Gender: Male Age: 53 Location: Las Vegas, Nv
|Introduction: Trade city by the River Glevin|
I turned and we fell in beside his men. He kept looking at my rifle but didn’t say anything. It was a few hours later that he gestured off the road, “We make camp there for the night.”
I looked around and nodded before turning with him. The area was beside a moderate stream with lots of tall grass. I picked an area to the side and unsaddled my horses before staking them out on long pickets. It only took me about twenty minutes to catch a couple of large fish. I brought fresh clothes down and stripped beside the stream.
I waded out into the water and was surprised when after a few minutes several male and female dwarfs joined me. I grinned and finished washing before wading ashore while they played. I dressed and went back to camp to clean, fillet and cook the fish. The well dressed dwarf squatted across from me and looked curiously at the fish frying.
I held a wooden plate out to him that I had traded a farmer for a couple of days earlier. I had also found a pepper tree and had a large bag of peppercorns, all I needed now was salt. The dwarf looked at me and then accepted the plate gingerly. He tasted a small piece of fish with his knife point and then stared at the fish.
He grinned and looked at me as he took another bite, “I have never tasted these in one hundred and twenty seven years. You can call me Bris.”
I grinned, “Catching them is just as fun. I’m Sam.”
I talked about fly fishing while we ate and he seemed fascinated. After dinner he went to check his camp and men while I checked my horses and put them on a single picket line. I began my evening exercises as several of the dwarfs watched and finished as the sun sank down over the horizon. It was a quiet night that had me more relaxed then in a long time.
I woke with the false dawn and headed for the stream, hoping to catch another couple of fish. Before I had caught my second fish, Bris was there. By the way he was staring I knew he wanted to try it. I waved him out and started teaching him. Several of the others lined up behind us to watch and on his third cast Bris got a hit that bent the pole.
He was hooked along with every one of the dwarfs that was watching. He reeled in a huge fish and I helped him get it off the hook and he was right back in the stream. After his fourth fish I managed to get him out of the stream so we could clean and cook the fish. He watched closely as I cleaned them and had one of his men bring a small pouch of salt.
We were late getting started and all they talked about was catching the fish. Bris kept looking at me as we rode along and finally turned in his saddle, “How much for your fishing pole?”
I grinned and then laughed, I shook my head no and he looked grumpy until I mentioned that I would make a pole for him. He grinned, “How do you make them?”
I nodded to a stream we were coming to, “Find a strait sapling and cut it to length…”
We spent the day talking about fishing and how to make fishing poles and flies. I tried to explain the difference between wet flies and dry flies and when to use each. We made an early stop for the night beside a stream. I let Bris use my fishing pole and took my bow to go looking for something else.
I was watching a young buck and slowly placing an arrow on the string when I felt something watching me. It was like the times when I was in combat and had felt something out of place. I slowly looked around and found myself looking at several wolves as they crept closer. They were huge, easily the size of a Great Dane.
I dropped the bow and spun as I pulled my pistol. The wolves rushed towards me and I barely had time to aim. I took the first one in the chest and the second through the head. I had to spin away from the third and shot the forth straight through its mouth as it leaped. I shifted sideways and turned to shoot the third wolf behind the ear.
I turned with my pistol following my eyes as two other wolves slowly approached. I took aim and killed one with a chest shot and the other turned to leave. I looked around and relaxed as I realized it was over. I was skinning one of the wolves when Bris and several of the dwarfs found me. He stood with his hands on his hips and shook his head.
I shrugged and went back to skinning the wolves. I rolled each skin up and when I was finally done we headed back to camp. I dropped everything beside where I planned to make a fire. I ate a meal that night while the dwarfs stayed in their camp and talked. I carefully started scraping one of the skins and went out to cut a few branches to use as a frame to stretch the skin.
I rubbed ash from my fire into the skin and stretched it on the frame I had made. Bris came to my camp just as I was getting ready to lie down. He squatted across from me, “You are a strange man, Sam.”
I grinned, “I’ve been told that before.”
