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DRAGONMOUNT

A WHEEL OF TIME COMMUNITY
Hrafnhildr

Let's have some fun (attn : Masan)

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After Fang had finished her tea she returned to training. Masan figured now that he'd gotten her turned onto the idea of a more conventional weapon that she wouldn't be easily diverted. So, he poured himself some tea into the emptied tin cup and sat back to watch. She'd managed to get better but as she became more tired he watched her being to slip. This was to be expected. They'd been traveling hard and not gotten much rest or had much to eat. She had to be just as weary as he was.

 

He mused over her suggestion that the clearing of those bandits had been too easy. Perhaps it was. Sometimes bandits, in rural areas like this, could possibly be only a few men taking shelter in a small shack built into a cave. Could be. But her point had gotten him to thinking. He'd looted out that shack, unbeknownst to Fang. And he'd not found much. Master Neril had given him a description of the amount of extortion the town had been under and for how long. Those men couldn't come into town regularly and spend the money they had been looting from people. Even if they'd been preying predominately on local, isolated farmers there would still be someone in the main village who would recognize them and jump them. There was no way they could have thrived without going into town for supplies. So where where they procuring them from? Were they part of a larger group? He snorted and drained the rest of the, now tepid, tea. That had to be a problem bigger than what his puny brain could wrap around. Neither he nor Fang were the bloody Watch. Why should it be their problem? 

But could it become their problem? Had they just interfered with a bigger operation and helped to make themselves some enemies? It's not like they would be forgettable. An Arafellin brother and sister traveling on a grey speckled horse? The brother being a man who could channel? Oh blood and bloody ashes. Well, with the light's blessing none of it would come back to bite them on the bottom. 

He noticed as an arrow went completely off track. Fang was clearly getting too bleary eyed to aim. Masan pushed himself up and gently took the bow from her reluctant hands."Well done. You did well." He said quickly in order to waylay the complaints that looked like they were going to well up any minute. The compliment didn't seem to work so, thinking quickly, he punctuated it with a soft pat to her back. It was time to sleep and it was already too dark to be shooting any more arrows tonight, fire-light or no fire-light. 

When she asked if they may also train tomorrow he gave a short nod, shutting the bow away in the water-tight case strapped to Boko's saddle. "So long as we come across a quiet, safe place to do so. If we manage to find another village we may get hung up. I need to get us more supplies. We're moving too quickly to stop and hunt. We can't let your father's men get too close to us again, just in case they suspect us. I'd like to put more ground between us and them before we let ourselves rest for two days in the same place. We need more travel provisions... and another cup if I can find one." He snorted, peeking over at his only dinged up tin atrocity. "If we get held up too much we may have to camp just outside the village and I don't want to make the Watch nervous. But that's a worst case scenario. I intend," he said, emphasizing his intentions, "to get our supplies quickly, get out, and be a couple miles out of town before we break to camp. If all goes according to plan you'll be turning another tree into a pin cushion tomorrow evening." He smiled. 

"We only have one bed roll, another thing we're going to have to try to fix in the next town. So I'm going to let you have it tonight, and I'll sleep under my cloak. If we can't find a new bedroll in town tomorrow it'll be my turn for the bed roll. Sound fair?" He asked, pulling said roll off of the back of Boko. At this rate they were going to have to hope they could find some work in that town and maybe get a pack mule so Boko was not so encumbered. At this rate she'd be so burdened with their possessions she would not be able to be ridden.

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Fang blushed as she listened to Masan. She had been using his stuff for too long. It was time for her to get herself some things of her own. A cup would be a start, a bed roll wouldn't be bad either... and maybe a new change of clothes. Her shirt was getting so dirty that it was almost impossible to guess its original color. But all this would be heavy. Masan had Boko to help him out during his journey. The young woman had no one, no mount to help her. What would happen when she'd be alone again? ... If I am alone again, she corrected herself.

 

"It sounds fair," she replied with a grin.

 

***

 

The next village wasn't that far, compared to what she had had in mind. She had expected them to travel for days before having the chance to find anything of interest, but there it was. A small gathering of tiny houses, surrounding a slightly bigger building.

 

"I guess that's an inn?" she asked pointing towards it.

 

Masan nodded. "It seems like it," he replied, focusing on his surroundings.

 

"Should we offer our services to the innkeeper like we did last time?" Fang grinned. The idea of a  hot meal, a bath and comfortable bed made her wiggle her eyebrows.

