Klane Kalonia and the Great Burning (29) by DMFW ()
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A last evening descended over Ironhope. The dawn would bring the climax of the festival of the Great Burning, consuming this breeding ground of history under the new day’s sun. But before the Riders could do their duty, and unleash the cleansing flames, there was a final feast in honour of the life of Ironhope and there was the settlement auction. Now at last it would be decided just how the former citizens of the town were to be divided between the tribes so that they could build new villages on their lands.
There was much eating and drinking in the civic hall. Verindu presided over the allotment of the Ironhope residents. One by one, or in family groups he called them forward to a balcony where all the Riders could see them. Their talent rings were hung from a post, marking out their skills for those that weren’t paying attention as he announced names and abilities. Then the bidding process began, interested representatives from each tribe staking sporting prize tokens from the day’s games to compete for the services of the men and women they would soon be making homeless.
It was a long slow process because Vernidu took his own sweet time to indulge in platters of venison, iced dumplings, fried eels and pots of strong honey mead between each round. The temperature in the hall rose with the press of bodies, and the consumption of meat and ale. There was an atmosphere of celebration, for certain but also an undercurrent of fear and even an edge of violence. Klane was not enjoying it.
The blacksmith and his family were the last of the residents to be auctioned. Klane has been trying to keep track of the earlier bids and how much the lavishly triumphant Southern Pralannians were spending, for in truth as the game’s major winners they had taken the major share of the town’s residents.
Klane had spent none of his winning tokens. He hoped that he might catch Muttu by surprise and by stacking everything on this last bid, outmatch the Southern Pralannians to win this final assignment. He wasn’t sure of the sums. He knew his rivals were keen to claim the blacksmith and it was going to be close.