She Has Walked Into What?

In the previous episode of Feast Fables, without knowing what she was agreeing, Kerrid accepted Eld Freilsen’s offer to walk with him. Now she has realised her error, how can she extricate herself from this situation?

The next episode, Six Blink Of Bright Eye, ready now.

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Roots of Rookeri 15

Raselstad

Boteras Rookeri-Sharmin
aka Boddy

Week Fifteen

“Wowzah, wowzah, wowzah!” Boddy sang. It was Friday. He should have served another two days on the Watch but this was his last. He couldn’t stop grinning.

The fair-folk were in town, crowding the Hub with their rides and their stalls. And with tomorrow being the scrample semi-final the town was heaving with visiting supporters from Rummastad, come from the East Ghats. The Council, anticipating trouble, had appealed to Count Slemba and Count Slemba had agreed to send in his cohort. In full. Thus at twelve bells, the Watch would be relieved of duty. Boddy need only to guard the gate till this evening and then he’d be free to return to his chorus. Wowzah!

And now that the canal-wall was repaired, the foul-water ditch dredged and deepened, Uncle Sturan had relented – Boddy need serve Sharmin Gord just the one day a week. Was that Gammer Haspra’s doing, or was that her doing. Boddy had hugged her heartily. With Parla’s feast just twelve days away, Boddy was keen to get on with writing and rehearsals. Negghe, too, was pleased of it.

For the first time in eight years Boddy and Negghe had drawn the same seven-day watch, and the dean, the nugget, in a momentary lapse of reason, had posted them together on East Gate. That early morning had seen a steady influx of fair-folk, with their ponies and carts. But now the fair-folk were in, all further arrivals would be at Rams Gate if river traffic, or  if travelling by tram-road then at Horse Gate. And since again this year there’d been no goblins sighted, and anyway East Gate was the farthest from the Luant and the Nah, there was little to do. So, hey, Boddy and Negghe could play.

They danced, marking the beat with their lippy-mouth drums, Boddy exuberant beyond control, kicking his legs in a lively jig that Negghe, though younger, was hopeless to match. And, hey, it felt good. Arms out, shoulders swaying, hips gyrating. He was whooping and laughing. Negghe gave up; panting, the sap stood and watched.

Ten weeks of penned-in vivacity vented, Boddy burst into song. “I’ve pennies in my pockets and they’re turning to cents.”

He’d never known so much money. A penny in the hat at each performance, but that was shared between the twelve – thirteen now with the rankling Lucire.

“I’ve cents in my pockets and they’ve taken my sense.”

Natzo, though the ginger mead most certainly would; he intended to sup to his uppance this night.

“I’ve coins in my pockets and they’re making me heavy / but I’ve music in my heart and a lust for a bevy / and I’ll sing and I’ll dance and I’ll find me a girl to—”

Yeah zo! He stopped abruptly to stare at the approaching party.

“A girl to what, Boy-Boddy, to what?” prompted Negghe.

“Romance,” he answered, distracted. “Negghe, is that no boy in the middle there or is it . . . no boy?” Though with the sun in his eyes he had to squint. Three figures approaching, each leading a pannier-packed pony, and the one in the middle was . . . ambiguously sexed.

“Rothi,” Negghe said with contempt.

“Rats, great. They would arrive now, slap in the middle of our duty. Another few hours and they’d be the Dragons to snag.”

“Peddlers, you think?” Negghe asked, head atilt as if questing.

Boddy slowly shook his head, song and dance replaced by duty. “Natzo. When did a peddler dress in drab?” And they must have been stifling in their coarse jasckte coats, narrow-cut brecks tucked into travel-dulled boots.

“But are they Rothi, are they?” Negghe threw doubt on the identification. “Where are the sparkles? They’re not prinked and pimped.”

“It’s their hair is the giveaway.” Boddy could see it even if Negghe could not. “Plaited at the back, see, and as pale as that recent Rothi petitioner – except for that no-boy there in the middle. Is that blood-red or is it blood-red. That’s not what you’d call ginger like Patri Kerchen. Not carrot like Dola.”

“Sure, Boy-Boddy. But I don’t see sparkles.”

“Yeah, which means they’re not bandits.” Not bandits, yet whatever, whoever, they were. Boddy had a feeling they were trouble on legs.

He waited until they were within hailing distance – then brought down his pike to block their way. “No further without identification!”

~ ~ ~

Sifadis Lafdi

The first sight of the townstead had amused Sifadis. From a distance it looked entirely undefended. And Kalamite Runman feared an attack from here? But closer too and she saw the channels – like moats, and not the one she’d first thought but three separated by baulks. So the townstead did have defences.

Then the gate-guards crossed their pikes and she burst into laughter. Lorken and Kullt cast disapproving glances.

“Och,” she said. “Two men in flimsy cotton and billowy shirts, armed only with pikes? This Raselstad compares not at all with our citadel.”

But, wait. Gowen Sivator had warned her, the eye is easily deceived. Look beneath the appearance, he’d said, and see the purpose there.

The townstead sprawled but not due to any large population; it was that they grew their food within those encircling moats. And that told her much. No walls, ay, but the triple moat and the food grown within – this was a town used to enduring long sieges.

Even so, those guards were ineffective, flashing white brecks and silken shirts – her fingers itched to touch them, she did so like silk. And that one on the left sported a shirt the exact same colour as her hair. But, nah, the men lacked beef. They’d not cut down a foe at a slice, they’d not even heft a Rothi battle-axe. They had more the lithe forms of fair-folk jugglers. Ay, with their Heli-darkened skin and Heli-bleached hair they could pass for those travelling entertainers. Were it not for the badge-bands tied round their woeful biceps – and their pikes – she’d not know them as guards.

One called a challenge – no further without identification. That amused too. Was his voice supposed to scare, neither deep nor fierce. Softly it wrapped around her. She frowned. How had it carried so far? But, supposedly a lad, a student, it was not for her to respond. She waited for Lorken.

“Travellers from Rothi, warding this scholar, here,” Lorken shouted, no hesitation in his step, continuing to walk.

