The first agenda for us in our new home was to figure out what we had for supplies and what we were going to need. We all needed homes, obviously, but some needs were more pressing – like food and water. Kael and D.W. organized hunting parties and pretty much spent every day out hunting all day long. When they returned, the town folk descended upon their catch to skin and butcher the animals. The tanner set to work on the skins for later use.
Kael would then spend time using his magic skills to grow the plants, vines, and trees into a thick barrier around the town in place of walls. He could only cast the spell once a day and in a limited area, so it had to be done daily. Over time, he had cast it enough times to create a thick barrier along the northern and southern sections of town, leaving a narrow gap in certain areas for us to travel through, if need be.
I spent the time helping as best I could, using my magic abilities to heal when needed, guarding town folk when they had to go outside the perimeters of the town, entertaining in the evenings to soothe the weary souls, and anything that was asked of me.
Andar Bellman was invaluable with his organizing all the town folk, even those without skill. Some of the folk were enlisted to help build a stepping stone kind of staircase, albeit a crude one, near the river. Another was created on the other side and a rope strung between to attempt to pass back and forth. We had plenty of fresh water there, but needed a way to access it since the river banks were high above the water. The second staircase had been built as we intended to have the farming fields on the other side of the river.
Those handy with an axe or saw were sent out to chop down trees, an architect began laying plans for buildings in town, the elderly kept an eye on the children, and so on. Those with a total lack of skills were put to use gathering kindling and dried wood, transporting materials from one workplace to another, and various other chores as they came up. No one was allowed to slack off. If everyone was to survive, we all had to pull together and help.
After a week had passed, we decided to make an excursion over to the city Kael had spotted on our travels. We desperately needed certain supplies that we simply could not do without. All of us hoped to find building supplies and such as the haphazard shanties we had created were awful and held together with ropes and vines. I had quite a few coin in my pocket and I was more than willing to help financially if I could. My mother had raised me with very little coin to her name and I knew how to do without and not complain about it. Our new family was in need and I could not turn my back on any of them, especially if I had a way to help.
So it was that Kael, D.W., and I set out with two wagons along with several town folk – a cook, a couple farmers, the carpenter, and a couple others. Their task was to get the correct supplies we would need in Kaldaran. As adventurers, we were well versed in fighting an assortment of creatures and bandits. However, we had no idea how to tell flax seed from grass seed, wheat flour from oat flour, aged wood from wormwood. That was something best left to those educated in such matters.
For the first time, D.W. actually started opening up to me. He told me little bits of his past, though nothing really solid. It was obviously something difficult for him, so I appreciated each part of himself that he shared, seeing it as a gift. He even told me his real name too, something I promised to keep to myself as I sensed it was not something he wanted everyone to know about. In turn, I told him more about my past and myself.
After three days, we reached a hamlet on the outskirts of the city. Oakdale appeared to be a farming community, which pleased our farmers to no end. They chose to stay for the night there to see what they could rustle up for supplies. We made plans to pick them up the next day on our way back from the city, which was only a mile away, and left them one of the two wagons. The rest of us continued on.
Uniformed guards were posted at the city gates. They pointed out their posted rules which required peace knots on all worn weapons and banned wearing certain armors (light armor could be worn, all other carried only). We spent a few minutes looking over the rules and tying down our weapons as required, then headed into the city.
We agreed to meet with one another early in the morning at the stables before heading home. While the other townsmen went off exploring, Kael, D.W. and I dropped off our horses and wagon at the stables, then asked the stable master for some info about the town. He suggested we take the city tour, so off we went.
It was pretty easy to find the tour guide as there were numerous signs pointing the way. Plus, it was a straight shot from the city gates to the center of the city. A well dressed guide took our fare, then helped us into a fancy carriage with “Peerless City Tours” emblazoned on the sides. The carriage was rather fancy with soft cushions for seats. The guide was spiffy in his coat tails and top hat. He spoke in a voice that carried easily to us, so we had no trouble hearing him as he pointed out shops, inns, eateries, districts, and anything and everything of interest.
When we arrived back at the tour center, we had a pretty good idea of where everything was now. I could see the wheels churning in the eyes of both my companions. They were eager to get done with our primary goal of purchasing town supplies so they could go off exploring things that had piqued their own interests. I could not blame them as I myself was eager to head over to the marketplace. We quickly, but carefully, made the much needed purchases of supplies, then agreed to split up and meet back in the evening at the Weary Wanderer tavern & inn. With the size of some of the purchases, it became necessary to purchase two more wagons and more beasts of burden to pull them.
Kael headed out on his own, choosing not to share his events with his companions. (Player Secret)
D.W. headed to the halfling section of town. He asked if anyone knew of a guide guild in the area and was told by a halfling woman by the name of Sarah Thimblefoot that her brother Fallon was a guide and in a guild. The brother would not be back until the evening for the evening meal. She extended an invite to D.W. to join them for their evening supper as it was a community affair for the halflings and he was more than welcome to join. He accepted the offer, saying he had to run an errand, but would return shortly.
