A Wolf's Best Friend

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A Wolf's Best Friend

Post by Pryde » Thu Jul 09, 2009 10:26 pm

The forest was almost unnaturally calm that morning as Echryn Rogue rose to greet the sun. He had been traveling for several months now wandering the lands of Trabinia with no real direction or intent. He had lost all motivation and sense of duty after the murder of his wife and son at the hands of a rival Lord and has since forsaken the vows he took as a First Knight in the court of his King. Now he was reduced to little more than a wandering vagabond with no home or Lord to call his own.

With a sigh he pulled himself up to his feet with the help of a nearby branch and quickly set about rolling up his bed roll. He packed it away with the rest of his belongings then stirred up the flames of his fire to start some breakfast. It was cold that morning in the far reaches of the south and a stiff wind blew through the leaves causing the old swordsman to shiver. The fire did what it cold to warm his body but it was merely a small spark in the sea of winter. He drew his cloak closer about himself then set a pan to roasting on the fire. The sweet smell of bacon soon filled his nostrils and his stomach rumbled in response.

As his breakfast cooked he stood to stretch his body when the sudden howling of a wolf drew his attention. His hand strayed immediately to the hilt of his sword as his eyes swept across the trees for any signs of danger. To his surprise the shouts of men soon followed and it appeared as if the hunters and the wolf were drawing closer. He set his bacon aside and quickly doused the flames before moving to the edge of the clearing. He couldn’t see anything yet but the commotion was definitely getting nearer.

Edging carefully through the trees he made his way towards the sounds in the distance. The wolf howled again though this time its cry seemed to be filled with pain. Feeling an urge to hurry he quickened his pace until he came upon several men surrounding a wounded wolf caught in a hunter’s trap. The men were armed with swords but were careful not to wander too close. Even trapped the way it was the wolf was still a potential danger.

A wolf’s pelt would sure come in handy for the cold, he thought to himself, a pity I didn’t find it first. He turned to head back towards his camp when all of a sudden he heard a woman’s voice.

“Help me,” the girl cried and he quickly spun about. To his surprise where once there had been a wolf there was now only a girl. She was naked and afraid and her eyes pleaded with him. Somehow, even from this distance, it appeared as though she were looking straight at him.

A girl? How is this possible? Now was not the time for questions, however, it was the time to act. The code of a knight forbade him to ignore the plight of the helpless and with sword in hand he charged into the clearing.

The hunters turned at the sound of his battle cry and stood frozen in place. One look at the angered warrior and the sword in his hand and the three men thought it prudent to flee instead of fight. Against a trained knight they stood no chance of surviving and all three of them high-tailed it into the woods. Echryn hated to let them go, men of that caliber who would willingly trap and surround a young girl were deserving of a quick and painless death.

He turned to the girl to offer his assistance in freeing her leg but the words were frozen in his throat before they could even reach his lips. He didn’t know how he could have missed it in all the excitement but now that he could see her up close his eyes were immediately drawn to the fuzzy gray wolf ears that adorned her head.

“Are you going to stare at me all day or get me out of this thing,” she asked angrily and her tail pounded the ground impatiently.

She even has a tail, he thought trying to decide whether or not what he was seeing was real. “You’re one of the fae,” he said at last when he finally found his voice.

“If that’s what you want to call me,” the girl replied, trying as best she could to part the teeth pinning her leg to the ground. “If you don’t mind this really hurts.”

“I’m sorry,” he quickly apologized, bending down to open the trap. After he had freed her leg he let the trap snap closed again then reached for the girl’s leg to inspect it. Before he could, though, she fearfully drew it back out of his reach.

“I’m not going to hurt you,” he assured her and the girl looked intently into his eyes.

Finally she nodded and allowed the man to inspect her leg. “The break doesn’t seem too bad, but I’ll have to set the bone and find some way to support it.”

He carefully placed his hands around the break in her leg the gazed intently into her eyes. “Brace yourself, this could hurt a bit.”

She nodded then grimaced as he snapped the bone in her leg back into place. Afterwards he found two sturdy branches and after cutting them down to size with his sword he bound them to the girl’s leg with shreds of cloth he tore from his tunic.

