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Now I’m gonna get to writtin’ ‘bout the dragon Jon and Iathouz and me run into a few nights ago in thrym’s pass.

Even though Bal’ynez is boarded by snow covered cliffs to the north, west and south, and the freezin’ Timeless Desert to the east, the dwarven wizards has managed to weave a powerful magic ‘round their fine city protectin’ it from the chillin’ cold just outside its walls. Yup! Those wizards worked it out so it’s always kinda warm and comfortable here! Sometimes quite humid too!

Because the climate in the city is so pleasant, commander Zawa, who controls the city’s militia, went about settin’ aside a section in the center where he allows the local venders to do their tradin’. And it’s right outside in the open air! It’s called the “Merchant Bazaar” and the first thing me and the boys done after gettin’ inside the gates was to head over there.

Here each o’ the dealers has set up temporary booths, crafted from what looks to me like red oak. The trees is probably felled somewhere in the Narlynwik forest and I guess the logs is hauled out to the city by wagon, but I ain’t too sure o’ that. The kiosks ain’t fancy, the shelves and counter tops is rough hewn and hastily hammered together, but they’s built sturdy and enable the hawkers to properly display their wares.

The bazaar’s a noisy place. There’s always an ox cart or three, piled high with all sorts o’goods and it’s clippity cloppin’ along, the driver weedlin’his way from one kiosk to the next, replenishing each merchant’s goods.

It’s always bustlin’ with people too. They’s wanderin’ about, some just lookin’, some stoppin’ fer a moment to sample a fabric, or heft a new weapon, others to haggle with a merchant ‘bout the price o’ an item what might o’ caught their eye and they’s thinkin’ ‘bout makin’ a purchase.

And the market’s filled with all sorts o’ temptin’ aromas! They’s comin’ from the big iron cook pots and skillets what some of the merchant’s got set up beside their stands. That odor’s waftin’ up at you and ticklin’ your nose and makin’ your tummy grumble!

Oh geez! Hot venison stew loaded with potatoes, carrots, onions and assorted spices boilin’ and bubblin’ away! And sweet sausages, laid out in orderly rows on little portable iron skillets, sizzlin’and cracklin’, cookin’ in their own juices!

All the venders is bellowin’ ‘bout the fine quality o’ their goods, some o’ them even offerin’ a guarantee or a huge discount if you buy their product!

T’was here at this market we stocked up on supplies’. Healin’ kits, arrows, potions and the like. It’s always a good idea to do that before startin’ any kind o’ journey in Markshire. I mean . . . you never know . . . you know?

After I changed outta my special one o’ kind outfit with the happy buttons, what Anastasia and kareena had crafted fer me, I bought a few things too. I also stole a bag o’ toasted almonds, a baked apple what was drenched in a brown sugary syrup, and two o’ those plump, sweet sausages right off a skillet what was set up along side Gromk’s stand while he was lookin’ the other way. They was really hot but I managed to make ‘em disappear right under me cloak without burnin’ my fingers too much.

Well . . . I figured it would be nice to have a thing or two to nibble on while we was sloggin’ along’ through the pass!

Anyways, off we went, the boys and me, my cloak now bulgin’ with the pilfered goods. We made our way past the guards what the commander always has stationed on almost every corner o’ the city.

Mayhap it was my imagination, but Zawa’s men seemed edgy ‘bout somethin’. Each o’ ‘em nervously fingerin’ their dwarven war axes, eyes dartin’ about, their jaws set like stone, shiftin’ their weight from one foot to the other, and watchin’ every move we made. We left the market street, passed through Bal’ynaz’s Outer Hall, and made our way to the cave what winds and wiggles deep under the outskirts o’ the city, finally makin’ a connection to Thrym’s pass.

I ain’t took a breath and kept glancin’ back over my shoulder ‘till we got well into the cave, thinkin’ Gromk would discover some o’ his provisions had gone missin’, then fly into a rage and be screamin’ for Commander Zawa’s Militia, realizin’ I might o’had somethin’ to do with the thievery! I suppose Gromk ain’t noticed nothin’ missin’ from his booth or off his skillet cause no guards come chasin’ after us and before long we was outta the cave and into Thrym’s canyon where I took a big bite outta the sausage I’d filched and began breathin’ normal again!

For those o’ you what’s plannin’ to do a bit o’ explorin’ in Thrym’s pass I’d recommend wearin’ a good set o’ woolens . . . worn over your flannels what you’ve already pulled on over your linins. It’ll be a bit cramped inside your armor because o’ all that extra clothin’, but for sure, it’ll keep you warm and toasty! Anyways, it ain’t so much the cold in the pass what causes problems for folks. It’s the damn wind!

Thrym’s wove some magic into it to make it do his biddin’ and that wind o’ his don’t never stop! It’s always there, howlin’ away and soundin’ like a bunch o’ banshies screamin’ at you! Thrym sends it whippin’ and wooshin’ between those canyon walls what act like a funnel fer it, makin’ it even stronger and it keeps tearin’ at your clothes, attemptin’ to rip ‘em right off your back!

