'Not quite as many as I'd hoped for, but certainly better than none,' Sammel thought as he looked at the small group. He looked at Melyda and asked, "Will you need a horse?"
She nodded. "Gypsy's fine as a wagon horse, but she doesn't have a lot of speed."
Sammel nodded back and called one of his retainers over. He gave him a purse of money and told him to hurry to the horse market and buy two quality steeds. "I can resell them later, if need be," he said to Melyda and Sarra. The others he set to outfitting the expedition--getting saddlerolls, blankets, and a few necessary provisions. "It should take us about eight or nine days to reach Tyndar," he told Wren, Fontaine, and the mysterious half-elf. "And we shouldn't have to camp out more than twice. The route is well-populated most of the way." Finally, he called over the captain of his guard, discussing how and when they should start back with the many purchases he'd made during the course of the Festival.
Melyda grinned as she saw Sarra's slightly bemused expression. She doubted that Sarra had seen this side of Sammel before. But she knew that once Sammel made up his mind to do something, he could be swift and sure with its organization. She smiled, remembering a childhood berrying expedition she and Sammel and a few other children from the Tyndar estate had undertaken. With him in charge, it had taken on overtones of a military expedition--but they came back with more berries than anyone had thought possible.
Sammel finished his conversation and looked around. "That should take care of everything for tomorrow," he said to the group at large. "Oh--Melyda, where are you staying tonight?"
"At the Bard Hall," she replied. "I should let them know where I'm going, and make arrangements for Gypsy's upkeep and the storage of my books. Ari and Khale, of course, will come with us."
Sammel nodded. "Does anyone have any questions or concerns?" He looked around, inviting input from the others.
[Sarra] Sarra had to sit back in her chair and inwardly chuckle, despite the serious nature of the conversation. Give Sammel a task, any task, and he'd give it all he had. The look of determination in his eyes was quite clear, and Sarra smiled slightly -- it was one of the reasons she loved him so.
She turned towards one of the guards who still stood near the door and motioned him closer. Turning back towards the group, she said, "Assuming there is room, my father's guards and I can stay here at the Inn for the night. Who would we talk to about that?"
"Hmmm..." Sammel mulled things over, totting up the increased number of people. "What with the Festival, it's been crowded here. We were lucky to get the rooms we did. I'm not sure--"
"I've an idea," Melyda interrupted. "Why don't you and Channi stay with me, Sarra, at the Bard Hall? My guest room has the space for all of us, and that'll help Sammel out."
Sammel nodded. "Yes, if you do that, we should just be able to fit everyone in. I'll let Hugh know. Shall we meet back here for breakfast tomorrow morning?" he asked, smiling at those who would be spending the night elsewhere.
The half-sylvan elf shook his head "no" at the first question and then nodded a confirmation with Sammel's question about the next morning.
"That will be fine, just fine," the mysterious half elf thought, as he bowed down several times. Then he turned around and headed back to his room to rest up for tomorrow morning...To start his adventure!
Sarra turned and waved over a second guard, taking a small pack from him. As he gave another pack to Channi, she turned towards Melyda, nodding. She frowned slightly, struggling with old ideas and notions, but quickly pushed those aside as she looked over and caught Sammel smiling at her. Her eyes quickly lighting up, she said, "that would be greatly appreciated, Melyda, of course."
"Oh, I will be back here tomorrow morning then." Wren made a curt bow to everyone and then proceeded to exit the inn. On his way out he kept on trying to comb down his hair with his hand to no avail. "Maybe it won't be so bad in the morn," he thought to himself as he started out into darkening streets of Montfort. He made a mental note to take a wide berth of the ruined mage's laboratory on his way back.
"I'll meet you in the morning, then," Fontaine said, pushing her glasses back up her nose. "I better get going - it's a ways back to the Paevel Ranch."
"All right, then. We'll see you in the morning," Sammel said, nodding a farewell to the departing group members. He took Sarra aside for a tenderer farewell. Giving her a hug and a kiss, he whispered, "Go on and get a good night's rest. We'll take care of things here." Seeing the admonition rise in her eyes, he smiled and added, "And yes, I'll be sure to get a good night's rest too."
Chaer and Channi were also huddled close together, conversing softly in their own tongue. "He's certainly quick to take action," Channi observed, watching the swift but controlled preparations.
