FreeHolds Adventure, Cycle 1 Part 5b

FreeHolds Adventure, Cycle 1 Part 5b

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Adwin woke from a fitful sleep while the barn doors were being opened. Mokha was nearby, hidden behind hay bales and looking in his direction. He put a finger across his lips to make sure Adwin would stay quiet. It was nearly dark and by the sounds of it, a couple of men were moving the promised crates and chests into the barn. After a while the doors were shut and they were left in darkness.

They waited a while, then ventured down below. Mostly by feel they were able to discern that two crates, three large chest and a half dozen smaller pieces of luggage had been left.

In a quiet voice Adwin asked, “Should we get in now?”

“I don’t think so, my friend. We’ll be in them all day tomorrow. Seems like it would be better to wait until closer to sunrise.”

“Okay, lets get the gear down here and have everything else ready to go.”

It did not take long to move their belongings down to the luggage pile. Mokha suggested Adwin get some more sleep and that he would wake him in a few hours, though Adwin had to ask him what exactly a few hours meant. Mokha told him that it meant half the night. Adwin agreed and though he did lay down, sleep mostly eluded him. When it was his turn to keep watch he carefully climbed down from the loft and sat on one of the crates. It was a long quiet night and he was very happy to hear the first of the cocks announce the coming of light.

He fetched Mokha then with a small conjured flame they found the crate and the chest that had been prepared for them. They worried that at least one of them would not actually be sealed properly. They decided it would be best for Mokha to get into the crate, and to have Adwin tighten the strapping to seal him in. They would have to trust that Tipper or the people helping her would close the latches on the trunk.

Mokha offered a concoction of herbs that he said would help him sleep during the ride, but Adwin turned him down. He did not want to be drugged in case there was some unexpected crisis along the way. Mokha had shrugged and stuffed a handful of herbs into his mouth.

“More for me.” He mumbled around the mouthful and curled into the box. Adwin replaced the lid and tightened the strapping. He then shut himself into the chest and tried to find a comfortable way to position himself.

Not much later the barn doors opened and a couple of people started loading the luggage onto the coach. Sure enough, someone sealed the chest he was in, the two latches clanking shut sounded loud from within. Adwin felt himself being lifted and was roughly raised to the top of the stagecoach and then more luggage piled around him. A team of horses were harnessed to the wagon and someone double checked the cargo to make sure it was secured.

For a while it was fairly quiet, with only the sound of the horses and of a man singing quietly to himself. Eventually, the passengers showed up and Adwin was pretty sure he heard Tipper a handful of times, though there was at least one other female voice. Then they were moving with creaks, rattles and the sounds of the driver voicing encouragement to his team. Adwin could feel a slight swaying motion but could not see anything outside.

Not long after having started forward, the coach stopped. The driver talked to the town guards for a while. Then the coach rolled out, slowly gained speed until Adwin’s world became a clattering bumpy ride and there was no way to get comfortable. All too often a rough section of the road would jostle him around and he often bumped, rubbed or scraped against the inside of the chest, the blankets not really providing much protection.

At some point the coach stopped again. It took Adwin a moment to realize they had actually stopped. Someone was shouting to get another two horses for the new team, the sounds of people disembarking from the coach and the lack of rattling and jarring bumps all washed over him in a wave of relief.

“I’m sure somethings not tied down properly,” Came a loud voice from under him. “Something heavy is shifting around up there.”

“What! By the gods would you look at that!” The same voice from the back of the carriage exclaimed.

“What’s the problem?”

“You have to see this boss.”

Adwin knew Mokha had been discovered. There were a few exclamations from some of the others around the area, then the “boss’s” voice, “Well would you look at that. How did you get along there?”

The first voice chuckled, “Not everyday a goat rides the coach.”

A goat? Seriously? It had to be Nan, surely, and that meant the goat was following them. Which could only mean the witch from Aramy Crossroads had possessed it or charmed it, but there was no way that goat could have followed them this far. Was there?

“Get that thing off there. Lets get the new team hooked up and get back on the road. The rest of you don’t stray too far, we’re not here long.”

