Hrothgar arrives at Tihuta Gate, startling the lone guard but quickly arranging a meeting with knez Zedenek. The yarl is one night early, and after a token tête-à-tête, tour of the site and feeding, he sets off to Rudne to survey the surroundings.
Zedenek’s progress in fortifying the pass is impressive. The three new villages all have a palisade and a coaching inn, and the roads have a strong warden presence proudly displaying the livery of the Tzimisce knez. The Gate is now a fully defensible affair, ringed with a stone wall with two gates. The tower itself is a massive six stories, four of stone and two of wood. All menial buildings, such as barracks, smithy and kitchens, have been improved upon. A further gate has been constructed to the northeast, on the other side of the former swamp, which is now a pasture for horses and herds.
Hrothgar returns to Tihuta Gate early the next night, in time to see the hasty arrival of Andronicus, with a four horse coach and a dozen liveried escorts. After a few short pleasantries, the Coterie gets right to schedule, Zedenek ordering a ‘royal beverage’ as all proceed with the council in the tower.
The Coterie has gathered primarily to decide on a Prince of Kronstadt. It is the only of the Siebenbürgen with a vacant throne, and with the encroaching Saxons this is an ever increasing risk. Zedenek expresses his frustrations at having for years advised both Mircea and Radu to undertake swift action but thus far having been ignored.
The situation has recently become even more dire, Andronicus reports, as there now is a strong Saxon presence (30 Teutonic Knights and 140 able-bodied men) outside Kronstadt’s walls, de facto claiming the city, and building a stone fortress. The endeavour is under the guidance of a Saxon Ventrue by the name of Lucretia von Hartz, a high-ranking member of the Teutonic Order. This makes it likely that several of her vassals are present as well.
Each of the Coterie declines the position of Prince of Kronstadt for various reasons, but all because they prefer their current base to the City of the Crown. As a result, most of the night is spent on deciding on the prime candidate for taking the throne. Here it is revealed, among other things, that Warlord Rustovitch inexplicably decided against his Clanmate Mircea on taking Kronstadt.
Eventually, the Coterie reaches a consensus on the Tzimisce Veceslav Basarab, former Revenant. He is decidedly neutral, does not have his own base, and can rally in excess of 400 soldiers, most of whom travel with him, on short notice.
Andronicus is a bearer of bad tidings tonight and also speaks of a smaller Saxon presence (20 knights, 70 soldiers and 80 militia) three days west of Kronstadt, at a village called Tabla Buţii. It is swiftly decided this nuisance needs to end, and both Zedenek and Hrothgar pledge their allegiance to kill all Germans holding a weapon and scatter the immigrant settlers.
This, then, will also serve as a precursor to the much larger liberation of Kronstadt, for which Andronicus has allocated 200 troops and Zedenek 50. Zedenek also hires 150 Polian lancers from Hrothgar. Messages are sent to all involved to allow smooth progress of this campaign.
The Coterie travels to Basarab in the north and, after some coercion, finds him willing to accept the throne of Kronstadt. He is also willing to pledge his 400 men to the liberation of Tabla Buţii and Kronstadt. The more banners, the better, it is agreed.
The Coterie then travels to Bistriţa to get Radu’s blessings on the matters. He accepts Basarab on the Kronstadt throne but declines to provide any troops for either battle, wishing to await the accord of the Council of Ashes. Later, the Coterie privately expresses doubts about Radu’s heart in these matters and even expects his drastic turn in the coming months.
All forces proceed to Tabla Buţii, to then move on to Kronstadt. Zedenek’s men are by now in Bistriţa, Hrothgar’s cavalry is quickly catching up. Veceslav is aready on his way to TB. It is eight days’ travel to get from Bistriţa to Tabla Buţii and, as stated, three to get from Tabla Buţii to Kronstadt.
Hrothgar decides to fly ahead of the main column to Tabla Buţii, to scout the surroundings for at least one night (and to prevent Veceslav from doing anything rash). He has instructed his second in command Haakon to meet him there. He should be able to make good timing, as the crow flies.
It is discovered that much of the correspondence from Andronicus to Hrothgar over the past fifteen years has not reached Dorohoi (correspondence from H to A was virtually non-existent). It is agreed that Andronicus will look into the matter. Among the suspects are Andronicus’ ghoul messenger and (lackeys of) Prince Radu Himself. Curiously, only the military messages were intercepted; all messages regarding trade arrived as planned.
Prince Radu prevents his dog from attacking Hrothgar in the palace for approaching too closely. He explains that this creature is one solely extant for the hunt, not petting. This places the fucking mutt highly on Hrothgar’s kill-list.