It was night time. Everyone had been silent the entire day during our hike towards the east. It was only after camp had been set up and a fire had been made that I finally dared to mention what had happened.
"So, Sigmar." I had barely begun to speak when everyone turned to me, as if they somehow had hoped the whole issue would not be brought up again. I stared succinctly at him for a while.
"It's really quite simple for me," Sigmar started.
"I can yell at you and start a heated discussion, and we could fight all night about this. But I still need everyone for this mission, so I'd ask you only to open your mouths about this if you have something sensible to say."
Sigmar stuffed quite a large piece of bread in his mouth.
"But," he spoke with his mouth full, "make no mistake, your father will hear of this."
Armod stared into the fire. I think he had a pretty good idea what would await him at home.
"Well," everyone looked surprised as it was Freyleif that wanted to discuss the issue further.
"I still think it was the right thing to do. We're on a mission to get supplies for our peoples, and with a bit of luck it would've worked. You yourself said that their misery really is not our problem, so I thought you'd be on board with this idea."
Sigmar shook his head. "If you had listened to Heinz, you would have known that the people in Hemenster would sooner be against us than with us. My opinion on a situation does not change that situation."
He looked at Armod.
"And you, you of all people should've known to discuss such plans with me. Your father might be the Chieftain, but you are not and stupid stunts like that do not help your chances of ever becoming it."
I could see anger in Armod's eyes. He was positively mad with it, but only at himself.
At that point Sigmar stood up and walked to his tent. "It's going to be a long day tomorrow, so don't stay up too long."
Well, if we needed a clearer sign that that discussion was over, that was it. I couldn't help but feel sorry for Armod.
It was after dark the next day when we arrived at a small coastal town. Looking for a place to sleep, we did not find any inn or lodgings. Not wanting to repeat the same mistake, we decided not to intrude on people here, and set up camp just outside of town.
The wake-up call that morning was a surprising one. The voices outside the tent sounded somewhat familiar, but they were not from our party.
Curiously I went outside and I could not believe my eyes.
"Anders! Pieter! How did you get all the way out here?"
Within minutes everyone was asking them questions. From what I understood, they had explained our plight to a representative of the Dwarven Consortium, and were allowed to travel south through the mines to get back to the surface and look for help there. The remainder of the group had chosen to stay in Keldagrim and try their luck there.
"Oh man, you should have seen it." Pieter was visibly excited. "The speed those mining carts travel with, it's the most exciting thing I've ever seen!"
"You also said that about the dwarven city itself." Anders obviously heard it all before. "And their heating and cooling systems after that. And their smelting forge after that!"
"Oh I've got so many new ideas." Pieter pulled out a leather bind with papers sticking out of it everywhere.
"He'll keep you occupied for a while now," Anders smiled, "but not to worry, I too had some successes."
He walked us over to a small house somewhere along the coastline. He and Pieter had been allowed to stay there for a few days and even store some of their stuff.
"Wait here." He disappeared inside for a few minutes and then came out again with something wrapped in a piece of cloth.
In it were three magnificent swords of slightly varying shapes and sizes.
"Those dwarves really know their stuff, but they don't know their money. I got these dirt cheap."
Sigmar, Armod and Reinn now each held a sword and admired them to the fullest.
"Unfortunately, this is all the dwarves we're willing to part with." He said this as he showed his own new sword. "I don't think they could've helped us with our food shortage even if they wanted to. That is maybe why I got these so cheap."
"Still, I have hopes for this place. I met Arhein here the first day when we arrived and today he is going to introduce me to a man who apparently knows a lot about food."
This man was called Caleb. We grabbed Pieter from his notes and explained our situation back home. Pieter chimed in every now and then with ideas of varying quality.
"Basically, we have a shortage of food and wood. The people from that Seer's village have allowed us to chop down some of the trees, but we're still in need of a large quantity of food for the rest of this winter."
"Ok ok, no problem." Caleb was very courteous. "So tell me, what sort of food do you have available?"
This discussion went on well into the evening, during which Caleb had cooked us up a delicious and diverse meal. This man obviously knew his foods.
One thing in particular piqued our interest because it allowed food to stay warm for much longer than normal. The simple tomato, when heated along with whatever dish you're cooking up, would hold enough heat to burn ones mouth.
In the end we decided that it would be best for us to complement our diet of hunted and fished food with something that we could grow ourselves, the tomato in particular. Pieter said he'd be able to come up with some solutions that would prevent the plants from freezing.
"Of course, I would like something in return." Arhein obviously handled the financial aspect of this deal.
We all had a feeling that it wouldn't be just mere bags of coins that Arhein was looking for.
"You're on friendly terms with the dwarves, are you not?" He started, "I would like access to their pass under the mountain, can you arrange that?"
We let Anders handle things for our side. He was no Sigmund, but he was the best merchant south of the river now.
"I can't speak for the dwarves, but instead of one-off favours, surely we can set up a trade between our peoples? I'm sure that there's all kinds of stuff you need?"
Arhein and Caleb whispered to one another for a moment, and then returned to the conversation.
"Well, I always thought you Fremenniks valued being a warrior over everything else. But looking at you now..." Arhein glanced over to Pieter, who had by now covered an entire table with his papers.
"I guess the question is 'what CAN you do for us?'"
Anders looked around for a moment. He stared into the kitchen for a while.
"You guys fish and farm and prepare all kinds of food, right? And you'll want to sell it to many other people, right? This means you need to preserve it somehow, and I think that's here we can help."
