The Mountain. I



Ask me why I stare

At the mound on the horizon?

Why I wander so silently, eyes upcast?

Why my gaze so longingly turns to that towering visage?


For I walk there not among men of flesh, but among gods of heaven

For there stands only the silent whisper of the stars

And the gentle sweep of the water,

frozen, as the world, in time.


There, I drift, free of care,

Free of worldly woes. And there,

Like the cherry-blossom down the stream


To a world only heaven knows, I



~ Writes with Dew

This place is pretty great: the air's fresh, and the view's beautiful and invigorating too. Lorist thought.

They were in a valley near the Garilos mountains in Arriotoli's barony. She had built a hunter's cabin there and usually left two people to guard it. The nearby mangrove forest was a valuable source of timber. Their patterns were especially sought after by the rich. Arriotoli had been surprised to discover such a huge mangrove forest nearby and instantly laid claim to it.

The forest came with two other key products, one being raspberries. Each was slightly smaller than a blueberry, but thin-skinned and juicy. They sold for a premium more often than not. Raspberries grew on shrubs in mangrove forests and matured in the 8th or 9th month. Since raspberries couldn't be kept for long, they were dried or made into fruit wine. Raspberry wine was expensive because people believed they had medicinal and aphrodisiac qualities, both of which made it very popular with the nobility. The second product was red mushrooms. They sported a bright cap and were delicious. They bloomed shortly after the rainy season for a few nights, which was the only time in the year they could be harvested. They were one of the continent's favorite cheap delicacies. They were especially popular in soups, but worked in almost any dish. The forest was a small treasure chest, a godsent for House Dina. Just the two harvestables alone made the household 30 gold a year.

The three-floored hunter's cabin stood on the forest's edge in the valley. The bottom most floor was stone, while the other two were wood. There was even a beacon above the third floor. It looked like a small fort.

"Wolves come down from the mountain in search of food in the winter," Arriotoli explained, "so the cabin has to be fortified enough to keep them out and the guards inside safe. The beacon is to call for help in case a large group of bandits or poachers show up, or the watchmen are in trouble for some other reason."

The ground floor had four small rooms and one large communal area with the stairs. The first of the rooms was the stable, the second the pantry, the third a small vault, and a workshop. The workshop had a small kiln and could make and maintain basic tools. The second floor had three rooms that fanned out from the stairwell which also functioned as the dining room, two were bedrooms and the third a kitchen. The dining room had a small table and four chair. A stag head hung on the wall above the table.

The ground floor might as well have been underground, for it was pitch black inside without windows and had to be lit with torches. The first floor, however, had windows, small as they were. Glasswork being as primitive and expensive as it was in this time, the windows were essentially just rectangular holes in the wall. The two bedroom-walls had two hinges boards that could be closed or opened, whilst the kitchen's window had a thin skin cover. The cold dominated most of the year here, even summer was cool, so the windows were closed most of the time, and the inside was still lit with braziers. Everything stunk of soot and smoke.

The bedroom to the left of the stairs was slightly smaller, the walls wrapping around the stairs that ascended to the third floor. It was the tallest of the three floors, and had the best lighting. It had two slit windows, and a murder hole in each of the outer walls, which let light reflected off the ground or snow into the room as well without letting the wind and cold air in too much. A trap-door-like contraption in the ceiling led to the beacon on the roof.

A bamboo pipe brought water over from the nearby stream. It ran by the house about 16 meters away. The steep ledges behind the house, down which the stream flowed, let the water run into the house on the first floor. It ran through a series of pipes, each with a tap in to use the water, down the house and into a pond in the yard, which overflowed back into the stream. Some of the pond's water ran into a trough in the stable.

"Not bad. I should be able to survive here," commented Lorist. He could see the fields and the castle at the foot of the mountain from the platform on the third floor. The village of Howak stood in the distance at the entrance of the valley.

"It's too run-down, Your Grace. It's severely lacking. Should we go get some cutlery, candles, and clothes?" asked Reidy.

"No. Have you seen watchers use silver and gold cutlery and candles? We're pretending to be watchers, best play the part. We can make our own utensils. Go fell a tree for some bowls and forks later. We'll use torches. As for clothes, just head further up the mountains and get deer or wolf pelts or something. Also, didn't Arriotoli mention the two phony herbalists will be here again in another a couple of days? We should scavenge a few herbs."

"As you wish, Milord."

