Travel to Kella's Ford and meet with Lord Demina Amadi; she is expecting us. If nothing goes amiss, it's a 5-day journey by road and boat (barge). Jade takes over the care and feeding of the equines; both horse and mule. The quartermaster helps us get our supplies together and get them packed.
1 Braneth 320
Nahla notices an individual sneaking around at the edge of the pier, watching us and glowering. She recognizes him, Keeper Soseki. She points him out to Rowan, and identified him as someone who's not happy she's an Envoy. She asks Rowan to keep an eye on him (he's a traditionalist – Nahla thinks he's not a bad guy, but he does have Opinions.). As he's watching, Rowan sees a young man walk up and have a discussion with Soseki - Rowan points this out to Nahla, who identifies him as Keeper Ravelle, Soseki's junior priest. They have a somewhat vehement discussion before Ravelle nods in submission before leaving. Nahla jots a note to her son, via Lord Kurlin to alert him to the priests' activities.
Kimimela stops by to see how Elli is doing and to give her a present — it's the healing kit took on her first mission. Elli is very moved, tears up, and gives her a big hug. The healer isn't the first night person Nahla has seen, but she's rarely been this close.
Eventually everything is loaded and we set off.
In addition to us, there's a small group of guardsmen and some merchants. Rowan soon realizes the guards are so green they should be sitting on lily pads and croaking. They're on their way to their 1st posting. Rowan tries to pass on some words of wisdom, but well, teens. Darvish'khan finds the highest place, out of the way, puts his nose to the wind and goes to sleep.
Several days of travel upriver follow – the barge is towed by oxen.
4 Braneth 320
At one point, we have to get off this barge and travel overland to the Gray Kella. Thankfully, we didn't have to portage. There's a small town at what's effectively the source of the Gray Kella called Cardosa, which marks the start of Lord Demina's territory. We reach it on the 4th of Braneth.
We load onto another barge and float down to Kella's Ford.
6 Braneth 320
We arrive Kella's Ford. It's at the confluence of the Green Kella and Gray Kella rivers, where they merge into the Kella River, which flows down to the Basketh Bay. Kella's Ford is near hills with mines and timber industry. Most of the buildings have timber frames.
The city is on the eastern bank and climbs up into the hill into terraces. The west bank has farms. It is the last major city before the area containing the Jarzon diaspora (separated from it by the hills).
The barge stops on the western bank and we take a ferry across to the city. The ford still exists but most people prefer to keep their feet dry and use the ferry.
Jade gets the gear on the horses and mules. Nahla asks around the docks and is very quickly able to get directions to the capitol building. We go and present ourselves to a clerk, who asks us to wait a minute. They leave and come back with a night person with a wood hand, dressed in the uniform of an adept. The night person introduces himself as Jai Agron, Lord Demina's majordomo. He tells us she's been waiting for us, but gives us a chance to clean up a bit before ushering us to a waiting room. He brings us refreshments, while we're waiting.
Jai returns after a bit and tells us her Lordship is ready to receive us, then takes us to a more formal receiving room. Lord Demina is a middle-aged woman, striking, with black hair starting to go gray; and seems taller than she is. She has presence. She's dressed well but not extravagantly.
There's another woman with her, a little taller, a little bulkier, who walks with a limp. Her hair is a lighter blonde, but has gone mostly gray. Elli notes she has a prosthetic leg. Demina introduces her as Kinthia Frey, the senior envoy in this region.
"so the bastard threw you out early?" asks Demina, when Nahla explains that we're really quite inexperienced. (Elli is shocked, Jade is uncomfortable, and Nahla and Rowan are amused and relieved).
Demina hands us some papers, in a waterproof document folder – it's the warrant that gives us the power to act under her authority, and a map of the area. She understands the reasons Kurlin did what he did (even though she does think he is a bastard). She says that the fall of the Sorcerer King has stirred up a certain amount of trouble, but she doesn't expect an invasion to be imminent. There has been an increasing number of raids from Kern into Jarzon, so there have been an increase of refugees. Also, apparently Jharek was experimenting; and so there are some weird creatures roaming around, too.
Politics: we will primarily be assigned the coastal region. The coastal people are fairly insular, primarily star families, who will occasionally intermarry to keep the bloodlines from going stale. There's some trade in between them. Previous monarchs have sent envoys who were from the area to patrol; but there were charges of favoritism, so they started sending in non-locals (like us). This means that we will not be trusted initially but we should be able to gain trust if we behave honorably. Some of the families have accepted in Jarzoni refugees which might give our group a bit of advantage. If we flat-out lie to them that will break their trust, which will be bad enough Demina would have to reassign us.
Valin Barus is in charge of Lysana's Crossing. He's very experienced diplomat (short, balding man, just past middle-aged, completely unremarkable in appearance) – frequently underestimated by Jarzoni counterparts; he's remarkably skilled at negotiating and has been in this post for most of his career. His predecessor was more skilled in espionage than diplomacy, and died in suspicious circumstances. He has the more experienced envoys as his region is more active and more sensitive. There's a group of people smugglers in the Veran Marsh; much to the irritation of both Aldis and Jarzon. They do a lot of good work (getting people out before they were burned at the state for example – ie Rowan), but sometimes their actions have disrupted delicate negotiations.
