By Brian Flood
Chapter 24 - Riders in Red
Along the Uldoon Trail, The Sunset Vale
Early Afternoon, 29th Day of Eleint; Year of the Tankard (1370 DR)
“Allow me to join you Tomar,” Cyzicus says as he trots his pony quickly forward. “I know of these riders and could be of assistance.”
Tomar frowns as he considers the halfling’s offer. “Very well,” he says finally. “I only hope they do not perceive our larger parley party to be a threat.”
The merchant, with Cyzicus trotting at his side, moves forward to meet with the party’s scouts.
Alric watches tentatively as the rest of the group approaches. Alric jogs over to Tomar. “Tomar. I will stay with the main body to try detect evil.”
Lucas steadies his mount and dismounts to study the mounted group before his party. The red robed mage watches as his scouting party moves forward to parley with the armed riders and prepares a spell should it be needed to cover them.
watches Lucas dismount and then looks in the direction of the Red Riders.
“I'm guessing they're the local constabulary or militia. I dinna see any
symbols on them. Does anyone recognize the colors – apart from you, of
course, Lucas?” Dolak remains mounted with his cart in tow.
As the main body watches, the small parley group moves forward to meet with the three red-cloaked horsemen, stopping just out of sword’s reach. The lead rider reaches up to remove a light helm, and a cascade of blondish-brown hair pours forth over the shoulders of her armor. The two groups then appear to engage in discussion.
watches the parley take place with amusement on her face as the lead rider
reveals long tresses of light hair. The lady mage’s stance relaxes
somewhat though she continues to keep an eye on her companions at the front.
* * * * *
Tomar, now accompanied by the mounted Cyzicus, joins Alani and Darius where they have stopped. A stone’s throw or so separates the small band from the main body.
The merchant addresses the scouts, “Cyzicus here claims to know of these riders and will join our small parley party. Now let us go forward to meet with them, shall we?” He pauses to see if the other three are ready.
Alani nods to Tomar and walks with the rest of the party towards the riders. She does not sheath her bow. “Where and how do you know these men, Cyzicus?” she asks in a soft voice.
“The Red Cloaks police this area,” the halfling replies. “I know of the. I don't necessarily know any of them, but knowing their purpose is always handy in a discussion.”
go,” Darius says, looking at the riders, deciding whether their appearance
bodes well or ill for the party.
The small parley party – Alani, Cyzicus, Darius, Tomar and Soft Fang – moves the rest of the distance to greet the three-man group of red-cloaked horsemen. From this close range, it is apparent that the leader wears a suit of platemail while the two other riders where chainmail. The leader rides with empty hands – one hand held up in gesture and the other guiding the reigns of a medium warhorse. The two other horsemen carry spears and guide their horses one-handed, as well.
The leader horseman reaches up to remove the light helm that tops the set of plate mail armor. Long, brownish-blond hair flows freely as the helm comes off, revealing the leader to be a female warrior.
“Greetings travelers,” she begins. “I am Kaitlin, and I am the leader of this Red Cloaks patrol. Rest easy, my friends, we mean no harm. We are on patrol from Asbravn to check the traderoad for bandits that may prey on our farmers on their way to Harvestfest. As you are headed east, may I assume you also are headed to Asbravn?”
Not much for speech, Darius looks over the female warrior and smiles, but waits for the more talkative members of the party to answer the Red Cloaks leader.
“Greetings yourselves,” the halfling pipes up. “I am Cyzicus and we are indeed heading for Asbravn, but certainly won't stay there long. Have you seen any sign of bandits so far?”
of Silvanus, Lady,” the druid replies whilst bowing at the waist, “and yes,
Asbravn is where we are headed now. We
are glad to see a Red Cloak patrol keeping the roads safe.
Getting to Asbravn will be all the easier and safer for that.”
Looking a moment at Tomar, Darius asks, “Isn't that so good merchant?”
As Tomar nods wordlessly, Darius reaches down and scratches Soft Fang behind ears after being bumped in the back of the legs, “And this is Soft Fang, my companion. He does so love the attention. And this is Tomar, Alani and you’ve already met Cyzicus,” he continues, pointing at each in turn.
