Aug. 18th, 2010

not_sinister: (smirk)
Lydia, meanwhile, fairly radiated angry frustration, bent nearly double over her horse, muttering under her breath as she hunted for the rapidly fading trail.

It didn't help uncertain tempers to realize that they were almost out of supplies for people and horses both. Granted, the animals would probably be able to find enough forage to keep them going, but it wasn't going to be much fun hunting for game in this weather.

At least, Kevin thought, struggling for any sign of good humor, the drizzle did seem to be letting up. Who knew? Maybe the sun would even deign to put in an appearance and dry everybody off.

But even as the first feeble rays did at last break through the clouds, Lydia threw up her hands in disgust "That does it"

"I take it the rain washed away the tracks?" Naitachal asked.

"Hell, no! They aren't washed away, they simply disappear, just like that! As though horse and rider, up and vanished into the air." Lydia let out her breath in an angry hiss. "I've had trails go cold on me before, but I've never had one just—stop!"

"Wonderful," Tich'ki said flatly. "Now what?"

What, indeed? After a moment, Kevin began, "I think—"

"We're going to have to go on to Westerin," Lydia said, just as if he wasn't there.

Eliathanis shook his head. "There's no evidence they rode that way."

"There's no evidence they didn't! Besides, the horses need grain, and a hot meal and a bath wouldn't hurt any of us, either."

"Ah, I think—" Kevin began again, but Naitachal cut in:
"Lydia has a point. We would be more likely to learn something important in a city than out here in the middle of open country."

"That's a human city!" Eliathanis snapped. "How willingly do you think they're going to admit a Dark Elf?"

Naitachal shrugged. "About as willingly as they would a White Elf in these uncertain days. But our cloaks are hooded, after all. No one need know our races, as long as we're careful."

"Huh! No one's going to bother a fairy!" Tich'ki boasted.

"No one's going to bother with a fairy!" Lydia corrected with a grin. "Not a little thing like you!"

"Little, is it?" Tich'ki pinched Lydia so hard the woman jumped. "Little, is it?"
"Well, you sore little—Aie, stop that! I apologize!"

"Hey. remember me?" the bardling asked. "I've got some say in this, too, and I—"

"This is nonsense." Eliathanis shook his head again, stubbornly. "I think we should continue to search out here."

"Search what?" Lydia exploded. "I tell you, there isn't the slightest due. There isn't even the slightest trace of a clue! In the city, it'll be a different matter. Give ‘em enough money, and we'll be able to bribe nearly anyone to tell us whatever we need to know."

The White Elf straightened, staring at her as though she'd uttered an obscenity. "Humans lie," he said shortly." How much truth do you think you will get out of anyone who can be bought?"

"He's scared," Tich'ki taunted. "Poor elf is scared the humans will throw things at him. Dirty his pretty face."

Eliathanis took a furious swipe at her, but the fairy, fluttering heavily because of her still-damp wings, soil managed to evade him, mocking him with, "Temper, temper!"

"Stop that, Tich'ki!" Lydia caught one small foot and pulled the fairy back down behind her on the horse. "I say we go to Westerin."

"And I," Naitachal voted.

"Me, too." Tich'ki grinned sharply. "I like human cities. So many folks careless with their belongings. So many ... opportunities."

"Huh," Lydia muttered. "Just don't get us thrown into prison."

"Have I ever?"

"Yes!"

The fairy ruffled her wings. "Thought you'd forgotten all about that—It wasn't my fault the gems fell into your pouch!"

"Oh no. The pouch just happened to come open at just the right time,"

"Well ... it might have had a little help ..."

"And it's not going to have any more help! If I find your fingers anywhere near that pouch, Tich'ki, I swear I'll cut ‘cm off!"

"Spoilsport."

"I sure hope so! What about you, Eliathanis? Are you with us or not?"

After a reluctant moment, the White Elf nodded. "Not that it will do any good."

"Hey!" Kevin shouted with all his breath, and the others stared at him as though seeing him for the first time—"Remember me? I get some say in this, too!"

"All right, Kevin," Lydia said, a little too cheerfully. As though she's humoring a child! Kevin fumed. "What do you say?"

What could he say? No matter what Count Volmar had said, Kevin knew he certainly wasn't the leader of this group! "I say," the bardling grumbled, "we go to Westerin."

***

Kevin reined in his horse without even being aware he'd done it, staring in sheer wonder.
"Westerin," he breathed.

Oh, he had been taught his geography as a child. He knew that the walled city lay at the junction of two trading routes, on a wide, fertile plain fed by a tranquil river. But hearing about it and actually seeing it were two very different things! Westerin was a beautifully picturesque sight beneath the dramatically cloudy sky, the thick, crenellated wall that girded it broken at regular intervals by pointed towers topped in bronze that gleamed like gold in the shifting rays of sunlight.

The city was also much larger than the bardling had ever imagined—no, no, he thought, it wasn't merely large, it was enormous!

Particularly, Kevin added wryly to himself, compared to quiet little Bracklin.

The others were riding on. The bardling urged his horse after them. trying to ignore Tich'ki's mocking, "Boy acts like he's never seen a city before."

Well, all right, maybe he hadn't! What of it?

With an indignant sniff, Kevin straightened in the saddle, doing his best to pretend there was nothing at all amazing about those thick stone walls towering over them as they approached, nothing at all amazing about the mass of buildings he glimpsed through the open gates.

But for all his attempts at keeping calm, the bardling's heart had begun pounding wildly.

Westerin. Westerin!

Why, the very name rang with adventure!

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