A Road Well Travelled: March 2007

4 March

The Rapids

We’ve reached an impass. The Simi river is wide and fast here, and the rapids make it too treacherous to try and cross.
The choice is to either head North and back to Bray then cross the Simi there, or follow the river South to its mouth and cross in the estuary.
I really don’t fancy a long walk of a week or more North, to then spend another week heading back here, so we’re going to the mouth of the Simi.

9 March

Salty Marshes

So, we headed south along the bank of the Simi towards the South Sea. The smell of salt in the air has becoming noticeably stronger over the past few days.
There are marshes across from us on the other side of the river, whilst we are finding ourselves being forced further inland from the slowing river because of the increasing amount of mud flats. Tomepicker has, for some reason I cannot fathom out, decided to attempt to pad through the mud rather than fly over it. It has slowed us down immensely as I seem to be constantly having to free him when he becomes stranded.

Today we finally reached the open sea, and what an amazing sight it was. Just an expanse of turquoise water as far as the eye can see all around to the south. What ever lands exist beyond the sea are truly a long, long way off. I have occasionally seen schools of dolphin moving across the sea. The last time I remember seeing dolphin was when travelling between Merquay and Roper’s Isle with Rhonas, Clunav and Torfeld.

The river has split into several smaller channels, and formed a large triangular area of shallow waters to cross. We have been able to cross these shallows fairly easily, over the fine sand below. Tomepicker has discovered many treats to eat within the salty water – crabs, worms and a strange creature that I have been unable to identify, although I have had time to draw an example.

With all the salt water that Tomepicker has been snuffling through, he has now developed a funny crusty layer to his snout. It makes him look like he has a fine beard on him! Now that we have reached the western side of the Simi we can resume our travels to Castlecairgn once we have eaten and rested.

13 March

Market Day

After a walk of several days, during which I can honestly say nothing much happened we have arrived at Castlecairgn. We have walked, ate, slept, and passed through wild fields of unattractive flowers and weeds for the past four days and come across absolutely nobody during this time.

Castlecairgn however, is anything but quiet. It is market day today, and I would guess that everyone from around Galamor has arrived here to either buy or sell products.

I have used a few of my silver drouts to treat Tomepicker and myself to some fresh produce. The taste of freshly made bread is simply divine after weeks of travelling on mainly dried and salted foods. I couldn’t resist the fresh fruit either, and bought some of the local grown apples. They are so juicy and sweet, I have never tasted anything like them before.

Tomepicker spent the afternoon sitting high up on the castle turrets whilst I continued looking around the market. I obviously look like I am down on my luck as several fabric merchants were eager to sell me a new outfit. There is nothing wrong with what I have. It has served me well for many years, and will do so for many more!

Conversations between the market sellers and patrons were interesting too. There were many people who had travelled up from Merquay, and they were eager to talk of the return of Baldrakes on the Southern Islands. The market sellers simply dismissed these stories, as the result of eating too many hemp seeds, but I’m not so sure.

Maybe I need to revisit the Isle and see whether the Baldrake I healed is active again.
I must also record that one seller of trinkets has a rather interesting item for sale on his stall. It is a small battered container, no larger than a small drout box. The Runic writing around it I understood straightaway, although the market seller has no idea of it. This container once contained an important parchment, long since gone, regarding the ultimate treasure. All the stall keeper could tell me was that he had found the box near Kinrew. I don’t know why but I think that this is related to the dry lake I encountered at Merelee, and the wizard Yermej.

14 March

Rain and Strax

Today the weather has turned, and the air is damp. It has rained since early morning without a break. I have found a very quaint tavern tucked away within Castlecairgn’s small and narrow streets to stay in until the weather clears. It is called “The Mystical Convention”, and reminds me of “The Flying Dragon” in Bray. The tavern master, Old Joddam, has made me feel very welcome. He has laid out a wonderful spread for lunch in front of a roaring fire, consisting of local cheese, bread and meats, and his ales would give Brownale a good run for his money!
Tomepicker is sat in front of the fire, lazily warming himself. The other locals who are in here are not phased by the appearance of a dragon, but are keeping a respectful distance between themselves and Tomepicker.

As there is nothing else to do today but stay in doors I have spent most of my time reading through my writings so far. I read back to my notes about Merelee, and I think I really do need to find Yermej. I can’t quite figure out what he is doing, but I have an uneasy feeling about his actions.

One of the regulars, Bairre, challenged me to several games of Strax in the covered alley around the side of the Tavern. I thought that I was a good Strax player but I am now several silver and gold drouts lighter, after losing every game. Maybe it was down to the fact that we were using silver balls, and not stracyls, to play with. That will be my excuse if I am asked about the loss by my friends when I return to Soulhill.

I do hope that this rain clears up soon otherwise our travels will be delayed. Joddam has informed that the rains can last for several days when they arrive.

20 March

Off Again

The rains of the past week have finally eased and should stop tomorrow. Then we can continue our travels, south to Merquay and Roper’s Isle. Whilst waiting here, I’ve been talking to the locals in The Mystical Convention, and they’ve told me many a story and tale about life around here.

Bairre has been the most fluent storyteller, although I do have a doubt as to whether all his tales are true. He has warned us against travelling west from Astown, because of strange sightings close to the Gnarlbark forest, and insists that many travellers and traders have disappeared along the roads between Astown and the Dwarves home of Matarreg.

