Winterstar: One Year After – 09

7 Nightal

My new friends:

Thank you all for being here tonight. Most of you do not know me, but Natu Nofele says you are all strong and doughty and trustworthy comrades. And I know myself that Natu is a man of strength and dignity, who I can trust with my life, because I have already had to do so. When I was left adrift, the sole forsaken survivor of my ship, who was it who rowed out to meet me and help me safely to shore? It was not the merchant princes, oh no – you know as well as I do that they want nothing more than to keep the city locked up tight. No, it was Gladatorial Champion Nofele, who has attained so much glory in the arena, yet remains humble enough to put his strength to use and help a stranded stranger out of the goodness of his heart.

I have already given Natu what little coin I possess, as a paltry attempt to repay the great debt I owe him. But after hearing from his own lips about the great troubles that beset you all, I realized I also owed it to him – to you all! – to join in your struggle. I owe it to you all – gladiators, merchants, sailors, dockworkers, craftsmen, porters, and more – to do what I can about the oppressive shadow that hangs over you.

And when I say ‘this shadow’, I do not mean the traveller’s plague. My people have confirmation of what all of you have already realized: this so-called plague is not a plague at all; it is not a contagion. If you are not already stricken by it, it will not spread to you. You could all be going about your daily business – yes, right at this moment! You could dine with one who is afflicted, and sleep in the same house as they, and feel utterly secure of your own safety. And yet, because it is the great and powerful who are afflicted, because many of those who are hardest-hit are those who are rich enough that they could travel the world, or even afford to leave their birthplace at all, they grow frightened.

No, my friends, the shadow hanging above you all is none other than the merchant princes who control your lives so tightly! Here is something that they, for all their wealth and power, cannot control. They panic. They must reassert control over something. They call this curse – for it is a curse – the traveller’s plague instead, and they use it as a cudgel to restrict your movements. Have they not shut down the gates of the city without warning, trapping people in who had ventured in from outside and shooting those trapped inside who tried to escape back out? Have they not shut down the harbor, not only depriving you sailors and dockworkers of your employment, but also angering the immensely powerful creature who dwells in the harbor and could flood the city at a whim? Have they not closed the Grand Coliseum and treated you gladiators like unwanted vermin?

You may say, “Let the traveller’s plague lift, and then we will return to our old lives.” Yet I say to you, even before the rich and powerful of the city were struck down by this curse, were your lives so very prosperous? Did Merchant Prince Ifan Talro’a deal fairly with those of you who needed dinosaurs and other beasts, or did he sell sickly and defective animals to those who he judged did not have the coin to pay off the full term of a contract? Did Merchant Prince Jobal deal fairly with those of you who needed to venture into the jungle, or did his guides lead you away from the city and threaten to leave you in the wilderness unless you paid them even more coin than your agreed sum? Did Merchant Prince Kwayothé and Merchant Prince Ekene-Afa deal fairly with those of you who wished to set up your own modest shops, or did they require you to buy your supply from them at rates almost too high for you to make any profit from, and then demand more gold from you in the form of annual licenses? And who, who among you could say that Merchant Prince Wakanga O’tamu has ever dealt fairly with you? I could tell you of all the civic wonders powered by communal magic that exist in the places I have traveled, and you would know that such things could exist here too, were it not for the strangehold that one man has decided to keep upon the knowledge and study of the arcane.

No, my friends, Port Nyanzaru sorely needs change. And consider that this curse is striking down only the rich and powerful! Is is not a great wind of change? Is this not our opportunity?

There are those among you who have received, in the past, iron tokens bearing the likeness of a triceratops. I hear you say that receiving one is a terrifying thing, for it means that you have angered those in power in some way, but the onus is upon you to determine how you might have offended them and what you can do to mollify them. How unjust and cruel of them, to make you dance about like a puppet upon strings, just to determine in which direction they wish to force you to bow! So all I ask of you tonight, dear friends, is this – if you have ever received one of these tokens, give it to me. I shall put them to better use. I am determined to remind the merchant princes that theirs is not the sole power in the world, and that they rule only by the sufferance of the people of Port Nyanzaru.

I ask nothing more of you tonight, my friends. Only for these iron tokens of terror. If there are those among you who are brave and clear-sighted, who are willing to stand and act rather than scrape and bow – come speak with Gladiator Champion Nofele tomorrow. We have much to do, he and I. We will be grateful for any who rise tomorrow and decide you wish to help us bear the burden of renewing the city.

Vitality: 1 ◦ Quickness: 2 ◦ Fortitude: 2 ◦ Hope: 9

Auspicious Days: 14 ◦ Inauspicious Days: 8

Winterstar: One Year After is the epistolary epilogue of Lilissen Winterstar, written with Her Odyssey. Updates every Sunday.

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