Private Tales On the Fence

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Whoever had ordered a clear day — blast them.

Propped against a freshly loaded wagon and squinting with some irritation at the sky, Oliver cursed their collective luck. He had been meaning to get on this errand last week already, when the nights had still been frigid and days cloudy, but sadly the road hadn’t been fit for travel until a few days ago. And now— the Spring seemed to have crept up and kicked out the lingering Winter, meaning to stay like any common squatter.

It was a warm noon, promising an even warmer day. He didn’t much like that — which didn’t do favours for his already strained patience.

He had sent the squire out to fetch some additional supplies from the general store, both for the road and the task at hand, but hadn’t seen a hair of the boy since. It mustn’t have been too long, but he had managed to load up a whole five dozen fence posts and a great reel of rope in the meanwhile and still ended up having to wait. Surely, had there been trouble or a deficiency of funds, he would’ve gotten to know about it in short order.

Surely? On their ride here and based on what he had seen at the monastery in passing, he hadn’t yet formed any sort of opinion on the lad. There was definitely confidence there, but had he struck him as particularly flighty?

No? Not really. But speculating about it wasn’t going to bring him back, at any rate.

Blowing out an indecisive breath, he swung himself upright and circled to the back of the wagon, hoping for a sturdy breeze on the other side. Finding none, he resulted to standing there in grim silence, undoing the buttons of his gambeson. He hadn’t anything else in means of arms and armour on today, save for a sword that lay in the shade beneath the driver seat at present. Just in case.

Biting at his lip, he paused to think before throwing the gambeson off entirely, tucking it to a free space betwixt the rope and a toolbox. In his shirtsleeves and better off for it, he folded his arms and let his gaze land on the sledgehammers. It’d be heavy to swing and hard on the joints, but if one kept momentum—

Providing there was still light, once they got there.

Huffing, he chose to occupy himself with checking the ropes one more time, pulling taut whichever loose knot as he circled the vehicle.
 
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It wasn't that, well, no. Roki was definitely the sort who gave in to flights of fancy. How else was he supposed to garner inspiration for, well... cool new things?!

It was for this reason, and well, not wanting to dig holes and hammer in posts in, that he had followed after an interesting bug he had seen flit across the sky on his way back to the wagon. Goods in tow. Nails from the smithy, extra oats and dried fruits for meals and snacking. And some rations of mushrooms, and tubers. Easier to keep vegetables on the road. And they already had plenty of dried meats.

Still, by the time he had ceased sketching the winged creature, which at first he mistook for a pixie, so bright and iridescently splendid it had been, he realized that, well, he may have gotten a little sidetracked. Nevermind the flowers he found on the way back, and the minutes that had bled away sketching those. But surely, Syr Vasara would understand, right?

He was... well. He had a reputation for being a man who appreciated good work! And Roki... well... shit. He stepped a little faster down the road.

It wasn't long before the broad back of Syr Vasara came into view. His steady plod about the wagon seemed to stir at the anxiety that welled in Roki's gut.
Shit. He gulped down what spit had gathered in his mouth. Cleared his throat. "Syr Vasara!" he called out as he neared.

Better to at least... well... no... he probably should have just stayed quiet. Too late now.

He heft the food stuffs and sack of nails into the back of the wagon. "Apologies Syr, I just well," he climbed up into the wagon bed, and started better packing the supplies, to avoid any spilling or damage to the goods along the road.

His usual bright red robe was traded for the more practical earthen toned gambeson so many of the squires wore. Though he'd stitched little patterns of blue and red into the sleaves. A big rune of fire and loch were also embroderied onto the back. Modesty wasn't much his thing. And he was proud of being one of the Monastery's magickers.

"I was distracted by the most magnificent bug!" he finally said in honest. "I believe it was a dragon fly," he confessed. HIs hands went on with their work. "And I even found Asten Lillies!" he grinned bright as he checked the tie downs one last time.

Oliver
 
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Hearing his name, chivalry title and all, he snapped to attention with a bit of a start. His eyes landed on the squire who approached, having appeared from gods-knew-where of a sudden, if with apologies. Saying nothing, he pulled the last knot taut and climbed on the driver’s seat, settling to watch as Roki put the supplies away.

