The Yarn Wall defended the highlands from the demon-controlled lowlands, a vast bulwark blocking the broad pass that had once carried the commercial lifeblood of the continent. It was anchored at either end by the black stone fortresses of Treblesse and Fire Bright. The fortifications at Inyarn held the centre of the line where once an overnight stop on the highway had stood. The highway still ran north and south, to and from the wall, and was used by both the demon-controlled armies to the south and the unconquered humans to the north.
Fire Bright sat on the western end of the fortified line, snuggling up to Pollcar, the first of the mountains whose precipitous southern faces made the pass the only way north. The height of that ridge kept winged enemies at bay and out of the fertile Poll River Valley on the other side. After you passed the peaks of Pollcar and Mundberg going south, the valley’s western wall of mountains joined with its eastern one and the two ridges marched south together: Thunderhead and Meckeljoy; Stonedrop and Naerie; Stormsplitter and Stargrazer before the wall of mountains turned west toward the Massif; the Seven Sisters leading off into the chain of mountains with forgotten names that ended, finally, in the peaks of Stugert, Abrack and Limmermeet at the Massif’s edge.
On the lower southern slopes of Stormsplitter and Stargrazer there was a shelf. The demon hosts hadn’t made use of it as a staging area into the highlands because it was still more than 300 long feet up a sheer cliff above their territory. The humans knew about it because it was exactly the sort of place that stray sheep or goats would wind up, after passing through some of the most difficult country they could find. The terrain was complicated by a sheer-sided fissure that dropped all the way to the level of the lowlands and ate into the space above.
Erima reread the letter from Argenthan, General of the South, and smiled. “I must write back to your Commander,” she said to courier, “and thank him for his greetings. Is he always so enthusiastic about flanking positions and siege machines?”
The man smiled back faintly. “Not when they’re being used against him, my lady.” His stance may have wavered slightly.
“For hearth’s sake, where are my manners? Hang up your cloak over there and sit down.” Erima gestured from a row of wall-mounted hooks to a table with chairs drawn up to it. “Have you eaten since dawn?” When the man nodded she asked, “When?”
“At dawn, my lady. Nothing since. I was on my way here,” he pointed out.
“Then we need to get a solid meal into you,” said the First Born practically. “If you’re going back with my reply tomorrow, then it will have to be on a different horse.”
“As you say, my lady,” the man nodded in agreement, “but I thought to have your reply back to my lord General today.”
“I agree that would be ideal,” Erima replied, “but I’m expecting my father’s choice of architect this afternoon, and after I speak to him I may need to ask for the General’s help and advice. Overall we save time if you stay here until then.”
“As you say, my lady,” the man nodded again.
“So, we feed you then introduce you to a warm bath and a bed. You should feel much better in the morning.” Erima walked to the door and called for someone.
While they were waiting for that someone to come in reply to Erima’s summons, they began to hear the sounds of a disturbance. There was a lot of shouting, swearing in multiple voices, and then, “No! No! No! This is a temple! I don’t do temples! You said I had a client!” At that point a scrimmage of four men came into view at the doorway and the shouter was revealed to be a darkhaired man with a straggly beard that matched his hair and a black patch over one eye. He and his captors were wearing normal clothes for unarmoured men in the uplands: closed-in leather boots laced up to and around the ankles; soft, ankle length trousers of woollen cloth; a linen or woollen shirt under a vest and a coat; the vest sleeveless and made of wool, linen or silk to allow movement but provide extra warmth to the torso; and the coat of wool, summer weight at this season. The man with the eyepatch wore perceptibly duller, cheaper, and more worn versions than the other three.
“Alvithis Mordvill?” Erima’s voice was pleasantly light. “I’m sorry, but you’re here because you do ‘do temples’ as you put it. To be precise, you tell other people how to break into them. My father’s looking to build a temple and he wants to put your delightfully wriggly mind, his words I must point out, to work. Not that he has any treasure to protect,” she added.
The eye patched man stopped struggling, “If your old man has a job for me, kid, he can come and see me himself. I don’t deal with intermediaries.”
“You misunderstand,” Erima’s voice remained pleasant. “My father isn’t to be the temple’s patron; he will be the enthroned god. I am his First Born, this will be his first temple and he wants you to design it.” Her mouth twitched. “There may be some access issues to be resolved….”
This is now followed by Putting Together A Project Team 2.