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He and The Argent had departed from the Castle well before the sun rose, so that meant he had been up even earlier to ready Percival for the long day they might have ahead of them. The snow had let up over night for several hours but as they set out the surrounding area was still covered in a foot of fresh snow.
Tank had yet to say two words since they departed the stables, bundled in not only his black leather armor but also a thick cloak made from the hide of a black bear. He looked every bit as grumpy as the first time Aurilis had lied eyes on him and Percival was looking equally as aggravated with his ears constantly slicked back. The Captain had packed his saddlebags carefully that morning- a bow and arrows in case they themselves became stuck and needed to hunt. A roll of canvas to be used as a tent, fire stone, a small amount of dry kindling, and various other things such as his usual weapons and a small amount of medical necessities in the event either of them set off a poachers trap by stepping in it.
He was eager to complete a search of the area and, if lucky, take the poacher himself back to the Castle to be judged. There was no great famine racking the lands, no war so close that any man this close to the Castle should have to poach on the King's land without permission to feed his family. Tank always considered himself a fair man and if it was money the man needed for food, he'd likely enlist him as a guard and pay a decent wage to feed the man's family. But if the poacher was here purely to gain the furs of the deer and profit from them, he may be sentenced to repay his debt.
The snow crunched beneath Percival's hooves with a dull slush sound as the large beast made his way through the fluffy white stuff. A very light snow had begun an hour after their departure and in the moonlight Tank and Percival stood out from the white background in a stark contrast, covered in small white flakes.
The exact opposite could be said about Aurilis. Thanks to the works of the Monastery and his own personal being, he was a morning person unlike Tank. This early morning he had found himself on top Sage departing the Castle to find the poacher that had been laying traps around on the castle grounds. The snow didn't faze the familiar or his argent, the two used to the cold and few feet of snow that would be a constant weather scene at Saint Antistia's Monastery.
So the pair paid no heed to the snow they were traveling in, Sage having natural insulation along with the gear and saddle blanket he was perfectly fine as of yet. His head bobbing and a skip in his step as he plowed through the snow. Aurilis himself well prepared with his wool cloak and a few extra layers himself. Letting out a cheerful, "Wonderful morning isn't it?" Knowing Tank wasn't a morning person by the feeling and visual he was giving off.
With the weather in mind and the threat of more snow possible Aurilis made sure to pack some rations for through out the day and for if they get snowed in somewhere. Always be prepared for what unexpected situations. Which in case he brought with him his short sword if close combat be it human or animal happened, his sword being short enough to hang from his belt and not interfere with his riding.
He had the same though as Tank, there was no famine or war as of yet so why would there be hunting around the grounds close to the castle?
His head slowly turned towards Aurilis and as he bobbed and sway with the motion of Percival walking, Tank's unamused expression was evident even in the dark. If he had wanted to say something in return, he didn't. Instead the man just stared at with a look that could have curled dairy.
Did he think this was a game?
Tank had woken up well before his usual time, which even then was generally early so he could get the barracks up and running, but did he enjoy getting up early then? No. If he had his way he wouldn't budge from his bed until well into the late mornings at the earliest.
After staring at the Argent in silence for nearly thirty seconds, The Captain looked to their path ahead once more and did little more than continue to sway with the movement of Percival's gait. Even Percival still looked grumpy and was putting off a constant aurora of being easily irritable. His tail flicked and twitched and his ears remained slicked down.
It was probably a good twenty-five minutes before Tank spoke up and during that time if Aurilis had anything to say it received little more than a grunt from The Captain. "Are you always this.....peppy in the morning." His voice was growlish and drull all at the same time. He hadn't eaten a hearty meal before setting out, but would later have his fill of the jerky he had packed if they couldn't find anything to hunt. They were here this early in hopes of finding the poacher checking his traps or setting them, but if they were there to wait, they may as well eat.
Aurilis knew what they were entailing on was indeed not a game. Seeing how they were in no area of danger or obstacles yet he saw no reason he couldn't poke some fun towards Tank at the moment in his sullen mood on early mornings. Even with out a decent source of light he could tell Tank was not in a good mood at all he was radiating with it, even Percival.
After getting no response from Tank he continued to ride in silence next to the man, keeping his eyes open on the landscape as they rode past it. The snow seemed to be holding out for now as they went along and it was a good thing. With all the snow already on the ground more of it would make it more difficult for the horses to walk in without their legs getting affected by the deep snow.
He almost jumped when Tank spoke after what seemed to be forever making him glad it was dark out still smirked, "I'm used to it. The Monastery likes to start their mornings early." If one started their day in a grumpy mood it could affect the rest of the day and the people they encounter. The view was starting to change as they rode a long further in the crunching snow turning the horizon showing the beginning of the forest. The snow thinning out in areas as they passed more and more trees.
