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It took them most of the day to reach a wide spot in the mountain path that was suitable for camping. The narrow, winding mountain road was too tricky for even Kalia and her well-trained Familiar to hurry down it in less than two days. With Rhys bringing up the rear of their little train, the Argent had slowed the pace a little further to ensure his safety. By the time she brought the mares to a halt, those clouds Rhys had mentioned were moving swiftly. Now, even Kalia's untrained nose could pick up the smell of rain, and her hair had gone all afrizz due to the sudden increase in humidity.
"I think we'd better call it a night," she announced as she swung down out of Brielle's saddle. "Those clouds are starting to look a little ominous, and I'd rather not be caught out on the road if they decide to kick up a storm." Without prompting, she took control of Rhys's mount and led the mare off to the back of the campsite, under some of the more dense evergreen branches. Many a traveler had used this very spot for their campsite, as evidenced by the old fire pits, the flattened squares of grass where tents were pitched, and little mounds of dirt that indicated food scraps had been buried there. "You'll have to be up front with me and let me know what you need help with," she added. "I'd rather not make assumptions and hurt your feelings."
"Agreed." Rhys could feel the mares slowing even further before they eventually came to a stop. Idora allowed Kalia to take her lead and willingly followed the woman to the backside of the camp, "Well," Rhys tipped his head back as if surveying the trees branches above himself, "Mostly. I'll take your word on how they look." He grinned softly and once Idora had again stopped he adjusted his hold on the reins and prepared to dismount, "I'd appreciate a warning before I manage to get too close to the ledge." Sliding off the saddle and carefully making his way to stand so Idora wasn't between him and Kalia he continued, "You needn't worry about hurting my feelings, I've lived long enough with my disabilities that it bothers me little to have things assumed."
He patted Idora's neck fondly, "Once camp is set if you'd describe the lay out, and then help me around the evening meal. I should be able to manage past that." Since any fresh rations that had been packed would need to be used first, Rhys probably wasn't the ideal canindate for cooking said food stuffs. He could, and would without question, help prepare certain parts of it if he were able. Rotating a spit didn't require vision, for example. After speaking he walked slowly around Idora once more and removed his staff from the saddle packs.
"We're well away from the edge," Kalia called, while she removed Idora's saddle. The mare seemed happy to be rid of the thing, but before she could throw herself down for a roll in the campsite, Kalia had her tethered to a thick tree. She began scrubbing the mare down with a handful of dried pine needles to help satisfy the creature's urge to scratch her back. "You'll have to walk through the road first, and that's got a rut worn down the middle from snow runoff. I'll show you in a moment."
All while Idora was being groomed, Brielle stood patiently by, cropping at whatever grass was in reach that hadn't already been eaten on their way up the mountain just days before. There wasn't much, but it was enough to keep the mare content until Kalia could tend to her needs as well. Once both horses were groomed, Kalia fished some of their supply of oats from the saddlebags and left each mare a sizeable heap of food within reach. "How are your legs feeling?" she asked. It was entirely likely that Rhys hadn't spent this long in the saddle at one sitting for quite some time.
While Kalia groomed the horses and laied out a meal for the beasties, Rhys busied himself with setting up camp. After a good stretch of corse. It had been forever since he had ridden this long and he knew the ache he felt now would be nothing compared to the saddle soreness he would feel come morning.
Rhys used his staff to wander about the back side of the camp, sweeping it side to side a few feet in front of himself to check for any changes in terrain. The wooden staff knocked against the bases of trees, dragged and skipped across the ground. By the time Kalia finished grooming Idora Rhys had scoped out the back of the camp until finding the side of the mountain itself. He backtracked to the saddlebags that had been removed from Idora, touching each pack one by one. On the outside of the packs were leather identification plates of sorts- each one was riveted onto the pack with finished brass rivets. They were embossed with varying bumps and ridges that, to an untrained eye, would appear random. For Rhys each one was quinic and marked which bag he had his hand on.
He felt each one until finding what he was looking for, pulling from it what was needed to set up a tent. With the impending rain it was best to get shelter up first and consider their meal second. For a man who couldn't see well he moved around the camp site remarkably well, even getting the tent set up didn't seem too troublesome for Rhys. If asked how he'd manage so well he'd reply with a simple explanation of having a good memory. By the time Kalia finished grooming Brielle, Rhys had the camp set up with only one hiccup- he had managed to tangle a rope around his foot but had at least managed not to trip himself.
