Finally, his day had come. Loztu had spent exactly one month in the Dyke and his tour had finished. He ate a good breakfast, in order to be able to stand the journey to Albe, in Govria. He was resting between two crenels and he gazed the land that he would travel through in a short time. It was a lonesome meadow, covered by tall grass with a very green colour in that time of the year, the first days of May. In that moment, when it was beginning to get light, the grass hardly could be seen because the entire area was covered by the fog. The fog started to dissipate slowly as the sunshine became more intense.
He told to himself, while he waited during more time than planned, that he was waiting for the vanishing of the fog in order to not getting confused during his walk. However, Loztu knew that when he were at the other side of the Dyke, he would start an unknown and unsure path, and his anxiety forced him to delay as much as possible his departure. Finally, the fog cleared, so he had to go to the barracks in order to pick up his luggage.
After picking up his belongings, several comrades who he knew during past tours approached him for telling goodbye, shake his hand and wishing him good luck in his adventure. Uttuk, Easgu and Munture, his closest comrades, accompanied him to the gate of the Dyke and they farewelled him there. When the soldiers of the garrison activated the mechanisms and the huge gate started to open slowly, Loztu was already alone. His heart beat faster and he felt, for a moment, that he was not able to go out, but it had no sense to make the soldiers guarding the gate wait, so he, finally, crossed the gate.
He started to walk purposefully while he heard how the gate was closed behind him. When the sound of the mechanisms stopped, he turned back for the last time and he saw that, from the battlement of the Dyke, three soldiers farewelled him moving their arms. Loztu said goodbye in the same way and he went away the gate.
During the first part of the travel, while the fog dissipated completely and he could see well the huge meadow that he crossed, Loztu regretted because he could not stay in Hakol a little time more. The Republic was recruiting an army for attacking the kawtsut and he could not enroll. From the last war against govrians, his country lacked the strength for controlling their population, so kawtsut were so numerous that they dared to hounding the armies that went to the Dyke for relieving the garrisons, as it happened to Loztu's one. Loztu felt that he was betraying the Republic, but he really could not delay more time his departure.
After an hour, he passed close to the blackish remainders of a hakol farm, and that image made him remember why he started that adventure. His father served in the Dyke during the Seona War, although, fortunately, on the top of the Dyke. That war happened about thirty years ago when, due to a series of poor harvests, the Republic planned to farm the lands under its rule at the other side of the Dyke, where no hakols lived for fear of the govrians. A lot of families were given lands for farming, and they built hamlets and isolated farms. In the first moments, govrian scouts only watched them from afar.
After, the scouts started to gather in groups and threatened the farmers, who did not want to abandon their own country. As the threats did not work, they started to burn the isolated farms and send the families back to the Dyke. Govrians ignored the diplomatic protests from Hakol, so the government recruited a four hundred men army, in anticipation to a deterioration of the situation. And the things became worse. The govrians understood that burning farms did not work, so they captured dozens of farmers and they held them prisoners several weeks. When they were liberated, they had been ordered to say that it was the last warning: if farmers did not return to the hakol side of the Dyke, they will die. Hakol authorities' error was not believing them.
When decimated families, children and women who had lost their husbands and brothers, started to return to the Dyke, the Republic deployed the army, no longer fearing of provoking the govrians. The army was divided in four columns that chased and rejected govrian looting parties. In the first moments the hakols were successful, but one of the four columns was surprised and defeated by a govrian battalion. That defeat proved that would be almost impossible defending the area splitting the hakol army. The only option was gathering the army and marching towards Seona, the city from where all the raids came. The goal was immobilizing the govrians threatening them with a siege. Republican tacticians hoped that Seona authorities would not attack the hakol army without a war declaration from the King. However, the fourth govrian legion marched towards them and the Battle of Seona took place.
He remembered the depiction that his father done, that was based in the survivors' tales. The govrians, taking advantage of the longer range of their longbows, hounded the hakol army and killed the most of its crossbowmen. Govrian light cavalry tried a frontal charge, but the hakol army resisted and they were rejected. Despite of govrian horses are gigantic, they never charge against a closed infantry formation whose soldiers resist: infantry is only annihilated if the soldiers get scared and flee. But it is needed a lot of courage and discipline.