All too soon the coach was back on the road and Adwin could only imagine what Tipper was thinking right now. He knew this one was on her. She should not have hit that woman like that, besides, witch or not, she had been nice. The coach gained speed and the constant rattle and clatter closed in around him. Though thankfully the road seemed to have improved, there were many less jarring bumps.

The next time they stopped it was for a longer stretch, the teamster told his passengers they would stop for a mid-day meal and the keep they could see in the distance was Lord Sharlok’s. Adwin also heard a fair number of people passing by and lots of activity in the area. Some dogs were barking and in the distance he could hear a smithy, the steady metal on metal pounding cutting through the other noises. He fell asleep.

He woke with a start, bumping his head on the top of the chest. The clatter of the coach was different and after a moment he realized why. They were on a wooden bridge, a small double-thud was heard as the wheels passed from board to board, echoing off the water. It almost sounded like a drum. He wished he could see the river they were crossing and wondered how Mokha was doing. He really wanted to stand up.

They stopped once more to change the horses. It was a relatively short stop and Adwin overheard Tipper talking to some fellow traveller;

She said, “I cannot say I am much of a fan of these stage coaches, too noisy.”

“It would not be so bad if the roads out here were better maintained. I can assure you though, walking such distances would not be preferable. The dangers of the road are many and these coaches allow folks like us to travel much further for the time of a day.” His Andalee was oddly accented, not from the FreeHolds, nor Elquin.

She giggled, Adwin shook his head in surprise, she giggled? “Surely a brave fellow such as yourself could handle these wilds.”

“To be sure, if it came to it, but time, my dear, is the real value here. These coach lines save travel time and allow for messages and packages to be sent nearly anywhere along the East Sister River all the way down to West Port while connecting the smaller holds. That is how civilizations are built, transportation.”

She laughed, “Mr Hollen, you do say the strangest things. Tell me about High Fort again. The airships and the waterfall.” They walked off as the fellow started rambling about High Fort, likely the city in Maldorn. The conversation was quickly lost to the noise of the new team being hooked up and one of the teamsters telling someone the story of the goat on the back of the coach.

That conversation had been weird, Tipper had not sounded like herself. He wondered as to her motivation. It was not an issue of being known in the area, perhaps she wished to remain unknown? That did sound like Tipper. All too soon the horses were hitched and the head teamster corralled his passengers back to the coach and they were underway again.

It was a hot afternoon, Adwin figured he was cooking a bit, certainly he was sweating. Although the pace was slower than the morning dash the road once again was becoming increasingly rough and less maintained. Adwin was sore everywhere and he felt he was having problems breathing, each bounce in the chest had become an agony. Twice he fought the urge to take his knife and hack his way out. When the coach stopped again Adwin gave a small whimper when it was finally still.

Being smuggled in a chest was a poor way to travel. Beside the obvious physical discomforts, he had no idea what the countryside looked like nor seen the natural wonders. He had no idea of the roads, towns or villages they had passed through, he had not gained an idea of the look of Sharlok’s Hold nor a feel for its people. It seemed like the first place he had been to that had a different intensity as compared to home.

The stop was the last for the day. The teamster told his passengers that accommodations were available at the roadhouse or the Roburn’s Trading Company. He suggested the local roadhouse offered a more comfortable setting than the outlander’s warehouse, but the warehouse would feed and shelter you for a third of the price. The coach would be heading to Bowder next, stopping at major towns along the way. Departure at dawn tomorrow. And, thank you for your patronage.

Luggage was unloaded, which resulted in Adwin’s chest nearly being dropped, the man doing the near dropping exclaimed at the weight and suggested the load could be better packed. A more familiar voice agreed. From what he could gather he was being put in a backroom of the roadhouse. It sounded like a busy place. He was set down and for the next while other luggage and packages were brought in or picked up by a pair of the locals.

He had dozed for an indeterminate length of time, the noise had dropped off, the clamour from the main room likely muffled by a closed door. He could hear no one close by. He tried to lift the lid of the chest, sadly it was still latched.

At some point after the noise from the front of the roadhouse faded to nothing, and with no accurate reckoning of the number of times he had dozed off only to start awake, Adwin heard someone open a door and enter the storage area. The sound of footsteps approached, then both latches were opened.


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