And why not, they had every right to enter. She twitched on the reins of her baggage-pony to keep it moving, and crunched her way along the gravelled road, Kullt to her one side, Lorken to her other. The look exchanged between the gate-guards wasn’t lost to her, though they spoke too quietly for her to hear what was said.

Then the one in blood-red shirt called again. “Tell me, what interest has a Rothi scholar in Raselstad? Or has she come to Luban to discover the truth?”

He,” Lorken called back. “You blind? The scholar is he.”

The red guard said something to the other in blue. Both laughed.

“Great, yeah, fine,” said the red guard. “Then the scholar has found what she seeks – the truth of her sex. We’ll know more of you before you pass.”

With their continued walking they’d no need for shouting. And now she could see them more clearly, there was no denying both gate-guards were handsome. But, hay la, her gaze fixed – she swore it was of its own accord – on the one in the red. How cool he must be in his silken shirt, with his long hair surging like the sea around him – while hers was severely knotted. Ay, she envied him. This westerly breeze, heavy with heat, did nothing to cool her, wearing this jasckte-wool coat. And despite she wore a cotton shirt beneath it she couldn’t undo it for scholars did not. The rest of Rothi called them stuffy and no wonder. Ay, but such clothes served a purpose in Rothi where scholars must sit in the coldest of chambers.

“Och, you doubt me?” To sound more like a lad she lowered her voice. “My wishardt-master sends me to Luban as part of my final validation.”

“Natzo, I don’t doubt. But tell me why pretend you’re a man.” The red guard stared in challenge at her.

“I—”

“Prove it,” he said.

Och, crud and crust! And now she could feel the flush creeping up from her tightly bound chest.

“Impudence!” Kullt sneered, his hand dropped to his throwing-axe hidden amongst the skirts of his coat.

“Nah,” she bid him, quietly, urgently. “Leave it.” She turned back to the red guard. “You have the truth of it, ay, I travel in guise. But it’s not from my choice. My wishardt-master urged me to it, he said for my safety. We hear there are bandits in Luban.”

“Sure. Rothi bandits,” the blue guard said though the red guard bowed his head in acknowledgement of her – or so she took it.

“Great, yeah, fine, Bel Hade. So I’ll ask you further. What’s to interest a Rothi scholar in Raselstad?”

“And I have said. Be I man or a woman, it makes no difference to my interest here. I am travelling through the Lubanthan townsteads seeking record of an ancient Rothi adventurer. And that is all.”

“Ghats, is that right?” the red guard said. “Then I’ll be having the pleasure of seeing more of you – whether you remove your coat or not.” He flashed her an impish smile.

Her quick gaze down hid the flush of her cheeks. But then Kullt muttered of removing the poodling guards with a throw of his axe. She quickly thought how to stay his hand. Perhaps if she answered the gate-guard in equally light manner . . .

“And why say you that, of seeing more of me?”

“Oh, no deep reason, Bel Hade. Yet to access our records you need access our Records Hall.”

She appreciated his unwitting help. But she didn’t understand how, by her use of the Records Hall, he would see more of her. She cocked her head in query.

“But you don’t think my sole occupation is to stand at this gate checking who’s in and who’s out? Bel Hade, you see before you a fellow scholar – master of the chorus, a poet and playwright, Boddy Rookeri Sharmin, at your pleasure.”

This time she heard what his companion said, that he was being free with his words. Sifadis thought the same and she laughed.

“With respect,” Lorken said. “Why are we stuck here when we could push through?”

“Hush,” she hissed at him, quietly. “The man brims.” And, most unexpected, she felt as easy with this guard, scholar, poet and playwright as if he were Rothi.

“Boddy Rookeri, a Lubanthan poet,” she teased. “I have heard no tell of such a creature. Yet there are two types of poets; which are you? The resident bard who composes epics to laud the deeds of the lafard-legere, his House and his ancestors? Or – and I suspect it more likely – the troubadour who travels around to entertain the hindlings and urbs in their hamlets and manses and towns? Orator, or singer of common tales; which are you?” She softened her tease with a swift smile.

“Forgive, Bel Hade, but aren’t they the same? The Rothi epic is but a common narration, not a worthy tale of the gods. But if pushed, I must say I am both in part. I am the gods’ very own versifier.”

He was arrogant. “Prove it,” she demanded.

“Hadd Leef,” Lorken said as if she’d not now dropped the deception. “The undern hours are passing fast and we still have a way to reach the town-proper. And then to find lodgings. And neither should you dally with this nesh.”

She noticed how the red guard, Boddy Rookeri, bristled at Lorken’s words. So he had sufficient use of their Rothi speech to know the insult. She glared at Lorken. She dropped her voice to barely audible. “And you have become Gowen Hadd of a sudden? I will speak with this scholar. Who knows what I might learn from him.”

“Bel Hade,” the red guard Boddy Rookeri recalled her attention, the impish gleam in his eye internally disturbing. “Say what you’d learn and willingly I’ll teach you. But only after you stop this deception and be openly woman.”

“Ay me,” she returned, “and I thought that settled. And you’ve yet to prove you’re a poet. So come now, versify.”

Ay-la, and did the guard-scholar-poet not realise how unsettling that shrug. Glimpses of a golden body beneath his red shirt inviting a touch. Why had no Rothi man ever disturbed her as much. But he was versifying and she changed her attention.

“Lotus Lafdi in clear springs rising / wash the earthly from this body.”

It was less his words – though, ay, they had their charm too – it was more his voice, most disquieting, born of his heart. And it seemed his verse was addressed to her.

“Fill in its stead your love and your spirit / make of this man a swain more worthy.”

Her response, what ought it to be? And he’d stolen her breath. She was unused to this. She found herself suddenly flustered, a hundred concerns. She stared. Her lips, her tongue, felt not her own. Yet . . .

“You conjure words just . . . just like that?” she said and with her hand mimicked what she intended as a magician’s gesture.

“Yezzzah, Bel Hade, just like that.” He repeated her gesture.

“Hadd Leef,” Lorken pestered.

“Fy-fy-fy, I know. Go away.” She returned to the red guard, Boddy Rookeri. “So may we now pass? And might you recommend lodgings, an inn?”

