07 May 2006

GA Chapter Six

When Amiable and Noreach reached the Rally Inn early the next morning, the first shimmers of light were creeping up from the horizon. Dandy Fop was already there, asleep and wrapped in a thick fur cloak. He was perched on the top of a large gilded carriage emblazoned with the Fop family crest, two crossed swords with large roses on the ends where the pointy bits should be.
Idiot and Stupid were trying to move a set of matching gilded luggage from the carriage into a weather-beaten clapboard wagon from which remnants of faded gray paint were imperceptibly peeling off. Several of the gilded trunks were already in the wagon, along with a simple brown chest, and a set of trunks in the deepest black Amiable had ever seen.
Snarky was nowhere to be seen. Selfless waved to them as he rode up. He was on a large brown horse, several bags holding his gear hanging from the saddle. “Good Morning,” he said. “There are more than enough horses to go around. Fop's men will tend the wagon team for us. I don't know where that Anachronism fellow has gone off to, but I expect he will be back shortly.”
Amiable nodded to Selfless even as he ignored the message. He spent a few moments looking over the horses before slinging his bags onto one. All of the horses were brown, except for two. A white horse of impressive size and strength had some very odd things hanging from the thickly padded saddle. A oddly shaped black horse obviously belonged to Lord Fop. It was only of middling height but it's girth betrayed a lack of exercise and bordered on the obese. It's saddle was also thickly padded and, along with everything else hanging from or covering the horse, inlaid with cheap baubles made up to look like precious gems.
“I don't see the bloody lad about, have you?” Noreach asked of Amiable as he began to fasten his own bags to another of the brown horses.
“No, but I hope he shows up. We'll look like idiots if the first person we sponsor is too cowardly to even bother to come along.”
“Adolescent Misfit will show,” offered Selfless, the half-heartedness of his voice betraying a lack of sleep. “I've done a great many of these little excursions, and nobody has ever quit this early. No. Nobody will quit until we've reached Recuperation.”
“Has somebody quit already?” asked a strangely dressed young man. His attire was so strange that it appeared to be nothing more than a collection of silken pockets.
“This adventuring party is being managed by the Order of Timely Heroes, Enchanters, and Royalty, a Section 23 organization. As such, it's business is a secret protected by both guilds and the King's law,” droned Selfless.
“So if you don't move along stranger,“ added Amiable, “We'll have to kill you to keep that secret.”
Amiable and Selfless both bared a small part of their favorite swords and Noreach pulled one of his smaller axes from their leather carrying case. The Goon brothers, sensing trouble, moved to stand between the stranger and Fop's carriage.
“It's, uh, me! Snarky Anachronism! I have a shave and a bath. I'm going with you. I just wanted to know who wasn't.”
“Everyone is here, Anachronism, except for Upwell and Misfit. If we're lucky, Upwell will have had a bath as well.” Selfless didn't sound the same, the fatigue was still on his voice, but there was a hesitancy that spoke more to confusion and a lack of confidence. Noreach was the only one in earshot who didn't notice. He did catch the comment about Upwell and began snickering.
“Knock it off, Axemaster.” said Amiable curtly, adding in a whisper, “Something's wrong here, watch your back.” The dwarf nodded in reply and finished packing his things.
A bit of chivvying by Selfless got the Goon brothers back to work. They finished moving Fop's trunks into the wagon and hooked up the extra horses, leaving two out for the late arrivals. Snarky watched Selfless with a concerned look, both of them being watched by Amiable and Noreach.
The Sun was cresting over the hills when Cleans arrived, courteously approaching from downwind. He had neither shaved nor bathed, the two unlucky horses trying in futility to shy away from him. He still picked one and tied a sack to the pommel that smelled of rancid meat. It actually was rancid meat, although it was slaughterhouse fresh when Cleans adopted it as the latest in a long and failed line of good luck charms.
Cleans was hanging a rusted and dented sword to the other side of the saddle when Adolescent arrived. He was out of breath and barely able to make his apologies for being late. “I'm sorry,” he said to Noreach's frown of disapproval, “I slept in, and then I went to the On The Way Inn, but you had already left, and then I went to the Lavish Luxury Inn where someone gave me directions and asked me to remember them to Lord Fop. Pudgie, her name was.”
“Pudgie?” snickered Noreach, arching an eyebrow. “Was she missing his company already?”
Adolescent looked apprehensively at Noreach. Slowly, comprehension dawned on him and his face wrenched in disgust. He shook his head and Noreach began laughing loudly at him, loudly enough to wake Fop, who lifted up his hat enough to Stupid holding his horse. “Time to go then,” Fop said merrily, climbing down from the carriage and onto his horse.
Adolescent put his bags into the wagon and his weapons onto the horse before climbing up into the saddle. Noreach, Amiable, and Snarky did likewise. They looked around a moment before Snarky spoke again.
“Selfless Sacrifice, you'll do nobody any good at Ambush Pass if you don't get some sleep. Sleep in the wagon, and we'll wake you when we get close.”
“We're going through Ambush Pass? There are rumors of bandits there.”
“I know of the dangers. It will take three days off of our journey and we won't get there until this afternoon. So get some rest now and we'll deal with what comes as it comes.”
Selfless grew worried. He stared at Snarky, as if trying to get a measure of the man. Snarky proved either inscrutable or illegible, and Selfless glanced instead to Amiable. Their gazes met and Amiable gave the slightest hint of a nod.
“Okay,” said Selfless, sliding down out of his saddle. He tied the reins to a ring on the back of the wagon. Idiot gave him a hand up and as soon as he was nestled into the baggage, Selfless pulled his hat down over his eyes and sought rest. Snarky turned his horse towards Starting Gate and began to edge it forward. The other riders began to follow. Stupid flicked the reins for the wagon team, and those horses began to trot in unison, as if for show. “These are good horses,” muttered Idiot, and both Goon brothers flashed an approving glance towards Selfless, who had yet to sink into an uneasy sleep.

Goe, over 14% of the way there!


Rachmeg said...

So at this rate, you should be done sometime around what? 2009?

Goemagog said...

damn, i was hoping for 2008.

Goe, saying bah.