Culture shock.Inn at the Crossroads, outside the Sylvan Forest
As the sun crept up over the horizon, Leomund and Wren were already getting the group's horses ready to leave. Kazimier and Nyssa were inside, settling the final bill. Nyssa insisted on having a proper lunch prepared before they left. Kazimier tried to explain that he and Wren could hunt along the way, to no success. Jyslyn, once again fully covered, was the last to come downstairs. She took the opportunity to enjoy the luxury of the cool morning air on her skin before hiding herself away from prying eyes and the harshness of the sun.
With everyone finally outside, Nyssa checked the packs one last time, making sure that everything was both there and secure. True to his word, Leomund, with Wren's help, had everything ready to go. Kazimier helped Jyslyn on her horse before getting on his. If the dark elf had complaints, she didn't voice them. Nyssa took the lead on her riding horse as the group left the inn's courtyard. Once on the road, the knight turned on to the north road. Wren urged her horse past Nyssa, racing by the knight.
It took the group a half hour to finally lose sight of the inn. Once the tallest building at the crossroads disappered behind a hill, Nyssa slowed her horse enough to fall back. "I'm taking rear guard," she said. "In case we're followed."
"We should've taken the east road," Kazimier said.
"We'd lose half a day." Nyssa shook her head. "We should hit an inn in the afternoon, but we're not going to stay."
Jyslyn craned her neck to join in the conversation behind her. "Where will we sleep, then?"
Kazimier swept his arms. "Outside. The weather should hold one more day."
"Outside." Jyslyn turned to face forward again.
Nyssa laughed. "My dear, welcome to the world."
"The world could be more welcoming. Or quieter."
"I found it peaceful last night," Nyssa said.
"I am not used to the sounds of peaceful, then."
Nyssa took a glance behind her. "No one following yet."
Jyslyn twisted on her horse to look. "Probably no need. If we're staying on this road, it wouldn't be difficult to send a message using a spell to inform others where we're going."
"Which is why we're not staying at the inn," Kazimier said. "Clever. Most people travelling would stop there for a night instead of pushing on. Are we leaving the road there, too?"
Nyssa smiled. "Bright lad you are, Kazimier. They'll lose us, Gods Above and Below willing, and we'll cut across unclaimed territory to shave a day or two. It'll also mean that if anyone's following, they won't know where we're going."
"I don't know where we're going," Jyslyn said.
"The Realm Below the Mountain, where the dwarves dwell," Kazimier said.
Jyslyn closed her eyes for a moment, picturing the location. Her eyes snapped open. "That is not 'unclaimed territory'."
"It's too far from Wildwood for the Council to lay claim," Kazimier said. "Even the human lands don't extend that far. The dwarves don't care about land above their mines, as long as no one tries to dig their own holes in the ground."
"The goblins. The Gashed Axe Horde."
"I don't think I've heard of them," Nyssa said. "Kazimier?"
Kazimier shook his head. "Our patrols and outriders haven't mentioned them."
"My people make use of them," Jyslyn explained. "My family finds them useful."
Nyssa narrowed her eyes. "How useful?"
"Most of the time, they are used as expendable troops. Sometimes, my family uses them to spy on the dwarves or on other goings-on up here on the surface."
Kazimier leaned back in his saddle. "That could be of use to us."
Jyslyn's eyes widened. "That would be a bad idea."
"Let Kazimier speak, lass, before you condemn what he says." Nyssa nodded to Kazimier. "I'd like to hear this idea."
Kazimier shifted in his saddle. "This is without knowing how your family contacts the Gashed Axe, Jyslyn, so if I get something wrong, let me know. But, if your family uses them, then couldn't you order the Gashed Axe to go somewhere else, where we won't be? It'll clear a path for us through their hunting grounds and let us get through to the dwarven realm."
"It's complicated, Kazimier." Jyslyn let her head droop. "First, that assumes that my family isn't looking for me. My eldest sister never lets a perceived insult pass by unpunished. Second, I have never appeared in front of the Horde, ever. They won't recognize me." The dark elf held up her gloved left hand. "Third, like my clothes and weapons, my family signet ring also succumbed to the light of the sun. I have no way to prove who I am to the Gashed Axe." Jyslyn lowered her hand. "And if my family is looking for me, having me order the Horde around will just let my mother and sister know exactly where they can find me. I don't want to be found." Jyslyn's tone turned to pleading. "Please, Kazimier, don't make me reveal myself. Not yet."
Kazimier nodded. "I didn't know, Jyslyn." He steered his horse closer to the dark elf's. "I won't endanger you. That's not why we're out here."
"It's still a plan we can keep in reserve," Nyssa said. "In case we do have problems with the Gashed Axe goblins that we can't solve any other way. I, too, don't want to bring you harm, lass, but if we can get by the Horde without risking injury to ourselves, I'd like to use that option. Do you think you can live with that, Jyslyn?"
After a hesitation, the dark elf answer, "I think I can." Jyslyn stretched in her saddle. "After all, I am starting to get used to being on this horse."