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Arriving at the Ochre Fallow...

Many are the dreams which the Danlarni travellers dream that night. Foremost is of a God, walking through the broken landscape, being set upon by four shadowy figures and fighting for his life. The chill creeps well before the break of dawn, for tinder was hard to find in this place, Gyffun reluctant to raid the store of last year's wood he had found, so their fire died early. When the first light creeps into the hut, all five awake and are eager to leave this place.

Having supped the water from the crystal clear brook, they gather their belongings and set off down the tortuous trail into the heart of the Ochre Fallow tula. The mist is heavy but is soon breaking up when the sound a hunting horn rises eerily up from the valley. The travellers are unsettled to see that Vurth has begun to cut himself again, his earlier wounds having only just healed, but they make good progress.

The trail has become more level and easier to follow when the horn is heard a second time, this time repeated blasts marking a kill. The mists have now cleared and the travellers feel quite cheerful as another glorious day begins.

Approaching the stead of Umathkar Chief, the pallisade walls loom atop a hill. Although not built in the Far Place manner, the walls are strong and tall and a few of the huts do have large sharpened timbers poking through the roofs as proof against Giants. A deep beat from a drum shudders from behind the walls every few minutes.

Seeing a deer carcass being butchered outside the walls, Vurth tarries while the others continue. It is a young fallow buck, the head with its velvet antlers placed to one side and the hide already hung up to be scraped. The coat is a deep rich brown, the strikingly rich yellow spots clearly marking it as the animal from which the clan takes its name, although not even Vurth has seen this type before.

More startling than the butchered deer, though, is that the faces of the clanfolk are all plastered in yellow mud, the men with their hair spiked with dung, making them all seem like supernatural creatures. A couple of grins break through the caked faces, however, as Vurth is spotted and he is soon examining the carcass with a professional eye.

The others approach the gate of the pallisade, where a tall, thin figure stands next to a pair of bloodied spears. Despite the dung-spiked hair, this is a woman, with the bearing of a warrior. Calmly waiting as the travellers approach, she calls out a challenge, "Hail Fizz Foolsbrother. Come you as Friend or as Foe? Come you as Ochre Fallow or as Danlarni?". A drum beat from the longhouse behind her adds weight to her challenge.


Silverquill, again seated on Skullcleaver's shoulder, looks all about him, ignoring the very odd looks he's getting.

He makes a note in his big notebook: "The people of the Ochre Fallow Clan like to wash their hair with dung, possibly in an attempt to intimidate their foes. This, to me, does not seem intimidating - merely offensive and unpleasant. The human women of Alda Chur, especially those of the Lunar persuasion, wash their hair with pleasant-smelling concoctions - these people could do well to visit the Great Market there."

He then snaps the notebook closed and waits for Vizz to respond to the challenge.

"Friend I am," declares the godi. "And I speak for us all, for I am First and honoured duck tup..admirer, and we are Danlarni, the kin of Lanulf. O woman, you have the bearing of a warrior, handsome in a bold, sharp-featured way, and strongly built, but it is custom to tell us your name."

Vizz then pauses, allowing truth magics to work, standing tall without his normal stoop.

"Indeed , it's the truth, for I never was taught to lie"

"We do not come to steal, nor to fleece you, nor prick your flesh with sharp bronze, nor to pour scorn. We seek by affability to procure agreeable companions. What say you? We are perishing for hunger, and would speak of the generousity of your table covered with exquisite dainties, delicious wines and the choicest cordials."

Again Vizz pauses, waiting for a generous response. He thinks to himself, without the shit shampoo, that this warrior woman would be welcome to his visit his blanket, recieve a gift of his meat and even a salty gift.

"Know then, Friend," says the woman with a certain emphasis, "that I am Gordangara of the Ochre Fallow, First of the Thunder Brothers, and I am known as the Unmatched." Seeming to know Vizz's mind, she proclaims, "Unmatched to man, for none may share my blanket but he best me in the meeting of spears, and Unmatched by man for none may best me in battle but his spear be true."

She pauses, as much to get the attention of her own as the visitors', and continues, "We see your Champion will not be tested for Truth, for his boasts are as hollow as his skull. Tell him he may skulk outside if he fears my spear, with the stickpickers and the scrapers of hides, for I will not fall before his mock anger as others may."

