While Wyland is talking to his
mount and settling in, the sun has completely disappeared and at first faint,
but now deeper purples of twilight have descended. Now that darkness is fast
approaching, he begins preparing to stay for the
night. Keeping in mind the possibility of another encounter with a Voran
tiger Wyland begins preparing a fire by scraping a
small depression in the ground and gathering some dead branches from the nearby
trees. After that had been done, he starts a small fire and begins eating his
rations. With a glum look upon his face he steadily chews his way through dried
meat and some stale bread. Getting up he goes over to the brook and drinks a few
handfuls of water.
Returning to where his gear is laid out he lies down on the soft ground, resting
his head upon his saddle and pulls a blanket over him. Trying to sleep, but
finding it difficult Wyland opens his eyes and stares up at the stars that
twinkle down upon him. Normally this sight would bring him as much joy as that
of the sunset, but instead thought after thought runs through his mind. His
thoughts are dominated by Surian falling off his horse while he himself laughed
at his drenched cousin. Yes, it was funny at the time, but with the new
knowledge of what happened it is more serious now. Idle conjectures abound, each
one traced to its speculative conclusion. What if Surian had fallen during his
madcap ride and hit a rock at high speed? What if he
had fallen and been trampled by his own mount?
There were so many possibilities and so many people who could have done such a
thing. The real questions were who did it and why. A sneaking suspicion that the
thin man who had chased them through the town might be involved, and one
partially cut saddle strap were all that he had. Before he could go tell the
king or anyone of importance besides his father he
needed more proof. After all, maybe the two things were completely unrelated.
Even though these thoughts and many others churned through his head, Wyland
eventually falls asleep. Nightmares of plots, murders, and warfare pervade his
dreams leaving him troubled and unrested.
Wyland’s beleaguered eyes open somewhat achingly to dawn’s bright light.
“Definitely the last day of this,” he mutters as he throws the inadequate covers
off of him. Grasping his legs he slowly pulls himself to a sitting position.
Searching for a little warmth to help ward off the morning chill,
he sets his eyes upon the fire that he started last night, only to find that
there isn’t even an ember still glowing. Rubbing his now sore back he looks down
at the ground for the culprit. There it was, just as he thought, a small gnarled
root. “Looks pretty happy with itself if I do say so,” grumbles Wyland.
Continuing to rub his back occasionally, he stands up and begins gathering his
gear and reloads Iria for another day of searching. After everything is secured
he unties Iria’s reins while giving him a quick rub on his cheek.
“So, which way do you think we should go today, north, west, south?,” he
inquires of Iria. Peering at him with large eyes, Iria does not respond. “Any
help would be useful. Besides, your guess is as good as mine.” Wyland rolls his
eyes as Iria continues to just look at him. “Fine, fine”, he says as he gets up
into the saddle, “I thought you animals were supposed to have, err...
animal instinct or something.” With that last comment, Wyland guides the horse
northward, but just as he pulls on the reins, Iria pulls his head to the west.
“What, now you want to help? All right we will try it your way. After all you
did pretty well in chasing down Surian when he went riding off.” Iria gives a
slight snort after Wyland’s remark. “Fine, fine you did better than I did.”
Iria’s neigh seems to indicate his agreement with that gratifying remark. “You
know Iria, I do believe that you are the most egotistical horse I have ever
Continuing to talk with his horse, Wyland heads westward through the tangled
trees. Amidst conversing with Iria about his dreams,
his fears for the king, and other topics, he
occasionally stops to enjoy the beauty of the forest around him. On one such
stop in a small dell, he notices that this small offshoot of the Shaded Forest
offers more beauty than the woods near his home. Vibrant greens compliment the
sprigs of bright colour from early flowers. Near
Tormac, the plants tended to be more brush and weed rather than proper forest.
Soothing sounds greet his ears as he listens to the gentle flow of water winding
its merry way amongst the rocks in its path. Birds chirp as they soar through
the air and squirrels scramble through the trees looking for future mates. Here
and there he sees shadowy forms break apart the small clusters of ferns, making
them sway in some rhythmic dance. Truly a veritable wealth of life abounds here.
The hazy light that filters through the canopy of boughs highlights morning dew,
making everything glisten as if newly made by the Creator.
Shaking his head to release himself from this waking dream that is the beauty of
nature he gives Iria a small pat on his strong neck before kicking him into a
steady gait. “While this is nice and all, I thought that you were going to lead
me to the saddle, but I guess,” in the midst of his light scolding the sound of
a horse’s whinny interrupts him. Unsure of the source of the sound, Wyland
quickly becomes quiet and strains to hear the sound again. New thoughts run
through his head now. Thoughts along the line of: is it just a hunter, or did
someone follow him? Tensing in anticipation, he waits to see what might happen
next. Another whinny sounds, this time from his left. Jerking the reins quickly,
he tries heading away to a dense clump of foliage. Iria balks however and
instead neighs in response to the other horse.