An explanation was fast extended, with some enthusiasm.

A bug. And some flowers. Magnificence. He hummed in a tone that was a compromise betwixt amusement and approval, his lopsided smile suggesting a similar disposition. It was the season for waking after months-long slumber — he’d not fault anyone for marveling at it. Conclusive, he bobbed his head in a nod.

“ Excitement noted. “ He stated, matter-of-fact, rotating on his seat to pick up the reins. His expression took on the edge of mischief as he continued.

“ Keep it up — we’ve still day to go. And hold on. “ In a sharp click of the tongue and snap of the reins, he urged the draft horse into movement without further ado. The pace remained slow at first as they cleared the narrow village path, heading for the main road that more efficiently split the fields and forest patches. Enough time for his company to get settled and seated wherever he pleased.

Realizing in the quickly descending silence that he had completely blown past something crucial, he glanced casually enough at the squire.

“ Was I right to trust you got everything? “

Roki
 
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Roki hadn't heard any upsettedness in Syr Vasara's tone. Though, he supposed it was rather neutral, if anything.

Neutral. That could mean anything!

The squire tittered some, smile waning, fraction by fraction. Then he saw the small bob of the Pursuant's proud mustache. Hehe.

The click of tongue came quick, and Roki made sure to brace himself down in the wagon. Hands grabbed at the ledge of the cart, he pressed his weight down against the heavy posts. Stable as they were, even with the even clatter and roll of the wooden wagonwheels against the well packed earth of the main road, still close to town as they were.

Once the rythm of the wagon was steady, the big draft horse settled into its trot. The village houses, and shops passed on by, easy and smooth. Roki grinned at that. The the curved spring bars they'd outfitted the wagon's with was proving quite effective. Master Alduin would be quite pleased to hear it.

A rough bump in the road popped him out of his train of thought. He blinked a few times, hopped on over the wall of the cart and into the seat off to the side of Syr Vasara.

Roki clapped his hands, to dust them off, and settled in with a warm huff of breath.

Was I right to trust you got everything?

The squire's eyes went wide. He sat up straighter. "Provisions, and nails, Syr!" he reported. "I checked for fine beeswax, as requested, but, their apothecary had none in stock, and they had no herbalist to point me to," he blinked. Let out a breath, and eased himself back down. Turnedh is head back to check the supplies he had procured.

"Other than that, yes," he nod. "I would say, you were right to trust that I got everything," he cleared his throat, and looked ahead again. Squint his eyes more seriously, like he'd seen his fellows do. "Syr," he said more gruffly.

Oliver
 
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His look remained perched upon the squire, brows lightly arched in lenient curiousity.

The spirit in the initial response, delivered with dutiful deliberation and rather promptly, eased a nod and an understanding smile out of him. As Roki’s stare darted away, so did his, returning to watch the road ahead. It was taking on a bend betwixt a field and a thicket, the trees offering a brief shade on their way.

The small, fleeting things. Like that little bit of confidence there, bubbling to surface as his company finished explaining, tone taking on— what exactly was that? A tempered quality, but one appearing manufactured. Much like a lowering of volume when one becomes self-aware of having been much too loud. Or been told so, influenced.

Restraint, for whatever reason. Something about it was saddening, of a sudden.

“ Agreed and endorsed. “ He hummed, keeping his gaze ahead like lost in thought. The silence betwixt fell for but a dozen heavy hoofbeats, before he was compelled to banish it anew. Despite having the slightest hunch it be unnecessary, he continued in reassurance.

“ Worry none about the wax — there isn’t a critical need of it presently. We’ll secure some at a later date, am sure. “ He kept a level tone, wholly unbothered.

“ Say— Roki. Have you put up many fences before? “

Roki
 
Roki's eye glanced over at Syr Vasara, who mentioned the wax. "Oh," he cleared his throat. smiled some. "Well, yeah but, you know," he winked at the pursuant and pointed little arrows with both fingers. "Gotta keep the hair looking good, right?" Roki laughed.

Syr Oliver Vasara was famous for many things.

Meanest Syr with a sledgehammer. Bout as mighty as an ox with a plow. To name but a couple. And. he had the cleanest mustache on this side of the spine. All made more-so by his fastidious nature. And, fine beeswax, some of the squires told around the tables of the Knoll.

