The Road to Tullybrook

Oh... there was everything in Tully's Brook?

That was surprising. Rally had expected a few houses, maybe some sheep. They supposed that it wouldn't be worth all this fuss if it wasn't true, though, right? And, well, it wasn't like they'd heard anything about it in quite some time.

Abryxia and the Lady seemed to have something in common, didn't they? "Maybe Lady Allard can be your patron?" they suggested, hopefully. It seemed like a fated coincidence, and Rally Rose was a very strong believer in fate. "I would, but I don't have any money. But maybe I'll come hear you sing, anyway." They would like that, they thought. She had known some of the old songs, and that was enough for Rally. Maybe she knew more of them?

But there wasn't a chance to ask, because there was someone else arriving, someone dark and mysterious and wearing a hat. Rally Rose tipped their own back again, looking up at the mysterious stranger. "You have a hat!" Their voice was delighted. It was truly a fantastic hat, after all. Perhaps Rally Rose would get one like that some day. Perhaps they could start a collection... oh, but they only had one head. Perhaps not, then.

Their attention turned to the cicada, buzzing its wings at the tip of their finger once more. "I wonder if they make very tiny hats..."
A cut of leather and a bit of stitchwork and I’m sure a fine wee hat could be made.” Sae said, looking back from the river to others. The new one she gave a once or twice over, man had a hat that made even Rally’s seem inadequate, and the oil in his words certainly had a merchant’s tune to her ear. A tall man too, though she wasn’t the sort to hold that against him ‘less she need to start walking with a hunch herself.

Be slower going through the grasses, but I’ll find us a way across.” Sae said with a confident grin. Best not to worry too much about if they don’t find a good spot, worst be they’d have their way back along the river to the road again. “We’ll probably be needing to make ourselves a fire on the other side to dry ourselves some, but that’s something to think on later.” The thought of something warm would help motivate some, Sae hoped as she stepped into the grass.

The grass helped keep the earth more together than it had been on the worst of the road, but it also did all it could to hide the patches of muck which squelched under heel. “Take your footing careful here, bog’s hungry for boots today.” She said with a laugh.

I’ll try to point out some good ground for the horse to walk on.” She added, giving a look back over her shoulder to the noble woman.
Another stranger, and another strange one. Viviane was less inclined to engage with the strange individual, seeing as he was as tall as she while she was on horseback, and even then she couldn't quite make out his face, but everyone else seemed delighted at his presence. It made sense that people would be gathering here, given the lack of bridge would impede everyone's progress, and not just hers, but something about this newest arrival was severely off-putting.

"Thank you, miss Sae. It is appreciated," she replied, nudging her horse onward towards the front of the group, drawing even with the elf. Honestly, it was to get away from the newest arrival, but she wouldn't say that to his face. Besides, it was only natural for her to be up at the front, even if she weren't taking the lead. "Have you ever been to Tullybrook before? Or have you ever tried to cross this river elsewhere?"
"Um. Good morning!" And then somebody began to cough, at a rather distressing volume.

There was now a woman approaching the group along the shore of the creek, glancing between them all in turn. She appeared more or less human, dressed far too heavily for the humid weather and clearly suffering for it. The hem of her dress was trailing in the water. She had, of course, been the source of both the call and the coughing. Even after the bout let up, she found herself dragging her feet a little. Which was an embarrassing way to meet new people, even if you didn't expect to be traveling with them for long.

She took a pull on her flask, as much to motivate herself to keep going as anything, and scanned the group. Her eyes lingered on the man's bizarre glowing eyes, and on his shadowy face. But the others didn't seem bothered by him. Maybe she was just being close-minded. Or maybe this was some Dark raiding party, and she was about to be murdered and dumped in a ditch somewhere. Squinting at him probably wasn't going to change anything.

Besides, they had a child with them. She'd never spoken to a child before, but everyone said they were terrible actors. If the man in the hat was some sort of supernatural serial killer or necromancer looking to ambush a poor, innocent poisoner, they'd probably give it away somehow.

"I don't suppose you're with the bridge-builders?" she wheezed, glancing about as if she expected a pile of wood to fall from the sky at any moment.
"I'm sure the good Lady's got better things to do," Abryxia replied quickly, shifting closer to Rally with a quick glance and smile in Viviane's direction. Her voice a bit lower, she added, "Sides, there's no better way to turn a patron off than askin', miss. The good folk don' got much care for beggardly types."

A new voice joined the fray, and Abryxia glanced back, giving a wave in the woman's direction.

"Hello, there! None of us are bridge builders, I think, or else we wouldn' be in this mess together. Y'alright? That sounds a right nasty cough."


