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1] Tarrant Struggled
2] Serpent Orb
3] The Founding of a Clan
4] Dragon Law
5] The Coming of the Wolf
6] Yukio's Time
7] Strangers Visit
8] Meeting of Clans
9] Blackbone's Trust
10] Lord Hideo's War
11] Whispers of War
12] A Hero Returns
Chapter 4: Dragon Law

Ozaku rode south with a dozen drinking companions, into the patchwork of forest and grasslands that covered the flatlowlands. It would make excellent farmland and it continued all the way south to the coast, to what might well be the southern tip of the world. Already, life was returning to normal there, and fishing villages and hamlets were springing up. Ozaku was doing good work there, spreading word of the mighty construction going on, bringing news from the north, reminding people they lived as one clan now. When he could not go south anymore he moved west, to the southwestern tip of the crescent-shaped ridge that curved north and east to half-encircle the entire land. He named the low hills there Dragon's Tail, and found the source of the Talon, the slow, wide river that meandered through the lowlands. Over many weeks the party rode north, hunting and stopping in wherever they found settlers, occasionally running across ancient relics that showed that long ago other men had been here a stone amphitheater cut into a hillside, or a low wall cutting through the hills for many leagues until they lost track of it in the underbrush.

In the north they found swampland fed by streams cascading down the high ridge the settlers of that region had begun calling Shaleback, for the deposits of shale jutting out from the mountain. Most of it was impenetrable on horseback, though one outrider reported glimpsing the walls and towers of a ruined city almost completely sunken into the marshland. Deeper in, the swamps became forbidding, lying in the shadow of the Shaleback. Streams crisscrossed the region feeding into a deep, cool lake they named the Shadowmere. They could not see its bottom, but peering into it they once saw a portion of the darkness there shift for a moment, as if something dark and massive had swum by. Leaving the horses they now traveled to the heights, up onto the saddle of the ridge where refugees had first descended down into the land. Here the land quickly became cool and dry; squinting into a stiff wind, Ozaku and his men spent a long hour looking north over the booming surf toward their homeland. An agile Monkey clansmen scaled the peak to their west and reported a strange white throne cut into the rock near its summit, looking west toward sunset. Then they climbed east toward the High Plateau, where by day they could look south and take in almost the whole of the new land, the lowlands tailing off into the blue of distance. As night fell they noticed odd halos in the rarefied air around their torches. They spent an uneasy night among whispering voices and half-glimpsed lights crossing the sky even then, the High Plateau something ancient and sorcerous in its atmosphere.

It was with relief that they made their descent, down the rocky shelves below the south edge rim of the plateau, into the bountiful fields and groves of the Fertile Valley. As they worked their way down they saw that the many mountain streams trickled together to form a clear, cold river running east to the sea. They followed it for a few days in the first week of autumn as the first harvests of the new land began to come in, and named the river Cascade.

When Ozaku returned he had much to tell his brother Tarrant. The Serpent Clan was beginning to take shape as a culture. There was a sense of liberation from the harsh strictures of the old Dragon law codes of honor and behavior were relaxed as traditions mixed through intermarriage, and were called into question or simply forgotten. Taverns and bathhouses had sprung up in the south, and a sweet, sharp-tasting new liquor brewed from certain native lowland plants had come into vogue.

Tarrant the Younger chose a dozen lesser leaders from the Dragon Clan and elsewhere, and set them in place as lesser lords and daimyos. These men were taking strong measures to keep order and teach the peasantry that, after the terrible chaos, laws were again in effect and would stay that way.

Life had begun again, and for six months Tarrant the Younger, now called Tarrant the Builder, had peace in which to build a home and a people. But the chain of events set in motion by the Horde and the Breaking had yet to run its course.

Chapter 5: The Coming of the Wolf