Was a right travesty that he wouldn't be able to keep it lookin as pristine in the interim. Was no telling what sort of tavern hijinks was to come. Though, suppose there likely wouldn't be much tavern hijinks, what with the road between them an the-

"Hmm?" he looked over at the larger orc. "Not so many, no," he quirked a brow, and crossed a leg in thought, one hand rubbed at his chin, as the other supported his elbow. His labor of thought lightened, and his eye brightened. "Helped repair some of the pens around the training yard though! After a mean winter storm blew a section of the split log posts over," he nod. "Couldn't say I helped much with the hammering though," he laughed nervously. "Was more the one who helped with the aligning and the measuring," he smiled.

The wagon rolled on.

"Syr Vasara, uh... oh!" he nod. "The Asten Lillies!" he smiled bright. Pulled from his jacket the small little collection of fine paper he kept twined and bound between a leather sleave. Flipped through the pages, filled with any number of random scribbles and sketches of things that one could find about.

Flowers, bugs, the odd stone upon occaison, the visage of his fellows. Schematics for some random idea. A dragon fly. Some lillies.

"Here," he said proudly, smacked the page, accidently smeared some of the charcoal trace. "oh! damn," he grumbled. He brought it close to his mouth and tried blowing off some of the displaced dust. He squint. Shook his head. "You wouldn't know anything better to draw with than stick of charcoal, would you, Syr Vasara?" he asked.
 
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Was this insolent young man calling him vain? That could’ve been the initial thought, if not for all the industriously added flair upon the squire’s garments even at this very moment. So — he figured it must’ve just been a rather interesting way to wink at a possibly shared trait, or the like.

How was he supposed to know. At least it had been with a laugh, which he could smile at in his docile way, if only to keep himself from teasing in turn. All in good fun, naturally — he knew who he was. And he had the impression the squire was equally self-aware and unashamed, for the most part.

As one should be.

He listened on, head bobbing in a nod. The honesty was appreciated, specifically when delegation of tasks was concerned, wherein he got the thought that Roki was signaling not being ‘ the hammering type’. This befit him fine, but he made a note to ask about it before they began their work. He wasn’t himself much fond of all the ‘aligning and measuring’, so if there was one to do it instead—

Make a measuring stick about the lenght of a forearm. Dig to that depth and strike the posts in — space the fence boards — hammer those in — the wax would’ve helped drive the nails in, but—

He almost flinched at the sudden call of his name, as he had fallen into staring blankly at the road. There was the dry rustle of paper and the squire appeared to be leafing through a makeshift sketchbook. He’d seen it before, but not from this close range, let alone that he would’ve been granted a glance at the actual contents. So, he merely watched curiously, until one page in particular was brought to the fore.

With damaging consequences.

“ Oh, no. “ He said in turn, unable to stifle a smile that widened at Roki’s desperate attempt at salvaging his work, having endangered it by one too many grandiose gesture. While he didn’t enjoy the artist’s suffering, there was something about the compulsively honest range of expression come manifest, that he couldn’t resist a snort.

The beyond unexpected question therein dispersed his amusement, a thoughtful hum leaving him as he averted his gaze. Looking for an answer, reminiscing about a man, thinking of craft and coming back. He drew a breath.

“ Silverpoint is one, but requires the surface be prepared — impractical. And definitely less available. “ He mused out loud, shrugging one shoulder. “ If it is merely the smudging that bothers you — “ He paused to glance at the sketchbook pointedly.

“ Could try and soak the charcoal in oil. Should bind it a little, is what I heard. “ He obliged, though the keel of his head was indecisive, look regarding the passing air like he meant to snatch truth from it.

“ I haven't a clue whether it works, personally, but an artist I knew spoke of the practice. On the other hand, he also spoke of quills with reservoirs in them and the absurdly meticulous fine-tuning that it would take to make the ink flow just right — So. “ He trailed off, shrugging and grinning in feigned amusement. While not an artist, nor tinkerer, he could appreciate attention to detail. And had.