The walk along the bank was different from the road - not quite as sloppy to trudge through, what with the grass giving a bit of leeway, but the spots where the grass parted and the roots failed you were, as Sae had warned, the sorts of places boots were lost. The grass itself, too, made walking difficult, tangling the tips of boots and snagging at legs, making the sparse trees a reprieve to have some solid roots to balance on. Sae was right, though: The river was widening the further down they went, and just a ways ahead, she'd spot a part that looked shallow and calm enough to risk a cross.

A lone tree sat across the way, as well, drooping slightly down to the water, the perfect thing to attach a rope to to make the passage even safer.
"... And the weather 'round here--it's like the Most High's treating you as his personal pisspot, pardon my language."

The newcomer, who had yet to introduce herself, had been mumbling like this for the entire duration of the walk downstream, whether anyone had been listening or not. She'd seemed totally content to let others speak over her.

"You're lucky to get an hour's break from it some days. And then the sun comes out, and next thing you know you're a puddle of red sticks and vellum, empty staring holes still sketched on what used to be your face, begging the Sky to take back its own eyes and leave you to burn in peace. And then the rain comes back, and for a moment, as it fills you back out, you're grateful, and then it keeps going, and going, and going, and going, and you're a soggy pile of wretched rags, playing host to a swarm of worms and scorpions, begging for a moment of heat and clarity." She paused, for the first time in several minutes. "Which is all to say, yes, I'm fine, thank you."
From the back of her horse, the journey so far had been actually quite pleasant for Viviane, if you didn't mind the presence of a walking shadow and the unsightliness of the- how long had it been?- several minutes worth of rambling by the quite disheveled woman. She did her best to appear ambivalent, something her mother had been trying to drill into her for years. It wasn't good to show your disdain for them when they were your company, she'd been told. Only when it would affect their opinion, only when you were with others like us.

Instead, she'd taken to keeping her eyes ahead, trying to assist, without success, in locating a suitable point for crossing. It wasn't in her skillset, and her maps hadn't told her anything about viable points of crossing, beyond the bridge that was no longer there. Eventually, the inconvenience of the situation became too much to bare, and she let a despondent sigh from her lips, head hanging. It was as much dissatisfaction as she felt comfortable showing, and to her standards, it was quite extreme.

Much more appropriate than a several minute rant.

Despite that, she looked to the woman. "It is good that you are well," she said, having processed only the final statement. "Do you have a name?"

When she started in on a mutter-rant, most people stopped paying attention after the first thirty seconds or so. This young lady had been paying attention to the whole thing. Which, well, it was very polite, she supposed, except that--well--if it was polite to pay close attention to minutes-long rants, here, in this place, did that mean it happened often? Was she, Dim, expected to pay attention to similar rants?

... Oh, most high, was that why the tavern patrons kept getting angry at her?

She took a pull from her flask.

"Um. No. I don't. But you can call me Dim, if it suits you." The woman, Dim, faded back into deeply dissatisfied silence for a moment. Then apparently she remembered your manners. "Er. Pleased to meet you, if it makes any difference. All of you. What are you called?"

She could tell that the horse lady was irritated. And that it was in a way that she hadn't been before she'd started speaking. So that was probably that was her fault. Oops.
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Great-great-great gram was right, you truly did meet all kinds out on the road. The new lady seemed to be doing a fine job holding a conversation to her lonesome as the group walked, so Sae left her to it and focused on keeping the horse from turning an ankle in the mire, the poor dear. Sae slowed as the river did, sliding her pack off her shoulder as she sorted through her belongings to find a solid length of rope.

Here’s a good spot by the looks of it.” Sae said with a motion for the group to stop. It was hard to see how deep the river was here, murky as it was from the rains, but the waters moved slower. “And we’ve got a fine tree on the other side, blessings be on our side.” Sae said with a grin.

If our tall friend would be so kind as to hold the end of the rope, I’ll go across first and give us a good anchor to that tree yonder.” Sae said, offering an end of the rope to the shadow of a man. “When crossing, make sure you have your feet well planted as you go, it’s better to shuffle than to step, and you shouldn’t cross them. Face the current as you go, a strong water can buckle your knee if you aren’t careful and have you halfway to the Southwater by evening. Keep together while crossing, and there ain’t any shame in taking it slow, we’ll all be wet on the other side anyway, hah!” She knelt down to untie her boots.

Any questions ‘fore we start crossing?” Sae asked.
Oh, they were going on an adventure!