"Hm," was all that came from Tank. He had caught the jerkish movement just barely from the corner of his eye, but dismissed it as the Argent possibly being jostled by his horse. Percival tossed his mane aggravatedly and snorted, gaining a firm pat on his neck from his rider, "Steady Percival." Percival gave the horse equivalent of a sigh and swiveled his ears, emotionally he responded positively towards Tank's reassurance before returning to his own grumpy mood.
Again The Captain returned to silence, it filled the space between them so thick that one might have been able to cut it with a knife. It didn't seem to bother Tank, who only occasionally took his gaze off the forest's edge before them. He would glance around, checking for torch light, since the sun had just barely began to give the sky a misty purple hue.
Another forty-five minutes passed and they arrived at the forests edge, the snow was now thinned out and Percival seemed thankful for it. Dismounting with a heavy thud, Tank walked around Percival and gave the horses knees a good rub down with his leather gloved hands. They had rode a long time, hours, and Percival was just as grumpy as his rider. Tank took this opportunity to walk the horse instead, holding his reins as they entered the start of the forest, "Keep your eyes on the ground, less you want your horse to step in a trap." Pit falls, snares both large and small- there could have been any number of any sort of trap out there.
If it were another time Aurilis would have cut the air with a knife but he knew it wasn't the time to push the buttons of Tank and Percival at once. As a rider's emotions affected the horse they were seated on. The only noise that would come from the pair Aurilis and Sage would be the occasional snort from Sage as he trailed along the forest floor near Percival. Like Aurilis, Sage was used to the morning adventure's that the two would go on.
After what felt like a decent amount of time riding the forest edge came into view and upon hearing Tanks warning of traps Aurilis focused his gaze on the ground before them and along the tree lines. It wasn't just the ground they would need to look at carefully it would also be amongst the landscape, with broken branches being another one to way to track if they were to find anything. "Good thing I'm closer to the ground while mounted."
"Yes, I imagine it is." Tank replied dully as he had turned to face the forest after wrapping Percival's reins onto a hook on his own saddle. Clearly the horse was well trained enough that Tank didn't need to lead him. Instead Percival obediently followed after him, his ears alert and swiveling.
As they entered the forest Tank remained alert until, like a strange deep darkness, an old memory came creeping back in. The man was no more quiet than he already had been but emotionally he had gone from being absolutely aggravated and high-strung, to almost having an air of melancholy suddenly hang around him. It seemed to hold with Tank for quite awhile, and he had almost allowed himself to settle into it before he inhaled deeply and looked up to Aurilis, who was obviously much taller than him at current. The difference in height put Tank roughly eye level with Aurilis' waist.
There was a moment's pause where his breath escaped him when he opened his mouth, poised to say something, but must have decided against it as he looked away again. Percival shook his mane out and 'gently' thwacked his snout against the back of his rider's head, as if he too had picked up on the man's change of emotion. Tank responded by reaching up and rubbing Percival's snout, but still said nothing.
This went on for nearly thirty minutes as, again, they walked in silence. During that time Tank had settled back into his high-strung mood, on edge while within the forest, yet his aggravation had been quelled. Perhaps it was whatever memory the Forest had conjured up for him that had taken his mood down a peg or so.
His gaze had turned further into the forest where, occasionally, he thought he caught glimpse of fire.
"There," He spoke softly, just loud enough that he could be heard over the movement of the mounts. "Do you see it?"
From the point of view of other it would seem as if Aurilis had fallen into a lull as the two continued on the path towards the forest. The quit atmosphere created by the surrounding snow helped the man focus all of his senses to be a ready if anything were to happen at a moments notice. He felt the waves of emotions changing coming from Tank but didn't make any indication that he knew or even when he notice the hitch in Tanks breath as if he were to say something, allowing the man to continue his own thoughts in silence as they entered the forest.
He watched the interaction between Percival and his rider as they continued, noting that if Tank were an Argent Percival would have differently been a familiar. The two seemed to have a closer connection to each other than any other non argent/familiar pair he had come across so far.
Aurilis turned his head towards the direction that Tank was facing as soon as he heard the man speak. He caught the glimpse of light though the breaks in the trees and signaled to Sage to take caution from here on out. "I do." Other than the sound of snow falling from branches to meet the snow on the ground he didn't hear or see anything. He made no move to dismount just yet but made sure to get a quick scan of the area and would make a move to do so if it were all clear.
Upon approaching the fire, a campsite would be revealed. At its center, a small fire ringed by stones, over which a cast iron pot was hung. As the flames licked at its belly, the contents of the pot bubbled cheerfully, releasing the savory aroma of meat and herbs.