"Durulz, look up from your kindling and know that one within seeks you, for you have something of his."

"Skald, hold still your tongue within but it be to praise my father, for he is known as Black Brow for a reason."

"And you, First as you call yourself, know that the blanket you were gifted before is guarded by another."

"Here, take the Ochre Cup. You will find within your feast. If it be water, meat or salt is your choice." With this, she profers Vizz an ornately carved wooden cup, a journey depicted around the outside.

Vizz takes the cup. It is full to the brim with muddy water, the colour and weight of which suggesting that it contains yellow silt at the bottom.


Silverquill leafs through his notebook as Vizz parlays with Lady Dunghair. He returns again to an entry copied from Jaxarthe Whydeds 'The Journey through Far Point':

"The elements reign here in frightful and eternal combat, and spirits and other immortal creatures seem plentiful; though for the most part shy and unobtrusive. Even so, I judge it no fit place for civilised man. The country, though quite varied in character, either bristles with forests or is foul with swamp, and is constantly chilled by great troll magics out of Dagori Inkarth. Horses and other pack beasts are of no assistance in the hills and marshes. The trees are older than time, and exceed all marvels with their limitless age and size. Hills are raised up where roots collide."

"The stormy heights to the west of Jaskors Hold are remarkable for beasts of chase: stag, elk, roebuck, spreadhorn and horned boar. It is rumoured that fearful aurochs still haunt the wilder parts of the gallt, though I did not care to investigate this personally. Moreover, the wilderness contains a great sufficiency of otters, weasels, and utterly fearless alynx. On account of the great and ceaseless rain (The legacy of SkyRiver Titan), the entire country is dotted with rivers, mires and marshy gors. Their sole redeeming feature is that they contain innumerable eels, snapping turtles and large water wolves, with pickerals, roaches, burbots and lampreys, and sometimes salmon. From these products is made a fearsome fish sauce called blackburn or sticklepick, famed in more civilised climes but wholly repugnant to me after viewing the manner of its manufacture"

"As for the Bluefoot, they build neither road nor village, but instead isolated walled steads, joined by treacherous and winding trails. They are rude and wild, though generous in their hospitality and childlike in humour. Their rituals seem entirely devoted to the taking of steam baths in sweat lodges of stone and earth - men one day, women the next, ancestors the third. They all bear fearsome tattoos, women and men both; and despite the constant bathing they never change their clothes. Worst of all, they drown themselves in cats and screaming children."

"All in all, I was glad to rejoin the muddy track leading south from Ironspike, turning my thoughts to the civilised comforts and company of Alda Chur."

When the woman refers to him, and to 'one within' that has business with him, Silverquill looks up from his notes with an expression of surprise on his face. Someone inside claims ownership of some of his paraphernalia? He sees no giants, towering above the fort, fleecy clouds caressing their bald pates, so he is nonplussed and indeed quite flummoxed at this news.

But at least this Gordangara knows how to correctly address members of his noble race... that is something. Silverquill looks expectedly at Vizz to see what actions the grandiloquent human will take. He hopes that the choice will be salt, but that is not for him to decide now.


"I shall smear my face with this ochre mud," announces Vizz. "And tell you of my greatness, O Matchless Gordangara, and the greatness of my ancestors, if you should wish to listen. I would not wish to try to match you in spears, nor to try to thrust my spear in your flesh, for it seems to me that should I win, you should be dead, and should I lose then I should be the same, and what would profit either, and the victor would be known thereafter as Cruel.

Vizz dips his hand in the cup, scoops up some fingers of ochre mud and smears it over his face, trying to cover it all.

"Am I as ochre as can be, Gordangara the Matchless?"

"As to my kinsmen and my wise duck friend; you can be assured that our skald, Gyffun has come to praise Black Brow Chief, not to bury him in unpleasant melody or lyric. You should know that we have Uroxi among us, sacred bullmen who while desrerving of praise are, perhaps better suited to the paddock than the hall of chiefs, for all their awesome powers to combat foulness. Now, lead on if you will, for we would meet with those who desire someting of us, and we have other friends within yonder tall pallisade, and we should trust that none would seek to kill us or take our kindling. Unless, of course you have a passing interest in the greatness of my illustrious ancestors, for example Varosh Lighting, who once fought with a crazed......"

