The dawn of the morning Chance and Vind were to go to the tribesmen's winter camp was solidly autumn. Rixt saw that Chance dressed for the weather; he asked her not to fuss. She said she liked doing it and continued. When he left, he was fed, had his tea and was warmly wrapped.
Vind waited for him at the new gate, sitting on Ido who seemed unsure whether he wanted to go out this day. There was not a second horse as Vind guessed Chance simply preferred to run alongside. He and Ido were used to it.
As he arrived, Alsen came out of a tower and wished them luck. He said he was returning to Brad on the midday boat and already spoken at length with Bos.
Alsen faced Vind squarely saying Bos was a good man for Linnet. Vind nodded his agreement and wished Alsen success finding horses for them. Chance gave Alsen a gold piece, for his trouble, and thanked him.
The youth handed the coin back saying he enjoyed coming to and being on Linnet. He should be paying Chance for the honor, which he did not deserve. Vind smirked, remarking Alsen has too high an opinion of himself.
Chance smiled at Alsen's embarrassment. He and Vind crossed the causeway and went to the barrier. He drew out the amber, to confirm he understood the spell right for undoing. The Library listened then watched as he dropped the barrier.
He tested that it was indeed down then began to trot down the road. Vind carefully urged Ido across what was invisible when working. Once through, he brought Ido to a gallop, caught up with Chance and then settled into an easy gait.
Both men looked about them as they went; neither explored this far, in this direction, from Linnet. Vind offered that the region appears more open than what he knew of the northern reach.
The landscape became more rolling, softer, the farther they went, and at midday they halted. Ido browsed the grasses along the shore; Chance and Vind ate from a pack Rixt gave him when he left.
The lake was wide here; the opposite shore was a dark blur above the blue of the water. The sky was clear, and the lake reflected it.
The hills were less wooded from what they could see down the road. Vind observed that the trail was well used; he pointed to ruts where wagons likely passed.
Chance nodded and finished his meal. He then said it does not appear that it is used regularly. Vind questioned and looked at where Chance was pointing. He said he agreed it was lightly used and thought that happened at intervals. Wheel ruts were clear but shallow. Vind said he did not know if the tribesmen used wagons.
Chance was thoughtful and reflected on the man they were going to see. He observed: "Tzesnos, one of the six front riders, spoke good Common when we met - he was the only one who did - translated for others. It sounded Tinker-ish."
Vind thought about that then said likely any travelers, like Tinkers, came only a few times a year. Perhaps Tzesnos dealt with them, and they taught him. Chance said it was time to go on, and they would find out soon enough.
They were not far when a group of horsemen came toward them from the south. Vind reined in Ido and Chance slowed. They did not stop and kept going forward.
As the men ahead slowed too, Chance called the name 'Tzesnos', thinking they may not understand Common but knew their chief's name.
The tribesmen ahead seemed to comprehend. One rode back the way they just came while the others parted. Vind urged Ido back to a canter, and Chance sped along beside him. The warriors watched that, their eyes showing curiosity.
They kicked their horses into a gallop to keep up. The tribesmen spoke about the odd man running. This was very strange. They followed the two to what soon showed ahead: a great number of thatch-roofed longhouses along the shore on a high bank.
Vind and Chance were met with frank, staring faces. They were pointed into the mass of roofs toward one that flew a red banner. Chance glanced at Vind's sash; it was red too but a deeper shade. As they came to that hall's main doorway, Tzesnos stepped out to meet them.
He was a big man, broad shouldered and about forty years old. Chance recalled thinking he would be tall but only saw him on horseback. Similar to the way he rode, Tzesnos stood up straight and seemingly at ease with the world.
A moment later, a woman of exceptional beauty came out and stood beside him. A boy about fourteen emerged next, followed by a girl of marriageable age.
Tzesnos smiled and welcomed them. He said that he was surprised but happy to have neighbors drop by anytime. He looked over at Vind who was still mounted.
He said it was a fine animal and who was his rider. They saw each other but always across a marsh, from a distance. It was a pleasure to see this horse close up.
Vind introduced himself: Vind from Pusha, Rider of Linnet. Tzesnos kept his smile and said who he was: Chief of the Red Dui, at the moment. Then he turned to the woman beside him saying: "May I present my wife, Esala, my son Irus and my daughter Dana. Please come into our hall and be my guests."
Esala stood a moment longer after Tzesnos stepped to one side, looking at Chance. She smiled and asked frankly: "You are the man from Kehdy - the one who is outlaw, rogue and heretic. Or do I have you confused with someone else?"
Chance liked her immediately and laughed before saying yes, he was that man. Esala grinned at him and said: "Then by all means enter. I have never known a true outlaw, much less a heretic. Rogues - I am familiar with them."
She turned towards Tzesnos and smiled at him with affection. Chance glanced over at Vind and thought this next part should be interesting. Vind dismounted, arranged his cushion and propped a crutch under his arm.
