OUR HEROES: Tira Wolfsdaughter Hank Woodman Haiku Odsdottir Gilead Persia


24. Sanlorenz

he Columbia puts many miles between them and the Strait of Belle Isle. Son they have reached the mouth of the Sanlorenz River. During this time, Tira speaks with Mint, who has regained her tobgue and with it her ability to speak. Oddly, her voice sounds very similar to Tira's, but with a thick Kabekki accent. A side effect of Tira's tongue being used as a morphic model, no doubt. Mint warns her that the first tribe they will encounter are the Old Kabekki, or as the call themselves "Les O Kebekwa" (The High Kabekki). They are rumored to be savages who respect only strength and "manly" virtues.

Crockett wishes to pass them in a non-hostile fashion, since they will need to travel their section of the river again on the way out. They are met upon the river by a rowed craft filled with spearmen and archers. The barbarians are no match for the Columbia, but the Tallonites treat with them. They are directed to dock and a landing party is quickly put together to meet the great Chief Thibaut.

The expedition is made up of Gilead (the leader), Tira, Kamlak, Mint and two soldiers. They are lead through ruins toward a walled citadel. The Kebekwa haave restored the fortifications of the old walled city of ancient Quebec. Inside, they live in the shells of the old buildings. Chief Thibaut holds his council atop the remnants of a four story building.

Thibaut is a little mad, but the Kebekwa respect madness. Mint translates the speech of the natives, a debased form of French. They are given food and drink, and though the men blanch a bit at the cups of blood placed before them, they manage to get through the meal without insulting their host. Thibaut accepts the gifts of weapons of Merikian steel that are presented to him. They are allowed to pass. Though the Kebekwa are little threat to the Columbia, their amassed fleet could harm the paddlewheeler, so it is with relief that the crew continues upriver.

Another day of continuous movement sees them to Montral, the end of their water journey. Here, a good impression and relationship are vital, for Crocekett wishes to moor the Columbia here while the land force makes their way to the stones of Tronto. The ships that are sent to meet them this time are much larger and more sophisticated than the Kebekwa ships. They are sleek rowed ships with enclosed cabins or shielded oar banks. The Columbia is hailed and told to stand down all weapons, both mounted and personal. Though the leader of the boats speaks Kebekwa initially, he also understands Anglish, and addresses them all in that language thereafter. The Columbia is excorted to a remote dock where they are examined carefully.

The crew decides to take a risk and reveal Hank's existence. The Montral tribesmen have likely never seen an animate, and indeed they are impressed. It turns out that there are stories brought back by Huron and Ottawa warriors who served as mercenaries for the Karkul forces twenty years ago. These warriors told of great animated engines of destruction. Although Hank is harmless, the captain will not consent to his visting the chief unless chained. His arms of hardwood and hands of gloved chain look a little too much like weapons for captain Zhiak's taste. Hank will not submit to this condition and is left behind. All others must relinquish any weapons before being escorted to the city proper. They agree, since they have little choice. The Columbia might outmatch any single ship, but together the fleet could likely destroy Master Crockett's vessel.

The landing party is smaller this time. Gilead once again leads them, while Tira provides an adept's presence. Mint serves as a cultural guide, and Haiku is a guard for Tira. They are initally woried that there is to great of a female representation for an envoy to a barbarian tribe, but quickly realize that the Montral do indeed have a respectable percentage of female warriors.

The first part of their journey is through the ruins of outer Montral. These are largely unpopulated, though Tira can spot the occasional sentry. What worried her more are voices. She can hear echoing refrains of voices speaking Ancient Anglish. Though the words themselves are unfamiliar, their meaning is strangely clear. "I need a new pair of shoes", "When is that Goddam bus gonna get here?", and "I feel hungry" are only a small sample of the incomprehensible statements that she perceives. No one else in the party can hear them, and she remembers that Hadrian's journal spoke of this effect reported by the adept Burke while travelling the outskirts of Shakka-Go. As they reach the more inhabited sections of the ruins, the voices diminsh until they disappear altogether.

Place des ArtsThe ruins of Montral are vast and impressive. Though Tira saw Shakka-Go from afar many years ago, it did not prepare her for this. Many buildings stand several stories tall. Roads, concrete, glass, signs, twisted rusty lumps of metal, benches, doors, windows, all stretch on for miles. In the distance, they can see the ruins of a building which reach nearly forty stories into the sky, jagged fngers of concrete and metal. They are led to a large circular building bearin the sign: "Place des Arts". Here they are taken through a tunnel labeled: "Souterrain" and then into a fabulous underground forteess. The ancients had built almost an entire city underground and much of it is intact. The spaces have been taken over by the tribespeople for new purposes, but many of the stores and businesses are still in decent shape. The inside is lit by a combination of lanterns and ingeinious mirrors which direct the sunlight through long shafts. They travel for more than a mile of underground before they come to a large council chamber. Here they are announced to Lafayette, the chieftain of Montral.