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Chapter the Second, The Road to Canagadi

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Zuan ignored Stryne's sneer, finishing the final straps on Hezzab's howdah. "I am sure it is nothing," he said in answer of Iskander. "Joachim has many business ventures abroad; he was likely attending to financial matters unrelated to our..." He gestured, searching for the right word. "Our enterprise," he shrugged.

Satisfied with the howdah, he placed his hands on his hips and looked about. "He is late," he said simply. Then, from behind, a voice called out.

"I am quite on time, sir!" A young man, perhaps twenty, wearing a yellow kaftan and green turban approached leading a heavily-laden camel. He smiled broadly, a thin beard framing white teeth. "Do not fret, Master Zuan. I would not make you late for your journey." He smiled at the others.

"Azrec, my apprentice," Zuan introduced. "He will maintain correspondence with us from Abodroc. I trust Joachim, but it is useful to have another party to keep things in perspective."

Azrec nodded. "I will keep news to you as best I can manage. The messengers say the road to Canagadi is ill-kept." His smile grew more forced. "No doubt you will be safe, with such fine warriors with you," he nodded to Tagu and Iskander.

"No doubt," Zuan repeated dryly. He nodded to the camels. "Tether Maurban to Hezzab, if you please." He looked again to Iskander. "Regardless of where Master Ebellos has been, our mission is the same. Let us concern ourselves with what lies ahead, yes?"

The company rode for four whole days without the slightest bit of incident. The first day they crested the rusty hills outside Abodroc, and passed its vast orchards and vineyards. That night they stayed at an inn inside the walls of Garafala, a small town of six hundred souls.

The second day and third, took them past gigantic fields and vast mesas, the Ban-Ral-Sab’s bread-basket and grazing lands. The road here was a busy thoroughfare. Perhaps surprisingly, many mercenaries and hedge-knights seemed to be traveling to and fro, and less so merchants, but then again, autumn was here, and soon the merchants, like the geese, would start heading south of Abodroc to trade, and these northern routes would become desolate by winter. On the second night the companions stayed inside the walls of a small country villa, rented them cheaply by a friend of Zuan Coursi’s, the third night they rented rooms in a small nameless castle used as a vast hostel for travelers.

“B’kakor are foul”, Girontus Medranos insisted in his book, as Saano perused the tome a third time since they had left Abodroc.

“…quick-silver is the key if the B’kakor are swarming. Additionally, no personal information of any kind should ever be revealed to the B’kakor.  The more it knows, the more dangerous it is…”

“The B’kakor like to haggle and bargain. Do not fall for their trap. As well, never promise the demons anything…”

“Keep women away from the B’kakor. They are particularly ripe for possession by the monkey-demon, and are powerless to Dispirit it, even in numbers…”

“…three vile types of B’kakor exist, each more dangerous in progression. The Ninth-Word of Thol uttered in conjunction with the Five Protocols, and usage of the proper binding circle, shall easily distinguish the lesser two from the true evil, the B’kakor King….”

“…once freed of their flesh-prison they must be dealt with quickly for their agility and speed is legendary among demon-hunters. Likewise the Dispirited person must be immediately burned three times in succession with a hot-iron, and then dipped three times in running water. Then only…”

The fourth day out passed without excitement as well, and toward late afternoon, the travelers turned due north at the crossroads that unofficially separated the Ban-Ral-Sab’s Dominion with that of the northern territories. Twelve miles east of here were the shores of the mighty Trade Sea.

It was here at this cross-roads also, in a small station-house manned by a single clerk, where Zuan Coursi picked up his letter which had flown here for him by raven, only hours before.


Zuan, hope your road is paved with rindods, It is I, Azrec.

Day #1 since your departure:
All is well here. Don Ebellos dining at the Seven Palms rubbing meaty elbows with quite a few of the Bursars.

The annual warehouse fees have gone up as of yesterday. “This is the final straw that snaps our spine!” some were overheard saying.

Day #2:
Ifon Obroscol, the Bursar, asked of you when I accidentally ran into him yesterday. I told him you were off to Canagadi. “Oh?” he says. Yes, I says. “Who will be awarded the Canagadi spice route is still an undecided question” he says, and so on…

Later still…

Overheard in never mind where and how… (though I’d swear in an Abodrosi Court-chamber that Ebellos was alone at the time)

Someone Unseen:  Do tell

Joachim Ebellos: Yes, the spellwriter showing up at my door was the final piece of the puzzle. The others were hard enough—like herding cats—but then this one just walks up to my manse and well, you know the rest.

Someone Unseen:  You have done well.

That is all. I heard some noises next, and had to evacuate my—position. I’ll await your word.
-Azrec, son of Tazrec


Toward sunset the mounts were visibly tired, especially Nisher’s nag and the overloaded Maurban. The road here was unpaved and narrow. To each side, dry, parched shrub-land proliferated, as far as the eye could see. A new realization came upon them then. This would be the first night they would have to camp beneath the stars. There was little to be had for shelter or protection from the elements in this terrain.

The sun was setting quickly, despite not having any mountains to hide behind. soon it would be dark. And Nisher was still concerned about the warning the station-clerk had given them...

"Moadi birds have been spotted recently. They say a few travelers have disappeared. Be careful these next few nights as you head north. The next town is not for many miles."


"I think that's about as far as we're going to get for today. Lets stop here and make camp." Saano began looking around the area immediately beside the road, trying to find a cluster of rocks usable as a firebreak. Less work hauling rocks was worth the extra minute of searching.

Nisher Stine hurriedly agreed with his tattooed companion, slowing Jeza, his nag to a slow walk - for the last half hour or so his poor, weary animal had been releasing a worrying wheezing whistle with every few exhales, and Nish was worried the horse would collapse! "Shoulda grabbed something a bit pricier," he muttered to himself, yet he gave Jeza a reassuring pat on the neck and muttered quietly to the animal in a rare display of empathy; "To all the beaten and downtrodden in this world, hey girl?" Nisher kept his eyes peeled also for a suitable place to stop, then with an exclaimation of "Ah!" He pointed to a natural dip in the ground - already largely cleared and with signs of an old, previous campfire which suggested previous travellers had made use of this point; "How about there?" He questioned to the group in general.
Nish was eager to get off Jeza and get a small camp established. He was spooked by the Station-Clerk's words about the Moadi-birds. The spellwriter had never seen one himself, but he had heard plenty of gruesome tales - perhaps just superstition - about the scaled creatures' razor wings and sharpened, toothed beaks.
"Keeping a watch might be smart, tonight. I'll take the final watch, if there are no objections." Nish's hand found it's way to his coveted spellwriter's tome beneath his cloak, and he absently stroked the book.
After a moment's silence, Nisher brought up a question almost casually, "Have any of you seen Moadi-birds before? That Station Clerk mentioned them... I hear that it's not the scales you have to worry about; they can really get in your head and make you freeze in fear." The simple fact he wasn't being obnoxious is suggestion enough that Nish was troubled.

"I know them only by rumor," Zuan said, dismounting from Hezzab. "Let us hope they are only that." He gazed out over the roadside. "You don't suppose there are better places to set camp?" he asked, knowing the answer. "Ah well."

Tethering the camels, he made a quick inventory of Maurban's saddlebags. The camel, older than Hezzab, was quiet and more docile, quietly ruminating as Coursi pushed through the stocks. "Are we lacking anything of need or want?" he asked. "My heart grows eager to dicker. I will flag the next merchant we see to do some trade."


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