He spoke to a man asking that Ido be cared for. Tzesnos was keeping his eyes on the horse and translated. A man came over, stared at Vind a moment before leading Ido toward a pasture.
Esala turned pale but not confused. She smiled pleasantly saying this way please. She pushed Dana inside and took Irus by the collar. He too vanished into the house. Tzesnos remained and ushered his guests inside. Chance went first followed by Linnet's Rider.
Inside, Chance looked about and saw a room thoughtfully designed. Curtains eased the plain material of mud and thatch; small tables were worked with delicate carving. He thought it cozy.
Esala was preparing tea; Irus sat like a statue on a cushion. Dana was beyond a partition but was peeking over the top at Vind. Chance thought that Vind moved with strength: it was a smooth sliding, powerfully forward thrust.
He saw that Tzesnos noted it. He also knew that Vind was more than capable with his sword and could moving quickly. Tzesnos indicated a cushion and Chance sat.
Vind maneuvered over and placed himself beside him. He lay his crutch on the side and smiled pleasantly at everyone. Esala served tea; it was commented upon politely, and then Chance explained his proposal.
He finished by saying that any who would agree to fight must be able to control themselves, take commands from Vind, as well as their chiefs, and earn their gold.
That took a while to consider; Tzesnos called over to Dana and requested bread and dip. She squeaked but said she would do it at once. When she came in, she did not look at Vind or Chance.
She placed a tray with slices of fresh bread and bowls of various sauces on a table before them. Tzesnos invited her to sit by her mother; Dana looked at him to be sure but, seeing his expression, did as told.
Chance took a piece of bread, dipped it in a bowl of chopped olives and ate. He told Dana it was very good; she kept her eyes on the floor and whispered that she was pleased he liked it.
Vind tried a sauce in a fine, porcelain bowl and complimented Dana too. She could only nod so Esala elbowed her. She thanked him and said that she was happy he found it tasty.
The room became quiet as all ate from the tray. Esala asked if they would enjoy wine during their visit. She added they were welcome to spend the night here. Chance smiled at her and said they would not stay much longer.
He looked at her now more fully: she was blonde, light skinned with fine bone structure. Her neck was like Rixt's, long and graceful. Tzesnos was much darker, his hair curly where hers was straight. He politely asked if she was of the Tinker people. She replied she was.
Tzesnos spoke into their conversation saying first that the tribes were gathered, because they expected to raid the Laat. Second, gold will appeal to enough for Chance's purpose. Finally, he stated that the men would not obey Vind.
* * *
Vind asked why is that and was told bluntly that they will see him as crippled, not a full man. Vind's eyes tightened, and the fixed smile that he wore faded. He asked that Tzesnos pick a strong warrior, and Vind would fight him.
If that one was not enough, Vind would fight until everyone's mind was changed about what he could and could not do.
Tzesnos looked at Chance, who only shrugged but said Vind was Linnet's Rider for a reason. He added that Tzesnos' man would not be injured.
Irus was told to bring Ce. Animated now, the boy scrambled up to go fetch the fighter that his father requested. He came back shortly, stuck his head in the door saying that Ce was outside. Dana started to speak but Esala shushed her.
All now came out of the hall; Chance saw a young man waiting outside, younger than himself. The youth's face showed uncertainty; he did not know what this was about. After Tzesnos explained, Ce looked at Vind who sat on the ground looking up at him in turn.
Ce started to explain why he could not fight a man who could not stand. Before he could say much more, Tzesnos interrupted and said: "Speak Common so you are understood."
It was plain that Ce did not have a good grip on Common. Chance smiled at his efforts to be clear, thinking Esala taught her family to speak it. From the way Ce looked at Dana, he wanted in that family so attempted Common.
Chance stepped over to where Tzesnos and Ce stood saying that Vind only wished to demonstrate his ability. Did Ce have wooden swords for this as no one wanted anyone hurt.
Ce finally agreed and left to find practice swords. Meanwhile, the crowd around them grew larger.
Warriors made their way to the front by right and stood fascinated by what was going to happen. Soon, Ce returned and tossed a sword toward Vind, who caught it. Vind asked 'ready?'.
The Dui young man did not want to do this. Vind settled it by lunging at Ce who dodged back. Vind followed up coming round the other on one side, turning abruptly and striking Ce smartly on the leg before moving out of range.
Tzesnos remarked that the first touch goes to Vind. Ce glowered at him and now faced Vind more seriously. After a fast exchange, Ce staggered back out of reach of Vind's sword. A bruise was showing on his arm. Tzesnos pronounced the point to Vind.
Chance did not watch the match; he knew how it would end. Instead, he kept his eyes on the people around him. They were like Tzesnos and Ce: big, brown skinned but not as dusky as Skor, who was of the shorter Coastal people.
