• Closed • Trapped Under The Wagon, Part Two

The untamed wilderness of Melrath is vast and encompasses frigid mountain ranges, glacial fields, deep alpine lakes, dark ancient forests as well as the expansive shoreline of the nation. Here creatures and spirits dwell together in the remote places of the world, far from the hustle and bustle of civilization.
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Tristan Venora
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Trapped Under The Wagon, Part Two

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Ashan 60, Arc 720

The time that Tristan and Ashling had spent at Erna’s inn had been surprisingly enjoyable, especially considering how they had made the woman’s acquaintance. She had threatened them with a crossbow. Her mead had been delicious though – maybe a bit too delicious since the young noble had been just a little tipsy when he had gone to bed. And what more, she had had quite a few interesting stories to tell, about the former owner of the inn and about recent events. Some of those tales had been a little bit on the paranoid side – Erna had happily mixed Myrkvior’s Kin, the Grendels and rampant mages into one big scary story – but Tristan hadn’t minded. On the contrary, he had listened to her with wide eyes – and he had almost been a bit envious of her storytelling ability, to be honest!

The following morning, they got up, perhaps a bit later than planned because of Erna’s fantastic mead, retrieved their horses from the stable and continued on their journey to Fensalir where they planned on taking part in the potions tournament. Tristan quite enjoyed the ride through the Melrathi countryside. It was spring, the sun was shining, the sky was blue, and everything was in bloom. The grass was lush and green, there were spring flowers everywhere, and the trees were full of little white and pink blossoms, in short, it was beautiful, and whatever worries he had had when they had left Raelia disappeared one of by one. After a while, he even began to entertain Ashling with little stories, about life in Rynmere and about all his adventures, including the one about how he had ended up in the Misty Miasma which had been a place that was full of talking cats that lived in actual villages and walked on two legs.

It had really happened, he assured her!

The trip to Fensalir took several trials, even on horseback, but Tristan didn’t mind, even though his back and his behind were sore every evening, no matter what he did, and it just didn’t seem to get better. On the contrary, he appreciated the time that he got to spend alone with his fiancée who had such beautiful black eyes and such a lovely smile, although he did think of his daughter that he had left in Raelia regularly, of course. It was such a nice change of pace, and the bandits and other evil people that they had been warned about never came. The streets seemed safe, and everything was quite peaceful which led Tristan to the conclusion that he had probably packed his crossbow for nothing.

And then, one morning, everything changed. They had just left another inn and were about to undertake the last stretch of their journey to Fensalir, when Tristan noticed something in a trench by the side of the road. He pulled at the reins of his stallion Maxos (who had been named after Peake Maxos Andaris, the former heir of House Andaris who had also been one of the most dangerous men in Rynmere once upon a time) in order to get him to stop (which he did somewhat reluctantly) and narrowed his eyes.

“Ashling”, he remarked and turned his head in order to look at the young Melrathi woman that rode next to him for a moment, the tone of his voice laced with unmistakable concern, before he focused on what was ahead of them once. “I think there’s something in front of us. Fates!” he suddenly exclaimed, and his eyes widened. “There was an accident!” Without saying another word, he dug his knees into Maxos’ sides, his heart beating incredibly quickly, as he rode towards the site of the accident in order to find out what exactly had happened.

Maybe nobody would be hurt though. Maybe the people who had had the accident were fine. Maybe they were long gone. Maybe they were already back home and recovering from the shock that they had suffered. Maybe the wagon was just lying in the trench because they hadn’t been able to retrieve it yet. He couldn’t see any horses, at least. If the accident had just taken place, wouldn’t the horses that had pulled the wagon still be attached to it – or at least be somewhere nearby?
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Re: Trapped Under The Wagon, Part Two

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Ashling followed Tristan’s example. Her first thought was to check if there were any injured people who needed a healer. Being an inexperienced rider she kept a more moderate pace than Tristan tough. She rode with the focused attention of a new rider who must constantly pay attention to how they do it. It was like when people have to think of every step of a dance as it’s not yet an automatic thing.

Now, it was obvious that they were facing an accident. To Ashling, this meant that discipline took over. Rushing was not an option. Discipline was the key. She must keep calm. If she would fall off the horse and get knocked out she wouldn’t be able to help anybody. Rushing could also mean losing your good judgement. It could lead to making mistakes when treating people. Ashling knew this and despite the urgency, she didn’t rush.

So, she didn’t try to keep up with her betrothed. He would arrive at the wagon before her and be the first to find out what had happened.

