The group woke up early in the morning, before sunrise and made their way over to Xylon’s Northern Gate. Sigthyme and Tak lead the way, both of which were surprisingly cheerful. Tak was ready to get out of the city and away from the judgemental eyes. He was a Goliath who was used to living in the wilderness. Tak felt more comfortable among rolling hills with tall grass or deep woods, then the city he’s spent the last few weeks in. Sightyme on the other hand did benefit from staying in the city, but he also wanted a different kind of freedom. It wasn’t the people in the streets who seemed to box him in, but the place he was staying. More and more the Soulon Embassy started to remind him of the tower where he was taught magic and music by Brother Haxiss. He just longed to be on the road again.
Juniper was also pretty excited to leave Xylon. Not only was she an Elven Ranger known for her expertise in the woods, but she also had a mission in front of here. She knew that the answers to her questions surrounding her brother could be in Frost Haven. Juniper had been told to head there in order to find an old apothecary called Helena Gnash. Lillian had called her crazy, but Ms. Zaffre had pointed Juniper in that direction, and she believed that this Gnash woman had the answers she was searching for.
Juniper looked over at Grace who was doing the worst out of the group. Dark bags were under her eyes and she had a permanent scowl on her face. Last night she had gone off to talk to Riffen alone and then an hour later she came into the room, shaky and with tears in her eyes. Juniper thought about asking what had happened, but Grace just went straight to bed. However Grace looked more tired than anyone else. In truth, Grace had a hard time falling asleep. She had let Riffen in on her life in Sandpile and how she ended up leaving there. Although she didn’t tell him that it was because of a situation she had gotten herself into. The memory of deep crimson blood staining her hands flashed into her mind, making it hard for her to fall asleep. It was even more vivid in her dreams. Grace hoped that once on the road, she could push these memories from her head and she would be able to focus on the task ahead. She was determined to reach Frost Haven with the group. Grace had heard there was a priest in the city with a history of sheltering people like her. People with a touch of angelic blood running in their veins.
Riffen, Lillian, and Pria all walked in the back of the group, flanked by a small squad of Soulon Guards. Riffen walked with his metal cane, limping a bit as he walked. And Shadow, the black, blink dog, walked beside him, excited to be out of the Soulon Embassy. Shadow was weaving in and out of the group to smell as many things as he could, but he never left Riffen’s side for long. Riffen was still not completely healed from his injuries he had sustained in the catacombs beneath the city, but he was looking and feeling much better. He still walked with the metal cane and wore an eye patch over his right eye where it had been cut out by Krumb’s gang. Overall, Riffen was excited to leave Xylon and travel to Frost Haven. He knew it would be strange returning to the city after he left and he knew he’d face consequences once he arrived. His parents, King and Queen Selorn, would surely punish him for running off but he knew he had a responsibility to his people and his kingdom.
They made it to the gate just as the sun was beginning to peak over the horizon.
“Do you have everything you need?” Pria asked the group.
Sigthyme and Tak loaded the last of the supplies onto the wagon while Juniper and Grace hitched both Riffen’s horse and the group’s horse to the wagon.
“Looks like we are all set,” Sigthyme said. “Thank you again for all the travel supplies.”
“That was no problem. The least the embassy could do for helping Prince Riffen return home,” Pria said, looking over at her cousin.
“We should be at Frost Haven in no time,” Juniper said.
“All of you be careful, alright? I’m not sure how much info about Riffen has spread up and down the Vern road. If someone spots him and recognizes him, you could be in some real danger,” Pria said. “Maybe we should just call this off. Reorganize and think of a new plan.”
“Pria,” Riffen put a hand on her shoulder. “I know that you worry about me, but my friends here will protect me if anything goes wrong. I will reach Frost Haven safely.”
“Maybe you can reconsider taking some extra protection. These Soulon guards can protect you,” Pria said.
“We’ve talked about this. It’s best if we travel as a small group of adventurers. This way we have a smaller chance of being recognized,” Riffen said.
