CHAPTER II: JUST A PACKAGE

A SANTHARIAN NOVEL

 
Darkling Abroad   
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Introduction. Viresse plans on embarking on her research journey to the Paelelon, but unfortunately she hits a bump in the road before she has even began moving...

 

iresse was again wading about in the bright late-morning beams of sun, but the hood of her black cloak kept her face well hidden. Nevertheless, the sun still irked as it bathed the whole world in a brightness she was unaccustomed to. She stood in the courtyard of the King's castle, as a small wagon (a little under three peds in length and about two in width) was loaded. Her own pack was on her back, ready to go. Inside were blank books and several quills and inkwells - ready for research.

Most of the things being loaded onto the wagon were wrapped in burlap, but still of rather large size. Viresse assumed them to be valuable. Only because she was travelling with them - who in their right mind would attack a wagon with a drow? She thought about that - was the King using her travel as a chance to ship valuable goods? Was she being used? Arti could not have known... So she would not be angry with him.

Since Artimidor had asked her to go to the Paelelon almost three weeks ago, many things had happened. Wren had finished the translation of her text, and had delivered it to Dalá in less than the week as Viresse had predicted. Which threw Dalá into a fluster. For a few days she was finishing one story and writing another. That actually gave Arti some relief - no more gorging meals while the Housedragon worked feverishly. As far as she could recall, he hadn't eaten much at all during Dalá's cooking hiatus. As she understood, he may have even gone out for drinks and song with Bard Judith one night, during one of her short drop-ins at the Compendium Library.
 

Viresse smiled as she thought of those she'd be leaving, then pondered how the trip would go. As far as she knew, the wagon was going to travel by the river through the King's Hollow, and continue by the river to Tyr Thromgolin. At that point most of the goods would be unloaded, and the wagon would continue to Elsreth, where Vir was to find escorts into the Paelelon, as arranged by Arti and several other intermediaries.

Viresse looked back to the worn wagon, which was mostly full. It looked like a steady wagon, with small spots of green moss growing on the outside planks. Alltogether weathered yet trustworthy, those were her favorite modes of transportation. Aged, yet strong.

A pair of what she assumed to be poor-bred war horses were tethered to the cart. Viresse's assumption of their breeding came from their restlss nature and large size. Had they been better bred, they wouldn't be pulling a trader's cart. Viresse was always wary of animals-they tended to react poorly to dark elves. She hoped that these horses were either too scatterbrained to notice her, or trained enough to not care.

A large, long parcel was loaded along the side of the wagon, she assumed it to be a tent. Which meant she was travelling with a human. She was not entirely surprised by this turn of events. Not many elves were traders, at least not openly. And even fewer worked in service of the King.

The elves of Santharia, at least of what she had learned in her stay in the Kingdom, had their own government, and did not muss in the ways of men, unless the Kingdom inteded to toy with the elves in any way. As wars had gone in the past - the elves knew the ways of war, no matter how they tried to hide it.

But Viresse was curious - what kind of human would it be? She hoped she had not been ill paired. There was nothing worse than silent hatred, simply becuase those that hated were afraid to speak. That was how problems always started. Viresse pursed her dark lips and noted that if she was poorly matched, then she had no responsibility of her actions if her travelling companion... well, disappeared or was never heard from again. She hoped that didn't happen. Viresse may be a drow, but she didn't much like to kill - not unless she had to. That was not the way she allowed herself to be raised.

A loud voice thundered and the livery-clad men balked and halted the loading of the tent. The voice came from inside the doors of the outer wall and it got louder as it approached the doors. Viresse piqued her brows - it sounded like an oaf of a man, and she had hoped that it wasn't her companion.

As the figure exited the outer doors, she was surprised. It sounded like a massive man, but it must have only been the echo. For the man - barely a man, he looked little over his second decade of life - was of a relatively normal stature. He had broad shoulders and a good balance of weight, much like a millitary man without all the pomp and dress. He had a sturdy brown leather tunic, a black cloak with a high leather collar and dark breeches. His boots were high, almost to his knees. He bore two weapons - a long sword and a shorter dagger.

