It was a half-day’s travel to Vonlar, even though they pushed the horses as hard as they dared. When they were emerging from the forest at the edge of town they knew something was amiss. The sounds of fighting reached Callindra’s ears and the screams of terrified people split the air.
She dismounted and ran headlong into the town square, drawing Brightfang as she ran. There were dozens of kobolds in the street, hacking at villagers with rusted blades while the people attempted to defend themselves with sticks and pitchforks.
The battle was short and brutal, Callindra and her companions hit the monsters from behind like a thunderbolt. Trapped between the townsfolk and their makeshift weapons and the experienced fighters the kobolds were slain in moments, only a few escaped with their plunder.
“Please sir, please help us!” The villagers all gathered around Tryst, some of them even touching the hem of his cloak in supplication.
“The supplies we laid up for the winter!”
“My little boy!”
“They took my daughters!”
The clamor was deafening. Finally Tryst raised his hands and smiled down at them with an aplomb that only he would have been able to summon. Callindra was almost wondering if they were going to have to defend themselves from the mob. Looking at the expectant look on their faces and the way they calmed down, she carefully cleaned Brightfang on one of the Kobold’s corpses and sheathed him.
“Please good people, do not worry yourselves. We shall certainly assist you in your time of need.” He paused and fixed them with that absurdly beautiful smile again. “A friend of mine is ill and we must first see to him, but you have my word we will not let your plight go unnoticed. If you can help us find the herb woman Jasmine so that she can supply us with the herbs we need to bring him back to health we shall return forthwith and ensure your lost family and belongings.”
Callindra didn’t believe for a moment that this crowd would just let them walk away during their time of crisis but she had vastly underestimated Tryst’s powers of persuasion. In less than a quarter hour they were riding from the village with the herbs they needed in their saddlebags.
“We aren’t really going back there are we?” Cronos asked. He glanced over his shoulder with a smirk on his face, “They really fell for it Tryst.”
“Of course we are going back.” He replied immediately fixing his brother with an indignant look, “I gave them my word.”
While this made perfect sense to Callindra she could see the significance was lost on Cronos. “We also owe Jasmine for this medication.” Tryst continued, “She wouldn’t take my coin, saying our attempt to save the village was payment enough.”
Cronos rolled his eyes and opened his mouth for a smart remark but Callindra cut him off, “I agree with Tryst. We hit a dead end with Tyreen anyway. You aren’t scared of a few Kobolds are you?”
“Scared? Me?” Cronos spluttered, and she knew she had him.
“Well yeah. What other reason would you have for ditching out on a village full of people who need you?” She shrugged innocently, “Especially people who we owe a favor to. If you aren’t frightened what’s your excuse?”
“We already saved them once, we drove off those green skins like they were nothing. That should be good enough for anyone.”
“Not good enough for me.” Tryst replied, his mouth set in a firm line. “Now we are wasting daylight. Let’s ride!”
The sun was down by the time they made it back to Tyreen’s tree. Now that she welcomed them, entrance was as easy as opening the door and walking inside. Callindra stayed outside to tend to the horses. The poor beasts had been asked for a lot today and she wanted to look them over.
While she was walking them to cool their bodies down before giving them water she saw a face appear in a bole of the tree. “Young sprout! You may water your animals in the stream without fearing for their health. It shall refresh them. Perhaps you should water yourself also as you look a bit disabused as well.”
Callindra did her best not to bristle at being called a sprout. The implication that she looked dirty, tired and worse for the wear didn’t really bother her though. It was the plain truth. She had sustained a number of small cuts and bruises during the fight to save Vonlar that weren’t deep enough for her to bother Tryst with and nearly ten hours in the saddle was a lot more than she was used to.
Leading the horses toward the sound of trickling water, she found a perfect crystal stream that erupted directly from the side of the cliff that Tyreen’s tree grew against. Usually the water from a spring like this was bone chillingly cold, but when she tested it Callindra was delighted to find it was the perfect temperature for drinking. The animals needed no encouragement, they dipped their muzzles into the small pool and guzzled greedily.
While the horses slaked their thirst Callindra did her best to wash some of the day off her face and arms, taking care to do so downstream from the drinking pool. The water restored her vigor and even seemed to be a balm to her minor injuries, leaving her refreshed and alert. Thinking her companions would likely be thirsty she filled a water skin and brought it inside, leaving the horses tethered to their saddles and cropping the thick grass.
To her surprise, both Tryst and Cronos were asleep. Before she could comment overmuch on this, she too was feeling drowsy. The place was cozy enough she supposed, the thick mat of moss that grew on the floor was softer than any carpet.
Tyreen hummed a beautiful song that seemed to have a three part harmony in spite of coming from only one throat as she ground herbs with a mortar and pestle. Even though they were inside a fresh spring breeze seemed to be blowing. Callindra found herself removing her armor and lying down on a bed of moss, curling around Brightfang as though he was a favorite toy… or a lover.