Vincent listened carefully to the instructions and thoughts of the three seniors and when he was given the task to send the letters personally, he nearly lost his balance too like Bjor; he wasn't sure what he actually expected so he shouldn't be surprised of this additional task to his mission. And indeed, this whole adventure will turn out to be a tad more dangerous. Only now does the wolf realize how important this matter is; not that he did not acknowledge it, but he never fully wrapped his head around the matter to realize what great responsibility fell on his shoulder. Actually, what responsibility he BROUGHT to his own shoulders by being so over-confident in his skills and judgement. Bravo, another fine mess you've gotten yourself into, you smart mutt he scolded himself, but on the exterior, the wolf was present in the discussion and took a mental note of the transport issue. It seemed that their carriage driver was also an avid horse herder; how funny, the wolf does not remember seeing any stables within the vicinity of the fortress and he's walked around it quite a few times. After all, he did accept the silly 'mission' to escort a group of spellcasters as they foraged for some potion ingredients and tried to catch butterflies, claiming that their wings had special eyes with magical properties. Of course, he wasn't about to infirm their theory, so he made sure the group would not be assaulted by, gods forbid, an angry feral fox.
His mind returned to the present when the commander announced they should gather their squad and gear for the mission that's about to follow, Vincent stood straight and nodded at the commander respectfully. As the seniors left the room, Vincent leaned towards the table, his hands pressed against the edge of the table as he gazed over the territories of Avalon; high and low, he took a quick scan of the map, not really sure what he was looking for.
"I can see you are really looking forward to this grand mission, wonder what the girls will think about that."
The wolf smirked as he pictured Arianna's less pleased face of this whole situation "They're gonna love it"
He turned his head to Xilan for a quick glance then back at the table. When the wolf was happy with whatever he was looking for, he stood up and headed towards the door, that until he stopped right in the middle of his tracks halfway through the door frame. He turned around and jogged over to a drawer placed against the the wall facing the east side of the table; he opened it gently and grabbed a long tome rather than thick. He opened it up to reveal it was a tome containing maps of the whole Avalon, a very valuable item to possess for the upcoming journey.
[ITEM RECEIVED = Map Tome]
So now Vincent and Xilan started to roam the fortress to find the girls, meeting up with Alex first who was dressed perfectly for the mission.
"Vincent, Xilan? Hello, I thought I might see you later today. I'm sorry but I can't stay and chat, I need to.."
"Sod it, the captain- fuck, I mean, commander has something else in mind. We have to investigate all the kingdoms of Avalon that supports our cause and personally send them the call-to-arms letters. Get your everything packed, we're moving out today!"
The wolf was about to walk away at a hurried pace, but hearing Alex saying something again, he turned around and moved down the hall with his back.
"Truly? The Commander himself charged you with such an important task?"
He sighed in exasperation and continued: "Yes, yes, Alex, come on, there's no time to lose!"
Alex then picked up the pace and joined the two on their search for Arianna, but she did not finish with her lady-knight gallantries, making Vincent grumble and cringe: "As always, you have my shield and sword you only need ask."
Of course, he had to pull off one of his snide remarks "Great. Give 'em to me, you can stay home."
And so they all headed towards where they suspected Arianna to be, at the stewards; luckily for them, though, they managed to run into her. Literally so, for Vincent. He nearly knocked her off her feet, but he swiftly grabbed her hips to keep her stable; he quickly lets go of her once he could feel Xilan's amused gaze peering over his own neck. The wolf opened his mouth to present the situation, but the girl already seemed to know about the matter, as Senior Hero Brandon went beyond duty in order to assure her recruiting; the wolf stood there somewhat surprised by the fact that a fool like Brandon would care enough to do them a favor like this. He snickered quietly and beckoned the girl to follow the group up to their personal quarters so they could swiftly grab everything they had stashed in their rooms and prepare for a long journey.
"The Commander's explicit order? Nice one Sarge." Xilan whispered aside to Vincent. He smirked and replied in a hushed voice "I believe Sarge just won himself a keg of ale."