However the hakol soldiers' courage was useless. Govrians weakened the hakol formation with their archers and used the cavalry for hounding them. Instead of charging the formation hold on, galloped circling it and they killed a few hakols lanced them from afar. The hakol army became immobilized. When some soldiers took the bait and tried to attack the govrians, they were massacred. The army resisted for a long time, although the soldiers knew that they were lost. When govrian infantry came towards them, hakol lines broke and the army scattered in disorder. Enemy cavalry killed them with no restrictions, so only the third part of the army could reach safety behind the Dyke.
His father formed in a battalion that crossed the Dyke for distracting the govrians and giving the remainders of the defeated army an opportunity to reach the Dyke. Loztu did not forget the apprehension that his father showed when talking about govrian cavalry. Fortunately, the enemy refused charging against a disciplined hakol unit and left the battlefield without attacking them. Anyway, the govrian fourth legion had already achieved their goal. That battle weakened the Republic and showed that the hakol army could not defeat the govrians in an open field.
By that, when he saw in the distance a horseman's tiny figure, Loztu felt anxiety. And his heart beat faster when he saw that the horseman, probably a govrian scout, came towards him galloping. Hiding or escaping was useless. Loztu followed the law and carried a letter of safe-conduct that granted him permission for travelling through Govria, but he feared of being killed by the horseman only for fun. He hoped to arrive to Albe without bumping into a scout, but it seemed that they patrolled eagerly the border.
When the horseman was near, Loztu stopped and faced him. He was about to starting to tremble and felt like his heart was about to burst from his chest, but he stood pretending to be calmed, despite that he was looking at the figure of a huge horse ridden by a huge man who carried a sheathed sword bigger than him and ignoring that the horse galloped towards him as if it tried to mowed down him. He had to make a big effort for not leaving the rucksack in the floor and taking his shield and his axe, only for feeling safer, but it was not a good idea to show any kind of hostility to a foe like that.
As Loztu supposed, the horseman stopped the horse and let it to walk slowly surrounding Loztu. The govrian was a hefty, long-haired, blond man, and he gazed Loztu showing suspicion in his blue eyes. He had a couple of scars in his face that gave him a threatening look. Suddenly, the horseman said:
"What are you doing in Govria, hakol?"
They were still in hakol territory, but he was not going to start an argument about that. Although Loztu learnt during his childhood a bit of govrian language, as all the hakol males did and, he passed several years studying and practising the language with one of the few traders from Koltu who visited Albe regularly, he had feared of not being capable of understand a native govrian speaker, but fortunately, he could. Loztu formed a sentence in govrian and answered:
"I am travelling to Albe for personal reasons, sir. I carry a letter of safe-conduct."
He left the crossbow in the floor very slowly, took off the rucksack, opened his travel cloak and took a document while he told:
"A document that grants permission to me for travelling through Govria."
The govrian surprised him:
"Ah! A safe-conduct."
That was what Loztu had told. He stretched out his arm for giving the document to the horseman, but his horse was so big that he would have to approach him and the horseman would have to lean towards him. However, the govrian drew slowly, put the sword near to him, without pointing at him, and told:
"Put the letter here."
Loztu obeyed with some qualms, however, the govrian simply raised the sword, studied the document while he casted him some suspicious and quick looks. Finally, he put again the letter in the sword, lowered it up to Loztu's height and told:
"Very well, Lostu, you can continue your travel, but don't make trouble or we'll bring back kicking to the Dyke."
The horseman sheathed his sword and moved away. He soothed because he could hold a conversation in govrian language, although he did not like that the govrian could not pronounce properly his name.
Albe was near the Dyke, half day away from it. He stopped for drinking and resting and continued walking at a good rate. When the mountains at his left covered it no longer, he had a nice sight of the coast and the meadow where Albe was. Although it was still afar, he thought that it was a huge cite circled completely by walls. The harbour could be seen very well from his position, and he could see several three-masted ships anchored. He knew that they were galleons because he passed a long time learning facts about govrian culture before leaving from Hakol. When he had enough money, he would sail up to the mainland in a ship like one of those, and in the mainland his true quest would begin.
He approached Albe in a calm rate, because he was sure about arriving to the city a couple of hours after noon. When he was very near to the city, he took a road where a few wagons and some pedestrians went over. When a govrian male overtook him and looked at him with an unfriendly grimace, he was fully conscious of govrian's huge size and he could not avoid to feel intimidated.
The road led towards a gate in the walls, a gate almost as big as the one in Bukret's Dyke. The gate was between two towers with straight flanks and rounded walls in the front, in such a way that formed a corridor. It was a so wide corridor that, although a lot of people entered and went out the city, there was a lot of free space. There were four guards who watched the passers-by. Loztu stopped before arriving to the gate and gazed it for a while, admiring the strength of the walls and the height of the fortification. Laying siege to that town would be a very difficult task.