He smiled, “You are very skilled with weapons and you have other weapons we know nothing about.”
I lay back and gestured for him to join me, “I’m going to tell you a story.”
In the month since I had arrived, my appearance had changed so that I looked like a man of maybe forty. I looked into the night sky and began taking about my life. Not just about my life but about my world. I told him everything… about being in the hospital and the rest. The dragon seemed to surprise him and he looked at me speculatively.
When I finished and lay quietly, he nodded, “It is similar to a few other stories we have heard about.”
I looked at him and he nodded, “I think the dragon helped you more than you know.”
I nodded, “I think I do know.”
We relaxed and he sighed, “We will stay with you. The trade City is only three days away but it gets more dangerous.”
I looked away from the sky and he nodded, “Across the river Glevin is the vast plains of Turass. There are large herds of beasts that roam the plains and because of this predators like the wolves you killed are plentiful. The closer we get, the more we will encounter.”
Listening to his talk made me think of the Great Plains and the huge herds of Bison that had once roamed it. I nodded, “We had something like that in my world but that was long ago.”
Bris shrugged, “You need to camp with us and keep your horses with ours.”
I nodded, “Fine but we share guard duty.”
He agreed and then grinned, “And the fishing pole.”
I laughed and we were quiet for a time. Bris kept looking at me, “Could you make more of those weapons?”
I thought about it, the metal of both weapons was made from advanced composites and needed special tools and equipment. I glanced at Bris, “They are made from metal stronger then the steel in a sword. I would need special equipment I probably wouldn’t find here. I could make weapons yes but not using the same metals. They wouldn’t be like the weapons I carry either.”
I looked at the sky thinking about what he had asked. With all the different things I had learned over the years I could make a modern weapon. In fact, I remembered a time when I had designed a Thompson machine gun made from newer light weight metals. It had only weighted half of what a real Thompson weighted.
I had also studied plans for other weapons, an old Colt Peacemaker and a Ruger Red Hawk. I woke early and rolled out of bed. I checked the horses and saddled them before putting them on their leads. They were grazing in the tall grass as I packed up. One of the dwarf women walked to the rolls of wolf pelts and only glanced at me, “We will take care of these.”
I smiled, “Thank you.”
Bris appeared smoking what looked like a long thin milky stone. The smell was like apples and cinnamon. I looked at the pipe and he grinned before nodding towards the stream where several dwarfs were watching one fish. I grinned and cleared a sandy patch of ground. I thought about it and sketched the eyes and brass caps on the section ends, describing everything as I went.
Bris watched and listened until I was done. I explained about curing the wood so it wouldn’t split. I told him about using strong waxed string to attach the eyes and a strong glue to hold the sections caps on. When I finished he called the dwarf that was fishing. When he got to us, Bris took the fishing pole and examined the eyes and section caps closely.
As we rode during the day the guards stayed closer to the wagons and were more alert. Just before our lunch break we were approaching a large slow moving stream when I noticed something moving in the tall grass off to one side. I was carrying the bow and pulled up before swinging out of the saddle and tying the rains to a passing wagon.
I nocked an arrow and moved closer. I was only fifteen feet away when it rose up slightly as it moved closer to the road. I brought the bow up and pulled back in one motion. The release was almost an after thought. The scream of the big spotted cat as my arrow slammed into its body caused the horses to scream and panic.
The big cat was snapping at the arrow as I prepared another. I didn’t have to shoot though, the cat spasmed and dropped to the ground. I carefully moved closer as the dwarves joined me. I recognized the cat as what I thought was a large Jaguar. It took the cat several minutes to die and Bris told one of the other Dwarves to stop the wagons beside the stream.
Another Dwarf moved towards the big cat and I watched as he skinned it with a lot less effort then I could. He rolled the skin and we headed toward the waiting wagons a few hundred yards away. Bris looked at me, “You did a good job spotting that cat. Most of the time we only see them when they attack.”