His companion, the blue guard, shook his head and drew in a breath, squeezed-between-teeth. So what now was wrong?

“Do I know of lodgings or do I – I’d say to try Rookeri Gardens,” the poet-scholar red guard Boddy Rookeri said.

“Gardens?” Sifadis couldn’t help but draw back. She had no prejudice of the stews, but neither had she desire for such lively company. “Nah, I prefer not to stay at a ‘Gardens’.”

He looked disappointed at her reaction. “Hey, you fussy for a room or . . .? I tell you, there’s nothing wrong with Rookeri Gardens. I’ll tell you too, this isn’t the best of Fridays to be arriving. Now had you arrived yesterday, or delayed until Monday . . . We have our scrample semi tomorrow and Raselstad’s full. Ghats, how ungrateful. Lady, we could refuse you entry.”

“Could set camp out here they could,” the blue guard said. “Plenty of company once the Dragons arrive.”

“That’s so, Bel Hade Scholar. I tell you, I strongly urge you to the Gardens. The other hostelries will by now be full.”

“And your Gardens will not?” That was no good recommendation. She raised a brow.

“Could be, yeah zo, I can’t say as definite. Yet I will say those to the west and the north will be full the first, while Rookeri Garden is east, just yonder.” He nodded southwards towards the river. “This morning, I tell you, there were still rooms, and not on reserve.”

The scrample, he’d said. But of course. A strange game whose sole purpose was to win a title, and that somewhat tame beside the Rothi war games. Ay, they’d arrived at the wrong time, indeed. Gowen Sivator had told her of the crowds it attracted. Yet this talk of Dragons . . . were they not the Lubanthan armsmen, as different from these gate-guards as were the Rothi folkhere from the citadel’s holden? Gowen Sivator wanted to know their strength so perhaps they had arrived the right day.

“Walk on,” she told Lorken and Kullt. “These guards will not stop us.”

~ ~ ~

Boteras Rookeri-Sharmin
aka Boddy

Boddy didn’t realise, at first, he was sucking his lip as he watched the scholar pass through the gate and on down East Lane. Oh swallow, gulp, pant, but that Rothi lafdi was pulling at everything in him.

“Heill! Yoo!” Negghe said, a hand waved in his face. “Thoughts on duty, here.”

But he didn’t want to lose sight of her. It would wear off, he wasn’t a fool. But, wowzah, it felt good while it lasted. So rare.

“Boddy, Boy-Boddy. She’s Rothi she is. Though, suppose she had a certain beauty.”

“A certain beauty? Spew on it, man. Tell me, was her skin like lotus blossoms in spring or was it—”

“And you heard the way she spoke to her companions – more likely her personal watch. And you see that twitched muscle when you called her bel hade?”

“Yeah, yeah, I know. She’s accustomed to it, a noble born of a citadel House.”

Yeah zo, to dream such a woman would ever look at him . . . as futile as dreaming that Eshe would help fatten his plants. Sadly he tore his gaze away.

“No,” Negghe groaned. “Boy-Boddy, she’s a natza for you.”

Yeah right. And already it hurt.

~ ~ ~

Roots of Rookeri 16: 22nd April

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Slippetty Slop

Slippetty Slop

Slippetty-slop
Slippetty-slop
Back and forth
Never stop
Confined to her room
And in a strop

Slippetty-slop
Slippetty-slop
Back and forth
Never stop
They must be punished
Thoughts on the hop

She sees a chance
Packs Teddy and brushes
Opens the window
And in icy wind rushes

Nah, she decides
Not today
Her friend Rachel-Ann
Is coming to play.

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A Man Well-Met. Or Not?

In the previous episode of Feast Fables, Kerrid found herself delivered to the ‘knowing-man Eld Jetelden, But the Eld has another name, one that shakes her and warns her of danger.

In this next episode, Come Walk With Me, Kerrid has the first inkling of what the threat.

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Citadel Lecheni, Explorer’s Guide

 

Some Useful Facts and Figures

A Roots of Rookeri Supplement


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Citadel Houses
    1. Rothi & Citadel Economy
    2. Town, Manse And Hamlets
    3. Some Figures
  3. Wood Tower
  4. Profiling The Houses
  5. The War Games
    1. Rules of the Game
    2. The Folkhere
    3. Lecheni’s Contesting Citadels

INTRODUCTION

Perched on a limestone headland, overlooking the Yemure Sea, Lecheni, the most southerly of the Rothi citadels, oozes an air of ancient tradition, wealth, and pleasure. But do not be deceived for, beneath the surface rumours, espionage and intrigue weave a tight web through this small wall-bound society.

Citadel Lecheni, a place of startling contrasts where the medieval citadel is lit by battery-powered street lights. Even a few of the houses now have them. Though, it is said, not the youngest building, Wood Tower. None but runmen feet tread there; it is death to enter. So, Explorers, beware. Yet a knock at Greystone House and a polite enquiry might gain you access to the Tower Gardens. The Gardens attract many visitors each year. The Woolpack Gardens, too, attract active traffic, although there the interest is of a different nature. Advice to Explorers: Unless you seek the ladies’ lusty pleasures, you would do well to seek accommodation in the encircling town. For those not backpacking, most of inns have admirable stables.


 CITADEL HOUSES

Citadel Lecheni

Today, only four of the Houses are held by the descendants of the original Twelve Founders. These are Rams House (with the adjacent Woolpack Gardens), Two Boars’ House, Shore House, and House Eland, each easily identified by their external decoration. Of the others:

  • Treasury, formerly Bull House, is now held by Shore House
  • Greystone House, formerly Wort House, is held by House Eland
  • Runman House, formerly Bell House, is another Shore House holding
  • Mathon’s Manufactory, formerly Skorp House, now is held by House Eland, their most recent acquisition.
  • Witan House, formerly House Cornucap, is held by House Eland. Previous to this the Witan was held in the Hall of whoever the ruling lafard-legere.
  • Law Courts, formerly Hunters’ House, now is held by Two Boars.
  • Dormir House, formerly Well House, is another held by Shore House
  • House of Healing, formerly House Quisk, also a Shore House holding

The barracks are a recent addition, not part of the original Twelve.