"He's determined," Chaer corrected mildly. "He's been looking for a way to repay me for saving his life." He smiled at her questioning look and added, "Long story. I'll tell you later." He cast a fond look on Sammel. "Anyway, I'm sure there will be planning later--probably when we reach Tyndar. I think he wants to be sure of what resources he has before making plans. Speaking of which," he said soberly as he looked back to Channi, "is the island safe?"
Channi nodded. "Our mage friend is keeping it hidden. He hasn't done much else to help, though. I'm not sure if it's because he cannot or because he *will* not."
"Probably a bit of both," Chaer replied. "He may be wary of revealing his existence while he's alone. Once we get there, he may be willing to do more. We'll see."
"Aye, we'll see," Channi repeated absently, staring into space for a moment. Suddenly, she turned and gave him a quick kiss on the cheek. "I'm glad we found you," she said, then stood up and hurried over to Melyda and Sarra, who were waiting by the door of the inn. Chaer stared after her, feeling rather dazed. It took him a moment to realize that he had a foolish grin on his face.
Melyda smiled at Channi as she joined her and Sarra. She'd seen the kiss, and Chaer's reaction, but she decided not to comment--she didn't know Channi, so she wasn't sure how she'd react to teasing. Instead, she said, "We'll see you bright and early, Sammel."
"That you will," Sammel replied. He beckoned over one of the guards who had come with Sarra and Channi and said, "Please escort them to the Bard Hall."
"Sammel, Kieraan's in jail now. We'll be all right," Melyda said with a hint of exasperation in her voice.
"Humor me," Sammel replied. His voice was teasing, but his eyes were sober. Melyda opened her mouth to say something, but then sighed sharply and smiled. "All right." She waved to those who were staying at the Inn and led the others outside.
Sarra flashed Sammel one more smile before following Melyda out of the Inn. Once in the street, she laughed lightly. Turning to Melyda, she asked, "And I thought he was overprotective in Tyndar..."
"Well, he's got good reason," Melyda replied ruefully. As they made their way through the torch-lit streets, she filled Sarra and Channi in on what had happened during the Festival--the theft of the magic book, her kidnapping by Kieraan, and the dramatic, coordinated rescue effort. She made sure to linger over Sammel's and Chaer's parts in it all, while the other two hung on her words. "Kieraan's in jail now, of course, but we're all still a little jumpy," Melyda concluded with a wry smile.
Sarra shook her head in amazement at the tale. "Truly shocking, indeed. To be in the hands of that Kieraan..." she trailed, off, shivering slightly at the idea. "I cannot even imagine it. You, though, managed to not only keep your head and stall him, but even left your ring behind knowing Sammel would see it and know you were in trouble." Sarra nodded slightly to herself, as she continued, "'Tis certainly good he came to Montfort then."
She smiled, her eyes lighting up. "He does make a good hero, doesn't he?" she asked Melyda, grinning.
Melyda chuckled. "That he does," she said as they approached the gates to the Bard Hall. As they entered the large building, she continued, "Go on up to my room--it's the second door on the right--and make yourselves at home. I'll be along soon."
She peeked into the theater and saw a few of the Bard's Hall residents, who had become her friends, sitting there. She entered quietly and told them that she was leaving tomorrow--and why.
Fifteen minutes later, she left the theater, smiling. They'd been supportive and sympathetic, and told her they'd ensure that her books--and Gypsy--were well taken care of. She paused at the bottom of the staircase, looking around. She hadn't thought she'd be leaving here so soon, but Fortune seemed determined to keep her on the move these days. "I guess Montfort has a way of drawing you into adventures," she thought as she climbed the stairs, more than ready for a good night's sleep.
Sammel sat, drinking another mug of ale, as his guardsmen and retainers trickled back in, bringing back supplies for the trip and word of the horses--they'd be kept at the horse market until tomorrow morning, since there wasn't room at the Inn to stable them. He nodded with satisfaction at each report, and sent the men up to their rooms. When he was sure all the preparations for the morning were finished, he drained his mug and tossed Hugh the coin for it. "I'll have a special breakfast ready for you and your people," Hugh said with a smile.
"Thanks," Sammel replied, his eyes twinkling in anticipation. His expression sobered, though, as he turned back to Chaer. He touched his shoulder, startling Chaer out of a reverie. "Come on up," Sammel said softly. "You should try to get some sleep." Chaer nodded and followed him silently up the stairs.
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