The noble in charge of the area north of Kella's Ford is Crusa Barcus. That part of the central valleys has a lot of old-money families who would have been hereditary nobles in the old system. She's is located in Sybil; she’s a scholar from Garnet; but she's fit in well, and rode herd on the political games the families play. Batia Mara, her major domo has been of great assistance. He's native to the area and his knowledge has been invaluable.
The area north of Lysana's Crossing is in the the charge of Lord Lazarus Bolton. Unlike Barcus, Lazarus is from one of the local families. Unlike many of them, he's not a waste of space. He raises some of the finest horses in the country. He went to the capital and became a noble, married well, and then got assigned as a regional noble without riding circuit. Somewhat surprisingly, he's done a pretty good job of handling the area. His mother was a force of nature, according to rumor. She helped build the family business. There was a scandal a few years ago, something about his daughter and a marriage to one of the other families. Demina says she's not certain what happened, as it's been hushed up. Despite his lack of experience riding circuit, Bolton has been doing well.
If we're lucky, we can avoid going into either of those areas, because those nobles are hard to deal with. They are frivolous, status conscious, and really long for the old days of hereditary nobility. When someone competent comes out of the families, they are truly competent. And they have a version of hereditary nobility, where they send a member of the family to the capital to become nobles. Whether the individual is competent or not.
There will be quarters provided for us at a tavern called the Morning Dove (sign has a rising sun and a dove) when we are in town. It's traditional, and the crown maintains a reservation of a number of suites for envoys, as there's not enough room in the capitol building.
Since the war, the area has been somewhat neglected so we need to update the information. And we need to collect the back taxes, though Demina will give us a lof of discretion on the time frame and the form in which we collect them. Cash is preferred because the crown coffers are light, but goods and services are acceptable.
Our secondary base will be Idrith, a port at the mouth of the Kella River. Its culture is more similar to general Aldean society. There's a house there for our use which is currently being maintained by the guard, though we will need to hire our own majordomo to maintain it when we are not in residence.
Nahla asks when taxes were last collected; during the war. During the week, Nahla reviews the tax rolls.
In response to a question from Darvish'khan, Demina says they do have some problems with bandits. If we run across bandits, we should capture them and bring them here or to Idrith for trial (there's a magistrate in Idrith).
Kinthia speaks up and says she expects written reports from the envoys regularly (dangers encountered, how they were handled, etc) – just bundle them up and send them whenever we get back to Idrith. There is a scribe for Darvish'khan, if necessary. Or others of us can help with his reports. (She seems eminently competent, and we get the feeling she really doesn't like this administrative stuff, and would really prefer to be in the field).
At the end of the day,Jai takes us down to the Morning Dove, where he introduces us to the innkeeper, Ashe Suran, a tall, plump woman with dark skin and hair. She is very welcoming. Jai starts to give instructions and as Ashe launches into a long story, he rolls his eyes slightly, and waits for her to take a breath to continue. She gives us rooms close the stables because she knows envoys sometimes have to leave quickly. The wing set aside for the crown's agents has a small common courtyard with the stables on one wall, the rooms open onto the courtyard, and a short hallway leading out to the common room of the inn.
Her wife is the finest brewmaster in town, and she has a fine chef. We can go to the dining room to eat, or have food brought up to our rooms. Jade had to go rescue the stable boy from her horse, Jolly. Jade took the room closest to the stable entrance. She would continue to see to Jolly's care, and oversee the work on the other mounts.
The inn staff is taught to recognize our medallions, and will show us to rooms whenever we arrive. We are permitted to use the inn's bathhouse. We can choose to use the town bathhouse; after all it's a great place to pick up gossip.
Jade wants to check out the town. Elli wants to talk to everyone (possibly literally?), and is happy to listen to Ashe's stories. Rowan listens, too, as long as the beer flows. Kella's Ford is known for its teahouses (which also have coffee, but it's imported and expensive). There's a Jarzoni neighborhood (Little Jarzon). Nahla visited the area there, getting to know the local Jarzon. Jade haunts the stables around town.
We pick up some rumors:
*Some people think that Jarzon is sending in spies, in preparation for an invasion; so there's some tension with the Jarzoni diaspora.
*There are still some people in the area (various names, but none that seem significant) who support. Some people will name various of the old noble families.
*There are stories about bandits and pirate activity picking up. Some people say that street crime is up, or that it's tough to do business on the coast because of the a new crime boss named Kolya; he's rumored to be a pirate. Also rumored to be a Roamer thief/king. There are stories of him hitting merchant caravans on both land (but not very far inland) and sea.
*There is an archaeological expedition from the Royal College out in the hills just north of the coast somewhere that was supposed to checkin a week ago, and hasn't been heard from yet.
*It is definite that there are more Keepers traveling out from Lysana's Crossing into Aldis. There are several factions of the Church of the Light in Jarzon, and at least three that have set up house in Aldis, because of heretical belief or because they lost political battles in Jarzon. There is at least one faction known to be a branch of the church in Jarzon, who are just here to see that the Jarzon refugees keep to orthodoxy.
Nahla sighs, something else to keep an eye out for. What are the odds none of them will cause trouble. Nahla doesn't distrust all Keepers, but she hasn't met them all, either.
Rowan finds a wanted poster for a person he know – she's apparently expanded her reach beyond Lysana's Crossing.
We should probably go look for the archeologists, as soon as we visit Idrith. Because you can certain they found something unpleasant.