And somehow the wind is always blowin’ smack in your face! Yup! It don’t’ matter none which way your headin’, left, right, up or down . . . east or west! Which ever way you’re facin’ that damn wind’ll still be hittin’ you square in the face! Sometimes Thrym’ll mix a bit o’ sleet in with his wind too! Oh geez! It’s like havin’ a thousand tiny needles tattooing’ away at your cheeks! I mean it! Needles!! If you spend more than a few hours strollin’ ‘round in Thrym’s pass, for days after, your face is gonna resemble chopped liver!

He must o’ done some powerful magical weavin to accomplish that trick! Well, it’s his pass and I guess it’s up to him to decide whether or not to go foolin’ ‘round with Mother Nature! After all, the dwarven wizards does the same, in keepin’ Bal’nyez so warm and humid, you know?

I got some friends what’s good at weavin’ magic. Kayla, Faith and Nitha, to name a few. Ain’t none o’ them can weave a spell as strong as Thrym or them dwarven wizards what manage to keep Bal’ynaz so pleasent but they’s fair to middlin’ at it, you know? Evergreen’s good at it ‘too, ‘cept all o’ his weavin’ winds up either hurtin’ somebody or killin’ some poor soul outright!

The wizard Monty ain’t bad at it either. ‘Cept Monty ain’t too careful ‘bout where he’s aimin’ his weavin’. Oh, you gotta stand far back when Monty goes about conjurin’ up one o’ his spells else you might disappear right along with what ever the hel he’s aimin’ his magic at! You know . . . mayhap that’s what happened to him! I ain’t seen him in a month o’ Sundays! Could it be that Monty went and wove himself right out o’ Markshire?

Anyways, most folks ‘round these parts is hard and tough enough to deal with the tricks Thrym does with the weather in his pass. I mean, the wind and sleet Thrym conjures up with his weavin’ll make your cheeks sore but that ain’t gonna kill you, you know? Nope . . . but there’s other things in his pass what’ll kill yuh dead as dust! Yup!

Stone giants fer example! Massive, revoltin’ lookin’ monsters, three, mayhap sometimes even nine o’ them in a group wearin’ only loin cloths, cause their backs is covered with dense hair, what protects them from the cold!

And as your tryin’ hard to make your way along, battlin’ the wind, those giants is dancin’ ‘round on ledges far above you, hurlin’ pro . . profan . . . profani . . . .uh, curses down at you along with huge stones what they’ve piled up like cannon balls and stashed ‘em within easy reach! And if you ain’t got no shield to hold above yer head to protect you from bein’ squished flat by one o’ those stones, fer sure all that will be left o’ you is a little gore, and a big bloody splotch in the snow!

Now I’ll be the first to admit there ain’t too much I understand o’ the stone giant language . . . it’s made up mostly of assorted grunts and growls. But I knows when a thing is hurlin’ a curse at me, especially if it’s sailin’ along in my direction with a huge stone attached!!

There’s even worse things you’ll run into while you’re saunterin’ along in Thrym’s pass besides them damn stone giants. Minions! They’s about the most vile and wicked creatures you’re likely ever to meet up with anywhere in all o’ Markshire! And the Titan’s got the damn things patrolin’ the pass! Those things is so evil they suck up all the goodness around them and obliterate it, includin’ any stray light what happens to be near by! All that’s left is an inky blackness what surrounds ‘em!

And if I was the bettin’ kind, I’d wager they’d be killin’ you before you’d be killin’ them! There’s a few different kinds o’ minions, mayhap more than two kinds, I ain’t so sure ‘bout it. But I’ve only seen two kinds in the pass. Little ones, what look somethin’ like a cross between a bat and a wyrm . . . and big ones, mayhap the size o’ a worg or a bit larger. I ain’t gonna say no more ‘bout minions ‘cept if you happen to see one, turn around quick and run like hel back the way you’ve come!

Now when you leave the cave what connects the dwarf city with Thrym’s pass you gotta make a choice ‘bout which way to go. You can travel east toward the town o’ Foothold or . . . you could take the road what winds west. Goin’ west’ll bring yuh right up to the gates o’ Gastlynyk, the burned out city what the Titan demolished.

Choosin’ the west road would be ‘bout the same as buyin’ a one way ticket to someplace and you better go about sayin’ goodbyes to all your friends and relatives! Mayhap even give some thought ‘bout makin’ out some kind o’ will! Cause fer sure, if you pick that west road what’ll take you on to Gastlynyk, you ain’t never comin’ back again!

The four o’ us, Jon, Iathouz and me, paused just outside the cave, our weapons ready, lookin’ ‘round here and there, makin’ sure nothin’ was lyin in wait, gettin’ set to pounce on us. We’d already done our choosin’ ‘bout which way to go. We’d planned on takin’ the east road. The road what led to Foothold . . .