“ Perhaps the difference in effect be a touch too diminutive to your needs. “
 
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"Silverpoint," Roki took mental note. Like, he wouldn't remember it, but might, he would have the thought jostled back into his memory come some venture in the library, or in a moment of stillness. Of calm.

He gave a nod.

Then came the Syr's stare, pointed and analytical. Roki cleared his throat and straightened up som as the cart went on with its easy roll. It wasn't every day that a Pursuant looked over your sketches. More so, Syr Vasara.

His thought seemed to sway, one way, then slow to the other. Roki blinked. Thought on it. He had not thought of soaking it in oil.

Syr Vasara shared that it was an artist's trick. He laughed. "Artist," he said small and to himself. He was no artist. A tinkerer, sure, he wore that badge with pride. Smithy, eh, he did what was asked, and he could do a good job of it more oft than not. But Artist?

He cleared his throat.

and reminded himself that Syr Vasara had not called him an artist. Simply shared a trick from the pursuit of art. A piece of knowledge gained from his travels. "Ink quills?" he asked, thought of a feature, and how one would tnue it. His mind could see a bit of metal. Fine and silvery, with a little wheel that changed the pressure. More closed the tongue shaped gate inside the barrel. Less let it lay flat so more ink could flow out.

How clearly could he see it, he wondered.

"Ho," he said with a smile. "Maybe, maybe that's exactly what I need!" he smirked, and smacked his book again. A cloud of black poofed out, and he shook his head, double quick. "Oh!" looked to his sketches, and saw they were fine.

Mostly.

He cleared his throat, and closed the leather-bound collection of paper and renderings.

The wagon rolled on in silence, the country, pastoral and at peace, gently passed on by. "Syr Vasara," he began. "Well, you are a Pursuant, yes?" he started. "I mean, I know you are, I just, well, I don't know, I thought," he laughed. Rememebered stories Hector had told him. Of the harrowing trials and tribulations he had surived out on the road. Far from the mundanity of fence posts. "Well, why a fence post, I guess... I want to ask," he smiled nervously.

And was already feeling awful for having done so.

Oliver
 
Ink quills.

Now that was a thought, it appeared, prying first ponderance and then another surge of animation out of his companion. He gave a bright hum at it, one that bordered on a laugh and widened the smile, almost baring teeth.

The silence therein was easy, light as a cloud, if short-lived. He arched a brow and narrowed his look, inspecting the squire’s face in exaggerated confusion just to draw out the suspense. It wasn’t like he hadn’t gotten the question before — one had to expect it at this point.

“ The long of it is that — “ He begun neutrally, releasing the squite from beneath his stare. “ These particular people were in need of help. They pay their master — the one who owns these lands — “ With some distaste, he took in the surrounding fields and the copses betwixt. “ With their time and labour, which have limits. Anyone can choose to remedy that. “

The fences would have to be put up either way and the result for the master would be the same, for their benefit. While he didn’t enjoy that thought, it was made palatable by the fact that there’d be less struggle from whoever had to do the actual work. With an air of self-consciousness, he gave a shrug to fill in the pause.

“ So the short of it remains — Why not? Why not us — why not a fence post. “ His head keeled as he smiled a little, glancing sidelong at Roki. “ You’re a magician, a squire, with skills that are beyond my simple comprehension— yet you pledged yourself to adding springs to a cart that was working just fine. “

He tossed a hand, indicating their vehicle.

“ Not what is expected of a knight-to-be, but I appreciate it all the same. And have indeed noticed the difference — I trust you assigned some value to plain old comfort and convenience as well? "

Roki
 
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"Huh," Roki replied, eyes wide as he let Oliver's words sink in. "I mean, I guess I just didn't think of it like that," he added, and felt the easy action of the cart all the more as it rolled along the road. A minor comfort, born from a labor no one asked of him.

"Suppose the tinkering just, comes more natural to me is all," he added, in that manner of young folk, who needed others to understand clearly, the why of who they were. His eyes went to Oliver again. "Why not," he repeated. Gave the big ork a nod of agreement, then leaned back against the plank back of the driver's bench.

"A fence post," he thought aloud in a murmur. His eyes cast back out to the wide world that went on rolling by. "Say uh," he thought a moment. He hadn't been told much other than he was to attend Syr Vasara today. That they would venture into the Holds of Einklo.