 

Her companion shook his head."We should have a look around, first. And I told you, we're not spending two days in the same place yet. We could do something quick that would earn us enough money to get ourselves a pack mule but that's about it."

 

"All right, all right, " the young woman rolled her eyes before cursing the man for reading her thoughts. Of course, Masan was right. They needed to know where to get provisions, how much it would cost, but also who was in this village. What if some of her father's men were already there?

 

 

 

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Masan walked with an air of alertness to him as they traveled the road cutting through the center of this town. He kept their chatter to a minimum until he saw a store with a swinging sign indicating a general store. This was likely a popular road south. 

 

Quietly he whispered to Fang. "You can go to the inn and ask around about work. But be sure to mention your older brother and how big he is. Some men will be unlikely to give our kind of work to a woman alone. If they have anything you can meet me in front of here." He indicated, tying Boko's reigns to a post in front of the store. "Can I have your purse? I may have to pool our resources to get some things. We need another bed roll, cup, plate, and food. We don't have enough for a horse or mule for you, but with any luck you may find us some work and we'll be able to travel to the next town with an extra horse. I'll have to add horse riding to your lessons."

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"My p... " Fang raised her head to look into Masan's eyes. What he said about pooling their resources made sense, but giving him her money meant that she trusted him. Was she ready to do that?

 

Of course, you are, silly goose, she told herself. The man has helped you more than anyone else in your short but already quite full life. And if he steals from you, you can still run after him and teach him a lesson...

 

"My purse," she repeated. "Of course."

 

She untied the leather pouch from her belt, hoping that the Arafellin couldn't read her thoughts. Somehow, she was feeling guilty for having doubts about his loyalty.

 

"Just don't empty it completely," she said chuckling.

 

Masan smiled and assured her that he would be careful with his purchases. "Don't worry, silly!" He told her, before turning towards the door of the general store.

 

The inn was small but very appealing. Fang wondered if it was because of the smell of food - it smelled like roasted meat   - or because of the numerous decorations hanging on the facade.  "let's go!" the young woman told herself.

 

For once, the innkeeper was not a bald man, it was a lady... and a very beautiful one. She might have been ten years older than Fang, she was looking so good that it was hard to look away from her and her cascade of red hair.

 

"Good day," Fang stuttered.

 

The innkeeper left the table she was cleaning with a big smile on her face. She introduced herself and asked how she could be of help.

 

"I am traveling with my brother," Fang barely managed to reply. "We are looking for work, and hopefully a way to earn a meal and a bed for one night."

 

The innkeeper tilted her head. "Well," she said. "I think you may help me with something.... Jara had to bring me some supplies yesterday but he has never shown up. I will give you the direction to his farm ... maybe you can ask him what causes the delay?"

 

Fang nodded. "I'll help! Is there anything else?"

 

The Lady shook her head. "We will see when you and your brother are back..."

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Masan tied Fang's purse to his belt beside his own and gave her a grin. "Don't worry silly." He was certain that he was the tighter of the two of them when it came to coin. Fang desperately seemed to miss the comforts of a nightly bed and a daily hot meal. Well, Masan had to admit that they were nice, of course, but he also knew better than to expect them. They were a treat, not a normal part of his life as they had been to Fang. Regardless, he intended to split whatever coins they had left evenly up between the two purses when he was done. 

The general store was clean but also a little cluttered. There was a barrel in the corner labeled Odds and Sods, clearly full of things that had been ordered and not proven to sell easily. They sat there, discounted. Masan ran his eyes over the barrels but found little of interest to him. This store would be relatively popular with travelers headed south, and so anything that a traveler might need was not likely to appear in those barrels. Under a second observation, however, he did spot a tin cup. It was dinged up an the handle was crooked. It wasn't pretty but it still looked like it could hold fluid and that's all Fang really needed in a cup. Masan scooped up the cheap little thing and wandered over to the side wall lined with replacement supplies for travelers. Here he collected the smallest bedroll (Fang was so much shorter than him she didn't need a huge roll, it would just be heavier to carry if they couldn't find a pack animal for her) and inspected the food stuffs.