One of the women handed me a large piece of bread and a chunk of cheese. I grinned and looked around for some twigs. I made a small fire and cut the bread in half before stuffing the cheese inside. I used a forked stick to toast it over the small fire while the dwarves watched amused. I sat back and ate my sandwich slowly, enjoying the unique taste.
The rest of the day went by without incident and we set up camp beside a wide slow moving stream. The water in the stream looked almost crystal clear as I waded out to cast a line. I hooked a big fish on the first try and brought it in. I had noticed several large fish gliding close to me, they looked long and lean like Northern Pike.
When I lifted the fish I had caught out of the water one turned towards me. Something I remembered from fishing in a northern state came back to me. Another man was telling stories of northern pike that attacked a man while he was fishing. I shifted my pole to the same hand as the fish and reached over my shoulder for my sword.
I had just pulled it out when the fish attacked. I struck straight down and impaled the fish on the end of my sword. I brought the sword up with the large struggling fish and wadded to the shore. The dwarves were wide eye and stared at the large fish on my sword and I grinned, “When fishing, watch the water around you for fish like this. They are what is called territorial and may attack your feet.”
The dwarves looked at each other as I offered the fishing pole. I was cleaning the fish when one of the women just took it away from me. I sat beside a couple of the women as they cooked and learned a little about the herbs and spices they used. When I offered the pepper I had gathered, they only looked at me as if they had never heard of it.
I crushed some on a plate with a knife blade and they tried it. I relaxed later with their quiet voices around me. Bris was busy at one of the fires and the women were working on the pelts. I drifted off and was awakened by a young dwarf a few hours before the sun came up. I drifted around the outside of the camp watching and listening until the sun started coming up and the whole camp came awake.
The land around us began to flatten and there were only a few hills. There were a lot more large farms and small communities along the road. Just after our noon stop we were warned by a farmer about a big lion that had been stalking the farms around there. We saw a larger pack of wolves in the distance but they stayed away.
I had switched back to carrying my rifle and rode in the front of our caravan. We camped beside a shallow river and kept the horses between the camp and the river. During dinner Bris handed me what looked like a spice grinder, “The women asked me to get some of your peppercorn.”
I smiled and dug into a pack. I filled the grinder and handed it back, “Next time we pass one of the pepper trees I’ll point it out and get some for you.”
He grinned and nodded as he pulled out his pipe. He saw me watching and grinned, “The weeds are wild. The women pick and dry it along with spices and a few other things. They seem to like the smell.”
I thought of tobacco but when I looked at his offered pouch of weed, I found that it was something else. I tried a few puffs on his pipe and found that it seemed to wake me up and made me feel more alert. There were several dwarves grinning at me as I handed the pipe back. It was almost like I had passed a test.
I had the middle of the night watch and went to bed early. When I got up, I pulled a two foot silencer out and then my thermal scope, I slid it on in front of the sights on my rifle. It was an hour past midnight when the horses became restless. I turned on the thermal scope and scanned the area before moving to the horses.
I took a moment to look out at the shallow river and then along the bank. The lion stood out sharply in the scope and I whistled for the other guard. I was joined shortly by not by just the one guard but by several dwarves that had been awakened by the restless horses. I gestured, “There’s a very big cat along the river bank.”
They nodded and spread out holding their spears tight. I scanned the area above the river bank and froze as I saw another lion, “There’s another one in the grass above the river.”
I thought about it and took careful aim on one of the lions. The muffled shot wasn’t really that loud but it seemed that way to me. I quickly shifted aim as the other cat came fully to its feet. A second muffled shot and it was over. A minute later Bris was there carrying a lantern. I walked out towards the sound of the two lions twitching bodies.
Bris stood beside me and whistled, “Those are big lions.”
I was staring at their fangs and couldn’t believe I had just shot two saber tooth lions. Bris had two dwarves skin them while we went back on guard. I managed to get a few hours of sleep before we headed out in the morning. I had the tanned pelts of the wolves over the last pack horse and he wasn’t to happy about it.
Not only had Bris had the lions skinned but he had the long fangs removed. While we rode along he told me about seeing a pair of engraved fangs. Two of the dwarves driving wagons had the fangs and seemed happy as they relaxed and carved as the horses plodded along. That night we camped in a huge high walled yard.