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A wagon accident was always very dangerous. It could throw people out from the carriage when it turned over. Injuries were common and in the worst case people died. Also, horses could be so injured that it wasn't possible to save them. The only thing to do was killing them so they would not need to suffer. Accidents on the forest roads in the wilds were even more dangerous. The way to the nearest healer was long. Walking at foot could be impossible and even if people could walk they were still in trouble. Their weakness and the smell of blood might attract predators. The weak and sick were easy prey. So, an accident was often deadly, in one way or another.

The wagon they approached hadn’t turned over though. It had tipped into the trench but at least at a distance, it looked intact. A robust carriage of high quality? It hadn't turned into a heap of coffee-wood like cheaper carriages tended to do. Good for the wagon...but alas, that did not guarantee that travellers and horses weren't injured.

Whoever travelled in that wagon had been lucky despite their bad luck. You could sometimes be all alone on the road, but it wasn’t so to-trial. Tristan and Ashling were good people. They would come to the rescue. Ashling was even a healer so if there were any injured they would get professional aid. This was what she felt and expected...

...but what you feel and expect is not always what you will find. Your good intentions can bring you straight into deadly danger before you know it.

Tristan was about to arrive at the wagon. Ashling was almost there when the crossbow bolt flew through the air. It missed Tristan with a hairsbreadth and continued toward her. Ashling didn’t have the reflexes of an acrobat but she was half-sev’ryn. Her spiritual familiar flew up in her in a wordless shockwave of intuition. Without thinking Ashling followed it, leaning to the side in the saddle.

Death passed her by.

The bolt hit a tree trunk with a dull, wooden sound.

“Tristan! Into the forest!”

Ashling shouted the warning at the top of her lung capacity. (It was irrational. The man must already be aware that they were being shot at.) Even as she shouted, she made Granegal leave the road. The horse jumped over the trench and ran in among the trees. It wasn’t much of a shelter, but better than nothing. Turning to the forest and its great induk was what Ashling used to do when things went tough. In Myrkvior she trusted. What other power was there that could save them now.

Myrkvior, great mother, dark mother, help us out now ... don’t let them get Tristan... save us now!

If not for Tristan, she might have turned the horse and ridden in the opposite direction. But, as it was, loyalty and love made her continue forward. Her horse Granegal had no troubles to continue as the terrain between the trees was flat and easy to ride in. Crushing grass and moss and small white forest flowers under her hooves the mare ran toward the wagon and what awaited them there.

Tristan was on the road and Ashling was in the terrain on the other side of the ditch. They were now approaching the wagon from two sides. At this point, Ashling heard somebody shout out to them.

“Don’t come closer! Stay away or I will shoot!”

The voice seemed unstable. It moved deeper to lighter and then it cracked and broke. The next moment she spotted the shot. A boy stepped out from his hiding place behind a wide tree trunk. He looked to be age fourteen or fifteen or so. A boy that age was old enough to be dangerous with the crossbow he was pointing at her. This was her first reaction. A crossbow is a crossbow no matter who points it at you. The boy was also so near... she reined in Granegal and stopped.

For a moment everything seemed too silent and still.

The weapon shook a bit in the boy’s hands. It struck her that he might not have had the time to reload it if he was the one who had shot at them, only trills ago. Was there a bolt ready to end her life or was the boy bluffing? The way he held the crossbow it was hard for her to know if it was ready for a new shot or not. But, she could see the blood on the boy’ brow and the traces of something else down on his dirty face ... tears?

“Jorg! No! Don’t do this!” Another voice rang out. It seemed to come from the wagon.

“Jorg, listen, for Myrkvior’s sake! Listen and do as I tell you! Put down the crossbow and let me deal with this ... we can’t fight our way out of this, but we can pay... ”

It was the voice of a man, strong at first, but fading out in the end, leaving the sentence unfinished. Whoever was in the wagon, or near it, was a grown-up. Ashling was all for listening to him. But alas, the boy didn’t seem to share that feeling. She saw his young face take on the stubborn, headstrong, defiant expression of a fourteen arc olds who is NOT susceptible to common sense.

The whites of Jorg's eyes were showing and his voice cracked again as he shouted “Go away! I’ll kill you if you try anything! You ... “

At that moment it occurred to her that it was odd that there were no horses in sight. Draught animals used to be so well harnessed the vehicles they pulled. How had they come loose and where were they?

“Jorg! No, I told you NO! Do as I say you little...” The male voice from the wagon arose in a new feeble attempt to take control but died out again.

“We mean no harm,” said Ashling to the boy. “I’m a healer and ...”

