M Part One
"Finally, Racen. I was wondering when you would show up." I give RP an icy look. You better be glad I am feeding you at all, RP; you don't really deserve it. But someone has to show some humanity"
"I'm sorry you see things that way," RP snorts.
I give RP a kick in the shins.
"I agree," Wold says, stepping into support me. I smile smugly. At least someone agrees with me.
"I already know your opinion. You would probably have me apologize to them too! It is just an illusion that I put on them. It looks and feels to them like their legs are cut, but in reality they are totally fine. If I had hidden it from you, you wouldn't,t have been so surprised.
Wold glares at RP. "The nerve! You're lying."
"I didn't have time to think. What was I supposed to do?"
"I don't know," Wold admits. "But I have a hard time believing you after all you've done. At least you could warn us next time."
"I'll try," he says.
I throw myself out of the saddle as we arrive in Southsford. It is an hour or two past midday. The sun is high above us in the sky, causing sweat to seep out of my body. The water looks gloriously cool. I'm tempted to just jump in, clothes and all, but I wouldn't be able to keep pace with the boat.
"Should we load the boat first, and then eat, or should we eat first and then load?" Wet asks.
We all agree on unloading first except RP who complains about only eating an apple. The four of us make our way along the shore of the river. The ground is relatively flat so I can see for a good way. I think that I can see the docks off in the distance beside a small village. I can't spot any boats, but I am not really sure what a riverboat looks like. I can sort of picture a ship, but not on sailing on a river.
"We must be almost there," Wold complains. "All this fast walking is wearing me out even though I'm used to it.
"Yes. I can see the docks off in the distance," Wet assures. "We aren't more than a couple miles away. We should be there within the hour.
Wold nods, saving her breath for later. The news that we are closing on Southsford reinvigorates me. Even the birds seem to be filled with joy. The squirrels too are busily gathering nuts in the light of the late summer sun.
"Are there any fishing shops in time?" RP asks. "I am positively starving for a good Hun of fish.
I can't remember." Wet replies. "I think that there was one the last time I visited, but the man running it was pretty old. Might be gone by now. The main attraction is the ferry that crosses the river. It is one of the few in the thanedome.
"It better be running!"
"Well about the only fish they catch here are salmon. The others are sporadic and hard to catch."
"That is in autumn. That won't be for another few weeks. Maybe a month." Wold adds.
Deciding it,s time to give my horse a break, I pull up on the reins and jump off lightly. I was getting sore of riding anyway.
"Keep your eyes peeled for Cros and the others," Wet says after a while.
"Maybe they slept in late," I suggest.
"More likely, one of their horses got hurt," RP replies. I roll my eyes. We just wrapped up another argument and I'm not getting into another one.
"If you say so."
We ride and walk on in silence. I remount after walking for about half a mile. The topography was nice, but I still had to work to keep up, and I felt my horse was well rested after the break.
I'm glad of the silence. It allows me to think clearly about things which starkly contrasts with the event of the past day. Now that things have calmed down I can look forward to what I have to look forward to.
So far, the events of my life have been entirely centered around surviving, and then finding Chaise. But what about when we get to Chaise? What can I do to stop him? Shoot a few arrows and hope I hit him in a soft spot? Taking down a dragon is like finding needle in a haystack. It takes time, a lot of effort, and produces little satisfaction. It's also dangerous. Very dangerous? Am I up for it?
I ride up to the riverboat with Wet, Wold, and RP. The four of us pull up on the reins and Wet dismounts. I hesitantly follow suit, and RP and Wold follow my lead. As we stand there, Wet walks along one of the jetties and motions for us to stay. There are three boats docked along the wharf. I finally get a glimpse of what we'll be riding on.
None of them have masts or sails. I guess sails are pretty useless on a river. I note a number of oar holes for heading upriver. Fortunately, we don't have to worry about that.
I glance around the small village. There isn't a whole lot to look at. There are only a few two story buildings, most of them being businesses, and the rest are small huts or hole-in-the-wall shops. There aren't even many docks. Most of them appear to be more popular with the birds than with men. Their droppings litter the ground everywhere I move. I quickly give up on trying to avoid the squishy blobs.
I observe Wet engaging a man, technically a hobbit, along the docks in a conversation. Neither of them are wearing shoes, despite the gooey bird poop littering the ground. I cringe. I can't imagine walking around in . . . that stuff. Even being a hobbit.
Wet says motioning for us to follow. That ship on the far end is the one we're taking."
