Part 5) Adwin
Mokha looked over to him with a quizzical expression, “Is it possible there is a goat following you guys?”
Adwin was hot and sleepy. The barn’s loft was crowded with bales of hay and the pounding from the farrier’s shop below them made him question what Mokha had just asked.
“Are you and Tipper being followed by a goat?”
“That’s what I thought you said.” He yawned and sat up. Shifted over to where Mokha was looking through a small space in between two of the barn’s wall boards.
“Yeah, that’s the same goat I saw in Lekas.”
“Let me see.”
Mokha moved back, a bemused look on his face. “Over by the water trough across the street. Check out the way it keeps looking up here.”
Adwin pressed his face to the crack and shifted around until he could see the water trough. There was a goat there to be sure, drinking. After a moment it stopped and shook its head and looked up at him. Adwin scooted back and bumped his head on one of the barn’s support beams. “Ow. Gods, I can’t believe it, but that looks like Nan.”
“So you do know the goat. A previous travel companion?”
“Yeah, sort of.”
“Oh, it’s leaving.” Mokha had moved back to the crack, his back to Adwin.
“We left that goat at Aramy Crossroads.” Rubbing the sore spot at the back of his head, he checked to make sure he was not bleeding. No sign of blood, he put his floppy hat on.
“No idea where that is, but I’ll assume its along the main road between here and Hadden’s Fort.”
“Yeah, maybe two eight-days from home. Around two-hundred and fifty yat.”
“That’s a slow two eight-days for you guys.”
“Well, I met Tipper on the way there at a place called Kaymere, it’s in ruins now. She saved me from goblins and then patched me up. I had a nasty bite, inner thigh on my right leg.” He pointed to the general area where the goblin had bit him.
“Kaymere you say. As in, The Fall of Kaymere?”
“Well, the place had fallen, to be sure. Is that a song?”
“Of sorts, poetic verse history, often with music. But it’s old, like three emperors ago old, over a thousand years ago at least. It’s what sparked off the Elemental War.” Mokha paused as if waiting for a response.
After a moment Adwin said, “Tipper is looking for something there.”
Mokha had a brief look of disappointment, but asked. “What would she be looking for there?”
“A hall or passage, she wasn’t that specific, but its why she’s going to GreensBridge.”
“Huh. Interesting. So the goat is Tipper’s familiar?”
“As in a mage’s pet?”
“Crudely yes, but it’s more complex than that.”
“I don’t think she’s a mage.”
“So you two keep saying.”
“Seriously, she’s not. She doesn’t seem to like mages much.”
“We met another mage at Aramy, first thing Tipper did was punch the woman. She likely broke her jaw. And then we ran.”
“Mm, your girlfriend is not the friendliest sort.”
“I don’t think she’s my girlfriend.”
“Could have fooled me.”
Adwin blushed and had no come back. He hoped the dim light of the loft hid his discomfort.
Mokha kept vigil at the crack in the wall as Adwin settled back down, allowing the heat to lull him towards sleep. Though he did wonder if the goat really was Nan, it seemed unlikely. After all, Aramy was over three hundred yat from here, maybe closer to four hundred.
One of the barn cats walked over him and stopped to sniff at the pile of gear. He gave it a gentle push to encourage it to move on. It simply climbed the pile and started sniffing the arrow flights sticking out of Tipper’s quiver. He sighed and shifted to his knees to scoop the cat up, but the feline would have none of that and jumped up onto one of the nearby support beams.
Mokha sighed and gave up gazing through the space between the boards. “It’s been nearly a day since she stashed us here. What’s keeping Tipper? Twenty five hours seems like a long time to wait for a coach ride, why didn’t we hitch a ride on this mornings coach?”
Adwin stood as best he could, hunched over so as not to hit his head again. The cat purred, looked at him and then looked down to the quiver of arrows just below it. Adwin reached for it, but it easily moved away along the beam. Taking the time to stretch, just beyond his reach.
“You Freeholders have an odd way with time anyway. I haven’t seen a clock since I left GreensBridge.”
“We mostly use the sun.”
“Ha. Right. Ever try to meet someone at a specific time and place, you all don’t even break the day into fifths. Just morning, afternoon and night.”
“It works well enough.”
Mokha said nothing to that and just took another look outside. Tipper had been very firm about staying put, about not making noise and about not causing further troubles. She had found a distant relative of hers in town or a friend of her family, something along those lines, she was rather vague on that subject. Anyway, her uncle, or whatever, was married to one of the local women and she was the daughter of the man who ran the local coach service out of Wikkersak. Though, Adwin was unsure if he had that part figured correctly either.
