Journey to Carus IC
The Plains of Amura: a vast stretch of wilderness between the river Helein to the east, and the rolling hills and valleys to the west that make up the prosperous trade kingdom Darnadel. Travel between the Kingdom and the riverlands is a tricky business, as many dangers lurk on the Plains. He who goes alone is doomed, he who goes with a friend dooms them both. Passage through the Plains is possible only in strong companies, so many who have to travel that way await a well-guarded caravan or three to join in journeying through the Plains' perils. More often than not, large troops of travellers gather before setting out and even then, many never live to see Darnadel's stone towers and green pastures.
Yes, some may call it folly, yet once in every while a journey must be made across Amura that far exceeds the importance of any trader's wagon bound for commerce. A journey which now weighs heavy on the minds of its passengers, for they gather in numbers far smaller than the armies of merchants who went before them, and must defend a caravan with fewer than a dozen guards. The details of this journey are known by few, and its purpose by fewer. Why then, do they persevere?
Some have been promised riches upon the caravan's safe arrival in Darnadel's capital, Carus. Others may pursue rewards of a different kind. Yet all have a long way ahead before whatever goals they have in mind are realised.
Great things often have humble beginnings, and so it is that our journey began in Rothford, a market village some sixty leagues west of Helein, where the bold travellers met before embarking east across the Plains.
It was a clear but breezy evening when Eorek arrived in the village, seated at the front of the commonplace caravan. Pulling the vehicle were his two sturdy black mares; Arabel and Wynfred, dust-covered and windswept from the day's walk. They whickered as they walked into the stables outside the inn, and Eorek stepped down to un-tether them from the front of the caravan. He patted their noses and led them to the stalls, bringing from his satchel an apple for each of them and sliding the leather bridles from their heads.
The inkeep appeared from behind the wood and drystone building, greeting Eorek and asking of news from the west. Eorek paid upfront for the horses and a bed, then busied himself about moving his things from the caravan to his room. Inside the inn, it was mostly quiet save for a few townsfolk occupying the tables near the window and in the far corner. A serving wench hurried by, two empty flagons in each hand, and disappeared into the kitchen. The inn itself was nothing remarkable; with two stories and an attic, Eorek guessed it would accommodate about thirty people at its fullest, though not very comfortably. The beds in each room were simple wood structures lined with furs and pelts, most of them goatskins. He dropped his bags and parcels by the bed to the left of the door, then shuffled back downstairs to the common-room.
Scanning the room again to see if anyone had arrived while he was upstairs, Eorek pulled up a seat at the large round table in the center of the room and waited.
Sink, sink, sink
The whetstone poured across the blade like a boat on the water...
Sink, sink, sink
The Damascus flickered of light and dark like sun on the lake of his homeland...
Sink, sink, sink
The feel of old leather soaked hard by sweat but beaten soft by use...
Sink, sink, sink
His heart hammered in his chest, making his torso twitch twice with every slide of the armored arm...
Sink, sink, sink
The singing of the sword fell to rhythm of his heart...
Sink, sink, sink
He and his blade were harmonized once again...
Sink, sink, sink
He was one, he was whole...
He was asleep.
His hand fell to the blade handle before his eyes were even open. His sapphires shot around in quick swipes to either side looking for motion and then a sweeping gaze to take in the details. He always felt like he was being jolted out of a dead sleep when he woke up, which he was on the days he was lucky to not dream like today, he almost had the dream again.
Everything Assallya owned, save for some small secreted stashes of coin in various cities, was contained within her crimson painted wagon. Her wagon, a vardo, was different than those used to take produce to market. It was a travelling home meant to be pulled by a single horse and designed to journey through backcountry forest trails and avoid the main roads when necessary.
Pulling out a lock the size of a full grown male's fist the diminutive golden haired elf inserted a four inch long key and locked the vardo. It wasn't meant to keep out a determined thief. The stablehands would see to keeping thieves away. It was more meant to ensure the stablehands, who had no idea how to pick a lock, from exploring the witch's private abode.
