The journey had been a long 38 days of travel from Hilthu to Ferrent, but they had finally reached their destination. The trip had taken longer than what was expected, but after the attack, everyone had been a lot more cautious, and plenty of detours had been taken to restock and avoid any danger.
By the time the weary caravan had passed into the outer perimeters of Ferrent, budding signs of civilization could be seen all around them. Fields full of cultivated Kargiz trees bearing ripe fruits scattered the plains while paddies of newly planted mulse filled plowed and richly irrigated patches of flat land. There were even flower fields snuggled in between the scattered Kargiz and mulse plantations giving the farmland patches of rich vibrant colors in contrast to the brown and green of the trees and plants.
Not sure of what things were known by in this era, Kaidus had spent the better part of an hour -ever since clearing out of the forests and desolate plains- asking Adalina what some of the newly encountered foliage and creatures were. Something that he had done every day while on the road ever since he recovered.
Learning the name and then attempting to connect them with those from his memories.
'So that is now called a Krenuk huh, I don’t remember them having a tail like that. I wonder if it's a species of the Hwezi family.' - Towards a small hairy creature that is literally blind and traveled around using their tail as a feelers and their extremely sensitive hair to detect changes in the air around them.
'That is definitely a Drezor Hound. The coloration may have changed a bit and it looks larger, but its features are definitely those of the Drezors.' - Kaidus thought; marveling at a large domestic hound that was patrolling the fields for intruders. Adalina had called it a Kaltier, a large hound species.
Piecing things together from memory, he had noticed that many of the creatures and plants had changed drastically while others had remained virtually identical to how he remembers them. There were also many new plants and stunning creatures that he never seen.
In the single hour of question and answers with Adalina, he had spotted 4 animal species that he knew of and 6 plants and trees that he remembers. On the other hand, there were 12 avian species, 4 mammals that he had glimpsed in the forest, 6 new types of plants, and 3 new trees that he did not know. It was, a whole new world to him. In his previous life, books were one of the few things that he had escaped to in his time of tribulation, but such information were quickly becoming useless.
Thinking back about it, he had become more talkative to Adalina ever since he recovered from his condition. He found out he had been asleep for almost three days, and in his hunger, had finished three servings of delicious kluse wolf stew. The stew was made with dried kluse wolf meat, herbs, and a formerly unknown plant picked the day before by one of the scouts.
Throughout the duration of the trip, neither Adalina nor Troyle had asked about what happened, and Kaidus was thankful for that. It was one explanation that he did not want to explain to them.
Rolling into Ferrent, the Capital of the Darsus continent, the caravan was stopped at the gate. After looking through their wares and being shown a writ of passage by the caravan master, they were ushered in.
Sitting on Adalina's lap at the front of the wagon with Troyle, Kaidus took notice of the changes that had eluded him while he was in stasis within the void. The roads of the capital; though similarly paved and constructed, they lacked the luster of being magically reinforced like those he rode through a lifetime ago in Andarg. The buildings though constructed with stone and wood, also lacked the mana infusion to strengthen them. Something that piqued his interest was the amount of people bustling about their everyday business greeting guards and each other. Most surprising to him though were the Gverils with their telltale metallic right arms and single horns walking about the populace. 'I wonder what happened. For that crazed warring race to be living among humans... the world has surely changed'
Not just the Gverils, but the Kovus who had been known to keep to their mountains, the Aleiths of the plains, and even the Derzuls of the underwater kingdoms. All these different races who in his previous life had hated each other and constantly warred for territory were all now, in one place shuffling conducting business amongst each other without an ounce of animosity in the air. How many more other races had resolved their differences and are now coexisting? The thought baffled him.
Other things that had not changed throughout the course of history caught his senses. The sound of a hammer striking anvil reverberated through the throngs of shouts and yells, children crying while parents tried to hush them, merchants and locals peddling their ware all along the roadside. A sweet scent of honey spiced meat cooked to perfection, had just been pulled out of whatever cooking contraption cooked it, and the aroma was wafting through one of the open windows of a restaurant nearby. His mouth watered, even though he had just eaten not long before they got to the gate. Unable to spy much more than his immediate vicinity while on Adalina's lap, Kaidus held his eyes hostage unwilling to blink lest he miss anything that might be new to him.
After twenty minutes of slow rolling through the crowded streets, the caravan stopped at a moderately sized building - Crystal Wayfarer - the sign of the inn read. With this, Troyle had fulfilled his contract; he and his family were going to leave the caravan and try to settle in Ferrent.
Unloading their possessions from the wagon that had been their home ever since leaving Hilthu, Troyle grimaced as he hauled a basket filled with clothes and his two azurite swords on it out of the wagon. His leg wound had healed well enough, but any pressure on it sent a throbbing pain like lightning up his legs. Favoring his right leg after that misstep, he slowly set the basket down along with the two mid-sized chests of clothing he had pulled out earlier. Adalina got off the wagon and carried over a box filled with stationary, writing utensils, and her cook wares. As he was about to turn back to the wagon, the caravan master called to him.
"Troyle, are you sure you don't want to come with us to Gillstone? We can definitely use your sword arms."
