On the third day out of Porlese we sight the fort. Markedly, on the journey, the amount of people has increased, and they are not only fleeing slaves. We see families walking together, clearly from Alarn, given their mode of dress, and many farmers and villagers from smaller towns and settlements in the hinterland.
As we close in, there is a steady trickle west of us, those heading directly south from Normur and the more northern towns.
I note a few Messengers also, as well as a fair showing of nobility. Both these groups are invariably on horseback.
The fort will be crowded. I hope the supplies we sent south over a period of four years will be enough to feed not only the hungry arrivals, but sustain us on the march across the plains to Arc.
Closer in, we notice donkey trains coming in from the east, exiting from the mountain passes. It appears others have harked to the supply situation and have sent goods via the less travelled routes. Safer, especially with raiders in the countryside. The sight fills me with relief.
A sprawling settlement surrounds the fort on three sides. There is not enough space for everyone inside. Everything and everyone is wet, for the rain found us again yesterday. As the entrance looms, the downpour intensifies. It hides the presence in the sky, which is easier on us at this point. I sense fear growing even among the men of Grenmassin. Until now they had not seen it clearly, but at sunset on our first day of walking it was a bright orb of manipulation above, with not an errant cloud to hide it. Terrible silence then followed gasps of dismay.
There is no longer doubt.
A holler draws my attention and, grinning, I hasten forward to clasp the man’s hand. “Mirlin, you made it.”