 

Hard tack, hard cheese, dried fruits and some salt cured meats were the general stock, displayed with pricing and which local farm had provided the product. He even found a heavy glass jar filled with cucumbers, onions, garlic and little red pieces of pepper with a sign exclaiming the quality of Granny Piond's Pickles. Normally he was made of tougher stuff but he just had to get those pickles to share with Fang. Pickling was just a common way to preserve lots of vegetables and was very common up in the Borderlands, where the growing season was short and winters hard. Burn him, he missed his mother's pickled cabbage and pickled chinis that grew in their garden. He wasn't sure, having been from Tear, that Fang would have ever had cause to try pickles as, it seemed, this far south that pickling was a trade of the poor. He shook the jar a bit to see if he could make out if any dill herbs were floating it it, but it seemed not. With a grin this told him they were likely sweet and spicy. He was so excited to have the Little Miss try them. 

 

"Oye Lad, that's quite a collection. Lose a lot of your gear?" The shop keeper asked, dry washing his hands on his shirt. Masan nodded. "Yeah. Lost a whole bunch, a strap on the saddle got caught and my stuff fell in the river and washed away. It's awful to have to replace it but I'm traveling with my sister and we're getting tired of trading the last bedroll and the last cup."

 

The shop keeper chuckled. "Oh, I'm the youngest of six, I know what that's like. We'll get you sorted out and at the fairest prices between Tear and Illian."

Masan highly doubted that but he smiled and counted out the coins, shouldered his purchases an went out to get them tied to Boko and wait for Fang to come back and let them know.  

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"Masan" Fang started. She took a deep breath. "I have good and bad news..."

 

The Arafellin shrugged inviting her to go forward. The young Woman made her report. "Well, we can have a meal and a bed for a night but that won't be for today, even if we hurry." She made a small break, fighting not to talk too fast.

 

"The innkeeper - who's a lady - have you seen many lady innkeepers - ... -  anyways, she wants us to go to a farm to see why one of her suppliers has not showed up yet. It's not that far, but I am not sure that we'd manage to go there and come back before sundown."

 

As she gave the directions to Masan, she saw his brow getting darker. He too was probably thinking that the farm was too far away.

 

"As she told you anything about what could be the cause of his delay?" he inquired.

 

"No, nothing..." Fang placed her hands on her hips. "Do you think this sounds fishy?"

 

She didn't know why but she was not feeling at ease. As she waited for her companion"s answer, she made a couple of steps towards Boko curious to know what Masan had bought.

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Masan mulled over it. It was a bit of a trek but not one that would have been too far for a local to run and come back to do. It was a little fishy. "I'm not interested in staying, but a meal would be alright with me. But I suppose work is work. And it should be something. Do you feel uncomfortable about doing it?" He asked, rubbing Boko's nose while he waited for her opinion.

 

(Sorry I know it's short)

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"Let's do this," Fang said, hands her hips. She quickly checked the provisions Masan had bought. "But we will need some food before going. Do you have enough coins left for us to buy a meal?"

 

Masan nodded, "Told you I would not spend everything!" The Arafellin grinned as he dug in his purse. A second later he handed Fang what was left of her money.

 

"Well, that is more than enough for us to have a decent slice of bread, some broth and cheese." The young woman said. "But I guess, we should leave as soon as possible. So I suggest we replace the broth by ale and ask the innkeeper to fill our water skins with it."

 

"Are you sure that ale is the b...."

 

Before Masan had the time to finish his sentence, she grabbed him by the arm to lead him to the inn. "Of course, it is!"

 

***

 

They had decided to leave their supplies on Boko's back. Indeed, they didn't know whether or not they should trust the innkeeper and her patrons. It would be so easy for one of them to steal their possessions while they were away. But the extra weight on Boko's back meant that none of them would be allowed to ride. The horse needed to stay fit to go to the mysterious farm and return to the village in less than 24 hours.

 

For Masan it didn't look to be a problem, and for Fang... well she was getting used to long walks. She hoped that one day she'd have as much endurance as her companion.

 

***

 

The first stars had appeared in the sky when they arrived at their destination. The farm looked deserted. The silence made Fang shiver.

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As they approached the farm Masan stopped and tethered Boko's reins to a low hanging branch. The rest of the way would be approached on foot. It was eerily quiet. The stars were starting to show on the horizon but the sun, now dipped below, had still left some residual light, certainly enough for any farmer to still be working by, or at least wrapping up their work. It was getting fishier and fishier. He crouched and motioned to Fang.

