The Road to Tullybrook

The chill was starting to seep back in, in the aftermath of the fireball, so Viviane took a small, marginal comfort in that soon, they would have a manageable fire to sit and rest around. At least she was dry, now, she supposed. Small victories, and all.

She only managed a small hum in response to Abryxia's prodding, and hardly lifted her eyes to the group assembled near the fledgling flame. Perhaps the magic should have been worrying, but no one had been hurt, Rally Rose seemed fine, and everyone had calmed down in the aftermath already.

But her horse had ran, because of it. "My horse ran away, because of it," the Lady said, voice just as despondent as one would expect of someone in this situation. She nudged her pack with the toe of her fine riding boots, destined to be ruined by the muddy road ahead. "This is all I have left with me now. Everything else was tied to my saddle."
Abryxia's smile faltered a bit, but didn't fade completely. The horse was probably fine. Animals had a tendency to get away all the time - back in Fuddle, Mr. Tombly's donkey was a bit of a mainstay. It wasn't supposed to wander around the town, chewing on anything that wasn't nailed down, but if you hadn't had it try to eat your pantsleg at least once, you weren't a real Fuddler.

"I'm sure he's not far round," she consoled. "Not much'a place ta be goin', seein' how flat an' open all the land round here is, an' he's gonna be wantin' to stick near ye anyways."

Standing up straight, she planted her hand on her chest.

"Lady Allard, I'm gonna find yer horse 'fore sunrise. Oath."

Though - it was awfully dark. And the woods were awfully loomy. And she didn't spend a lot of time outdoors, and well, it was safer to go in pairs when in the wilderness anyway, lest one slipped and broke an ankle and was eaten by a bear because no one was around to help. Abryxia wilted a little, turning quickly to the group around the budding fire and waving her hand.

"Oy. The good Lady's horse ran off. Would, er. Someone wanna go find it with me? Jus' fer safety's sake."
Oh, Abryxia was going to find the missing horse. That was very nice of her. Rally had been feeling kind of bad, with the Lady looking all sad about it. Sae and Dim seemed to be very good at this fire making, which was very interesting, wasn't it? How was such a tiny thing even really a fire?

Abryxia had turned around, and spoken without much confidence. Rally peered up from beneath their hat, feeling something poke at them. It was probably either Cricket or their conscience, and they weren't sure if they were supposed to have either.

"I... should... go?" It was a question, more than an answer. "Because... um... it's... my fault? That the horse ran away. And... I was trying for things not to be my fault this time." They were trying very hard.

"And I'm used to the dark."
Viviane seemed to perk up immediately, if only slightly, at the prospect of her horse being found. She looked up to the tiefling, and then out of the tower, away from the fire, out into the rain, and balked for a moment. "I... would appreciate that very much, miss Abryxia, but... are you sure? It really isn't-"

The offer by Rally to help, though, gave her more pause. There wasn't a good way to navigate out of this situation, because it was their fault, in her eyes. They'd been the one to create the fireball- as spectacular as it was- and that'd scared her horse off. It was a miracle her bag fell from the saddle before it took off into the night. The Lady elected to not speak, as to avoid putting the blame on anyone, and instead nodded her head, fixing her posture and setting her face to one more befitting a Lady. "Very well. If the two of you could find my horse, it would be greatly appreciated. Have either of you ever handled a horse before?"
Smell bad ya’ say?” Sae repeated, giving the oil a curious look. Would have been good to know that earlier, but what’s done was done, and given the state of the logs she wasn’t one to complain about an odd smell to the smoke. Perhaps she could slice some extra garlic to offset any change to the taste? Perhaps once she got a sniff of it she could decide on any changes.

Mm? Horse ran off?” Sae asked, over her shoulder and she paused in placing down her sticks around the mound of moss and oil. She frowned as Rally and Abryxia offered to hurry off to try to find the animal, it was late and didn’t seem proper for those two to head out into the dark.

Ground’s soft so there should be a trail to follow, but if we’re going out then we should probably put together a torch.” Sae picked up one of the larger sticks, it was wet but that wouldn’t be too much of a problem if she stripped the bark off the end she planned on wrapping cloth around. “Mind if I borrow another few dabs of that oil, Dim?” She asked, sorting through her pack to find a rag to burn.
"You'd best -" Abryxia began as Rally volunteered, intending to finish with a stay here, Miss Rally, it's awful dark and scary out there (and I'm half-regretting volunteering myself). However, she'd just seen the kid blast a fireball big around as a house or something, and knowing that, she figured she could handle herself and then some. If anything, she felt a bit safer with Miss Big Spells tagging along for the ride.