“You’d better get moving,” Wyland says in a threatening voice to his mount. “Or
I will…” A crashing sound to his left makes him trail off as a riderless roan
stallion emerges from the trees. A sigh of relief escapes Wyland’s mouth as he
sees that it is the horse that Surian had been riding a few days ago while they
had been on the hunt. He had been wondering what had happened to it since Surian
had jumped on Iria along with Wyland so they could rush to the sound of his
father’s horn, though that horse would have been useful when facing that tiger.
Apparently the stallion is
fine and seems excited to be with his stable mate
again as they both made loud, energetic sounds upon the sight of each other. The
roan appears good natured and allows Wyland to give it a quick rub while it is
close to Iria.
Dismounting he rummages in his pack and comes out with a small length of rope.
Using the rope he fashions a makeshift lead line. Slowly approaching the horse
as not to spook it, he finds his efforts unnecessary as the horse comes right up
to him and gives a quick snort. Reaching up and rubbing the nose, Wyland slips
the line around the horse’s head, and with a snap of his wrist, tightens it.
Petting it softly on the cheek he says in a reasurring voice, “Do not worry boy,
we will get you home soon. I do not know what your name is so I suppose I will
have to call you just Horse or Stallion,
or some such name. Maybe with you here you can lead us to that saddle of yours.”
Thinking better of it and hoping that Stallion, as he has now named the roan,
can lead him to the saddle he takes his saddle off of Iria and fastens it onto
Stallion, but leaves the pack and other equipment with Iria. Next he transfers
the lead line from Stallion to Iria, all the while being given a somewhat nasty
look from his horse, its lip is raised and yellowed teeth are showing in
defiance. “It is fine; I am not replacing you, just think of it as a little
break.” Soothed by the sound of Wyland’s voice Iria settles down and allows the
lead rope to go around his neck.
Excited by the chance of finding Surian’s horse, Wyland swiftly mounts and kicks
his heels to Stallion, hoping for the best. Tree after tree, clearing after
clearing pass by Wyland, as Stallion leads them slowly westward deeper and
deeper into the forest. Several hours later, after his excitement has died away
and instead been replaced by frustration, then lethargy, and his aching eyes
attempt to close, Wyland finds himself jarred
completely awake by Stallion’s abrupt stop at a stream. Unready for this
sudden halt, he nearly overbalances. Deciding that
this is as good of a place as any to allow the horses to rest,
graze a bit, and drink, he dismounts Stallion. Not that he had much of a choice,
he thinks, since both of these horses obviously decided that they were thirsty
Searching the small clearing to find some place to sit for a while and rest,
something in the stream catches his eye as he looks along it. Stopping to stare
more intently to see what it might be, his breath catches in hope that he has
finally found the piece of the puzzle that he needs. Screwing his eyes up
tightly in concentration he makes out two round humps protruding from the
surface of the water about two hand spans away from each other. Quickly walking
to the edge of the stream he looks down into the middle of the waterway
intently. Lo and behold the slow, clear waters reveal the blurred shape of a
saddle. Excitedly he rushes into the water, soaking his breeches in the process,
but does not even notice in his rush.
Reaching his prize, Wyland plunges his hands through
the water churned up by his passage and grips the saddle. Heaving against the
weight of the water he pulls upward, freeing the burden from its resting place.
Seeing the water drain off of the leather curves of the saddle reminds him that
he is standing in the middle of a rather cold stream. Holding off his desire to
examine the saddle immediately, Wyland turns back to the bank and heads to dry
ground. All the while, his sloshing and shivering has drawn the attention of
both horses who seem to peer at him rather quizzically. Upon reaching the bank
he holds out his prize for Iria to inspect it briefly.
Not even bothering to find a decent rock or stump to sit on, Wyland just
chooses the muddy bank. Placing the saddle so that the
girth strap dangles in his lap he grabs the two, now separated, pieces of the
girth strap. The end where it is held tight by the fastening buckle was good,
and that part of the strap was still buckled in well. Continuing down the length
of the strap he notes that there is little wear to the
strap at all, in fact it looked fairly new. The possibility that it had snapped
was even more unlikely since it was in such good condition. He puts the two ends
of the strap next to each other, lining them up so it looks as it should have
when it was whole. Even a cursory examination shows that it had been cut
through. The cut was straight through most of the strap, only the very end was
jagged where it had ripped. With this observation he stands up excitedly and
“Do you know what this means?” As he asks this
question water drips off him onto Iria’s foot. Iria gives a slight snort and
backs away a little bit. Looking down at himself and seeing that he is now
shaking a bit Wyland says, “You are right, I need to get out of these wet
clothes.” Wyland begins rummaging through the pack on Iria’s back and comes out
with a blanket and a change of pants. Drying himself off he puts on the dry set
of breeches, then goes about finding dead wood to start a fire. Once the blaze
is crackling merrily at the base of the tree, he drapes his pants over a low
hanging branch so that they will dry quickly.