Rally Rose had never been on an adventure before. They had mostly been on other people's adventure. This one, though, they were certain was their own. They followed along with the rest of the group, humming quietly to themself, or to the cicada, which would occasionally add in a chirp of its own. It didn't seem to fit the tune, it was just doing that.

The path turned squelchy and the tune turned to more of a little singsong, under their breath but still there, probably unfamiliar. No one sang the fun songs any more.

"As I was walking down the street, one dark and dreary day
I chanced upon a market, but much to my dismay-
The signs were torn and tattered from the storm the night before
The wind and rain had done their work and this is what I saw:

Use Boggle-Water Tonic Draught to smoke your Solstice Ham
Put pepper on your doorhinge so it will never jam

Rosin up your bowstrings with Wiggly's Finest Wine
Our turnip greens all have the means to fight the foulest crime

Drink apple cider hand pies, right down to the dregs
And baste your hens with sage'n'thyme so they will lay more eggs!"

They stopped short, because they were short, and because everyone else had stopped. Oh, there was a tree across the river, and it seemed like they were going to go across to the tree?

"The tree is very droopy. Do you think it's sad? There's nothing worse than a sad tree."

This was, maybe, not the sort of question that was being asked for.
Following along in step, Abryxia tilted her head to listen to Rally's song, lip curling into a faint smirk.

"Ye've got a good ear for rhyme, miss," she said under her breath. "That's - the tune o' Tam Tam's Cradle, aye? Or A Summer a Lark. Can't say I've heard the words before, though. Ye make it yerself?"

They had pulled to a stop, now, beside a bit of the creek that, to Abryxia, looked like any other part of a creek. The wildling elf seemed to consider it a better place to cross, though, and the bard had little choice but to believe her.
"Hm? Oh, no, it's just 'Signposts.' Everyone knows 'Signposts.'" Or... well, everyone did, once-upon-a-time, didn't they? Maybe no one knew it any more, or maybe it was changed now. Maybe it was Tam Tam's Cradle now and no one remembered Signposts any more.

"I didn't make it up," Rally amended, quickly. "I just... remember things." Rally remembered all sorts of things, it was just that no one else remembered the same things, and then everyone looked at them funny.

They supposed it was better than not being looked at at all. And at least they had a good hat. That was very important. A good hat was like a hiding place that you could take with you.

Viviane repeated the odd woman's name, voice flat, as if she were testing how it felt. How perfectly odd, suitable for someone like herself. She decided that the name felt strange, and not much like a name at all, but if that was what she chose to go by, Viviane has no recourse but to accept it.

"My name is Lady Viviane Ophelia Allard. I am called Lady Allard, heir to the Barony of Duleis," the Lady said, only somewhat disgruntled by the tone and wording of the question. It seemed silly, to distinguish a name from what one was called, unless one had a title, such as herself. She pointed to each of the other travelers in turn, starting with Abryxia. "The tiefling is miss Abryxia, a bard, I believe. The elf is Sae, the hat is Rally Rose." It was unclear if she had skipped the shadow-man intentionally or not.
"Ah--Lady Allard, is it?" That explained it; she was just adhering the rules of inane noble school of manners. 'One must always listen to one's traveling companions, even if what they're saying is totally ridiculous and boring,' or something to that effect. That was reassuring. She could go back to blaming the patrons. "Well, greetings and good tidings to you all, I suppose."

She raised her voice slightly, to be heard by the elf and the tiefling. Which, well, perhaps she should have been speaking louder when offering her greetings as well, but it was probably too late to try again. "Yes--no, no questions, thank you."
Abryxia raised an eyebrow at Rally's reply, but didn't press - it was likely just a local version she hadn't heard, then. She'd have to get the lyrics down when she had the chance. Still, such an odd way to put it - everyone most certainly didn't know this 'Signposts' - unless, again, Rally meant everyone around their town, which made a bit more sense as well. To a child, everyone in town was everyone.

"Where're ye from, Miss Rally?" she asked, a little curious.

The Good Lady Allard was introducing them to the newcomer, now, and at the mention of her name, Abyxia gave a slight - still very rustic and awkward - curtsy.

"Stories, songs, an' tricks alike," she added after, "if it pleases ye."
"Originally? I'm from by the mountains," Rally Rose answered, as it seemed like it would have been somewhat impolite not to. Originally was one way of putting it, they supposed. It was probably best not to go into all of that, really. They'd told Cricket about it, of course, but Cricket did not count, because Cricket was a bug.

And people tended to get strange about things.

"But I haven't been there in a long time."

That was also true.

"What about you, Abryxia? Where are you from? If you want to say, I mean. You don't have to, if you don't want to."