"Ho!" came a voice from far and ahead. A hand raised in the air to grab the attentions of the two from Anatheaum. A cart, broken on the side of the road.

Roki's eyes snapped to the site, saw the lopsided shape of the vehicle, and the oxen, unhitched, that waited in the field not some yards away.

Why not?


Oliver
 
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Why not.

The nod was mirrored, a content silence settling upon him thereon. The bend in the road was easing up to another longer, snakelike stretch towards the distance, the right side arrested by patchy woodland. They had just entered the shade of some large trees, a row of relics that’d been spared from both slash-and-burn and the axe. Amidst agrarian lands as this, it was beginning to be a rare sight.

Fixated on the old, gnarled branches and the shapes they cut into the sunlight, he’d allowed his attention to drift. Hence why the sudden call from ahead captured him by surprise, a deadpan look snapping to the general direction of the voice in search of a source.

Due to a raised hand, it wasn’t hard to spot. Taking in the scene, he fast diagnosed the distant figure as having an acute case of a common predicament. One that’d require immediate assistance, as such threatening a delay. Unfazed, he responded the gesture with a wave and tugged at the reins, the wagon steering closer to the wayside.

“ Here’s hoping we’ve enough light for all our tasks today — For if not, am afraid we’ll have to stay until tomorrow. “ He explained sidelong, matter-of-fact. “ You’re not opposed to having your slumber in a shed, are you? “

The jest of it was in the flash of a grin he gave the squire, head turning to check for preference. Or the lack thereof.

“ Or outside. The night might just be warm enough for such a thrill. “
 
Roki stifled a laugh. "Come Syr," he said behind his snaggle toothed grin. "I've slept upon the boughs of the old woods themselves," he said with a puff of pride in his chest. "A little rest on the dirt is nothing new,"

Those gathered about the wayside wagon looked... well, a little rough. Thick armed and weary. A few even seemed to be avoiding their eyes. Roki blinked.

"Hail and well met, travelers," one with a sandy colored beard called out. Out of the lot, he looked the most amicable. Round and rosy cheeks, and a healthy roundness to his shape. "Wouldn't happen to have some tools to help a wagon get back on the road?"

Their wagon came to a stop with a puff of dust behind their horses.

Roki's eyes fell to the man who was bent low to the ground. His back to them as he picked at the dirt absently.

There were four in total. The two at the far ends seemed, tense.

"Were enroute to Tilidi, when the wheel decided to go and give out, and in our haste, well," a warm bounce of laughter came from his throat. "We didn't pack the supplies to right it,"
 
Nothing, but excellence.

He matched the smile, openly pleased at both the response and its delivery.

“ Good. Very good. “ Was all he could say to tie a conclusion, head bobbing in a nod. His look left the squire as the vehicle ground to a halt, perching on the figures of which he now noticed there were multiple. While he kept his face, all cordiality and accommodation, a bit of him stirred warily.

A strange little group, no? Four in total and yet, utterly consumed by a little mishap. He gave each a glance as one of them spoke, brief enough so to not stare impolitely, let alone betray mounting suspicion. Naturally, one couldn’t speak on their ability nor disposition by just a cursory look, but—

“ Gave out? “ He repeated, genuinely curious, if with some urgent weight to it as for the vagueness. To be on a rush, just to result to wasting time by not being specific outright. Though aren’t sledgehammers rather universal tools, in some circles —

“ How? “ Reins held in one hand, he shifted on the seat to peer past the man and at the sunken side of the wagon. “ What tools might you require? “
 
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Roki watched with wide eyes and a blank expression as the men went on, idle and tense. Some of their brows seemed to flatten to hard lines.

"Hit a ditch," the kind faced one said simply, shook his head with a hang of dismay.
"Oh, a hammer, or a good chisel mayhap? To help shape the wood,"

"Your cart looks pretty full," Roki said absentmindedly. "Sure you don't have em in there?"

The kind faced one smiled a little wider. "No, we made sure to look,"

"Huh,"

"S'a clean sword you have there," one of the men at the far side of their line called out. "Cleaner robe you're wearin," he jut his chin toward the squire.