Esala was watching closely; Dana worried for Ce. The warriors were impressed. Vind soon gained four points, and Ce did not have even one.
Ce demanded to know what this was about, and Vind moved away while Tzesnos explained Chance's offer. The warriors listened, looked at Vind and then Chance.
The young man was concentrating; his was the kind of face that displayed every thought. He looked about him then at Vind.
He spoke loudly, first in their dialect and then in Common saying: "I for one will fight alongside this man; he is a strong warrior."
Chance said they must leave soon and thanked Tzesnos for hospitality and welcome. In reply, the chief of the Red Dui said it was entirely his honor.
He asked that Chance give him a day to speak with other chiefs. A rider, he indicated Irus, would be sent to Linnet with an answer.
During this, Ce went over to Vind, sat on the ground and asked him about the battle that the mage spoke of. Vind and he talked easily as if they knew each other a long time and were friends. Tzesnos looked on with approval, and Chance made his leave with Esala.
She surprised him asking if she might visit Linnet. He answered with a glance at Tzesnos that she would be welcomed as he was here. That pleased her, and she asked when would be suitable. He thought of Rixt and Dette and answered whenever she wished.
Ido was brought out and Vind thanked the man. The horse was wiped down, his hooves cleaned and was ready to run again. Vind mounted which brought a gasp of 'Ahhh' from the audience.
Chance grinned at Vind as the Dui chief spoke for them all saying: "So that is how he does it."
Vind urged Ido into a gallop; Chance began to run and kept up easily. That amazed the people they passed on their way out of the camp. Once they were alone on the road, Vind shouted down at Chance that the meeting went well.
He added that if there were more like Ce, Chance might be able to muster a good force to put against the Master of Beerron's troops.
* * *
It was very late when they reached Linnet's causeway. The drawbridge was lowered for them, and Vind headed for the stables while Chance trotted down the path to Rixt's tent.
He was pleased and hopeful. The Dui must come to a decision. The chiefs who smashed into his barrier might not see things as Tzesnos did.
He entered Rixt's tent and ate a late meal. He told her about the day, the tribesmen and Esala visiting. That news set her back a moment but then she said the woman was welcome.
As they readied for sleep, Chance asked if she would like to visit the Rayen river tomorrow. He thought it a fine place and was thinking of building their house there.
Rixt was immediately excited. She answered it sounded interesting to spend the day with him planning where they would live.
The next day refused to believe it was no longer summer and tried hard to appear so. Rixt brought Tess from the stables, saddled and ready, while Chance told Vind where they were going. He thought they would be back in the afternoon.
Rixt carried a saddle bag with their lunch and a bottle of wine. One of Vind's guardsmen strapped it to Tess who was uninterested.
Chance helped Rixt on to the horse; now Tess looked up. Rixt put her heels into Tess gently and the old mare started off across the causeway.
He walked along and listened as Rixt told how the river area appeared to her when she was there with the survey team. She was realistic when she said the land is stony and the soil is thin where it is not bare rock.
Still, she liked it. Plants of all varieties grew abundantly on the hills on either side of the river. She was happy that Chance valued it as well.
They came to the beginning of the narrow valley of the Rayen and paused while Chance pointed out the footings where he planned to make a bridge. He explained he would do that in spring.
By then he thought circumstances might be more stable. Rixt did not say what she was thinking about that; instead, she looked and imagined a bridge. She too noted it could be defended.
From that spot, she looked behind them at the hillside that ran along the river bed. It was raw outcrop in many places; one especially drew her. She pointed it out to Chance who suggested they let Tess feed while they climbed up to it.
The saddle bags were removed, and the horse was tied to a scrub tree. Then, they made their way up a hillside. The top gave a view of the lake and down the valley.
South of where they were, they could see the hills along the shore; to the north were the step-like slopes of the southwestern edge of the vast rise that wore Onne as its crown.
They walked a short way down the valley until they were near what both called a chute. The channels off the lake came together at a hard-rock narrows. Water shot through and then made an orderly way to the sea.
Above was a slight dip in the hills. They went up to it and both looked around. The view was more secluded here, more private, but it was not exposed to wind from the coast nor from the lake, like the hilltops.
The chute, well below them now, was a chaotic combination of water and rock. Chance looked about and began to pick up stones from the ground. They were a pale, gold-yellow color which reminded him of the house in his first vision.
Chance walked back and forth round the area until he picked one spot. He sat and began to arrange the stones. Rixt came over after she too examined their surroundings. Chance was putting together a house out of the pebbles he collected.
Rixt looked at him with love and said: "You are building us a house - a cairn house."
From that moment on, whenever they spoke of plans, they referred to it as Cairn House. It would remind them of this day. Rixt set out their lunch while Chance explained the layout of Nessum's palace from his memory.
Chance saw no need for a curtain wall nor guard towers along it but liked the main hall very much. He said he would use the rock from here to build Cairn House.
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