They called it a Merchants Yard. It had a corral for the horses, a well and several fire pits. Bris said we would reach the trade city a few hours before night fall the next day. I used a bare piece of ground to start drawing and before long one of the women handed me a parchment and a piece of graphite.
I looked at her and then grinned as I went back to drawing, only on the parchment. I was thinking of the night before and the other guard’s inability to see the lions. When I finished, I sat back with Bris across from me. I described what it was and he looked interested. I realized that even after all the time I had spent with him, I didn’t know what he was bringing to the trade city.
Bris grinned and went to the one of the wagons. He returned with a chunk of a silver metal ore. At first I thought it was silver but after examining it I realized it was something else. I had studied geology for awhile but I had no idea what this was, maybe something like titanium. He called it Mytheril or Star Silver.
It was only found deep in certain mountains. He took pleasure in telling me all about this… Mytheril. He said it was stronger than steel and worth its weight in gold. I handed the raw ore back and we sat talking quietly until we finally called it a night. Everyone was excited as we started out the next day.
I had the pelts of the Jaguar and both lions on one of the horses. Our lunch stop was brief and then we were back on the road. We came in sight of the walls in the late afternoon. I was a little sad to see the high walls because it meant I would be leaving the dwarves. It turned out I would be with them a little longer.
There was a huge yard inside the high walls for caravans. We put the horses in one of the corrals and set up camp. I asked Bris if he knew of a local place where I would be able to do some metal work. I described making a rifle, scope and a night vision device. He was more than willing to help and had a relative that lived nearby.
We walked into the city and down a narrow street like all the rest. The building he led me to was made of thick granite blocks that were joined together perfectly. Inside he greeted another dwarf in a hug. They whispered back and forth before I was led to a large workshop. There were easily thirty dwarves scattered around the room working at forges and hammering at benches.
I was led through an arched doorway where several dwarven women were working. I was set up at a bench that had parchment and other drafting tools. I grinned at Bris as I sat and bent over the bench. In only a few minutes everything around me faded away as I concentrated on what I was doing.
When I got tired, I moved to the side and curled up to sleep on a mat that had appeared. I was back at it early the next day. When I finally stopped, I had plans for not only a scope and night vision device but for two different rifles and ammunition. I hadn’t paid attention to the bread, cheese or even the fruit that had been quietly handed to me as I worked.
I rolled up the plans and made my way back to my camp after thanking the sturdy dwarf that had been my host. I cleaned up and took four horses with prepared packs. I led them into the city and followed Bris’s direction to a large open trade area. It took almost two hours of bargaining to trade the silver and weapons for gold.
The two bags of gold were noticeable as I placed them on the first horse. I had made a list of the things I would need and spent another three hours in the marketplace. I was used to third world markets and kept my eyes open for thieves and pickpockets. Back in camp I put everything together in two packs.
The dwarves were celebrating the sale of one wagon load of Mytheril and I did a little bargaining with Bris for some Mytheril as well. It was an early grey dawn as I headed back into the city with one of the dwarf maids. We were going to a little known market where there were spices and dried herbs.
The narrow street was crowded with people until we came to a small widening of the way. There were six men pushing people and talking loud. They were extorting money or property from everyone that tried to pass. Two men stepped in front of us and one reached for the basket the dwarf maid carried.
It was at the same time that I saw two of the other men laughing as one held up something an old woman called a bond kitten. All I saw was a young, maybe eight week old grey stripped kitten squirming and then it bit the man’s finger. Time seemed to slow as his belt knife came out and swung toward the kitten.
He was trying to fling the young cat away as the knife swiped over its throat in a small shower of blood. I was moving before I even realized what I was doing. My left hand flicked the small throwing knife from behind my belt as I reached out to the closest man with my right hand.
I could see the bloody kitten tossed away as my throwing knife slammed solidly into the man’s throat. My right hand had locked on the wrist of the man near me as I slid forward sideways. As I turned his hand my left hand grabbed the back of his head and then my right went ridged as it came forward to strike his throat.
