Private Tales The Place You Call Home

A private roleplay only for those invited by the first writer

Cassidy Ackerson

Migratory Bird
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Falwood was arguably a pretty peaceful place compared to some of the more populous regions of Arethil. That wasn't to say that the elves didn't have their squabbles, but Cassidy Ackerson felt much safer on the roads of Falwood than he would in places like Vel Anir or The Spine. To see a wagon travelling on the roads leading out of Fal' Addas without an escort was a pretty common sight, honestly. It didn't have far to go; it was merely a supply wagon for a nearby settlement of humans, not even big enough to be considered a village. The settlement got regular shipments from Fal' Addas to keep them stocked and fed, and both sides minded their own business.

The load that this particular wagon carried was raising some eyebrows as it passed through the small group of buildings to park itself at the settlement's storehouse. That was mainly due to the red-headed man wrapped in a dusty brown jacket resting on top of the crates of goods, with a cat nestled at one side, and a glimmering blade sheathed at his other. Yawning, the murmuring from the settlers would rouse him from his nap as the men in charge of unloading the wagon stared daggers at him. Ah, he'd overslept. He cracks a grin and waves to the men, sitting up and collecting his blade. "G'mornin' gentlemen! Suppose I'm in your way, eh? Sorry, I hitched a ride and--"

Needless to say, after collecting himself and rising from the dirt he'd been thrown into he felt a bit more awake. Slinging Damascus's sheath over one shoulder, he raises a hand to pat the other. "Come on, Mar. Let's go get something to drink. We'll find you some chow too." The black tabby at his feet mewled happily, climbing up his leg to perch on his shoulder. Cassidy pets her head, grinning at the feline warmly before setting off. This place was tiny, but even the smallest settlement had a place for a man to get a drink. Whole place would go mad otherwise, wouldn't it? He pulls the fur gloves off of his hands as he travels down the dirt path he'd just ridden through. The air this far out into the middle of nowhere was so clean: the normal dirt filled air that filled most big towns and cities could really wear a guy down over time. It wasn't long until he found the small 'watering hole' where men were carrying crates of bottles into.

Following them into the tiny little place, he whistles at how cozy they'd made it. It only had room for a small bar counter and two little round tables, maybe a room or two upstairs to stay in, but even with it's limited space, it was well lit and decorated with all sorts of trinkets they'd bought from the elves. He nods to the bartender and shoots him a smile as he sits at the bar, fishing in the pocket of his jacket and pulling out a few coins, laying them on the bar. "I'll take whatever's cheap, if you please." He paused for a moment... such a small place, there was no chance anybody sought to hire him here, was there? Oh well, just in case... "Also, is there a tab open under the name 'Mar' by any chance?"

The old bartender scooped up his money and poured some brightly colored fizzy grog into a mug for him, before sliding it his way. Ducking under the bar for a second to look at his papers, the old man nodded and tapped the bar. "Ayup. Somebody used that name a couple nights ago. Young lady, if I recall."

Cassidy sipped the bitter tasting liquid, sloshing it around in his mouth for a moment before choking it down with a deep breath. Wow, he didn't know how his fliers had gotten all the way out here, but if somebody in this little spot was desperate enough to try getting a hold of some drifter with no real reputation, they must have been in trouble. "Know where she is?" The bartender shrugged. "Not right now, she's around though. Shouldn't be hard to find."

Ackerson pets the cat on his shoulder and smiles. "Hear that Mar? Looks like we have work! Let's go find her!"

Helia Glacies Kyxo
 
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Helia Glacies Kyxo

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Finding a posted advertisement for a service was something Helia was familiar with, she thought of herself as the kind of princess that got to know life the way her people knew it. But opening a tab at a tavern? That took some figuring out. She tried watching the patrons first to see how they did it, but nobody was opening any tabs when everyone was local.
And so she tried going up to the bar pretending she knew what she was doing, and to her surprise simply asking, "Can I open a tab under the name 'Mar'?" actually worked!

The next obstacle was something else she wasn't used to... Waiting... At first she waited at the tavern expecting a sell-sword to walk in minutes later to take the job she offered... But after a few hours passed she got impatient and decided to go for a walk.
Helia definitely stood out among the commoners, even with road dirt her cloths were a brilliant white made with obviously very fine materials.
She wandered about the village, thinking she was doing something charitable and perhaps even self-improving by mingling with the villagers. A queen that was detached from the common person simply wasn't fit to rule over them... But then, Helia was detached from nearly everything and everyone.

Snot nosed dirty children stared openly in awe as the "Pale Lady" strode past them with a stately air in her stride. A smile would have gone a long way on her porcelain features, but her face simply couldn't remember how to make one... The Ice Princess with the frozen heart... Those who walked by her could almost feel the cold chill of her magic just in the passing. She would be wandering the footpaths when the sell-sword found her.
 

Cassidy Ackerson

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Cassidy couldn't deny that his whole 'bar tab' communication system had some flaws. The man could only go to so many places in so little time, and to be honest he didn't expect to get to everybody who actually tried to do what he said. He did his best to hit as many taverns and bars as possible though. Cassidy didn't really have the funds for a more concrete method of communication. Even if he did, he wouldn't risk it. He needed to keep a semi-low profile, else people he was trying to avoid could find him.