Roki smirked. "Thanks,"


"You them knights, right?" his smiled widened. "No reason else two greenskins be rollin through these parts dressed like you lot," he spat. "Other than them knights," the word trembled with derision.

One of his compatriots stepped over to him and pulled him aside, whispered something that seemed to settle him.

The kind faced one smiled nervously. Wrung his hands some. Apollegetically. "Forgive my friend," he said. "Long morning of work oft leads to long hours of drinkin' with that one," he laughed. "Harmless he is,"
 
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Oliver moved not a muscle as he watched the man explain, subject to Roki’s further questioning. The responses were ready and all too reasonable, striking no unusual note. He didn’t react in any discernible way, merely listening passively, until a new voice entered the fray.

It was promptly made evident these men weren’t short of tools, for they had at least one amongst them.

Impatience bled into his expression, meeting what he could only take as open dismay towards himself and the squire. Whatever for was not left unsaid, reasons twofold and spoken without room for misunderstanding. Thusly, he could stare back with an amount of defiance, daring elaboration.

To his great disappointment nothing of the sort was forthcoming, if only for another interjected. Despite it and the pleasantness upon the rest, a rattlement remained. With opinions and ways of speech as that, it was unlikely the man was the solitary arsehole amidst decent folk.

He was ready to be wrong about that — but having been right before persuaded him out of optimism. And wasn’t decentness subjective anyway, akin to goodness and justice, which had multiple interpretations. To some, he himself was nothing more than a fancy thief.

One of them knights, indeed.

“ Harmless to us, maybe. “ He responded in a shrug, newly blank as to not appear bothered. “ Hardly inspires one to aid yourself and your company though, to be completely honest. “

He glanced at Roki casually, as to indicate the specific slight he didn’t appreciate. That one should’ve spoken of and to the squire in such a way, regardless of how the young man himself took it.

“ I shan’t forgive him, but your association — sure. As such — “ Turning halfly, he cocked his head at the back of the wagon. “ Feel free to lend a hammer. We haven’t else. “
 
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Roki took in the words that had transpired. The looks. The shifts in weight and tension of chords. His own expression blank, his posture stiff and his breath short.

Rudeness, rowdiness and disrespect. They weren't new things to the young man. Faced his fair share in the Monastery, as was the want for the young to do. This was something else. Hostility.

I shan't forgive him...

Syr Vasara spoke, and the knight prospective let the words sink in.

Feel free to lend a hammer...

The young man nod, and worked himself up from the wagon's seat. One man twitched, reached for a thing hidden at his belt. Saw Roki's golden gaze upon him, the cocked brow, the suspicious quirk of his lip. It deterred him none. Hand flung forth a knife. The blade tumbled end over end in a zip.

Thwap.

Metal clattered cold against the wagon's wooden construction. The knife had bounced off Roki's chest.

The ox in the field chewed its cud. Ceased. Raised its head and gave a long and loud moo.

The other men stared wide eyed at what had just happened. A sharp whistle saw the line of men turn to action. Some already dangerously close to the cart horse.

A sharp blast of wind knocked one man back. Roki grinned with clenched fist held forward, his chest full of magick breath. One man drew out a throwing axe. Long shaft raised over his head. Roki's eyes flit to them.
 
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The knife revealed the ruse at long last. It didn’t strike as intended, but he hadn’t the time to feel relief for the fact. He just about managed to stare with a mix of bafflement and mounting anger, before the rest animated to the high-pitched signal.

The one man that had been going for the horse was promptly leveled to the ground by an invisible force. He didn’t first recognize it as magic, until he realized Roki had risen to standing next to him, arm extended into a gesture. Swiftly and with some force, he tugged at the hem of the lad’s robe that he might plan his arse back on the seat. Lest he fall, as a quick snap of the reins and a loud hep urged the draft horse to motion.

Though the sudden jerk of the cart caused everyone in vicinity to instinctively recoil, it didn’t discourage the attack at large. There was merely a switching of targets.

The closest, so uncereminously discovered highwayman, he greeted with the flat of a scabbard on the ear.

Roki
 
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A hard pull on the hem of his robe had it so that the lad's arse was back on the seat. A quick snap of leather and call out saw the large draft horse stir forward.