"Incredibly sore," He spoke over his shoulder while tossing a sleeping pack into the tent, standing slowly with the help of his staff. "I'm sure come morning I'll feel it twice fold." Luckily he had enough self control to keep from waddling around nine kinds of bow legged, even with as much as his body ached. In the distance a low rumble of thunder would confirm that they were due for some rain. With any luck the storm would skip them and the worst they would see was a decent rain shower.
"A little stretching and walking before bed will work wonders," the woman replied. She turned around and was surprised to see a tent standing where none had been before! It seemed that Rhys was indeed capable of a great many things, and far more than she had originally assumed. Eyebrows raised in surprise, she inspected the tent from afar and tried not to sound too shocked. "Hey, thanks!" She supposed that, being able to see lights and vague shapes as he could, Rhys would be able to handle much of the easy work around the camp, as long as it didn't require attention to detail. Setting up a bed roll, for example, would be within his grasp - but setting a rabbit snare, not so much.
"I brought along a fresh jar of horse liniment too, by the way," she was hauling her saddlebags over to the tent. "Works wonders on aching legs after a long day's ride. Let me know if you think you'll need some." She made certain to put the bags well inside the tent so that it'd be safe from rain, then did the same for her saddle and Rhys's. The saddles made excellent impromptu pillows if you draped part of your bed roll over them, which kept your head - and your long hair, if you happened to have hair like Kalia's - out of the dirt.
"You think we'll have time for a campfire to cook supper? Or is that rain too close?" Kalia might have been able to see those heavy clouds approaching, but she didn't have Rhys's keen sense of smell or hearing. Maybe he knew something she didn't.
"I may take you up on that offer," Rhys spoke a little louder as he climbed into the tent so he could be heard clearly. He would rather feel a little greasy than saddle sore, especially since they had plenty more riding a head of them. The soreness was only due to get worse before it would get any better, so tending to it along the way before it could become too bad was ideal. He rustled around in the tent for a short time after, setting out bed rolls. While he worked, Sabvir scurried out of her pouch after a long nap and leapt forth from the tent in all her fuzzy glory, chest puffed. Rhys was aware his familiar was on the prowl, feeling a sensation of her hunger tugging on the edge of his consciousness.
Through the connection they shared he gave Sabvir permission to hunt- not that she needed it. Sabvir was so small and their surroundings were usually so familiar that Rhys had no problem letting her come and go as she pleased. What she experienced, he experienced, any danger she sensed, he would feel. If Sabvir had ever found herself hunkered down in fear of a hawk or other predator Rhys could have easily located her and came to the rescue.
Even now as she scurried across the ground towards the trees Sabvir would occasionally stop and sniff the air, her tiny ears twitching and watery eyes scanning the tree branches above. No danger, at least not that she found. Hiding from danger in a place as bare as the mountainside camping space would have been difficult for the pure white weasel- she had no where to blend and very little cover that wasn't something the group had brought down the mountain with them. Her slight weight moving across the ground was entirely silent, but when Sabvir leapt from the ground onto the nearest tree trunk her tiny claws raked against bark loud enough to be heard. It was like a small squirrel scaling up the side of the tree.
As Sabvir went in search of her meal and Kalia mentioned cooking, Rhys carefully stepped out of the tent and dropped the canvas door behind him. "We should have time." His staff had been leaning against the tent and as he exited he picked it up, mentally counted the steps back to Idora, and then used his staff to carefully make his way to where Kalia's voice had come from. He stopped roughly four feet away, "How far away is the wagon rut?" Since he would use that as his guiding line to keep away from the path's edge. The closer he got to the trail, the further it would take him out of the pocket of the campsite. He could feel the wind on his cheeks once out of the pocket, feeling the speed and hearing it as the wind whipped around the mountain's ledge.
"It'll be here within...two candle marks," He exhaled deeply and turned his head towards Kalia, "I could start the campfire quickly if you'll gather the kindling." A near-blind man searching for twigs would have taken a long time after all.
Kalia only barely heard the scratching of Sabvir's nails on the tree, and ignored it. It sounded enough like a common gray squirrel that she didn't pay any attention to the sound. She was busy setting up camp, and besides, a squirrel wasn't going to pose any threat now, was it?