The perceptive Explorer might enquire of how the descendants of eight of the Twelve Founding Families came to lose their Houses, and with them their manses and hamlets. To answer, we need to understand the Rothi/Citadel economy.


 Rothi & Citadel Economy

As in Luban, the Rothi culture began with a simple declaration of equality. Thus at Foundation, each group of twelve divided their land equally between them, the same in Rothi as in Luban. But Rothi, while suited to cattle rearing, lacks the fertile flood plains that characterise the southerly Luban, and Man’s nature will out.

In response to the subsequent violent harrying by dissatisfied neighbours, some families sought the protection of the strongest amongst them and, by this desperate measure, tied their descendants to the rule of the Legere-Chair, and its supporting system of taxes. (See section, Foundation History.) It is not known at which of the Rothi citadels this first arose, so quickly did the custom spread across the Plain. Nor is it known how long ago it began.

In the course of the passing years, with changing fortunes, with plagues and environmental disasters, the inevitable happened: Amongst the Founders’ descendants some failed to meet the tax demands. These at first were set at so much grain, so much wool, so much hide, and an annual levy of men for the folkhere.

It’s not known which Lafard-Legere of which citadel first waived aside the problem of payments and said he would take their land instead. It wasn’t theft, he allowed them still to live there and to work it. They were to deliver to him all their produce. He then would return sufficient to cover their needs. It seemed a satisfactory solution. In the ensuing decades it was adopted by the other citadels.

By such means, while the Legere-Chair was held by Shore House, the Lafard-Legere there acquired 4 additional Houses along with their gord-lands. When the Chair passed to House Eland, House Eland acquired a further 3 Houses and their accompanying gord-lands. Now the Legere-Chair resides with the Two Boars House and in their first year they acquired Hunters’ House which long had been ailing; it is now the Law Courts which had previously formed part of Rams House and Gardens.


 Town, Manse And Hamlets

Lecheni and Environs

Only the lafard, his immediate family and their servants are citadel residents. The surrounding town houses the artisans and their families.

The original rôle of the artisans was in to make arms and artillery. Now their numbers are greater some specialise in the crafting of elegant clothing and precious jewellery. Their work is destined for their holding Houses. Besides the provision of appropriate housing, workshops and food, those Houses also supply the required raw materials. They make payment by gifts selected according to how pleased they are with the wares. Such gifts encourage competition between the craftsmen, and help to perfect and progress the crafts.

While the artisan families are the first source of apprentices, additional are sometimes found amongst the agricultural workers. There it’s not forbidden to practice a craft, materials allowing. A young boy with an interest in handicrafts might find himself apprenticed to a town-smith. Apprentices’ are allowed to sell their wares in the local Winwon market, otherwise the Houses employ traders to sell their artisans’ wares.

The artisans are arranged into guilds known as ‘mysteries’. They are not exempt the folkhere levy.

Beyond the town lie the fields and pastures. Workers here live in clustered hamlets, beneath the watchful eye of the manse-manager. The manse-manager, also known as the bachelor, is responsible for the collection and accounting of the agricultural produce. In this he acts as a sub-begator. He doles to the workers their portions, and delivers, as tax, to the Lafard-Legere and, as upkeep, to his citadel lafard. He is usually a male relative of the holding House.


 Shore House

  • Manse: Henet
  • The manses of the four acquired Houses have long since been demolished.
  • Hamlets: Henethen, Juren, Churenth and Omelt

House Eland

  • Manses: Tonem and Fershtek.
  • Hemlets: Fengoth, Doeb, Soosnen, and Fershen.

Two Boar’s House

  • Manse: Churen
  • Hamlets: Churent and Cherfen

Rams House

  • Manse: Egone
  • Hamlets: Egoneth

Some Figures

The original total (arable) holding of Lecheni’s Twelve Founders was 24 square miles. This represents 1,280 acres per House. Arable land is at a premium in Rothi.

Yields accountable for tax


Shore House with its 5 holdings

  • Acres: 6,400, but gained from 5 holdings, this is not in one block.
  • 424 tons wheat
  • 168 tons barley
  • 2,700 sheep/goats
  • 15 herds of jasckte
  • Animals in addition: 320 oxen to plough

Shore House also has the sole fishing and shipping rights.


House Eland

  • Acres: 5,120 acres
  • 209 tons wheat
  • 130 tons barley
  • 130 tons oats
  • 1,860 sheep/goats
  • 10 herds of jasckte
  • Animals in addition: 248 oxen to plough

Two Boars House

  • Acres: 2,560
  • 110 tons wheat
  • 67 tons barley
  • 60 tons oats
  • 960 sheep/goats
  • 14 herds of jasckte
  • Animals in addition: 130 oxen to plough

Rams House

  • Acres: 1,280
  • 25 tons wheat
  • 34 tons barley
  • 60 tons oats
  • 500 sheep/goats
  • 9 herds of jasckte
  • Animals in addition: 64 oxen to plough

How many cattle to a herd of jasckte? This varies across the Plains. In the southeast corner where Lecheni is situated, 1 herd comprises 50 head.

In addition, most of the holdings have orchards of apples, pears, plums and cherries, keep bees, chicken and pigs, have access to river or sea fisheries, grow additional rye, used mostly for bread, and various vegetables, mostly the hardier brassicas. Horses are rare. While none of this produce is subject to tax it can be taken in lieu.


Agricultural workers are permitted:

  • To keep 1 sow per family with loan of a boar
  • To keep 6 hens and 1 cock. A tenth of the eggs to go to the citadel holder
  • To hunt – amphibs only; they are vermin and poisonous at death.
  • To gather wild foods but not from the holder’s land
  • To fish the river, but only with rod and line (the building of weirs is strictly forbidden) At Citadel Lecheni the produce of weirs belong to Shore House

WOOD TOWER

Wood Tower is a misnomer though its internal structure might be of wood (none but runmen have seen it). It is not one tower but a complex of five, each with ceramic tiled walls. The tiles are covered with a profusion of vines and flowers in the pattern known as ‘The Tree of Life’. Twelve Trees entwine around the curtain wall which rises above the Houses around it broken only by the four outer towers. Animals both indigenous and domesticates hide amongst the branches. Glazed, the tiles reflect the sun and bring light to an otherwise shaded the citadel close.

