Otherwhere 2: Chapter 3, The Town
After spending four nights on the road the group was out of the foothills and into lowland forest. The arrived at the town of Tandar, the first official stop of their journey. They agreed that Rock and Forrest would wait just outside town for Rory to mentally send word that all was well. While Rock and Forrest were confident in their ability to keep their nature disguised, Tandar was close enough to draco territory for Rory to be entirely comfortable.
“Let us go into town first and get the lay of the land,” she said. “I can do a low-level scan to see if I’m feeling people using life-energy. If there are any practitioners, I should be able to tell if they’re skilled enough to twig to something not being quite right about you two and we can figure out what we’re going to do from there.”
“You’re leaving our best defense behind if we do that,” Colin observed.
“I know, but they’re not far and if we get into that much trouble I can call them and they can come in draco form.”
“That kind of blows the whole mission if we do that this early,” Astra noted.
“Yeah, but it kinda blows period if we’re all dead,” Dee said.
“Point,” Rory agreed. “Dee, you and Colin are enough to keep casual brigands off our backs while we’re in town. Anything worse than that suggests that the state of the world is MUCH worse than we feared and that tells us our answer right there. Tandar is supposed to be a trade town and welcoming to strangers. I think we only have the usual concerns of travelers on the road to be worried about and more so on the actual road than in town.”
The draco had been content to let the humans talk it out. Now that it seemed they had a plan of action, Rock added, “I think this is an acceptable level of risk. Colin, you’re more than sufficient to handle the average bravos and with Dee backing you up I don’t think anyone would try. Too much risk for slim reward. Were you merchants with goods, the case might be different. Taking an initially low key approach makes sense.”
“OK but I don’t love this idea,” Colin agreed.
“If you did you wouldn’t be doing your job as security,” Forrest assured him. “ You’re supposed to worry, but sometimes calculated risks are necessary.”
“All I know is I want a bath,” Astra said.
“You need a bath,” Dee agreed with a grin.
“You need a bath too,” Rory told her. “As do I and all of us except the draco. You never smell. Why is that?”
“We believe that we evolved that way,” Rock said. “We’re predators, smell gives you away.”
“All earth creatures have an odor though,” Astra said, “Predators or prey. Why not you?”
“We’re not on earth,” Rock observed.
“Something to keep in mind with your disguise,” Colin noted. “If you don’t stink like the rest of us, that makes you stand out. If you’re trying to blend in, that’s a bad idea.”
Rock opened his mouth to protest and closed it again, looking thoughtful. Forrest laughed.
“This one isn’t dumb,” he said. “We’ll need to project a human odor at times.”
“You can do that?” Dee asked.
Suddenly Forrest smelled like he REALLY needed a bath.
“OK! OK! Point made,” Dee said, holding her nose. “Turn it off again.”
“Yes, please save it for when you’re entering town and you can turn it down a little too,” Rory agreed, waiving the air. “Too stinky is just as noticeable.”
“We’ll practice while you’re gone,” Rock agreed.
“I’m surprised you enjoy fucking us if we’re smelly,” Astra said.
“Furry over there smells like a goat,” Rock said, waiving at Colin. “You three, on the other hand, smell…interesting,” he continued with a glint.
“Hold that thought until we’re established and maybe smell a bit less ‘interesting,’” Rory said. “Business first, then baths and food and then we’ll see.”
The draco settled in off the road just inside the tree line and the rest of the group set out to town. There was no palisade but the buildings were sturdy and had solid first floor doors and window shutters. Pasture surrounded the town and grazing animals lowed in the fields. The town itself was mid-sized. There were several inns and taverns, a good sized market, a forge, several shops and, of course, the houses. The council building stood off to the side with a wide structure next to it.
“That’s new,” Rory observed as they walked. “It wasn’t part of the briefing.”
Dee lead the group several paces ahead and Colin took trail to ensure they weren’t assailed from behind. Astra and Rory planned.
“There’s a much higher elven population here than the briefings indicated,” Astra said. “Judging by what we’re seeing it may be higher than 50%.”
“What happened to the humans? The town doesn’t seem larger than it’s supposed to,” Rory wondered.
“Excellent question. Based on what I’ve learned, humans and elves have gotten along ‘ok’ but not great. Tandar was notable for being one of the few permanent towns with a mixed population. Most elves favor living in smaller nomadic bands anyway, better to follow their herds. Permanent settlements and farming is more a human thing,” Astra said. “I can’t wait to find out what may have changed! We’re talking major culture shift if the elves are becoming settled.”
“Let’s remember to be…discreet in how we gather information at least until we know a little bit more,” Rory cautioned. “We’ll get settled in and get a feel for what’s what in the town. We can ask a few discreet questions from the locals but we need to be careful not to seem like inquisitors. We’re just passing through. If we establish that everything is as we expected and hoped, then you can do a sociological study,” she smiled at her friend.
They found the inn with the sign of an ale mug. This was where their contacts had recommended they stay. It was a two story wooden structure with a tap room below and rooms above.
“This looks like it,” Rory said. “Let’s check in.”
“Be careful,” Colin advised.
“Why? Did you see something?”
“Nooo,” Colin drew out, thinking, “but something…feels…wrong. Dee, did you see anything?”
“A few people were rather interested in us, saw some looks, but that might just be strangers in town…but I know what you mean. It just feels…tense.”
“OK,” Rory said, thoughtful. “Colin, stay close while Astra and I check in. Dee, stay near the door and keep an eye on the street but be casual about it.”
“Now, let’s check in because I really wanna get clean and then I wanna get dirty with my favorite swordsman,” she winked, giving Colin’s butt a squeeze.
Cedar 2 months ago 5
TrinaStarr 2 months ago 6
Suspense. 😟 I love it and then to find out that Draco don't smell?
gibby 2 months ago 6
I wonder what they are sensing?