According to Bairre it is the work of “those little people”, although I find that hard to believe. After meeting and travelling with Dhirrac the Dwarf I can’t quite see that the Dwarves would be responsible.

Cuinn, the fish trader, has also spoke several times of the rise in price he is paying for fresh fish being delivered from Merquay because of a shortage of fish in the seas around the small fishing village.  Well, as we are heading to Merquay next, I will see first hand whether there really is a problem with the amount of fish being caught.

Tomepicker, after spending the last week sitting in front of the fire eating the leftover meats and cheeses, is reluctant to start travelling again. He has crooned at me in a disapproving way on several occasions whilst I pack to travel, before shuffling closer to the fire and turning away from me.

Sometimes I think he is spoilt to much, and how would he cope if I made him stay outside. If he carries on sulking I will let him find out.

25 March

The Dancing Dolphin

We’ve been travelling south for the past week heading towards Merquay. This morning as we woke, there was a low mist rolling across the open fields towards us, and as it reached me I could smell the salt within it. Tomepicker looked unsure as I began chuckling, until I explained to him that it meant we were very close to Merquay. We walked the last two miles along the bank of the Simi – it was almost a repeat of my last entrance to the small fishing village, except that last time I was clinging to a boat as Rhonas paddled along the Simi.

The village hasn’t changed much. It still seems to hang on to the rocks by the side of the pebbled beach.
I headed straight away for the one place in Merquay that I knew would be welcoming – the Dancing Dolphin and it’s innkeeper,
Iollan. Tomepicker padded across the stone floor towards the open fire, whilst I arranged for a room, food and ale (in that order!) with Iollan.

Once adequately full I caught up on events since my previous visit. Torfeld the giant recovered from his injury quickly, although in the process it seems he almost drank the entire village dry (all for medicinal reasons of course!). He remained in the village for several years, but when the strange boats began passing beyond Roper’s Isle he headed off to the west to try and find out more about them. Since then, he hadn’t been heard of, or seen.

With the mention of the boats - that I’d also seen a while back - I enquired about the lack of fish being sent North to Castlecairgn. Iollan looked glum and said that the fishermen were really struggling as their catches had vanished from the waters over the past few years.

The locals, according to Iollan, thought that the Baldrake was responsible for the lack of fish and were not happy. Surely, after my encounter with the Baldrake, I would be able to visit and see whether or not this was the reason for the lack of sea life around here. I will try and find out more about the situation tomorrow when I speak to some of the locals.

26 March

Trapping food

Well, I rose early this morning to begin talking to the locals about their depleted fishstocks. Iollan was right, they are angry! Finn Stringer took me to one side and spoke to me about the changes.

As we had spoken in the past, and he was aware of my meeting with the Baldrake, he thought it only fair to warn me of the feelings the fishermen had towards the Baldrake. He took me North from the quayside, and into the fields were I could see men standing in the fields with their fishing nets. I had mist this unusual site yesterday due to the rolling mists.

As I stood with Finn, he explained to me that this was what the fishermen were reduced to - throwing their nets in the meadows trying to catch either bird or rodent. They were devasted at their loss of fish, and were seeking revenge against the Baldrake.

I begged Finn to allow me to visit the Isle and attempt to speak to the creature for myself. I just cannot believe that after helping the creature, it would resort to this. It seemed to me that it was a calm creature, only aggresive when we were threatening its clutch of eggs.

Back at the tavern, I settled for the evening ready to travel to Roper's Isle in the morning and a meeting with the Baldrake.

27 March

Into the lair

It has been difficult to find a fisherman who would be prepared to sail me across the straits to Roper's Isle, but in the end I managed to persuade Corfan (along with the addition of several drouts) to take me.

We sailed across the straits and it was eerily quiet. Corfan pointed out to me that not only were the fish gone, but the dolphins that used to be so playful around the waters were also missing. Surely the Baldrake wouldn't be catching and eating dolphin.

After a while we arrived at the Isle. Corfan refused to leave the boat, although it had been moored against the rocks, and so I walked towards the caves slowly, with Tomepicker padding behind me. We arrived at one of the entrances to the Baldrakes cave and sat, waiting. If the Baldrake was still a creature of habit, it would be out in the waters at the moment and return to the caves soon.

We waited for maybe two hours, before Tomepicker nudged me with his snout, and then turned his head further down the beachline. There was the unmistakeable image of the Baldrake - being followed by two smaller creatures. I suddenly realised that the two creatures must have been the eggs I encountered before - although sadly it seemed that one had perished.

The Baldrake saunted up the beach, and towards the cave, passing straight by without a growl or fick of the tail. I followed the three creatures into the cave then stood, deep in thought hoping to find a way to touch the Baldrakes mind.

After a moment, I sensed it thoughts. It recognised me as the one who eased it's pain before. I asked the creature about the lack of fish in the local waters and the Baldrake spoke to my mind telling me that it was finding food hard to come by too. The strange boats that were passing by on a regular basis  seemed to be catching and taking large amounts of fish with them. Suddenly I felt a great deal of sadness in the mind of the Baldrake as images of the third  baby, nets and the strange boats flooded my memories.
I thanked the Baldrake, broke my hold on its mind and returned to the boat.

Back in Merquay I spoke to many fisherman and told what the Baldrake had said to me. The strange boats were to blame for the decreasing fish stocks, and  not the Baldrake.

Now, as I complete writing this entry for day I am left to wonder about the strange boats, the disappearance of Torfeld, the antics of Yermaj, and I wonder  whether they are related in anyway.