To the left of the fire, a small flatbed wagon sat. It looked like the sort of vehicle that could be pulled by a donkey or pony, and was perhaps six or so paces in length but a mere two in width. It had only two wheels, and a pair of long, wooden pegs had been attached at the front end, which kept the whole affair from tipping when it wasn't harnessed to an animal. Strangely, a canvas tent had been erected in the bed of the wagon, with the hems cleverly tacked down against the wagon's three short walls, and a pole at the center kept the roof pitched up. Light came from within the tent, too - but only dimly.
The sides of the wagon itself were bedecked with dozens of bunches of herbs, all bundled together with twine. Anyone who'd been trained the arts of wilderness survival might recognize some of the blooms: Hyssop, Calendula, Mistletoe, Holly, Honeywort, and more. But they weren't arranged in such a way that they appeared to be decoration. No, it was very clear that these herbs were intended to be used for something. Every stem, every leaf and petal had been arranged in the same direction, with several inches of stem with the leaves removed, and those all bundled together. They hung upside-down, with the petals facing the ground. Still, the whole arrangement gave the wagon a rather friendly appearance. It'd be difficult to be afraid of anything that was covered in such bright flowers.
To the right of the fire, a pony with its legs hobbled was nose deep in a pile of oats and grains. Its ears flicked when it smelled other horses nearby, and one of its deep brown eyes kept a watch on the forest in that direction, but it otherwise seemed unconcerned. Or else, perhaps the pile of oats was of greater importance.
As a whole, the campsite was clean and tidy. There were no traces of waste or offal that might attract scavengers, no raucous singing or shouting that might indicate this was a soldier's camp, and no signs of weaponry either. There was, however, a softly hummed melody drifting from the tent. A woman's voice, and it was somewhat muffled by the canvas walls of the wagon tent.
((OOC: Cart reference here: Picture, but it's being held up by pegs instead of leaning on the 'arms' like that.))
Tank and Percival shared a bond of trust similar to that of a familiar and their master. Each one trusted the other with his life and many skirmishes and years and cemented their friendship.
"Do you feel anything from there?", The Captain had worked with gifted men before, it would have been foolish to approach the campfire without taking all the Argent had to say into consideration. While it could have been done without the aid of the other man, as Tank had originally decided only to bring himself and possibly one other solider along, it would have been a waste of talent to not utilize it. He patted Percival on the snout twice and the horse stopped walking, tossing his mane with the shake of his head without making a sound to go with it. The horses ears stood erect and swiveled every few moments to listen to the area around them.
The Captain looked along the ground before choosing his steps carefully and edging his way into the trees, hugging his path close against their large trunks. As dark as it was his leather armor was still darker in some places where the moonlight filtered through trees and snow clouds. If it hadn't been snowing he might have stood out a shadow among shadows even clearer.
Before moving closer to the fire Auirils took in a slow deep breath of the crisp morining air allowing it to sink into his lung before quietly starting to dismount Sage with care. There was no need to be on his familiar from here on out as it would be easier to deal with any altercations that may arise while on the ground. He was able to life his leg and slide down the side of the saddle with only enough disturbance to the snow on the ground around his boots. He gave Sages muzzle a rub down of affection as he walked by the front of him to head just a bit closer to the fire to get a better visual. Keeping aware of any traps that may be hidden in the snowy ground or in trees around them.
Aurilis followed Tanks lead by staying close to the tree trunks as he moved closer now using his ability to help get a feel of kind of presence was in the area. From where they were now the two of them couldn't see any of the signs of the camp being one of a medical camp of sorts just yet. But they also couldn't tell there were indeed no poachers just yet. The fire just giving off enough light for him to see that there was indeed a pot over it and letting him know if there were food in there someone was there.
He raised an eyebrow picking up what he could from the camp, he didn't get any reads of frightened animals of sorts, that is if any were alive. What he did pick up was on of a very content pony eating some sort of food and with a pony around there was also had to be human to go with it. It looked like who ever it was was just as ebullient in the early morning as he was. "There is someone there."
It could have been said that Caelan hadn't always been a morning person. There was a time when she would have preferred to lay abed until after breakfast before stepping foot on the cold wooden floors of her childhood home. But years of training under the former Healer's strict eye meant that Caelan had had the habit of early rising drilled into her until it became a second nature.
'Illness won't wait for us to rise from bed,' was the litany she'd heard time and time again. And at first, it was difficult adjusting to the new schedule. But now, Caelan rather liked the candlemarks of quiet she had in the early morning. And besides which, there was little other opportunity for her to get out into the woods to gather supplies.
She seemed entirely unaware of the presence of two watchers; the soft humming continued on uninterrupted. Tank and his Argent companion could choose to continue onwards if they wished, and Caelan would never be any the wiser.
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