As one of Olumphia’s fellow guildlings, I shall respectfully decline to comment regarding the hedgerow. But I will say that she is not wrong about the scandal of the fruit fires. I have read, reread, and wept over Riggin Dagorma’s The Wailing Orchards: A Tanjerade Tragedy any number of times.
The guildmadam was already striding away, and the boys ran to catch up. They followed a walkway to the edge of a flagstone courtyard, where she stopped and held out a hand for silence. Janner counted fourteen students sitting in a circle in the center of the yard, watching two other students as they tumbled about on the ground in vicious combat. A man sat among the students in the circle, pointing at the wrestlers and speaking from time to time.
“This,” Olumphia said in a voice just above a whisper, “is the Durgan Guild. It’s the oldest of the Hollish guilds, named after Connolin Durga. Oy!” She gave the boys a meaningful look as if they should know who Connolin Durga was, but all she got were blank stares. “Pah. You mean to tell me your mother didn’t teach you any Hollish history? Well. You saw the statue in the courtyard, didn’t you? The man on the horse was Connolin Durga, one of the great warriors of our land. He drove out the ridgerunners in the Second Epoch when they invaded and set fire to the Outer Vales. They infested the Hollows like groaches, creeping into homes and barns at night to burn them and scare us away. The house fires lit the trees, and a hundred miles of orchards were consumed. Whole acres of fruit, gone! Fruit!” She looked at the boys again to be sure they appreciated the gravity of the loss. They pretended to be shocked, and she continued: “Connolin Durga was the only chief cunning enough to muster us in the chaos to defeat the ridgerunners and their allies. The Bannick Durga is named after him, as is the Finnick Durga. The Durgan Guild is a fellowship of warriors and spies.”
“Spies?” Kalmar whispered.
“Oy. For as long as we can remember, the ridgerunners have crept into our borders to steal fruit and animals and tools—but mainly fruit, the little swipers. They love it, and who can blame them? We actually do a bit of trading with them, under the strictest protocols, of course, and only at the border. But it seems there’s no end to their appetite for sneakery. Our Durgans counter their efforts. Now, of course, it’s more than ridgerunners we fight. It’s Fangs and the cloven too.”
As annoyed as Janner had been, he was warming to the idea of creeping through the forests with a company of fellow watchmen, sending signals by the light of the moon and chasing ridgerunners over hill and vale.
“That’s Guildmaster Clout.” Olumphia sniffed. “He’s a despicable man. Arrogant, short-tempered, and rude.” She glared at him for a moment and muttered, “I’d marry the old rotbag faster than I could pluck a whisker. But he acts like I don’t exist. Despicable man.”
The guildmadam scratched at her bony jaw with one hand and twirled a lock of hair in the other. Janner imagined her as a young girl, lanky and outcast, spying on her more popular classmates from behind a hedgerow.
—From chapter 20, “The Durgan Guild.”
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