"- best believe it," she concluded, improvising. "Don' ye worry, M'Lady, I know my way well'nuff 'round a donkey, horses can' be much different, yea?"

The bardling grinned, planting her hands on her hips. At Sae's words, she nodded quickly.

"Torch'd be lovely, Miss Sae, but - d'ye think ye could get tha fire goin'? An', er." She looked a bit embarrassed. "Some vittles too, ta spare. Hafna half a biscuit fer here ta Tully."

A tad bashfully, Abryxia tilted her head, tail swishing as she drew a quick cross acrossed her chest.

"Double swear it I'll come runnin' back to ye if we don' spot heads nor tails o' tha poor beastie ourselves."
"Horses are bigger than donkeys," Rally Rose pointed out, but perhaps it didn't matter. "But I suppose it's about the same directions to get around them. Unless you're supposed to go in the opposite direction?" They experimented with a couple little twirls, first clockwise and then counterclockwise, but neither of them felt like they would improve the situation much, as far as horses and donkeys went.

Well, hopefully Abryxia's way would work, because Rally Rose didn't know how to convince a live horse to do anything it didn't want to.

"Come on, let's go!" There was an adventure waiting, and Rally Rose was pretty sure that a number of good adventures involved horses. So they were probably on the right path, right? They skipped ahead, for a few paces, then paused to make sure Abryxia was catching up, peeking under a rock to see if the horse was hiding there. It was not.

"You know, if you're really all that hungry, you can have my portion, if I get a portion," they said, once Abryxia had joined them. "I don't need one," they added, quite cheerfully, "I ate a worm."
They were an odd pair, she was sure of that. The younger ran ahead, excited and unafraid- adventurers, perhaps? They certainly had the boldness for it. Then, did that mean- the thing in the tower, the thing that caused the flames, did they- did it-

"What- d'ya kill it, or something?"

Morgan leaned against the side of a tree, voice dropped to a surreptitious whisper.

"Where's the body, then? Still in that tower, or did it make it a few paces before it died? Couldn't see much of it m'self, I'm afraid- is it in one piece, d'ya reckon? Is... anything salvageable?"
The responses weren't convincing, if Viviane were to be honest. Frankly, they were almost concerning, especially by the claim of Rally Rose having eaten a worm for a meal. Unfortunately, however, the offer was kind and well leaving l meaning, and so by all courtly rules, she was required to accept their help, which she did with a stiff nod. "Very well. I trust the two of you to find him," she said with her most noble voice, back straight as an arrow. Then, with a slightly more personal tone, "And, please do be safe."

Lady Allard picked herself back up to her feet and retrieved her pack, heading over to the newly-formed fire and her other two travelling companions. Dim and Sae. Her eyes lingered on the elf. "Excuse me, Miss Sae? I'm afraid I'm quite unfamiliar with your people. They don't often make the journey this far west. If you will forgive my asking, I'm quite curious as to where you're from, and what you're traveling to Tullybrook for?"

It would be unbecoming for a Lady to not know her traveling companions, after all.
Please do be safe.

Well, she had every little intention of being safe, thank you very much, so adding on a wellwish to it just made everything feel a bit iffy. Reminded her how dark the woods were. Dark and full of - bears, and wolves, and who knew what else. Still smiling, Abryxia trurned to see Rally already running off, and with a final wave, she took the makeshift torch from Sae and hurried after.

"A mo', Miss Rally! Yer a fair bit faster than me!" she shouted, easily catching up to the kid through a mix of longer legs and a more direct path. Rally was wandering every which way, checking every nook and cranny where, frankly, a horse was probably not going to be. At the mentions of portions and worms, though, things made a fair bit more sense - they were probably simply looking for more bugs to eat.

"A kindly offer, but I don' think ye should be givin' up yer food jus' yet. We got a long road ahead, little miss, an' yer gonna wanna keep yer strength up for it," she replied, then she fully processed the statement - and blinked. "Do ye eat worms often? Squigglies an' creepy-crawlies ain't much of a diet, an' some of them can even make ye really, really sick. We wouldn' want that, aye?"

It was nice, talking, if only to keep her mind off the woods. Perhaps a bit too much, because she didn't even notice the nearby figure until they spoke up.

Letting out a startled yelp, Abryxia leapt behind Rally, holding her torch out in a warding gesture. It took her a second to realize they weren't a marauder or a bandit, probably weren't going to kill them, and had in fact simply asked a question. She lowered the torch.

