Skingrad to Gweden

The junior reporter from the Black Horse Courier sat on the bed in his room at the West Weald Inn. He was reviewing the notes he'd made in preparation for this assignment.

He'd not been the contributer for the original "Anvil Tarts Thwarted!" issue, so he'd read that before he set out, to get some of the background. All he knew was that Gweden Farm had been the scene of that incident, although that hadn't been mentioned in the printed edition. "Why not?" he wondered. He'd ask the Madam, what was her name? Ah, yes, Tsarrina. He'd ask her what she knew about it. Maybe she'd known that Faustina Cartier woman that ran the gang. That would add a bit of spice to his report!

Skingrad seemed to be a dull town compared with Anvil, and he couldn't find any past editions with a story of the Champion that took place here. He knew the Oblivion gate just outside the walls had been closed by him, but nobody knew any details. He'd gone out to look at the site, but there was nothing there but the blackened remnants of a wayshrine, and a few burnt trees.

He got half a story concerning a paranoid Bosmer by the name of Glarthir, but no-one wanted to talk about that. Everybody wanted to just forget about it, and they suggested that he should, too. Glarthir was dead now, anyway. There were hints that the Champion had been involved, but nothing he could use.

The wine and food here was anything but dull, however. Tamika and the Surilie Brothers seemed to be constantly trying to out-do each other with the quality of their wines, and Salmo's sweetrolls were the best he'd ever tasted. Here in their home town, they weren't so expensive, and even a junior like himself could eat and drink well. He made a note to suggest a "fine dining" edition, but ruefully admitted to himself that his chances of getting to write it were slim.

He visited the other tavern in the city, the Two Sisters Lodge, as inns are always a good source of gossip. Mog gra-Mogak, who ran the place, didn't have any stories for him either. There had been a band of Vampire hunters there a few months back, around the time she'd last seen the Champion. She'd thought they might generate a bit of excitement, but they'd all disappeared without bringing back any tales to tell in the bar. Mog suspected they were just passing through, as she'd never heard of any Vampires in the area.

One of the other guests at the West Weald Inn, a big Nord fellow called Bjarne Long-arm, had just come back from Gweden. He wouldn't tell him anything about it, though. Didn't wan't to spoil the fun of finding out for himself. Bjarne slapped him on the back and nearly knocked him over. "You'll have fun there," he said. "You can count on that."

Bjarne warned him to watch out for bandits on the Gold Road. There were several camps close to the road that they used, so he'd be well advised to travel with the Legion Patrols if he could. If he reached the Gottshaw Inn safely, there was one Patrol that went into Anvil, and another from there to the farm. He marked the camps on the reporter's map so he'd know when he was getting close.

"If you get past Fat Ramp Camp without meeting any bandits, then the next one is Ra'sava. There's another Legion horseman that turns around just there, so if your timing's good, you can follow him to where the road to Kvatch turns off. Then you're almost at the Gottshaw Inn, and past them all."

He got the impression that the Nord did that trip fairly often. He didn't pry any further though. He could always ask about Bjarne at the farm when he got there.

If there were bandits on the road, he'd better make sure he was prepared for them. He dropped in to Hammer and Tongs before he left, to have Agnete the Pickled make sure his travel armor and shortsword were in good condition. Although he'd been a customer, she didn't have any stories about the Champion. She apologized for having such a poor memory. Some evenings especially seemed to be completely missing from it.

Falanu Hlaalu, the Alchemist next door, sold him some healing potions, just in case. She also suggested he take some Mandrake root. It would be just the thing if he got bitten by any diseased creatures along the road. Then there was that comment about necrophilia, as if she expected him to be dead the next time they met. He was beginning to reconsider this trip!

The actual journey turned out to be completely uneventful. The patrolman from Anvil to the farm wasn't there when he left the city gates, but the road was deserted. He found the man's horse waiting patiently outside when he got to Gweden.

He was quite astonished to find a large Lodge had built next to the farmhouse he'd been expecting. The farmhouse was the usual low thatched block common in this region, but the Lodge was a big two-storey stone structure in the Anvil style, with a tiled roof and a collonaded porch. The red light hung next to a big metal door. He checked his notes. The report of the Sirens affair had only mentioned the farm, and said nothing about this other building.

Just then, the patrolman emerged from the farmhouse and walked over to him. He hadn't seen him here before and wanted to know who he was. He showed the legionary his press card, and asked about the extra building. It hadn't been built all that long ago, just after he'd taken over this patrol route. The previous man had retired, and he'd pulled rank to get the assignment. He remembered that the old farmhouse was getting rather full at the time, so he wasn't surprised when Tsarrina had the Lodge put up.

"So how many women are working here?" asked the reporter.

"Must be at least a dozen," the legionary replied. "Of every race, including a few you've probably never met before. But go on inside and count for yourself. They're expecting you." He opened the farmhouse door and ushered him in.

Tsarrina and some of the women were indeed waiting for him. They took his bag and put it by the chest at the end of a big comfortable-looking bed. Tsarrina led him over to an armchair by the fire and put a glass of wine in his hand. "Make yourself at home," she said. "We've got a lot to tell you."

One sip told him it was Tamika's. He liked these people already.