“Go away or you die! “ The boy screamed the words at her.

Jorg didn’t seem to be a good listener. She realized that they were facing one of the most dangerous beings you might meet on the roads. He was a terrified big child with a weapon. He felt angry, desperate, scared, unpredictable and headstrong. Luckily he hadn’t been a good shot, at a long distance. They could hope that he was faking it now, making empty threats with a crossbow which might be ready to use. But, she couldn’t know this for sure and she wasn't going to test him.

“Don’t listen to my little brother! He’s young, don’t shoot him! I can pay...” The man’s voice sounded desperate. The older brother of Jorg seemed to have as much - or little - control of the youngster as Ashling had of her dog Silver.

She felt that she could have stood a chance to influence a grown-up. But, this was a hard case. A fourteen-arcs-old boy. A boy who had decided to not listen to others. A boy looking like he aimed to drive them away or die trying. Under other circumstances, Ashling would have liked his determination and courage. But, right now she felt that it was bad luck to meet a good Melrathi boy of the right stuff.

It looked bleak ... she was on the verge of leaving, as dying would be as meaningless for them as for the people they had tried to rescue. But, she felt that they must at least make a last attempt to make the boy listen. Would he be more inclined to listen to Tristan?

“Tristan!” she called out to her betrothed.

She regretted it at once because Jorg took a couple of steps back so he could aim at Tristan too. He was only one and they were two. The boy's eyes were wide with fear.
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Re: Trapped Under The Wagon, Part Two

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The wagon hadn’t turned over, Tristan noticed, furrowing his brow slightly, as he rode closer. It had had just been driven into the trench, more or less. It seemed to be of good quality, and intact, but he couldn’t see any people there. Maybe, he thought, they had already left, which was his preferred option, to be honest. Ashling was a healer, and a fairly competent one at that, from what he’d seen so far, but they were far from a hospital; and they didn’t really have any means to transport injured people anywhere for further treatment either (putting a person that had just been in a wagon accident behind him on his horse as if they were a sack of flour probably wouldn’t be a good idea!).

He was just about to turn around and informed Ashling of that – that he couldn’t see anybody – when a crossbow bolt suddenly flew through the air, past him and towards his fiancée. For a moment, the young duke just sat on his horse, too stunned to react because he absolutely hadn’t predicted that course of events before he screamed, “Ashling!”

A moment later, he gave Maxos the signal to move and dug his legs into the stallion’s sides, maybe a little too forcefully (he was a better rider than Ashling, but far from masterful). Maxos whinnied loudly in irritation and panic, his eyes ablaze, and galloped into the forest quickly – perhaps a little too quickly and almost didn’t stop when he should have.

Once he was behind a tree, in relative safety, Tristan let out a sigh of relief and surveyed the scene in front of him in order to try and decide on his next course of action. Apparently, he realized, the passenger (or passengers?) of the wagon were still there; he had just not been able to see them before because they had been hiding. Maybe they had been worried about bandits. Why had they shot at Ashling and him though?

They didn’t look like bandits!

Ashling was on the other side of the road, far away from him, he noticed, and his heart skipped a beat. She seemed to be fine though, judging by the way she sat on her horse. She didn’t look as if she had been shot. He was just about to call out to her when a voice could be heard. A boy, a teenager, had stepped out from behind a tree trunk and pointed … Fates, he was pointing a crossbow at Ashling!

Tristan’s head moved left and right as he looked from Ashling to the boy and back, wondering what he was supposed to do now. He couldn’t shoot the boy; he was just scared – but he didn’t want the boy to shoot Ashling either. How was he supposed to keep him from shooting her – or him - though? They boy didn’t look or sound as if he could be reasoned with.

After a few moments, he could hear a second voice, a grown man, judging by the sound of it, but he couldn’t see him. Was he hiding in the forest? Was he still in the wagon? He couldn’t tell, but he knew that he needed to do something – and fast, before Jorg did something stupid. So, when Ashling called his name, he rode forward, slowly, before he stopped and raised his hands in order to show Jorg that he didn’t have a weapon in his hands.

“Don’t shoot!” he called out to the boy. “We mean you no harm! We are travellers, on our way to Fensalir, and we saw your wagon by chance. We want to help you! My fiancée is a healer! Is anybody hurt?” he wanted to know, trying to sound as non-threatening and polite as possible. “I’m Tristan”, he introduced himself, hoping that telling Jorg their names would help and make him more inclined to trust them. “And this is Ashling. You are Jorg, right? Could you tell us what exactly happened to your brother and you?” he wanted to know. He still couldn’t see his older brother which worried him.

