“Why does a Knight of Tethinger come to Aleto?” Evie cut into the conversation between Oren and his father. “Your call to me was through one of their blades. And now that I think of it, why are you dressed as a Neffian Knight initiate? Do not think my directness crass, but I need to know for my own safety. It would not be first time Knight of your order has tried to make use of my services.”
“Lady Velgrey, the name is Martell, and I assure you I am not here for your services. I left the Tethinger order a few months, with my only option to find service in another order. I went to the Neffian Temple as they would take my services. As you know the blades that are given to the Knight of Tethinger are theirs to keep since they pay for them. Other than that, what can I say; I have a taste for expensive steel.”
The seriousness of things settled down a bit as better introductions were given over lunch. From there, the conversation turned towards Oren catching up everyone on what had gone on the prior two days and the results of his research. In turn, Oren’s parents explained a little more of the safety that their house had, which till now Oren had been oblivious to. It was decided that the book collection should be moved from Oren’s house to his parents and that the lamp at the shop should be moved there as well.
“Oren, we do need to ask a favor of you. We do believe that Dawsil or Lord Casapan are still operating in the Drémore Vales. Avo would be a good point to start with along with the Tethinger Order. They are not the allies they once were to your grandfather. Changes in leadership have seen to that. Further, they also feel that Dawsil and the Wolves are no longer a threat.” Flynn spoke expecting to be turned down, but continued. “We had a contact in the area but he died this spring. We need someone to investigate his passing. Would you look into this?”
Oren sat contemplating this quietly. He was balancing it against alternatives he could imagine. This was all unexpected. The thought of moving out of his daily rut both excited and scared him.
“There is a caravan leaving in two days, you could use this as your chance to build up contacts there.”
Oren took the afternoon to mull over his choices. Naturally, he wanted to help his parents, but this would be leaving further from home than he ever had. The idea both excited and worried him at the same time. With no idea where this would lead or how long it would take, the uncertainty of it all was eating at him. Funding the excursion was not an issue as he would have credit on his father’s behalf in Avo.
“Oren,” Martell called out looking for him. She found him outside in his parent’s courtyard. “Your parents have made an offer to pay the Neffian Temple for my services if I were to accompany you on the way to Avo. They think I may also be able to persuade the Knights of Tethinger into to giving you an audience.”
She didn’t seem sold on it. Her tone came across to Oren as if she was as undecided as he as to whether this was a good idea. “I don’t know what to tell you. I did not expect things to lead here. Three days ago my biggest decision was what time to open my shop. Now in two days I could be leaving town for some undeterminable period.”
“You know for me, this is far better than just babysitting scholars. Reminds me of some of my days as a Knight of Tethinger. I guess I have two questions you need to answer before I tell them my choice. First, are you going to go? Second, do you want me to go along with you?”
“They are my parents and only family I know.” Oren thought aloud. “Yeah, I will be letting them know I am going to go for them. As for you, yes I want you along. I am good with defending myself with a staff, but alone with no allies? I do not like that prospect in the least. At least here I know the system and can get a town guard to aid me.”
“I will send a message to the Neffian temple today with your parent’s request. I warn you they will have their own request of work for me. They will want me scouting south and reporting back. I plan on complying with it once the order is received.”
“What if they call you back to Gromdash?”
“I am free to leave their service at will, though I think they will want the armor back. But I prefer to decide that when the situation arises.”
“We should let them know of our choice so we can get everything in order for the trip.”
Oren prepared his house for his absence. He would have a neighbor watch over it till his parents could get a tenant to take care of it. Arrangements were made for his library and shop inventory to be consolidated. His mother gave a list of books to bring for safer keeping at their house. The shop was to be managed by his deceased wife’s family. The order given to sell anything that anyone wanted to purchase, since the tomes of value were removed. Oren was very open about his travel to Avo, the premise given that he was renewing family trade ties and looking to expand the book collection.
Oren was given two talismans by his parents. The first one was a necklace with a single raw crystal, the size of a matchbox, for protection of the mind; he would now not have to fear a repeat of complying with requests against his will. The second one was a wood staff with multiple metal bands; its enchantment protected against tracking, and this would prevent any further Scry Sprites and other beings from finding him. Oren’s mother went on to explain certain markings on the talismans. There was one character for the crafter. Another one for the enchanter, in this case her father. The third mark indicated if it was meant for an individual or a group or an opponent. The fourth mark was a rough description of its power. Evie elaborated, not every talisman was so easily marked or readable. There were also times an enchanter had intentionally mismarked work. There were also the less scrupulous merchants that may forge markings on useless trinkets to try and increase the value of a rather worthless talisman.