Of course, Cassidy never took into account that his client could be royalty who'd never been in a tavern before.

What was even more incredible to him was that the Barkeeper made it sound like she'd just been there a moment ago. As he exited the tiny little hole-in-the-wall, he whistled under his breath down at the feline tucked in his coat. "Only a few hours ago, Mar. Think fate's telling me I gotta take the job?" He smiles. He didn't believe much in fate of the predestination variety. No, Ackerson was much more partial to the belief that it was up to people to carve their own fate.

Whether he decided to take the job being offered or not, he figured he should at least hear what it was first. He started asking around the small town about any new faces, particularly young, prim and proper women, as the bartender had described the woman. He certainly didn't have to ask many people. They all told him the same thing-- There'd been a woman in some of the most pristine white clothes that looked as though they were made of the clouds themselves. They also said she looked to be in a rather foul mood, so that didn't bode well for him; She sounded wealthy, and while he was good with a sword, he was certainly no stereotypical knight in shining armor. Tucking away his reservations, he set off to track her down.

She was hard to miss in a settlement so small though, and in a matter of minutes he'd seen an unmistakably remarkable looking woman wandering rather aimlessly down the inroads of the settlement. Bringing his fingers to his mouth, he lets out a piercing whistle towards her.

The sight she'd be met with upon turning her head would be no knight on a shining steed, or wizard in golden robes.

The man who sauntered up to her, with a blade slung over his shoulder in a sheath and a cat now resting on his shoulder looked almost like any other commoner. Hells, he might have even looked a tad bit dustier than commoners. The only remarkable feature about him was the fiery hair on his head, and the rings on his fingers, which seemed a bit too exquisite for somebody of his apparent class. He offers the woman a wave as he approaches, clearing his throat a tad.

"Nice to meet'cha. I take it you're the one who left my tab open?" A part of him thought to offer a handshake, but one look at the stern expression on her face left him with the idea that this one might be a bit of a cold cookie. He bows instead. "Name's Cassidy Ackerson. My furry friend here is Mar." The cat's ears perked in response to hearing her name, and he mewled contentedly. Cassidy pulled some sort of treat from his pocket, and held it to the tabby, still addressing the woman in front of him. "Gotta say, it's pretty crazy that we arrived here at nearly the same time. Usually it takes me a lot longer to get requests, but I guess whatever powers that be were looking out for you today." He offers her a smirk. "So, what should I call you? Whatcha need done?"

Helia Glacies Kyxo
 
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Helia Glacies Kyxo

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Helia was startled by the sharp whistle and turned to look. Indeed if not for the sword slung across his back she might have mistaken him for a beggar... No, that wasn't true, the way he carried himself spoke of his profession, a type confidence that commoners lacked. She'd seen it many times in their Mardanian soldiers.
Even though he was dirty she was expecting something like this, her opinion of sellswords wasn't too high to begin with so she was content to know that she'd lowered her expectations just about right.

Composing herself she turned to face him, looking up to his taller height. She unfolded a neatly creased sheet of paper from her sleeve and presented his advertisement.
"Mister Ackerson. My name is Helia Glacies Kyxo, heir to the throne and princess of the kingdom of Mardania."
She refolded the advertisement and it vanished into her sleeve again.
"I require the services of a guide and a protector, one that's willing to travel and take me back to my homeland. On my safe delivery home you will be handsomely rewarded for your service to my country."

She knew how to be commanding and authoritative. Back in her country she resented any form of respect that was simply handed to her, she gave the maids a reason to curtsy as she walked by, the nobles could no longer ignore her as they would a spoiled child, the guards saluted her as their future queen, her father gave her more and more responsibilities in running their great country... And one such political errand has landed her in this predicament.
She didn't let it show that she had no idea how one went about hiring a sellsword, but she knew how to take charge of a conversation and not let her uncertainty show. Authority was a presence in herself that she cultivated for many years, but in this land she had no real authority except whatever illusions of authority she could impose on others...

In other words; She put on a good show, but she was one called bluff away from being thoroughly put in her place as a powerless foreigner.
 

Cassidy Ackerson

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Royalty indeed. Cassidy had been fearing that might be the case upon seeing her. There were certain types of wear one could only get with the most extreme of wealth. He knew that firsthand. After all, once upon a time he'd been...

He shakes his head, listening to her introduction. Ever so proper and to the point, she sure enough didn't waste any time responding to his chit chat. Ackerson couldn't claim to be shocked though, when you were of a certain position in life, you expected things to be done quickly and effectively. Why wouldn't she hold him to that standard, despite him not being a typical subject?

His eyes slide shut, and he twirls a bit of his hair around his finger while he speaks. "Nice to make your acquaintance, Your Majesty." He offered a warm smile. He could still make an attempt to be welcoming, despite her demeanor. "Mardania, huh? That's northeast of The Spine, right? Not too far from the Orcs in Bhathairk?" He bites the inside of his cheek. That was a long trip, and they'd have to pass right through Alliria to get all the way up there. "It's really none of my business, but how the hell did you end up all the way down here in Falwood?" The promise of a hefty reward was nice, but Cassidy didn't do this as much for the money as he did other reasons. Still...