When Rhys indicated an interest in the jar of liniment, Kalia was only too happy to oblige. She fished it out of its pocket on the saddlebag - the same pocket it always traveled in, which by now sported a worn "O" where the rim of the jar pressed day after day - and brought it with her out of the tent. "Here you go," the woman said, and pressed the jar into Rhys's palm so that he wouldn't have to blindly grope for her. "Just go easy on it. If you slather on too much, your trousers will slide right off!"
Laughing, the girl then linked her arm through Rhys's and before he could protest, she'd begin to try and drag him toward the road. "Okay. So. The road's right here," she paused and let the man get a feel for the transition from grass-and-rocks to only rocks for a moment. "And it's got two really deep wagon ruts in it. I swear, they get deeper every spring when the snowmelt runs through them. Don't go past the wagon ruts, or you'll be right up on the edge of the path and in danger of going over the edge."
"Certainly wouldn't want that," Rhys murmured with a grin as the jar was pressed into his palm. He hardly had time to cup his other hand over the lid,staff now under arm, when Kalia linked arms with him, tugging him towards the road. There had been no time to protest and he followed along with her with just the slightest of stumbles at the start. He wasn't accustomed to much physical contact, to be honest, at least not beyond a handshake or pat on the back. For a moment he had tensed up while they walked towards the road, but it lasted only a second or so before Rhys relaxed and walked a little less stiffly, his legs aching every step of the way.
He was mindful of the surroundings, feeling the change of terrain beneath his boots and feeling the wind speed pick up slightly as it whipped around the mountain. Assuming Kalia had taken his right arm, Rhys had to juggle the jar and his staff awkwardly until he had managed to pass the jar to his right hand. He pushed his staff forward, hearing it click against the rocks until it hitched on the first wagon rut. After testing the depth of the rut a frown crossed his face, "That'll be a problem for carriages, not long from now." It wasn't often that carriages were used to climb the mountain path- in fact it was a rare instants and was deemed dangerous on some of the thinner paths. Regardless they did have the occasional carriage make the trip. Any low-bellied wagons would have equal problem soon enough and with time it could become a hazard for horses.
Though Father Klaas was likely already aware of the path's need of maintenance, Rhys had mind to write to the man once they had reached the village below, just to be sure.
Sabvir had continued to scurry along the tree branches until a excited chirr decided she had found a meal. An unguarded birds nest. Fresh eggs!
The two of them didn't spend nearly as much time at the roadside as Kalia thought they might. Rhys, it turned out, wasn't as needy as someone else in his predicament could have been. That was likely because he'd been trained as an Argent, though. Argents were taught from a young age that they ought to be as self sufficient as possible. Rhys would not have been an exception to that rule, they'd simply have made modifications to his training to permit him to do as much as he could on his own.
"Alright, so - you can get back to the tent from here?" she let go of the man's arm, but remained close enough to him that she could help if he happened to stumble, or if he looked like he was going to get himself into trouble. "Should I show you anything else around the campsite?" She hoped she wasn't being too much like a mother hen, but still wasn't quite sure how much shepherding Rhys actually needed. It might take her a little while to learn to let him ask her for help, rather than Kalia offering it every few minutes.
"No, I should be able to navigate it." He offered Kalia a kind smile before turning away once released, using his staff and memory to make his way back towards the tent. "Thank you, for showing me the ruts." Mean if nature called int he middle of the night the ruts would certainly keep him from walking off the side of the clift.
Sabvir returned from her feast in the treetops and scurried across the ground excitedly. She had no real purpose for doing so other than working off a jolt of energy before her heavy meal set in. Rhys could feel the shift of emotions from energetic to a nearing food-coma for the weasel, even if she had been out of her pouch such a short time. He knew she had been awake within the pouch, however, grooming herself as a rat might.
With his vision what it was, Rhys could barely make out a white blur of color racing around the darker ground, Sabvir would be responsible for her own self. She darted around for only a few moments longer before stopping over a pile of dirt here food scraps had been buried. She nosed the dirt before digging slowly, finding the edge of whatever scraps had been buried. Rhys had moved around a ring of stones in the center of the campsite, having clicked his staff against them, before seating himself closer to the tent on the opposite side of it. The wind had seemed to die down- the storm had slowed with it.