My hand left the man’s head as I turned to the other man and brought my elbow around in a strike to the back of his neck with enough force to break it. I keep turning as he fell and pulled my combat tanto and pistol. I flipped the tanto and threw it into the man’s chest by the old woman and aimed at one of the two men still standing.
I put two rounds through his chest and as the other turned to flee I shot him in the back of the head. I moved quickly to the bleeding kitten and went to my knees. I did the only thing I could think of to save its life. I pulled a small knife and sliced open my left index finger. I gently wrapped my spurting finger around the bleeding throat of the kitten.
My gushing blood splashed into the gash in its throat, “Hold on little one. Calm down and relax.”
It seemed strange but all I could think of to save the kitten was the nanites that were in my blood. I knew that my blood type was O positive and hoped it wouldn’t hurt the kitten. It was trying to move and I used my other hand to hold it still, “No little one, hold still!”
It was as if the kitten heard me and seemed to relax. I glanced around at the twitching bodies of the six men and the crowd that was gathering. The dwarf maid walked to the men I had kill with knives and pulled them out. It was several minutes before the kitten seemed to get a second wind and I thought it would live.
I looked up for the old woman only to find that she had disappeared. I slowly pulled my finger away to see that the cut I had made in my finger was closed. I checked the kitten and saw that while the neck wound looked raw, it to looked partially closed. I carefully picked the kitten up and the dwarf maid led the way back to camp.
While the maid set my weapons down, I pulled out a dirty shirt and laid the kitten down. At first it didn’t want to move and refused to eat. I diced some red meat that one of the dwarves brought and slowly the young kitten ate. It fell asleep quickly after eating and I sat back to think. It was a little strange that I could be so… drawn to the kitten.
Granted, I had always liked cats but… I shook my head and turned to clean up and then clean my weapons. I stayed in camp and washed clothes and rested. I sent a couple of the dwarven lads to a market and they returned to look at me strangely. All day I tended to the kitten, feeding it and gently petting her.
I cleaned her matted fur and saw that her wound was completely closed and the scar was even fading. The dwarfs stayed away from me and it was almost evening before Bris returned from his business. He crossed to me as I sat with the kitten in my lap. She was purring as I rubbed the side of her face and then down her spine.
Bris sat across from me, “You have made powerful enemies.”
I looked up and shrugged, “If they can kill an innocent, then I don’t want them as friends.”
He sighed, “You are strange Sam. The men you killed came from a gang that are rogues and cutthroats. They are a threat to me and mine.”
I nodded and looked around, for some reason I didn’t wanted the kitten far from me. I found a large kerchief and tied a knot. I opened it like a sling and slipped the kitten inside. I put my combat vest on and put the sling around my neck. I pulled the silencer for the rifle out and attached it.
I picked up my rifle, “Do you have anyone brave enough to show me where these cutthroats are?”
He looked at me speculatively and stood, “Follow me.”
He led me back into the city. The kitten stayed in the sling but I could hear her purring. Bris led me along very narrow alleys and back ways until we were across the street from a large building. There was yelling and laughter coming from inside, “This used to be a weavers hall.”
I nodded and hesitated before pulling the sling with the kitten off and handed it to Bris, “Hold her for me.”
He looked at the tiny head of the kitten as she stuck it out and nodded and put his cupped hands under her. I walked across the street towards the large double doors. There were two men leaning against the door jam and they sneered as I approached. The one on the right started to stand as I lifted the barrel of my riffle and shot him through the throat at ten feet.
I shifted quickly as the other man jerked up. I fired twice into his chest before kicking open the doors, I walked into the room as it quieted. A couple of men rose and pulled daggers, I didn’t even hurry as I brought the rifle up and shot both. I turned to the large fat man at the other end of the room as madness broke out and shot him.
I let the women go but killed every man that was in the room. I turned away from the carnage and walked back outside. Bris was still across the street trying to hold a struggling kitten. I walked towards them and reached out to pick up the feisty cat. I held her up in front of my face, “And where do you think you’re going?”