He looked down at Helia again. She was stone-faced and no nonsense. Hell, the villagers here even called her cold. Even so, she wasn't just exaggerating her situation because she was royalty; Somebody in her position couldn't make it all the way to Mardania without an escort. That kingdom was probably up in a panic without her too. He'd walked away from her kind of life to help people hadn't he? So what if he wasn't dressed in robes anymore, it didn't mean it wasn't right to help somebody who was.

Without another question, he nodded. "Alright then. I can't pretend you're not in a rough spot here. They aren't going to listen much to you here on the authority of a foreign kindgom, and they probably need you a lot more in Mardania than they need you in Falwood. I accept."

He turns and points towards the forest surrounding the small settlement.

"At dawn, we'll head out to Fal'Addas to stock on food and water for the trip. Then we'll head for Alliria from there. That's a pretty long stretch of land to make, so we'll need to make sure we've got enough to last us. Is this all sounding acceptable?"

Helia Glacies Kyxo
 
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Helia Glacies Kyxo

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Helia gave a nod of acknowledgement to his cordiality. He seemed rough around the edges but again what could one expect? Rough around the edges is what she asked for.
"I am pleased that you are familiar with my home. Few in these parts even know of Mardania's existence."
He looked down at her, examining her she guessed, from his height it was hard not to look down at her. But for some reason she got the sense that he was judging her, and she immediately assumed he was being critical of her age.
"It's really none of my business, but how the hell did you end up all the way down here in Falwood?"
She nodded in the affirmative.
"You are correct, Mister Ackerson. It is none of your business."
She was a little curt about the way she said that, almost as a way of saying ,"don't look at me like that."

"Alright then. I can't pretend you're not in a rough spot here. They aren't going to listen much to you here on the authority of a foreign kindgom, and they probably need you a lot more in Mardania than they need you in Falwood. I accept."
She nodded again, "I am pleased to hear it. I am prepared to leave whenever you are. I have no luggage but what I have on me."

"At dawn, we'll head out to Fal'Addas to stock on food and water for the trip. Then we'll head for Alliria from there. That's a pretty long stretch of land to make, so we'll need to make sure we've got enough to last us. Is this all sounding acceptable?"
She blinked, "Shouldn't we make our way to the nearest portal stone? It would take us months if not years to travel the whole way on foot."
 

Cassidy Ackerson

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Rude as it probably seemed, he couldn't help but scoff at her suggestion. "Well for somebody who needs help getting home, you don't seem to have too much faith in me, do you?" He grins and reaches up to pet the cat perched on his shoulder. "I never said anything about travelling on foot, did I? I'm poor, but I'm not a masochist." A light chuckle sounds from his throat as he points a thumb at a small building to the right of them.

Several wagons were parked neatly under a small shelter to protect them from inclement weather. A little smile plays on Cassidy's lips. "We can appropriate one of those fine vehicles there. As for the portal stone... Well, I guess that might work. I never really did understand how those things work. If you know how to use em' then I suppose the Falwood Stone is an option."

Magic and the artifacts associated with it were far from Cassidy's expertise. Here he'd been thinking of a long trip, but if Helia insisted on using the portal stone, well... He supposed the customer was always right. Of course, he was more worried about who might be waiting for him at such a place. He was on the run, after all. They'd be checking the stones for signs of him...

This holier than thou type probably wouldn't yield much to his pleas though. She was easy on the eyes, but she was just as he'd been told: Cold as ice.

"Stone or not, we're taking a wagon. It's just too damn dangerous to go on foot, even in Falwood. If you're anxious to get going, then come along."

He walks past her, headed to the stable to pick a few horses for the task. The pickings were few, but they were all fine animals. They'd only need two; they weren't planning on hauling anything. He raises a hand and places it on the muzzle of a particularly energetic horse, patting it decidedly. "You and your stable mate will do jus' right. Helia, mind going to pick a wagon from where they're parked while I hook these two up?"

Helia Glacies Kyxo
 
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Helia Glacies Kyxo

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The Crobhear stone was the portal they used on their journey to Vel Anir... It was the closest stone to the country of Mardania, and the journey to reach that stone going around the arm of the Spine took a week with their horses shod with shoes of the zephyr.
There was also a stone near Bhathairk, and one near Belgrath, but neither of those were close enough to be expedient.
Even using portal stones the journey took nearly a month altogether... The thought of going from one side of the map to the other WITHOUT using portal stones?!?! She could be an old woman by the time she gets home, and her father's on his last legs as it is.

"Well for somebody who needs help getting home, you don't seem to have too much faith in me, do you?" He grins and reaches up to pet the cat perched on his shoulder. "I never said anything about travelling on foot, did I? I'm poor, but I'm not a masochist."
Helia scowled and planted her hands on her hips. "I suggested no such thing! By your tone I assumed you meant to make that journey at least by cart and I am merely daunted by the thought at how much time it would take to do so!"
She refused to pout, but she folded her arms and relaxed her scowl into a glare instead.