Assallya was a diminutive elven woman of only ten hands high, scarcely larger than a child but certainly not one. Today she wasn't adventuring, wasn't fleeing some outraged peasants nor attending a state banquet. She had clothing for all those events but today she was wearing her dancing outfit. For her it was the most comfortable with its soft silks and many vents that allowed her skin to breathe.
Her guardian, the blonde giant, sitting atop the vardo snorted and stirred, waking fitfully. A normal woman would feel guilty about preying upon his vulnerabilities and abusing his trust, stringing him along with her concoctions but Assallya was no normal woman. She had him twisted around her finger and enjoyed the protection he provided. She had, unfortunately, had to add restraints to the wagon to keep him from harming her when he suddenly awakened.
There had been an incident early on where he had awakened and almost killed her before he recognized what he as doing. Something that horrified him immensely. Not that she imagined he would feel remorse for murdering her; No, she rather suspected it was the horror that losing control brought that afflicted him.
She considered saying something about him falling asleep but really what was there to say on that topic. It had all been said in the past.
"Good Afternoon," she greeted him.
Hot, it was hot where they were, the wood and manurer stank of the heat so it had to be midday at least. He heard the rattle of the lock and rolled over slowly to see if he needed to take a hand from a stable boy. Instead he got the lecherous view of the elf's cleavage from a high point, whatever she weighed. half of her weight had to be just to keep her balanced. Before her all other elves he had met were mostly flat, but her frame made her look like a succubus, the barely there's of her clothing didn't help. She gave him a simple greeting of courtesy, not kindness.
Afternoon, Ma'am. What do you need me to do today? Am I to be bodyguard, butcher, or bellboy?
He knew those were not the only things she could make him do, she had him in her clutches, but the worst of it all was he felt safer there than without her around. As long as he did as she wanted, she would let him sleep and in the sleep she gave him there was sweet nothingness. He circled the wagon to the small locker she afforded him to use outside the protection of her Vardo to equip himself properly for whatever she had need of him, different duties required different tools and affected the free hands he would have.
"None of that." Assallya assured him with a bemused twinkle to her azure eyes, "This eve shall be our last in this small town and thus we relax. No more selling trinkets, potions and ointments. No more fortune telling. We shall fill ourselves with wine, hustle men at cards, play at dice, smoke dreamweed and..."
The girl clamored half way up the brass pole used to mount the bench atop the vardo, clenching the golden metal between her breasts while extending one leg outwards away from the wagon and smiled upwards with her golden tresses in wild array. Blue really was something to look at. He had those sculpted muscles honed through a lifetime of gladiatorial service. If it wasn't for that distant look of one in constant pain to his face and those circles under his eyes from perpetual lack of sleep he would be a prince of a man.
"...afterwards, let me say that I am not in the mood for taking a client this evening."
Blue smirked as she rambled their deeds since being together. If it were not for the true magic he had seen her use, he would think her no more than an expert mountebank who patronized him on a merchants whim. He had seen her power, knows her wiles to grant him his dreamless sleep and sleepless nights leaving him blacked out on the roof of the vardo.
"If we do all you have said, I don't think you will have the balance or strength to take a client. Enough dreamweed and you may not know the difference between orc and pork by the end of the night... Not that there is much a difference by most accounts.
Since she said today would be a day of rest, he kept most of what he would normally take locked away. He emptied the chest completely then took out the small board that was the 'bottom' of the chest, in truth it was a board resting on top of two blocks of wood for a hidden niche to keep his gladius safe before putting the rest of his possessions back within the chest. He decided to travel with his shield keeping the sickle hidden in the round of the shaped steel, it was courting danger to travel completely unarmed so he had his shield and she had him.
He dressed in high boots with black pants that had a codpiece made by extra layers of fabric and a billowy blue shirt of canvas that he kept clean by rubbing it in incense ash before beating the dust off again. He kept his few coins in a moneybelt worn over his shoulder under his shirt to keep coins close with one piece in the heel of each boot. Dressed to enjoy himself, he held out a hand to help her down from her position above him with his free hand.
Cards are skill, dice is luck, which first?