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Marshmallows of Woe

Day of the Minnow (2nd), Thunder Moon, Year of the Sea Serpent [5/4/2002]

Grand Bazaar, Sarheenmar.

After a while Quarn's feeling of elation wanes as the sky brightens and the new moon of Hecate gradually pales into the morning blue. He sheathes his scimitar and mounts Oohool, who has been standing quietly nearby.

He rides down the hillside and see the city of Sarheenmar, its flags waving in the breeze, beginning its new day, blithely unaware of his new power and glory. Not exactly sure of where he is headed, he finds himself at the north gate of the city. There he is hailed by a familiar voice.

"Quarn! It is of course I, Myron the Merchant of Gnamph Nar. Of course you remember. You seem distracted, but no matter. How fared your business in Sarheenmar? I sold my marshmallows profitably, but I fear this will be my last journey here. Although profitable - there are no decent marshmallow plants outside of the Great Forest - the route has become too dangerous. Even now I dread the return voyage. The beastmen attacks near the Barrier Mountains are becoming more ferocious, or so I hear, although I fortunately avoided harm to my person on the way here. They say the beastmen have a fearsome leader, whom they name 'The Burnt One.' It is said that this being commands the beastmen with magic to fanatic loyalty. In any case the over land route is getting more dangerous. Were it not for my wagons and the expense, I would seriously consider a sea passage back to Gnamph Nar. Even the mingols don't dare cross these animals. Oh I'm dreadfully frightened. Do you know of any decent Sarheenmart mercenaries, Quarn? But then, maybe I should just sell my wagons and take ship and never return. But the marshmallow business is profitable. What do you think I should do? Ah what a to-do!"

Quarn is about to ride off. While half-listening to the merchant's prattle he thinks of Lucidia, still presumably sleeping in the tavern. Quarn turns to the merchant. "Give up the marshmallow trade? You must be mad! Those marshmallows are a delight to the senses! I think I might know a couple of mercenaries in Sarheenmar who would be interested in a trip to Gnamph Nar. I can think of one Mingol in particular who is not afraid to cross those beastmen." He strokes his moustache. "I offer the services of Quarn, the Mingol Champion, Slayer of Bandits and Hero to the People and my companion Lucidia the Spider. I am sure that we can handle a few beastmen, burnt or not. (preferably burnt by a bit of Quarn's Flame).....For a price (and marshmallows), of course."

"You?" asks Myron, looking him up and down carefully. "Hmm, you're not so big but you do look capable. I don't know if just two people could protect my caravan."

Quarn manages to convice Myron that he and Lucidia could protect the wagons, and he manages to get Myron to agree to the sum of fifty bronzes per day, each, plus food until the wagons reach Gnamph Nar. Quarn returns to the inn to look for Lucidia and prepare for the journey. He buys some more arrows at the market, also seven torches and some rope. He asks at a few taverns to see if anyone knows any more about these beastmen and 'The Burnt One' in particular but just receives blank looks. While walking past the harbour wall, he overhears a fragment of a conversation between two merchants. One comments on the beastman attacks in the forest, then the other replies that they've gotten a lot worse in the last few months. However the speakers then fade from Quarn's hearing and although he clumsily attempts to climb the wall, the speakers are lost in the crowd by the time he reaches the top.

Quarn makes sure that Oohool is in good condition and then meets up with Myron when he is ready to leave. He buys a big back of nuts and munches on them while he is waiting, and watches the people go by. Eventually Myron is ready, he approaches Quarn and introduces his majordomo Ekki.

Quarn says to Myron: "Have no fear, Myron, beastmen have well learnt to fear the wrath of Quarn. Allow me to introduce my associate Lucidia. Not only is she capable warrior she will also keep your caravans free of rats. We will watch over your caravans here tonight and be ready to leave before sunrise." Then quietly, "do not take too much notice of what she says - she suffered a knock to the head a short while ago and hasn't been the same since."

Myron says, "Whatever you say Quarn; she looks very capable." Lucidia merely gives Myron a dirty look. "Ah..I must see to the caravan..uh..bye now." Myron scuttles off to talk to Ekki.

Quarn and Lucidia sleep by the caravans. The next day, the caravan is packed and moving before it is fully light. Quarn and Lucidia are on their horses and riding beside the wagon train as it rolls out of the gates of Sarheenmar and onto the plains beyond.

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