When Vizz eventually pauses for breath in his tale, Gyffun takes the opportunity to speak to Gordangara.

"I will be pleased to follow your advice," he says. "The advice of a friend. I shall be sure to have a care with my words to your father. No worthy chief need fear to feel the sharpness of my tongue."

He bows deeply to her and marks his face with the yellow silt as his companion did before him.

Still somewhat disconcerted, Silverquill reluctantly smears a thin layer of the ochre silt on his bill (durulz do *not* like to get mud on their feathers - and Silverquill is especially fastidious) and indicates to Skullcleaver that he should do the same. The giant Uroxi slaps a generous coating of mud on his face and runs his muddy fingers through his hair for good measure. He ogles Gordangara rather shamelessly.


Gordangara's mud-plastered face cracks into a grin as the visitors cover themselves too in the ochre silt. "Welcome then, friends. Meat it shall be." Waving them in, she steps to one side as Vurth helps some of her clansfolk carry the deer carcass into the stead. Her eyes widen a little as she sees his scars, but she is sufficiently relaxed to let out a gentle "moo" as he stomps past.

"The moot is soon to begin," she tells them, "And then my father can then greet you as is proper. For now, he has a guest, so you must wait without."

Now they are within the palisade walls, the visitors are surrounded by a milling crowd of the Ochre Fallow Clan, all with their faces painted. The deer hide is carried to the large drum in front of the closed longhouse and the intermittent humping is halted as the hide is draped over it.

A few moments pass as the visitors get their bearings, the excited chatter rising to a din. Skullcleaver has to protect his master from a crowd of overcurious children, but soon the durulz is quacking away contentedly, occasionally looking around for a sage such as he.

As the crowd swirls before the other visitors, they are suddenly face to face with a couple, he a burly, moustachioed man with a curious wide-brimmed hat and a single ochre stripe on his forehead, she a slight but full figure quite dwarfed by her companion, whose arm rests familiarly about her shoulder. It is Oshala, her fine features and bright eyes easily recognizable beneath the mudpack. She seems embarrassed to see Vizz under these circumstances and casts her eyes away, only to meet the gaze of Gyffun. Her eyes widen as she sees the intensity of his stare. The skald feels an icy grip on his heart and his dry mouth is momentarily capable of little more than to mutter, "The Snow Queen..."

Vizz is somewhat speechless. He cannot quite take in what he thinks he can see.

"Oshala...?" he manages to say, then begins the rote greeting of the Far Place Exporters: "Contact FWE, number one Iss-arr-aye. Contact FWE, quicker than the Lhankor Mhy. When the going gets rough they're super tough with a contact FWE shop."

He lacks conviction and is merely saying the words while all manner of thoughts pass through his bewildered brain.

"I had thought us to have a fair deal cast in bronze Oshala, my partner? Introduce us to this burly fellow else I shall be bimped. By his narrow stripe of ochre I must guess that he is not of your clan?"

The burly man steps forward to grasp Vizz's hand in his. "I see you are as mild-mannered as they say, Vizz Vollesbrother. I am Mollen Pizrak of the Alder. It is true that I am not of Oshala's clan, a matter I do regret, assure me. But, I have not one to neglect my kin. Now, what is this deal you have struck with my niece? And you sir," he addresses Gyffun. "Why do you gawp so?"

"Yes, Gyffun," sayz Vizz. Had I not told you how fair Oshala is? You seem surprised - thinked you I was exagerrating?"

Gyffun shuts his mouth with an audible snap and wrenches his eyes away from Oshala with some effort.

"On the contrary, my friend," he ventures. "Your eloquent description, while undoubtably highly complimentary, did nothing to prepare me for the lady's regal bearing and evocative features."

(Later in the day, Vizz would challenge Gyffun about this remark: "I hope by that that you mean that she evokes some pleasant thing, such as a goddess of beauty, and that you imply by regality something altogether noble and refined rather than according to the nature of most kings. I'll forgive your poetaster's lack of precision, as I know in your heart you mean well, Gyffun, if you'll forgive my pedantry - a habit formed to keep elps from snooshing ones swag.")