The four towers are presumably named for the Houses nearest: Water Tower (SE), Leaden Tower (SW), Eland Tower (NW), and Bull Tower (NE).

Separated from the curtain wall by the much visited Tower Gardens, is Wood Tower itself. Accessed via the outer towers, across arching walkways that masquerade as flying buttresses high above the citadel Houses, Wood Tower itself is lit internally by a spiral of long slit windows. Of coloured glass, nothing can be seen through them. Rumour claims the outer towers are climbed by a flight of nine ladders, and Wood Tower internally descended by spiral staircase 12 flights deep.

Nothing more is known of the mysterious tower that dominates this citadel.


 PROFILING THE HOUSES

Data taken from Witan Census.

‘Noble’ house servants are those taken from the Houses of other citadels. They include seleman, geref, cook (usually), dulcinde, napmaid, lafdi-lai and eskuri. Those listed as pagini are ‘out-of-towners’ employed as chars and carriers and generally for any odd dirty job.


 Rams House and Woolpack Gardens

The hostelry and pleasure gardens, originally an integral part of the House, were developed as a source of additional income in order to meet Rams’ tax commitments.

  • Mikel Lafard-Awis. A genial host and reputed libertine.
  • Evand-Had, brother to the awis.
  • Idolat-Hade, wife of Evand
  • 12 stews
  • 3 beefmen (security servants)
  • 5 noble house servants
  • 3 pagini

Total inhabitants: 26


Treasury

Non residential


 Two Boars House

  • Breken Lafard-Legere
  • Affalind Lafdi-Legara of House Eland, his wife. This is as yet a barren marriage.
    • The Legere-Chair belongs to Affalind.
  • Trefan Lafard-Ledhere, younger brother, and leader of the folkhere.
  • Kervalet Had-Begator, uncle (See ‘Treasury’ above)
  • Iffig-Had, Kervalet’s son; Kervalet’s wife is deceased
  • Ellorne-Hade, a widowed aunt
  • Garawen-Had, her son by Rhillin, deceased younger brother of Kervalet
  • Otian, chiparin, illegitimate son of Breken’s deceased sister.
  • 7 noble house servants
  • 5 pagini

Total inhabitants: 20


Old Shore House

A former ruling House, Shore still is home of the citadel library. Shore and Rams are the only Houses still with a garden.

  • Sifadis Lafdi, citadel’s librarian and record-keeper
  • 6 noble house servants
  • 4 pagini

Total inhabitants: 11


 House Eland

  • Mathon Lafard, former Lafard-Legere, abdicated in favour of his daughter in order to pursue his crafts. Mathon is an inventor.
  • Helen Lafdi, sister of Kervalet Had-Begator of Two Boars House, aunt to Breken Lafard-Legere; Helen is a master embroidress-tapestress.
  • Affalind Lafdi-Legara, non-resident, married to Breken Lafard-Legere of Two Boars House
  • Ilud Marsled Hadd, son of Mathon’s eldest uncle, Master of Horse to Breken Lafard-Leger.
  • Emhele, wife of Ilud
  • Maggat, Ymtan and Hinthan, sons of Ilud
  • Mengelen Hadd, son of Mathon’s youngest uncle
  • Notzen Hadd, brother of Mengelen
  • 10 noble house servants
  • 3 pagini

Total inhabitants: 22


Greystone House

Listed separately in the Census, the tax due on this House and its inhabitants is accounted by its holding house.

  • Gowen Lafard-Sivator. Of unknown origins, Gowen was promoted to Sivator by Mathon when he was Lafard-Legere.
  • 4 noble house servants
  • 3 pagini

Total inhabitants: 11


 Runmen House

Runmen House is best treated as a monastery, its inhabitants unrelated. As with Greystone House, the tax due here is accounted by its holding house.

  • Kalamite-Had, Papa-Keefer, born within the warison, son of a stew who died at the House of Healing, no living relatives are known
  • Ffika Runman
  • Honning Runman
  • Scheren Runman
  • Sparra Runman (now deceased)
  • Glonon Runman
  • Corbegh Runman
  • 5 noble house servants
  • 4 pagini

Total inhabitants: 16


Mathon’s Manufactory, Law Courts and Witan House are non-residential. Mikel Lafard-Awis presides at the Law Courts; the Witan meets daily to discuss matters arising; the Manufactory serves as Mathon’s workshop. It is here that he makes the Mathon-lamps.


 Dormir or Schlepan House

Held by Shore House and given over to accommodation for retired holden and seamen. It is non-residential functioning as a night shelter only with provision of beds for the otherwise homeless. Its dual name reflects the origins of its users, Schlepan being eastern Rothi and Dormir western. An act passed while the Legere-Chair was still with Shore House exempts it from tax. There is, therefore, no record of its ‘inhabitants,’ past or present, other than its essential employees.

  • 3 noble house servants
  • 5 pagini

Total inhabitants: 8


 House of Healing

Residents of the House of Healing are transitory, of varying duration, remaining only until healed, cured or deceased. No names appear on the Census, instead is an estimate based on the number of beds available and the number of servants.

  • 12 Beds
  • 7 noble house servants
  • 7 pagini

Total inhabitants: 26


 East Gate Garrison

Under the command of Dryastil Hold-Ledhere, in any given year the citadel holden number between 20 and 30. Their names are not recorded; the barracks not being one of the Twelve Founding Houses is not subject to tax.


 Population Figures

              • Total Population of Citadel Lecheni, as given: 140.
              • Total Population of Lecheni town, as given: 747
              • Shore manse and hamlets: 300
              • Eland manse and hamlets: 230
              • 2 Boars manse and hamlet: 120
              • Rams manse and hamlet: 70
              • Population overall for Lecheni: 1610.