He walks past her, headed to the stable to pick a few horses for the task. The pickings were few, but they were all fine animals. They'd only need two; they weren't planning on hauling anything. He raises a hand and places it on the muzzle of a particularly energetic horse, patting it decidedly. "You and your stable mate will do jus' right. Helia, mind going to pick a wagon from where they're parked while I hook these two up?"
In the face of her offended fury... He turned his back on her and walked away, expecting her to follow... Turned his back... On HER!
Her glare melted into an expression of open shock.
"H-hey!"
He didn't stop
"... Hey!"
She dropped her hands to her sides in fists and stomped after him in a Huff.
He then, instead of talking to her first, addressed two horses... And THEN told her to procure a wagon.

Helia was agast. She threw her hands up in frustration and strode over to were the carts were parked and began talking to the owner about purchasing one.
 
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Cassidy Ackerson

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Cassidy indeed heard his new charge's objections as he disappeared into the stable, and part of him recognized that it would probably be a good idea to humor her sense of importance, If for no other reason than his own well-being. Still, as was he slipping harnesses onto the two horses and leading them out of the stable, he wondered if maybe this time away from her kingdom would be good for her maturity. Gods knew He'd learned so much just from leaving his home and seeing the world. Even so, her tantrum was undeniably adorable; She was a bit like Ariella, all things considered. He couldn't help smiling at the thought.

He spots Helia speaking to a merchant by the wagons, and tugs lightly on the Horses, leading them over to her. Reaching into his jacket, he pulls out a small sack of gold and tosses it to the girl who quite frankly looked as though she should have more than him on hand. Not that he had much. This was going to take most of his money. Hopefully that reward was all she built it up to be.

Once the business was taken care of, He began hitching the horses to the wagon she'd chosen. It was an excellent choice, new finish on the wood, nee wheels and even had a sleek cloth covering on it in case of rain. He just hoped Helia knew where she was going... Cassidy couldn't afford to get lost.

If he was spotted with a well dressed woman near a place like Vel Anir, there would be serious trouble. They would both be in danger.

"Sorry about earlier." He begins as he circles the wagon one last time for inspection. Might as well address it. "I wanted to get everything set to go as soon as possible. That, and the locals here will find it even stranger if I start treating you like royalty now. Your pedigree doesn't give you much power outside of where you're from, as rude and brash as that probably sounds. I learned that the hard way, you know?" He opens the back of the wagon and offers his hand to help her up and inside, seemingly brushing past the comment "It ain't a carriage, but your ride is ready, 'Princess'"

It was more of a nickname than an actual title.

Helia Glacies Kyxo
 
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Helia Glacies Kyxo

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"Sir, I would like to acquire one of your wagons."
"Well, miss, we've got a few different wagons... Which one do you want?"
"Something functional yet comfortable."
"Miss, these wagons aren't made with comfort in mind..."
"In that case, know that I'm looking to buy a wagon, make me an offer worth my coin."

That was more or less the conversation that brought them to the wagon they were discussing when she heard her new guide approaching. She turned just in time to make a started yelp and fumble-catch a bag of coins.
She glared at him briefly before turning to face the merchant again and completing the transaction. She had simply planned to promise to send someone to pay him back once she made it home, she didn't have any money on her, having spent it all just to get here.

She moved over to the wagon while he inspected it, folding her arms and leaning against the side of the wagon.
"Sorry about earlier." He begins as he circles the wagon one last time for inspection. Might as well address it. "I wanted to get everything set to go as soon as possible. That, and the locals here will find it even stranger if I start treating you like royalty now. Your pedigree doesn't give you much power outside of where you're from, as rude and brash as that probably sounds. I learned that the hard way, you know?"
That... Caught her off guard... She didn't like surprises and an apology certainly put her off balance... But also his admitting to former nobility.
"You were a noble? I never would have guessed."
She said sarcastically.

"It ain't a carriage, but your ride is ready, 'Princess'"
Helia sighed and accepted his hand to help her up into the wagon.
"Let's just get on with it."
 

Cassidy Ackerson

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The red-head helped her up into the carriage, shooting a rather apologetic look at the merchant, looking at the two of them with more than a little scorn. He wasn't sure what she'd said to the man, but he could probably guess. He supposed it'd be prudent for him to handle any more talking that had to happen on their trip. Closing the back of the wagon, he checks the horses over one more time before climbing up into the front seat.

Just like that, they were on their way. He led them out through the west end of town, towards the general area he knew the Falwood stone to be in. The monotonous sounds of the wheels rolling along the dirt mixed with the rhythmic thump of hooves as Cassidy leaned back in his seat, turning his head to look at her.

"Yeah, to answer your question. I was in a noble family at one point, real powerful merchants who ran half of Dalriada, or so they liked to boast." He waved a hand dismissively. "That's all in the past though, really. Just like you said, I'm far from noble anymore." A yawn escaped his mouth as he turns his head back to the road ahead of them. "You sure you know how to work these portal stones, Princess? I tried goin' through one once and ended up in the middle of The Black Bay. Not where you want to be stuck, especially with no money and a city full of nothin' but slaves and slavers."

