The first few hours' travel to Highdell was mostly silent. Everyone was unsure of just what to say- they'd only known each other a matter of days. All these six had anything to go on was a note, one only Violet had seen. And she wasn't talking. Still, as they trudged on in silence, the six were all lost in thought...
Passing by a divide in the road, Violet- who had been leading- came to a stop. She walked off the road, and crouched down beside the tree. Bloodstains, from the priest so violently killed, remained behind. She plucked some flowers, and laid them to rest. Alongside this, a dagger wrapped with a violet ribbon.
"Miss- what are ye doing? Don't cha know that's temporary?"
"My name is Violet. And I am aware, I just... want to leave a mark of passing. A priest had been violently killed here. Tributes like this are comforts for the living, not for the dead." She got to her feet.
"If I might ask, what happened?"
"The Blood Angel Of Karameikos got to him."
"'The Blood Angel Of Karameikos'? Who the hell is that?"
"I'm curious, who was affected by this that you knew?"
Violet sighed gently, and turned to face the group, eyeing her with curiosity. Gentle breezes picked up, making her hair flutter just a little bit.
"He's... infamous in this area. Very much a sadistic man, likes to turment and play with his victims. As to your query, Jordan... let's just say someone very close." Marching past them all, it was clear she didn't want to talk about it, so nobody would ask.
By nightfall, everyone was drained, and in need of a place to rest. Luckily, most of them knew of a coach-house and inn coming up. Come nightfall, it was found... or at least, the embers that remained. A quick search turned up no bodies, no traces. Watches were quickly assigned.
Sera and Jordan took first watch, though very little of prominence happened. Sera spent her time in the rafters, while Jordan remained near the glowing fire, keeping an eye out. came to replace Jordan, who took little time in falling asleep. Sera crawled down, replaced by Violet up above. Mice scattered, and it looked to be a sleepy night... until the voices came. Crawling to the window, she could see twelve men- a thirteenth appearing from nowhere. A were-mouse hidden among the ranks. Thankfully, they left. And the remaining night went without incident, leading to an uneventful morning.
The second day's travel gave way to rougher terrains, roads winding downwards. The party had hit the valley, and soon, Highdell was in sight. Coming up to a divided road, the scent of smoke gave pause.
"Think we should check that out?" Silver's voice cut the silence.
"Yes. Fire is never... a good sign. And... we're not far away."
"I also believe so. Never know who'll you'll run into, right?"
"...Why not." With that, the group turned east, heading toward what appeared to be some smaller farms. One in particular, the first one, was the cause of the smoky scent. Four men in heavy black robes, bearing a strange symbol, were assaulting the farmhouse with fire. Accompanying the group, a pair of dogs- unlike anything ever seen. Composed of metal, glowing as the fires of the Nine Hells themselves...
Combats were never easy to record. They all moved so fast- magic weaving its way through the world, blades and bullets slicing the air. In Thorin's case, the hammer carving a path through pure blunt force. Seconds to minutes settled disputes- timing is of great importance in these sorts of affairs. But when the dust settled, when all was said and done... It was those strange metal dogs, and black-clad men, who had fallen. The fires were rapidly put out- and only then, did those inside come out. A woman, and two younger men.
"You've managed to stop them." Her voice was sharp, yet laced with wariness.
"We did, my Lady. And the fires are also put out." Violet stepped forward, regarding the woman. She was middle-aged- raven haired, eyes a light brown. Tanned skin, well-worn. Somewhat curvy, yet rather beautiful. Her sons inherited their good looks from her. The woman regarded the Hin, and smiled. She'd always liked the Good Folk. Being addressed as a Lady also helped warmed her to them.
"I thank you all, for your kindness. Allow me to introduce myself- I am Illyana. These are my sons, Elias and Joshua." At their names, each nodded their heads. Though very similar in physical nature, Joshua acted a little more shy, where Elias' smile was more like a grin.
"If I may ask, my Lady- who are these men? What happened here?"
"You don't know?" At the shakes of the head, she sighed. "These bastards have taken over Highdell. Iron Ring, they are- damn them all for it. Two months they've been here, and things worsen by the day. 'Tis a terrible thing."
"Who controls them?"
"That I know not, I'm afraid. But I know of two people who could help- Ruth Ann, she resides in the Sacred Grove. Not too far off. Dar lives in Albridge- bit farther off. You need to take the other road, but it's not difficult." Illyana came down the steps, assessing the damage. It would take a few days for the three of them to repair everything.
Thankfully, Asriel thought the same. "Is there... anything we can do... my Lady? To help?"
Illyana looked him over, curiosity on her face. How strange- a man and a goat, all in one. She thought him the strangest thing she'd ever seen. However, something about his sincere expression... She was rather enamored with him. Even if the language skills were a bit rusty, he came across as someone truly kind. Her sharp expression softened, a warm smile gracing her.
"Right. The charred wood will need repair to start. Poor vegetables need tending, if not removing. The equipment might require repairs."
"We can help, if you wish." Illyana nodded, and her smile grew.
Soon enough, the farm was alive with the sounds of activity. Thorin, with Elias' help, began improving the equipment not in use. Joshua, Asriel and Silver began repairs. Replacing burnt wood, fixing broken boards. Illyana and Violet tended the vegetables; then, as Illyana prepared dinner for everyone, Violet supervised the repairs. Dinner was an animated affair, everyone talking around the table- rather lively.
As nightfall settled in, everyone was busy. Asriel told stories to entertain, while Thorin and Silver tended everyone's weapons. Violet taught Elias and Joshua a little about reading and writing. Around this time, Sera and Jordan finally arrived. Before anyone could ask, Jordan spoke up.
"Hey everyone, sorry we fell behind. We were covering the back, and ended up tangled with some black-robed guys. What'd we miss?"
"More of the same here- four... what were they called?"
"Iron Ring slavers, Silver."
"What she said. Them and their strange mechanical hell hounds. Once they were dealt with, we ended up repairing the damage done. Had dinner, and here we are."
"Cool! Any left over?"
"These friends of yours?" Illyana's voice filtered in.
"Aye. Those are Sera and Jordan- they were watching our backs, literally. Good folk, you can trust them."
"Alright. I'll get some leftovers." Soon, they were served- though Sera mostly opted to liquefy hers, since she couldn't eat. A quiet word to her from Violet, though, and Illyana decided not to ask out loud. All of them settled in, as tomorrow they had some serious traveling to do. Mostly to the Sacred Grove and Albridge.
Chapter 4- Ruth Ann