On to Tyria

[Next Morning]

Garber stretched and yawned as he heard the rising song of a lark in the early-dawn sky. He and Elwynn had taken the last watch of the night. After the tensions and troubles of the afternoon, he was glad that nothing had happened to disturb their night. He and Elwynn had conversed quietly through the late night--mainly about the final battle with the Redeemer Church. He'd been very interested in hearing her account, and had learned a few details that he suspected few people knew.
He rummaged quietly in the wagon for some food to supplement the leftovers from last night. As he did so, he heard stirrings from the others lying by the rocks. Elwynn's magic had kept the rocks, and the sleepers, warm during the night, but they were now slowly losing their heat, though enough remained to heat their breakfast. He grabbed a handful of bread, taking the opportunity to bite a mouthful from one piece. At that moment, he heard someone behind him and turned around to find Linna, grinning at him. "Do we need more water?" she asked.
He nodded, chewing his mouthful, and indicated the position of the waterskins with a jerk of his head. He brought the food back over to the rocks, handing some to Elwynn. He also grabbed a couple of sticks he'd whittled down over the course of his watch and set them nearby; they'd make good utensils in case anyone wanted to toast their bread.
As Linna returned with the filled waterskins and began heating some water for tea, the others gathered around, taking what they wanted for breakfast. Garber looked around for Ceridon, but didn't see her. 'She's probably down by the river, getting a drink...or eating,' he thought. He decided not to wait for her to come back--Linna could pass on what he said to her, and relay anything she might have to say.
"We should reach Tyria about midday," he said to the gathered group. "However, given some of the things I've heard about it recently, and what happened to us yesterday, I don't think we should count on being able to eat there--or even get any more supplies. It might be wisest to simply pass through as quickly as we can. We'll have to decide that when we get there and see it for ourselves."
He woke, in fits and starts, finally becoming aware of activity around him. Someone was fixing breakfast - Garber?- and there were questions about water and lunch. At that, his humor returned, and he sat up on his pallet, "We're not even finished waking yet, and you're worried about lunch? I expect Elwynn has something we can at least chew on in her bags, even if we _don't_ stop for a formal meal!" And to himself he added, smiling, "I never knew an elf that didn't plan ahead for a meal... they're almost as bad as halflings!"
He rose then, slowly and gingerly, not knowing whether his head would, in fact, be steady. He wasn't disappointed when it remained steady even when he bent over to start packing things up. He paused for a moment, listening to the daytime noises, before putting the last of his belongings in a saddlebag. The entire episode lasted a mere two minutes, and hinted of an oft-repeated task.
Elwynn nodded in agreement. "We should try and make ourselves as inconspicuous as possible. We don't want to attract any unwanted attention."
Doffing her trademark pointed witch hat, Elwynn began folding it in her hands with concentrated precision, much in the manner of a child folding a piece of paper into a boat or a glider. After a few moments, the elf-maid shook the hat out in midair, revealing not the hat of a powerful sorcerer, but a floppy, bag-like affair, the style of which could be found in many a farmer's market.
Replacing the transformed hat on her head, Elwynn stood and began picking up the cooking gear and other remnants of their presence. "We might also consider stowing our more, uh, unusual weapons somewhere in the wagon. Bows and axes and daggers would be okay, but longswords and maces and the like ought to be hid, I think.
His eyes moved open as he heard the bustle of the others. He realized the time as he looked down at his shadow and judged it by the angle. Nearly an hour past dawn. He looked down and retrieved his mask, then placed it on his face as he remembered taking it off to rest. He did not remember when he slept, he never did. Not feeling anything makes it hard to judge whether or not he was in any way sleepy or not. And many things he did only from habit.
He looked around and saw those who were about. He did not see Ceri, however. He sighed slightly and walked along the campsite towards the others. He said nothing, only listened. He realized Elwynn was correct about being inconspicuous, and knew also that his overall look would prove to the onlookers as quite the opposite. He sighed again and walked towards the wagon. He placed his warrior priest's metal staff into the wagon and hid it well. He then moved his cloak from his body and placed it over where he laid his possessions. He then removed his mask and a small amulet he had been wearing underneath his black tunic.
He looked at it carefully for a moment, as if remembering something. He then placed it carefully under his cloak with his mask. He turned towards the others and they saw him for the first time in the light fully. DeMorte was a rather tall man...about 6 stones high and his ghostly white hair reached down past his mid-back. It was carefully pulled into a ponytail and almost mirrored his sky blue eyes. He was dressed all in black, from his gloved hands to his strange leather boots. Even his belt buckle shown black as night. He then looked to the others and waited to see what the plan would be to do...
::A good idea, Elwynn,:: Ceri sent as she stepped into their clearing. Her illusion spell was back up, once again making her look like a plain bay mare. ::We should probably get going as soon as we can. I'd rather not be here if the orcs return.:: She looked at her three patients of yesterday, hoping they'd feel up to the rigors of travel today. ::How are you three feeling?:: she sent.
[Takayoshi T.]
The oriental got up from a nightmare-free sleep, the first in a long time, as he heard the rustling of the companions around him and Elwynn talking about being inconspicuous while entering the town. It took him a couple of minutes to realize what was going on.
"I guess my bracelet of charms is OK, my clothes are all right, night suit is in the bag, and every thing else is A-OK," the now-awake oriental thought to himself as he finished up the preparations for the day's journey and for Tyria.
"I'm ready when you are, but we should still be on the alert as we enter the town," Takayoshi commented out loud to Elwynn, "There could still be orcs in the area and in the town trying to wreaking havoc."