He'd tried to make it comfortable back there for her. It was a bumpy ride, but the canopy over the wagon helped avoid too much in the way of bright sunlight. He'd left a bag for her as well, the same one he'd been carrying out of the tavern before he'd found her. "There's a tiny bit of food and water in that bag, as well as a sleeping roll. Thought you might like the rest. Just don't touch the sword, if you don't mind." The glimmering blue sword was only halfway in it's sheath, the golden tendrils that ran up it's sides shining in what little sunlight made it through the canopy. "Damascus is special to me."

Helia Glacies Kyxo
 
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Helia Glacies Kyxo

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Helia did her best to make herself comfortable in the back of the wagon, the road certainly wasn't smooth and the wheels had no shock absorption. But she resigned herself with a sigh and positioned herself close to to drivers seat where most of the weight was and thus less bumping.
"Yeah, to answer your question. I was in a noble family at one point, real powerful merchants who ran half of Dalriada, or so they liked to boast." He waved a hand dismissively. "That's all in the past though, really. Just like you said, I'm far from noble anymore."
She looked up at him... Yeah, she could see it... With a just a little bit of grooming and a change of wardrobe and he could certainly pass for a noble.
A yawn escaped his mouth as he turns his head back to the road ahead of them. "You sure you know how to work these portal stones, Princess? I tried goin' through one once and ended up in the middle of The Black Bay. Not where you want to be stuck, especially with no money and a city full of nothin' but slaves and slavers."
She shook her head, not that he was looking at her, "No, I don't know how to operate a portal stone. But it shouldn't be necessary, the portal stones are usually manned on either end to facilitate more expedient trade between countries... Though I and my company were allowed free passage due to our prestige, I'm told there's usually a toll."
She shifted uncomfortably until he offered his bags.
"There's a tiny bit of food and water in that bag, as well as a sleeping roll. Thought you might like the rest. Just don't touch the sword, if you don't mind."
She looked at the travel worn equipment somewhat distastefully, but again she sighed in resignation... She was indeed tired.
"Very well... I appreciate the offer, Mister Ackerson."
 

Cassidy Ackerson

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He let's out a low whistle. The Portal Stones were usually manned with a toll? "I see. Maybe I shouldn't have assumed those guys were trying to scam me then. I kinda chose to squeeze past em'..." Maybe the "Black Bay Incident" as he'd taken to calling it had been his fault after all. He was pretty sure he never wanted to sail again after stowing away on a slave ship to get back to the mainland.

"I used to enjoy that life, you know?" He calls back to her, the sunlight peeking through the trees over their heads making dancing lights on their skin. "The cushy life of living in a mansion and never having to worry about a thing... It used to appeal to me. It wasn't until I lost it that I realized how messed up this world is."

As he spoke, his eyes narrowed and ran over the dirt path in front of them. Fresh tracks, having came from off the side of the road and headed in the same direction as them. They looked to be from small wheels, maybe a single-person, one horse wagon? It was a lot harder to tell fresh from old when it came to hoof tracks, and the road was lousy with them.

"There are so many suffering out here, and I spent the majority of my life in blissful ignorance. I figure least I can do is try to help where I can, right? It ain't much in the way of penance, but it's somethin', I figure."

Why didn't he see anybody ahead of them? The tracks were too fresh to be far.

"Hey, how far to the Portal Stone, you think? I've never been to the Falwood stone."

Helia Glacies Kyxo
 
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Helia Glacies Kyxo

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"I see. Maybe I shouldn't have assumed those guys were trying to scam me then. I kinda chose to squeeze past em'..."
She scoffed quietly to herself, "Of course you tried something silly like that..."

"I used to enjoy that life, you know?" He calls back to her, the sunlight peeking through the trees over their heads making dancing lights on their skin. "The cushy life of living in a mansion and never having to worry about a thing... It used to appeal to me. It wasn't until I lost it that I realized how messed up this world is."

As he spoke, his eyes narrowed and ran over the dirt path in front of them. Fresh tracks, having came from off the side of the road and headed in the same direction as them. They looked to be from small wheels, maybe a single-person, one horse wagon? It was a lot harder to tell fresh from old when it came to hoof tracks, and the road was lousy with them.

"There are so many suffering out here, and I spent the majority of my life in blissful ignorance. I figure least I can do is try to help where I can, right? It ain't much in the way of penance, but it's somethin', I figure."
She shook her head, at his words.
"Of course... What would a mere lordling under his family's shadow be taught of the world but how to continue his father's work in politics and petty corruption and plotting in the shadows for personal gain..."
She didn't turn to look at him, merely keeping her gaze fixed on the road behind them as it receded away.
"... Don't assume royalty to be the same breed as corrupt nobility. Ever since the former heir was assassinated I was groomed to carry the burden of a nation on my shoulders. I know of evil in the world, I know of the disease that eats at the foundation of civilizations, I know of exploitation and slavery..."
She paused and took a deep breath before her frozen heart could bring forth something truly cruel from her mouth.
"... And yes... I am learning of suffering as well. My time is coming where I can take the reigns of a nation and use that chance to lead them to prosperity."