"It isn't a ship," the man who Wet is talking to blurts out. "How many times do I have to tell you this? It's a boat. Ships are the ones that sail o' the open ocean. Boats are smaller they're o' rivers, or are used for private use, such as fishing."
"I really don't care." Wet brushes the man out of his way. "It's time to unload our things"
RP shrugs. "Might as well get moving."
RP and I begin unloading a few things off our horses and taking them onto the boat. Wold helps as well by carrying a pack on her back too. With a trip or two we are easily able to load all our belonging onto the boat while Wet keeps eye out for the other Typos.
While we're walking though the village I note that there can't be more than fifty houses and businesses, and the population is probably under two hundred people.
Wet turns down the second street paralleling the river, which appears to be their main street with most of the businesses and houses on it. The first place we come to is the butcher's shop. He appears to run a tanning business on the side as well. The only man, presumably the owner, has his back turned to us, but I can see the repulsive blood on the fringes of his apron. He turns as he sees us coming and wipes some blood or meat juice off of his hands onto a wet rag sticking out of his pocket.
"G'day to you, strangers! Have ya come to buy meat from me, or are ya here for Graylock's tanning business?" His accent is thicker than Wet's or most of the guard's and he gestures frequently with his hands enormous hands. They're practically the size of my head.
"We are here to buy meat," Wet says. We've just come from Hybury and we didn't bring much food along with us."
"You'll have to cook i' yourself," the man says. "But if you want it I'll give i' to you. How much do you I want?"
"A pound," Wet says.
"Very well," the butcher says, going to grab the meat and weigh it on the scales.
Wet eyes the meat suspiciously. The man looks honest enough, but Wet errs on the side of caution
"The price is up on the sign," the man says. I glance at the painted wooden sign. The background is a faded white. Little flecks of the paint have already begun to peel off. The letters a red. Blood red. The words on the sign is literally written in blood.
"Here's the money," Wet said, handing the man a few coins from his pocket. His hands are trembling.
"And here's the meat," the butcher says, taking the money and handing Wet the meat in a cloth bag. "If you bring the bag back you can get a discount," the man calls after us as we walk away.
"I'm wouldn't go back there to save the world," I shudder. "Did you notice the blood on the sign?"
"I noticed." Wet sigh. "I wouldn't have gone there in the first place if RP wouldn't have insisted on getting meat. Chesnut warned me about the butcher. Regardless, we don't have time. The others will be here in a matter of minutes.
Sure enough, there is a cloud of dust rising in the distance. But are they the other typos?
"Well, it may be a detachment of soldiers from Hybury, but I doubt it," Wold says. "They aren't likely to bother us since we're so far away."
"Agreed," Wet says. "Let's head back to the boat and cook up this beef so we can leave."
Chesnut's boat is simple and utilitarian. The hull is simple, but effective for carving through the water and the paint is solid orange.
"What's her name?" I ask Chesnut.
"It be the Salmon. It's the custom that our ships have no name painted on them. The way to tell is by that little fish on the forecastle. That why we painted her orange.
"That makes sense. It doesn't look like a salmon though. I would say this looks more like an ordinary ship . . . er, boat"
"It ain't supposed to look like one. It is named in honor of the most famous fish that ever has swum a river."
The man's manner of speech is already staring to get on my nerves.
"Why don't we have a look around, eh?" Wet asks, breaking the silence that was fast becoming awkward.
"Sure! I'd be glad to do so! It's always good to know your boat, even if you ain't gonna be responsible for what goes on aboard. I've found it to be a handy thing, just in case something were to ever go wrong while you was on it."
For the next fifteen or twenty minutes he goes on and on about every part of the ship in minute detail, even though he claims that he is just barely scratching the surface of the bare minimum of what he and his crew members have to know to run the ship. I try to be polite, but I think he probably just likes to hear himself talk.
After the "cursory description" of the ship, we stand on the shore waiting for the rest of the Typos to arrive, while Chesnut makes sure everything ready so we can leave at a moment's notice. A gentle breeze rolls down on us from upstream, and my hair blows wildly in the wind. For a moment Cros and the other typos are hidden from our view but the cloud of dust, but soon it clears and now they're in plain view, less than a hundred paces.
But they fade away from view and ahead I can see Chaise. He's not really there, but he is on my mind. He is at the end of the long road ahead. I'm filled with a sudden resolve. I may not be the best fighter, or even the most intelligent person, but I will find a way to bring Chaise down. And when I do, no one will get in the way of my plan.