“It’s not much but it’ll have to do,” he said when he was finished, leaning back to look at her, “If you’re fit to travel then we should leave. There is a village not far from here, I hear their medicine man is very good at healing the sick. I’m sure he’ll be able to throw something together that’s a bit more sturdy than those two branches,” he added, gesturing towards her leg with one hand.

The girl, however, shook her head. “I thank you, but no. I don’t trust the humans in this area, this isn’t the first time I’ve been hunted by them. To have to rely on someone like you to save me is disgraceful.”

Well, that’s gratitude for ya. “If that’s the way you feel about it,” he said then he climbed to his feet and started to walk away.

“Wait,” the girl called after him, stopping him in his tracks. He turned back to her and she sheepishly averted her eyes. “You can’t leave me.”

Echryn raised an eyebrow at that. “Funny, I thought being helped by me was disgraceful.”

She shook her head. “No, it’s not that, it’s just… You saved my life and I owe you a debt of gratitude. Until that debt is repaid I cannot leave your side.”

Echryn looked surprised by that and he quickly held up his hands in front of him. “No, that’s quite alright. I was just doing a knight’s duty, you don’t have to repay me for that.”

“It would be unbefitting of me if I didn’t,” she replied and there was a hint of fire in her voice that caught Echryn off guard.

I guess I'm stuck with her then, he thought and with a sigh he reached down and drew her tiny form into his arms. She was surprisingly light when he lifted her. “I don’t suppose you have a name,” he asked as he carried her back to his camp.

“I do, but you won’t be able to pronounce it.”

“Oh?” He said, looking at her curiously.

Their eyes locked for a moment and again she looked away. Something about that earnest expression of his bothered her and she found it difficult to stare too long into those eyes. “The language of wolves is much different from the language of humans, we use guttural noises and growls that are impossible for human throats to make. Because of that you will not be able to reproduce the sounds that make up my name.”

“Then I suppose I’ll have to give you one,” he asserted and then his eyes drew up in thought. “How about Cassie?”

“Cassie?”

“It’s short for Cassandra,” he explained, “It was the name of my wife.”

For the first time since he'd met her the girl actually smiled at him, “I like that, um…”

“Echryn,” he told her, “Echryn Rogue.”

“Echryn,” she repeated and her expression grew thoughtful. “Such a pretty name,” she said as she snuggled her head against his chest.

Echryn looked down at her and almost immediately his cheeks began to blush. “Ah yes, well… Ahem,” he coughed nervously, “First, I think we should see about getting you some clothes and then I’ll take you to see the medicine man.”

Her smile shifted into a frown and her eyes stared intently ahead of them. “Do we have to go?”

Echryn nodded, “Yes, I’m afraid we do.”

“I don’t want to.”

“Unfortunately, it’s not up to you,” he said as they entered the clearing where he had set up camp. “I have a cloak for you to wear that will cover your ears and tail, but I can’t do much more than that until we get to town. Sadly, I don’t carry a spare set of clothes for young women on me wherever I go.”

“Young,” the wolf asked indignantly, “I’m older than you!”

Again Echryn coughed nervously as he gently set her down next to the remains of his fire. “Then you have my apologies, Cassie, but if you don't mind my saying you certainly don’t look it.”

“Well, my people don’t age the same way yours does,” she replied in a tone that sounded almost proud, “In fact, we don’t age at all. I bet I could count on one hand the number of centuries I’ve walked this earth longer than you.”

I guess age doesn’t necessarily come with maturity, he thought as he fetched the cloak from his bag and handed it to her. “Here, this will keep you warm for now. We’ll set out for the village after we’ve had a bite to eat, do you like bacon?”

“Bacon,” she asked curiously while wrapping the cloak snugly around her shoulders.

“It’s swine, more or less,” he answered, “We take the meat from pigs and cut it into thin strips.”

“If it’s meat then I’m sure I’ll like it,” she said, turning up her nose at him. This human male doesn’t know the first thing about wolves!

“Well, that’s good enough for me, I suppose,” he replied as he went about building another fire. “Is there anything else you like? Maybe some cheese or bread?”

The girl just stared at him with a blank expression on her face and Echryn sighed in resignation. “I guess we’ll just have to experiment and find out.”

Then he paused from striking the flint against his steel and looked at her. "By the way," he said suddenly, "how long do you intend this partnership to last?"

"Until my debt has been repaid," she answered firmly.