Adwin moved over to the edge of the loft near the ladder. He could stand straight, he stretched. Below him were various pieces of wagons, stagecoaches and a large coach took up the area in front of the barn’s double doors. In all it was a lot of wood and most of it seemed unused. The farrier’s shop was adjoined to the barn and another like it was off the side of the building, that one seemed to be for the animals. He rolled out his shoulders and went back to the gear. Chasing the cat away from Tipper’s arrows.
Mokha glanced at him and yawned, “I think I’ll take a nap.”
“Sure, I’ll wake you if anything changes.”
He settled back down, keeping an eye on the cat who was watching him from its perch on one of the rafters. After a few moments the cat yawned and also seemed to doze off. It was not long before Adwin also fell into a fitful sleep.
Adwin woke with a start, and resisted the urge to jump up as the strong smell of hay and old wood reminded him where he was. Instead, he froze for a moment and listened. He could hear the doors being opened, voices appropriate for workers about a task, maybe three or four of them.
He carefully looked around, Mokha was curled up on top of Adwin’s poncho, still sound asleep.
One of the voices of the workers rose above the noise of their labour,”Roll it out, clean it up, equip it and let me know when you’re done. No lazing about Palk. Dorn, you’re in charge, make sure the long-haul supplies are packed. Don’t short me on lamp oil. Get it done.”
“Yes boss.”, “You got it.”
“Boss, you want us to clean up the barn?”
“Nah, get the young ones on that, tomorrow.”
A short while later the big stagecoach was rolled out of the barn and the doors were shut. After a few more moments Adwin sat up. Mokha was watching him from where he was curled up, and following his lead, Mokha sat up and peeked over the bales of hay. Then Adwin walked quietly to the edge of the loft and looked down. Empty.
When he turned to find Tipper sitting on a nearby bale of hay. He nearly jumped out of his skin and let out a bit of a shout, though he did manage to cut it short. Adwin stood there with a hand over his mouth watching Tipper collapse with suppressed laughter.
Mokha looked at them, one to the other and back a couple of times. He shook his head and disappeared behind the hay bales.
Adwin gave Tipper a sheepish smile, she seemed torn between laughter and trying to be serious. Eventually the mirth passed and she sat up straight on the hay bale. She had a padded travel case for a lute with her and was wearing different clothing, skirts and a short kirtle of a light blue colour. Adwin thought she looked nice even if it all seemed a bit un-Tipper like.
She stood up and shook hay from the skirts then said, “This is for him,” She passed Adwin the lute case. “We’re leaving early tomorrow, shortly after sunrise. This evening there are going to be some travel chests and crates dropped off and stored overnight in the barn here. Two of them have been set up to accommodate you and Mokha, make sure you’re inside them before sunrise. Also, before you get in, pile our gear with the other luggage. You’re going to have to be quiet and minimize any movements, especially when they load the coach.”
“Sounds easy enough. Though I was kind of hoping we could resolve this some other way. You know, explain the situation and let bygones be bygones.” He smiled hopefully.
She gave him a cutting look. “You should have thought of that before you started smacking around the Marshal’s son and his friends.”
“That was the Dannos fellow? The big guy?”
“The same, yes.”
“Oh, that’s unfortunate.”
“Yeah, that’s the way it goes when you start bashing people with a staff.”
“But Mokha didn’t steal anything from anyone, he was a prisoner of the bandits when all that went down. I couldn’t let them blame him for that. It wasn’t right.”
She shrugged, “Well, now you have to spend a day inside a trunk. Actions have repercussions. The other option is for you to turn yourself in and hope they don’t hang you.”
“The trunk ride seems okay to me.”
“You guys should get some rest. There will be a bit of food and water as well as a couple blankets in the chests you’re going to be using. You’ll be there all day, when we stop you’re going to have to be quiet, even as we’re travelling you should keep the noise down. There will be other passengers. We’ll get you out when its safe to do so, but that will likely be after dark.”
“We’re lucky you had family here.”
“Yeah, well, as to that it still cost a lot and some of that cost will have to be dealt with at a later time. I think the three of us are going to have a bit of a conversation the day after tomorrow.”
He gave a nod. She walked past him and climbed down the ladder. She gave a little wave goodbye then headed into the farrier’s shop.
Mokha and he didn’t have much to say to each other after that. Adwin felt bad Tipper had to go to such lengths on their behalf, but it was better than hanging for something someone else had done. Mokha fell back asleep and Adwin kept watch.
Though nothing unfortunate happened during the rest of the day, Adwin did discover at one point that the cat had gotten to the flights on Tipper’s arrows and destroyed most of them. Yet another strike against him no doubt. He had also forgotten to mention the goat to Tipper.