‘The Market’ sprawled along the swift and narrow river that marked, in this particular area at least, the unofficial border between ruined Frostgrave and the outside world.
The noise was incredible – stallholders hawking their wares from beneath tattered canopies, warriors sprawling drunkenly from tumbledown drinking dens, spellcasters haggling loudly over the price of some magical item, the baying of warhounds and the crackle of wizardry.
What struck Oddeigh most was the sheer numbers and variation of people heading to and from the eerie ruins. Common thugs rubbed shoulders with proud knights, wily thieves bantered with watchful rangers, and sturdy archers tested their bowstrings while callow apprentices practised their art in secluded corners.
“This is where everyone comes to before they launch their expeditions, and then buy and sell stuff afterwards.”
The Hobbit Halfinch had been mercifully quiet during the last leg of their journey, cowed perhaps by the stillness and quiet of those last few miles through the wilderness, but now, as if animated by the sudden cacophony, he was in full flow once again.
Oddleigh grunted, still stunned by the spectacle. He turned to look for his master, but found his way blocked by two huge shapes.
“You want fighters?”
A mound of muscle, in amongst which must have been some kind of man, thumped his chest, and then that of his equally large companion.
“We Gog and Magog – we fight for you – hundred gold each!”
“Oh, er..” stammered the apprentice.
“We consider offer!” grunted the Hobbit, which seemed to placate the pair, who nodded solemnly before wandering off. He grinned and turned to Oddleigh.
“You have to speak the language see? Barbarians – not the sharpest swords on the rack, but bloody good fighters.”
“Er, they’re practically naked…”
“Huh, the cold doesn’t bother them. Born of the Great Wilds see? Everything there wants to kill you – hell, even their gods hate their guts! Gotta be tough to surv- by the Lords, I don’t believe it!”
He was staring at yet another large, armour-clad figure, who clanked along with an expression of open disdain against everyone else in sight.
“Don’t believe what?”
“That’s Sir Pierre de Bleu – haven’t you heard of him?”
Oddleigh squinted at the knight. His armour, once obviously painted a startling blue, was chipped, faded and dusted with rust, although, he noticed, his sword was sharp and well honed.
“He’s famous,” Halfinch continued, “there’s not a princeling in the land that hasn’t heard the cautionary tale of Sir Pierre de Bleu. Scion of the noblest family of the Old Empire, rich beyond comparison and just as spoilt. A talented fighter yes, but one who much preferred a life of wine and wenches to the noble arts of war.”
“Oh.” Oddleigh groaned inwardly as the Hobbit settled into his story.
“He and his mates would ruin half the countryside on one of their jaunts – hunting peasants and outraging their daughters – but each time his dad, the Grand Poobah of wherever, would pay off whoever and let him carry on. However one day him and his mates went too far and raised an entire town. Even daddy couldn’t spring him this time, and so he was banished. Last I heard he was cracking heads in the Southlands, but I guess wizards pay better than pirates…”
Oddleigh watched as the warrior shouldered his way through the throng.
“Takes all sorts I suppose…”
A few more figures to spend gold crowns on. The barbarians are from my good mate Doug of EM-4 miniatures, whilst the knight is a Reaper Bones figure, kindly donated by gaming buddy Rich.