She mewed at me and stopped struggling. I shook my head and looked at Bris to see him still looking at the building. I took the sling and put the kitten back inside it. He led me back to camp where we found several men on guard. I fed the kitten and laid back to rest. I was thinking that since I had gotten here I had become a lot more violent, more like I had been when I was young.
I drifted off to sleep with the kitten curled up on my chest. I woke to her licking my face with her sand paper tongue while one of the dwarf women looked on from a few feet away. I spent the day in the shop working on my projects. I took my breaks when the young kitten would come by mewing pitifully. That day set a pattern that we followed for almost two weeks.
I sighed as I leaned back on the short stool. On the bench in front of me were four rifles that looked like a cross between a Thompson and a M16. It did have some of the features of each plus some from an HK. They had a barrel like an HK416. They were operated by a gas piston near the muzzle but had a buffer system to reduce the recoil.
They were chambered in what I called 45 super long. The ammunition was what had taken so long. It wasn’t like other caseless ammo, there were three liquids that you mixed together and poured into molds. It hardened in less then three hours and gave a muzzle velocity of almost twenty four hundred feet per second.
I had to make the thin tin primers first. The bullets were copper jacketed bullets with a ceramic core and had an accurate range of at least two hundred meters. All four had short, wide four power scopes that easily slid onto the rails on top. They also had small night vision devices that locked into place in front of the scopes.
I had shown Bris and a couple of others how to make the ammunition as well as the small batteries for the night scopes. I had learned how to make the batteries from my wife Ellie. I looked to the side at the long barreled rifle lying there. It had a railed system like the others but was chambered for a much stronger round of ammunition.
I looked down as Little One used her claws to climb my leg. I helped her onto the bench where she sat down and wrapped her tail around her front feet. She looked at me like, ‘its about time, I want to play.’
I rubbed her chest before turning to look across the room. Bris was flirting with one of the women and I grinned as Tabin slammed a big blurry hand onto his shoulder. Bris frowned as he looked at him and turned at his gesture. He hopped off the stool and walked across the room with a swagger. Having me in his camp had given him a huge reputation.
The Trade City guards had kept their distance as well. I picked Little One up and tucked her inside what I had come to call her carrier. I nodded to three of the rifles with shorter stocks as I picked up the forth and the other larger one.
Bris was grinning, “I have the ammunition ready.”
I smiled and shouldered the two rifles before grabbing the large bag still on the bench. Bris walked beside me briskly while carrying the three riffles. Back in camp, I showed them how to load the magazines in the bag. I sat back and played with Little One while they grinned and loaded magazines.
I fed the kitten and let her curl up to sleep in her carrier while I saddled a horse. We rode out and went towards a low bluff in the distance. A couple of the dwarves were carrying wooden framed targets. I had them set up the targets in front of a high bank. We started at twenty five paces. I zeroed my rifle quickly and then spent my time helping Bris and the two other dwarves.
Once the rifles were zeroed, we moved further away. The scope on my long rifle was different, stronger and more powerful. Even with a double buffer system, the rifle still kicked my shoulder like a mule. The explosion of the big four fifty express round caused the horses to scream in panic. We had to move the horses further away so I could finish zeroing the big rifle.
I gradually moved back recording each setting on the scope until I was three hundred paces way. I watched the horses when I was done and let the dwarves practice. Little One did not like the loud noise and wandered off to explore a nearby creek. When the dwarves were done we collected the targets, ‘the dwarves wanted to just leave them’ and headed back to the city.
I had a second project I had been working on and after unsaddling the horses and brushing them, I headed toward my tent. I had set the tent up the fourth day here when a storm blew in. I came out with the small long wrapped package and looked around. I found Bris speaking to one of the older dwarves about leaving.
I quietly handed him the package and watched as his eyes lit up. Inside the package was a small wooden box and inside that was a sectioned fishing pole similar to mine. It was made from seasoned wood with brass eyes and section caps. The string had been the hardest part next to making some flies.
