Part 2) Tipper
Tipper enjoyed Adwin’s presence. After months alone, exploring the Kaymere ruins, it was nice to have the company. Even during the first week when he had been fighting the fever that often came with goblin bites, she had taken comfort in the task of keeping him alive.
Once Adwin had regained consciousness she had been able to take the time to pack up and bury or hide most of the tools and artifacts she had found over the past half year. They would be there next spring when she returned.
Now, nearly two weeks after the fight, they were on the road heading to Aramy Crossroads. A string of eight goats travelled with them. Tipper had managed to get a couple small bundles onto all but one of them. The older nanny goat had refused to move with anything across its back. It was not the fastest way to travel, far from quite and goats did not make great pack animals.
Adwin seemed well enough on the road. His right leg still bothered him and goat speed would be good enough for the next few days, giving Tipper plenty of time to scout and gather. There were plenty of fresh spring greens and a few good medicinal plants best harvested this time of year.
The goblins that had attacked them were either dead or had run off. Tipper had shot five, of which one had escaped and Adwin had caved in the chest of one. Including the one she had wounded, three had escaped the area with a handful of goats. Their tracks had them all heading southeast.
The rest of the goats that had stayed amongst the ruins made convenient food during the first few days of Adwin’s recovery. Easy food, while she had spent most of her time collecting healing plants and hauling water, making sure the youth would not die.
Not really a youth, Adwin was of an age to be considered an adult, but Tipper found his enthusiasm and naivety a bit childish. He had been raised in an area that seemed to largely follow the new gods and his knowledge of the old ways was minimal and typically disassociated from any interconnected importance or relevance. Just tidbits, leftover from days gone by.
He had given her his true name, not an obligation she had really wanted. However, his blundering into the goblins had likely saved both their lives. If the critters had attacked in the dark the two of them most likely would have been killed in their sleep. So, in that regard, there was obligation between them, but too hasty with name given freely was not something she had been looking for.
Still, Adwin was healthy and really did seem to have some experience in hunting and survival, but there was no mistaking the softness that came from living in a walled town. She figured he was attractive but was unsure if that impression was a result of having been away from people for too long. She had thought about coupling with him but his wounds had not really allowed for that possibility.
Adwin talked a lot. Since his health returned he had told her much of his life and upbringing, about the town he had lived in and his dreams of adventure.
Comparatively she had said very little; He knew that Tipper had been born and raised in a small family holding a few hundred yat southwest of the ruins, east of the Kaffern Hills. Adwin knew she had come to the ruins looking for treasure, while not entirely true, she left him to that opinion. Letting his youthful romanticism construct its own story in that regard. Lastly he knew she was headed to GreensBridge to find more information about the Kaymere ruins.
Anything else he had learned was from observation and though he seemed brighter than average she did not think he saw the way of things. And that was fine.
The road to Aramy Crossroads was a seldom used cart track that was common across the FreeHolds. The towns and villages tended to be small, isolated from each other by many days travel and few had the resources for trade. Many struggled just to survive through the long winters and rarely saw travellers from further away than thirty yat.
The plains provided plenty of small game, plants and insects, food was not a problem. Water was easy enough, at least this early into the summer the temperature change between night and day was enough to leave dew on the plains grass. She knew how to weave the grasses into a wide funnel shape that would gather more of the available water. The early berries supplemented their water and provided a tasty and tart snack.
She had shown Adwin the weave for the water collectors, but grass weaving was not something his people did much of and he was still not very good, but at least he did try every evening. He even sang at the sun’s setting and rising, not the actual words but a chant and hum in sounds similar to the old words. Tipper was surprised by how quickly he harmonized with her. So, even if he did not understand, he was not so far removed from the land to be blind and deaf to the weave of the world.
At goat speed it took nearly an eight-day to reach Aramy Crossroads. As its name suggested the village was a junction of two roads and a number of smaller trails. The main roads ran from east to west and south to north, the west road brought the most traffic, the east the least.
Aramy, the locals never used Crossroads when talking of their village, consisted of about fifty small homesteads scattered around the heart of the village. The life blood of Aramy was a large stone tavern and roadhouse made from cut stone, simply called Town Hall. The building was two and half stories with peeked roof and a round steepled tower at one end. A large stables and carriage house of the same stone work stood across the property’s thoroughfare from the main structure. A modest commons, market square, a row of wood kilns and a couple larger homesteads with attached businesses completed the core of the village. Some of the older buildings were of early Elquin design and Town Hall emulated that older style, while the majority of the buildings were of a more recent FreeHold’s style.
When Tipper had been here last autumn, Town Hall’s proprietor, Gibler, had told her the building had been crafted by a trio of dwarven brothers. They had lost a bet with Gibler’s great grandmother and they had spent nearly twenty years crafting the building using stone from the ruins of Kaymere.
Aramy had no defensive wall other than the piled or mortared stone walls around the homesteads meant to keeps predators from livestock. There was no lord or town guard or even a marshal. There was however a very large and lightning scarred gallows tree, with hanging cages, at the intersection of the two main roads. Presently neither the tree nor its cages had any occupants other than a handful of crows in the upper most branches.
Nearly across the commons from Town Hall was the Dresmend family homestead and cooperage. Adwin and she made their way to the yard gate, waving to a few people who recognized her from the autumn before. Beside the gate a dishevelled oldster sat on a weathered chair.
As they came up to the gate the old man cackled and jumped to his feet with a smile. “Ha! I’m some glad to see you youngster. You just made me a fair weight of copper.” He grabbed the tobacco pipe from his mouth and gestured widely to encompass the village, “Not many thought you’d return from your winter expedition. So I took their wagers, saying we’d see you in the spring. And here you are.”
She smiled at him and he continued, “Be sure to sit with me at Town Hall, should our paths cross there. I’d be happy to buy you a bottle of mead.” He gave a nod and smiled back, stuffed his pipe back in his mouth.
She chuckled at his self satisfied look, “That’s good, I’m glad someone profited from my efforts.”
“So you didn’t find what you were after?”
“Afraid not, So I’ll be heading to GreensBridge in a while, to see what can be learned of Kaymere there.”
He nodded and she continued, changing the subject, “Dresmend trading today?”
The old man snorted, “Sure, sure. When isn’t he trading? You’re one of the first through this season. So likely he’s hungry for trade. Expect you’ll find him at the cooper’s shed.”
She nodded, collected Adwin and the goats and lead them into the yard beyond the gate. The yard was mostly bare earth, piles of scrap, junk and salvage were scattered between the main house and the half dozen outbuildings around the property. A number of mangy dogs started barking, a couple growling. A couple of children stopped in mid activity and stared.
Tipper stopped and called out, “Dresmend! I’m here for trade.”
A woman stuck her head out the doorway of the house and waved. She called the dogs off and sent a couple of older children running to fetch Dresmend. “He’ll be along.”
Tipper started unloading small bundles from the goats and indicated Adwin should drop his gear and give her a hand. One of the children came closer, shooing one of the meaner dogs away then proceeded to watch the two of them.
After a few moments, a lad a couple years younger than Adwin came up to her, “Hi Tipper, Pa will be with you soon. Do you and your friend want water?”
She nodded and smiled, Adwin said, “Yes, please.”