“I have a little daughter, back in Raelia. She’s only three”, he added after a moment. Surely, Jorg wouldn’t deprive Ayla of her only parent and make her an orphan, would he?
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Re: Trapped Under The Wagon, Part Two

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Ashling watched the boy while Tristan spoke. His young face was tense and his gaze kept darting from one of them to the other. He seemed about to answer. But, before he had time to say anything his older brother shouted out again. The man's tone was friendly and grateful. “I’m Joran Magnus! Glad to get help!” Then his tone became menacing instead. “Jorg! Do as I tell you or I swear I’ll tell the Jarl ...even if he gets angry at me too, for letting you drive! Harming innocent travellers who offer to help us will not make your position any better! “

“Those other’s weren’t innocent travellers!" the boy shouted back, distracted by the intervention. His voice was hoarse. “And these are outlanders!”

“Let them help me or we can be dead! Don’t waste the only offer of help we may get! “

Jorg turned his attention back to Tristan and Ashling almost at once. She could see that he was hesitating. Then he made up his mind. He made a gesture with his head toward the wagon, speaking to Tristan but pointing the weapon at Ashling again. “All right then, outlander! If you want to ever see that little girl of yours again, do as I tell you! We tried to get the wagon back up. But it moved and my brother slipped. Now, he’s stuck. Help him ... “A brief pause followed and then he added, “If you try anything I’ll shoot her!”

Myrkvior, great spirit, do something and help us! And who are "those others"?

Ashling's heart was beating too fast and she felt like everything was happening at a slow pace albeit she knew that it happened very fast. If Tristan had hoped that being a parent would help, he had been wrong. The way the boy used Ayla to put pressure on Tristan wasn’t good-hearted. But, it spoke of budding tactical talent. The threat wasn’t so logical though. Shooting Ashling wouldn’t stop Tristan from ever seeing his child again. Ashling found it best to not say it. Pointing out a flaw in their thinking was a sure way to upset people. She didn’t want to get executed for enraging Jorg.

But, there was somebody else who was going to say something ... you don’t threaten a dog owner without getting to deal with the dog. Silver wasn’t a big monster kind of dog, but like all good dogs, he was loyal with his own pack and their enemies were his enemies. He came at Jorg from the side and rushed forth, growling, his teeth bared.

Instinctively, the boy turned the crossbow toward the furry surprise attacker. Silver was faster thought. He jumped. Before Jorg had time to counter, the dog bit down at the boy’s gloved hand, shaking it in fury. Jorg screamed, lost control of the crossbow and fired it by accident. The bolt flew away and buried in the ground, useless and lost. Panicking, Jorg tried to shake off the growling dog. Silver was hanging from his gloved hand like he had decided to never again open his mouth.

“Silver!” Now when the immediate risk for being shot was over, Ashling jumped down from the horse. It would be a lie to say that her leap was elegant. She didn’t care. The situation called for action. She must stop Jorg from harming Silver. But, she also knew that she must stop Silver from harming the boy more than he already might have done.

As long as he refused to let go of Jorg he couldn’t bite again, which was a good thing. She must get him before he got new ideas!

Another leap and she jumped the animal, grabbed the fluffy fur at his neck and told him to let go. Silver ignored her. Ashling had to grab his jaws and pull them apart. It took some effort but the dog gave up when she persisted. She pulled him away from Jorg and held him in a firm grip. Silver, unreasonable in his anger, continued growling. In a stern tone, Ashling told him to be silent and he obeyed, but only a bit. Muttering under his breath, the dog continued glaring at Jorg.

Jorg began to fumble with the crossbow, trying to load it with a new bolt ... he backed off and avoided Ashling's attempt to use one hand to grab the weapon.

Ashling might have to let Silver loose again to stop the desperate boy. She didn’t want to do it, but she couldn’t let Jorg get the upper hand again now when Myrkvior (or Silver) had helped them. But, there was a risk for a worse dog bite next time and harming a member of the Magnus family could lead to sad consequences ...

“Tristan!” she managed, not knowing if he would be able to help out...
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Re: Trapped Under The Wagon, Part Two

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Jorg seemed to be absolutely scared. Tristan couldn’t really fault him for being scared. He would be scared as well if he had been in an accident, in an area where bandits and worse things had been active before, and someone that was close to him was hurt. He didn’t appreciate having a weapon pointed at him though. While Jorg was scared and absolutely unpredictable as a consequence, his brother who was worse off, judging by what he knew so far, was calm and friendly though, and he … had he just said that his name was Joran Magnus?

