After his travels with the companions, Aujaq spent the three long months of winter frequenting the nearby city of Vendig to improve his social skills. The cold stone walls of the city no longer gave him shivers of fear and he even managed to adjust to the lifestyle of the cushioned people. Maybe his fellow tribesmen were right and he just found too many advantages of a settled life…
One of those advantages is most definitely the nice company at an establishment called the “Blue Lady”. Whereas most people need to pay in hard silver or even gold for a few minutes in the company of beautiful women, Aujaq’s exotic and athletic appearance soon made him popular among the “girls” – so Vlad, Mal and the doctor found him bare chested amidst three barely clothed women, caressing his muscles and beard, when they entered the house. And although the doctor muttered something about diseases, contamination and wearing gloves from now on, he did not fail to notice short glances of jealousy from the other men.
Vlad had some business to attend to in a city called “Reinerheim” and quickly convinced the others to join him on the short journey. As Aujaq was always eager to see more of the strange city folk, he agreed and the four of them embarked to their next adventure.
Reinerheim turned out to be much bigger than any city Aujaq had seen so far: Gleaming white walls surrounded a city far larger than Vendig, with thousand of houses and even more people bustling around. Despite his training, Aujaq still felt a rush of anxiety sweep over him as the companions made their way around town, shoving away people and hearing the bustling sound of the city all around. As they reached the “Iron Gauntlet”, a cramped but secure inn, Aujaq would have preferred to prepare his night meditation and go to sleep, but Vlad and Mal were eager to visit the cathedral, the local temple of the gods.
The building was huge and would sure impress the narrow-minded city folk, but while Vlad and Mal are talking to what appeared to be the tribal chief, Aujaq noticed something disturbing. Thefd were colorful pictures on the high glass windows, telling the lore of this place; Aujaq’s view lingered on one particular painting, with what appeared to be way too small Icewalkers crouching and fleeing from heroic, white figures. He narrowed his eyes. That is not how he remembered the story…
As soon as his comrades were done talking about yet another girl, Aujaq confronted Lord Ulrich, the head of this place.
“Those glass paintings are an outrage! This is not how it happened!”, he argued in broken skytongue. “My folk was slaughtered by your men, driven from their homes and expelled to the North. I demand you to take these pictures down!”
Unimpressed, Lord Ulrich turned to Vlad, muttering about lending him some books so he could read to the “savage” what really happened. Aujaq only listened with half an ear, rage pumping through his head. He raised his fists in anger, ready to strike this arrogant man – when Vlad and Mal pulled him back and out of the door. They had just stepped outside when Koda appeared and tried to calm his companion even more. “It’s not worth fighting about”, he snarled and headed off towards the inn, telling Aujaq to meet him there later.
As the night settled, the four adventurers decided to call it a day and enjoy a good meal (and even better drinks) in the “Iron Gauntlet”. They just sat down, when Koda entered the inn in his most human-like form as a badger walking on his two hind legs. Under the vigilant eyes of the whole inn, he walked over to the bar, slumped some coins onto the counter and asked, in his usual, growling voice, for a beer in return. The barkeep reluctantly observed his new customer, his eyes wandering between the badger and the coins and decided to serve it… him…after all. He had good money, at least – money Aujaq lacked most of the time.
The badger waddled over to the table where Aujaq, Vlad, Mal and the Doctor sat, paid no attention to the other guests who were silently moving away, leaving a safe distance between their tables and the table, and sat down with a hearable thud. He took a deep sip of his beer, before he addressed Aujaq again. In a patient, sentient tone, which was a harsh contrast to the non-divine way he acted right now, he explained that while the city people sure got some parts of history wrong, this was nothing worth arguing about; Aujaq would not be able to change their minds, anyway, and to leave this particular place might as well have been a good thing for the Icewalkers… He also mentioned ancient tribal sites all over Reinerheim, which might be interesting to have a look at. Tomorrow. “Or the day after that…”, he added, before gulping down his remaining beer in one go, burping and ordering a new one.
The next day the group marched early to the castle to find this other woman, Regina, Mal and Vlad were so desperately looking for – although Aujaq had no idea, how she could help them unraveling the horrors they encountered during the winter. After a brief discussion during which Aujaq focused on the tall, muscular woman, who reminded him of old tales of a tribe of brutal warrior women, who used to slaughter men after they were no longer “needed”, the adventurers proceed to a meeting with the queen. Aujaq did not know what he expected of a palace of these cushioned people, but when he entered the pompous, gold-carved halls with one expensive thing after the other on walls and little columns, he could no nothing else but stare in astonishment, trying to hard to keep his jaw from dropping.
He was even more amazed, when he encountered the queen: She was a young girl, who couldn’t have seen more than 20 winters and the most beautiful woman Aujaq had ever seen in his life. Her hair, her skin, her body, the way she moved so elegantly and spoke so kindly… She had Aujaq under her spell from the moment he laid eyes on her – she even seemed genuinely interested in Aujaq being an Icewalker the history of his tribe. When she asked them if they wanted to work for her on certain “issues” and offered a “royal warrant” (whatever that was) to help them in their search for Hilde in exchange, Aujaq had no choice but to say yes.
Only when the talks were over he realized queen Malene was wearing a tribal necklace with a dragon’s tooth, which reminded him of the gifts chieftains from his tribe gave to their women to worship them. When he asked where she got this pendant, she fiddled with it nervously and answered it ways “lying around somewhere” in the vaults. His interest awakened, Aujaq wanted to know more about this “vault” and maybe tell the young queen the history of some items there, but his overcautious companions already politely dragged him out of the room again – although this time he did not nearly refuse as much as last time…
While Vlad and the Doctor disappeared to stock up their wisdom with books, Aujaq embarked on a different journey of knowledge: The the old Icewalker ruins Koda told him about. Near the palace he discovered over 500 years old ruins and a huge burial mound. He recognized some of the runes on the stones used for the mound – they were clearly built to seal something away… But what? And if there was something sealed underneath the city, why were there important stones missing and now built into the walls and surrounding houses?
Aujaq’s knowledge of this place – or sealing rituals – was too limited to make something more out of this, but his guts told him, that something went very wrong in Reinerheim…