Once the group was up at their quarters, the wolf prompted them to prepare everything they wanted to take on the long journey, including clothes, accessories, hygiene articles, tools, everything they would bring for a long travel by themselves. So, the wolf immediately started rummaging through his own belongings, placing his clothes neatly on the bed, his tool box was prepared for voyage on the desk, along with all the sketches and written thoughts strapped neatly in their dossier. Then came the problem: his supplies. He gave it a few moments of thought, but in the end, he still crammed them with the rest of the clothes; he hoped his jumpers and shirts will not be ruined by the sharp edges of the metallic sheets... or his fingers. But then came another problem: how exactly was he going to carry all the ammo he forged the last several days? The pouches on his belt were already filled with components and spare pistol rounds and there was literally no room left for the larger projectiles. Confronted with this dilemma, the wolf pondered a while until he realized that his companions are most likely still waiting for him to get ready for departure. As he got out the door, imagining that Xilan and the gang were waiting to scold the wolf for being late, an idea struck him. Although no one was waiting for him outside, the wolf still uttered something not even he could understand and dashed down the hall, only to land in a few moments in the crafting hall. As soon as he got there, his eyes locked unto the standard supplies for craftsmen being stashed on the wall along with hammers, saws, aprons and other tools. The wolf immediately seized a leather strap holding three pouches identical in size and dashed away, hoping no one spotted him; even if someone did, he would have a valid excuse for his sudden action. Once in his room, he quickly strapped the leather torso piece over his jumper, over which he strapped the newly acquired leather band, resting on the reinforced leather pads protecting his chest; he took on the fancy long coat he received from the armory and quickly folded the sleeves over his elbows. After he sprung a few times on the same place to see if he was comfortable enough with his setup, he grabbed all of the clothes and materials and coaxed them into two large backpacks he threw over his left shoulder. His rifle was resting on his back snugged tightly with a leather strap embracing his chest, his trusty pistol on his right thigh, the pipe was carving into the flesh of his left thigh due to the backpacks pressing against it; the shotgun was latched unto the back-side of the tool belt, resting just above his tail. With all this gear encumbering him and pulling him down to the floor, the wolf stubbornly started to move the ammo to the pouches on his chest in an order he found most useful to his setting: on the leftmost pouch he stashed the pistol rounds as it would be quicker for his left hand to plunge into the bag and quickly pull out six rounds, the middle pouch was reserved for his shotgun shots and "slugshots" since the grip on his shotgun required him to center his weapon. Finally, his rightmost pouch was designated for the rifle, as it allowed him to quickly pull out a bullet and slide it down into the chamber with a quick wrist maneuver.
Once he cleared the whole stash of ammo, Vincent could barely walk anymore, but his stubbornness got the better of him so he pulled the rifle from his back so he could get some balance; this reminded him of the days when he was but a recruit at the academy doing the basic military boot camp. Those long, strenuous marches with loads of weights on him would tire him dead but thanks to his inhuman endurance and high pain tolerance, he would finish the course with the same stubbornness as ever. He finally exited his room, where he found the rest of the gang ready to go; they all seemed to carry much less items than himself, making him frown quite heavily as his footsteps rang loudly due to the weight pushing down his legs. Alexandra even offered to help him with some of the weight, but just as expected, he refused with a tired grumble as he shifted the weight on his back to make it comfortable to some degree. He took the lead out of the fortress, leading his group outside and headed towards the main road where they found the carriage driver. Once there, the wolf took the liberty of putting his bags down so he could talk to the driver properly; he took a deep breath and approached the carriage, his voice booming loud enough so he would make sure that even the half-deaf could hear him.
"Good day to you, Sir!" he accented on the last word "Do you perchance have any available mounts we could grab?"
Yet, the driver seemed impervious to his words. Arianna then suggested:
"Maybe he didn't hear you?"
"Pfft. Of course he heard me, he likes to ignore people." he replied to the girl and tried again. "We are in dire need of these mounts, we're off to travel nearly the whole Avalon; it would be outrageous if we decided to take this task on foot, the commander agreed we should ask you for help."
That's when the horses, NOT the driver, turned their heads to look at the group with a chilling gaze. It was not filled with hatred or scorn, but it definitely felt rather unfriendly. Taking a closer look, Vincent finally notice that there was something rather peculiar with these horses: they were all coated in an identical jet black short fur, save for their manes that varied in colors and styles.
Vincent...I'm scared.." Xilan muttered to Vincent, feeling the insistent gazes of the horses upon him.
"Honsetly? Me too." muttered the wolf. The small salamander on Vincent's shoulder shared in the fear as it quickly crawled behind the collar of Vincent's coat to hide.
Then he remembered what the taskmaster suggested him to do. With a grin on his face, he turned to his squad and lifted his hand, giving them a reassuring nod:
"Guys, guys ... I GOT this!" he turned back to the driver and leaned in closer, bringing out the artillery "Bjor would be most pleased, should you give use some mounts. He IS asking you nicely to do so, after all."