"Bloody horseflies ye doin', creepin' round the woods all quiet-like near some other folk's camp?" she hissed, more out of exasperation than out of anger. "Half a mind ta - I - we - ...kill what, exactly? Tha horse? It jus' ran off."

The torch raised a bit.

"Ye didn' kill tha poor beastie, did ye? Tha's a very important horse, miss, belongs to a right proper lady, an' if ye kilt it ye'd - well - ye'd prolly be in a heap a trouble, an' make a good nice lady upset on top!"
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"What? Oh. More oil? Yes. here." Dim jabbed her stick back into the tar jar, rubbed off the excess on the edges, and held it out to Sae. "Wrap this in that cloth, I suppose. Have fun. Good luck on your horse hunt."

Only now Viviane was talking to the elf, too. Dim stood there, awkwardly, holding the stick out to her, hoping none of the mixture dripped down onto her dress. Or her hands; ew.
"Not very often, but it was going to die anyway, with all the rain," Rally Rose started to try to explain, but they were interrupted quite suddenly by a person jumping out of the shrubbery. Rally Rose had not actually expected to find a person - they had mostly expected to find more bugs, or possibly a mouse.

"I mean, I kind of had to kill it when I ate it," Rally Rose answered the question, at much the same time as Abryxia, although on what seemed to be an entirely different animal. "And I just left the body where it was- oh." They stopped, and the hat tilted in Abryxia's direction. "The horse? I thought we were talking about the worm. I didn't kill the horse. I wasn't that hungry."

They turned to the newcomer, with more curiosity than fear, which was fairly easy when they weren't actually afraid at all and they were, in fact, very curious. "Did you mean the horse? Or the worm? We're still looking for the horse. Have you seen it? It was about..." Their hand raised up, as high as it could go. "This big. And then a little bit more. I think. It certainly seemed that way."
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A horse? Morgan hadn't seen a horse- and she hadn't seen a horse specifically because she had. She had seen a lot of horses. Too many horses. Ugly little things, they were, with their matted tails and their spindly little legs and their too-long faces. Someone told Morgan she had a long face, once- which was false. Her face was perfectly average, on measurement. No idea where that little jab came from.

She shook her head, perhaps puzzled at the tiefling's suggestion, until the child--the child--brought up something more interesting.

"The wyrm- yes, the wyrm." Morgan nodded, "From what I've been able to observe, you found the wyrm, withstood whatever it did to retaliate, and presumably killed it and left its body somewhere, yes? Are you really looking for a horse?"
Aye, that’ll do nicely.” Sae said, taking the oiled stick that Dim offered, she wrapped the rag around it, getting the oil as evenly distributed as she could before she wrapped the cloth around the head of the stick nice and tight. It was a simple as could be, but it would let the two girls see while they looked around for the horse, so it was good enough. Sae handed the simple torch off as Abryxia passed her by, seemed to her she should probably join them, but the two seemed confident at the very least that they would like to have themselves a meal when they returned.

As the fire grew, Sae placed the larger cuts of wood around the perimeter so they could begin to dry. It would have been better had she had cut away the bark, but she could do that after she finished cooking. The Lady came to join her and Dim while Sae emptied her pack of its cutting board and a package wrapped tight in waterproofed leather. From the back of her pack she removed a pan, well blackened by years of use over a fire, from where she had wrapped it tight in a coarse blanket.

What interests you more, the Wend or Fayweld?” Sae asked, using a knife from off her belt to turn a fat clove of garlic into a mince, her pan she nestled neatly into the fire, to warm while she prepared. “Feyweld’s where I’m from, probably the biggest town in the forest if we aren’t counting Wending Wall, though half that settlement is your people by now I think.” A cut of fat she slid into the pan to melt.

There’re some dried mushrooms in my bag, if you’d be so kind as to take a handful and soak them in some water, I’d appreciate it.” If she had said that to Viv or Dim, she certainly didn’t show. “Feyweld is the oldest or second oldest town, hard to remember between it and Gaptooth when there’s only a century or two between them. Beautiful old buildings though, if you can find your way there.” Sae chuckled at that. “As far as me, there’s a little beastie I’ve been trying to find, hasn’t been seen in the Wend since the war I’m told, and I’m hopeful it might be somewhere around n Tullybrook.
Abryxia stared at the odd woman, blinking rapidly.

"I. Retaliate? I mean -"

She laughed.

"Issa worm, innit? Not gonna do much but wiggle at ye." She glanced at Rally. "Sides, the little miss said she ate it, she did. No body left ta find."

