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A WHEEL OF TIME COMMUNITY

The Adventures of Dilora Fashelle (solo history RP)


Winter Mist
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~Dilora~

 

The road out of Baerlon seemed so empty. So few people walked along the dusty trail that the plain wagon rumbled along, wheels turning and churning smoke-like clouds of road detritus into my face and eyes. The broad-brimmed hat to keep the summer's heat off was held in place with a wide, flat ribbon, but it did nothing to protect my hands which were red and peeling on both sides. The tops were burnt by the sun, the undersides from holding the reins tightly, but I wouldn't have changed it for the world. If all else failed I imagined I could find a Wisdom from somewhere, or even a goodwife from one of the nearby villages that had some skill with herbs and get some cream for it. A salve would be nice about now... I had to think about the practicalities of life on the road. Enthusiasm often got the better of me when I was excited about something, and setting off on my new life as a peddler and leaving behind the prospect of safety and security of hearth and home was enough to make me forget about all kinds of things. Particularly my physical health, if I was not careful. At least I wouldn't get sunstroke with the hat my mother had pressed on me before I had left.

 

There had been tears in my mother's eyes as I had rolled towards the main gate of Baerlon and out onto the road towards the Two Rivers. Tears of pride though, not tears of any real sadness. Mother had had the wanderlust the same as her daughter, but had quelled it in favour of raising a child with the man she loved. I knew of the sacrifice my father had made to get me the wagon that rumbled along behind me, and the apprenticeship served with a fellow peddler. Now I was on my own. The first adventures of Dilora Fashelle, peddler.

 

My cargo on this first trip consisted of a few small pieces of wood, carved into intricate designs that pleased the eye, some bales of cloth and a few blankets, embroidered richly to thicken them and a couple of barrels my father had rolled into the wagon. One of them was a small barrel of Taraboner dye that would fetch a fairly large sum if I could find a well-to-do seamstress that dyed her own fabric. The other barrel was full of brandy and was a little larger than the cask of dye. For cold nights, for shock, for companionship, for forgetting ... it is good to travel with good brandy, and if all else fails, it is a good for cleaning wounds and well as licking them! Father had such good advice sometimes. It was comforting to think there was such a cure-all in the back of her wagon, and warm blankets so I would at least not get cold at night. Travelling with just a horse for company was all right as far as it went, but I could hardly cuddle up with the mare at night for warmth.

 

At the moment it was still early afternoon. Hoping to put a few miles between herself and Baerlon before nightfall, I pressed on across the country roads, headed towards Watch Hill and then past the Two Rivers. From there, I would pass through the Mountains of Mist wherever they were passable and travel to Tarabon or Arad Doman. I had a lot of curiosity about the costumes, having heard a great deal from the peddler I had travelled with as a part of my learning curve. Still the dark hair curled appealingly about my pale, oval-shaped face, framing a large pair of expressive green-highlighted brown eyes and charmed those I looked at. The teenage traces had softened out into the features of a young woman now, twenty years old and on the road for herself. I was full of expectation, and wanderlust, and could not wait for the thrill of finding out what lay over the next hill, or the next rise.

 

The people were always so nice to me. Every time I stopped to ask directions, or make sure I was in the right location in relation to my map, if there was someone nearby they saw the scratchy sign I had written on the side of my wagon and had come to say hello and see if I had news from further down the road. And I would introduce myself in a grand voice as "Dilora Fashelle, peddler extraordinaire" and ask if they had any need of pins and needles, or a carved wooden toy for their little boy or girl and, despite of the majority not being able to afford such a luxury as a trinket, they were kind to me, and offered advice and help. I saw so many hopeful faces on that first day. Mother had told me to take a small packet of hard-boiled sweets that were sovereign for an upset stomach because they were made of mint (which she swore by) and where a person had a child with them, I'd let them have a sweetie, watching with happy delight the way their face lit up like the windows at a Sunday celebration. It was heartwarming. A stand of Queen's Crown mushrooms, spotted not far from the road, made for a tasty supper when I stopped for the night between Watch Hill and the Two Rivers, hidden from the road and prospective bandits by a small wood.

 

That first night I spent sleeping under the stars, rolled up in a blanket with my cloak rolled up for a pillow. Altie, the placid mare of mine, cropped grass for a little while tethered to a hook I'd fixed to the top of my wagon and then she too had settled for some sleep. It took me a long time to fall asleep, so I settled for counting the constellations that shone down from a cloudless night sky in the gaps in the trees. The night air smelt of sun-warmed leaves and grass from the hot day before, and the excitement so no wonder I had difficulty in succumbing to slumber. It didn't help that the night was tinged with mugginess and humidity, and I woke at every noise imagining it to be people going to steal my wagon, or my horse. Still, eventually I did fall asleep, and awoke in the early morning to find the sun beating down on my face through the dappled boughs, and my horse licking my ear.