Viresse approached the wagon, her fast pace making her boots scuff against the stoned walk. Her curiousity was getting the best of her- something that she often had to keep in check. If anything, that was Viresse's biggest weakness, her need for knowledge and her taste for curiousity. She disliked drama, but always enjoyed the "whys " rather than the "whos".

As she got closer she could observe his features, which were good-looking, for a human, anyway. He had dark, straight hair that reached his shoulders, brown, deep-set eyes and high cheekbones that complimented his wide face. A black goatee grew from his chin, it made him look older, but not much. His ears were pierced and had large hoops of silver hanging from them.

She stood silently near the cart as she watched the young man. He huffed loudly at the men that tried to load in the tent, and pushed them off. "You guys have no idea how to load this thing, do you? Let me just take care of it. Get me the parcels and I'll load it." He glared at them for a few seconds as he got a good grip on the long package. " I said - get back to work. I got this!" The two livery-men balked for a second then skittered off to continue retrieving the parcels as commanded.

Viresse was a bit amused by the situation. Such a young man, so confident in his skills that he can convice others of such with great ease. But how did he get that way? He had a confidence that was unfamiliar to her, at least when eminated from a human. Some of the Kavogerim had a confidence like that- but they were dwarves. And they could back it up. What did this "boy" have that allowed his cockiness to be so effective? He was unlike any human she had met.

Well, technically she hadn't met him yet.

"Ay-" she heard, and snapped out of her thoughts.

"Can you pull on that end? Be careful, but be firm!" The young man asked Viresse. She glanced up, but her cowl was pulled low and she could only see his rough hands. She could not entirely see him due to her hood, so she assumed that he could not entirely see her face. She paused for a moment. - Would he have reacted differently if he knew she was drow? Is now the time to find out?

Viresse thought a moment, then snaked her hands into the sleeves into her cloak, to hide her pale hands. She then did as she was told. The long package was slid into place and Viresse stepped away from the wagon to observe. When she turned to look back at the young man, he disappeared into the doors of the outer wall.

Viresse pursed her lips. Was that really her companion? And what would he think of her when he found out what she was? She then rolled her eyes at her thought. Why should she even care !?

Viresse set her satchel inside the corner of the wagon near the front seat. She crossed her arms and leaned against the wagon. The horses stirred for a few seconds as they felt the presence of the drow in an area they could not react to, but a quick whisper with calming Styrásh words caused the tethered steeds to stop fidgeting momentarily. Viresse kept her attention tuned to the trip ahead as she thought of pitfalls and situations to expect, but her ears and attention were pricked every time she heard something from the outer walls.

She looked up at one particular noise and saw a large flaxen haired man she had recognized just from his stature. Despite his thick fur-cloak draped over his muscular form, Viresse recognized Drogo and his pale blond tresses from a good distance. She called to him, and he approached her quickly.

"Good to see you out and about in the sun! Are you going somewhere?" Drogo asked, as he leaned against the wagon and held out a hand.

"The Paelelon. I get to research poisonous wine." Viresse cocked a brow and shook his large outstretched hand. "Not what I was expecting, but something different."

"Well, at least it will be easier than other projects, not so many stares. I'd love to go with you - alcohol and me go hand in hand, as do imbibed women and me, but that's a story for another day." He smirked at his innuendo. "I am heading home for the harvest- will probably stay the whole of winter." He sighed and let his weight sink against the cart, cauding it to lean slightly on its far wheels as he drifted off into thought.

"Be careful the way up - I hear some of the orcs are getting adventurous." She nodded once and turned her head toward the castle as a heavy clatter caught her attention.

Drogo reached behind his shoulder and withdrew a massive sword. Its blade glinted in the sun as if kissed by the Injčra herself. Viresse stood in shock for a moment at its size, then smiled as the mithril-esque blade shimmered a sliver of light across her face. "I have no fear. Not with this," Drogo said as he observed the beautiful blade himself.

"Then I would hope the orcs do, if you have a blade like that. I don't want to think of you hewing their heads," Viresse stated. She looked away from the blade into Drogo's eyes. "I know you want to do it- but that invites a skirmish." She paused a moment, and planned her next words. "You plan on a massacare?"