Tristan’s eyes widened for a moment when he heard that, although Joran’s being a member of a powerful noble family didn’t change anything in the short run, of course. He was still in trouble, and he still needed help. So, without further ado, the young duke replied in polite and friendly tone of voice, “I don’t need your money, Lord Magnus. I already have enough money as is. Can you tell me how badly you are hurt though?” he inquired as he dismounted. “And yes, I’m an outlander. Duke Tristan Venora, actually. I’m sorry for being an outlander, by the way. I can’t really help it”, he apologized before he made a step closer, eying Jorg warily.

A moment later, the boy threatened to shoot … Ashling? That didn’t make any sense! Jorg’s shooting Ashling wouldn’t keep him from seeing his daughter again. It would just make him incredibly sad because he loved her – and angry, as well. He didn’t say anything though, of course. It didn’t seem as if the boy was capable of thinking logically at the moment; besides, he didn’t want Jorg to realize his stupidity and threaten to shoot him instead. To be honest, he’d prefer if he didn’t threaten to shoot anybody, but listened to his brother!

A moment later, just when Tristan was about to approach the wagon in order to try and help Joran somehow (although he wasn’t sure how yet), Ashling’s dog suddenly shot forward, and his heart skipped a beat. He was sure that Jorg would lose control for good now, that he would shoot Silver or Ashling (or him!) now. He screamed the dog’s name at nearly the same time as Ashling even though he doubted he’d listen to him and rushed forward.

Silver bit Jorg, Ashling tried to pull Silver off Jorg again, and Tristan … Tristan just stared at the chaos in front of him before he yelled, “Stop!” on top of his lungs in order to get their attention. “Stop, for fek’s sake!” he told them – which was testament to how angry and irritated and frustrated (and scared!) he was. Normally, he hardly ever used swearwords. Since mere swearwords might not be enough to get the message across though, he also pointed his own crossbow at Jorg. It was a somewhat eccentric light blue, but it was of far superior quality than Jorg’s weapon, and he knew how to use it – not perfectly, but probably better than Jorg, judging by how much he had missed them before!

“Do you really want to risk your brother’s life with that xenophobic nonsense of yours? Do you care that little about him? I doubt that anybody else will come along in the next couple of breaks judging by how few people we encountered so far. So, drop your crossbow right now and let me free your brother. We can help!”

“Ashling?”
he asked his fiancée, still pointing his crossbow at Jorg. He didn’t like threatening people. He didn’t like it at all. He was normally quite a peaceful man, but he stopped being peaceful when the life of the people that he cared about was in danger. “Can you take Jorg’s crossbow and watch him while I try to free his brother, please? It would help if you could tell Silver not to bite him again, by the way”, he added. "I don't want anybody to get hurt."
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Re: Trapped Under The Wagon, Part Two

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Ashling hadn’t known that Tristan could be this firm and commanding. The man used to be peaceful and easygoing. But now, he had taken charge of the situation in a resolute no-nonsense manner. It was just like when that man on the street in Raelia had been rude to her.

When Tristan spoke to Jorg (and pointed at him with the crossbow) the young boy froze. Then he let go of his weapon. Ashling reached out and grabbed it, almost falling on the ground as she also had to keep Silver under control. Now, they had finally disarmed Jorg. Silver remained. She pulled the leash out from the pocket she had kept it in and fastened it to the dog’s collar.

“It’s true that we are only looking to help you,” she told Jorg.

She got to her feet, the leash in one hand and Jorg’s crossbow in the other. When she was standing up she was taller than him and it was very obvious how young he was. He hadn’t answered and at first, she didn’t know what more she could say to him but then she saw that he was watching Silver.

“Silver protected me like you protected your brother. He’s not mean. He’s only loyal. I guess it’s the same with you. Let’s save your brother now. No hard feelings? ”

“He bit me.” Jorg wasn’t ready to make friends with her yet but he was at least answering.

“How bad is it?”

Jorg held out his hand. There was no blood on the thick leather glove and no holes. “He didn’t bite through the leather.”

Ashling nodded. She supposed that it still had hurt to be bitten, but it didn’t seem like any serious injury had been done to Jorg. It was still best to have a look at his hand at once to find out if it was safe to let it wait. She told Jorg to pull off the glove. The boy did it without saying anything. To Asling’s relief there were only marks after Silver’s teeth, but no wound. “You’ll get bruises,” she told the boy. “You were lucky that Silver isn’t a bigger dog and that your glove was so thick.”

“It’s to spare the hands. When you’re driving a wagon, I mean.“

“So ... were you the one who was driving?”