 

Rolling over and believing that you are being eaten by some wild animal, or perhaps an over-amorous suitor is not the nicest way to be woken if you are unsure of your surroundings. Needless to say, when I opened my eyes and saw my horse's face so close to my own, I leapt up out of my blanket, startling some birds into flight and sending a small deer running for it's mother with my scream. Altie wasn't too impressed either, I can tell you. When I had finally regained my composure, I looked reproachfully at the mare, who looked reproachfully back at me and I shrugged and went in search of breakfast. Mother had packed me off with a large piece of bacon that I carved a couple of slices from, and fried an egg to have with some bread, and that set me up for the day.

 

After a hasty wash in the water bucket I had hanging from one side of the wagon, I decided it as time to move on. Today, I'd get past the Two Rivers and up towards the foothills of the Mountains of Mist, and then I could find some little bits and pieces to sell. It wasn't really about the coin ... not really, it was more about the freedom of the open road, and meeting new people. Two farmers, a small child pointing and laughing and a woman clutching a noisy baby later, and I was ready to go inside the wagon and try to drive it from within. If I made some holes, or held the reins through the door I might well be driving blind, but at least the noises would be muted. How would I explain the damage to my wagon where she had gone off-roading through some bushes and trees, driven to distraction by the sullied peace and quiet of the very people I had left the town to get away from? It would be one of those things I'd have to learn how to blot out if I wanted to keep this up, along with the secret of how to doze while driving so that I would still know where I was going and not crash.

 

Snort

 

Altie seemed to share my opinion. The mare would be a good friend, I decided. Besides, if I ended up walking, at least I'd have a decent meal... I decided not to follow that line of thought beyond selling her for extra food rather than cooking and eating her. The sun was beating down in much the same way as it had done the day before, and my thoughts idled like the countryside flowing softly by, dwelling on how wonderful it was to be out in the open air and travelling again.

 

Oh my, I was bored.

 

I could tell I was bored as my wondering thoughts had turned into counting trees. Really, I had to find a better outlet for my mind than keeping a tally of the number of spruces and pines I had seen on my travels. The birds were still singing and the wagon axle was still creaking, but I was happy to let everything pass me by while I tried to think of what I could buy and sell to people that would be needed in different areas. I was headed through the Mountains of Mist and the Two Rivers, and so I supposed the usual kind of pins, needles and other sundries would be needed. There would not be much call for dresses made of very sheer silk and if I was honest with myself I wanted to wrap myself up in the fabric to see how it suited me before I offered it to anyone else. Just once. Just to see how it felt to wear something other than the sturdy woollen skirt and linen blouse I wore. They were nice clothes, quite fine as they went, but I wanted to experience something new, and as long as I didn't crease it too much... My attention was brought back to the road as the first houses came into view. The Two Rivers.

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A crowd of excited children ran towards me as I pulled into the town and stopped on the village green. As an only child, I had only experienced other people’s children and also the visits of my younger cousins to prepare me for events such as this. I supposed to myself that I had to be nice to them if I wanted their parents’ custom, but oh my, it was hard to get used to. Cheerfully plump faces stared up at me, probably they’d not seen this much excitement since Sunday or the village fete, and it was gratifying in a way to feel so wanted, so loved. I reached behind me for the bag of sweeties and dished a few out, one each of course, so none would feel left out. The adults made their way forward and hushed the children, the Mayor extending his hand in greeting and announcing in a booming voice that they would talk to me in the village inn. He wore a pendant indicating his office that depicted a pair of scales. It must have been handed down from incumbent to incumbent. Oh, how I wished to have such memories attached to something I owned, or better yet to be so remembered. I followed them into the inn and sat around a fire, despite the heat of the day.

 

I told them what I knew of the road from Baerlon and of the wares I carried in my wagon, sipping a tankard of chilled ale. Never before had I experienced such enthusiasm and curiosity! In exchange for a few needles and pins, I managed to secure some little cakes made from honey, and a worn copy of ‘The Travels of Jain Farstrider’ so as to have some reading at nighttime. Smiling and pumping my hand, the Mayor concluded our meeting, and let me out into the village.

 

The selection of fabrics I had went down a treat with the ladies. I had an idea to gather sweet-smelling herbs and try my hand at making soap, or pressing the petals of flowers to make scent or pomanders. Part of the morning was spent in the kitchens of the inn, talking to the Mayor’s wife about cookery, and I even rolled up my sleeves and helped knead some of the bread for later that day. It’s very therapeutic, knocking lumps of dough into shape, I can tell you. We chatted about inconsequentialities for a little while and she mentioned the village Wisdom. I thought it would be prudent to make her acquaintance, and took my leave to seek her out.