"I have an off kind of feeling about this." He whispered to her, craning his head until their foreheads nearly touched. "It's not anything big but, still, a feeling. Let's scout it out a bit, you're really stealthy and it'll probably be easier for you to skulk about than me, but I'm going to try to remain in sight of you. Do you feel comfortable shifting over to one of those windows and taking a peek inside?" If she wasn't he'd certainly do it himself. In all reality he could probably use weaves of air to muffle the sounds of his movement... if he tried really hard possibly. The thing is he did not want to channel at all where someone might see or notice or suspect anything, especially not Fang. He had grown somewhat attached to her in the past few days, to the point where he was starting to forget that she wasn't in fact his blood sister and in some way the idea of her shrieking in terror, knowing what he was, would cut him deep.

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Fang nodded. She was indeed the sneakiest of them both. She looked around a last time. The place was too quiet, and it didn't feel empty. Somehow she felt that someone or something was out there ... waiting for them.

 

Slowly she moved forward, one crouched step at a time. Masan's presence behind her gave her strength. Indeed, she had to fight not to run away.

 

Is this promised meal and bed worth what we are doing here? She wondered. What if they were not supposed to succeed in their task? What if the pretty inkeeper was a Darkfriend or something worse? Hush you! She eventually told herself. She needed to focus on her goal. A small window on the side of the main building. The one that would host living quarters. From what she knew, the window would open on a bedroom or something similar. The kitchens were often closer to the entrance.

 

Suddenly, a strange creaking noise made her turn her head. "Wha..?" she asked in a low voice.

 

Unfortunately there was nothing to be seen except for Masan's surprised face. He too looked behind him to check where the noise could have come from.

 

"Nothing," he said shaking his head. "I guess it was the gate on the old fence we just passed?"

 

"This stinks!" Fang whispered back before resuming her journey forward.

 

She reached the window without further incident. She peered through the window but the room beyond was pitch black.

Edited by Chaelca

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Fang's silent movements seemed to come so easy to her, Masan felt the muscles in his legs tremble with the effort of moving so carefully and silently without the aid of the One Power. Burn it all. He kept his ears open though and his eyes scanning the tree lines. She could focus her eyes on the house, he would focus on the rest of the light blinded world. 

 

This was supposed to be quick and easy, not suspicious and spooky! He made sure to keep himself within arms reach of Fang if danger presented itself, so that he could throw her to the ground and out of harm's way if necessary. It seemed like it wouldn't be though. Well, at least until an arthritic creak seemed to ring through the air on the property. 

 

Masan whipped his head around so fast that one of his braids smacked him in the cheek, not that he paid it much mind, such things happened often. His eyes searched the twilight darkened tree line for any sign of movement and he strained his ears for any other sounds.

 

He waved a hand in a downwards motion, suggesting quiet, when Fang asked him what that was.

 

In the smallest voice he could muster he responded, "Nothing," with a shake of the head. "I guess it was the gate on the old fence we just passed?" he guessed. It could only be a guess though. He hoped it was just the wind. 

 

Fang cursed and Masan just allowed himself another roll of the eyes. So yes, maybe it did, and it was in a much softer voice then before but part of him didn't feel it merited being said aloud. It was pretty clear even if unsaid. This entire situation was not shaping up to be what he had been expecting when the job was described to him. 

 

As they reached the house Masan let Fang have a peek before waving for her attention and mouthing the word; "anything?"

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The young woman shook her head. With a gesture of her right hand she invited Masan to follow her to the other side of the building, to its main door. As she advanced, she tried to peer through another window but again it was too dark to see what laid beyond.

 

The door was made of wood and had been painted with a multitude of colors. The light provided by the moon and the stars wasn't enough to determine which ones. Fang shivered at the sight of the drawn shapes. Something made her think they were not a good omen. Taking a deep breath, she softly pushed on the door. To her surprise it moved.

 

She immediately jumped on the side and flattened herself against the facade. "It's open," she said, eyes wide as saucers.

 

"Should we go in?" she asked her companion hoping he would want to get away from this creepy place.

 

Do you really want to run away? A little voice asked, deep inside her head. Are you a coward?

 

No! I am not! She silently protested.

 

Waiting for Masan's answer, she made a small move towards the entrance hoping to see something. Unfortunately, the door hadn't moved enough to allow her to see what was inside of the building.

Edited by Chaelca

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