The whole wagon lurched forward. Steel rang out with a pang and a man fell back after the blow. The others hurried all the more.

Roki, wide eyed and panicked, looked about. Saw one man hop on to the side of the cart. He looked to Syr Vasara, looked back and made to hop over the back of the bench and into the wagon.

The wheel hit a rut. The Wagon bounced. Roki lost his footing and ate shit. Face planted hard against the lumber for the posts.

Another man hopped on to the back as the one clambered over.

In the distance, hoarse calls, and the sound of cantering steeds.
 
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Like a great tree falling in a forest, they accelerated painfully slow. The horse gave a neigh, motion strained by timber. He hadn’t been under any delusion that they could actually elude anyone looking to catch up, but it was better going forward than standing still.

Or so he had thought. The wagon jolted, all creak and crash of bearings as it shook sideways, springy. He held onto dear life by the back of the bench, grimacing with how nasty of a sound the wheel had made. Glare persisting, he instinctively rotated on his seat and glanced for Roki, who’d disappeared from his side a mere fragment of a second ago.

The lad hadn’t fallen off like he’d feared, but wasn’t as upright as he’d have preferred either. Considering that it was getting terribly crowded back there.

The dirt road dealt the vehicle a constant rock and bounce, making any which movement perilous. And yet, he couldn’t bring himself to slow the horse down. He discarded the reins, hitching them into the metal knob at his feet, and braced to rise.

Something like thunder was in the distance, rumbling and rattling the edge of his attention. He wouldn't dare even glance at it, as more immediate concerns yet remained.

“ You alright there, Roki? “ In a swing of a leg, he entered the bed. One of the highwaymen struck with viperous speed, knife going for his neck. Scabbard yet in hand, he deflected the motion as their forearms collided. His free hand seized the man’s wrist, twisting in an attempt to loose the grip that held the blade.

Roki
 
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The bandit groaned, as his arm was wrenched by strong grip and muscled movement. The knife still in hand, but the blade's edge unable to cut. He tried to lever his arm back, but a thwack at the back of his head dazed him.

Down went the bandit, a crumple onto the bed of their wagon, but others were hooting and hollering as they gave chase. Feet slapping against hard packed earth. One scooped down and wung up, arm in loop to toss a rock.

It plunked Roki on the shoulder. Hard. He winced, staff still in hand. "Been better," he said through pained smile. Another rock flew his way, and he bat it away with a knock of his staff.

Around the bend, two horsemen appeared. Rusty armored, and unfitted helms rattled against their bones.

The wagon was slowly lurching toward speed. The highwaymen's legs pumped all the faster after their quarry.

Roki let out a long breath. The wagon bounced.
"I think I can scare em off!" he shout, gave his staff a full twirl spin over head, like a weathervane, spun frantic in a storm. His willowy limbs kept balance against the springy bounce of the cart. "Horses ain't gonna like this," he warned Syr Vasara.

Storm clouds gathered overhead, and wind whipped about the cart, like sudden autumnal breeze come sweep across the land.

Oliver
 
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He tensed, expecting a vicious next move by whichever limb yet remained free, only to have his opponent suddenly collapse from before him. So revealed was the squire that’d brought along aid at exactly the required time. A firm nod and a faint smile of appreciation were given in turn.

“ Haven’t we all. “ He tried the dazed man with his foot, grabbing the edge of the bed for balance and ducking as rocks flew. Expertly, his younger companion kept standing even in the wild toss of the wagon, staff parrying and spinning. While the men on foot were slowly being left in the dust, unable to catch up, whomever made the rumbling sound in the distance would suffer no such thing.

There wasn’t time for him to even curse, when Roki already announced having devised a plan. He’d not dispute it, let alone ask for details.

“ Do your thing. “ He affirmed simply, picking up one of the assailant rocks from the bed and throwing it at one of the men that yet looked to jump on. Idiot. With that, he turned to return to his post at the driver’s seat, unhitching the reins.

The horses won't like it. Inwardly, he braced for a rougher ride, if such a thing was even possible at this point.

“ And keep steady. Can’t have you tumbling off. “

Roki
 
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Arc light sizzled and snapped down the length of Roki's staff, across the knuckles of his hands and up the bone and flesh of his arms and into his spine. His eyes alit with the brightness of storms, and his violet crop of hair aflare with the wind.