 

Apart from a few differences in opinion, we got along well for the most part. She was particularly interested in the sweets my mother had packed me off with, and I left a packet of them with her so she could judge their efficacy for herself. I was running out of sweets! The woman pointed out several herbs by the wayside that might be useful for general ailments and a few more complex remedies I could prepare by means of a tea. On impulse, I asked her if she knew what was good for a morning-head, and she told me to avoid drinking in the first place. I had to smile at that. The Mayor had insisted I dine with him tonight and I had readily agreed, being still too used to the comforts of home I rather looked forward to a hot bath.

 

The hot bath indulged in, and some nice sweet soap to wash away the rigours of the road; I retired early to my bed and headed down the road to the Mountains of Mist.

 

Later in my travels, I recall that particular location held many adventures, and it was one of them that lead me to write them all down in a journal. Well, it was actually a bad experience with something very, very dark and evil that lead me down a road that was seen better from the bottom of an ale barrel, but I came through the terror of Caemlyn, and I came through the terror of the ale barrel. Never let it be said that I disdain ale though – I am one of its greatest patrons. On this occasion the morning dawned beautiful and clear, a true depiction of spring beauty. Leaves seemed to sparkle with sunlight, and blossom shone with pink and white tones so beautiful, so prettily. I sat on the steps of my wagon and looked around me, taking in the moment before a rumbling off the track a little caught my attention. What was moving around out there? I reasoned that it was probably a deer or something going for a drink at some nearby pool and that made me think again. I had already filled my bucket with fresh water for drinking before I’d left the Two Rivers, but it could probably do with it again, and my washing needed doing. I used some soap and got my clothes out, thinking now would be a good time to get that done and out of the way, and started scrubbing. It was early afternoon the next time I looked up – the sun had moved into the mid-heaven and my back was aching a little from being bent over. I stretched a line between a couple of trees and hung my assorted shirts and skirts over it, hoping the wind wouldn’t pick them off and carry them to Ghealdan. That would’ve been embarrassing. Some horse race in Altara stopped by my shift landing over the jockey’s eyes … not good publicity, not in the slightest.

 

Lunch, I decided, would be a good way to break the day up nicely. Some dark bread and cheese, with a few slices of good ham made a tasty way to fill the increasing hole in my stomach as I realised I’d missed breakfast. My water bucket needed refilling now though, so I made sure Altie was secure and took a little walk into the foothills to try and find that brook or pool the deer had been drinking from earlier. With the bucket looped over my arm and the clothes drying I knew I couldn’t go too far, but it was imprudent to leave a campsite without a decent supply of fresh water. I ventured further, my initial scouting yielding nothing of importance other than a few herbs I’d not seen before. With my knife I snipped some of each and, with judicious testing, slipped them into my belt pouch to use in cookery further down the road. One was akin to some wild garlic or onion, and would flavour fish excellently. I saw late afternoon sunlight glinting off slowly moving ripples and knew I’d found my water source, and so ventured towards it. I dipped my bucket in and filled it to the brim. I didn’t feel like I was on my own.

 

Noises seemed to be all around me. I realised that at a watering hole such as this, even in the base of the mountains it would attract other animals that needed it. It was an unnerving feeling, being watched, even by animals. I would have thought I would have been used to it, by now, especially with Altie watching everything I do. The eyes I saw were far from the gentle eyes of my mare. Large eyes, tinged with yellow and framed with definitely black fur and an expression that was a cross between anger and surprise in them stared back at me. I didn’t want to look at the rest of it. A bear? I didn’t realise they had bears this big in the Mountains of Mist!

 

Water slopped all over my skirt as I turned quickly to run away from it. There was no way I was going to fight a bear, even for the opportunity to tell stories of my bravery at firesides in taverns! If I only had enough water to get as far as the next lake or village it would be better than risking being eaten by a hungry bear. A crashing sound indicated it was following me, and I ran all the faster, hoping Altie would be ready to leave in a hurry. I had something of a strange thought come to mind while I was running – my footfalls reminded me of a tempo to a song, and unbidden, words came to my head to match it.

 

Running feet, don’t fail me now!

A beast follows behind me.

I hope to goodness that somehow

The beast does not devour me.

 

Furry, black and evil-eyed,

The beast it lopes behind me.

And yet I hope it passes wide

So I can still remain me.

 

I couldn’t think of any more words, as I had to change direction rapidly, sloshing more water over my already sopping skirt but recognising that I was headed back towards my wagon. I ran headlong through my washing, hoping I had given the bear the slip. Spitting out one of my shifts and pulling a stocking off my shoulder, I gathered the rest of my washing together and threw it into my wagon. What was left of the water in my bucket I fastened to the little hook and swung up into the seat, ready to go.

 

Forgetting of course that I had tied Altie to the side, and going anywhere would not be going anywhere until I had untied her. I hastily climbed down, looking all around me and untied my mare before leading her between the shafts and fixing her securely. The poor thing was looking a bit wild; maybe she could smell something I couldn’t. The bear, most likely, but I wasn’t going to stay around to find out. Racing back to the seat I clucked the reins to get her moving and left the bear behind me.

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