"I would figure you'd be the most understanding, Viresse. I expect a fight every day." Drogo pushed himself off the cart - a heavy racheted squeak sounded as his weight was taken off the axles. "Don't you?"

Viresse sighed. "I do. But I do not always relish it. I am a drow - but I am not that kind of drow." She too leaned off the cart and looked up at the nearly two ped tall Kug'limz. "Maybe some day, but not right now." She let a frown cross her face, but then quickly turned it into a smile. "I hope you have a good harvest season, Drogo. Be careful and be wise!"

Drogo nodded as he put his sword away. " I hope so too. And I will be careful. Believe me." He started to walk away, but turned around. "Give a greeting to Rube for me." He said.

"Who?" Viresse queried.

Drogo said nothing more, but pointed.

Viresse turned around to see the young man setting another large burlap-wrapped parcel into the wagon bed. "A-yo Drogo! Good journey!" He called, and waved at the massive barbarian man, who slipped out of the castle gates and into the maze of streets of New-Santhala.

Viresse watched the young man Drogo called Rube settle the last burlap parcel, then jump out of the wagon. He dusted his hands on his breeches, then walked toward Viresse. Viresse quickly ducked her head to hide a good amount of her face, and kept her hands inside her sleeves. She knew this young man would find out anyway, but she hoped later rather than sooner - for the drow, a first impression can make or break a friendship, and if he liked her before he knew of her heritage, then maybe it'd be easier for him to handle it.

"A-yo. I see ya know Drogo there. He's a friend of mine... - I'm Rube." Rube stuck out his hand to shake.

Viresse's painted black eyes widened. A shake... - he'll see her hand... Viresse thought quickly, and awkwardly leaped at Rube, hugging him around the neck for a brief second, then stepping back to comfortable distance. "I am called Viresse by many." She stated, her tongue clumsy with the rough Tharian language. She cocked her head so she could look just off the edge of her cowl, to eye the young man in front of her.

He wore a look of slight confusion, his thick but neat black brows knitted. But his handsome, olive-complected face wore it well. He had freckles across his cheeks and on his nose- making him look younger still. "So you're the Lady I'm taking to Elsreth. We have to stop at Tyr Thromgolin on the way, if you didn't know, you know now- and we'll unload a fair amount of this kack there. From that point on we should move fast, alltogether the span of about three days."

Viresse eyed him while he overlaid their plans, then spoke. " How old are you?" She asked, the cock of her head conveying curiousity that was well magnified by the hood. She knew it was out of place considering the conversation, but she felt the urge to ask.

Rube chuckled, thin lips parting to reveal straight white teeth and a smile that could be both aggressive and kind - which exactly it was at the moment she was unsure. Nevertheless, he seemed aggressive. "I'm just over my twenty first year, but have been working on and around pack-wagons since the day I escaped."

"Escaped?" Viresse asked.

"Yea - from that cussard wench's womb. Dumped me with my pa the day she let me out and that was that for her." He nodded. "A good way to start things, yea?"

"In what way - in life or for a trip?" she asked. A smile began to creep across her black painted lips. Rube had a way with words that made it easy for her to relate. He spoke like a Coórhem, in a very watered-down kind of way.

He paused a moment, then shrugged. "Either way, I guess. It appears I didn't turn out all that bad if I'm running daft errands for the King."

"They're not that daft," she stated in a defensive manner.

Rube's apparent smile slipped into a sneer. It seemed to be a reaction to her statement - it seemed he felt he was more qualified at judging goods.

"Oh, no, not to those that need them." Rube began to side-step around Viresse, which made her uneasy - it was too similar to the Coór'hem fights for power. The fights she rarely won, and thought she was done with. While he continued to walk around her, she stayed facing him- one hand on the dagger at her waist, hidden behind her thick black cloak.

