Tales of a Horse Thief, Part 7d

Tales of a Horse Thief, Part 7d

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The rest of the trip to Carskot was fairly uneventful, though it was a bit of a challenge for Loden. For the first couple of days he was forced to ride in a wagon and Asta encouraged him to lay face down for as much as he could hack it. Dowmer insisted he should be in his wagon and she was also quick to remind him of the priestess’ instructions when he lapsed. Any time the caravan stopped Asta or Dowmer made sure that he walked around a bit, but they did not let him overdo it. Loden complained, halfheartedly that he was being mothered. Asta had laughed and said of course she was mothering him. Dowmer just told him to shut his mouth if he was only going to complain. After a few days he was able to mostly sit up in the wagon, though he tended to lean to one side, keeping most of his weight off his wounded cheek. Asta did not let him ride a horse until they were a couple days out from Carskot and that was under supervision. When she said the ride was over he did not complain overly much.

Flint was moody, though Loden had the impression it was the slow trek to Carskot and not the fight of a few days earlier that had him on edge. He had not found Wol, though he had tracked down a couple more of the bandits and killed them. Despite the death of two of their original prisoners they now had one more bandit than they started with and they were less secured than the original group. Yet, the mood from the southerners was such that the bandits remained subdued and made no attempts to escape. Loden had the impression Flint would have killed any who tried.

Dowmer glowered a lot, made sure he followed the priestess instruction but said little else. She did not bring up the subject of Ander. The empty seat beside her was reminder enough for the both of them.

Mr Dahlah appeared tired and lost their temper a time or two along the road and one time when the caravan had been stopped for the night, one of the assigned guards had received a severe tongue lashing. Loden had not understood much of what had been said as most of the tirade had been in Maldorn, but their was no mistaking the fact Dahlah was angry. They also kept the smaller of their two shooters strapped to their hip for the rest of the journey.

In all, the caravan remained on edge and a general sense of defeat and exhaustion permeated throughout all their activities and interactions. Thankfully other than some light rain over a couple of days the weather remained mostly fair.

Asta was the only one who managed to keep a smile on and she worked hard to keep people’s spirits up. She also oversaw the wounded and treated them as needed. For the caravan folk, most recovered quickly enough, but the bandits had generally not received the blessing of the Goddess of Mercy when Asta had tried healing them. For them she tended and treated their wounds with more traditional practices, likely keeping a number of them alive to receive justice from the Lord of Carskot.

Loden was surprised by how much he missed Ander. He kept the magic hat in one of his coat pockets, though had not tried getting any booze from it. He had thought about it a couple times, especially the first couple of days when he had been confined to the wagon and forced to lay on his stomach. He did have an idea of how it worked and was a bit curious as to what might appear, but it seemed too soon. Besides, Asta had been very clear that he should avoid drinking much alcohol, it thinned the blood she said and would slow his recovery.

There were few other travellers on the road until they were within two or three days of Carskot, at this point the trees had given way and they mostly travelled through farmland. Many of the outer homesteads and a mill at a bridge they had crossed, had been abandon sometime in the last year or so. Both travellers and the local homesteaders were wary of them, many going out of their way to avoid contact. A mounted patrol group encountered them about a yateer out from Carskot, Flint had a long conversation with them and after hearing their story and the fact that the prisoners were captured bandits the cavalry group had decided to escort them back to town. A pair of the soldiers had been sent back, at speed, to take a message home to their lord.

Having left the woodlands behind and moving through sunny open territory, with an armed escort, seemed to lift the spirits of most of the southerners. Though, Loden noted they were still fairly subdued and they often took the time to look over their shoulders or to scan the nearby horizons for trouble.

On the last day of travel, with Asta’s blessing, Loden saddled Rogue and rode alongside Flint who had taken up a position about fifty paces ahead of the caravan. The day was warm, the smell of spring dampness had left the air, the dulmak were blooming as were the orchards on the homesteads. Flint said little for the first long while and Loden enjoyed the warm sun and the increasing signs of civilization. With any luck they would be in a tavern before sunset and able to sleep in real beds that night.

“Any thoughts on travelling on to GreensBridge after this?”

Loden looked down at Flint, “Not so much so, no.”

“The priestess seems pretty sure the three of us will be travelling together. Eluded to visions or dreams from he goddess.”

“Yeah, I gathered. Though I don’t think she believes we will be going to GreensBridge.”

“I gathered.”

“What are you looking for in GreensBridge?”

“Hard to explain it simply. Lore is the short answer, a way past magical wards or other knowledge linked to the ancients.”

“Eldra? Elves? Those ancients?”

“More or less.”

“Are you a treasure hunter Flint?”

Flint laughed and shook his head, “Not even close.”

“Ha!” Loden spat to the other side.

They continued on in silence for a while. When the locals saw them they were still cautious, even if they happened to notice the mounted patrol with them. Loden could not help but draw a comparison to the lands he had travelled through that had dealt with the refugees fleeing the Tannican advance. Troubled times, troubled people.

“What of Dahlah and the others?” Loden asked.

“Not sure. Some of them want to return to Maldorn. Dahlah intends to carry on to GreensBridge though.”

Once more Loden spat to the other side, “Seems like a lost cause at this point.”

“I just hope they realize that getting home from here will not be easy, the river south of here is too rough for most of the merchant barges.”

“I can’t see any of the fishermen wanting to take such a long trip.”

“Either way, there are still two points where they would have bypass rough water and walk for a couple yateer or so. Portaging is unlikely, beyond a couple of experienced travellers.”

“So Dahlah’s in a rough spot.”

“She- er, they… came through fairly unscathed. Their cargo was mostly luxury goods, tobacco, fine drink and mechanical what-nots. Besides the painted wagon, three of the others belong to Mr. Dahlah. The rest, all originally Gainsly’s, are still loaded with wares for the most part. Other than the kitchen wagon of course.”

“Well, either way, I’m still set on an eastward course from here. I’m sure we’ll see Tannican armies in these parts within the year. I’d like to leave that behind. As far behind as possible.”

“Well, we’re still going to have to see what the lord of Carskot has to say.”

The two of them moved up the road in companionable silence for another while and stopped when they crested a hill planted with blueberries. Downhill from them the trail turned into a wider, cobbled road. A walled town on the edge of the great river stood between three hills, the surrounding countryside was dotted with homesteads and a few manors, most of the land was used for farming. Dozens of people could be seen working the fields and travelling the various roads and side trails. Near the river, hundreds if not thousands of birds were circling along the docks and banks to either side of the town. Out on the water dozens of small fishing boats could be seen, as well, a few larger vessels coming and going from riverside docks. An old keep stood near the river, overlooking the town, guarding the port. The breeze shifted a bit and the smell of civilization greeted their nostrils.

Loden spat to the side, “Well, I guess we’ll find out soon enough.”


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