"So, that would be what? A week? Maybe a month?"

"Indefinitely," she replied almost casually and Echryn dropped both his flint and steel in shock. Cassie just smiled at him, "You saved my life, Echryn, so now I offer it to you as payment for my debt. For as long as you live you and I shall not be parted."

"Lucky me," Echryn grumbled to himself as he picked up the flint and steel. Is it too late to put her back into that trap?
Last edited by Pryde on Fri Jul 10, 2009 12:53 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: A Wolf's Best Friend

Post by Pryde » Fri Jul 10, 2009 9:52 am

"You're not happy about the arrangement, are you," she asked and Echryn looked startled.

"No, that's not exactly true," he said fetching his breakfast and placing it back on the fire as soon as the flames were going. Cassie didn't appear to be happy with that answer and crossed her arms angrily over her chest.

"It's not wise to lie to me, you know, I can see right through it."

Echryn smiled as he carefully flipped his bacon on the sizzling pan using the tips of his fingers. "Somehow I doubt that."

"Oh," Cassie asked with a sly look in her eye. She scooted herself closer to him and gazed intently into his face. Echryn, for his part, coughed nervously as he kept his focus entirely on his sizzling bacon.

"There are ways to tell when someone is lying that are only observable by someone like me," she continued, "For example, just before someone tells a lie his heartbeat may quicken or maybe he begins to sweat. Some times he will even look up and a little to the left while he thinks of something to say. All of these are sure signs that someone's telling a lie."

"And what about in my case," Echryn asked as he pulled the bacon off the fire.

"In your case you tried to cover up your lie by reaching for the bacon, but there was a slight stutter in your voice that gave it away."

She leaned back a little and smiled at him. "Also, I can see from your eyes and the way you live that you prefer to be alone," she sighed fondly as she considered that, "Echryn Rogue, a lone wolf just like me. Maybe that's why I get the feeling that we were meant for each other."

He handed her a few slabs of bacon on a ceramic plate as well as a generous piece of bread and slice of cheese. "If you're talking about Fate I don't believe in that sort of thing," he told her.

Cassie accepted the plate from him and greedily bit into a slice of bacon. That was when Echryn had for the first time noticed her fangs. He was surprised he hadn't seen them before, she must have done fairly decent job of covering them up. "Those fangs of yours might be problematic. There are stories of bloodsuckers in the north, which is where we're headed. If anyone were to see them they might confuse you for a vampire."

Cassie laughed a rich melodic laugh. "That's a silly thought," she said between bites, "sucking the blood of a human. I've never tried it personally, but I've always been of the opinion that the blood is flavoring for the meat. Perhaps the people you're refering to should be more worried about me eating them."

Echryn gave her a startled look. "You aren't seriously suggesting that you'd eat a human."

"I have in the past," Cassie replied with a shrug, "I don't normally target humans, but when I am being hunted by one what else can I do?"

She had said it so casually that it alarmed Echryn, he quickly rose to his feet and drew his sword. "You're a monster," he accused her, "I can't believe you'd actually prey upon humans!"

"It's really not all that different from what you do to us," she replied calmly, not even pausing for a minute as she ate her food, "Haven't you ever wondered why there aren't many of us around? Just think about it, how many people like me have you met before in your life?"

Echryn considered that for a moment and his sword drooped a bit. "Well, I--," he stuttered.

"Humans hunted us to near extinction because of what we are, I was only returning the favor. But if it makes you feel any better I don't plan on eating you."

With a sigh he sheathed his sword and sheepishly lowered himself to the ground. "I'm sorry," he said quietly, though his eyes focused intently on the fire.

"Apology accepted," she replied with an annoyingly superior tone that grated on Echryn's nerves. She finished up the last of her bread and cheese before setting her empty plate aside. Then she gestured at the food sitting untouched next to Echryn. "Are you going to eat that?"

Echryn glanced down at his plate then handed it to her. Somehow he had ended up losing his appetite. This day had started out with such promise, too...

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Re: A Wolf's Best Friend

Post by Pryde » Fri Jul 10, 2009 4:04 pm

The trip to the edge of the wood where lay the village of Pascoe was long and tedious, made even more so by the fact that Echryn had to carry his strange companion most of the way. He frequently rested when he could but he would always set out again after a moment's rest. It wasn't until late afternoon that the two of them had arrived at the village and by the time they found the house of the healer the sun had begun it's long descent.