{Sigh. I feel rather naked without my axe and there is just no telling what the magick will do. Still, there is no way I can pass it of as a woodaxe.} Dwynn used his axe to chop of a stout branch into a peasant's staff, put the huge weapon in the cart and made sure that it was suitably hidden.
"My head is better with each passing minute. Many thanks," he said aloud. Privately he added, ::It is my heart that is confused and befuddled,:: not entirely sure Ceridon would be the only one to receive this.
The priest looked over to Ceri and merely nodded. He felt that he may have said a little too much in their conversation the night before, but it was much too late to recall what has already happened. He would just have to wait and see if the trust he gave her would be true to what he had hoped. As a priest, he knew that he must trust someone in his life. And he had chosen carefully. He only hoped he was right.
DeMorte's eyes looked back over the group as they prepared. As he heard them speak of their well-being, he quickly checked his own wounds. They seemed to be well dressed enough and there was no blood or pungent skin. He looked back up and nodded once more to Ceri. "I am well. I shall travel once we art prepared." It was obvious he was attempting to hide the magical quality to his voice, but it wasn't working. He figured he may have to keep quiet once they hit the next town. He would have to wait and see.
He smiled widely, nodding to Ceri. "Ceridon, m'lady, I doff my hat to you!" And he did in fact doff his hat. "My body, healed yesterday, is now matched by my head! You are a wonder-worker!" He jumped up then, clicking his heels twice before landing lightly. Then a concerned frown swept across his face as a thought crossed his mind, "I hope you are recovered as well from the efforts you made at healing us all yesterday?"
While trying to gage Ceridon's health, he took Elwynn's advice and bundled up his broad sword in his rain gear. Then he tied it to the back of his saddle.
Brea added her quiver and bow to the wagon, then tapped a finger thoughtfully on the hilt of her sword before finally adding it as well. She felt rather naked with only a dagger, but decided she'd just stay extra close to the others...just in case.
::Oh, I'm quite well, thanks,:: Ceri replied. As Linna saddled her, she stamped a bit impatiently, anxious to get going. The questions, the bewilderments that were beating at her brain demanded answers, and she wanted those answers as soon as possible. She also wanted to get out of the valley, out of danger. She was certain that their destination held no danger to them, though she wasn't entirely sure *why* she knew. Perhaps it was the feel of the source of magical power she'd discovered-- the way it welcomed and renewed her. She snorted softly as Linna mounted up, and she took her place beside the wagon.
Garber checked around the campsite, looking for stray trash. He couldn't erase all traces of their presence, of course, but he wanted to be sure they left no clues about their identity. Once he was satisfied, he climbed into the wagon and gathered up the reins. "Let's move out," he said to the rest.
The morning passed quietly--no attacks, no signs of orcs nearby, though evidence of their past depredations were clear in the burned-out fields and buildings. And always there was a sense of something else out there, something that might or might not be watching. But as the hours passed and the pine-shrouded miles went by in peace, the group members were able to relax a little bit.
A little after midday, Garber pulled up the wagon at the top of a rise. The road ahead descended and curved into a large clearing, where a town-- Tyria--straddled the road. It wasn't a large town--one tavern that doubled as an inn, a few shops and houses--less than thirty buildings in all. Nor was it a walled town...but it had a martial air all the same. Few people were walking the streets, and those that were had a militant bearing at odds with the character of a small trading town. Garber frowned as he watched.
"I don't like this," he commented. "But there's nowhere to go but through. Let's hope we can get through without being stopped." He shook the reins and started the wagon down the rise.
He looked down at the town and noted the atmosphere. It almost seemed as if the town were under martial law. With the odd weapons in the wagon as well some of their appearances, they may attract attention whether they wished to or not. He kept this in mind as he began to concoct a plan. He knew much of how to keep hidden, as well how to use the wind to alter sight. He would have to keep all of his training in mind should trouble arise.
He cantered up beside Garber, and added a critical comment: "Folks, make sure you've a knife or club at-hand. The townspeople ahead don't look friendly at all." And, pausing beside a Gardelia tree near at hand, he followed his own advise, snapping off a slender piece of green wood the length of his forearm, and stuffing it into his belt beneath his poncho.
[Takayoshi T.]
"I am fine the way I am," the confident oriental spoke, as he looked down the road to Tyria.
"Maybe I will get some training in after all," smiled the silent assassin to himself, and barely audible to the group, "only if they're looking for it."
"With the scorched fields and militant bearing, it seems most likely the town was taken by force by a foreign power. Does anyone see any signs of recent fighting? Any banners or coats of arms, that would indicate capture?" Dwynn looked thoughtful for a moment. {I wonder what they are after.} "It seems unlikely they will just let us pass."
Garber shook his head in response to Dwynn's question. "Looks like a mercenary band to me. Fairy large, and definitely organized."
"Maybe the townspeople hired them as protection against the orcs," Linna suggested. "Certainly it doesn't look as bad as the farms we've passed."
"Possibly," Garber replied. "Should we investigate that when we reach the town?"
::I'd rather not,:: Ceridon replied. ::Let's just keep going.:: There was a definite note of impatience, almost anger, in her mental tone.
Ceri could feel Linna's surprise down their private mental band, but she didn't respond. She knew this wasn't like her, but she couldn't help it. It seemed as if every step strengthened the pull of those power sources, and she was drawn to them, certain that they represented the answers she needed. That, plus what her empathic senses were picking up from the group members--Sherwood's awe of her, DeMorte's yearning and wariness of her, Dwynn's regard for Linna--made her feel as if she was being pulled in fifty different directions, her nerves exposed and raw. She wanted nothing more now than to solve the riddle of her curse and resolve these issues as soon as possible.

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