Martell was given a white and cobalt blue tabard with the Velgrey coat of arms. The coat of arms was a white plumed helmet atop an ornate cobalt blue shield outlined in silver, with the Shield flanked by a silver Wyvern and Griffin. The tabard was enchanted like the talisman protecting Oren’s mind.
Oren had spent the two days prior to departure reading through Meditations on Umbra. The principals in the book were easier understood than practiced. He would need at least a few weeks to get the basics down of being able to draw and repel spirits. The first couple attempts at the drawing them closer resulted in several hour breaks till the emotions subsided. The reverse was not as easy of a skill.
The book had some advanced skills such as using a spirit to relay what it saw in another room or to come get you if a door was opened. Nothing fancy or life altering compared to ideas he had gotten from Martell and his parents. Those would be a ways off without a proper instructor. But really walking down the street and not having to wonder what mood would hit that day was a nice concept.
Martell had intentionally delayed on sending her dispatch back to the Neffian temple. She was enjoying the prospect of adventure. She was also enjoying her time with the Velgreys, especially not sleeping in what amounted to a dormitory at the Cloak and Frog. The ale was not quite as free flowing but the tradeoff balanced out. She also got a taste of Oren’s skill with a staff the couple times they sparred. She was surprised with his skill for being just a shop keeper, but was still able to overpower him relatively easy. She noted that they would need to work on his skills.
The caravan consisted of ten wagons. Three of them were bringing a shipment of cloth and iron to Avo. There were two carrying families headed to the city of Avo permanently. Another two were full of supplies for the trip down. The remaining three carts were empty. The caravan would be heading back full with wood for Aleto as the demand would go up in the winter. If all went well, Oren would be ready to return with the caravan after a week in Avo. The caravan was well manned so all Oren and Martell had to do was ride along and keep up.
The trip would take two weeks or so of travel. It would leave the protective wards around Aleto on the second day and go through wilds for most of the travel. It would be around the thirteenth day in the afternoon they would reach the haven of wards around Avo. There was a protected way point around halfway called Xomen’s Inn. Other than that, they would have to be on guard. There were a total of twenty-four guards for the caravan, two per cart and then an additional two on forward point and another two at the rear. The complement of guards worked such that throughout the day while there was always at least one set of six fresh on duty, another six finishing up, six more relaxing and a final six sleeping.
The caravan master was named Tsuminoe. He was around Oren’s age, but had been running caravans since he was sixteen. Flynn had been letting Tsuminoe run his goods to Avo for the last six years. He had convinced Flynn to let him take over the route from his predecessor based on his record and argued he could cut the travel time by two days. Turns out, Flynn’s prior caravan master enjoyed his time at Xomen’s way too much. In the end it turned out well as he was now the owner of Xomen’s inn after a great night of gambling. Though he held a grudge against Tsuminoe, he had no problem with Flynn letting him go. After all running an inn was a safer occupation for his older years.
The team of drivers doubled for most the remaining tasks that could come up, from blacksmith to cook to wheelwright. Between the families there was another ten people. In total there were forty-seven people in the caravan.
Tsuminoe ran a good crew; all of his men had been with him for at least five years. He knew the route they were taking by heart, as he made the trip several times a year. It was on the start of second day they passed one of the granite obelisks that acted as a ward against the denizens of the wilds. Simply leaving the wards was not a guarantee of attack. Rather it allowed city life to continue on daily without threat of running across sprites as you went to the outhouse or perhaps ogres when you went to fetch a pale of water from your well.
No one knew specifically who constructed most of these obelisks. It was general knowledge that at some point enchanters had done the work in conjunction with artisans. But currently, if asked how to erect another, one the enchanter’s guild would not be able to fill the request. How much further out the effect of the wards would protect from the obelisk was a guessing game itself. No one really sat there measuring the exact distance; rather the general assumption of the masses was that they went for about a mile out. One could search the distance to the next obelisk and make an assumption it was half that for the pillar. The problem is that could be completely incorrect as the strength and reach from the pillar was not the same for all pillars. One may have a five mile radius, while another is only two miles.