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Elynde leaned back against one of the many tall ash trees, native to this part of Andor, that lined the track she was following and took a long thoughtful drink from her water bottle, scanning the surroundings with a sharp gaze. Nothing stirred. She was beginning to suspect that she wouldn’t find this Band by herself but given the isolation of the area, wasn’t entirely sure what to do about the predicament. Dusk would not be long in making its presence known and she wasn’t particularly enthralled with the idea of sleeping out there alone for the night. At least it isn’t raining or likely to any time soon, she contemplated the clear sky for a few seconds as she replaced the water bottle in her pack. Deciding there was nothing for it but to continue in the same direction, on the premise that the track was worn enough to be regularly travelled, Elynde set off, determination marking every stride. She didn’t mind walking, having become accustomed to it in the last couple of years, but she did find herself longing for a hot bath to get rid of the dust and grime that accompanied any journey. Hasty washes in cold streams aside, she had not had the luxury of a bath in several weeks and was feeling the lack. An hour later Elynde found herself following a wider pathway, wide enough for two horsemen abreast, the tightly packed dirt suggesting heavier local traffic and the possibility of nearby farms or villages. The area was too rural to support anything that could seriously be called a town and she knew Baerlon was well to the north of her current position. A sharp cracking noise brought her out of her reverie suddenly, though she did not stop walking. There was nothing to see amongst the dense trees and scrub but there was no doubt in her mind that someone was there, watching her progress. Instinct told her it was no animal that had caused the sound. There! she caught a brief flash of metal behind a storm damaged trunk off to her left, just tall enough to conceal a person, and as she reached it, she casually dropped her pack to the ground and stretched. “I know you’re there, so you’d be as well showing yourself,” Elynde’s voice was almost conversational, belying the tension in her frame. There was no point in antagonising someone who might... might... not have any ill intentions. A man slowly appeared, moving into the centre of the path, facing her with an unpleasant grin on his face. He was about an inch shorter than Elynde, his skin swarthy and pockmarked, framed by lank, greasy blonde hair that hung just to his shoulders. His sword hung at his belt untouched. Obviously he didn’t see her as any real threat. His mistake. He took a few steps closer, the grin becoming more of a leer and she could see his train of thought reflected in his lascivious expression. “Wha’s a lil’ birdie like you doin’ out here alone then, eh?” the accent was broad and not one Ely could place easily. Not Andoran that was for sure. Wherever he was from, she misliked the implication of his words when added to the way his eyes slid over her frame. She shifted her weight imperceptibly, replying, “I’m looking for the Band of the Red Hand. If you happen to know where they are, I’d appreciate directions.” “The Band is it missy?” the man chortled as though she’d told a joke. “Well now, I reckon I could be showin’ ye the way... if ye make it worth my while...” Ely’s hands moved for her daggers of their own accord just as the fool lunged for her arm, slicing in rapid succession across his wrist and shoulder. She barely noted the surprise on his face as she spun behind him, curving her arm around his neck so her blade lay across his throat. “One move,” she grated in his ear, “just one...” The threat hung there for a moment until Ely’s ears registered the jingle of bridles and the stamp of several hooves heralding an audience to the little contretemps. Raising her head slightly, she favoured the party of horsemen with a hard-eyed stare, picking out the likely leaders. Deliberately, she took a step back then raised one booted foot, planting it firmly on her assailant’s rear before shoving hard and sending him sprawling face down in the dirt. “One of yours is he?” she enquired, a clear edge of contempt to her voice and an eyebrow arching sardonically. These newcomers certainly looked like soldiers but if they were part of this infamous Band, they chose their company badly... very badly indeed. Either that or discipline was lax. Perhaps joining them had not been such a good idea.
Amon had just finished checking the hooves on his horse, making sure there were no stones, or foreign matter lodged in the hoof. Standing up, Amon stretched, working the kinks out of his muscles and then taking a clean rag wiped the sweat from his face. Just as he was replacing the rag in his pocket, a messenger entered the stables and made his way straight to where Amon was standing. “Sir i have a message for you to meet the Commander in the Council chambers at your earliest convenience.” Amon took the proffered message and quickly read it. “It would seem the Leader of the Miners guild is here and wants out help with something. I will see you at the evening meal, Ham. Try and stay out of trouble until then.” Amon did not hear Ham’s muttered reply, which was just as well as it was far from complimentary. Returning to his quarters, which were more like a suite of rooms, Amon quickly washed and changed into a clean uniform. After he had dressed and pulled on a clean pair of boots Amon made his way to the Council Chambers where he greeted his Commander and the civilians present. The meeting dragged on for the rest of the morning and most of the afternoon, it was not that what the Miners Guild wanted was complicated, more the case that the Miner’s Leader was so long winded that it took him forever just to say “yes”. Eventually, however, the Miner’s Leader finished his statement and sat down. Amon and the Commander of the Band of the Red Hand conferred briefly before offering up their reply. Thankfully what was needed was quite simple to grant, and was as much to the Band’s benefit as it was to the Miners. Apparently they had discovered a huge new seam of gold and silver, deep underground and they wanted extra security on the caravan that was going to be making its way to Baerlon Most of the way would be travelled by barge, but that did not stop the cargo becoming a target for anyone daring enough to try and hijack it. It was agreed that the Band would provide a Company of Cavalry to accompany the goods from the Mountains of Mist to the river and the waiting barges. From there a Company of Heavy infantry would also board the barges and guard the goods as the barges made their way to Baerlon. Amon was to lead the Cavalry element and would depart in two days time from the Citadel. “Well if everyone is happy with this why don’t we adjourn to one of our Inn’s for a meal and a drink to celebrate this happy occasion?” Amon was trying not to be sarcastic, but playing nurse maid to a bunch of smelly miners was not his idea of fun. Everyone agreed to Amon’s idea, except for his Commander who claimed that she had a prior meeting to attend. Amon suspected she liked the Miners about as much as he did and that she was using this as an excuse to avoid their noxious odours. His suspicions were confirmed when she turned around and winked at him just before she closed the door. Two days had passed since that meeting and as the early rays of the morning sun shone on the walls of the Citadel, Amon led a Company of Cavalry through the Citadel’s main gate and onto the road leading to the Mountains of Mist. “Well Ham it would appear we are going to be enjoying several days of seriously boring company, which smells almost as much as they are boring. Do miners not talk about anything other than mining and drinking?” Shaking his head at the rhetorical nature of his question, Amon and Ham rode on in silence. Amon (Tik Tik) Turamber Under Commander, BotRH