Bris was speechless as he examined the rod and small silver reel. I smiled, “That is even better then the rifles.”
He grinned, letting his hands caress the rod. That evening we had a feast with the dwarves dancing to each others clapping. Bris sat across from me while I watched a dwarf maid playing with Little One. He looked and grinned, “She is a playful thing.”
I nodded and turned to look at Bris as he sighed, “We will be leaving soon. Are you still planning to head west?”
I nodded, “I’ve looked at a couple of maps Tabin showed me and was thinking of heading to a place called Calef.”
Bris nodded, “Than you will be crossing the plains.”
I nodded again and he frowned, “I know of a dwarf family that is headed in that direction. They leave in five days as part of a caravan.”
I looked down, “Not all dwarves like or trust humans.”
He grinned, “Well, you are a worthless lot.”
I gestured to his fishing pole in the small wooden case, “We have some things to give.”
He grinned as he caressed the top of the case, “True. I’ll talk to them. I know the Caravan master is still looking for a hunter.”
I nodded and he looked at the youngest dwarf in our camp. If he had been human we wouldn’t have called him young, he was only fifty, “Samson wanted me to ask you to let him bargain for the rest of your silver.”
I grinned, “I don’t know, he’s awful young.”
Bris grinned, “True but he is determined.”
I laughed and gestured to my horses, “I need a good wagon if I am going to cross the plains. If he can get me a good one…”
He nodded as his got up, “I’ll tell him.”
I woke to the buzzing purr of Little One telling me she was hungry and I should get up. I cut up a piece of rabbit for her and began sorting through my packs. I left the packs I needed to trade outside my tent and headed into the city. I tucked Little One in her carrier and she rode with her head poked out.
Normally she would sleep after eating but for some reason she didn’t today. I headed to the spice market and spent almost two hours arguing over high prices and a small spice grinder. On the way back a large gray cat started following me and Little One kept trying to climb my shoulder to look behind me.
I thought it was funny and just put her half on my shoulder so she could watch the other cat. When I got back in camp I packed everything away while Little One disappeared. It was almost dinner time when the old woman came to the camp. Little One sat up quickly and wrapped her tail around her front paws and stared.
I watched as she walked calmly through the dwarves with the same grey cat I had seen earlier leading her. She stopped in front of me and I gestured for her to sit. Little One mewed at me and went to the older cat and started rubbing against her. I watched and then looked at the old woman, “I looked for you after the fight but you left.”
She smiled as she watched Little One, “I thought the kitten dead. There was little for me there.”
She looked up and took a breath stealing herself, “Never the less. You have bonded to the kitten and I would like to be paid.”
I grinned and looked at Little One, “I wasn’t really looking for a kitten but she has grown on me.”
The woman nodded, “Bond cats do that.”
I smiled at the woman, “How much?”
She kept looking at me and licked her lips, “One gold piece.”
I looked at her in surprise and then held my hand out to Little One as she came back to rub on it. I finally nodded and reached into the pouch I now carried. The old woman looked surprised and I smiled as I handed the gold piece to her, “The kitten is worth it.”
She smiled and ducked her head, “Thank you.”
I sat back, “Do have family?”
She hesitated before shaking her head, “They are gone now, my lord.”
I had heard that many times since I was here. I guess it was the way I spoke or carried myself, “Call me Sam or Samuel.”
She bowed slightly, “I am called Sarah.”
I thought about it, “Do you have anything keeping you here?”
She shook her head, “I am old and have naught but my bond cat.”
I looked at the grey cat sitting beside her and smiled, “Do you know how to drive a wagon?”
She looked at me for a long minute and finally nodded, “I know how.”
I smiled, “I could use someone to drive my wagon when I get it.”
She looked around at everything in the tent, “Where do you go?”
I shrugged, “Perhaps Calef.”
She sat back to think and I turned to look out the tent as the rumbling of a wagon was heard. Little one mewed and headed for the door and I smiled, “I think that is my wagon now.”