Lorist was surprised that the couple came all the way to the cabin when they returned. Fortunately, he and Reidy had scavenged a lot of herbs. They weren't cleaned or dried yet though. There were also a lot of holey wolf pelts in the yard.

"Not bad. I'll take everything," said the male, called Jack, without bothering to give them a detailed check. He even took the chance to inspect the cabin. The woman kept Lorist in the yard and asked a lot about the pelts.

"We caught them with a few traps. They were impaled on stakes buried in hidden pits. Unfortunately it means they aren't worth anything on the market, but that's fine since we only wanted them for personal use." Lorist acted like a sneaky, money-grubbing farmer. In reality, Reidy had ruined them. If he hadn't they would obviously have been bought by Arriotoli and sold for money. Mountain watchers would obviously not want that.

"What a shame. Where's your partner?"

"There. He just went to patrol the forest. I have to stay back to feed the horses and make lunch," Lorist offered as he pointed.

The woman turned around and saw Reidy coming over from the forest, a bow on his back and three turkeys and two hares in his hands.

Arriotoli exploded immediately.

"Krimando! You're weren't patrolling at all! Hah! Caught you red-handed! You won't get any money this month! You know House Dina owns everything in the forest. I'll be taking those kills as well!"

Reidy walked over crestfallenly, "But I didn't hunt them in the forest! I was hunting up the mountain! That's free game!"

"I pay you to guard the forest, not to hunt in the mountains! No excuses. No money for you! And how can you prove you didn't hunt them in the forest? Maybe they live there and happened to go out to the mountains!"

How... how would I prove that?! Having no choice, Reidy could only hand his game to Arriotoli, who picked them out meticulously and tossed a wild hare on the ground and complained, "Too thin. You can use it for soup."

The herbalist watched on from the side.

So this is how a real noble acts! Jack left the cabin and shook his head slightly.

Since they discovered nothing, the two prepared to head back. First, however, they had to pay for the herbs. Arriotoli was quite adept at bargaining, so it didn't take long to close the deal. She made 1 gold, 15 silvers in the trade. She pocketed the coins and tossed Lorist and Reidy two small silvers.

"Not bad. Here's your reward. Should be enough to buy five wheat bears in town."

Lorist smile painedly and rubbed the small silver. He had finally experienced how it felt to be a citizen taken advantage of by a noble. In fact, Arriotoli was being rather generous with two small silvers. The nobles saw everything in the dominion as their property. All of it belonged to them, so why would they pay anyone anything for getting it for them, whether that be by hunting, farming, or foraging? The three visitors left by horse. Lorist and Reidy were left with the herbs, which they had to take to town on their own. It would be shipped to Daphne by someone else from there.

"Why not just have those two bring it all the way themselves?" asked the woman.

"Not happening. If I let them leave, they'll vanish for who-know-how-long. I won't give them the time to waste their money, or an excuse to loiter."

The couple was speechless.

You call two small silvers money?!

They had, at first, wanted to bribe the two so they'd spy for them, but, since Arriotoli wasn't giving them the chance, they let the thought go. Seeing that the two spent most of their time in the mountain, they probably didn't really know or see much anyway.

Reidy sighed when the three vanished.

"I'm really glad she's Lady Dina and not Lady Norton."

"Didn't you see how good her acting was? She duped the couple completely. They don't suspect a thing. I'll start healing tomorrow. You remember the herb I asked you to get, right? Go find it for me. Also, make a bathtub.

It was time for Lorist to start his internal healing. He would use Reidy's Dan Ocean Ki-refining technique instead of his Aquametal technique, the former was calmer and more suited to such endeavors. Magrut's battleforce had completely ruined his dantian, it could only be healed by slowly rebuilding it over time. The two stayed in the mountains for two seasons.

Summer came and left, as did autumn. Arriotoli would come by with Sunirulu and Terryke from time to time. Sunirulu and Reidy would go scavenging in the mountain and the forest while the three nobles played around. Terryke, the chubby little rascal, kept tugging on Lorist's beard. Lorist had a new toy ready every time the kid came for a visit and the two would play together. They got along quite well.

Lorist was back up to the third stage of the Dan Ocean Ki-refining technique when the third 10th month rolled by. He was now once again equal to a gold-ranker and cold just barely hold his ground against a single rank 1 blademaster. He would be back to swordsaint in six more months. He was sorting some herbs currently, preparing them for processing, when Arriotoli came rushing up the mountain on horseback.

"Locke, News from The Northlands! Something's happened!"