Now Vizz turns his attention back to the burly man.

"Mollen Pizrak!? of the Alder Clan? THE Mollen Pizrak? Well, I never! Tell me, is it true what they say of you? It is well known that many a tale grows in the telling, especially amongst the Exporters. Jerrret Cherries, in Dark Season, to the market of Alda Chur - was that really possible? Is the tale of Churgani's Lotus plants being exported to Tarsh via Too Far really true. Do you have any news or chat from the Outer Inn. I like your hat, is it from Esrolia? "

"You flatter me, friend Vizz, those cherries were but small affairs and the Lotus plants - well yes, an achievement, but the profit after the mules were shoed again, well.... but you, your reputation preceeds you as much as mine me." Pizrak takes a firmer hold of Vizz's arm and continues enthusiastically, "You must tell me the truth behind this story of those worms you sold, brought from the 'Bizarre Bazaar of Balazar', so it was said, and guaranteed to turn an angry Uzmother's thoughts to carnal pursuits, well, why they didn't make you a Golden...", oausing as he realizes he may have touched a raw nerve, Pizrak takes rein of his enthusiasm, and saysquite softly now, "And ne'er did the far Place see four such mustaches as these, but fie, I must give you the name of my waxman, for yours has taken ill to this silt we must wear in these parts. So, of this deal with my princess, young Oshala...?"

"We shall discuss the deal I have wrought with your fair niece, although I should say that we have only made the most preliminary wranglings, in what I hope shall be a continuing relationship of mutually beneficial altercations, with idle babblings and minor disputations over the value of this, the cost of that, the payment terms of such a thing. All in all, though, I certainly wish to make repeat business a significant objective."

"Well, I am none to argue agin such a deal, and with a fellow merchant, what could be finer? Proud I might be of my niece, were she not of such a nervous disposition and, I must say, so unfriendly with this skald and this bullman of your company. But, I pray you friend Vizz, spare me the details of the backs and the forths, for, though you and I have seen a similar number of summers, she is my ward, her father was my brother and it is you who would ask the brideprice. And brideprice can I give you now, for we FWE are few, and we must look to one another.

"You have taken on the mark of the Ochre Fallow, but you must be ware for the talk in the Ring is of little but war, as you will soon see. I fear that all here will soon be outlawed, even the simple folk, and I fear most for my niece, for she is not the first I have lost. So, if you would take Oshala for Yearwife, or whatever, here is your dowry, paid in full, and of more worth than the weightiest ingot... Be... bloody... careful... what... you... commit... yourself... to... here..."

With that, the merchant Mollen Pizrak moves on to other matters, such as explaining that his his hat is known as a Fedora and should ideally be made of a material known as felt and similar matters, until the moot is called...

Silverquill takes in these words about a coming, conflict and Skullcleaver grunts with satisfaction - sounds like a chance to pile more carcasses high in Storm Bulls honour...

Vizz is surprised at Pizrak's blunt talk of brideprice and marriages, but he maintains an outward facade of calm, and is indeed pleased to talk of the finer points of facial hair care, exotic hat styles, felt manufacture among the Pentan hordes, and why the Fedora is named, or misnamed, after the ancient ruin buried in the silt near Corflu. He glances at Oshala to see if he can gauge any reaction from his mud caked enamorata. It seems to him that being caked in mud might be a theme for this year, but one not forseen in any portents he can recall. He realises that he is more than fond of his sweet little stogie smoking trading partner.

He wonders Volle thinks of her, and also considers whether Mollen's advice on the Ochre Fallow in could be taken as advice for more specific matters.


Vurth enters the stead with the deer butchers and, seeing that the others have smeared their faces, he grabs a handful of mud and does likewise. He thinks that this might be an interesting party.