The mounted woman nods her head in greeting and then shakes her head. “No, we have not seen any bandits. All is quiet from here to Asbravn.” Glancing past the parley group at the rest of the small caravan, she adds, “The roads are a bit wet and mucky, however. With that wagon, I expect you will have need to spend the night on the road and should probably arrive at Asbravn tomorrow.”
“Could you recommend a good place to do that, Kaitlin?” asks Cyzicus.
The red-cloaked warrior frowns as she pauses to consider the halfling’s question. “There are several farms between here and town. I would suggest you ask a farmer for permission to spend the evening in their barn. It would at least get you out of the rain. It’s common this time of year for caravans to do that. For a few coins, they’ll most likely provide you with a hot meal, as well.”
“A hot meal and dry patch to sleep on would go down nicely I must say.” Cyzicus replies with a nod of his head. “A barn has the additional advantage of being easy to defend against any bandits that might have evaded your patrol - as unlikely as that may be,” the halfling says jestingly.
“Indeed!” replies Kaitlin, returning the halfling’s grin. Visibly relaxing in her saddle, she says, “It would seem that your group should be able to fend for itself. So, unless there is anything else, I will bid you good day and my patrol will carry on.”
“Good luck and good day,” Cyzicus nods as he swings his warhorse back to join the caravan. “It was a pleasure meeting you Kaitlin.”
“And my regards to you and yours, Cyzicus,” the lady warrior replies before she also turns her warhorse.
* * * * *
The small parley group continues to meet with the three riders for a handful of minutes. Then, with nods exchanged, the conversation appears to end.
The three Red Cloak riders turn their horses and return at a canter to the rest of their waiting patrol. Likewise, Cyzicus, Darius and the others of the parley party return to the remainder of their caravan.
“What news?” asks Kryian as the small band returns.
“The road ahead seems to be safe,” Cyzicus offers as he draws his warhorse (pony) up to Kryian. “The Red Cloaks are a worthy bunch, and I would imagine if they said they checked the road they mean it. Unfortunately the road isn't in a condition which will allow us to reach town today, so we ought to find a barn to rent in a couple of hours. There we can get a hot meal, a dry patch, and a defensible position.”
“Yes,” Darius announces, “let us form up again and Alani and I will be on the lookout for a farm where we can rent a barn.” The druid waits for a positive nod from Tomar, then takes off in front as normal.
The party forms up into its normal marching order once more. Darius, Alani, and Soft Fang take to the front. Fifty paces behind them, Slyvia and Dolak march side by side; Dolak is mounted on his pony and trails the halter for his pony and cart behind him. Next is Lucas, followed by the wagon itself. Kjira trails the wagon, leading her mule by its halter. Behind the lady mage comes Kryian and Cyzicus, with the halfling mounted on his warpony. The last member in the marching order is Alric; the paladin marches on through the sloppy rain with never ending energy and an uncanny knack for a suit of gleaming mail – despite the weather.
Rain continues to fall in a slow drizzle as the small caravan plods along the well-churned road. From the road’s condition, it is obvious that heavy traffic has been using this stretch for the past several days. Wagon ruts and hoof prints have created a slough of ankle deep mud that slops onto the adventurer’s lower legs. Boots slowly become water logged with each step; finally, each step produces a squishing sensation as water and mud is forced away from soaked feet, only to seep back in with the next step.
The afternoon passes with few words exchanged among the members. Each one concentrates on continuing the miserable journey. Shoulders hunch as rain runs down the necklines of tunics and cloaks.
Small farms and homesteads pass on either side of the road. Most of the structures are constructed either completely from stone (with a sod roof) or are stone to waist-level with white-washed wooden walls above that. Under the rainfall, the freshly harvested fields appear dark and loamy. Split-rail fences on some homesteads act as a corral for cattle and other livestock.
Finally, as the sun begins to set on the western horizon behind the party, the scouts call a halt. Just ahead is one of the small homesteads that have dotted the trail for the last few miles. Four stone cottages and huts share the cleared area with a large barn. The barn is constructed of stone to the height of an average human and then has an equal amount of wooden planking above that. Its sod roof glistens softly in the setting sun.
Darius, Alani, and Soft-Fang return to the main body to ask Tomar’s opinion. The merchant agrees with a curt nod that this is as good a place as any to inquire about a night’s lodging.
“So,” says the merchant, looking at his gathered band of guards. “Who would like to do the asking?”
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