T5

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T5 - FOOD FOR THOUGHT

After Mike Morrich, Mark Felton, and Victoria Gervasi officially joined the quest, a total of seventeen persons were embarked, riding the first day from the Pool of Bat-El to the coastal city of Nyduly, where Baron Elketz Kadir made accommodations for everyone in his great house. There, when supper had finished, the conversation turned to strategy. Mark asked the first, obvious question: Where, actually, is this dragon located?

Baron Bayard asked Baron Kadir if there was a map of the Land We Know at hand. When servants posted it on the wall of the dining hall, Baron walked up to it and pointed first at the large bean-shaped lake that was located in the caldera of the Sacred Mountain. Behold the source of all waters in the Land, contained by a wall so vertical and so high that no one has ever scaled it. Note also how half of the shoreline belongs to Hamar, and one-fourth belongs to Nath. The remaining one-fourth is divided by Alodra and the Saiph Republic. The woman Joy is said to keep Demonstick in an aerie at the foot of the wall of the Sacred Mountain at the source waters of the Alnitar river. You can see that this is the wildest region in the entire Land. No roads issue forth from Menkant to lead there, yet we must start from Menkant because it is the nearest city in Hamar to the aerie.

Mike said, Just looking at that map, we might not have enough time to bushwhack our way there before Blackseed decides to move on the Land.'

There might be another way, but it is hard, perhaps too difficult for some of the nobles gathered here. I will speak more on this tomorrow.

Everyone retired for the night, and the next morning they rode down the coast to Wazol, where it was the turn of the Count Raddai Nerio and his wife Irus to play host to the party. Baron Bayard had borrowed the map and when he posted it on the wall again after supper he said, Some of you might have surmised that I intend to use the Catwalk as a way to reach the border with the Saiph League in a matter of a few days rather than weeks.

And what dear Baron is this Catwalk of which you speak? Victoria asked.

The Catwalk, Lady Victoria, is a precarious path carved into the stone face of the wall which more or less maintains its altitude while the mountains and valleys at the base rise and fall below it. There are places where the Catwalk is some four thousand feet above the valley floor, and other places where the Catwalk is no wider than one of your feet.

Tell me this Catwalk comes with a safety rail, said Mark Felton.

The Catwalk comes with no rail. We must take our own precautions.

How do you know of the Catwalk? Mike asked. No one else seems to.

Baron Bayard said, It may also surprise some to know that my life has been filled with a series of many obsessions quite apart from human tail. Hy glanced at hyz mother the Queen, who glowered. I consider myself an authority on the complete history of human beings in the Land We Know, and in the course of my research I myself have completely circumnavigated the Sacred Mountain on the Catwalk. Parts of that included a rope traverse.

I do not fear this Catwalk, Victoria said, but have a caution. If anyone falls, I will not be able to stave off your death. I can carry little more than this blade which I intend to use to slay Demonstick.

I do not doubt the courage of anyone in this company to continue the quest, Queen Alodra said, but it may be the case that not everyone will be physically able to reach this Catwalk and negotiate it, as my son describes it. Let everyone turn it over in their mind as we ride to Menkant tomorrow, for it shall be there that whoever freely elects to end their part of our quest must remain behind while the others go on.

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