Vurth's hands are almost burning as he remembers the feel of the fallow's hide and remembers his days hunting. But his knife on his flesh soon concentrates his mind as he stands stock still among the mingling Ochre Fallow, caked in mud as they are...focussing on his knife as he cuts himself, his eyes wander to a pair of deep brown eyes, staring him straight in the face, and he feels, oddly a surge of guilt as if he had been discovered. This woman seems to see what he is doing to himself, and her single, brief and decisive response, is to slap Vurth full in the face and walk off....

Vurth rubs his cheek in baffled amusement. He turns to his fellows and remarks

"They usually slap me after I start talking," he smirks. "Guess I now owe her a talking to, eh?"

He laughs uproariously then shrugs.

"Someone give me some more mud. I think she cleaned off one cheek."


Once a few of the children have lost interest in Silverquill and he is capable of movement once again, he gets talking to a couple of their parents, cottars both. When he tries to bring the subject around to the local perils, he finds them losing interest, learning principally that they leave such matters to the nobles as much as possible. They know little of the other side of Sal's Ridge and probably wish they knew even less. Spotting Skullcleaver looming behind them in a threatening way, they start to grow a little worried rather than disinterested.

As if to throw a bone to a wolf to keep it at bay, one of them pipes up, "Just steer clear of the Uz, the batbroo, the giants, the ants, the ghosts, Hahlgrim Thane, the Lunars and the Hag's Haunt and you'll be fine", then they scuttle away.

Silverquill is a little surprised at this sudden flurry of information, given their obvious reluctance so far, and then finds he must follow the crowd into the longhouse...


The visitors follow the Ochre Fallow, or some of them, to the door of the longhouse, and Mollen Pizrak finds them a position at the entrance. Gyffun is still reeling a little from his encounter, but beyond the first look, Oshala seems to be avoiding his gaze - indeed she does not seem to have shown the slightest flicker of recognition.

Something approaching silence descends and a voice they recognize, that of Hahlgrim, begins in a low voice to recount the morning's hunt. As the crowd listens in rapt attention, the warrior's guile and cunning in tracking down the deer become evident. The humble carcass they saw outside takes on the proportions of a mythical beast, and, whatever their opinion of Hahlgrim, the visitors soon respect his weaving of words.

The gathered clan folk um and ah at the appropriate moments and as the tale of the hunt begins to reach a crescendo, Hahlgrim's words take on a rhythm accompanied by a thudding of feet on the wooden floor. The tale concludes with a rousing chase in the Otherworld between Hahlgrim and the fallow's spirit and none are left in doubt as to the warrior's swiftness and strength. Silence descending once again, Hahlgrim is seen, beyond the huddle, to crown himself with the soft antlers.

The visitors are caught up in a general exodus from the longhall, the most entertaining part of the moot now being over and the important business of building the fire for the feast now taking precedence.

Once they can take their places back, they see that there are much fewer people in the longhall. Umathkar is sat on a raised dais, the rest of the ring sat in two lines down the hall. The exciting business of receiving petitions has begun, the lawspeaker droning on about Orlanth knowing the hearts of men.

Seated beside his uncle, Hahlgrim looks with disdain as the visitors file back in, exchanging a word in the ear of an older woman sat beside him. Gordangara is by now also seated in the ring but what most surprises the visitors, as they look about, is what at first seems to be a bundle of cloths but which surprises them by moving ever so slightly. Clad in quite nondescript robes, this figure is evidently a dwarf...

Seeing the dwarf huddled beneath its clothing, Silverquill can't help but feel apprehensive, for he can see none other in the longhall who might have had any dealing with him. The lawspeaker's drone forms a backdrop to his worries but soon he picks up the rhythm and concentrates on the man's technique. Carping to himself about this human's poor understanding of law, Silverquill perceives that this is no lawspeaker, for, though this man speaks the law, he does not represent the Knowledge God here, but is instead a talker to gods and leader of ceremonies. He tries to tell his companions this but gets only nods.

Respectfully remaining in the longhall for the moot rather than join the growing clamour outside, the first, and most noteworthy, petition the visitors hear concerns the taking of a heavy ewe for sacrifice. The cottar is represented by a member of the ring, Gordangorl, whose names strikes a chord from when Hahlgrim paid his visit. Although this man's bearing is that of a noble, one of his legs is shriveled. Wearing no finery, his position of Orstan the Carpenter, speaking for the craftsmen and cottars on the ring, seems out of place.

