Thursday, February 21, 2008

Chapter 6: Departure

        Caden saddled and groomed Starlight while Rilyn settled with the Barkeep. Rilyn walked outside.

        "Are you ready?" Caden asked. "We've wasted two nights here, and we're no closer to finding the Dragon Knights, or getting them to save Keilee."
        "You were the one who spent the night with a witch."
        "She's not a witch," Caden said. "I'm certain of that now."
        "Then why did the towns people attack her?"
        "She was found with the witch."
        "And what would they have been doing together?"
        "I don't know."
        "I'm not from around here," Rilyn said. "But our cultures do agree on one thing. Thou shall not suffer a witch to live."
        "She wasn't a witch."
        "But if she had dealings with one, maybe she's on the journey to become one."
        Caden looked away. He led Starlight out the courtyard gate. Rilyn followed. Cassy came out the front door to the Tavern. She ran up to Caden and handed him a loaf of bread.
        "Come back again," she said. "Ok?"
        Caden nodded.

        Rilyn led Caden to the east gate. Identical to the first, except the vertical sign read, "出口 東Tinate."
        "Father Achilleos said the Dragon Knights went west," Rilyn said. "They have a training camp they bring new recruits to."
        "Don't you find it odd that they didn't know about the draft here."
        "From what I've heard of the Dragon Knights, it doesn't surprise me."
        "You're right," Caden said. "A city this size, they must get enough volunteers that they don't need a draft."
        "Yeah," Rilyn said. He walked past Caden. "That's what I meant."
        They walked in silence for the rest of the morning. By noon, they exited the forest and no longer had the canopy protecting them from the hot mid-day sun. Caden mounted Starlight, and rode her while eating lunch. He gave Rilyn a spicy stew bread, and ate the last sour seaweed. He looked in his knapsack. He had two honey stews left, four spicy stews, and the loaf Cassy gave him. Cassy's bread was a simple soft wheat dinner loaf. Dinner loafs don't last as long as the stew bread. It would only be good for today, they'd need to eat it for dinner. But that meant finding something more for dinner.
        "Can you hunt or fish or anything?" Caden asked.
        "I can hunt," said Rilyn, "But not in the way that you're thinking."
        "I think we should have picked up some more food before we left."
        "That reminds me." Rilyn stopped and turned around. "I promised Father Achilleos that we would return after you finished your errand with the Dragon Knights."
        "I told him what I knew about the Dragon Queen. He said that he wanted to hear the story from you since you were there."
        Caden pulled on Starlights reigns and stopped. He dismounted and put his hand on the ties for the stone sword. Rilyn turned around and looked ahead. A lone traveler walked down the road towards them. He wore simple brown jodhpurs and a white tunic. A black leather satchel hung across his chest from his left shoulder.
        "I don't see any weapons," Rilyn said. "Feeling a bit paranoid."
        "Just cautious."
        "Then use this." Rilyn passed him a brush axe from under his cloak.
        Maybe Rilyn is right, thought Caden. He looked at the man. He didn't have the dark shroud, but neither did the bandits. He didn't have any weapons, but that itself is strange to travel without protection. The highways aren't that safe. Caden stepped away from the stone sword, and put the brush axe into his knapsack. He kept his hand inside the bag on the handle.
        The man stopped ten paces away. He looked at Rilyn and Caden. They looked at him. "Hail and well met, travellers."
        "Good day, sir."
        "I'm Ramone, a simple traveling merchant," said Ramone. "May I ask your names?"
        "A merchant?" asked Caden. "Convenient, since I was just thinking about needing to buy food."
        "Not convenient, my boy. Providence." Ramone opened his satchel and took out a red cloth.
        "For a merchant," said Rilyn, "you're traveling without much to sell."
        Ramone took off his satchel and dropped it next to the road. "If you take your hands off of your weapons, I'll show you."
        Caden looked at Rilyn. What do you think? 
        Rilyn looked at Caden. He doesn't look dangerous. 
        Caden took his hand out of his knapsack. He left the brush axe inside. Rilyn moved his hands out from under his cloak.
        "Talking with your eyes," said Ramone. "You must be long time travel companions." Ramone unfolded the cloth. It was thirty hands wide by 45 hands long. He whipped the cloth into the air. It floated down. As it came down, the center was supported by something that wasn't there. The edges dropped down till they touched the road. It looked like the cloth was covering a stack of boxes. Ramone grabbed the cloth and pulled it off. Underneath was several crates. He rolled up the cloth and set it down in the grass.
        "How did you?" Rilyn asked.
        "That wasn't wizardry or witchcraft," Caden said.
        "You're right, but I can't answer your question, because I don't know. It's just a very useful tool I picked up in my travels." Ramone grabbed a pry-bar that was lying on one of the crates. "Hard to get robbed when they can't find your wares."

        That night, Caden and Rilyn camped just off of the highway. The highway crossed a river. They got water and Caden built a fire on a large flat rock protruding out into the water. They sat around the fire and roasted fish. Ramone even gave them a good deal on preserves for the bread.
        "Rilyn, you've travelled more then I," Caden said. "Have you ever seen a magic that could create something from nothing?"
        "No, but perhaps I haven't traveled as much as you think I have." Rilyn stuffed the last of the bread into his mouth, and stood up. "Finish eating. You still need more practice with your swords."