his plan to go to The City to find his enemies with his brothers and they agreed to look after the farm for a time. Now he had to explain the idea to his soul.
The chapel was small, with just one small altar, and some benches. The Hammerite priest and his two novices were in prayer as usual. Dall stepped in and knelt in front of the altar, with his equipment still on his back. What ever went on in his mind was private to him, but it happened in only a minute. He stood up and then hurriedly walked towards the door, stepping heavily with his huge boots. The priest stood up and looked intently at the adolescent. "The Master Builder go with you," he called.
Dall slammed the door behind him.
"Leg it!" shouted Medle, a small time thief.
His accomplace turned and sprinted only to run into a watch officer. Medle, who was quite short and very fast, ran the other way and dived between two stalls to escape a watchman. They were in hot pursuit as he sprinted along the busy trading docks, and their shouts echoed behind him.
"Faster he's gettin' away!"
"Get that taffer!"
Medle kept going along the dockside and dived behind a net of fish. He grinned to himself as the watchmen ran past, but the winch on the net was raised. He gave out a startled cry, the watchmen heard him, and he turned and ran again. Another ship was unloading, and quickly, when the watchmen were out of sight he jumped into the sea and climbed onto an empty rowboat. Eventually, after trying to listen for the watch it dawned on him he wasn't alone on the little boat.
"Hello," said the other man. "Who are you?"
Kate was a new face in the city. Nobody seemed to know where she was from or why she was here. She had lodgings at the 'Crippled Burick' but that was as
much as anyone knew. She was a mystery.
"What!?" asked the bemused Medle in worried anticipation.
"What's your name? I'm Ribald," said the young man in a very inquisitive and innocent voice.
"I'm Medle - now stay quiet!" Medle's voice was irritated as he tried to both listen to and hid from the watch.
"Ah," said Ribald as if he was very wise old man. "Trouble with the watch. Don't worry. I'll distract them." He climbed up a ladder from the sea and got on to the dockside. Medle was worried. That kid was gonna get him got. However, Ribald had the reverse effect. He ran to the entrance of a side alley and flung himself into a fruit stall, sending apples everywhere. The watchmen turned around.
"That little taffer just shoved me over. He went down the alley," shouted Ribald in a very angry tone of voice. The gullible watchmen sprinted back and went down the alley, as Ribald strode smuggly back, and climbed down the ladder.
"Thanks kid," said the confused Medle. "You just saved my hide. Now I just need to find a decent hideout. See you." Medle made for the ladder but Ribald pulled him back. "Don't worry about that - come with me. You can hide on one of my dad's trading ships."
"Thanks, but-" Ribald had already pushed off the rowing boat.
No point in arguing thought Medle. I'll be able to steal something at the very least from this trading ship.
Dall had arrived. The City was amazing to him; immense, beautiful intruiging and secretive. He'd never been anywhere remotely like it. He'd never been away from the mountains before. And of course he was ignorant of anything that happened inside the city.
He'd ridden all the way, and he'd been going for only two days. Almost fifty miles with only eight hours sleep. Dall was tired. Extremely tired. He managed to drag himself through the East gate, the drunken watch officers not paying him any attention. His horse Fella was to tired to carry him now, so Dall had to lead him. He needed somewhere to sleep. As he plodded along the dirty street, where all the animals for trading were kept, he caught sight of a very smart looking watch officer, wearing a cape and plumed helmet.
"Excuse me sir?" asked Dall in a low, tired voice.
"Yes?" The officer's tone was calm and friendly although it somehow seemed distracted.
"I've just arrived from the mountains - the farming settlement. I have very little money and I need somewhere to sleep. Somewhere cheap.
"The Crippled Burrick's about as cheap as they come. Mind you its frequented by pretty dodgy people; but if you just need a place to sleep, that's your place. My name is Sir Kanal Rumford, by the way."
"Thank you my lord. I'm Dall Hammerson."
With that, Dall plodded along the filthy road, merchants everywhere trying to buy his horse, and the crowds rushing for cover, as the rain clouds rolled in.