The petition goes in the favour of the thane who had taken the ewe to propitiate Mallia, and by the time Gordangorl has represented a few more of the humbler folk and finally scraped his game leg back to his seat, the visitors feel they have learnt something of how decisions are reached in this clan. All the while, Pizrak has been giving his new companions the odd raised eyebrow, while Oshana has kept her face pointed firmly downwards. As the moot progresses through these dreary early stages, the woman who slapped Vurth has remained in the longhall, gazing knives at him. By the time she retires with Oshana to the festivities outside, it has become evident that the Ochre Fallow have the most traditional and warlike of clan rings, the Hill Ring, almost defensive in its repeated embodiments of the Father of Storms. Despite Silverquill's concern about Gordangara's earlier words, it is perhaps Gyffun Daggertongue who feels most uncomfortable, hearing the odd snippet of song from outside and the readying of instruments for the feast.


Eventually, Umathkar Chief does addresses his awkward visitors. He names the huddle beneath the blankets, with no little difficulty, as "G-Twelve-Seventy-Two", proferring salt with evident distate. It is with more grace that he profers a blanket to the trader Mollen Pizrak, and even with some enthusiasm that he turns to the now roasted deer, carving off a few pieces of meat from the haunch, placing them in a bowl and offering them to the Danlarni visitors. "So do we greeet our esteemed guests and our new kin," he intones, "and we listen to their tidings of other places."

Mollen Pizrak is the first to receive a signal from the chief, and the trader tells briefly, perfunctorily, of how he has come from Amadhall and how it is his regrettable business here to sum up the tithe for the Imperial Overseers, but, with a wink to the Danlarni, how he may bulk up the weight with the odd Uz delicacy.

Next to receive the signal from Umathkar Chief is the dwarf. Shuffling itself loose from its hood, a loud crack of joints is heard as it brings itself to its full height. "Huurrrum...," it says, and looks blearily at the humans before it, "Human Resources Trainee, HRT-G-Twelve-Seventy-Two, Debt Recycling Team." Taking a parchment from its folds, it squints and says, in a leasantvoice, "According to our records, the Ochre Fallow have an outstanding debt of, um, twenty-five hundred silver weights with additional HRT-G-class functioning, outsourced, at five percent pro rata plus vat-nutrition expenses, for leasage of a Yellow Jolanti, model Situational-Humour-Inducing-Transporter, mark IV, brand "Brains", for three cycles. The named leaseholder is the human," it peers at the parchment, "Silverquill the Wuse of the Ochre Fellow."

"While we make every endeavour to retain cordial relations with our clients," it continues, taking a deep breath, "we view non-payment as a breach of trust, and, should debts not be repayed in full, we reserve the right to assign Nilmergs as required. In this instance," it puts its hand in its pocket and drags out a small scrambling black thing, arms and legs seeking purchase on the dwarf's cloak, holding the thing before its face, "a Four-Mode, um, yes, Malfunction Half-Addressed," receiving a squirt of ink on its face to cover the Ochre mark, the dwarf continues, "Calligraphy Interrupter," it concludes, seeming satisfied and placing the beast back within its clothing and hunching back into its robe, leaving only its beard protruding.

Utterly confused, but somewhat relieved that nobody claims his Lightning Globe, Silverquill waits for Vizz to speak, his mind racing.

"What a scrumptious quibble!" quotha Vizz, in support of his quackerous companion, and stepping forward into the fray.

"It seems we have to closely regard the gage between this short underground thing on the one hand and that which we presume to be the defendant on the other, hight Silverquill. Our numbered but inhumanly nameless dwarf said the contract was with a human of the Ochre fallow known by the name of Silverquill, a common enough appelation among those who scratch marks with feathers, one would have thought. I suggest that the duck, more properly called durulz, named Silverquill is neither a human nor in the Ochre Fallow clan and to suggest that he is is absurd - he is a bird. This oofle, this short stuff, comes here to the hall of our friend Umathkar Chief and demands of him twenty-five hundred silver weights!"

"I would say to the Ochre Fallow: Show him some errors in his arse! Show him with your foot!"