"Hey, how far to the Portal Stone, you think? I've never been to the Falwood stone."
Helia was thoughtful for a moment.
"Three days journey, I surmise. We came out of the Falwood stone and I was attempting to reach there on my own, but I don't think I was able to retrace the path we took. We're heading in the right direction, I know that after questioning the bartender."
 
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Cassidy Ackerson

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Three days. That's a long-ass haul, especially when he was beginning to suspect a trap being laid. They were heading towards the forest exit, out into smattering of plains between the large forests that dotted the region of Falwood. They'd probably been made by the wildfires that had ravaged this area back in the 360's.

That was fine by Ackerson, at least now he could see that there was no other vehicle lying in wait for them; if a trap was being planned, it was further along down the path. That gave him time to plan ahead.

Still, he couldn't help but crack a smile at Helia as she chastised him, ever so grateful that she couldn't see the parting of his lips. "It's a good thing you didn't hire me for my intuition, then?" He joked. He couldn't help finding humor in the only non-feline company he'd had in months; She was so 'to the point' that it bordered on endearing. Hell... it almost made him miss home. She was so cold...

Just like home.

Turning his head slightly, his blue eyes peer down at her from behind the curtain of scarlet on his head. "You'll have to forgive me for so readily connecting the two, Miss. It's just that any true royalty I've ever met has well beyond corrupt." What was that old saying Ariella used to tell him? It was something like... "Absolute power corrupts absolutely... that's what I've heard, at least. Never got the chance to test it out myself."

Just as her heart had taken pause to prevent a truly icy reply, Cassidy's own now hesitated. Instead of a frozen barb, his words came out as warm as a fire in a foyer. "You're doing all you can to get home though. You care about Mardania's well being enough to trust a stranger with your life. The way I see it, you're going to be a Queen for the history books to shine a light on, Miss Helia. That being the case, I'll getcha there."

Cassidy nods to himself, leaning back in his seat and humming a soft tune as they head towards the center of the clearing. "Get some rest. Leave it all to me, okay?" They'd have to stop soon, probably before they hit the next forest. When they did, Cassidy would explain his suspicions to her. For now, she'd earned her rest.

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Helia Glacies Kyxo

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"It's a good thing you didn't hire me for my intuition, then?"
There were a good number of things that Helia hadn't been able to do since she was a child... Genuinely smiling without a cruel edge and happy laughter were a few of them.
Of course, she didn't stop being a child as most children did when they grew up... She stopped being a child early when she watched her mother, her brother and heir to the throne, and her betrothed be killed before her very eyes on the same fateful night... The event that caused her powers to react in such a way to protect her, and doing so by freezing her heart to stop the grief and pain.

Since that event she ceased to be a child, she ceased to smile or laugh with kindness, with her frozen heart came a cold calculation and a chilling cruelty. While she was taught to be a fair ruler and knew such things as compassion and kindness in a logical sense, those who worked most closely with her knew that a snarl and a biting tone came more easily than basic politeness which was the best she could pull off when required for political purposes.
The ice around her heart caging in any warmth, joy or kindness, poisoning her memories and draining the light from her life.

"You'll have to forgive me for so readily connecting the two, Miss. It's just that any true royalty I've ever met was well beyond corrupt." What was that old saying Ariella used to tell him? It was something like... "Absolute power corrupts absolutely... that's what I've heard, at least. Never got the chance to test it out myself."
Helia felt the need to bite back at that for no reason really.
"Absolute power attracts the corruptible. Having more or less power makes no difference, a corruptible person will always be corrupt. Even men with only a little power or none at all can be absolutely corrupt through and through. This is a description of the mortal condition, not a criticism of political seats."

"You're doing all you can to get home though. You care about Mardania's well being enough to trust a stranger with your life. The way I see it, you're going to be a Queen for the history books to shine a light on, Miss Helia. That being the case, I'll getcha there."
His warmth was lost on her, or so it seemed.
"Just see that you do, Mister Ackerson."
On his suggestion she hunkered down to rest. She laid her head on his bag for a pillow and soon she was breathing softly in the back of the wagon, in spite of the bumps in the road. She really had been pushing herself up to this point.
 

Cassidy Ackerson

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Cassidy didn't take the sting of her words personally. Her argument was sound, if not somewhat ambiguous. Attracting the corruptible? He had to wonder about that... "Power is a test of a man or woman's heart." He offered, saying it more to himself than to her. "It confronts us with our own compassion, forces us to put others over ourselves if we don't want to become something ugly."

He almost thought to tell Helia his story, recounting how his family's own corruption had caused his mother to turn on him. She'd chosen to slay him and his lover rather than be under his power when he inherited it from his father. He wondered if his mother had been a good person before she was powerful?

He wondered if he would still be a good person, had he inherited that power?

Fleeing his own home, his life and love taken away from him... He'd coped with it differently than Helia. While she'd grown cold and bitter, Cassidy had taken a much different path. He wandered the land, finding any opportunity that he could to help better the lives of others. Nobody needed to feel this misery, this sadness that ate away at one's heart. If Cassidy could help it, nobody he crossed paths with would have to.