Echryn carried the wolf to the door and lightly rapped it with his foot. A moment or two later a man with graying hair answered the door. He took one look at the makeshift splint on Cassie's leg and beckoned them inside. "I'm sorry to bother you so late, but my companion here has recently run afoul of a hunter's trap."

"It's quite all right, my good sir, my services are always available to the sick and injured. Now please, set her down over here."

Echryn did as he was asked and set the girl down on a chair so that the healer could inspect her leg. As he did this the swordsman moved to the windows and closed all the shutters, lighting a few candles along the way so as not to plunge the room into complete darkness. The man tending to Cassie's injury barely took notice of Echryn's actions but when he lifted up the girl's robe a bit to get a better look at her leg he jumped back in surprise.

"I say," he cried in shock, "why, she's completely naked under that robe!"

Echryn quickly moved to the man's side and rested a reassuring hand on his shoulder. "It's more than that, father," he said then he looked to Cassie, "Show him."

She let out a long drawn out sigh and pulled back her hood, revealing her long, ashen gray hair and fuzzy wolf ears. The healer cringed back in fear and tried to flee but Echryn kept a firm hand on his shoulder.

"You've brought a demon to my house," the healer accused him, "I will have no part in this, get out! Both of you!"

Cassie once again drew her hood over her head. "I warned you this would happen."

Echryn ignored that and turned to the healer. "Father, forgive me for my intrusions, but I have taken this creature into my charge and she is in need of your assistance. Could you please reconsider?"

The man shook his head violently. "No, I can not--I will not reconsider! This girl has been possessed by a demonic spirit and she must be cleansed by fire! It is the will of the Goddess!"

He started to rush towards the door but Echryn stopped him by drawing his sword and placing the flat of it against the healer's belly. "You recognize this sword, don't you? It is the sword carried by the First Lords of Emperor Kerr's Inner Sanctum. A sword that commands your respect."

"B--but, the doctrines of the church," the man started blubbering before Echryn cut him off.

"Damned be the doctrines of the church," he snapped, raising the edge of his sword to the man's throat. "I am ordering you as vassal Lord to his Majesty, Emperor Kerr, to help this woman."

The man looked fearfully at the sword then back at the cloaked woman. He cried a sort of desperate wail then and hesitantly lowered himself at the feet of the injured wolf. "Forgive me, Goddess, for what I'm about to do," he said in prayer, waving his hands about making an odd religious gesture. He carefully took the makeshift splint off of Cassies leg then instructed the swordsman to fetch his herb pouch. Echryn did as he was asked and helped the healer whenever he could. When the work was finished Cassie had a well crafted splint to replace her old one and even a crutch with which she may lean on.

"Her leg should heal fine on its own now," the healer said as he washed his hands in a nearby washtub, "Now please, my Lord, get her out of my house."

Echryn gently laid a hand on his shoulder and nodded at him. "Thank you, my friend," he said with a warm smile, then he went over to help Cassie onto her crutch and the two of them left the healer's home.

"We better hurry," Echryn said as they headed down the street towards the market, "We'll buy the first set of clothes that fit and then get out of here. I don't think it'll be long before that man informs the other villagers about us."

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Re: A Wolf's Best Friend

Post by Pryde » Tue Jul 14, 2009 12:42 pm

Cassie was staring at Echryn as they made their way to the market. After awhile Echryn finally became fed up with it and gave her a cold stare. "What," he demanded.

"I didn't know you were a lord," she answered, staring at him in wonder, "It must be my good fortune that we found each other."

Echryn gritted his teeth together. "I was a lord," he corrected her, "I was removed from my position and branded a traitor after the new Emperor came to power. All I have from my old life is this sword."

Cassie looked heartbroken at that. Already her dreams of being pampered by maid servants and peasant boys were shattered. "So wait, why did that man believe you then?"

"Men lose all sense of rationale when their lives are in danger," Echryn replied matter-of-factly, "It's also possible that he didn't recognize me."

When he caught the confused look on Cassie's face he tried to explain. "What I mean is these aren't my lands. My holdings were farther to the east so the chances of anyone recognizing me here are very slim, not that it would matter if they did."

"Why is that?"