"You might want to close your eyes, Syr!" he shout over the rumble and roar of cart and bluster.

A raise of the staff. A knock against the cart's bed. A flash of white, struck down from the greyed skies. The wood beneath his feet splintered, cracked, blew through.

A clap of thunder shattered through the air around them.

The wagon lifted off the ground and clattered back to the earth with a hard clatter and crack. The metal springs bounced the body of the vehicle, and settled back to its frantic roll.

Oliver
 
The order was yelled, pulling him to glance past his shoulder at the squire that stood, staff hoisted.

“ What!? “ He yelled back, the inquiry purely instinctive and coloured to the core by his mounting regret. The sky billowed, foreboding, made alive by whatever conjuration the magician had begun conducting. A strike, wood on wood, saw it through.

The magic executed in a terrifying sequence of light and sound, harnessing of which would’ve been best left for the domain of Divinities only. For a moment, he saw nothing, blinded by lighting come summoned down. Horses neighed, men yelled and dirt crackled, the wagon inclining as it nigh veered off the edge of the road and into the ditch. He’d given up the ghost on steering, instead focusing on not falling the fuck off the bumpiest ride of his life.

Teeth clenched, if only to keep himself for cursing out loud, he glared into the wagon’s wake. The air was thick with dust, chips from their splintered cargo leaving a trail betwixt the wheel marks. The shapes of their pursuers yet loomed, but no longer approached, one of the horsemen struggling on the ground as his steed tossed its head in a startled pace.

Eldyr’s nuts.

Proper words escaped him, so he withheld comment altogether, look averting as he corrected himself upon his seat. Staring straight ahead for a change, he blew out a long hiss of a breath, equal parts relief and restrained reproval.

Roki
 
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Hair standing on end, smoke trailing from his feet, Roki stared wide eyed at the world behind him, and at the pursuers who grew smaller and smaller behind them.

A smile zigged across his lips. A grin zapped across his face. A laugh boomed from the young squire, still standing atop the wagon. A wild hoot and holler and cheer that saw him howl out in triumph.

"Come by any time, lads!" he cried out, and kicked at the air, as if to kick a man's rump. Then, with two hands, held aloft his staff like a club, and gave a heel turning swing. "I'll serve you up another one, hot and ready!" he laughed so some more, till the next bump in the rode saw him fall on his ass, and cling for dear life as he spanned the hole in the wagon bed.

Somehow, he scrambled up, and over the front bench, grinning so wide his cheeks hurt. "Well," he said proudly. "That'll teach em, aye, Syr Vasra?" his tusks were bright and proud as the twinkle in his golden eyes.

Oliver
 
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The squire hollered his victory, the sound of it like a branch rattling the bars of a cage, taunts ringing bright and cheerful. A part of him wanted to lash out, to chastise and scold, but somehow it felt out of line. He had, after all, told the youngster to ‘do his thing’.

And what a thing it had been. He wasn’t sure whether what he felt was regret for not asking what it’d be, or relief that he hadn’t. The hard fact remained that without Roki’s initiative and help therein, they’d yet be fighting and risking injury.

The road came to a bend, woodland blotting out the sun and whatever voices yet could be heard in their wake, left in the swirl of dust. The cart slowed, if just a little, the horse still pulling purely out of lingering startlement. Only as the squire climbed back to his seat at the front, did Oliver take his eyes off the road.

“ I doubt it, truth be told. “ He responded blankly, glancing past his shoulder and seeing, to his relief, not a soul. “ The most important fact remains that neither of us died. “

His look sought Roki in turn, a mix of worry and weariness in it as he failed to yet settle down, to feel anything but grateful they’d gotten away. That man had thrown a knife square at the squire, for fuck’s sake. Again, a strike of luck there that it shouldn’t have landed as meant.

“ You did scare the horses and men alike though. Shitless, I’d bet. “ He managed to add, making an attempt at better humour with a lighter tone and a lopsided smile. Experimentally, he gave the reins a little tug.

“ Here’s hoping I’ll get this thing to slow down, before we drive past our destination altogether. “

Roki
 
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