“No, Joran was driving ... I mean I only got to try it a bit ... so ...” The colour was rising on Jorg’s cheeks. Ashling concluded that he was the one who had driven the wagon into the trench. It seemed like a touchy topic though. She didn’t continue asking about it. Instead, she just nodded. She would leave it to the older brother to speak with Jorg about the driving. Joran didn’t seem totally innocent himself. Letting the boy drive “a bit” on a forest road where it could be extra dangerous to have an accident? What had he been thinking? Not that Ashling was going to ask about it. The boy and his brother were nobles and she wasn’t going to mess with them.

The best they could do now was to help the trapped man. She looked at Tristan hoping that he would take lead. “Shall we use the horses, or ... how do we do this...”

Then she turned to the boy again. “You’re going to help out moving the wagon now Jorg, right? Come on! ”

Silver had calmed down while they spoke but now he made a grumpy sound. Ashling spoke to the dog and told him to be silent. They were friends now. No more fighting. The dog did as she told him, but he still gave Jorg wary eyes. Her words seemed to have more effect on the boy than on the animal. Looking from her to Tristan he finally decided to trust them (a bit).

“Right. I’m coming...”
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Re: Trapped Under The Wagon, Part Two

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Tristan didn’t put his crossbow away again, even when Jorg let go of his, but continued to point it directly at the boy, in case something unforeseen happened. He only lowered it when Ashling grabbed Jorg’s weapon, letting out a shaky breath as he did so as some of the tension that he hadn’t fully realized that he had felt until now finally dissipated. Tristan was far from a master of discipline. He had met Immortals and monsters and lived through a civil war and a plague, but things still got to him, sometimes far too much. This here … this here could have ended in a disaster ….

While Ashling talked to Jorg, he simply stood there, watching and listening, as his fiancée seemed to have the situation under control at the moment, and his intervention was thus unnecessary. When Jorg showed Ashling his hand though, he remarked, in a comparatively friendly tone of voice – he wasn’t really mad at him, the boy had just been scared, after all, “If it starts to hurt, I can give you something for the pain.” Having said that, he fell silent again.

Just like Ashling, he decided not to comment on Jorg’s driving the wagon, although it had been rather reckless, everything considered. It seemed to be a bit of a touchy subject, and the boy had just calmed down. He wasn’t interested in another argument or another dog bite. The only thing that he was interested in now was to save Joran Magnus.

“I’m not sure about the horses”, he murmured. “I’m not sure how we would attach them to the wagon”, he continued before his voice trailed off. He glanced at the wagon in the trench, at Maxos and Granegal and finally at Jorg and Ashling and made a decision, a decision that he wished he wouldn’t have to make as it could lead to another disaster, although a part wondered if he shouldn’t have revealed it sooner. He considered it to be the safest option though. He couldn’t just let Joran leave where he was.

“I may be able to lift it a bit”, he told them before he walked over to the wagon in the trench and knelt down besides it. “Lord Joran?” he asked. “Are you hurt – and how badly? Could you move away if the wagon were lifted?” he wanted to know before he eyed the wagon appraisingly, looking for the best spot to grab it. He had put on his gloves – he had no interest in splinters on top of everything else that he would likely have to deal with.

“I … I think so”, the man replied somewhat hesitantly. Tristan inclined his head before he took a deep breath and closed his eyes for a trill, trying to calm down. A moment later, Ashling (but probably not Jorg who was positioned slightly differently) would see something. A golden glow seemed to briefly emanate from her Outlander fiancé that was kneeling on the ground, and then the wagon … slowly started to budge …

Tristan Venora didn’t just have nails that made him look as if he were Stormtouched, he had also been blessed by the Immortal of Strength several arcs before, in what seemed like another life, and he had been given certain abilities … abilities that might very well save Joran Magnus now …
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Re: Trapped Under The Wagon, Part Two

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She couldn’t believe her own eyes! For a moment Ashling wondered if she had seen her betrothed ... glow.

It had seemed so, but it was such a surreal thing that it felt impossible. Yet. He had seemed to glow. But, maybe it had only been the sunlight pranking her? She glanced at Jorg to see if he would comment on the glow but the boy didn’t say anything. so Ashling found best to keep her mouth shut.

What can I say? Ask him if he saw my betrothed glow? Impossible! If he didn’t see it, what would he think? And if he did, wouldn’t it be best to let him he was mistaken ... because ... we don’t want to come off as odd ...