Sitting near the fire, this time on a blanket, Wyland sets about eating, as it
has been some hours since his last meal. He is so engrossed in thought that he
doesn’t even taste the slight mold on the bread or the wooden consistency of his
dried meat. While he can answer some of his former questions, others still go
unanswered. The evidence obviously shows
that the girth strap had been cut most of the way through, and riding finished
off the job. Also, the cut is
the same on both the king’s horse and on Surian’s. There is
no possibility that this is in anyway an accident.
While it is nice that this part comes
together and supports his theory, he still doesn’t
have answers to the most important questions, who would do this, and why.
After finishing his meal, Wyland takes the lead line
off of Iria and ropes it around Stallion. Next he removes the saddle and cinches
it onto Iria. “There,” he says as he gives Iria a quick scratch on the nose, “I
told you that it would just be a break.” Iria gives a whinny of pleasure. Taking
the rest of the items off Iria, he packs it all on top of Stallion, including
Surian’s saddle which he secures with a length of rope. Receiving Stallion’s
look of annoyance at having the goods put on him, Wyland replies, “What can I
say, he was here first. Sorry boy.” When everything is set to go he stamps out
the small fire with his boots and mounts up. Clucking his tongue and setting his
boots to Iria, Wyland heads back to Vermoth.
A day later, he finds himself
just outside of a small farm, less than a day’s ride from the city. A pretty
young woman is standing near a well, drawing water out from it. When she notices
him he raises a hand in greeting and she smiles back at him sweetly. Before he
can even say anything, the woman asks him if he would like water because he looks
rather thirsty. Agreeing, he drinks the cool water from the wooden ladle she
offers him. “That is quite good, thank you. I have been traveling the past
several days and that is just what I needed”, he says with a smile.
“Anytime. If you’ve been a travellin’ then you prolly haven’t a heard about the
feast comin’ up.”
“Actually, no I have not. What feast might that be?”, Wyland asks with
“It’s been a goin’ round that the prince killed a mighty Voran tiger all by
himself. They say the Creator steadied his sword and gave ‘im the strength to
kill it. That’s why there’s a feast bein’ a plannin’. It’s in two days and
everyone is bein’ invited to go. Course since there’s not much notice ‘fore the
feast prolly only people near the city be goin’. You’re a lucky to be here now,
I hear they have great feasts.”
“Yes I’ve heard the same thing”, Wyland says while trying to keep the amusement
out of his voice. Saying his farewells and taking his leave from the nice young
lady he continues toward the city thankful that the news on
the king’s injuries have not been spread
around, for she would have surely shared that knowledge if she had
received it. Continuing his journey with this new bit of information
Wyland mulls over the reasons for the feast and decides it is most likely a way
to divert attention away from the king. However, the king should attend a feast,
so that did not necessarily make sense. As always, the first site of the
impending city is the sight of several of its grandiose towers breaking the
horizon, showing off man’s attempted majesty above nature. Ahead, the gates
stand open like a mouth waiting to swallow him whole.
Approaching the bridge to the city of Vermoth Wyland
knows the answers about the feast and the political intrigue are in there -
somewhere. The clip-clop of hooves on cobblestones brings back memories of the
haste and anxiety that had accompanied him when he had last heard that sound.
Watching the flow of people entering and exiting the gates around him
is tribute to the fact that no matter what happens
life goes on as it ever does. Passing through the great stone arch and by
several soldiers, Wyland nods towards one in respect. The soldier gives a quick
jerk of his neck in acknowledgment and continues to survey the flow of traffic
while talking with a nearby soldier.
Getting somewhat crushed now as people are funneled into a second, smaller
gateway, Wyland can not help but hope that this all gets taken care of soon so
that he can get back to his home of wide open spaces and sparsely populated
regions. Quirking his lips as memories of his home’s rugged beauty come to him,
he continues heading into the city. Once by the second gate and series of guards
he looks backwards as thoughts of the amount of security this city has drift
through his mind. “Odd”, he mutters to himself. “I thought that there were six
guards at that gate, not five.” Dismissing it as nothing more than
blurry vision from lack of sleep and plenty of physical activity, Wyland makes
his way to the palace. All the while unaware of the eyes that follow him.