Approximately one third of these (530-550) will be required at some time to perform in the War Games i.e. men aged 14 to 40.


 THE WAR GAMES

To lessen the devastation of war, yet to allow Man his natural drive for dominance, battle in Rothi has become ritualised in the form of The War Games. The Lafard-Legere must have the loyalty of his folkhere and the financial backing of his Houses in order to win. But the War Games are more than just a test of strength and loyalty, more than a test of the new Lafard-Legere’s ability to protect his citadel, lands and Houses. Upon their outcome hangs the patterns of tribute, and ultimately a citadel’s wealth.

The Games begin upon the death of the Lafard-Legere. All previous agreements of tribute now are dissolved. New treaties must be agreed, new alliances cemented.

As soon as the Witan accepts the successor each of the neighbouring citadels will issue a challenge. Lecheni is fortunate in having only four neighbours. Yet this limits its ability to accumulate wealth.


 Rules of the Game

  1. Only neighbours compete. In order not be caught unaware of developments, every citadel has its spies. These are permitted.
  2. The Games take place on the campus nearest to both opponents, i.e. land set aside for battle, usually close to a border.
  3. On the first day the Legeren do not fight. They watch.
  4. At the close of the first day’s battle the winner is calculated by a ‘poll’, i.e. by a head count of those still standing, thus able to fight.
  5. The Legere with the lower ‘poll’ count may withdraw and submit to this neighbour. This automatically entails payment of annual tribute.
  6. If the losing Legere opts to continue then the next day he will fight, one-to-one, with his opposing Legere. This does not often happen. Champions may be substituted with the agreement of both Legeren.

The existence of the War Games does not obviate border attacks by bandits and renegade bands. A bandit is one who is banished. A renegade is one who will not accept society’s rules. There are more of the latter than of the former.

To guard against such attack watchtowers known as veletten are erected along the borders of the citadel lands and manned by the markhere, its members drawn from the folkere.


Folkhere

A part-time force, raised as required to compete in the War Games. To ensure their peak performance at all times, they receive regular training. In addition, twice a year they take part in mock battles. The Lafard-Legere provides uniforms and weapons both of which must be kept in good order.

Their motto: Eat together, fight together, die alone.

The Ledhere (commander) of Citadel Lecheni’s folkhere is currently Trefan Lafard. Tradition insists the ledhere is the Lafard-Legere’s brother. Where no brother exists, or is unsuitable, adoption answers.

 Lecheni’s Contesting Citadels


Citadel Bokene, situate NW of Lecheni

  • Argutil Lafard-Legere
  • Gladkie Lafard-Ledhere
  • Lecheni pays tribute

Citadel Cordoen, situate SW of Lecheni

  • Aithis Lafard-Legere
  • Deluen Lafard-Ledhere
  • Pays tribute to Lecheni

Citadel Kordahen, situate NNW of Lecheni

  • Cates Lafard-Legere
  • Pedit Lafard-Ledhere
  • Lecheni pays tribute

Citadel Tesecret, situate NNE of Lecheni, separated by Teskret Marshes

  • Ramarik Lafard-Legere
  • Ursel Lafard-Ledhere
  • Pays tribute to Lecheni

In addition, and outside of the Games,

  •  Citadel Kefski, situate to the north, beyond Teskret Marshes, pays tribute to Lecheni.
  • Citadel Endizi, situate immediately west of Chendani Pass, pays to Lecheni

  •  Total tribute from Cordoen, Tesecret, Kefski and Endizi: 600,000 bezants.
  • Total tribute paid to Bokene and Kordahen: 200,000 bezants.
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Roots of Rookeri 14

Citadel Lecheni

Sifadis Lafdi, Shore House

Week Eleven

Sifadis attended the Witan whenever she could. She was entitled. Besides, she had a shipping business to run, she needed to know what was happening both regards the citadel and the greater world. But this morning’s sitting had promised to be astoundingly dull, with nothing to discuss – until the commotion caused by Runman Kalamite. His talk of this predicted eclipse had snagged her attention, she almost had gasped. With her shipping and fisheries, she knew what the moons could do to the tides.

Besides, she had recently discovered a prophecy hidden amongst the Shore House records, in the collection of papers titled ‘The Matter of the Tree Legend’ – that’s also where she’d found the tale of Keril-og.

When the tree dies
the sea will rise
and swallow the citadel whole.

She had scoffed on reading it. How unlikely! But now with Kalamite’s predicted triple eclipse . . . what disaster might follow on that? Ay, the conjunction of only two moons was enough that the tides rose frighteningly high. That to her was more important than any conjectured Lubanthan invasion. Yet . . . she could feel a smile creeping upon her; she must control it . . .  but a journey upriver, to act the spy, would find favour with her. To Luban, an exotic world, a world apart – where she’d never ventured for her ships couldn’t reach.

But it was more than the lure of inaccessible lands ‘Ulter-Falls’. While away Breken Lafard wouldn’t be able to thrust his marriage candidates upon her. She had so far received three, and still was reeling from the revulsion. Death pleased her better, were it not for Shore House. And what if the remaining two were yet worse? A sharp shudder jolted her body.

“Why do you recommend Sifadis Lafdi Hade?” Breken Lafard asked Kalamite and regained Sifadis’ attention. “A woman? It could be dangerous for her.”

Sifadis looked up; she resented that comment. Did she not sail her ships? Small though she was, she no weak woman.

“With respect, Hadd Leef,” Kalamite said. “I would not expect her to go alone. Could you not spare two holden to accompany her? Those two at the door? They seem sharp as my sprats.”

Would Breken Lafard agree to her going? But he must. Sifadis looked at him, willing him to answer ‘aiy’. He glanced at Gowen. Gowen give an answering nod.

“That would be a solution,” Breken Lafard agreed and looked at his brother, his left eyebrow cocked.

“They’re not mine to command,” Trefan Lafard said. “They are Dryastil’s – if ever he recovers his guts. But, aye, I have men available to cover their absence – if it’s agreed that Disa should go. But I want it recorded that I’m far from convinced of the need. And our runman has yet to say why he thinks Disa in particular would make a good prospect.”

