After the battle against the goblins and hobgoblins, the group continued on Vern Road. They were now less than a day away from reaching Xylon and everyone seemed to be excited to finally reach their destination. However, Sigthyme remained unconscious after suffering major blood loss during the last battle. Riffen and Grace sat up front controlling the horses as they pulled the wagon. Juniper sat in the back with Sigthyme making sure he was resting well and didn’t have any other complications. Tak sat on the back of the wagon with his war hammer in hand looking out over the sprawling grasslands. The trees were now very scarce and there were now rolling grasslands and large hills. In the distant they could see the tall peaks of the South Gaea Mountain Range. It wouldn’t be long until Xylon was on the horizon.
The group traveled throughout the day without any incident. There were a few travelers moving North along the road, but they kept to themselves and passed without any problem. Grace and Riffen had a fun time making up wild stories about the people they passed along the way.
Eventually the sun began to set and they were still a few hours out from the city.
“I don’t really want to travel on the road throughout the night,” Riffen said. “I know we are close, but I would prefer if we stayed the night camped out here a little off the road. Then we can get up early and enter the city tomorrow when the sun is high.”
Even though Riffen wanted to make it to the city as soon as he could, he knew this was the better thing to do. Juniper was in the same boat. She was desperate to see her brother, but she figured it would be a good idea to camp out and go into the city tomorrow. Plus this would give Sigthyme extra time to sleep.
“Alright, let’s set up camp,” Juniper said.
The group camped out over a large hill not too far from the road. Tak lifted Sigthyme off the kart and placed him in a tent. Riffen and Grace took the first shift on watch while Tak and Juniper slept. Then halfway through the night, they switched and Tak and Juniper took the rest of the shift.
The fire was now glowing embers and the night was quiet. The chirps of crickets filled the night air. Tak stirred the embers with the end of his war hammer while Juniper sat with Piakol wrapped up on her lap.
“We don’t really do this a lot, do we?” Juniper asked Tak.
“Do what?” Tak asked.
“We don’t spend a lot of time together, just the two of us,” Juniper said. “Well three of us if you count Pickle.”
“All together on road,” Tak said.
“Yeah but we don’t spend one-on-one time. You always hang out with Sigthyme or butt heads with Riffen. Then you have Grace and Sigthyme who seem to always arguing with one another. Grace also hangs out with Riffen a lot. They seem to get along. But we don’t have anything together. I don’t know. I just thought about it,” Juniper said.
“You are warrior. Strong. Caring,” Tak said looking over at Juniper. “You have befriended dragon.”
Juniper blushed a little.
“Oh thanks Tak, I appreciate that,” Juniper said. “You are strong too. Like really strong. And you seem to really care about Sigthyme.”
“Siggy is friend,” Tak said.
“How did you meet each other?” Juniper asked.
“We met on road after I was thrown out of tribe,” Tak said. “I left my home. He liked having me around. Big man protect him from harm.”
“Yeah I could see that,” Juniper said.
“Plus Siggy better at talking. Good with people. Good at talking. Help Tak,” Tak added.
“You two work well together,” Juniper smiled.
“All of us good together,” Tak said.
Juniper let out a small sigh.
“Tak, you know we’re just together until we get to Xylon. Riffen has to find his girlfriend, Lillian. I have to find my brother, Julian. You and Sigthyme are going to be adventurers. And we have to get Grace to Frost Haven. We are all going in different directions,” Juniper said.
“You are set on leaving. You wonder why we are not close,” Tak said looking down at the burning embers once again.
Juniper opened her mouth and then proceeded to close it. Juniper could tell that loyalty was a big thing to him. She had a mission she had to accomplish, but she also didn’t want Tak to feel abandoned. They had been on this mission for weeks now and they felt a close bond. Once they got to Xylon, they were then going to go their separate ways.
Juniper let out another sigh as Piakol stretched out and then curled up into a ball again.
“You have a lot of cool tattoos,” Juniper said trying to fill the silence.
“Markings on my body. Had since birth,” Tak said making eye contact with Juniper. “Magic markings tied to destiny.”
“Destiny?” Juniper asked.
Tak turned showing the marks on his back. Juniper could see a large black marking running across his shoulders and back.
“Leviathan,” Tak said.
“Leviathan?” Juniper asked.
“Dark magic. Dangerous marking. Tribe hated me and threw me out. After that I live with Tea Ring -”
“Tea Ring? Do you mean Tiefling?”
“He let me live in home but became bored with farm. Left to find destiny. Find Sigthyme.”
“You said this is dark magic? Like a curse?” Juniper asked.
Tak nodded again.
“And you had this from birth?”
“Leviathan on body since birth.”
“Do you know how to get rid of it?”
“Not possible. Markings with you forever. Destiny,” Tak said.