And thus, he finally obtained a reaction; the driver turned it's head to the group and peered at them in complete silence until it finally jumped off from the seat and beckoned the group to follow him. With a satisfied grin, the wolf picked up his two backpacks, refused any help from Alex yet again and followed the dark figure to the entrance of a cave. Xilan protested, though he was completely ignored, save for the wolf.
"Then you can go ahead and march your way to Lioncross, Xilan."
The cave did feel very odd, though, the darkness did not feel natural, the setting was so oddly familiar. They were lucky with Ari's staff lighting their way, but that still raised a confusion: how was the driver able to walk down the damned cave with no light source in front of him. Finally, light was visible at the other end, revealing a small chamber lit by torches and decorated with metal plaques; in the very middle of the room there was a large pond with a water so clean and clear one could see the very smooth bedrock at the bottom of the pond. The wolf inspected the slate of stone carefully, trying to determine what kind of stone was it as it did not look like something he knew about. He lifted his head when he saw movement around him and quickly turned his attention to the plaque he was pointed at; he took a few steps closer in order to read what was scribbled on the metal. He read it aloud:
"An offer of sacrifice is required for a worthy companion to help you on the road. Oh boy." he finished. He immediately made the connection between the horses outside pulling the carriage and this little misadventure; at least, correlation made sense in his head.
He turned his head to the driver, which pulled out a small knife from the void of it's cloth; The wolf took the knife by the hilt and gave it a good look; at least it wasn't all rusty and dented so he wouldn't have to worry about fever and puss. He sighed loudly and headed over to the edge of the pond and pulled off the glove from his left hand so he could hold it in his mouth; he took the blade and aimed the slender edge to the palm of his hand, giving it a few moments of thought before he would carve a thin cut in the soft flesh. The wolf did not react at all, to his own surprise too and as soon as he saw blood trying to drip out, he clenched his hand into a fist so he could produce droplets quickly; his blood landed in the water and seemed to dissolve at first, but suddenly it started to progressively color the whole pond in a dark red hue that kept growing and darken until a sound similar to a neigh boomed from the pond. The wolf quickly drew back, not knowing what in the nine hells was going on right in this moment and his mind did not get any clearer once a gods-damned horse emerged from where the cloud of blood used to be; although Vincent was no horse expert, he could determine that this one was a courser. A strong-looking one, for that matter; while it's fur seemed to be jet-black, it's short mane was dark grey and appeared to be rather messy which prompted the wolf to check his own hair to make sure it was neatly arranged to blast backwards. His horse looked rather mean and even it's gaze wasn't very welcoming, yet, it approached the wolf until they were a few fingers apart from each other. It was a queer moment for the wolf, if not outright magical; a horse made out of his own blood that seemed to be similar in appearance and attitude was standing in front of him. The wolf raised his hand to caress it's large snout, managing only to give it a pat as it turned it's head away from him, puffing some air out in exasperation. The wolf pretty much did the same and crossed his arms while peering at the horse. He passed his blade over to Xilan which did the same, only to produce a horse similar to his friend: a long, golden mane flowing on the side, a much friendlier posture and attitude compared to his own grumpy stallion. This one approached Xilan with no holding back, rubbing it's head against the elf cheerily; it even approached Vincent's horse to tap it's side with his own snout. Vincent's horse turned it's head and grunted in annoyance; soon after it nodded in acceptance and whacked Xilan's horse with it's tail. Alexandra's horse seemed mighty and proud, fitting for the young lady knight and Arianna pulled out a slender mare, gentle and shy.
The wolf listened carefully to the last words of the driver and read the two remaining plaques as prompted to and returned the blade so he could saddle up his own horse. Only when he finished the whole process, did he notice that the driver had vanished in the mean time; and to think that the wolf was actually considering to tip the driver for being nice enough to offer them a mean of transportation. The wolf felt excitement once he hopped onto the saddle and grabbed the helm; Vincent is notoriously clumsy when riding horses, but this one felt so natural and responsive to his commands the wolf could not contain his satisfied grin which lifted up his previously impenetrable frown. His heart fluttered as they crossed the grounds, feeling like a child playing with his new toy; if Xilan cried with joy and the horse replied with a neigh just as excited as his new master, Vincent's mount seemed to trot playfully and look outright silly as Vincent leaned forward and laughed as his own horse neighed with a deep voice. Once they found the seniors and the commander, Vincent dismounted and greeted them with the same wide grin he was unable to wipe off his muzzle. Brandon handled him the sealed envelopes, which the wolf quickly stashed in his toolbox secured safely on his mount; once presented with their supplies for the first ride, Vincent also offered to give a hand and help Brandon tie them safely on everyone's mounts.
