Chapter 1

Aamir the frozen land stretched out across the sea like an iceberg.
One hundred and twenty kilometres of ice and rock that were so cold that only the strongest of creatures could survive the harsh winters.

Macabir the dwarf high lord was ruler of this desolate place and high chairman to the three cities of the isle.

Aashbier the port town and capitol to the south.
Benagon the great mine to the west rich in gold.
Curagon the northern mine where Inga the heroine of this story was currently camped. I

Inga the dark haired dwarven beauty was a loveable rebel amongst the dwarves of the north.
It was unusual for a she-dwarf to have any kind of power in Aamir as it was dominated by masculine power.
She had worked her way up the ranks becoming finally city captain and finally lord of Curagon in perhaps the most curious of ways. Her vicories in crushing the northern beserker rebellion and returning control of the lumber mills to the city had been pivotel in her popularity amongst the barons of the city but her final promotion had come about by complete accident...

In was in the year 1206 that Lord Grambeir of Curagon had failed continulously to control grain exports to Aashbier being intercepted by bandits. The High Lord was aggravated, the people were aggrovated and the barons of the city were not happy.

"Macabir is not going to be pleased when he finds out that for the fourth time the latest caravan has been stopped!"
Lord Grambeir a grey haired tight faced dwarf looked noticeably shaken,

"I can assure you its not going to happen again! Now as I was saying we..."

"Not going to happen again isn't good enough!" continued the baron.

"Who the hell do you think you are Emir?" rasped back Grambeir red faced, "May I remind you that I am lord of this city
and not you!"

"Are you suggesting that the Barons of this city, lord Grambeir, are powerless?" interrupted Uruthrik an unusually tall thin bearded baron.
He spoke calmly but powerfully.

Grambeir put his hands over his eyes, "That's not what I meant; please calm down now just listen... we're all very worried
about the situation"

Inga looked on in astonishment from her position at the back of the hall next to the scribe. He was busy scribbling away
the conversation but looked like he was having a difficult job. She could already see he'd made several errors in the runic script.
He was supposed to record down all words spoken without fail. Inga chuckled shaking her head as the feather quil split for the third time
in a row. As captain of the city guard she (Inga) was not allowed to speak unless summoned to make an adress before the council. She
felt desperate to say something. There was always so much arguing and bickering in the court and she had no confidence at all in the lord.

"Lord Grambeir with all respect," said baron Emir cracking his burly fingers, "We barons were chosen amongst many candidates
by the High Lord Macabir himself and elected by the people. We were chosen by the High Lord to represent the people and were given
powers that if necessary can match the lord of this city..."

"Is that a threat Emir?" growled Grambeir clenching his fists.

"No that is as it is!"

"Why you dirty!..." shouted Grambeir standing up.

"Please!" interrupted Uruthrik again, "Enough all of you. Let us please hear what Grambeir intends to do about the situation rather
than simply argue with each other all day! May I remind you that he is still lord of this city!"

"Yes Uruthik or course," nodded Emir with a bow, "Pray continue with your solution, lord Grambeir!" he said with telling sarcasm.

Grambeir nodded and looked slowy round the circular room. He stood up and let out a deep throaty cough. The fire inside the centre

of the room was kept burning all day and the ashes were always on everyone's tongues and eyes as the smoke had few exits from the council chambers.

"I proppose to send out battallion one lead by myself down the main road to Aashbier in search of the scum who stopped our caravans.
Inga captain of the city will lead out the second battallion to the hills were she will search for bandits in the mountains with beariders.
The third battallion will stay behind here to guard the city from attack. We will recover the grain and escort it to Aasbier personally. This time it will be delivered albeit late, but it will be delivered"

"But lord Grambeir surely!" thought Inga.

The whole room turned round to look at her including the scribe who had stopped writing. He looked up at her squinting as if he were trying to
remember her name or even perhaps what to write, Captain Inga of the city guard impetulously breaks rank by interrupting the lord of the city or something ike that. Inga looked down at her lips.
They trembled.

She hadn't thought that; she'd said it and now everyone was looking at her glaring.

Grambeir raised an eyebrow, "Have you got something to say Captain!?" he snapped, "Because we're all very busy here!"

Silence filled the room with only the noise of the flames scratching against the wood.

"I thought not," chuckled Grambeir, "Pray don't let that happen again...
as I was saying..."

"No wait!" interrupted Uruthrik purching like an owl from the wings of the room, "I want to hear what she has to say"

"Oh please!" roared Grambeir, "What kind of court is this where everyone talks all day and now you want to let our wives start bickering amongst
us!?" he laughed.

There was a mixture of boos and cheers from amongst the nobles, "What can she possibly have to say!?"

"Well Inga what did you have to say?" asked Uruthrik expectantly and now pleadingly to make himself not look so stupid should he be prooved wrong.

The people who had now turned round in the court only a little now turned fully in their seats to watch her. Grambeir looked anxiously from side to side realising slightly scaired that for once he wasn't the centre of attention.

"My lord..." began Inga a little hesitantly, she bit her lip to stop it trembling, "I just think it seems a misuse of time to look for the bandits again. I know this is a much larger search party in bringing these criminals to justice, but I know that smaller search parties conducted by myself and some of the barons in this room have shown little or no fruition. The trouble is these bandits will just continue to hide, in ways that they are much better adapted to than we are at finding them. Looking for them in the northern mountains will be like finding a needle in a hay stack!
I think we should let them come to us..."

