Arriving at the city of Ousuna, we were met with a potentially life ending situation. The King of Feugo, Francesco Ousuna was marching to war with his neighbour, the kingdom of Tierras Altas. The city had been placed on alert as an enemy force had been seen moving in the region and when our caravan arrived at the city, they feared we were spies or soldiers in disguise. The city watch threatened to fill us with arrows and we were forced to surrender all we had and be thrown into the dungeons for questioning.
The night in the dungeons was the worst of my life. Built under the keep of the castle that sits where the Verde River flows into the River Soncho, the limestone walls dripped with water and mold grew on the stone. We were told by an unfortunate prisoner already there that we had missed the spring thaw, as that was when the rivers surged with the melted snow from the Dant Mountains and filled the dungeons with water. Rumour was that when no one of importance was kept in the dungeons, they were often left to drown by the guards, too lazy to fetch them.
Fortunately for us our time in the dungeons was not long. Ryoshi and myself were released the next morning at the command of the king himself. He stated that no Elf would ever fight in Human wars and so we were freed. Our companions in the caravan were not so lucky and spent a week in the dungeons before the watch and the king were convinced they were not spies. Our release I suspect was due more to the fact the king had met so few Elves in his life as to anything else as we were invited to dine with the king that evening.
The great hall of the castle was an interesting sight to behold. It was small, cramped with guests, and full of smoke from the hearth. Poorly light and ventilated, it made the eyes and throat burn, requiring copious amounts of wine and ale to sooth your senses. Yet it was also meant to invoke a feeling of awe to those unaccustomed to the place. Banners of fallen kings and conquered foes lined the rafters, while a dais sat at the head of the hall, where the king, his family and his chosen guests sat and ate away from the rest of the court on the massive benches and tables below. But sitting above the king’s dais was the skull of a dragon. Legend has it that an unknown ancestor of the king slew the dragon and took its head as a trophy. I was fortunate to be seated next to a monk of Ai serving at the court who told me that the skull had been taken off a long dead dragon in the Los Punos Highlands. Still, the sight of the skull was enough to terrify anyone.
The king was himself a beast of a man. He had a huge black beard and was the largest Human I’d ever seen. I would guess he weighed close to two hundred and fifty pounds. He lived life vigorously and with great merriment. He drank and ate, laughed, and enjoyed rough housing his squires and knights. He would often challenge men to wrestling matches, where he would win every match due to his size and their timidness to defeat the king. He was the centre of attention and there was never a dull moment when he was around.
We ate among the knights and other members of the court on the great benches and tables, where we feasted on fresh venison, boar, and ale. The king had returned several hours after we had been thrown in the dungeons, victorious in driving his foes from his land and had taken their wagon train. It was during the desert of fresh cakes and pies that we were called to the dais to see the king. Ryoshi presented himself and I to the king as travelers and merchants seeking to expand the wealth of Elvish knowledge and material goods in the Human lands. He asked us where we had been and we told him, to which he gave his own personal opinions of the lands we had passed, none of them flattering.
He then told us a story about his grandfather, Ferdinand Ousuna, who had had the most beautiful mistress in all Cartref. He was attacked and the castle laid siege to. Trapped, outnumbered, and with no hope of escape, the enemy gave Ferdinand terms of surrender. If he surrendered the castle, his men would be spared, he would be sent into exile, he would have to pay a huge sum of gold and his men would swear loyalty to the enemy. On top of that, however, he would have to give up his mistress to the enemy so that she would become his. Ferdinand replied that if he wanted his men’s loyalty he would have to earn it, if he wanted his life, he would have to come take it and that if he wanted his gold, he would have to dig it up. But his mistress he could have and he would gladly give her to him. For death is my mistress. That night Ferdinand led a sortie with his bravest knights and caught the enemy unaware, killing their king and burning their camp.
The king had told us this story not to scare us, but to have us act as messengers. To all we would meet, Human, Elf, or Dwarf, that the Ousuna’s were not to be trifled with. Indeed, the sight of the king telling the tale beneath the dragon skull made me nervous to leave the city as soon as possible. With war between Fuego and Tierras Altas, Ryoshi decided not to visit the silver mines of the Los Punos highlands, and instead we would travel to Fuerza and see Castle Garmendia.
We set sail a week later with our caravan, finally released from the dungeons, and our supplies replenished, travelling west on the River Soncho. As we left I looked up the imposing keep where the two rivers met, and saw the red dragon on the orange field, the sigil of the Ousuna’s flying in the breeze. The dragon king may keep death as his mistress, but that mistress is Tsuyo-Sa’s, and he should be careful not to invoke the wrath of the God of Destruction.