"If the Emperor wanted me dead he could have easily ordered my execution. The fact he hasn't yet is because he wants me to live with the knowledge that my family is dead, a tyrant sits on the throne and I failed in my duties to protect the man I swore my life to."

Cassie looked confused, "But, that doesn't make any sense. Why would he let you live when you can use your influence to raise an army against him?"

Echryn sighed and shook his head sadly. "Because he knows I'm no threat to him. He turned the people against me when he accused me of conspiring to kill his father and presented falsified proof of my involvement. Even if I could raise an army now there would be no one who would fight along side me."

Cassie was crestfallen and she stared sullenly at the ground in front of her as they walked. "I sometimes forget how complicated your world is," she said after a moment of silence, "Humans are clever, ingenious creatures capable of creating such wonderful things, but at the same time they're cold and unforgiving. For thousands of years you humans have turned a blind eye to the suffering of the world at your very own hands, but even so you still find the time to be compassionate enough to save one small life at the risk of your own."

Then she turned to look at him and Echryn could almost see the glint in her eye. "Maybe that's why I find you so fascinating, Echryn. After suffering such misfortune you still take pity on the weak," she said and then she stopped him by pressing her hand over his heart. "Though the Emperor may have the power to take everything you love away from you he can never have this and that in itself is a small victory."

Echryn's face was impassive as he peeled her hand away from his chest and kept walking. "I appreciate the sentiment, Cassie, but small victories bring me little comfort. I will not be content with anything short of placing the Emperor's head on a pike."

The wolf stared at him helplessly for a moment then sighed and trailed behind him in silence. She had more to say to him but perhaps now was not the best time. Violence was the breeding ground of nothing more than further violence and she knew if Echryn succeeded in killing the Emperor it would only end in his death. Cassie didn't want to see his life to end like that. Not when she was just starting to like him...

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Re: A Wolf's Best Friend

Post by Pryde » Fri Jul 17, 2009 1:20 am

Some time later the two companions found themselves on the edge of town bartering passage from a local wagon owner. As Echryn stood aside with the merchant Cassie leaned heavily on her crutch and tried as hard as she could to suppress a frown. Echryn was kind enough to purchase her some clothes to keep her warm, but human clothes were not designed with wolves in mind. Sure wore a plain brown dress made from wool and a hooded traveling cloak to conceal her ears and on her feet she wore a pair of slippers that wouldn't interfere with the splint on her leg. When Echryn returned after striking a deal it was all he could do to stop himself from laughing at how unhappy she looked.

"Is something the matter," he asked, stifling a snicker.

The wolf gave him a sour look. "These clothes are scratchy and they don't fit. There's no room in the back," she answered and she wagged her tail a bit for emphasis.

Without even thinking Echryn quickly laid his hand on her rump to hide the motion which caused Cassie's cheeks to turn red. "Stop that, someone might see."

"Echryn," Cassie replied in mock surprise, "I don't know what to say, this is so sudden!"

Echryn finally realized where his hand was and quickly removed it. His face turned a bright cherry color and Cassie couldn't help but giggle at him. "Just get on the cart," he snapped.

Still laughing softly to herself Cassie climbed up onto the seat next to the driver as Echryn perched himself in the back of the wagon. The merchant driving the coach snapped the reins once they were situated and the horses leading the wagon started forward. They headed down the main road leading out of town and out into the fields beyond. The road traveled in a northerly direction through the eastern half of the woods Echryn and Cassie had just exited from upon arriving at Pascoe. About a league or two out the road took a sharp turn west heading for the City of Copenheigen, a major trading hub of the south.

"Have you ever been to Copenheigen before," the driver asked the girl sitting next to him.

Cassie thought about that a moment then shook her head. "No, I don't believe I have, but then again I've been to so many places in my lifetime it's hard to keep track of it all."

The merchant seemed surprised at that. "Is that so," he replied thoughtfully, "but you look so young, it's hard to imagine you being so well traveled."

"Well, looks can sometimes be deceiving," Cassie replied with a smile, "I have to say, though, this is the first time I've traveled by wagon."

"So, you travel by horse a lot?"

Cassie shook her head. "Never traveled by horse before, either."

The man gave her a look of surprise. "You aren't seriously suggesting you walk everywhere."

