You’ve arrived at the city you’d been marching to.
I’ve made some additions to your other scrolls. I’ve seen what provisions were dispensed. They’ve got corn, corn and more corn, so don’t act surprised when that’s all you get.
It turns out you haven’t been reading this as much as you should be. Didn’t I tell you to read this when you wake? I leave two scrolls right next to you every night. How hard is it to read from them before the day begins?
Now read closely Carth: there is talk in this city that you’re in some kind of trouble. Most people talk about the likelihood of a siege.
I’ve left you some notes on sieges as well as a few vague scatterings of memory the word retched up for me. I’ll bet you remember them too—frozen in time, without context.
After you received your provisions, Khalee waved you over to an alley where he and Albarran had sat down to eat.
Khalee was cleaning her nails with a dagger, stopping every now and then to feed scraps of corn to her dog, or scratch it behind the ear.
She said that it was you who found the dog during that first raid of yours. Did I forget to mention that? You conducted raids on your way here.
“The dog—he was protecting that girl you met during the village raids.”
I didn’t bother to mention them to you either. Tinker Taker, remember?
“A girl? What girl? I don’t remember,” you said.
“I don’t know how you could forget someone like that,” Khalee joked. She compared her beauty to a few goddesses whose names I’ve left for you in your index. I’ll let you forget some of her choice descriptions. I wish I could. “She had a chest like the horsewomen in the Nugaria, that one,” he said. “Would that our rivals would contract them. If we’re going to die here, that should very well be our last sight. A dozen bare-breasted horsewomen riding toward us, tits bouncing.” She gave you a wink.
Your conversation lapsed as she went back to cleaning her nails. To break the silence she mused, “I’ll probably lose a finger one day. Won’t be able to hold a spear after that. Won’t be able to fight.” She scratched her dog behind the ear.
“Why not do it now?” Albarran asked, “Get it over and done with?”
Khalee grinned. She petted her dog so that its tail thumped against the ground. When she turned to look at Albarran, her grin was gone. “What do I look like? A coward?”
Throughout the day, there was but one more incident. You must learn to watch what you say. You were almost speared during a bath in a river outside the city walls after burning down a nearby village.
There were a few others rolling and splashing about in the river, finally clean of the grime choking your skin. Being freed of it brought a grin to your face. You, to your limited knowledge, hadn’t known the sensation of clean skin, and the feel of it was almost overwhelming.
Your ears were so full of water, however, that you didn’t hear the trample of horses’ hooves until the shouting had started. I suspect your ears filled up because your head is so empty. If you don’t have memories, you could at least fill that had up with water. “Cavalry!” Someone shouted. The word echoed down the line of bathers, uttered through various translations. You were shaking the water out of your ears and eyes. All around you was black mist like soot curling ever-downstream. Men were reaching for their gear. Spears, pikes and sheathed swords. No one bothered to put on armor. If the House of Em or any of the other Kings had found you, you were all as good as dead.
You had just drawn yourself, naked, to the banks of the river and taken your swords, spears, pikes or whatever they had as the men on mounts reined up, enshrouded in armor.
Their commander’s skin was blacker than his horse’s fur. There were three others, two flanking and one behind him. You tilted your head at the commander.
He was reaching for his own blade when you threw yours up to his horse’s head. “Stop this!” you shouted. “Lay down your arms!”
The men grimaced. “Are you in charge here?” the commander asked.
For all you knew you were–so you told him, “Yes!”
“Then what in the name of all gods do you think you’re doing?”
You looked down to the river and then back at him. “I’m…taking a bath?” you said it like a question. You had no idea why this would upset it.
Naked, armed men laughed at that. It was an honest truth, if a little simple. Then again, you’re simple so there weren’t many answers you could give.
It would seem that a simple truth can make some men angry. “You’re upstream of the watering place!” He fumed, “Do you expect my horses to drink from the same water you lot have been washing your asses in?”
This might shock you, Carth, but being naked and dripping wet in front of black riders in full raiment does not inspire much dignity. But you clung to what little you could and said, “Do you know who you’re speaking to?” Or something just as stupid. You didn’t even know who you were. Why would they?
“At your word, I’m speaking to the leader of this company—though I can’t say it shows at the moment.”
“If you’ll give me a moment to dress myself, mayhaps I can make a better impression.”
The commander rolled his eyes, “Once you put on your armor and your fine regalia, I’ll start calling you commander and captain. Until then, have your men lay down their arms before I decide they’re greater fools than you! Now stop fouling my horses’ drinking water—you’ll make them simple!”
You grinned. Perhaps it was the fact that you’d no idea the danger you were in, but a joke crept up on the fringes of your mind. You had overheard warriors’ complaints while you bathed–before you filled your ears with water. “A thousand pardons. I’m fresh from Ükardhi.” You hoped you were pronouncing that right. “I had upstream baths there and never a problem with those lot turning simple from drinking the bathwater.”
You had begun to laugh. The mounted man’s mouth twitched as he tried not to join in. And then he was laughing, too.
Later you would discover that this man was named Albarran. Looking back at the accounts I left you, you realized you were already friends. You were with Khalee by the cookfires when you realized this, at night-time. “Why didn’t he say something?” you asked.
“You were naked and pretending to be the captain of a regiment!” Khalee sniggered. “Everyone wanted to see how the situation would play out. He would have been passing up a better opportunity than the if King Crom were storming the Strathbury. Can you blame him?”
You decided you couldn’t, and laughed with her.