He shifts in the front seat of the wagon, turning to look at Helia. Just as he'd thought, she'd been forcing herself to keep her eyes open; despite the bumpy ride, she was sleeping quite soundly. Perhaps another time then... assuming she'd want to hear it.

The sun was setting fast, and he figured now was a better time than ever to settle down for their first night. He pulled the wagon off to the side of the road, tucking it behind a patch of trees about 25 paces off to the right. As the horses came to a stop, Cassidy leaned back in his chair, a yawn he'd been holding in for hours finally escaping his lungs as his muscles relaxed. It wasn't particularly comfortable up in the set, but Princess had his sleeping roll, and he sure as hell wasn't going to try and get her out of it. Mar curled up on his chest, and he kicked his feet up, watching the sunset until his eyes slid shut, and he dozed off.


When Helia would wake, the smell of food would drift through the wagon. Cassidy had a fire going outside, and a stew brewing in an iron pot over it. Scooping some of the stew up in a wooden ladle, he took a small sip of the simmering brew. "Mmm. Damn, that's pretty good. Hey Princess! Come get some breakfast! We got something we need to talk about anyways."

They were going to get jumped today, Ackerson was sure of it. He'd seen this trap a million times.

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Helia Glacies Kyxo

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"Power is a test of a man or woman's heart." He offered, saying it more to himself than to her. "It confronts us with our own compassion, forces us to put others over ourselves if we don't want to become something ugly."
She didn't respond, indeed his words had helped lull her to sleep.
She was born into power in more ways than one, politically and magically... So she supposed it could be argued that her power did indeed make her into something ugly since now she utterly lacked the ability to show compassion and only put others before herself as a matter of duty.

Her sleep was dreamless, as it had ever since she froze her heart. It was simply a period of black unconsciousness in which her body got some rest.
When she awoke again the night had passed by, for her it was mere seconds.
Immediately the smell of food was upon her and she opened her eyes. Pushing herself up she looked out the back of the wagon to see Cassidy stirring a stew.

Mmm. Damn, that's pretty good. Hey Princess! Come get some breakfast! We got something we need to talk about anyways."
She scoffed as she climbed out of the wagon, "I suppose if you were trying to poison me you wouldn't have tasted it just now... What do we have to talk about?"
 

Cassidy Ackerson

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He raised his head as he heard her soft footfalls on the ground, offering a smile and a wave of his hand. Yeah, they'd probably be lost on her, but it didn't mean he couldn't try. "Mornin' sleeping beauty. Betcha that little nap did you a lot of good, huh?" He reaches over behind the log to collect a few bowls, eyeing her up a moment as he pours her a serving of the hearty smelling stew. "You look a lot better, Helia. Take a seat." He nods to the log across from him, holding out a bowl.

Cassidy had taken the liberty of going hunting while he waited for her to wake up, nabbing a couple of hares. Rabbit stew was always a favorite of his back home, although it was usually prepared by professional chefs with much more equipment... He thought he did just fine, considering that. "Anyways." He began "We better talk business, Princess."

The morning air was cool, and the hot stew served as a welcome warm up for the both of them. He figured it was only going to get colder as they went, and once they hit The Spine it'd come to a head. Gah, he shivered at the thought. Last time he went to The Spine he'd been tied up and thrown in a cave by a bunch of raiders.

He spoke between sips of his breakfast, crossing a leg over the other with Mar resting on his boot. "I think somebody's on to us. Probably going to try and attack us today." He looks over towards the road, humming before he continues. "I'd guess a smaller cart, so maybe no more than 3 people. Can't speak to how well armed or trained though. Could get messy."

Helia Glacies Kyxo
 
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Helia Glacies Kyxo

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He raised his head as he heard her soft footfalls on the ground, offering a smile and a wave of his hand. Yeah, they'd probably be lost on her, but it didn't mean he couldn't try. "Mornin' sleeping beauty. Betcha that little nap did you a lot of good, huh?" He reaches over behind the log to collect a few bowls, eyeing her up a moment as he pours her a serving of the hearty smelling stew. "You look a lot better, Helia. Take a seat." He nods to the log across from him, holding out a bowl.
The compliments and greetings drew little more than a nod from her, but she sat down and let him serve her a helping of the stew.
She filled the spoon and tasted the contents. Not bad, not great either, not worth complaining about and definitely useless to wish for something better. She ate without complaint, sipping from her spoon properly as she had been trained to do.

I think somebody's on to us. Probably going to try and attack us today." He looks over towards the road, humming before he continues. "I'd guess a smaller cart, so maybe no more than 3 people. Can't speak to how well armed or trained though. Could get messy."
Helia rolled her blue eyes, "Bandits, naturally. Why should this be an easy journey?"
She took a spiteful bite of soup, "If they try anything they'll deserve whatever happens to them, their frozen corpses will serve as warnings to any who consider such a profession."
 

Cassidy Ackerson

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Cassidy liked to consider himself a pretty kind and understanding soul, but even he had his limits. The girl could at least try and say thank you, couldn't she? She was cold, but she wasn't inhuman! No, that wasn't fair, he reminded himself as he stirred his stew. She'd likely been through just as much as he. If she chose to manage it this way, it wasn't his job to fault her on it. Still, the brief flash of frustration hidden under his red locks would be visible.