"Isn't she a little bundle of energy!" Kalia exclaimed, on the tail of Rhys's statement. The woman needn't specify which "she" she was talking about, of course. There wouldn't have been any what that Rhys could have missed an enormous horse gallivanting around the campsite, after all. And since neither mare was anything besides cropping at the sparse tufts of grass sprouting at the edges of the campsite, that only left Sabvir. Kalia was sure Rhys would be able to make that deduction himself, poor eyesight or no.
"She must be pretty pleased with herself," the woman added. By now, she could catch the scent of rain in the air - one that Rhys had detected long before Kalia herself had. And - was that thunder in the distance? The faint rumble might have just been wind, or - angels forbid! - a rockslide somewhere further down the trail, but she thought it was most likely thunder. And that meant that she and Rhys didn't have long before the storm arrived in earnest. It was at times like these that Kalia wished there was a weather-sensing Argent working in the monastery. One that would have warned her about the coming storm and advised a delay of the trip.
Rushing, Kalia hurried to a pre-existing fire pit at the center of the campsite and piled wood within it. "I don't like the way the wind's died down," she said, a little less cheerfully. "Makes me think that storm's going to roll in here and then stay here a while."
"She is," Rhys chuckled, "Likely found a unguarded birds nes-" "I don't think so," His tone sharpened suddenly and his left hand came off the ground beside him. Sabvir had dug up a food scrap- it looked like the rib bone of an animal that was nearly as long as she was, dragging it across the ground backwards. Her Argent had discovered the plot after feeling her tail brush against his hand followed by her back feet. She looked to be making an attempt to drag it into the pouch at Rhys' side. "Tst!,"Rhys plucked Sabvir from his hand after the rib fell away. He clearly wasn't as pleased as the weasel had looked before losing her prize. The rib had strips of meat just enough to make a good to-go snack for Sabvir, if she could have only gotten it to her pouch.
"I don't think I've ever met a more undisciplined familiar," He scolded lightly while Sabvir wiggled from the grasp of his right hand and scurried along his arm to perch at his shoulder. "Stop." Like a cat trying to butter up it's master, Sabvir had rubbed along Rhys' neck before nosing her way just under the collar of his shirt. She wiggled and nosed until she could go no further, blocked by the leather vest. She rested just in the crook of his collarbone, appearing as a small lump under the fabric of his tunic with a white fluff ball poking out from the collar. Rhys hadn't squirmed, so used to the sensation of tiny claws on his flesh. Sabvir huffed out a content sigh once she was situated.
Once Sabvir had settled down and Kalia had put wood within the fire ring, Rhys leaned forward as he rolled his left sleeve- "Then we should hurry our meal along and be ready for it. It's likely stalled over Antistia's Peak," A mountain where, at the very top, a mausoleum constructed of heavy marble over looked the mountainous area. It was said Saint Antistia was buried there, though weather or not it was the body of the Saint, or a stand in, no one could be sure. Pilgrims often hiked the mountain, year after year, to pay their respects and ask Saint Antistia to sway the Angels to bless this or that. "With any luck it'll pick up once it's past and blow over quickly for us."
Once Rhys had rolled his sleeve (he had to remove a leather arm guard first), he tilted his left hand towards the teepee of sticks Kalia had created and willed to life a small flame on his palm. He held his hand steady at the edge of the wood pile while waiting for the flame to take hold, an ink stained fingertip having rested on a twig to find placement. At the Monastery Rhys never had his sleeves rolled up- it was a rarity to see the man in anything but his thick robes or to see more than a ink stained palm past the wrist. With his sleeve rolled, however, it exposed his arm up to the elbow, and with it a multitude of scars. Old burns, accidental cuts, most appeared faded with time.
The sticks caught fire quickly once Rhys had willed the flame to life on them, pulling his hand back as he did so.
"Why, the little stink!" Kalia laughed, as she watched Rhys scold his Familiar. It was hard to imagine being bonded to a creature like Sabvir, who was mischievous and headstrong. Brielle had always been the relaxed sort, with an eagerness to please her Argent that Sabvir didn't seem to show. In fact, the little weasel seemed to be a "do first, apologize later" sort, rather than asking for permission.