The Caravan master had asked him to remain as a guard a couple times before, but he had business here in Ferrent. His latest glimpse at his own mortality had cause him to realize that he wanted to stay with his family.
"I'm sorry Pate, our contract was only until Ferrent, and I want to make a life for my family here. I'm glad you are still considering me even with my injury, but it is here that I must stay. Tell the others to be well and don't get careless for me will ya?"
Though he never really spoke to the caravan master, after that day where they had been besieged on the road, he had developed a new found admiration for the caravan master. Anyone with courage enough to try to barter with armed thugs - while tied up, beaten to a pulp, and yet insists on continuing his trade was someone worthy of his respect. They had gotten to know each other well enough to learn that the caravan master's full name was Pate Donsillt, and a prominent member of the merchants guild. Pate traveled with his Wife Dillane throughout southern Darsus buying and selling wares.
"That's a bummer, was hoping to rope you and your mage wife to stick with us to give everyone a better peace of mind" the merchant replied jokingly.
"Now you know that's not true Pate. What happened that day, I don't know how else to explain it but that the gods must have been watching us. Better yet, maybe one of them Phraes of the forest heard and saved them?" Troyle jokingly retorted, a wry smile on his face. No one had even suspect that it could have been his infant son.
"Well, no use trying to figure out what the god's were playing at if they were really watching us." pulling out a small pouch from inside his robe, the caravan master held it out to Troyle. "Here's 550 erns. 14 erns a day for a total of 38 days for your services. I evened it out to 550"
"Thanks Pate. For everything." Troyle took the pouch and tied it onto his waist and bowed in gratitude
550 erns would be enough to pay for room and board in the inn for a while until he finds a job and starts earning some money.
About to turn around resume unloading, the caravan master pulled out another pouch from the opposite side of his robe and handed it to him.
"Although you may deny it, I had considered my life forfeited after failing to bargain with those brigands and knocked senseless. My wife, I, and those of the others retain their lives only because of the miracle your wife brought forth. A debt must always be repaid, more so one of life. As caravan master, I have resolved to shoulder the responsibilities of those I have endangered, along with those who have perished. Suitable remunerations have already been allocated and will be seen to the families of those who have perished in my service along with any belongings. Although I cannot offer your wife my life nor would she want it, I want you to have this as a token of my gratitude and your bonus upon completion of service. Know that you and yours will always have a friend in the merchant’s guild."
Troyle reluctantly took the second pouch, since it was not really his to take and tied it with the other one.
Pate waited until Troyle had finished before reaching out a hand.
Troyle watched as the caravan master strolled back to the front of the wagons after their handshake before resuming his duty.
The fatigue of the whole trip hit him like a dropped egg against a hard surface, yet Troyle was unable to sleep. He had been so busy negotiating for a room, moving and carrying luggage, then having dinner down at the eatery that he had forgotten the second satchel that Pate had given him.
He looked at the desk in the room where the two pouches sat.
'He said my bonus and his token of gratitude. I wonder how much is in there'
Walking up to the desk, Troyle took the lighter pouch and jingled it. It sounded like money. He untied the string that sealed it then poured out the contents onto the desk.
21 small metal kuis or three erns, 16 metallic double bits equaling 32 erns, two green Fers equating to 50 erns each, and a single opulent Rae worth 500 erns. Troyle was shocked. Just about how much of it was supposed to be his bonus? His best guess was the 32 erns.
The room for his family had been negotiated to 22 erns per day with breakfast lunch, and dinner included. With the 550 erns from he received as his payment, they would be able to stay for at least 20 days while he looked for a job. But now suddenly, the total amount of money had doubled and he was staring at a total of about 1184 erns; enough to rent a small residence for two months with some left over.
His initial plans were to stay at the Inn until he got a job and had found a place for them. Sure the plan hasn't changed, but the necessity for the job has been slackened a bit, and finding a place was going to have to take priority.
Hidden beneath the myriad of metallic erns and kuis, something else stuck out. It was a circular obsidian piece of metal with an engraving of a feathered hat. His face froze, his mouth agape.
Troyle knew exactly what the piece of metal meant: The League of the Feathered Hats. The caravan master was not just a prominent merchant, but a founding member of the League of the Feathered Hats. The Feathered Hats were a secret and maverick group within the Merchants guild, and they had only one obligation to the guild: excellence in their jobs. Every single ern that those of the Feathered Hats raked in doing business was theirs to keep. In return, their jobs were extremely difficult and dangerous. These jobs consisted of transporting rare and dangerous games, artifacts, relics, and highly priced valuables belonging to the guild.
Everything clicked in his mind.
The army of guards that the caravan had hired, the two attacks on the caravan, the extremely ridiculous token of gratitude, and lastly the token of a Feathered Hat - which can only be relinquished by those of the founders.
Troyle chuckled to himself.
What a strange turns of events. He had thought the deal with the caravan to be a godsend, only to find out that his family was actually the benefactors. Regardless of everything that's occurred, the merchant’s guild was now in his debt - or more specifically Kaidus's debt.
'Just what was he delivering that an army of guards was required to secure it?' another mystery, another question to the many others he had no answers to.
Putting everything back into the pouch, he secured the Rae and obsidian token within a hidden pocket inside his trouser before attempting sleep again.