The gates of Meeroever’s palisade were busier than usual. All manner of creatures and conveyances jockeyed to enter or leave the city. The guards were hard pressed keeping things moving and the oppressive heat didn’t help. Sweat dripped off man and beast and mixed with the dust of the road on the faces of those trying to go about their business. City guardsman Helmut One-ear wiped his face on his sleeve and drank deep from the bucket hung by the gate. The heat and sweat made his missing right ear itch horribly plus the day had been busy and grim. General Corbin still lay in state as he had for the last week and the people of the city were disturbed by his passing. It wasn’t as if the Gorumite had been effective at anything as far as Helmut could see; he had just gotten drunk and fought about anything. Helmut had seen the General months ago stumbling and swimming deep in his cups with his half breed whore. Helmut shook his head at the memory of the marriage as he threatened a slow farmer to move or be fined. The drunken sot was a joke as far as he was concerned and he’d seen quite a few in his many years. Joke or no,however, his passing had brought poor times to the city. The wind had died along with the priest and the sun had shed tears of fire from a cloudless sky. Day or night the countryside sweltered and baked causing people living in it to become irritable and prone to fights. There were fights daily all over the city and barony. Helmut had knocked heads several times to end conflicts. It was too hot to be wearing armor and standing in the shade of the gate didn’t help at all. Warden Ismort had become a thunderhead wandering Meeroever looking for any excuse to demote, punish, yell at or smite the guard. The leaders, such as they were, had returned with the body and were in somber moods themselves. At least they stayed in the city, thought Helmut. He had been sharing cups with friends several nights ago before the Baron had returned and had listened to a man at the tables speaking to the crowd about the Baron and his council. Helmut had found himself agreeing that the recent troubles, the murders, the werewolf killer, the rampaging trolls, the dark things rumored to be happening in the forest were no doubt caused by the Baron and his friends’ actions agitating things best left alone. They wandered off to fill their pockets and left good folk to suffer. Helmut noticed two carts become locked together wheel to wheel and pushed off the wall to crack some fool farmers’ heads and get the opening clear. It was when he was shouting and swatting at the scurrying farmers that he noticed the visitor coming towards the city.