Natalie turned from watching Barlang and Jalath to speak to Blade and found one of the Kendt leaders waiting for her attention.
“Begging your pardon, lass, but I was hoping you could say again the names and places you spoke before? To be sure I heard you aright?”
“Oh, okay. It was Castle Tonnalt, Seer Orlauf, and the Crystal Knight Dunnaut.” Natalie thought. “We also visited a village named Shonda, and the names of the former and current Kings were Elwen and Erwin. Do those names mean anything to your people?”
“Aye, lass, some of them. I believe you may be describing the world from which we come.”
“Really? How did you come here?”
“That be a bit of a tale, and you probably have no time for it.”
“I think we should have.” Natalie looked up. “Blade?”
“Events seem to be settled except for small details.” The dragon nodded. “As a matter of fact, I should like to hear this story myself.” Blaadfork settled into a listening posture.
“Ah, well,” the Kendt leader was surprised and pleased to have a chance to tell his people’s story, “then let me begin by saying that we Kendt have always been seafaring people, far back as any of our records go. ‘Tis fishing and the sea that defines us.”
“Excuse me,” Natalie interrupted, “but I want to sit down to listen. Would you sit too?” She sat down, cross-legged, by Blade’s right foreleg.
“Aye lass, I believe I shall. ‘Twas a long, tense morning, of a certainty.” The Kendt leader also sat, imitating Natalie. “Now then, we lived in a series of villages on the south and east coasts of the land. Tonnalt was a place north and west of us, though our records do not speak of a castle there at the time. It was instead a town of some size, and the main one of its area. The Shonda you mentioned appears once in our records, but nothing is said of it.” He shifted, raising one knee to rest his arms on it.
“Kendt was the main town of our people, so that was how we were known. As I said, our lives were fishing and the sea, and the seas were full of fish. There were schools of the large silver-tails we favored so huge that two ships fishing the same school might be out of sight of all but the pennants we flew at the very tips of our masts.”
“Wow, that’s pretty big!”
“Aye lass, it was.” The Kendt leader smiled. “We had but to drop our nets, and we could haul in a load. We took nothing but the silver-tail and the green-belly. We threw back anything else. They were the most plentiful fish, and tasted the best as well. So the records say, at any rate. No one living here has ever tasted one, of course.” He smiled at the explanation, and then turned serious.
“That was our life for ages. The bounty of the sea sustained the Kendt and we traded dried fish for most other things we needed. Then came the winter that changed everything for our people.”
“What happened? Did you exhaust the schools of fish?”
“Nay, lass. ‘Tis a reasonable question, but nay. During the last winter for our people in the lands of Kendt, fish began washing up on the shores, dead. First a few, then masses of them uncountable in their thousands. No traces of injury or disease could be found. Whatever killed them left no trace on them or in them, so the records say. The people of the town and villages preserved what they could, but the numbers were simply too large. Even the shore birds and marine predators couldn’t eat them all, and the records say there was a great reek over the whole of the area.”
“That was not the worst of it, lass. When the ships sailed forth with the coming of warmer weather, they could find no signs of the great schools of silver-tail and green-belly. Even the fish we had formerly thrown back were few. As far as the scribes of our records knew, no one ever learned what caused it, but most of the creatures in the southern ocean, at least, had been wiped out.”
“So that’s why you came here?”
“Aye. They traded a great quantity of the fish they had preserved over the winter to a magician. He searched through worlds and found the Kendt a world with available land, a good coastline, and good fishing. This world. He created a portal on land through which the people could pass with their belongings, and a portal on the sea through which we could sail our ships. Everything our people left behind, and all the land, passed to him as part of his price. We brought enough supplies through to last us until the fishing fleets could find schools of fish, and enough materials to build shelter for our people.” The Kendt leader looked at Natalie and smiled sadly.
“The portals were closed behind us, of course, and that was the last any of our people ever saw home. We have been on this world over a dozen generations since, settling this land, sailing the seas, and settling many of the islands as well. On this world, the fish we catch are red-fins and blue-bellies. They are very good fish, but those who tasted both always said that while they were better than the green-belly, nothing ever matched the taste of a silver-tail.” He smiled again. “But this is our home now, for good or ill.”
“Was it just the name Tonnalt that told you it was the same world?”
“Oh, nay lass, it was the name of the Crystal Knight. Dunnaut is a Kendtish name, and one not used by others. That Knight had to be of Kendtish descent. There were some few Kendt who did not choose to come to this new world, but took their chances staying behind.”
“If that’s a Kendtish name, do you mean that there are those of your people who are named Dunnaut?”
“Oh my! Have I forgotten my manners? Aye lass, Dunnaut is MY name!”
Just then, like a light switching on, Natalie knew why the spirit of a Crystal Knight would order a dagger created to fulfill a prophecy on a world he had never seen. She stood up, and so did Dunnaut – although a little more slowly.
“I’m glad I got to hear the story of your people.”
“It were little enough reward, lass, for the service you have done the Kendt.” Dunnaut looked around. “Indeed, all of us here.”
Natalie blushed a little and decided to let that go without comment. “I hope the Kendt do well in the games.”
“Alas, I fear we shall be simply the other folk in the field.” Dunnaut smiled and shook his head. “We might do some good in the javelin throwing, and maybe one or two other things, but the Kendt are seafaring folk, and do little of running or riding.”
“There is always sailing,” Natalie observed, “boat races and maneuvering.”
“The other races be mainly landlubbers.” Dunnaut shook his head again. “Few go to sea but the Kendt.”
“Teach them.” Natalie grinned and winked. “Then beat them.”
A smile slowly spread on Dunnaut’s face. “Aye, we could indeed.” He winked back at Natalie. “Thank you, lass. You have a good head on your shoulders, and no doubt of it. Now, if you will excuse me, I need to speak to our negotiating team.” He smiled again at Natalie, nodded up to the dragon, turned, and hurried off.
“A good head, indeed.” Blade commented. “Well done, little one.”
Natalie, blushing even deeper, looked up at the dragon and grinned.