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Index | HomePage | GameLogs | MarshendGameLogs | Riding Hard for Clearwater: Niko

(Continued from The Return: Derron and Niko Once More)

Though they had long ago left the hard packed roads surrounding Marshend, the speed of the three riders was such that the ground still resounded beneath the hooves of the horses the pushed mercilessly. So far the trip had been uneventful, and though Niko would rather try Thelbane again, he was not unaware that it was more fortuitous that they had not been slowed down and their mission put at risk by meeting up with the mercenary. Combat always put a measure of randomness into any operation, though there was a certain level of the unknown in not knowing how far the rogue had made it before they took off, Niko was fairly certain that they would make Clearwater before Thelbane as he would likely keep away from the roads.

"Niko!" Tyek's voice cut through the thoughts whirling through the young man's head, and he slowed his mount to allow the older warrior to catch up to him. "We should water and switch mounts soon- unless you want to needlessly leave three horse corpses along the road."

Looking up at the sky, Niko tried to judge their rate of progress against what he saw, even as he reluctantly began to slow to a stop. "No," he replied. "You are right. I just want to make sure that Thelbane does not reach Clearwater before we do- there has been more than enough upheaval at the manor without adding a mummer to the mix."

"True enough," Eron said as he joined the pair, scanning the woodline as he was wont to do, as they looked for a place to safely stop for a few moments. "But better to lose a few minutes now than many minutes later- and the mounts don't deserve such a hard ride."

Having already answered the same question from Tyek, Niko didn't answer the second question, instead pulling to a stop as they prepared to rest the horses.

Away to their left as they rode north, in the direction of the Ghost Fens, something seemed to be burning.

Tyek's keen senses picked up the smell first, and pointed out the smoke to his companions. "Somethin' burnin'. Not close though. But still interestin'- not many for the fens."

"That's quite the understatement," Eron rejoined.

"Concern us, this does not," Niko replied, not looking up from his ministrations to his horse. "We need to get back to Clearwater - that is our only concern. And if that is an indication that Thelbane has been there, we have more ground to make up than I thought."

Tyek grunted as Eron shrugged and went back to his own horse. Soon enough, they were mounted on the spare horses, and again headed towards Clearwater.

It was nearly dark before the marshes were left behind. Now they were riding through watermeadows.

"Shall we make camp?" asked Tyek.

"And tomorrow let's take the road," urged Eron. "We'll travel swifter there."

Reluctantly Niko assented, as they found a place that was sheltered from the road, but allowed a good viewpoint of traffic that might come upon them from it, or from within the treeline.

"Watches one by three- this one will take final watch," he said as he dismounted and they began to set up camp. "Cold camp tonight, I would think- no point in alerting anyone that may be around to our presence."

With water and dried beef swiftly eaten, Niko bedded down on the cold ground as Tyek and Eron diced for watches.

It was Tyek who shook him awake in the darkest of grrey light, some four hours before dawn.

"Your watch," was all he muttered, shaking his head when asked if there was anything to report. Then he was settling down by the fire, wrapped in his horse blanket.

Niko rose quickly, and shook his head to get rid of the few remaining cobwebs, rubbing his arms quickly to ward off the night's chill. Wiping the back of his hand across his mouth, he grabbed one of his waterskins to take a draught. Then walked the perimeter, careful to limit the sounds he made. Then finding a good vantage point away from the sleeping men, he watched, making a circuit of the camp every now and again at random intervals to make sure that he didn't miss anything.

Everything seemed calm and peaceful ... and his watch was undisturbed.

As the dawn approached, Niko roused the two other men. In silence he began to make his preparations for the long ride ahead.

"At least we should make good time today," Eron said. "Less wear and tear on the horses, too."

"Mmmm," the more taciturn Tyek responded, finishing his tasks. Niko didn't feel much like talking either. Hard riding took a toll on both man and beast.

Bells tinkling, Niko mounted his horse, as the other men did theirs, making one last check to see that his other mount was tethered firmly behind. He figured they'd have to make one last change before reaching Clearwater, and definitely didn't want the delay that losing a mount would cause. After checking his bag to make sure that the letters were securely in place, he made sure his two companions were ready before spurring his horse towards the road, and on to Clearwater.

The signs that they were leaving the deserted areas to the south east of the lake came in the form of more wagons travelling now on the road - not just merccahnts, but simple farmers' carts as well. Some bore the Clearwater mark on their side, in some cases battered and faded.

And Niko was feeling a nagging sense of familiarity ...

Surreptitiously, Niko urged his mount closer to Tyek's. "This... wagon. Is it somehow... familiar to you?" He paused, considering again. "It seems so to this one, but the memory can not be placed."

It belongs to one of the old families around here - that always looked to Draupaud," said Tyek. "See that symbol? That tell you."

Niko still couldn't dispel the nagging thought that he was missing something.

Guiding his horse with his knees, he urged the mount to pass the wagons, motioning for Tyek and Eron to do likewise. As they passed, Tyek and Eron received only the token glances given to any armed men, but Niko drew more than his share of stares in his outlandish garb; though he'd taken on some of the changes befitting someone living in the north, he still held to his roots across the sea. In turn, he looked back at them, trying to place the memory... Finally, suddenly he urged his mount to swiftness, jerking himself out of the daze he had been in. "We're close, but not there yet men," he said. "Let us make haste!"

Tyek and Eron exchanged surprised glances, but spurred their horses on after him, and soon the carriage was left behind.

(Continued in Foul News Comes to Clearwater)

Page last modified on December 07, 2007, at 06:14 PM