"Why DID you receive Sabvir as a familiar, anyway? I mean, I can understand why you wouldn't have been given one of the horses -- but why a weasel?" Sabvir had her charms, and of course she didn't eat even half the amount of food a horse could, but the creature just seemed so... ineffectual. "Does she help you get around the Monastery?"
"I wasn't so much given Sabvir as she had chose me." Rhys unrolled his sleeve and fixed the leather bracer in place once more, pulling the leather cord tight as he spoke, "During my survival test, which was very altered from the one you likely had, Sabvir found my camp. She was nothing but a pest at first, making an absolute nuisance of herself." Something the creature still did, "She didn't show an ounce of fear, at least not of me. The other Argent with me, she wouldn't go near him." He lowered his arm once the bracer was fixed, "I don't know what familiar I would have been gifted with once I had returned to the monastery, Father Klaas had been considering several different animals, I think." Since giving Rhys a horse wouldn't have been exactly the best choice.
He reached up and smiled softly, scratching Sabvir with one finger. She stretched out lazily before curling up once again, content. Rhys could feel the sensation of pleasure from her, but it didn't exactly have a mental effect on himself in the way it would have if a stranger had pet Sabvir. He always supposed it was because it washim doing it, and not someone else. "But before I had left the camp I had somehow bonded with Sabvir on a deeper level that, at first, I wasn't quite sure what I had been feeling." "Turen," A fellow Argent Kalia may have known or not, but obviously the one in Rhys' story, "Was pretty amused by the end of the trip. I'd been such a jumble of emotions so unlike myself I'm pretty certain he knew the entire time and just decided to keep it to himself, preferring to see me struggle." The jerk. He could be the class clown if there ever was one in the Monastery.
Addressing how Sabvir helped him, then, "She does help me,when she's not putting on a show." It had taken Rhys quite awhile to adjust to Sabvir's behavior and emotions. She was nearly every bit a opposite of himself. It would likely have been amusing to see Rhys as excitable as Sabvir was, something Kalia had gotten only a hint of when gifting him the magnifying orb. "Fetching smaller things, finding things I've dropped easier....perhaps the greatest ability she shares with me is her ability to see." The fire on the twigs had begun to crackle merrily, "I don't do it often, as it drains both of us something terrible." He squinted at the fire, his brow creasing slightly as he thought of the times he had used Sabvir to see. "It's...strange, how she sees....Or maybe it's not, since I have no idea how it...looks..to see?..." He trailed off for a second before turning his head towards Kalia, "In any case, I'd likely only use it in an emergency."
Or, if he ever felt the need, to perhaps spy. Sabvir would have made an excellent companion for someone needing to be sneaky, if only she could keep from being so excitable. On an educational note, Weasels have eyes very similar to that of a cat's. Better vision in low light, able to see in bright lights exceptionally well. They can also see color, tho may not really need or care to see it.
"Oh! I never knew that!" the Argent exclaimed with appreciation. She had been so caught up in watching the little weasel and how it scurried over Rhys and into his shirt that she completely missed Rhys's exposed flesh, the spark of fire as he used what little pyrokinetic power he had, and the resulting lick of flame catching in the campfire. When a twig popped and broke in two, the woman startled and jumped back a smidge. "Oh, for heaven sakes," she laughed at herself. "I completely forgot that one of your Gifts is Pyrokinesis! My, but you're handy to have around. I was going to have to go and dig the flint out of my saddlebags."
She watched the fire as it grew, glad of the warmth and brightness. Sunset was still a little ways off, but those gathering clouds were darkening the sky much earlier than usual, and that wind was giving the girl a chill she couldn't quite explain. The slight drop in temperature it created was hardly worse than the Monastery in early autumn. Kalia supposed that it was the combination of nerves and the gathering darkness, rather than a physical sensation of cold. "I'll have to show you what I can do, some time!"
She left Rhys to tend to the flames and the sleepy Sabvir while she prepared their meal in one of the pots that'd been hauled along with the rest of their gear. The water she poured into it was likely to taste slightly of leather, but with luck and a bit of spice, hopefully Kalia could mask it well. She set the pot of water directly into the fire, and began cutting chunks of dried meat, the root vegetables they'd brought along, and a few scavenged herbs into bite-sized pieces. Water splashing from the pot as the chunks were dropped in made the fire hiss and sizzle, and before long, the savory aroma of a hastily prepared stew began to waft from the pot.
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