Lifting her torch, she moved a bit closer, trying to look past.

"Ye didn' happen ta see a worm - er, feck, I mean, a horse - pass through, did ye? Like I was sayin', it's a very important horse."
"I didn't eat the body!" Rally protested, quickly and rather horrified. "Ew! Yuck. It's probably still in the mud puddle back that way." Their hand gestured vaguely, in the direction they had come from to reach the tower. "Bleh." This was more quiet, but equally disgusted. They did not put things in their mouth.

Although, it did often seem like everyone else did that - except Cricket. Cicadas didn't even have mouths, which Rally liked about them. Also, their skeleton was on the outside.

Abryxia was looking around for a wormorahorse, which didn't seem to be here. Rally crouched down and looked at the mud instead. "Can't we just look for the hoofprints? It's muddy, they ought to be there."
"You ate it!?"

Morgan, most likely, didn't mean to sound as shocked as she did. People eat things all the time, she had heard; weird things, even. To her, it seemed a waste of a good corpse- but they weren't her, they didn't have her experience, nor her expertise, nor her personal preservational preferences. Of course they'd eat a tinderwyrm. It was just good meat.

Ah. She didn't eat it. That came as quite the relief.

"The mud puddle... ah, I s'pose that must've been how you quenched the flames, then." Morgan nodded sagely, "Saw that fireball from out here, I did- bloody great thing, it was. S'pose I'm glad you're in one piece, after that- the power of a wyrm is not to be taken lightly, I must say."

But, alas- all they wanted to talk about was this horse.

"I did see something pass through here- ventured up over yonder, if you must know." She frowned as she pointed, "Though, at the rate it was going, it's probably travelled miles by now. Bloody thing took off like a boltskitter- I reckon that fire must've spooked it something awful."
Viviane did not move to the bag at Sae's request. Instead, she remained where she sat and pondered the answers given by the elf. Looking for a creature? And not something seen in their far off forest? It was strange, to the Lady, but she supposed she had heard of stranger.

"Perhaps I will visit someday, if time permits. If you don't mind, what is this creature you are searching for? I can't imagine something not found in the wild could be in Tullybrook, but I do suppose I've heard quite a few stories about the place. What are you even searching for it for?"
Abryxia wasn't smart enough - or, perhaps, had the right perspective - to understand what Rally had meant by not eating the body. Worms were a bit -- all body, weren't they? That was kinda the nature of a worm. She supposed Rally could've simply sucked on it a bit and spat it out, but that was a mental image she really didn't want to consider.

Hoofprints was a good idea, though. A very good idea.

"Oh nae, tha fire wasn't tha worm, it was Miss Rally here," she said, then leaned in close, a bit conspiratorial-like. "She's got magic."

The bard grinned, then began to move past the odd forest-wandering woman, pausing a moment.

"Ye can come with, if ye like, or head ta our camp thataway," she said with a gesture from where they came. "We got a bit o' a followin' already all on tha road ta Tullybrook."

Peace said, she bent down, looking around for hoofprints. Truthly, there was a set heading in the direction the horse had went. Abryxia's smile widened. This whole outdoorsman thing was rather simple-put once you got your head straight, wasn't it?

"Horse awaits," she said, pointing forward and hurrying into the brush.
Worm? Fire?

Oh, Abryxia knew what was going on. It was good that someone did, because Rally Rose was very confused. They decided to let her answer the questions, because they seemed to keep getting more and more mixed up. Abryxia had located the horse tracks, though, so that meant they had somewhere to go and at the end of it there would be a horse. Rally was still not sure about horses, but... well, they had a responsibility about this one.

"I really am sorry," they added, quietly. "About the horse, I mean. I didn't know it would run away. I mean, people usually run away, but I never really thought much about horses."

They were not sure this was helping. They followed along with the trail, leaning down and measuring their hand against the muddy hoofprint. Horses were very big. They wondered if the new person would come too, or go back to the camp, or maybe go try to find the dead worm. She had seemed very interested in the dead worm. Rally supposed she could have offered to kill another one, but they weren't hungry right now and that didn't feel right.

"Um. I'm not a girl, by the way. Not really. I'm just a me." Maybe this was the wrong time to say this, but there hadn't really been a right one. Maybe all of the times were wrong. Maybe they could do something about that, if they started fiddling with time?

But no, they weren't supposed to do that. Things could go very badly, fiddling with time, and they had gone badly enough the last time even without doing any of that, and going back to fix things, they were pretty sure, always went wrong.