He clears his throat, setting the half-empty bowl aside. "Yeah, could be bandits." He tilts his head to the side, pursing his lips in what was only mild accusation. "Or something more. You weren't exactly subtle about who you were back in town, and word travels fast. What I'm suggesting is that if there's one wagon, there's going to be more." He knew she was used to being safe from something as petty as bandits, and he was sure she had some tricks up her sleeve, if her ominous threat was anything to go by. Even so, she wasn't taking this seriously enough. He shakes his head and rises to his feet, Mar bouncing away as Cassidy begins to tidy up the fire and put the cooking supplies away.

He doesn't bother asking her to help him load the wagon back up; he knew the answer already. When he was done hefting it all back himself, he nodded for her to hop in. "Come on then, if you're so sure."

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Helia Glacies Kyxo

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Such moments of frustration that he just had were common in Helia's life. Servants, attendants, hosts, her own father, she never noticed anymore. The bitter queen, the ice princess, the girl with the frozen heart. Whether or not the legends about her were literal or figurative was hardly considered by most, but by this point most people expected the cold indifference of the princess.
Selfishness, arrogance, entitlement, any good or warm trait she had, kindness, gratitude, empathy, was sealed behind that wall of ice for such things came from the heart and her heart was broken.
She coped with nothing, because she felt nothing.

"Yeah, could be bandits." He tilts his head to the side, pursing his lips in what was only mild accusation. "Or something more. You weren't exactly subtle about who you were back in town, and word travels fast. What I'm suggesting is that if there's one wagon, there's going to be more."
She turned up her nose at his accusation, "It's BECAUSE word travels fast that I chose to NOT hide who I am! Once word reaches the right ears aid can be sent, until then it's a risk I'm forced to take that it will also reach the wrong ears."
She was being stubborn, but that was better than looking naive in front of this mercenary.

She made no move to help him pack up camp, she played no part in setting it up so she stood back to let him work. She didn't want to reveal any more of her failings at traveling alone, like not knowing how to pack a bag, store leftovers or wash dishes.
Come on then, if you're so sure."
Of course she's sure, at least she had to act like she was sure. Putting the mercenary in his place wasn't going to work so she endeavored to carve out a place for herself.
She put her nose in the air again and climbed up into the wagon as gracefully as she could manage.
"We know they're there, so that's half the battle already in our favor. They stand no chance!"
She moved to her spot behind the drivers seat and sat down again.
She'd fought bandits to get here, she was confident that she could do it again.
 

Cassidy Ackerson

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Damn it, he couldn't help but crack a grin at her comical levels of coldness. How was it that after knowing her only a day, he could already guess how she going to react to his words with such startling accuracy? Nah, her ice didn't faze him. Whatever she was dealing with... Well, she was going to need to grow up and face it sooner or later. You can't cope forever, eventually you've got to give the clouds in your mind a solid kick in the ass and make them move out. He scoffs a bit at her suggestion that more help needed to be sent. "More aid? Guess you really don't have much faith in me after all. I'm a little wounded.

If she wasn't going to be straight with him though, he was going to prove a point to her instead.

Clearing his throat, he leans lazily on the bag as he looks up at her from the ground. "Well then in that case, I see no reason why somebody so confident shouldn't be the one to call the shots. Fine, you're in charge of planning our defense. I'm at your command, wise Princess." He grinned at her cheekily, hopping into the back with her, his eyes peering down to linger on her as he dramatically strolls past her to hop into the front. Mar hopped out halfway, curling up beside Helia.

Giving the horses a whip, the wagon begins to move to the other side of the clearing. Cassidy figured that once they neared the forest edge, their attackers would emerge from the tree-line. Helia had about... oh, 30 minutes tops to decide what she was going to do.

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"More aid? Guess you really don't have much faith in me after all. I'm a little wounded.
Helia rolled her eyes, "Aid in general. How am I supposed to rely on any one person out here so far from my Homeland and those bound to me? And how was I to know that someone would actually respond when I followed the instructions on your advertisement? I'm not foolish you know, I'm trying to get home as well!"

"Well then in that case, I see no reason why somebody so confident shouldn't be the one to call the shots. Fine, you're in charge of planning our defense. I'm at your command, wise Princess."
His sarcasm and cheek didn't escape her notice, but she didn't mind it.
Finally she could show that she had some sort of worth on this journey, all those lessons on war and tactics had served her well thus far... But that was when she was alone, or organizing her personal guardsmen.
She could protect herself, but the wagon and her guide? Some extra thought was required.
"Fine, I will."
And she began working out tactics in her mind and ways she could use her magic.

It took her about ten minutes to figure out a plan and do some work with her magic. So, partially to get his attention and partially to punish him for his cheekiness she sent a small flurry of cold air that traveled under his shirt and up his back and frosted his red hair straight up.
"Mister Ackerson, I have a plan."
In the back of the wagon she had created four kneeling snow sculptures, they were armed with ice swords and bore ice shields.
She was still seated behind the drivers seat, apparently having made all of this without moving.