A mage with a well is as good as an entire fire station.Abandoned farm, unclaimed territory
Kazimier and Nyssa sat close to the cooking fire, trying to keep warm. Both were in stockinged feet; their boots were held on sticks over the open flame to dry them out. Wren and Leomund began cleaning up the dregs of lunch. Jyslyn sat with Kazimier, peering at a piece of metal he turned over in his hands.
"It must be magical," the dark elf said. "It doesn't look like it was in a fire."
Kazimier nodded. "And it was cool to the touch. Our burnt friend had it under his clothes." He flipped the metal rectangle over again. "No writing on it."
"I could cast a spell on it to see if it changes."
"I've seen ambassadors from Nicean Islands carrying similar," Nyssa said. "If that's the case, he's a long way from home."
"Do the Niceans have an ambassador in the dwarven realm?" Kazimier asked.
Nyssa shrugged. "It's a thought, though."
Jyslyn got up and stretched. "Why here? How long would it have been before someone else came along?"
"Who knows?" Nyssa ran a hand through her hair to see how damp it still was. "We could have stumbled into this without knowing."
Kazimier slipped the metal rectangle into a pouch on his belt. "We should keep moving. As much as I appreaciate Jyslyn putting out the fire, someone else may have seen it." He grabbed his boots from above the fire. "Hot!"
"I will let Wren and Leomund know," Jyslyn said. She left to find her charge and the young squire.
Nyssa picked up her own boots. "Have I mentioned how much I abhor mysteries."
Kazimier slipped his feet into his boots. "This one just gets more complex every day." He looked over at the charred frame of the barn. "I need to send a message back to Wildwood and let them know what's happening. We seldom get anyone from the Nicean Islands, though. The Council of Matriarchs won't have much information."
"Same with the Seven Dominions." Nyssa sighed. "Unless the Niceans are involved and this was a deal gone bad. It's been known to happen."
"Why would they be involved? They produce the same goods on the islands as the realms here on the mainlaind."
"Not all the same. They have goods not available here, and we have goods that they want but can't grow." Nyssa put on her boots. "Mostly, though? Definitely similar."
"No use speculating, not with the little information we have. We better get going."
Kazimier helped Nyssa to her feet. The two walked over to join Jyslyn and the younger members of the group. The horses were almost ready to travel, with just saddles left to be placed on them. Nyssa helped Leomund finish prepping the horses. Kazimier helped Jyslyn on her mount.
"This is getting embarassing," the dark elf said.
"I am not complaining." Kazimier flashed Jyslyn a smile. "You're learning how to ride faster than I thought, especially since this is your first time. When we get back to Wildwood, I can give you a formal lesson." Notcing Wren listening in, he added, "Or Wren could teach you everything she knows."
The young elf blushed. "I don't know if I'm any kind of teacher."
"You'll be fine," Jyslyn said.
Kazimier got on his horse. "Let's go."
"We'll stick to the road for now," Nyssa said. "Wren, once we're gone a few miles, try to find a way northeast. You'll be looking for a road, well, a more like a path, heading north by northeast."
Wren nodded as she took in the information. "Will that be faster?"
"Not really. But, if anyone's watching this road, they won't find us."
Jyslyn nodded, the cloak of her hood ruffling. "Sensible."
"How wide is that path, ma'am?" Leomund asked. "We'll need to get all the horses on it."
Nyssa frowned. "We'll have to give everyone a horse to lead."
"Everyone?" Jyslyn asked. "Oh, no, I couldn't. Really. I'm still trying to figure out this one."
"I can take one." Kazimier shrugged, his fine chail shirt rattling.
"Should I go look now?" Wren asked.
"Go," Nyssa said. "Can't really hold you back, can we?"
Wren's cheeks reddened. She urged her horse race down the road a quarter-mile before going off the road and into the field.
Jyslyn watched the young elf as she disappeared into the tall grass. "Are all girls her age that energetic?"
Nyssa laughed. "Feeling your age, Mistress Elf?"
"Life is so," the dark elf searched for the right word, "different out here. I have never seen such joy in anyone."
"Wren's changed a lot in the past few days," Kazimier said. "She's speaking, something no one ever expected. And she's latched on to you."
"Should I be worried? Wren held on to me all night last night."
"Do you want me to talk to her?"
Jyslyn hesitated. "No. I don't want to cause her any grief, Kazimier. I've destroyed her life enough as it is."
"Should I know about any of this?" Nyssa asked.
Jyslyn and Kazimier exchanged a long look. "Sure," the dark elf said. "I was supposed to kill her. I didn't, but others with me destroyed her village and the people living there."
"Everyone was about your age then?" Nyssa saw Jyslyn's nod. "I've heard of the rite. The Blooding."
"The what? It's not a rite. Well, yes, it is, but it's not sanctioned by the Matriarchs. Encouraged, yes. My sisters took me with them. I found Wren and," Jyslyn sighed, "and I just couldn't. Ever feel that something was wrong, but you didn't know why? That was my life before I met Wren. I couldn't kill her because, in my heart, it was the wrong thing to do."
"You are a good person, Jyslyn." Nyssa turned to her squire. "Leo, heed what you've heard. Take time to find out about a person."
Jyslyn laughed. "Even a dark elf can surprise you." Her tone turned deadly serious. "Beware the Matriarchs. They get to lead their families by being the most ambitious women around, willing to kill anyone. I expect my eldest sister will become the Matriarch when my mother dies."
"And, yet, here you are, up here, with us," Kazimier said. "I knew you were different when I saw you. Wren knows, too. We'll make sure that you're safe up here."
"That's going to take time to get used to," Jyslyn said.
"What is, ma'am?" Leomund asked.
"Having people protecting me. Never had that happen to me before."
Checkov's Gashed Axe Horde.