The rest of that day was a blur. As quickly as the town’s fire team had organized a bucket brigade to battle the smoldering building; Jan had been set upon by lawyers, administrators and city officials. With the death of his parents, not only had he inherited the family tailor and seamstress business, but he also became the Carl of Krag, a small town just northeast of Vendal on the coast of Grumfather Bay. As such he was not only the merchant/economic leader of the entire town, but also its representative with a seat on the Vendal league.
The continual buzz of questions and platitudes that were thrown at him were a blur to the young man’s numb mind. At some point, he had been lead away from the wreckage and brought to his father’s office in the factory building where artisans and apprentices worked to create the clothing that had been designed by Jan and his late parents.
Unfortunately there was much to do that would not wait for an appropriate period of emotional recovery. The assault of questions and assignments continued through the day, with Jan going through the motions of nodding and signing documents in mechanical detachment. It wasn’t until the sun began to set, and the workday ended that the small crowd of managers dispersed and left Jan alone.
He sat in the dark office for a long while before he finally choose to stand and grab his coat. He hadn’t eaten all day and the emptiness in the pit of his stomach was beginning to become a bit more literal than metaphorical.
He left the office and shuffled down the street. Most of the city recognized him and mumbled condolences as he passed. But for the most part, everyone left him to his grief, not sure what to do in the face of knowing that nothing could be done. Most just crossed to the opposite side of the street, or changed the course of their evening stroll to avoid the confrontation.
And so, he found himself quite alone when he was suddenly grabbed harshly by the back of his coat and slammed against the wall of an alley. The movement was such a sharp contrast to the gentle soothing well wishes that he had been hearing all day, that Jan immediately snapped to full attention.
Magnus Thorgelvild, a large red bearded Vesten, towered over him and sneered down into Jan’s face. Magnus ran the government of Krag as its Jarl, the city’s leader of everything non-commercial. As such he had spent the last several years in, often violent, conflict with Jan’s father Daar, the previous Carl of the city.
“We’re going to talk,” the big man growled.
“You are the last man I wish to converse with today,” Jan struggled against the powerful grip, “Unless it’s to see you convicted for murdering my family.”
“You don’t know what you’re talking about,” Magnus’ gravelly voice went low.
“I suppose you’ve come to finish me off now as well?” Jan spat, “Or do you only let your Raider friends up in Eskjo do your dirty work for you?”
“You’re in morning, so I’ll let that slide just this once. But if you ever make those kind of accusations to me again, you better be prepared to answer for them,” Magnus leaned further into the struggling man. “As to whether I let you live or die is dependent on the answer to this question… Where is my daughter?”
Jan’s eyes suddenly flew wide. He had completely forgotten about Bera. Through all of this, he hadn’t seen her at all. Surely if anyone would be there to offer him comfort, she would have found a way; if she was able. Then he remembered that he was supposed to have met her aboard the Windrider.
With a startling burst of energy, he broke out of the big man’s grip and began racing for the docks.
Jan charged into the office of the dockmaster, a small man by the name of Klaus (no one knew his full name). Klaus was a small stocky man whose grey hair sprouted from a number of odd places around his head and body.
“Where is the Windrider?” Jan exclaimed as he pointed out a window at the empty berth.
“Oh, Master Daarson, I heard about what happened,” Klaus got up from his chair and walked around his desk. “I’m so sorry about your parents.”
“Yes, thank you,” Jan waved him off, “but what of the Windrider?”
“You see, we heard about the tragedy. And we were all shaken up. Really we were,” Klaus stated. “But we realized that you would surely be stepping into your father’s shoes and taking over operations.”
“Yes, yes. But what about…”
“And all of us, especially Captain Graulik, decided that we needed to keep the business flowing so that you wouldn’t have a mess to clean up when you took charge.”
“Are you saying that Captain Graulik took the Windrider?” Jan said.
“Yes sir, he knew you were planning on joining him, but we figured you were going to be busy with other stuff, if you know what I mean,” Klaus nodded sympathetically. “I guess life never quite goes the way you expect it to, does it? Anyway, he didn’t think it would do to hold his delivery until you got through everything you needed to do. So he took it upon himself to sail out so he could complete the delivery on time.”
“Did anyone disembark from the Windrider before she left?” Jan didn’t think his stomach could sink any lower until that point.
“Oh no sir, after what happened, everyone was very determined to do their part to help you. To do right, if you catch my meaning,” Klaus stated. “There wasn’t a single deserter.”
Jan ran his fingers through his hair and began to pace. “They’re probably half way to Deschaine by now.
“Deschaine?” Klaus exclaimed, “I hope they aren’t heading for Deschaine. That port is under quarantine. There’s a blockade of Montaigne ships guarding it.”
“Quarantine? Do you know about the quarantine?” Jan turned, this was the second time he had heard about the situation in Montaigne.
“Supposedly there’s something big going on there, but the Emperor’s people are keeping it quiet.” Klaus sounded apologetic.
Jan began to pace again. “Which of our ships are currently available?”
Klaus consulted a ledger and counted the names off on his fingers. “Well, none of them is quite ready to go, but there are a few of them that only have minor repairs left to do on them. There’s Hulda’s Pride, the Troll Seeker, Le Cheval…”
“Le Cheval!” Jan spun at the name, “the Montaigne blockade runner?”
“Yes sir,” Klaus looked skeptical, “what are you thinking, sir?”
“Have Le Cheval stocked and provisioned. We’ll leave in the morning, with the tide!” Jan began to stride toward the door.
“But sir, the day’s over. Everyone’s gone home.” Klaus called after him.
“Call them back. Work through the night.” Jan called over his shoulder. “Le Cheval leaves at dawn!”