Anders grabbed a couple of jars and pots from the kitchen.
"We can make these in any shape and size that you might need, and of much better quality, too." He looked at the almost opaque glass jar in his hand.
I left them to work out the details of whatever deal they were making. Any room turns stale quickly when there are a dozen people inside, so I went for a breath of fresh air.
"Hey, it's you." I heard a voice from behind me. It would have sounded familiar if he wasn't so out of breath
"Heinz? How did you..." He grabbed me by the shoulder and pushed me back inside.
He took a moment to catch his breath.
"It's good that I found you when I did. I've brought two volunteers, but we are only minutes ahead of the Kandarin Royal Guard!"
Everyone jumped up.
"Time to test these out, I suppose" Sigmar smirked. "I was wondering when we'd have a fight on our hands. Any idea how many there are?"
Heinz' volunteers had joined us now as Pieter had fled inside with Arhein and Caleb.
"I'd say about twenty. We can take them if we do this right."
"Take them with what?" Svidi stood there with nothing more than his knife in hand.
Even though Armod and Sigmar had given their archery equipment to Signy and Freyleif respectively, a few of us stood empty handed still.
For Beigarth this didn't seem to be a problem. He had kicked the balustrade from a nearby fence and now had a 12ft pole. But Svidi and I stood empty handed.
We crouched behind trees and corners of buildings and waited.
Heinz was wrong. There were at least thirty heavily armoured soldiers marching into this small village. Everyone was awake and looked out their windows. We were outnumbered, out armed and out armoured. Hiding had no use for us and neither did running lest we leave all of our needed supplies behind. We had to fight.
Anders had an idea. He tapped Hild and Signy to come with him and waved to the rest of us to stay out of sight. I still didn't know what he was planning to do, but he walked out right in front of them before turning and running away.
"After them!" The commander sent a dozen of his men to chase Anders, Hild and Signy, while ordering the rest of his troops to search the rest of the town.
I hadn't found anything that could act as a weapon, other than a few feet of rope.
Suddenly, Heinz and his men shot their bows, and three soldiers fell to the floor. I jumped up behind another one and tried to strangle him. Armod, Sigmar and Vemund swung their blades, some missed, some hit. Beigarth managed to knock a few of them over with his former railing. Reinn was in trouble and had to fight off three more soldiers, but Freyleif shot one of them. Svidi was nowhere to be found.
Seeing Armod and Sigmar, despite their differences, fight side by side against half a dozen of those soldiers is enough to make one realise one is Fremennik first, and everything else second.
A horn sounded from the beach. I dropped the soldier I was fighting and sprinted to it and found Svidi again on my way.
"Any ideas?" I asked, knowing that neither of us had any weapons to speak of.
"Svidi!" Pieter tossed him a hammer from a window. I guess it was better then nothing.
When we arrived at the beach we saw Anders dodging the stumbling soldiers. Half of them lay in the sand, dead or incapacitated, I didn't care. Signy and Hild had scrambled up the cliff and were still attempting to fire their crossbows.
I grabbed a helmet from the sand and flung it at my nearest enemy. It distracted him enough for Anders to drive his new sword into him.
Svidi attempted the same thing with his hammer, but missed. In an unfortunate turn of events, it loosened the very rock that Signy had climbed on, and she fell down along with it.
Hild fired another shot, Anders stabbed another soldier and the last one gave up. This battle was won, but everyone realised we had to help the others before we could help Signy. Svidi disarmed the soldiers that could still move while the rest of us ran back into down.
Beigarth had fun bashing in heads, but others were less fortunate. Sigmar was bleeding a lot from his left arm, Reinn cradled his leg with one hand while stabbing a soldier with his other, and one of Heinz' men lay face down with a sword in his back.
The only comfort was that most of the soldiers were defeated. Hild took aim at the commander and shot him in the leg. Armod hacked in on another soldier, and Freyleif hit the ground near one of the soldiers that was fleeing the scene.
Hild took aim again at the commander. Sigmar yelled it out in pain as he lifted his arm to stop her from shooting again.
He then walked over to the commander and removed his helmet.
"I do not seek war between our peoples. Why have you attacked us!?" Sigmar sounded eerily calm.
"I do not want to wage war with you either, but the king's will be done."
"Look at this!" Sigmar pointed out all the defeated soldiers. "Is this what your king wants?"
"I can only guess." The commander stammered nervously. "I was to bring you in for questioning, but it was you who fired the first shot!"
Sigmar turned ever more pale. It was clearly visible even in the dark of night. It could be the loss of blood, but he knew the commander was right. Did Heinz start a war between the Fremenniks and Kandarin? Surely their king would not let this go unpunished.
"Take care of your wounded, and we will do the same." Beigarth had already carried Signy back, and Freyleif was taking care of Reinn.
"What? Are you going to let him live?" Heinz was obviously scared and angry. "He'll know it was us, and if he tells his king that, there will not be a day of peace for any of us!"
"I'd have to agree with him, Sigmar. We could come up with a ruse." Armod couldn't hold himself back.
"This is exactly why we must let them go." Sigmar walked to a house to get his cut bound. Once inside he pointed out why it would be best to let them go.
"Their king knows that he sent these men after us specifically. If they do not return he will declare war on us no doubt."
"Heinz, you and your people are welcome to stay with us if you feel you are threatened. We owe you that much after today." Sigmar had trouble staying awake. "And tell the commander he has my deepest apologies. If he is a good man he will preve... He will prev..."
Sigmar had passed out.