Silverquill, his mind now as alert as always again, approaches the dwarf. "Gweetings, HWT-G-12-72. I am named Silverquill, but your wecords seem to be in ewwor. Can I see them, please? " A slight tussle ensues, Silverquill seizing the parchment from the dwarf, whereupon the latter retreats to its huddle. The duck tries to read the document as best he can , muttering incantations to Lhankor Mhy and waving his hand over it occasionally. He notices that the dwarf mis-translated certain points, so "human" should have been "organic being", "Wuse" should have been "Wise", but keeps quiet about these, focusing on the legaleze.

Meanwhile, Vizz, making time for his companion, continues, "But, I'm sorry, I made a purple digression, an acrimonious circumlocution. You would rather have us tell you tidings of Far Gors and Gallt. Let me first introduce myself again to those of the moot that may, by some weird difficulty, not have heard of me. I am Vizz, known as Vizz Vollesbrother. I am one of an illustrious line of warriors and magicians. I have travelled far - from the wilds of Balazar to the cities of Esrolia - and many wonders have I chanced upon, many foes overcome in fierce battle, many monsterous perils avoided and fell beasts slain through guile and staunch might. My companions look forward to closer association with you and your people.

"Umathkar Chief, I must make one further guilty admission, we are well acquainted from my previous visit, indeed that fine cloak of gold brocade sits well upon your honourable shoulders, 'tis no mere spigg, no decoration of overt vanity, you have not arrayed oneself in uncomfortable splendour as might be the case if you were less blessed by the gods. I say this not as a monotonous deluge of apparent flattery. Nay! No flattery, but honest truth and straghtfoward praise. The cloak of gold fades to that of muddy finery if the wearer perform a blameworthy improprieties. It's lustre fades, it's stitches fail, it becomes the ominous reflection of the wearers true worth - if he is mediocre, it becomes tatty, if he is avaricious then stained; if cowardly, rumpled. Contrariwise, if he is bold, it shines; if generous, wrinkles fall away; if a true hero it glows with an inner light! I must apologise therefore for testing our allies, or those we would have as allies, in such a manner - to gift them a cloak to find their true mettle. A cunning trick one must admit, but less than honourable. Now, onto the matter of news"

Vizz, with proverbial verbiage and some complementary bluster, describes the events of Sea Season. He is careful to describe the broobat attack and the heroic defense, the ant encounter and the associated danger, the haunted ruins (but careful not to describe the ancestral spirits, the chaos turnip patch, or the boy Odi). He exagerrates the distance from the Ochre Fallow, talking up the sharpness of Sal's ridge, with perhaps a cheerful tale of Angry Gods and the direst dooms they might bring again to those who might cross the ridge. He makes it clear that the Danlarnii exiles might be wanting certain trade goods, but also that they may be able to provide unusual or useful goods by which both groups might profit. The idea is that Umathkar thinks we are too far away to just be stamped out of existence, but useful neighbours and perhasp a buffer against Giants, trolls, ants, broobats, etc..He cites the egg and the cloak as examples of mutual benefit - how the egg had been the starting poing for a philosophic debate on the origin of life from which Vizz had benefited, how the cloak apparently glorifies Umathkar's greatness.

"Now, I shall cease before I prolong the story tiresomely. When this business is concluded, let us whoop with barbarous euphoria and sing of glorious life until we sink into a sweet stupor."

The Chief, Umathkar, is looking with wide eyes at Vizz, but sensing that Vizz is finishing his speech, Silverquill starts to rapidly circle the dwarf, waving the parchment around and spouting legal terms and precedents. "See here? This pawagwaph? Clearly an oversight on your pawt. The pawty of the thiwd pawt, being the pawty of the thiwd pawt, does hewewith and hencefowth agwee to maintain... utter wubbish!. It should wead.... "

The dwarf is thoroughly confused, unused to such irrational and demonstrative beings, so hunkers down within its clothing. Occasionally, it clears its throat with a "Hrum" and begins to emerge from its huddle to object to one of Silverquill's points, but invariably one of the feathers flying off the duck gets floats into its attire, evoking a great sneeze. When the happenstance of emergence and floating feathers are finally propitious, and there is a moment of calm, it finally is able to speak, "Hrummmm...Any complaints may be registered on form HL 543 X and will be considered in due consideration. As you have identified yourself as the human Silverquill the Wuse, I must advise you that the time elapsable for full repayment of debts is one season, else a penalty of a Nilmerg, plus appropriate notification of the authorities of bad debt, will follow. In the meantime, please enjoy the use of the Yellow Jolanti."