As Dall walked through the city, despite his fatigue, he marvelled at its size, its crowds, its architecure.....he marvelled at everything in this unique and wonderfully new experience. He'd almost forgotten why he'd come here in the first place.
When Dall had thought about the city when he was still in the mountains, he hadn't grasped anything. He assumed it was just a medium-sized town, quiet and dull, with no real differences in class. Now he realised that this line of thought was naive and quite frankly stupid. The district where he'd entered the city was basically a big centre of trading. He'd then passed through a fairly pleasant and wealthy area. The streets weren't too thin, members of the gentry strode through the streets with commoners and merchants alike. There were many streets there and many wonderful and mysterious shops selling everything from bread to magic. After that he went into the rich quarter of the City. All the adminastrative buildings were here, made from white stone and marble with fancy architecture, columns and other little touches. In the Rich Quarter there were also the streets of very large and grand terraced houses where the gentry and richer merchants lived. The big estates were near by, with smartly dressed aristocrats and grand coaches going along the roads. Dall marvelled at these people - to be a lord with servants, soldiers and power would be a dream. An ambition. But Dall never let thoughts of greatness get too advanced. Ambition was dangerous - that's what his late father had said. Thinking about Guren again made him press on. He was soon in the old quarter and then on through finally to the poor quarter, where the Crippled Burrick was.
After going through the rest of the city, Dall could see why this was the poor quarter. The buildings were very delapitated, and the streets were filled with beggars. Little point to begging here Dall thought - everyone's poor. He grinned to himself - I feel right at home here.
The Crippled Burick itself seemed like a nice enough building. The windows were lit up from the light inside, and like any tavern the sound of laughing, shouting, singing and fighting could be heard. Dall tied up his horse outside and strode on in, past the moaning of a feeble old beggar.
Inside the Burrick had a low ceiling, and many candles hanging from the ceiling and on the window ledges and tables. There was a large assortment of people in tonight. In one corner some drunken guards, were talking and laughing loudly. There were many commoners sitting around the tables talking, and some drunken sailors singing annoyingly loud over by the bar next to a couple of watch officers. Serving wenches scuttled around with tray after tray of suspicious looking drinks, and Dall caught side of the landlord coming down some old wooden stairs. He was a fat, scruffy-looking man, with, a wooden leg.
"Excuse me sir?" said Dall.
"Sir eh? Oi Maddy! This here fella's callin' me a sir now!" shouted the fat innkeeper to a woman who appeared to be his wife. His voice was jovial, and he had a very slight stammer.
"Sorry there young man. It's jus' no one's polite in 'ere normally. What can I do ye for?" asked the innkeeper.
"I need a room. And stabling for a horse if you can manage it. But I've only got 150 gold pieces." Dall's tone was now rougher and less polite. He was trying to fit in, although it didn't match his character.
"How long will you be stayin' 'ere for?" asked the innkeeper.
"Quite a while probably." Dall was suprised by himself here. He hadn't even thought about how long his 'revenge' would take.
"How about two months for now?" said the innkeeper. "That'll be 50 gold pieces and the cheapest rate in town for what you get. By the way I'm Landon. Johnny Landon at your service.
"Two months 'll be fine. And I'm Dall Hamerson."
"Good to meet yer - your from the mountains, aren't ye? I'll send out one of my men and he'll stable your 'orse. Take these keys - the rooms up the stairs an' first on the left."
Johnny then through Dall the keys and scurried off with a tray of beer. Dall was very tired. He hurried up the stairs as if his life depended on it and pushed the door open to his room. He didn't bother to shut it, look around or anything but just dropped his stuff on the floor and jumped onto his bed.
And along the corridor, the mysterious Kate was watching him with an intense curiosity.
It was almost midday when Dall awoke. He could hear heavy rain outside, and as he looked out of the window, the sky was dark with smoke, and thick grey clouds. In the city it seemed, rain didn't stop business or anything - it simply speeded it up. Merchants ran around making deals faster, the nobility galloped around on their horses - even the beggars seemed to beg faster.
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