And would Kalamite provide a persuasive answer to this? Sifadis fixed her gaze upon him, again willing it.

“Hadden Leef – and Bel Hadin,” the runman said, “I ask, who is overlooked in a chamber of people? Who do we not see amongst us?”

Sifadis knew what the answer. She squirmed, wanting to shout it aloud. Och! Their wrinkling brows. These lafarden, their eyes were fixed on warriors, they never saw scholars. She turned on her low spindle-backed chair to see behind her. In the corner, a Mathon-lamp fixed above him, sat a solitary man clad in brown. The scratch of his pen was ignored, his presence forgotten.

Since still no one spoke, Sifadis answered. “The runman refers to the scribe.”

The scribe’s scratching instantly stopped.

“Aiy, the man of letters and learning. The scholar,” Kalamite said.

“It is true, Hadd Leef,” Gowen Sivator said. “We none heed the scholar, thus he makes the best spy.”

He, aye,” Breken Lafard agreed. “But she?”

Her sniff was purposely loud. And she pursed her lips. But the red-stained runman was again at her rescue.

“With respect, Hadd Leef. In Luban a woman might be many things that here, in Rothi, is ill- considered for her.”

“That is so,” Gowen  Sivator said. “Though I do wonder how the runman knows this of Luban.”

It seemed every eye then stared at Kalamite, a silent bank of accusations. She thought that unfair. They might not like him – and who did – but he did no harm. Keefer of the Runman Order, he had much power and yet lived a humble life beside them. The way he withstood their hostile attention without either puffing his chest else crumbling, she could almost feel proud for him.

“Again with respects, Gowen Hadd Leef,” he said, his head for a moment bowed, “but would you not say we acquire information by the same means? From the fair-folk who constantly circle around.”

“How so?” Affalind Lafdi asked of no one and everyone, such was her way. “Do the fair-folk go into Luban as well?”

“Apparently, my dear,” Breken Lafard answered in a quite aside.

“And this is how you know of Raselstad?” asked Gowen Sivator.

“Hadd Leef, are my runmen like the citadel houses, to be fixed to one place? Nix, my runmen are everywhere.”

As if disengaging, Sifadis sat back and considered what was happening here. Why did her guardian so pick on the runman? It was not like him to pick on anyone.

“I feel somewhat troubled at sending a woman,” Breken Lafard said. “Especially Sifadis, a woman of high birth. If chosen as spy, then she must go in the guise of a man.”

“But—” Kalamite started.

“As a man or not at all,” Breken Lafard said and none could gainsay him.

Ay-ay-ay-ay-ay! What absolute fuss when they’d already agreed to send two holden with her. What, did they fear she might contract a marriage while there? She stifled the laugh that was about to burst. Imagine the whobub if she returned with a Lubanthan wed-man.

“I am inclined to agree with you, Hadd Leef,” Gowen Sivator said.

Her head swung round. ‘Inclined’ to agree, as if he’d a choice? But none had the right to counter-say their lafard-legere. And anyway, why all this talk. Why not say ‘aye’ and let her be gone.

“Well I am inclined to say you have all been touched by Medusa’s hand,” Affalind Lafdi said.

“My dear, would you care to explain?” asked her wed-man.

Sifadis scowled. She’d no need to listen to the lafdi-legara; Affalind Lafdi could never say a word that wasn’t against her. Ay, to go the Luban, to be away from them all, especially her. She prayed, Ffadise, ancestress, whisper, cajole and help them agree it.

Affalind Lafdi cocked her nose. “One. Sifadis has no experience of spying. Two. She is bound to get lost or . . . or something. Three. She would make for a juicy ransom should your exiled son snatch her. Four. Should it not be Otian who goes? He knows the land. And, five. I am not sure this runman has yet convinced us of the need.”

“With respects, Bel Hade,” Kalamite answered quickly, “but what experience does Sifadis Lafdi Bel Hade need when all we ask of her is to watch and to listen? Aiy and verily, is that not something at which all women excel? As for protection, she will have the holden. And she needs only to follow the river, it’s quite impossible for her to get lost. And though I do agree that Otian Hadd would serve us better he, alas, has recently taken ship to the north. And as for the need – would you have your wed-man murdered?”

“We have Dryastil’s holden,” Affalind Lafdi said with a shrug. “And Trefan’s folkhere.”

“Aiy, as had the citadel on the previous occasion. Yet strangers crept in and done the deed. Must I repeat? Already a Raseltop spy is amongst us and the holden do nothing, while the folkhere’s keefer . . . flirts.”

“I have warned you once, runman,” Trefan Lafard responded sharply. “You mind your tongue.”

“But, Trefan, the runman has a point,” Mikel Lafard said.

“And I need not explain my actions to you, though I will,” Trefan Lafard said. “I am not flirting, as accused by that tattagoose-runt. But, in knowing she is not as she claims to be, I am keeping my eye on her.”

“Trefan, mine is the stew-house. Need I say more?”

Ouch! Sifadis wanted to laugh, though she felt for the lafard-ledhere. And the barb was no less vicious for the smile Mikel Lafard accorded him.

“Well, I say the woman should be arrested,” Affalind Lafdi said. “Put her in the warison. Why is she allowed to wander freely?”

Such would be a prompt solution, Sifadis agreed. But she wanted that mission and so she kept quiet. To dwell for the summer in another land, strange and exotic, that notion enticed her as much as that of escaping a marriage.

Luban, whence came the silks that Otian spread so temptingly before her, their colours shouting of all things that Rothi was not. And their cottons, fine and soft for under-shifts. Their woollen-weaves, warm for winter wear — of sheep’s wool, not that harsh Rothi jasckte. Luban was rich in everything. The Rothi gems came from there, and the gold, so she’d heard. She imagined it blazing with colour beneath Heli’s oven-bright light, sweet with the fruits they exported to Rothi.

Yet the Rothi used Luban to mean ‘the austere avoidance of the Varlet Verth’. It was almost synonymous with ‘to be blinded by zeal’. For the while-a-day lorels with their Guided Ghat-Guilds and plays and psalms yet succumbed to the Curse with their very industry.

