Chapter 2 Scene 1

by Richard Perkins
This entry is part 6 of 65 in the series Doormaker's Fall

Chapter 2: Favors among friends

“The path to Earth is in the earth. The way of Water is through the water. The route to Air is of the air. I have unlocked the Doors with the Key that comes from within. But at what price, and who will pay it?”

Codex of the Scion of Doormakers

The platters were licked clean, the flagons drained, and the light crystals has dimmed to a soft muted glow when Mabel set a fresh mug of cider on the arm of a stout wooden chair near the mantle. After an expectant look in Fronek’s direction, she continued bustling around the common room and attending to her guests.

Fronek gave Devon a wry grin. “It appears that I have been summoned.” He rose quietly from the table and glided smoothly over to the chair and the proffered mug. As he settled into his place, the hearth fire subsided to a low crackle and the boisterous voices in the room lowered to expectant murmurs.

“Humble greetings Guardians.” Fronek’s characteristic opening was met with warm chuckles. Few that were living knew the origins of Guardian Village’s mysterious name, and fewer still were curious about the story behind the history. Fronek was the only visitor who still called the villagers by a name whose significance even they had forgotten. The familiar affectation suited his wit, and he used it to cultivate their good humor.

He raised his mug to the crowd and tipped his head toward their host, Mabel. “I honor your hospitality! What would you hear from me?”

Geoff, the herdsman from the hills spoke up from his table near the middle of the floor. “You’re early this ‘turn old friend. Now I’m as happy to see you as any of us, but what news do you bring?” Several murmurs from the other guests echoed his curiosity.

Fronek nodded, having anticipated such a question. “Winter came early north of the Barriers this ‘turn. Have you noticed that the frosts have started already in the high grazing plateaus Geoff?”

Several townsfolk nodded along as Geoff replied. “That they have. I’ve brought the herd down to the lower hills a full three quints earlier than last ‘turn. But I had hoped for a long fall instead of an early winter.”

“Best prepare for the latter. Wagon trains from the Great Desert and the Fertile Plains are already on the move north. They’re hoping to get their harvest trading done early to beat the winter storms. You can expect an early trading season, and short one.” Fronek sipped his cider as the firelight danced behind him.

This news was not a complete surprise to the villagers. They were accustomed to accommodating the mercurial seasons of the Barrier Mountains. Mabel quoted the old trader’s saw, “Remember Geoff, ‘A merchant in a hurry has no time to haggle.’ There will be good prices to be had for those who can get their wares to the Harvest Bazaar on short notice.”

Geoff nodded ruefully. “That’s the truth. How long before the traders arrive Fronek?”

“Hard to know for sure, but I would say less than two quints for the first group. Some will be driving harder than others so the arrivals will be staggered I suspect.” Usually the wagon trains from the south all arrived within a few days of each other, but Fronek expected at least two separate groups this seasonturn. He did not mention that one of them would not be traders at all. Such knowledge would be difficult to explain, even for a world traveler like him.

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