It returns to its blankets, holding out another parchment, waiting for Silverquill to fill it in. This he does hurredly

".... and furthermore, comes now Silverquill the Wise, the defendant in the above-captioned and -entitled cause, who, for answer to charges asserted against it in the original petition filed by the plaintiff herein, asserts its general denial of those charges, each and all, collectively and singularly, and wherefore, premises considered, the defendant further prays that upon formal hearing thereof at trial in a court of law, said charges and allegations shall be dismissed with prejudice, that judgment shall be entered in favour of the defendant, that the plaintiff shall take nothing and be sent hence without day, and for such other and further relief, at law or in equity, to which the defendant may show itself justly and equitably entitled."

Exhausted from his long squawk, Silverquill peers at the new dwarfish document handed to him and checks the legal nitty-gritty as best he can. The sum of 2500 silver weights would means that he'll have to dip quite heavily into his annual stipend, but his curiosity is aroused. He has heard about the fabulous Creaking and Squeaking Jolantis before and the chance to conduct a close examination of one of them and the subsequent dissertation could finally place him above that annoying Photius of the Fine Split Hairs in the temple hierarchy.

After a brief perusal of the complaint form, Silverquill fishes out his best quill and signs with a flourish. "There you go, master Dwarf. All signed. Now, where did you put that Jolanti?"


The Clan Ring has been watching the squabbles between the dwarf and the duck with apparent satisfaction, as if this justified their ideas of such beings. Chief Umathkar seems amused at the admission of duplicity from Vizz, but, once the little folk have said their pieces, he raises himself from his seat on the dais, and gravely addresses the Ring and those still in the longhouse, "Such is the burden we humans bear from the squabblings of the Elder Races. Our history is rife with the consequences of their wranglings, but sadly my boot must remain where it is. It is refreshing to hear one of noble bearing, with the tongue of the ancients.

"Fear not, friend Vizz, First of your Stead, that you have led me into a trap, for I shall indeed wear this cloak which you have gifted, and shall think it a finer possession than the old leathery egg made for performing windy tricks. I shall emerge, resplendent and full of this lustre you describe, at the hour of the feasting, and all shall see my worth," he says, casting his eyes about the Ring and the few others assembled, "perchance even that inner light you describe.

"We know the perils of which you speak, over Sal's Ridge, and we welcome you into our bosom if you feel yourselves worthy to face such dangers. Aside from the usual, you would do well to avoid the Hag's Haunt, for those demons have taken from our best warriors. As for trade, you must display your wares unless you seek specific favours?"

"Now we must close this business, and we shall meet again at the feasting, for I fear you would tell us also how to acquire cattle from our neghbours, or how to deal with these tax-collectors from the west...?"


Gyffun takes advantage of the confusion caused by the dwarf's cryptic announcements to slip unnoticed from the longhall. His intrinsically wayward nature easily overwhelms whatever small sense of responsibility he might feel, and he has many reasons to absent himself. He is eager to remove himself from the increasingly oppressive atmosphere within, and from the almost painful confusion that the sight of Oshala evokes in him. He is also intensely curious about the faint sounds of music that he can hear from outside...


Vurth listens closely to the ensuing dialogue between Vizz, Silverquill and dwarf. However, the key words ‘kill dwarf’ seem absent so after some time, once things wind down he decides its far too boring being inside with the wind and goes outside where things seem livelier.

At least he can get away from that peculiar woman he seems someone upset with thim and he hadn’t even had a chance to make her upset yet. Maybe some woman outside would give him that chance? Better go check.


Once the business with the dwarf and his Jolanti is concluded, Silverquill bows to Umathkar Chief and leaves the moot. Outside, he listens with delight to all the singing and playing going on - surely here would be an appreciative audience for his melodious songs?