I stood and walked out as she stood to follow. Samson was grinning as he drove the wagon towards the corral. Four horses were pulling it and another was on a lead behind. I walked to the wagon park behind him and walked around the new wagon as Bris joined us.
The wagon was something I had never heard of or seen. It was fifteen feet long and eight wide. The bed was over three feet above the ground and was four feet high. It didn’t have axles, each wheel was on a long metal leaf spring with a thick coil spring in the center.
When I looked under the wagon, I saw a thick wooden rod go from the back of the wheel hub to a center point on the floor of the wagon. A closer look showed the rod attached to a metal ball that was slotted into a thin slit. Whatever else this wagon was, it would give a smooth ride. I grinned at Samson, “Not bad.”
He jumped off with two bags in his fists and grinned, “I got this too.”
I laughed, “I’ll need to send you into the city to get all my supplies.”
The old woman walked slowly around the wagon before coming back to look at me, “All right Samuel, I will drive your wagon.”
I smiled and bowed before looking at Bris, “Did you speak to the Caravan master?”
He grinned, “He will come by tomorrow to see you, along with Jerome and his son.”
I looked at Samson and accepted the two heavy bags, “Who is Jerome?”
Sarah turned to walk back to my tent with me and Bris followed us, “He’s the Dwarf heading west in the caravan.”
Sarah left shortly after that, saying she would return tomorrow with her few belongings. I sat beside the large fire that night saying my goodbyes. Just as I was getting ready to call it a night Bris returned with a long wrapped package. He quietly handed it to me and I spent a moment trying to think what it might be.
When I opened it, I stared and then grinned at Bris. I had described a katana and how it was made. Bris had done me one better, it was made from Mytheril. I could see the wavy lines where it had been folded repeatedly. The hilt was wrapped with a thin silvery Mytheril chain and capped with a dragons head, it even had two rubies eyes.
I looked at Bris, “Thank you, it’s beautiful.”
He grinned, “One of Tabin’s workers made it.”
I slowly slid the naked blade into the lacquered sheath and looked around at all the dwarves, “I will miss you all.”
They bowed and I turned to enter my tent. I was up early helping them break camp. I watched as they rode out and turn away with a sigh. A large grey haired man was standing there watching me. I had seen him across the huge yard a few times. I approached him and he held out his hand, “Henry Biship, Caravan Master. Bris said you were a good man to have along.”
I shook his hand as Little One came back from following Bris, “He told me you needed a hunter?”
Henry nodded, “We’ll have over thirty wagons headed to the dwarven settlements in the Grey Mountains. Most of the wagons carry trade goods and they can ill afford the room to carry food for the entire trip.”
I nodded, “How long will the trip take?”
He shrugged, “Depends on the weather. Two weeks.”
I thought about it and nodded before bending to scoop Little One up, “When do we leave?”
He grinned, “In three days.”
I turned and waved as I headed towards my tent and the list I had made of things I would need. I was just coming out when the old woman came into camp with a hand cart. I looked at it and had an idea. I helped her put her things in my tent and went to work on the inside of the wagon. I made a bed on one side and then went to the market for a few chests and barrels.
Sarah liked the idea that her bed would be in the wagon after I explained that I would be putting a tent over the top. It wasn’t like the pictures I remembered of old west Conestoga wagons. I peaked the roof down the center, the ends of the roof extended a foot beyond the side of the wagon and several feet over each end.
I placed a water barrel on each side and another in the wagon. I made it so that I could use a horse to pull her cart or fasten it to the back of the wagon. We spent a day gathering supplies and on the last morning were waiting at the yard gate into the city. The dwarf family was the first to arrive. The husband was a brisk no nonsense type of person and walked to me.
He looked up into my face with his hands on his hips, “Bris said you were worth knowing and would be a good travel companion. We will help you and the old woman with any animals you kill. In exchange we keep the skins.”
I grinned and shook my head, “Half the skins.”
His eyes narrowed and he finally nodded. It was another half hour before the rest of the wagons finally arrived and led the way through the gate. We went through the city slowly and an hour later started across the floating bridge to the plains beyond.
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