“My dear, there are two quite obvious reasons for leaving the Luban spy at liberty.” Only Breken Lafard, as lafard-legere, could so publically belittle Affalind Lafdi without her erupting like the Voice of Farhana. “Firstly, in nosing around, she will see just how strong our defences are and, reporting back, perhaps the Raseltops then will fold and abandon their plans. Secondly, if the woman fails to report back, as they doubtless expect her, then these Raseltops will simply launch an attack. Then both Trefan’s and Dryastil’s armsmen will be kept somewhat busy.” He looked then to Sifadis. “We shall need to know the size of their force.”

~ ~ ~

An ancestor, long ago, had overlain the wood-lined walls of this low-ceilinged chamber, supposedly a solar, with alabaster screens. But still it suffered for want of luminance. She had hung coloured glass globes from the red-wood beams. Their yellow, green and red reflections danced over the room as Ember, the dulsind, closed rather sharply the door behind her. It was Wood Tower that stole the sun’s light. The rooms on the lower floor were yet worse, cast into full darkness. Sifadis glared at the Tower, her formal headdress carelessly let drop to the deep windowsill.

“I do not trust that Kalamite,” Gowen Sivator said with force now they were alone.

“You think his story of the gods’ alignments is rot and lanterloo?”

“No. He’s a runman; he would not lie of that. It was his suggestion that you, and specifically you, should go to Luban.”

“You disagree what he says of scholars?” she asked in friendly challenge. Then, since she was the bel hade of this house and could do as she wished, she perched indecorously upon the windowsill, beside her discarded headdress. Gowen sat on a low divan, carved of the same red wood as the ceiling-beams.

“Scholar you might be,” he allowed, “but first you are a lafdi and an heiress.”

“Yet you said nought against it.”

“Because, Disa, in this the Runman is right. Except for Otian, you are the best spy for us. Who but a scholar can ask so many questions and not be at once suspected? But I would not have you go unless as a man. At least Breken Lafard has that right.”

“So am I to wear brecks?”

How inelegant for a lafdi. She stood, her back turned to her guardian, apparently intent on the view from the window. But it was to hide her thoughts from him. Though it was not all-of-a-rush, yet this proposed adventure was gently colliding with a certain interest – nay, ought it rather be called ‘an obsession’ – of her own.

“And your hair cut, too,” Gowen Sivator said.

Sifadis swung round. “And why that? Our men wear their hair long, in tails.”

“They also wear their sideburns long and plaited; can you manage that?” He raised a brow and smiled to soften it. “No, you must be a young lad, not yet shaving. And therefore your hair cannot be this long. Besides, from what Kalamite says, you might encounter the deserter there. He may not know you well by sight but your hair is distinctive; he would recognise it. So you will cut it to shoulder-length and plait it. And you also will need to bind your chest – you are too obviously female.”

“Bind if I must, but I’ll not cut my hair.” It had not been cut since her mother’s death and now it billowed like the sea in full flood.

“We could find another to go.”

He teased her, she knew it, but, “Nay-no! I’ll cut it.” The adventure was worth it.

“You need a story, too; some reason to be asking your questions.”

“Oh, and that is easy. I am travelling around the citadels—”

“Townsteads. Come, Scholar, how much do you know of Luban?”

“Caught! As you know, I know more of the Old World. But at least I know why we call the Lubanthan Javans – because of the incense benzion from Java, given in the Holy Book as luban jaw. Gowen, I have ships, they sail to the north, sometimes they sail south, and I dream one day we might sail them east—and don’t look at me like that, I mean no heresy, I’m a scholar. But north, south, and east, yet my ships cannot sail west, Ulter-Falls. So why waste my time in learning the day-lore of Luban?”

“Then, Scholar, you have much to learn before venturing forth. But, what’s this story you will give?”

“That I am travelling around the townsteads at the direction of my wishardt-master, seeking some record of Keril-og. You remember I started to tell you of him, and you must have heard my mother speak of Ffadise?” She repeated the story.

“There lived a long time ago, three children of Lillis Lafard-Legere, by names of Keril-og, Ffadise and Rorah. The brothers Keril-og and Rorah were both in love with Geta Lafdi, heiress of House Eland – and she averred her love first to the one and then to the other and would give not an answer to either. They disputed between them. Physically matched, their father was afraid they would slay one another, and so he stepped between them. He suggested, instead of fighting for who was to marry Geta Lafdi, they might decide it in a civilised way. And so they played chess to decide it.

“The younger brother Rorah won. He married Geta Lafdi and, with her being the heiress, he took the name of her House. The older brother, Keril-og, in his misery departed Citadel Lecheni in search of adventure, and thus he never sat upon the legere-chair.”

“And you believe this Keril-og went off to Luban?” Gowan Sivator asked, a bite to his voice. “And what if you happen upon evidence of it? Though remember he is not your reason for travelling there, so do not be distracted.”

Sifadis lifted her shoulder in a little shrug. “Yet Keril-og was our heir, not Rorah. And in leaving, he brought this curse on our House. You know Ffadise’s fate – to keep the House, she had to remain here. But never has her line produced an heir. Only girls have been born here.”

“You read too much into it, Disa.”

“You say?”

“Aye, use it as your story. But I want your thoughts kept on this mission. Find out who is the elect-legere — his lineage, his power, and why is he buying explosives from Mathon Lafard. Discover, if your can, the strength of their armsmen. Could they engage with, and defeat, Trefan Lafard’s folkhere? And could they hold siege to a citadel – by which I mean have they the war-engines to do so?”

“I imagine they have. Have they not engines of every sort? Even I know they have townsteads devoted to their manufacture. Bound to the Varlet Verth’s Cult, the Lubanthan – and that is why we Rothi despise them and their ways.”

~ ~ ~

Roots of Rookeri 15: 15th April

 

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On High She Travels

In the previous episode of Feast Fables, Kerrid accepted Lukabwa’s offer to take her to the most knowing of knowing men, Eld Jetelden. But Kerrid hadn’t realised how far she must travel.

The next episode, Ice And Fire, ready now.

 

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