While the two old friends tucked back into the walls of the Mage’s College, the rather posh stuffed carriage clanked and clattered down the cobbled path towards the main road. The Dean was sitting alongside Roden while the younger two, Tanis and Maude, settled themselves in the precarious seats on top of the carriage like a couple of perched crows.
How they decided which way up the main road to travel was all down to a rather shoddy divination spell that the Dean himself had performed. It led them in the direction with the best chance for success, and that direction was up towards Skila rather then down towards Kingswood. So Skila they would head.
Feeling far more confidence then sense, everything appeared to be going well. They were making good time and everyone was keeping generally quiet and unobtrusive. He barely heard a peep from the youngest ones and sometimes even forgot they were riding on the carriage roof (leading to an unfortunate incident where a low branch nearly knocked off Maude’s head).
Trouble didn’t start until the roads, which were pretty quiet and almost empty, suddenly seemed to get more exciting. Up ahead it became clear that there was a merchant caravan headed their way and the students were getting quite interested.
“What in the stars name are they coming through now?” He pulled the reins and edged the large steeds to pull a bit more towards the right side of the road instead of taking up the entire thing.
“Merchants! Oh that is excellent, I could use a few supplies!” Tanis grinned, peering over a rail. “Look at them all, there must be at least fifteen in all! Is there a festival coming up?”
“Not yet, it would certainly be early. Perhaps there is some sort of trades conference? It happens occasionally…” Maude quietly added.
“Enough! We are on a mission remember? We don’t need to dawdle for candy or nick knacks!” Marthis snapped.
“There wouldn’t be any room for them anyway.” Maude sarcastically retorted.
So it was they slowed their pace and waited as a few of them passed. Buskers and tradesmen, some playing random music and some joyfully whistling or rehearsing song and lyrics. A few of the colourful carriages also had beautifully painted signs and flags whistling in the wind. It was as if the entire grouping was more of a parade then a civilized sort.
The Dean would normally simply snub his nose up at the lot and continue on his way, but it seemed the others enjoyed the distraction and were hard to wrangle back on task.
So it happened that nearing the back of the line Krill’s eyes caught sight of the hard to miss sight of the Dean’s motely crew first.
“Oh, shit!” She cracked her elbow hard against the carriage wall and slid over to frantically get Kelle’s attention. “We got a problem out there, I think that’s a Mage wagon!”
“How can you be sure?” Kelle popped her head out covering her eyes and peering through traffic while a few noisy jugglers were keeping themselves occupied by throwing bottles at each other.
“…It’s got the Mage crest plastered on the side of it. I don’t think anyone could miss it. Plus it looks like the same dumb bloke in the drivers seat that tried to off me.”
A few seconds later and the noise of scuffling caused Tusk to pop his head out beside Kelle’s. “Idiots!” he hissed as he squinted hard in the direction of the wagon, after finding it between the other chaos going on. “I mean who takes the bloody show carts out for a joyride? I mean seriously! They were only meant for serious diplomatic travelling!”
“Okay… not the point. What do we do? Hope the idiot doesn’t see us?”
“Honey, I have a far better idea… just keep that hood up and keep on trucking by no matter what. Don’t stop and look casual. I got this covered.” Kelle and Tusk both popped their heads back inside, and a moment later Kelle had slipped out the back of their Carriage and Tusk was keeping hidden still inside.
“I didn’t recognize any of the ones with him… they weren’t in fancy robes so obviously they aren’t on council.” She heard him through the thin wall between them.
“True. My eyes are better then yours old man – they look fairly young. Least the two riding on top. Not sure about the guy up front with the Mage. He looks more like a soldier. Maybe a trained guard? I don’t know. What’s she got planned anyway?”
“Your guess is as good as mine…” he chuckled. “Maybe she’s hungry?”
“Hey now!” Quick as lightning she had apparently returned with barely a whisper of a noise. Neither of them had even heard the carriage door shut again. “I have very distinguished tastes, and I assure you that one would certainly not be it. As for what I did? Well, lets just wait and see..”
It didn’t seem they would have to wait long as while their carriages started to pass each other a young man, barley older then a boy and looking dishevelled ran up to the Mage’s carriage and nearly plowed into the large tired horses as he waved his arms frantically to get their attention.
“Whoa! Are you trying to get yourself killed?!” Roden yanked the horses to an angry and loud stop, and the Dean nearly fell from his seat at the jarring. The horses pounded the ground in frustration while their flanks twitched.
“I’m sorry but is it true?! Are you from the great Mage College?” He ran up to the side of the carriage even as the Dean pulled himself away from him, a hand absently reaching out to grab Roden’s arm, which Roden pulled away from him with a grunt.
“Kretin! Get back, we have no money for you! How do you know who we are?”
“Oh relax, he’s got blood on him already! I doubt he’s going to maul you…” Tanis rolled his eyes and peered down. “And… seriously? I mean I think -everyone- knows who we are at this point…”
“Hush boy!” Marthis snapped back, with his lip still curled in disgust. “I know my reputation proceeds me, but this is not the… oh. You mean the carriage. Well.. yes.” he cleared his throat, turning his attention back to the dirty little merchant that was still looking at him all too patiently. “As for you… what do you want?”
Carefully he had readjusted his composure, and straightening himself up as if his momentary surprise had been nothing of note. His spine straightened and his arms crossed.
He wasn’t scared after all. He was just momentarily distracted… It happened to everyone! He had a lot of important things on his mind after all and these unimportant peasant folk were violent, sneaky and unpredictable. Not to mention this one looked like it may have been covered in all manner of disease or afflictions…
“I’m sorry to trouble you sir! I know how powerful and important you Mage’s are! I am ever so fortunate to have found you when I did! You see I’ve heard rumours around here of some dangerous things going on! Yes we merchants hear lots of stuff where we go, people talk you know?”
“Hurry it up boy, what is this about – some sort of nasty little troll or witch? That isn’t our problem!”
Kelle’s cart was almost safely away, trudging on and blending in as best they could. Even the six large Marshland Goats that pulled the carriage seemed quieter then normal, although they smelled just as bad as they always had.
A few more feet and the danger would be all but gone. Krill having just as good of hearing as she did eyesight meant she still managed to catch a few words of the conversation the other group was having while they headed off towards freedom.
“No sir, nothing of that sort.” the young man removed his cloth hat which made his already dishevelled hair all the worse. He wrung it nervously in his hands. “Just a tiny little bottle with a whole lot of bad stuff inside.”
Krill stiffened. The Dean stiffened.
Both for very different reasons of course.
“For the right price… I can tell you exactly where it is.”