Less than a Week Later, a bit south and east of Ganse.
Jehanna first saw Vorodon’s head emerge above the hilltop and nearly feinted. Not that she had any idea who (or what) she was seeing, but she knew it too big and ugly of a head to be human…and that couldn’t be good. The girl let out a limp ‘eeck’, then called more loudly to her brother.
Yandry dropped his pile of sticks and rushed to help his sister. The two had been picking dry wood for the fire, and must have wandered a bit too far. Rushing back to the camp, Jehanna in tow, Yandry dared one more glance back and spied the most bizarre group of ‘people’ he had ever laid eyes on, and that was saying something…Yandry had spent his entire twelve years of existence, living among the carnies and gypsies of the Caravans.
Climbing up and over the hill came an ogre; it had to be an ogre, Yandry thought, what else could it be? The huge humanoid was carrying what looked like metal stick, in one beefy paw, and seemed to be honing the spike as he strode. Next came a shining knight, the kind Yandry had seen in his picture books, walking his destrier lovingly along the rocky path, armor still gleaming, despite the light of the setting sun. Thirty yards to the left, descending the same hill via a different path, a small man came, wide-brimmed hat, swaying in the breeze, eyes darting along the paths seen and unseen. Following soon after came an intimidating human woman with a stark-white mane of hair, emanating in waves from her head, in the moist evening air. She had a look of steel-eyed intent, yet seemed lost in thought. It was a unique look, one few people could pull off, Yandry found himself thinking, as he ran shepherding his sister.
If he had not seen the white-haired woman, Yandry may have let out a shout of warning toward the camp, but he had seen that hair before, and the woman in fact as well, and though he wouldn’t admit it even to himself now as he ran, he had even thought of her on many a past night, when it was dark, and he was alone in his bed.
Instead of a shout of warning, he yelled, “Aunt Loiha! Your friend is coming!”
Loiha wasn’t exactly sure whom the young Yandry was referring to as she heard his shout, while busy skinning herrings for the pot of roiling water. After all, Loiha had many friends, and the gypsies had scattered from Ganse recently in all directions, hitching themselves to various caravans. One of the few towns in existence, she mused, which people ran away from not to, and into the wilds, even with the late winter slush, sometimes ankle-deep in the gullies and leg-breaking terrain outside Ganse.
The foursome had been traveling for two days now, south and southeast, having left Ganse, a better place than they had found it. The city guard was rid of its miscreants (or most of them anyway) and the capable, if gruff, Doglord, was now city guard captain. Vorodon had gained his revenge on the erstwhile ‘lieutenant’, Aerex saw justice done, Kyrian, likewise, and Talia, merely did what was needed t be done. Her thoughts were elsewhere, on her father, and strangely, more and more lately, on that willful man, Vorodon called ‘The Insecter’. These latter thoughts slightly annoyed her, and the fact that Matare was stealing looks at her, whenever he thought she wasn’t watching him, only aggravated the situation.
Aerex for his part was indeed stealing glances at the hoary beauty as the group traveled, but found himself thinking of Jantir, and the life he had left behind. It would be good to heal old wounds, he pondered…or would it? Aerex further thought of his chosen new path, and what it would mean for both his immediate and long-term future. He felt a pull in three directions. The City, the Wilds, and the Woman.
Kyrian thought of his lady, the one he had vowed to find. Sworn to himself, if no other, and that was most important to the knight. He thought as well, that this group was able, and even more impressively, had accepted him into their ranks almost instantaneously. This he found peculiar. Not the fact that anyone would NOT be impressed with his perfect form and prowess. That would be believable, Kyrian continued thinking. Indeed, he had spied the so-called Adventurers-Upon-Return eyeing him with what must have been awe, when had nearly sliced that corrupt guard in twain, back in the barracks. They were impressed and he knew it. No, what he found peculiar was their strange unity despite their differences, and his own strange compulsion to travel with this band. He often acted alone, he preferred it that way, but there was something…something about this mismatched trio, which Kyrian found appealing. Perhaps, they, like him, were meant for greatness? He questioned no one, but glanced at Vorodon.
The half-ogre had nearly tripped over a split boulder, at that very moment, trying to catch and stab a rock-hopping squirrel, which had darted into a crevice. Shaking his meaty fist at the hidden creature, and uttering phrases of contempt in its direction, in that barely understandable, hill-ogre, gargled-throat, sing-song of his, he looked up to see Kyrian watching him and offered a toothy grin, which could not have been mistaken for the Smiling-Goddess-in-Respite, a painting, Kyrian had remembered studying in his youth.
Vorodon had found himself thinking of dinner most of that afternoon, and when he smelled fish and potatoes cooking beyond the hillock, the giant sped up the pace, allowing the rock-hopping squirrel to live another day.
It wasn’t long before the foursome spied Loiha, her husband, and other gypsies, Maegla the Blind among them, firmly encamped, cooking a meal and sitting around a roaring bonfire. There were probably twenty to thirty gypsies in all, and several wagons. They were on the move, Talia knew, but did not seem in any hurry this night. Dinner would be warm tonight. She had almost forgotten the city guardsman she had left behind in the barracks, the one which begged her to accompany the companions to Jantir. She didnt believe the youth's tale about her potential father, and had no interest in sharing the road with the prickly and pushy little man. Neither had the others.
As the foursome neared the gypsies, Talia noticed Loiha, and the old woman noticed the Bladedancer. Talia smiled for the first time in a while, but was surprised at the first words out of Loiha’s mouth.
“Look what my little nephew Yandry found”, the friendly woman exclaimed, with a wide smile, as she held up a large oval object cradled in a burlap half-sack, and wrapped in cloth.
The object could only be described as what it was, an egg, but a huge egg, the size of a small shield in circumference and diameter, off-white, with a veined bluish tinge.
Loiha held it up proudly and continued smiling.