But, she didn’t dwell on the odd impression. The next surprise was already incoming. Tristan lifted the wagon a bit and Joran Magnus crawled out. Next, Tristan put the wagon down again (or dropped it). Ashling had arrived just in time to see this. Stunned, she looked from Tristan to Joran Magnus and back at Tristan again. Had her betrothed done this amazing thing alone? Or had Joran helped out by pushing at the wagon from his position under it? What the spirits had happened? How could it be possible?

Her spiritual familiar Kyrie arose in her mind and answered with one of its usual one-word messages. What is meant wasn't obvious. The familiar's reaction still told her that something extraordinary had happened and she wasn't imagining it. The glow and Tristan lifting the wagon up a bit had been real.

Strength!


The stormtouched used to take on a blue-ish or green-is tint, but who could know if it always was so. If it was a very pale animal, for example, might not light skin be possible? Her suspicion that Tristan was a stormtouched boiled down to one specific species. Many traits were in place, she could see it now. Black nails, glow, unusual strength...claws, the glowing eyes of some animal, the strength of an animal too...Tristan’s fair skin and soft dark hair, his very blue eyes, his catlike agility when mounting up on Maxos...

Melrathi Snow Leopard! A very strong and agile animal, blue-eyed, black and white, black claws. A perfect match?

Only of the appearance though. Tristan’s personality was peaceful, unless ... well, he had been quite fierce more than one time, when it had been necessary.


Her thoughts had raced through her mind in the blink of an eye. She had combined the things that met the eye to a result that confirmed what she had suspected! As there were still things to do, like taking care of Joran Magnus, she was too busy to think more of what she had made up.

It felt like the truth!

I must speak with Tristan about it...but not right now, not here, on the road, with people listening. I’ll do it ... later.

"Thanks for the help!" Joran Magnus voice sounded as grateful as his words were. The man didn't look so noble right now. His clothes were dusty and he had mud in his face. Ashling didn't mind but the young nobleman did. He apologized for his appearance in a very polite manner. He even laughed a bit, but his brave laugh was a bit shaky.

Ashling focused on Joran Magnus. The young man said that he wasn’t injured but she insisted on giving him a brief examination all the same. She found nothing else than bruises and scratches, but it felt good to have done her duty. Anyway. As Joran Magnus seemed to want her to stop fussing over him she left him to Tristan and walked over to Granegal. While she put the first aid kit back into the saddlebag she saw the runaway horses come running around a bend farther down the road. They were coming back to their owner as tame animals tend to do.

Ashling wondered if they also had smelled the scent of Maxos and Granegal and wanted to join them. Who could know how horses reasoned! But, she knew how they reasoned about food. With the help of carrots (which she used to give Granegal) she made the new horses come to her. Then she grabbed the loose straps of the broken leather harness the animals still wore. Caught by food!

They had all the horses now, but she had no idea if they would be able to pull the wagon up from the trench. There was also the broken harnesses to consider. She doubted that any of the others were able to sew and repair leather on the spot. And Ashling was not a seamstress or leathercrafter. But, by all means, if they would want her to try she could attempt to use the surgery needles and suture thread. She didn’t think it would be such a good idea though. No, Ashling was already thinking that the best would be to ride together all four to the next roadside inn. There the Magnuses could get help from people with more experience. Wagon accidents must have happened before, mustn't they? She figured that oxen might be better than horses for the job...

The boy Jorg joined her and said he could take care of the horses. But, she didn’t want to hand over the responsibility of the animals to him. Her own experience enabled her to hold the horses and keep them calm. Would Jorg be able to do that? She couldn’t know. So, she smiled at the boy and told him that it was good that they were two to take care of the horses. This was also true and Jorg seemed to understand it. And so, they waited together...

Silver had calmed down, seeing that Ashling accepted Jorg and so did all the horses.

Tristan was still speaking with Joran Magnus. She would do her part of any plan Tristan would tell her they had agreed on.
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Re: Trapped Under The Wagon, Part Two

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For a moment, Tristan expected Joran, Jorg (and his beloved Ashling!) to scream at him because he was an evil Immortal worshipper – or because they mistook him for a mage who didn’t have a mage’s mark. For a moment, he almost expected the Ragnari show up and lock him up or chase him out of Melrath because they didn’t want his kind here. He was worried that his engagement would end then and there because he had kept something of that magnitude from the lovely young woman (he had wanted to tell her, he just hadn’t known how!).

When nothing happened – nothing but the fact that Joran crawled out from under the wagon, he breathed a huge sigh of relief – for the second time in approximately five or ten bits, and then he dropped the wagon again, because it took quite some effort, even with Zanik’s support. Truth to be told, he was rather surprised that nobody had said anything. At least Ashling had to have seen something! Did she already know? Had she suspected something all along?

