On the Road (Dread pt. 2)

Arlo and Xander were walking several yards ahead of Marine jabbering on about the boon they would ask of the Lady Ambermane once this simple job was over.

“You know,” Xander began, “we could just ask this fair Lady for a sizeable sum of gold instead of jobs. That way we would be set for life and wouldn’t need to worry about finishing university and getting a job!”

Arlo scratched anxiously behind one of his pointed ears, unable to decide if his half-brother’s idea was actually a good one.

“I don’t know. Money doesn’t seem to be the game our employer is playing. There probably would have been an amount on there if it was an option,” Arlo replied. “A boon isn’t a redeemable money voucher.”

“It’s a favor,” Marine called out to her friends as she jogged to catch up with them. Her staff was secured to her back and made it hard to run. “Can one of you please carry this thing? It is twice my size and three times the pain to carry.”

Marine was nearly out of breath and just as close to being out of patience. They had been walking for hours with no clear goals in terms of where they would stay for the night, and the worst part was they forgot to get mead to go from the last inn they stopped at.

“You really should have just left it in the road where you found in,” Xander said taking the staff off Marine’s back. “The owner could be looking for it.”

“We passed down… that road at least three…. times in a week and… it was just getting run over by cart…after cart…” Marine struggled to say between labored breaths. “I can sense magic in it and it would have been irresponsible to just leave it there.”

Arlo held his hand out signaling Xander to give him the staff.

“There must be weird, dwarf magic in this thing if you can sense it,” Xander said passing it off to Arlo. “You have hit both of us with it and neither of us could feeling anything magical about this glorified piece of fire starter.”

“No lie,” Arlo murmured rubbing the sore spot on his back. “This feels like a regular old walking stick. Some old geezer must have dropped it and didn’t think much of losing it.”

Arlo turned the staff over in his hands trying to feel the magic Marine was talking about, but he wasn’t able to. He wasn’t going to protest carrying it along with them. It would make for decent kindling if they really needed it.

“I don’t mind carrying it for you, Marine. I packed light incase we were to come across some worth while finds on our little school-sponsored trip,” Arlo said while slipping the staff behind his pack.

The trio slowed their pace to make up for Marine’s short legs. At the rate they were going, it would still be several more hours before they would make it to the outskirts of Autumn Hill.

The trio entertained themselves with stories of their first semester at university, where they all performed rather poorly. Marine managed to convince her advisor that she was more suited for field research and practice rather than dusty theory. That same advisor suggested she find some other students to participate in this independent study as Marine was inclined to keep to herself and no one can get through life on their own.

“Good artificers work in teams,” Marine’s advisor would nag at her. “You can’t seriously expect to do well in this program without taking labs seriously and working with your peers. If you are serious about trying an independent study path to becoming an artificer, you will have to find at least two other students to be taken seriously.”

She stumbled upon the brothers by happy accident while all three of them were trying to sneak out of a chemistry lecture. Marine’s Arakocra roommate was the one who squawked and alerted the professor to them trying to quietly escape out the back of the lecture hall. Marine had half the mind to mention they were working towards an independent study approval and needed the bothers to get some paper work done so they could join her. The professor didn’t care and wished the three of them luck before going right back into the lecture.

Xander started laughing hysterically.

“Remember your roommate’s face when the professor just dismissed us instead of yelling at us like she wanted!”

Arlo chuckled and turned to face Marine while continuing to walk backwards.

“Why did she hate you so much anyway?” Arlo asked. “It’s not like you tried to ruin her academic career by ditching class.”

Marine clicked her teeth together and blushed.

“I may or may have not drunkenly asked her why she didn’t sleep in a nest or eat worms the first week of classes.”

The brothers ushered a collective “ooo” and Marine tired to laugh it off.

“That’s absolutely terrible and absolutely hilarious,” Xander said trying to keep his own laughter from bubbling up.

Arlo shook his head at his brother and looked down the road to see if the next inn was in sight yet. He froze and watched as a giant black wolf dragged a bloodied corpse onto the road and turned its attentions towards the trio.

“Hey guys, we might have a problem,” Arlo whispered in a shaky voice. Xander and Marnie looked up and gasped.

“Throw the big stick and maybe it’ll chase it,” Xander whispered in a panic.