“Yeah, yeah I know. Just be extra careful, ok?” Pria pulled Riffen into a hug.
“Of course,” Riffen said as she hugged her back.
Then it was Lillian’s turn to say goodbye to Riffen.
“Last chance. We can smuggle you away in the back of the cart,” Riffen said.
Lillian looked over at Tak who was sitting on the back of the cart among the crates of food and dry goods.
“I think it’s already filled up,” Lillian said.
“We can shove Sigthyme into one of the crates. He’s pretty small,” Riffen said with a smile.
“Uh-huh. Just get to Frost Haven as quickly as possible to clear my name. Who knows what sort of thing Captain Springbloom has sent your parents.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll straighten out everything. Then you can return to Frost Haven.”
“Just sort this mess out for me,” Lillian said.
Lilian leaned in and for a brief moment it looked like she was going to give Riffen a kiss on the cheek, but instead she just hugged him.
“Don’t die. Be safe,” Lillian said.
“Of course,” Riffen said.
“Hurry up or we’ll leave without you,” Sigthyme shouted from the wagon.
“Well that’s my cue to leave,” Riffen said, pulling back from the hug. “Try not to kill Pria while you are here.”
“No promises,” LIllian said with a wink.
Riffen nodded and just laughed. Then he gave one final goodbye to both Lillian and Pria before joining the rest of his group on the wagon.
They traveled through the Northern Gate of Xylon and once again found themselves on The Vern Road between Xylon and Augendale. This time however they traveled north. The view of Xylon nestled against the Gaea Mountain Range was now getting smaller and smaller.
“Anyone else feel like they can breathe again?” Riffen asked.
“Yes,” Juniper, Tak, and Sigthyme said in unison.
“Yeah me too,” Riffen said.
He then looked over at Grace.
“What about you? How are you feeling?” He asked.
“Fine. Tired,” Grace said as she pulled her legs up to her chest.
Grace shook her head no.
“Too excited I guess,” Grace lied.
Riffen just nodded.
“Yeah I can’t believe we are back on the road, just the five of us traveling toward Frost Haven.”
Just then Shadow barked.
“Right, six of us,” Riffen said.
“Seven if you count Pickle,” Juniper said.
She looked up at the miniature, red Dragon which was now flying over the wagon. Piakol was no bigger than a large hawk, but could still unleash a powerful torrent of fire if necessary. He had not enjoyed having to stay in Juniper’s bag. Piakol was excited to be able to fly again.
“We really are expanding, aren’t we,” Riffen said with a laugh. “Maybe we should all get pets.”
“I already have enough to take care of, with all of you,” Sigthyme said as he steered the horses.
“Plus I wouldn’t say Pickle is a pet,” Juniper said. “He’s my hunting companion and friend.”
“Yeah, I can’t remember if pets can normally breathe fire,” Sightyme commented.
“Well Shadow here can teleport. That’s not necessarily normal but he’s still my pet,” Riffen said.
Shadow barked again and then put his head on Riffen’s lap.
“Good boy,” Tak said as he placed a hand on Shadow and began petting him.
Riffen smiled as he rested his head against one of the crates.
“Anything you are looking forward to once we get to Frost Haven?” Juniper asked Riffen.
Riffen thought for a moment.
“Well it’s much colder up there. Even when it’s not winter. There’s this chill. Some people find it off putting or, well, cold. But to me it brings me a sense of peace,” Riffen said. “Sorry if that sounds dumb.”
“That doesn’t sound dumb at all,” Juniper said. “I can understand the sense of peace that comes with home. With being somewhere where you belong.”
Both Sigthyme and Grace shifted a bit in their seats.
“I know that there are challenges ahead for all of us, especially when we reach Frost Haven. But I am glad that we are doing this all together,” Riffen said.
The whole group seemed to smile and nod at that. They didn’t know what the future would hold, but they were glad they were not doing it alone. They could all lean on each other and that sentiment would carry them all the way to Frost Haven.
Header Photo Credit to Black Strum