I stopped in at a few of the shops in town to see what wares were available. Cities are known to have rather exotic goods and Oakwood did not disappoint in that area. After spending an hour just browsing the shops, I headed off to the marketplace with all the various vendors and goods. It did not take me long to find a number of necessities for both myself and our town folk. I went a bit overboard with shopping.
As I was making another purchase, a rather portly fellow made his way onto the assembly platform in the center of the market. He announced in a loud voice that projected over everyone that the auction was about to begin. Curious, I made my way closer. Then a group of people were ushered onto the platform by some brutish looking guards. One person was pushed to the front of the group, a thin man who looked utterly dejected. The announcer called out a description of the man’s abilities (a wheelwright, could easily handle a team of horses, knew his way around a stable).
It suddenly dawned on me that this was the “slave” market. Slaving was illegal in Mellem, of course. However, you could legally purchase the debt of an indentured servant. I knew all too well about that as my mother had been indentured and I too had been falsely indentured. It was, however, a way of life for some people.
The man was purchased for a surprisingly low price. My eyes rounded in astonishment as I discovered how cheaply the services of these people could be obtained. As another man was brought forward, my pointy ears perked forward at hearing he was an engineer. Pelor only knew how much we needed an engineer in our town to design a bridge. We desperately needed one to cross the river safely.
As the auctioneer called out for bids, I found my hand shooting into the air. I frowned when someone else raised their hand on the next bid. Before I knew it, I was in a bidding war, determined to purchase the services of that engineer. It was much to my delight to find myself the winner, though a number of coin lighter. I quickly paid the auction master, then turned to leave when a young woman was brought up on the platform. My hand found itself back in the air, bidding on another servant…..
When Kael met up with us, he had an odd expression on his face. To me, he looked upset, but since he was making an effort to hide it, I did not impose and question him on it. D.W. was in a good mood and shared with us that he had met some of the halflings in their district of the city and that he would be supping with them. It was easy to see that he looked forward to the event. He left Kael and I to order our meal without him as he headed back to see them.
I told Kael of some of the things I had been doing. Okay, perhaps I chattered incessantly, but I could not help it. The city was rather exciting to me. Finding so many things that one could purchase for themselves in the marketplace for so little money was a thrill. Add to that, we had several more people who would be joining our community as well. Thrilling stuff there, but he was not really listening. When we finished our meal, Kael told me he was staying outside the city for the night, that he’d meet us in the morning, then left the tavern. I went to bed dreaming about the things I had seen that day, a smile on my face.
D.W. made his way back to the halfling community of Oakwood City. He was not surprised to find the halfling women laying out a bounty of foods while the men socialized and admired the sumptuous delights. A couple of men were playing a rousing tune on musical instruments, children were dancing around the campfire, and most of them were engaged in conversation. Typical halfling community.
Sarah greeted him before pulling him forward to meet her brother. Fallon was tall for a halfling and rather lean. He shared a friendly smile with D.W. along with a handshake. The two chatted about their travels and being guides as well as several other topics. D.W. rather enjoyed the conversation. Actually, he enjoyed the entire evening.
In the morning, D.W. was already at a table in the tavern when I came down. Kael joined us in short order. We three headed over to the stables where our other townsmen from Kaldaran were waiting for us. So were the “slaves” as I had arranged for them to be delivered that morning. I had them ride in my wagon as we headed over to Oakdale to gather the rest of our people and supplies.
It only took a few minutes in Oakdale as everyone there was already waiting for us. The farmers were excited about the seeds and animals they had managed to obtain. Everyone was energized and eager to get home to start putting all the supplies to use.
As we headed home, I realized everyone in my wagon was silent and seemed fearful about what was to come for them. I had already given their status a great deal of thought. Without asking my companions, I was pretty certain I knew their outlook on slaves, even civilized slavery like indentured servants. So it was that I found myself offering freedom to these people. They would owe me for the money I spent to purchase their debts and by working to help build our town, they would earn their own way. If they agreed to stay at least until their debt was paid back, then they could have the choice to continue living in Kaldaran or leave to make their own way. With their word being given, I would release them of those awful red collars they were forced to wear and they would be treated no differently than any other citizen of our town.
D.W. and Kael were riding the wagon directly behind Anya. No sooner had they left Oakwood City than D.W. turned to his friend and said “I wonder how long those collars will stay on.” Kael grunted his agreement. Shortly after leaving Oakdale, the halfling gave out a laugh as he pointed to a collar on the road.
Moments later, it was Kael who was laughing as he pointed out “There’s two.”
And so it was, they nicknamed the road leading home Red Collar Road.