Finally, he went towards the city and reached the gate. He could not reach even the half part of the corridor. One of the guards, who seemed to be even taller than the others, stopped in front of him, ordered him to stop and told:
"Where do you go?"
The question was stupid, but Loztu not even expressed a light insinuation.
"I go to Albe, sir. I carry a letter of safe-conduct."
"I don't know what the hell that is, and I know that you go to Albe, I'm not stupid. Don't you know that you can't enter armed?"
That became him distressed: nobody warned him about that rule.
"But... sir... I can't throw away my arms, they are an heirloom."
"For me, as if they are made in gold: you won't enter with that. And nobody is asking you to throw them away."
He pointed at a door in the side of the tower situated in the right according to Loztu. The door had a sign above, but Loztu could not read anything written in Govrian.
"I am really sorry, sir, but I do not understand."
The govrian guard snorted in a rude way and told:
"Enter that door, give all your arms and you'll be given a paper with your name and a number. When you want to leave Albe, enter again, give the paper and you'll be returned your arms. Did you understand this time or will I have to repeat it?"
That man was annoying, but Loztu acted like everybody would expect from a hakol and he ignored his lack of politeness.
"I understand, sir. Thank you very much."
The guard let him pass and Loztu went into the room that they had been told. He was in the most peculiar hall that he had never seen. Govrian furniture and decoration were very different to hakol ones. The hall was very much coloured that its equivalent in Hakol and the walls were decorated with tiles that had geometric patterns. There were six armoured guards who impressed Loztu due to their height and armament. In front of him, there was a wall with an aperture of about four meters. There was a big counter, covered or made in wood, a man that seemed distracted and a high number or cupboards behind it.
He had decided not let himself be impressed by the govrians, so he purposefully approached the counter and realised that his upper surface was above his head. He thought that should be ridiculous trying to climb up, so he raised his right hand and moved it above the counter as he told:
"Please, sir, excuse me."
After a few moments, the govrian put his head out the counter and told surprised:
"Oh, good man. Please, come this way."
Loztu walked towards the place that the man had told and he stopped when he saw a door opening in part of the counter next to the wall. The upper part of the counter on the door could be also opened, so Loztu could looked at the public servant, who was a bit bent towards him. The man told:
"Please, give me your arms."
Loztu obeyed although he did not like to get rid of the axe. When he gave all his arms, he remembered that govrian public institutions were very corrupt. By this, when the public servant left the arms on the counter for examining them, he took a handful of coins and told him:
"These arms are an heirloom. Would this amount ensure that you will take good care of them?"
He showed him discreetly a few coins. Their value was two marks and six squils and he had to revise them for ensuring that he was offering a proper amount. Govrian monetary system was more complex that the one from Hakol and Loztu still did not know if an amount was high or not. An additional difficulty was that in Hakol there were only two types of coins: the pwk that was divided in a hundred selyt, but in Govria there existed three types: the dalie, divided in six marks, and each mark was divided in twelve squils. The govrian man held him in contempt and answered:
"You must also give me the breastplate. And the fee for what you have mentioned is written in that sign."
He pointed at a parchment pinned in a wall. In the Republican institutions there were no signs because it was supposed that all the information which somebody would need must be explained by the public servants. He had not expected that the inability for reading govrian language could become a problem.
"Excuse me, sir, but I can't read govrian writing."
"The official fee is four marks. Please, I need the breastplate."
Loztu took off the breastplate and gave it to him together with the money that he asked. The govrian public servant took a couple of parchments, one big and other small, from a drawer set into the counter and told:
"What is your name?"
He wrote down the name and told:
The man looked up a big book, wrote something in both parchments and, finally, put the big parchment near Loztu. He gave him a feather and an inkwell and told:
"Please, sign at the right bottom part of this document. If you cannot write, draw a cross or a circle."
"I can write, sir, but in my own language, not in govrian one."
"That will be perfect."
He had to sign on the floor, because there was no other surface appropriate to his height. After that, the man gave him the small parchment and told him that he could go out if he wished. While he went out the hall, he looked at the parchment, which was filled with unintelligible signs. There were four short lines that, he suppossed, represented the arms that he left in deposit. He kept the parchment and, this time, nobody blocked his way to Albe.