Did she not care that she was engaged to an Immortal-marked Outlander that had more secrets that she could count on both hands?

As soon as they were alone, he decided, as soon as things had calmed down, he would have a talk Ashling, he decided, and try to determine what she already knew or thought that she knew because she deserved to know the truth and nothing but the truth, before things got even more serious between them. He should have told her earlier, but everything about their relationship had been a little strange. They had gotten engaged approximately one bit after meeting each other, because of a huge misunderstanding and only slowly gotten to know each other afterwards!

For the time being, he extended a hand towards Joran in order to help him up in case he needed it though and smiled at him. “You’re welcome!” he remarked as he thanked him. The man might not look like much of a noble now, but Tristan didn’t care that he was dirty, and his hair was disheveled. He was just as respectful as he would have been otherwise. “If there’s anything that we can do for you, please let us know”, he told him.

He was just about to offer Joran and his brother a ride to the nearest inn or the closest village even though Ashling and he might not arrive in Fensalir on time as a consequence because helping someone in need was more important than a potion contests when … a pair of horses came running around a bend. His eyes widened for a moment because he hadn’t expected the missing horses to just come back – it was a bit of a coincidence – and then he laughed. It seemed as if everything was working out, after all!

Of course, he would still have to have that talk with Ashling soon – he really didn’t want to delay it any further – but this was a good sign. With that thought in mind, he turned back to Joran. “I don’t think that we’ll be able to remove your wagon from the trench, considering that the harnesses are broken, but if you’d like, you can accompany my fiancée and me to the next inn. You’ll likely be able to get help there!”

Joran seemed to approve of the idea, and his little brother didn’t seem to have as much as a problem with Ashling and him anymore, so that was what they eventually did, and soon the three men and one woman were riding down the road together – and talking occasionally, about their various jobs (alchemy for Tristan, something else for Joran and nothing so far for Jorg), about what they had planned on doing, and Tristan told Joran and Jorg a little about his life as well, that he had originally come from Rynmere, that his family were similar to the Magnuses, but that he was in exile due to the fact that a terrible plague had ravaged his homeland – and that he quite liked Melrath so far, of course.

In the evening, when they arrived in Alivilda, they finally parted ways though.
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Re: Trapped Under The Wagon, Part Two

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Tristan

Experience: 15 No magic

Knowledge:

Skill Knowledge:

Detection x2
Intimidation x2
Leadership x2
Mount (Horse) x2
Persuasion x1

Elithem Ability: Steadfast: Enables you to perform enormous feats of strength

Non-Skill Knowledge:

Joran Magnus: Member of House Magnus
Jorg Magnus: Brother of Joran Magnus

Renown: 20 for saving a noble's life.

Skill Usage: Appropriate to level.

Loot/Losses: none

Injuries/Conditions: none

Consequences: Tristan has earned a great favor from House Magnus. If there's one boon he could ask of them, it is his. In addition, Tristan may find a number of Magnuses willing to witness for him should he choose to become a citizen of Melrath.


Ashling

Experience: 15 no magic

Knowledge:

Skill Knowledge:
Mount x3
Acrobatics x 1
Psychology x 2
Intelligence x 1
Animal Training x1
Animal Husbandry x1

Non-Skill Knowledge:
Joran Magnus: Member of House Magnus
Jorg Magnus: Brother of Joran Magnus

Renown: 20 for saving a noble's life.

Skill Usage: Appropriate to level.

Loot/Losses: none

Injuries/Conditions: none

Consequences: House Magnus has received word of Tristan and Ashling's deeds. Just as Tristan was granted a favor, any that is within the power of House Magnus, so too will that offer be extended to Ashling.
Comments: As collabs go, this was a fairly easy and interesting read. The way you wove your posts together really left no seams between, and one post flows from one to the other without a lull in the story's progress. No getting bogged down in responses and such and so forth, but action building upon action. Very well done!

It amuses me that Ashling is still scoping out Tristan for what kind of stormtouched creature he is. I wonder though, how much longer can he go without informing her of his affiliation with several Immortals? The dance continues!

Tristan made good use of his his marks here. I didn't expect someone like Tristan to pick up an entire wagon, but when he pulled the Zanik favored mark ability to lift it, that was a pretty exciting moment. I wonder what will happen between Tristan/Ashling and House Magnus now? I'll keep my eyes peeled for the conclusion ;)

Enjoy the rewards and knowledges. And let me know if there are any questions or concerns about this review.

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