"In a manner of speaking," the girl replied cryptically, "but I prefer to run, actually."

The merchant seemed shocked by that but before he could ask another question Echryn deftly changed the subject. "Copenheigen's a three day journey from Pascoe, correct? If that's the case then we better find a place to rest the horses for a bit. No point in traveling at night when there's no need to, unless of course you were in a hurry."

The man looked to him and then at the setting sun and gently shook his head. "No, there's no hurry."

Echryn nodded, "Good, I know a spot up ahead where we can water the horses and set up camp. There is a trail that branches off from the road and leads to a creek a little ways into the forest. It's fairly well covered so it should be a lot safer than sleeping by the side of the road."

"I'll take your word for it," the man replied although Echryn managed to catch just a hint of hesitation in his tone.

"We're going to sleep by the side of the road anyway, aren't we," he asked him.

The merchant set his jaw then nodded. "You'll have to forgive me, sir, but traveling merchants such as myself are a very distrusting lot. When I hear things like that it gets me wondering."

Echryn gritted his teeth then sighed. "Suit yourself."

Some distance into the woods the merchant pulled the wagon over to the side of the road under the cover of a large willow tree. He hopped down from the wagon and turned to offer Cassie his help as she climbed down as well. Echryn climbed out of the back and unceremoniously tossed a bed roll at Cassie.

"Hey," she started but Echryn silenced her with a stare.

He wandered over to the other side of the willow tree and beckoned Cassie to follow as the merchant tended to his horses.

"Is something wrong," Cassie asked the swordsman once they were out of ear shot.

"We might have to go on alone from here," Echryn answered and Cassie tilted her head to the side in confusion.

"I don't understand, didn't you pay that man for passage to Copenheigen?"

Echryn shook his head, "I suggested we leave the road to throw off pursuers from Pascoe. I'm sure by now word has gotten around of a wolf demon in the area, people are likely to be searching these woods for you."

He glanced back at the merchant with a disgusted look on his face. "And at the rate we're going it won't be long before they catch up to us."

"Echryn, I'm certain I would know if people were following us," Cassie replied calmly.

"Still, though, I don't much like taking chances," he turned and looked at her thoughtfully for a second, "How good are those ears of yours?"

Cassie just stared at him indignantly, "What do you think?"

"I meant no offense, Cassie, but just indulge me for a moment. If people were pursuing us would you be able to hear them even if you were asleep?"

"Wolves aren't as helpless as humans when they sleep," Cassie answered, giving him a hard look, "If anyone is there I'll hear them coming long before they reach us."

"Good, we'll sleep here for tonight then and set out again in the morning if everything goes well," Echryn replied, leading her back to the wagon, "If not then we'll head north through the woods on foot. Our friend here is already having a difficult time trusting us and I doubt he'll feel more inclined to if he found out people were chasing us."

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Re: A Wolf's Best Friend

Post by Pryde » Fri Jul 17, 2009 12:52 pm

They awoke the next morning without even a hint of trouble the night before and once again loaded up onto the wagon. As the cart started down the road the merchantman cast a nervous glance first in Echryn's direction then leaned in close to Cassie. "Forgive me for saying so, Miss, but your friend there seemed a might jumpy last night. Are you two in a spot of trouble?"

Cassie smiled and shook her head. "Not really, unless of course you're not counting Echryn's gambling debts. That's why we had to get out of town last night, you see."

The man nodded and for a moment that seemed to satisfy him, then he glanced purposefully at her leg. "The splint on your leg, were you... You know?"

"Oh no, it's nothing like that at all," the girl replied quickly, "I just managed to get my leg caught in a hunter's trap on accident and Echryn was kind enough to help me. To be honest I probably wouldn't be here if it weren't for him."

She looked at swordsman fondly as he lay at the back of the cart in a half doze and again the merchant nodded at her response. "Don't worry," she assured the man, "Neither Echryn nor I will bring trouble to you and your business. Besides, if that had been our intent then we surely would have caused you some last night, no?"

He looked at her and caught the glint in her eye and for the first time since they set out he actually smiled. "I guess that's true, then please forgive me for asking so many questions."

"It's no trouble at all. If I didn't get to talk to anyone from time to time then this trip would be rather boring, would it not?"

"It would indeed," he agreed and then he turned his attention back to the road.

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