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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.
ooc, Estel asked me to post this due to her internet problems of late. IC Alyssa says: Light streamed through Aleeza’s window, though she couldn’t decide whether it was the snow reflecting the early morning rays or Owen’s pounding on her door. She would have liked to think that she had awoken to the beauty of the crisp winter morning, but her unfortunate reality was she awoke to duty. ‘Lose the melodrama, Aleeza.’ “What!” groaned the young woman at her hairy alarm clock. “New Wanderer,” said Owen “I wanted you to go help check her into the Stedding.” “Can’t it wait until I’m done sleeping?” “Sun’s already risen. “Your point being.” “Get up.” “Damnit.” Owen left and while Aleeza was more than half tempted to just roll over and return to her deep sleep, she rolled out of bed instead. Pulling leather breeches on, she threw a sweater overtop of a blouse before heading out into the corridor. Miryana, the head Sage, was waiting in the entrance to the infirmary. The building was still Aleeza’s home, even two months after having returned. “Wanderer’s not here yet.” Aleeza glanced out the window at the snow. “Isn’t Janna afraid of getting caught in the passes?” The former Tinker received a laugh in response. “Oh they’re in the Stedding, but apparently they’ve been waylaid by some miniature highwaymen.” “Ah.” Grinning, Aleeza ducked quickly back into her room to grab her fur-lined cloak before heading out the door. Following the sounds of laughter and overdramatic death-screams, Aleeza had no trouble finding them. Rather, they found her or at least their snowball did. Ducking under the next one, she came up with arsenal in one hand while the other brushed snow from her long, blonde hair. Launching her frozen ball at the nearest truant, she received a satisfying “ooph!” for her efforts and laughed as he toppled from his perch on a bank of snow that had piled up against a pine tree. Tossing more snowballs, she eventually fought her way over to the two other full-grown shapes laughing amidst the “carnage”. “Hello Janna.” she grinned at the Tracked while brushing another snowball out of her hair. “And I suppose this is the new Wanderer?” Despite being generally shy, children had a soft spot in Aleeza’s heart and she and Janna had become quick friend when the older woman had picked her up during her Howling.
Janna sighed as she watched Silver bound ahead, crisp Autumn leaves crunching beneath her paws as she followed the scent of a squirrel. So much for stealth, the Tracker thought with resignation. They were close enough to the Stedding that it shouldnâ€™t matter. The Rangers knew they were approaching even without the young wolfs antics. Still, sheâ€™d have to rethink taking the cub with her in search of Wanderers, at least til she had grown a bit. Matured. Last night she had dreamt the strangest dreamâ€¦of Windracer. He and Silver had been playing, wrestling with one another on the floor of her isolated cabin. Four times the size of the cub Wind had been tolerant and amused as he taught the young wolf to fight through playful nips and bites, finally holding the nearly white wolf down with one paw as he regarded Janna with what could only be calledâ€¦.a wolfish smile. She will learn. Janna had woken cryingâ€¦something she had hidden from Anton. Her heart ached just thinking of the old wolf. The dream had been so vivid sheâ€™d wondered if it was the Dream. But that was impossible. Wind was dead and nothing could bring him backâ€¦except dreams. She shook off the thought and turned to her companion, â€œDo you recognize this place, Anton?â€ The Wanderer nodded, it hadnâ€™t been that long ago he had visited the Stedding in pure human form. Janna motioned to the left, â€œMy cabin is along this trail, if you ever have need of me.â€ â€œYou donâ€™t live within the Stedding?â€ Anton sounded slightly panicked but his emotions were a whirlwindâ€¦one moment strong and confident that heâ€™d found his callingâ€¦the next fearful and confused that this was all in his headâ€¦a hallucination. Janna shrugged, â€œI donâ€™t like being penned in, cities and villages make meâ€¦.nervous. I prefer to beâ€¦.outside.â€ When she had left the Stedding nearly a month ago the trail to the village had been nigh untraceable. Now, however a clear path showed the way and Janna cringed. They tried to vary the trails, so none became too obvious but it appeared everyone and his brother had utilized this path since her departure. Sheâ€™d speak with John and Owen about that at the first opportunity. Leading Anton off the main trail she approached the Stedding from the east, through dense woods and brush. Still, within a hundred yards of the Stedding itself a Ranger stepped from behind a tree, crossbow aimed directly at them. He lowered it immediately as he recognized Janna. With a nod he stepped back and vanished, casting a tolerant glance at Silver who was triumphant at having sniffed him out. A bit lateâ€¦but she has a good nose. Ha! I found him Chime! Did you see that? I found him and heâ€™s a Ranger but I still found him.. Janna agreed with her thoughts, hoping to quiet the cub some, Anton was still very sensitive to the thoughts and emotions of wolves around him. And there were many wolves hereâ€¦both in the Stedding and outside of it, roaming the hills and mountains. Best to keep Silverâ€™s chatter to a minimum. With an encouraging smile she sent the wolf ahead, to warn the Sages of their arrivalâ€¦.though they already knew. She pushed aside a heavy branch and turned to smile back at her charge, â€œWeâ€™re here.â€ They stepped into a clearing, natural but expanded by the Woflkin to accomadate their growing numbers. The Inn towered over the center of the small community and it was a bustle of activity at this time of day. Women and children surrounded the well, gossiping and playing. They greeted Janna as she and Anton passed but kept well back at her warning glance. It was custom that a Wanderer only be greeted once the Sages had seen to him or her. The Infirmary was larger than its predecessor, which had been leveled by fire. Janna grimaced to remember that night. Aurinâ€™s grief had nearly cost them allâ€¦..not Aurinâ€¦Eyota, she reminded herself gruffly. As she approached the entrance a young girl, perhaps fourteen summers darted out and dropped an awkward curtsey. â€œHail, Tracker, Wanderer. Miryana awaits you within.â€ Janna bit back a smile and thanked the girl solemnly, leading Anton into the building. Several others waited in the large entrance, one man with a runny nose and red eyesâ€¦a girl heavily pregnantâ€¦.a mother clutching her fevered child. Janna greeted them all by name and motioned Anton to a chair nearby. â€œMiryana will be here soon. We need to be sure The Howling hasnâ€™tâ€¦.affected you adversely.â€ Even as she said the words Janna shuddered, hopeful she had brought Anton to the Sage soon enough. â€œDonâ€™t worry Anton, weâ€™re only here to help you.â€ Janna Telenvar Head Tracker Wolf Sister Twisted Chime Companion to Silver OOC: Post your reaction to arrival at the Stedding and Miryana will post after checking you out ;) After I'll open the thread to everyone for a meet and greet.