" I mean - you're going on an errand... So to you, it's not so daft at all. But to me - you're a package..." Rube looked Viresse over with a scrutinizing eye and it caused her to fidget slightly, "...a weird, black parcel that won't even look me in the eye..." Rube straightened up and set one of his hands on his hip. "And this parcel needs to be delivered to Elsreth. I will take you to Elsreth and as much as I want my head on my neck, you're going to get there in good condition." He cocked a thick brow and smirked - it looked more wicked this time than before. He reached over with his right hand and set it on the seat of the wagon, and leaned against it. "And that's all there is for me." He stared heavily at her, as if making an open invitation for a fight.

Viresse furrowed her sculpted black brows. Humans regularly made her upset, but this one did it in a way that she was unfamiliar with - instead of being ignorant like she expected and could put up with, he was both smart and blunt. And worst of all, concering Viresse - he was right. But as far as she could tell, he was no different than any human she had met before him. Just arrogant.

"Well... I don't say it's daft." Viresse stated coldly, and set her own hands on her hips, allowing her hands to slip out of her cloak as she did so. She didn't like to have to match minds with a human - especially a laborer such as this. He had no idea who or what she was, and she felt that if he did, she could very well pull back some of her respect that he had taken in the few short moments they had spoken.

Rube huffed loudly, a similar noise he made to the men who poorly loaded his wagon. It sounded like the blend of a snarl of an upset dog, and the mocking laugh of a well-knowledged man. "And who are you to tell me about my wagon and my trip?" He sprang up and set himself upon the seat of the wagon, looking down at Viresse.

Viresse sneered from under her hood, and with her dainty pale hands she threw the hood off of her head, revealing her pale elven face and dark tresses to her companion. She blinked against the bright sun that now flooded her painted eyes and caused her eyes to water. "I am Vir'es'fa'sáh'íl-drén Salén'maachán, Santharian Compendium Writer, and I expect at least a little respect for my position and my orders!" She pursed her lips in defiance and stared heavily at the man whom she had revealed herself to. She hadn't said her full name in a long time. She had no need to before now - in all honesty, she didn't need to say it, this child didn't deserve it...

Rube was not taken aback by her dark elven appearance - the first human to not do so in a great long while. Rather, he seemed almost angered by it. "What? Speak Tharian, woman! That elven kack does nothing for me!" He rolled her eyes and slid across the wooden seat of the wagon, making space for Viresse to sit up front.

"Fool! I wouldn't speak another word to you if it wasn't for you driving me to where I need to go!" She reached up and swung onto the front seat, and seated herself as far from Rube as she could." I don't want to hear another pompous, arrogant word from your foaming mouth unless it involves death!" She snapped, and pulled her hood over her head. She huffed loudly and crossed her arms, not looking in Rube's direction.

"Same goes for you, sildren-machan... the whole of it," Rube mumbled. He took the reins and glanced in her direction, brows furrowed. "You're lucky I'm in a good mood."

"Can we leave yet?" Viresse snapped, without turning around.

Rube made a clicking noise with his tongue, and the restless horses lurched forward, causing Viresse to be tossed back into the wagon-seat. She straightened herself up and huffed loudly, while Rube chuckled slightly.

"Oh, silence yourself, human, or I'll do it for you," Viresse growled.

"Hey, Darky. Do me a favor and take a nap in the back, huh? I don't want to hate you until at least halfway," Rube snapped, and shot a cold glare, yet the hint of a smile danced at the corners of his mouth.

Viresse stood on the bench and straightened her cloak. "I will, only becuase I don't want to even hear your blathering voice." She stepped over the planks that seperated the wagon bed from the front seat, and slumped down against the burlap parcels. She set her satchel on her lap, and wrapped her cloak around her, slipping her pale hands into her cloak to hide against the sun. She closed her dark eyes and listened to the clop of the horses' hooves and the whirring clatter of the wagon wheels upon the cobblestones, then shifting into the rumbling thunder as it shifted into earthen roads.

As she began to drift off, a faint hollow voice carriend into her ears and seemed to sing to her throughout her restless dreams...

Well, the song does call me on and on,
And once I am there, then soon it's gone.
The song will move my feet again
When the time grows we-a-ry.

Tinnero, Tinneray!
The light of the road is shining on me!
Tinnero, Tinneray!
The light of the road is with me!

 


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