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3.

 

An hour and a half later, the eight of us, five men and three women, four more or less warriors, an archer, a thief, an acolyte of the Virgin Goddess and a conjurer, turn off River Street and onto Bridge Street, away from the direction of the Bridge and toward the South Gate. We take a nice hour hike through farmland and then up, winding to the southwest into high country.

 

The road is not on anyone’s trade route, like North River Road which runs to Travishome and Sigurd Bay and connects with the Royal Road to Thomasport. But it’s well-traveled, by a certain sort of traveler. Under an early afternoon sun of June, sure enough, we meet people coming back. There are four of them, and they seem happy enough. They’re well-armed: two have swords loose in their hands, swords that look a bit worn, and the other two are a girl, probably of elf blood, with a bow taller than her, and a small plain fellow in a tunic of leather-studded armor over blue jeans, holding a wand.

 

“Have you been up to the Ruins?” calls Harmon in a cheery voice.

 

The four shamble to a halt. I’m a bit nervous, wondering if these might pass for bandits in this area, but the fellow with the wand gives a tired smile, as if to hail the fellow magic user and therefore presumed brains of the operation. He says to Harmon, “Ayup. You going that way?”

 

“Yes, we are, my good sorcerer,” says Harmon, apparently proud to have read the wand as a sign that the fellow did magic. “Anything we should look out for?”

 

The two warriors chuckle. They were both in chain mail, and both showed significant wounds. The magic user looks at the archer and then says, “I would look out for goblins. And orcs. Other things too, but—those primarily.”

 

“Don’t you guys have a healer?” asks Janet. “Never go into danger without a cleric of some kind.”

 

“We didn’t,” says one of the warriors.

 

“So where—?” Janet stops in mid question. “You need some healing?”

 

“Save your energy, girl,” says the warrior, who has two parallel, medium-deep slashes on his bare left arm. “We’re fine, and in town we’ll get healed up. You take care o’ your own.”

 

“Well, then,” says Harmon. “We’ll see you at Sleepy’s, perchance. We can spend some of the treasure we take!”

 

“Oh, yeah,” says the other warrior. He has a smash on his head, uncovered but no longer bleeding. “That’s one thing.”

 

“That’s one thing about losing a few of your party,” says the magic user. “You only have to split the sixteen silver pieces you managed to scrape up four ways.”

 

We don’t know quite what to say to this. The archer finally speaks up. “Well, friends,” she says, in a slight but distinct elvish accent, “let us leave these people to whatever they are doing. We must be on our way.”

 

“Good luck,” says the magic user. “You’ll want that.”

 

“Thanks, you too,” I manage to say. I’d planned on throwing out some flowery blessing, something along the lines of ‘may our roads draw together at the end of day, and may we raise our glasses together at the rise of the moon.’

 

“Oh, and I’m not a sorcerer,” says the magic user. “But as of right now, I should be ready to pass the test for sorcerer. I’m fairly sure the faculty will accept that I did enough in the way of an ordeal.” He shakes his head. “Seen enough, yeah.” We share a smile, which I can just about stand without vomiting. “So fare thee well and I hope I ever see you again.”

 

The four wave and trudge past with further mumbled parting words. I mumble some words of my own. “Buh-bye,” says Eleanor. “Boy, those guys were sort of interesting. Makes you think.”

 

“Yeah, makes you think,” says Janet. “Right, Dais?”

 

“Sixteen silvers??” says Benvolio.

 

“They left plenty for us,” says Ompontonius.

 

“Okay, okay,” says Fenric. “We’re just scouting today. Let’s get there and see what things look like.”

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