Juniper’s shoulders slumped as she put her chin in her hands.
“What about Sigthyme? Does he have any knowledge about things like this?” Juniper asked.
“Siggy knows people. Knows singing. Does not know darkness,” Tak said.
“Alright,” Juniper said.
She was unsure what to make of Tak and the leviathan across his back. She also didn’t know enough about her brother and his situation to know whether or not the two were connected. However she believed that there was more to this.
Juniper looked over to the tent where Sigthyme slept. A part of her thought that Sigthyme might know more about magic than he let on. He seemed happy and jovial. Full of laughter and jokes. But behind his eyes, Sigthyme had a hint of sadness. A hint of darkness.
“We will find your brother. We will find Riffen’s lady,” Tak said.
“Yeah we will,” Juniper smiled a little.
Sigthyme stood out in the darkness. Heavy rain came down around him soaking his clothes. A flash of lightning lit up the sky and Sigthyme could see Brother Haxis’ face starring at him. His robes were stained with mud and blood.
“Sigthyme,” He said wiping his mouth of blood. “You need to run.”
“I’m not leaving you,” Sigthyme said.
“I have gotten you this far, but the others will be here soon. They can’t be too far,” He said.
“We can get out of this together,” Sigthyme said.
“I’m slowing you down,” He said as he slumped forward.
Sigthyme tried to catch him, but he was not big enough or strong enough to keep him up. Brother Haxis laid in the mud as Sigthyme knelt down next to him.
“They will track you and hunt you down,” Brother Haxis said before reaching into his robes. He pulled out a small scroll of crumpled paper.
He pressed the scroll into Sigthyme’s hand.
“What? What is this?” Sigthyme asked.
“A spell that will hide you from them,” Brother Haxis said. “I was holding on to it for as long as I can, but you must take it now. Learn it. Use it. Stay hidden from them.”
Then Brother Haxis handed Sigthyme a small golden medallion with a woman’s face carved into it.
“Changebringer,” He said. “Find her. She favors the bold. People who forge their own path forward. Change your destiny Sigthyme.”
Sigthyme shoved both the scroll and the medallion into his bag.
“What’s going to happen to you?” Sigthyme asked as tears streamed down his face.
“Hopefully they let me die,” Brother Haxis said as his voice began to go. His breathing was shallow.
Sigthyme turned as he heard voices shouting. They were getting closer and closer.
“Go Sigthyme,” Brother Haxis said. “Please go.”
“Thank you. I will not forget you,” Sigthyme said.
“I want you to forget all of this. I hope you will be able to forgive me. I should have stopped it,” Brother Haxis’s breath became weaker and weaker until his eyes glazed over.
“Forgive,” Sigthyme muttered before standing up.
The voices were getting closer and closer. He had to run.
Sigthyme waved his hands in front of the air and whispered the words that Brother Haxis had taught him. Then with a flash of purple magic, Sigthyme vanished from sight, invisable to the people chasing after him. He then ran off into the night leaving Brother Haxis behind.
Sigthyme jumped up suddenly from tents floor. Hewoke up with a cold sweat across his forehead. There by his side was Juniper shaking him gently by the shoulder.
“Wow. Hey. It’s just me,” Juniper said. “Are you alright?”
“Yeah. Yeah. I’m fine,” Sigthyme said. “What’s going on?”
“You’ve been out for an entire day. We fought goblins on the road, remember that?”
“Yes I remember fighting goblins.”
“Well you lost a lot of blood. We healed you and you slept the rest of the day in the wagon. We camped for the night. Now it’s the morning,” Juniper said. “We’re only a few hours from Xylon. Are you ok to travel?”
Sigthyme wiped off the sweat.
“Yeah I’m fine. All healed up,” Sigthyme said.
“Alright,” Juniper said unsure. “We’re going to head out in a little bit.”
“Yeah fine. Just give me a minute,” Sigthyme said waving Juniper said.
Juniper nodded before leaving the tent.
Sigthyme looked down at his hands. They were shaking uncontrollably.
A few moments later the group had deconstructed camp and were back on the road. Sigthyme felt a little ill, but everyone seemed happy to see him back on his feet. Even Grace seemed to be a little nicer. He sat in the back with Tak and Riffen once again, playing a slow melody on the viol. Juniper and Grace sat upfront leading the horses and the wagon down Vern Road. Piakol sat on her shoulder flapping its dragon wings before letting out a smoke ring which Grace laughed at. The sun was beginning to rise on the horizon.
There in front of them the mountains were getting closer and closer and they could make out the shape of a large, walled city nestled against the mountains.
There was Xylon. The mining city and capitol of the Mardec Region and the Fendrellion Confederacy. The city where the destinies of these adventurers are intertwined.
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