"Oh please!..." laughed Grambeir leaning his head on his hand and shaking his crossed leg up and down impatiently, "Are you finished?"

"Well actually NO I'm not!" retored Inga getting a little irritated now, "and while I'm at it sending two thirds of our military army out of the city is going to cost us a lot of money and grain that we don't have! Now sweeping gestures like that to solve a problem like this may convince some people in this room but they're not going to convince those of us here who think rationally!"

"GET OUT!" roared Grambeir, "You have no place in this room talking to me like that! How dare you!"

"No Grambeir I think she has a point!" said Emir standing up, "and what would you, Inga, do about this problem?"

"Well," said Inga continuing a little juddery, "I think first of all we should send out a small group of our well trained berserkers disguised as gem merchants. We'll send them off towards Aashbier; giving out plenty of "hints" as to the ammount of gems that the cargo actually won't be carrying say, in the more shady parts of town. Then then the bandits attack we'll tear them apart"

"Oh please you really think you can disguise three hundred men in the back of a caravan?"

"We won't need that many," shrugged Inga, "If we have spearmen in the hills at various points we can trap them. Of course in the long term we're going to need some watch posts along the way where we can position soldiers who can make sure that these caravans get through. If there is a problem, then it would be a much shorter duration before we are able to respond"

"How much money is that all going to cost!?" laughed Grambeir. He looked arround the room in frustration. Hardly anyone was looking at him.
His faced looked as if it were trying to say "Look at me! Look at me! Look at me!"

"I think the lady has a point," conceded Uruthrik raising his eyebrows again. He turned to look at Grambeir.

"What!?" laughed Grambeir, "You think I should take orders from her! A woman!?"

Emir glared, "Nobody is suggesting anything but we need someone to TAKE some serious action arround here!"

"And you think that she can do a better job?" roared Grambeir hitting the side of his chair loudly.

"Well maybe she can..." said Uruthrik thoughtfully.

"Fine put her in charge! Lets see her do an honest days work for a change! You wait! You'll be burning in your homes in no time while that whore is getting pregnant lying fat in bed all day doing nothing!"

"So..." Uruthrik continued a little shocked at the Dwarf's language, "You are putting her in charge!?"

"What!?" shouted Grambeir clearly furious, "I don't believe this! You Scum... Traitors the lot of you! Its no wonder nothing gets done arround here when I have to work with fools like you!"

Taking up the parchments he'd be reading from he tore them in two and through them one by one at Emir and Uruthrik. One of them hit Emir on the head and he winced in pain. The council gasped in astonishment. Standing up the lord of Curagon walked purposeely across the room kicked a burning log across the room and excited flamboyantly out of the double doors pausing briefly to spit at Inga's feet. The room agast with mumbling slowly decreshendoed into silence. Dwarves were looking at each other everywhere unsure what would happen next. Would he come back? Would the meeting be cancelled? How could the meeting be cancelled as something clearly neaded to be done to appease the High lord?

There was a clear sense of panic in the room and it took an annoying long period of time before things began to calm down. It was at the stage when voices had resorted to nothing more of a whisper, and the very realisation dawning on people that the lord wasn't coming back that day,
that anyone dared address the council personally. It was Emir who finally spoke. He took a deep breath stood up and cracked his knuckles for the second time.

"All those in favour of giving Captain Inga... temporary command over the city please vote now"

"What!?" gasped Inga, "I didn't mean..."

"How could you not mean it talking like that!?" said Emir suddenly sternly.

"Maybe someone else should be chosen?" called Inga but the room was already loud in debate as people started voting on their parchments. People were shouting across the room at each other.

The chief scribe looked at Uruthrik and whispered in his ear. The noise dimmed down as everyone looked to see what was happening.

"Of course I do!" shouted Uruthrik at him impatiently, "Now get on with it!"

The chief scribe nervously piped up, "There will be a quick rest period while the votes are counted. Please meet back here within the half hour if you feel your voice should be heard or your ears fed!"

The room broke out into loud talking everywhere as people pushed past to get out into the banquet room where food was left out for the nobles to eat throughout the day.

"Good luck Inga!" said a long bearded dwarf who passed her by.

"Impertinant DOG!" shouted another and spat at her feet.

"I want a word with you outside!" said a larger dwarf behind him and pushed him out the door looking clearly like there was going to be a fight.
Uruthrik pushed through the crowd with Emir and came up to Inga his hand outstretched.

He shook her hand, "You're in with a good chance Inga!"

"Anything will be better than that fat old bastard on the throne," said Emir rolling his eyes.

"He'll have me murdered for sure..." sighed Inga looking at her feet.

"You? The captain of the city guard the only person the people of this city can remember the name of?" laughed Uruthrik, "I doubt it! Besides we'll protect you whatever the outcome of the vote"

"We ought to..." said Emir slowly, "Uruthrik we should give her a talk about the council on more private terms what do you say?"

Uruthrik put a finger to his lip and nodded, "Yes come on lets go. Inga you will come with us? There's certain things we should talk to you about if you are going to be more involved in city politics"

"I'm not sure I want to be..." sighed Inga shaking her head, "but at the moment I'd rather not be on my own if you know what I mean..."

"Come on then beautiful," said Emir patting her on the back

"Back off!" she hissed at him

"Easy I was just kidding," chuckled Emir, "you remind me of my wife in the evenings... she says that as well"

"Come on Emir be serious," said Uruthrik sternly, "lets go"

"And," added Uruthrik quietly as the turned the corner, "I'm not surprised Emir!"