"We wish you the greatest of luck on this journey young Heroes. Your mission is one of the utmost importance, you must ensure that the letters reach the hands of the rulers of Avalon and you must do your best to persuade them to lend us their support. Divided I highly doubt we will have a chance against Shader should he succeed in whatever his plans are."
"Once again, it is an honor, Captain. We will NOT fail you, not while I'm standing. United we will prevail."
He received the bag of gold from the steward, which immediately rebuked him. The wolf scoffed silently as he weighed the bag of coins, figuring they had enough gold to live nicely for the next two years.
"And Miss Helmshear, do take care in this mission. Unlike these oafs you are still a valuable asset to the Heroes of Avalon. Return safely."
The wolf then immediately turned around, his frown returning to his forehead and walked angrily straight up to the steward; he wouldn't care how important this man was, but right now, he felt as if he could bury this small man 'till to his chest and play foot-ball with his head/.
"OI! I'm here and I heard that, you-" but he managed to contain his small burst of fury, knowing the commander was watching him right now. Instead, he lifted his finger menacingly towards the steward; even his horse puffed some air and scrapped the ground with it's hoof.
Just then, the wolf was presented with a sheathed sword, the wolf grabbed the hilt and the sheath tightly and pulled out the sword; he was unsure what he expected, but the fact that it's weight felt off excited him seen as he was proficient with awkward weapons... but now it made sense. This sword was a wreck: the blade was rusty, dented and chipped, the hilt was missing it's pommel and the leather straps were worn off. He looked up at the commander, his eyebrow raised in confusion:
"Sir, I... thank you for all these, but to be honest, I'm not sure this sword is going to be helpful against, well, anything." he replied sheepishly, to make sure he will not offend the commander for this weird offering.
"You are right, this weapon would do poorly in a battle. No, Vincent. This sword is far more special than you suspect but not as a means of combat. Once you found a suitable place to make camp, plant this sword in the center of the area and you will understand."
The wolf blinked a couple of times and nodded respectfully, he turned around and attached it to his saddle; he was still rather confused why this sword was so important, surely, it can't be much more important than the letters, right? Just then, Bjor suggested that it was a heirloom. Both him and Xilan reacted rather surprised.
Even though Bjor gave them a description and history lesson of the sword, they were still clueless about it's properties, though Brandon's annotation made the wolf snort and chuckle. That's when an idea came to him: he opened up the steward's bag of gold and pulled out about a dozen gold coins which he poured into Brandon's hand, a devilish grin on his face as he made the trade.
"Thanks for helping us out with-" he cocked his head pointing towards the steward, clarifying the wolf's intention to reward Brandon for the good lie he crafted to save Ari from the steward. He intentionally paid him with the money he received from the steward as a small revenge on his earlier remark. Surely, Brandon would know. "Fetch yerself a keg of ale, a woman, whatever. You deserve it, Sarge."
The wolf took time to shake hands with Bjor and the commander, heeding his final words. As a reply, he quoted the motto of their guild: "Divided we fall, united we prevail. We'll find a way to keep in contact and deliver situation reports."
With nothing else to say and do, the wolf finally hopped back into the saddle and trotted with his squad until the reached the main road; from there, they all switched to a hasty gallop, distancing away from the safety of the fortress. The wolf turned his head to gave it one last glance, the walls basking under the light of the sun. After a while, they reached the main artery, from where the roads dispersed into many different directions; Xilan asked the wolf where would they be heading, so, Vincent pulled out the map tome he recovered earlier that day and gave it a good look, trying to estimate the time and distance required to reach the closest kingdoms. After a few moments, the wolf shut the tome and secured it back in the backpack; he pulled out his leaden pipe and aimed towards one of the roads:
"Closest destination from here: Lioncross. It may take up to four days, but it IS the closest. Onwards!" his voice boomed with pride and might as his steed neighed to match his tone.
And so, the wolf galloped down the road, his steed grunting furiously underneath him, their destination set to Lioncross, home of the Inquisition. Vincent was enjoying this ride probably more than he should, even Freckles seemed to be enjoying this new adventure as it left it's tiny mouth open in awe.