A few days out from Xylon, the group found themselves sheltering a large tree during the middle of a rainstorm. Tak and Sigthyme sat on the back of the wagon, watching the rain come down and the flashes of lightning. Every time lightning struck, Tak would yell alongside the thunder, trying to be louder. Sightyme just laughed and tuned his instrument. Grace was laying down in the wagon, just listening to the rain hit the branches and bounce off the canvas of the wagon. She tried her best to sleep, but her mind was too restless. Plus there was a lot of yelling from the end of the wagon. Juniper sat beside the trunk of the tree, loving the fact that she was in nature again. The scent of the rain hitting the soil hit her nostrils and just made her smile. There was nothing quite like being away from the big city. Riffen sat beside her and held on to Shadow, the blink dog. Shadow would bark and try to bite the raindrops that fell through the branches of the tree. Riffen just laughed and patted the dog. He knew that his days traveling were limited and very soon he’d be before his father and mother in Frost Haven, but for now he would just enjoy this time.
Juniper looked up as Piakol, the small, red dragon flew through the air, beating his wings against the strong, storm winds.
“Pickle, come down here,” Juniper spoke in Draconic.
But Piakol ignored the warnings and continued to fly around the tree, only taking small moments to rest in the branches of the tree.
“Does he like storms?” Riffen asked Juniper.
“Not really,” Juniper said. “Storms are usually connected to blue dragons not red dragons. Lighting and rain don’t really mix well with fire. But Pickle and I have spent many days in the woods, just getting drenched with rain.”
“I remember once I came home soaking wet and caked with mud. My parents were so angry with me. My parents tried to raise me to be some proper lady who thought getting muddy was beneath her. The next day I went out and got even muddier. I guess that’s when they knew I was made to be among nature and my brother would have to be the city diplomat.”
Juniper grew quiet and placed the back of her head against the trunk of the tree.
Riffen placed a hand on Juniper’s arm and gave her a smile.
“Don’t worry. You’ll find your brother again. I’m sure of it,” He said. “You can track anything. Plus with the knowledge we have available in Frost Haven, we’ll find him.”
Riffen was so sure. And Juniper wanted to be that sure as well, but it was harder. It was personal and she just felt so lost knowing her brother was out there doing all sorts of things. He had gotten himself wrapped up in some sort of demonic cult and that just seemed like something outside of her knowhow. It wasn’t like she was dealing with beasts of the woods.
Juniper just nodded.
“Of course,” She said meekly.
“What are you two talking about?”
Grace had walked up and taken a seat next to Riffen.
“Nothing really. Just the storm,” Riffen said. “What about you? I thought you were taking a nap.”
“I couldn’t sleep. Not with all the noise,” Grace said.
Right then there was a flash of lightning far off and Tak yelled to coincide with the thunder.
“Yeah I could see that,” Riffen said.
Shadow got up and sat next to Grace, putting his head on her lap. Grace started to pet Shadow’s ears.
“Good news is that the storm seems to be passing over us,” Juniper said. “The rain is starting to let up and then we’ll be back on the road.”
“Less than a day out from Augendale,” Riffen said. “Seems like another lifetime since we passed through.”
“We have to see…ummm….what was her name, the lady at The Copper Pot?” Grace asked.
“Christine and Chloe,” Juniper said. “Christine is the lady who worked at The Copper Pot. She let us sleep at her house after we rescued her daughter Chloe from those ghosts.”
“Oh yeah, the creepy mansion full of all the ghosts. Can we go back there?” Grace asked. “That place was cool.”
“I don’t think we should go snooping around the haunted mansion again. That place was creepy. Plus we really can’t stay too long. We have to get Riffen to Frost Haven as soon as we can,” Juniper said.
“We will definitely stop in Augendale to talk to Christine and Chloe,” Riffen said. “But I agree we should avoid any place that’s haunted.”
“Yeah fine,” Grace said with a sigh of exasperation.
In the meantime, both Tak and Sightyme had walked over to join the group.
“Rain is letting up. Ready to get back on the road?” Sigthyme asked.
“You seem eager to get back on the road,” Riffen said.
“Yeah well I’m actually looking forward to getting back to Augendale. I feel like that place has some potential we didn’t get to explore. Plus I can only hear Tak’s thunder noises so many times before I want to get back on the road.”
“Loud clouds,” Tak gave a toothy smile.
“Well I guess we better go,” Juniper said as she stood up, small bits of twigs and leaves stuck to her clothing.
“Are you going to…” Sigthyme started, but Juniper just walked past him, still wearing small bits of nature.
“I guess not,” Sigthyme said.
Sigthyme and Tak turned back to the cart.
“Here, let me help you,” Grace said as she helped Riffen to his feet.
“Thanks,” Riffen smiled as he rested on his metal cane. “So how are you doing? Feeling better now that we’re on the road.”
“Oh. Yeah I’m doing fine,” Grace said, her eyes glancing at the ground.
“Look, Grace. About what happened back in my room back – ”
“It’s ok, really,” Grace interrupted.
“No it’s not. Obviously I did something to upset you,” Riffen said. “I just want to apologize. I pushed too far and -”
“Maybe it’s not about you,” Grace said, a little too loud.
The rest of the group turned to face her and everyone was looking at her and Riffen.
“Just…just leave me alone,” Grace said.
She threw up her hood and walked quickly to the back of the cart, disappearing inside.
“I…I’m sorry,” Riffen grumbled.
Juniper hopped off the front of the cart and rushed to the back to check on Grace.
“Looks like you’re with me in the front, Riffen,” Sigthyme said.
“Yeah I guess I am,” Riffen said, looking at the canvas of the wagon and then he climbed up to sit beside Sigthyme.
Shadow hopped up immediately and sat between the two gentlemen. Juniper and Grace were in the back of the cart while Tak took his place on the very end of the cart where he could stretch his legs. The ride was pretty quiet as the group traveled the last leg of the journey to Augendale.
Sigthyme thought about bringing up the subject. Although he suspected that the people riding in the cart would definitely hear him. Sightyme glanced over at Riffen who had his chin resting in his hands. Riffen seemed lost in thought.
“Only a couple more hours I estimate,” Sigthyme said.
“Hmm,” Riffen replied.
Then they rode in silence once again.
Eventually the sun began to set behind the Gaea Mountains to the west and Sigthyme could make out the edge of town.
“We finally made it. Augendale,” Sigthyme said.
Riffen raised his head and looked out at the town.
“We made it,” He said. “That’s a relief.”
There was some sort of stirring from the cart and then Juniper popped her head out.
“Just in time. The sun is going down,” She said.
“We should head straight to an inn to see if we can get rooms,” Riffen said.
“Remember the last time we were here. I stopped into that bar and we couldn’t get a room unless we were a part of the army,” Juniper said. “And the lady was very rude about it when she told me that.”
“It’s possible there are still a lot of soldiers here in town,” Sightyme said. “Possibly soldiers that would recognize you, Riffen. We should avoid running into as many as possible.”
“We could see if Christine would house us again,” RIffen said.
“I don’t want to inconvenience her,” Juniper said. “I know we stayed there last time we were in town, but it was after we helped her find her daughter.”
“It’s definitely worth asking,” Sightyme said.
“If we’re talking about seeing Christine and Chloe, I vote we do it,” Grace said from the back of the cart.
“What do you think, Tak?” Sigthyme yelled back to the goliath.
“Nice lady!” Tak yelled.
“Well there you go,” Sigthyme said. “First stop, The Copper Pot to see Christine.”