The break-in at the Night Driver’s secure carriage was repeated with some shenanigans. The dark box was there, covered in white lacework. Chain opened it and looked inside. It was full of dark silks, but not Oakskin. The group closed up and re-locked the carriage. Oakskin went off into the night, full of fear and doubt and quiet anger. There was some planning and plotting by the others.
The day was warm and the sleep was strange and sticky. They met a few of the characters fluttering about the caravan, most notably the ancient and genderly indistinct Krill, who made them food and offered advice on surviving the caravan.
Sanction and Brink went off into the grass to summon a Jade Serpent to hunt the grassy nights and protect the Caravan while his White Eagle soared above, watching out.
At midnight, they met with the Night Driver on comfortable cushions atop his caravan. They refused his cheerful offer of drinks and demanded an explanation for the box, laced as it was with the power of the Underworld, and why Oakskin had seen herself inside it.
He grew somber. He told them the box was personal. He conceded that it was more valuable to him than his own life. He would not explain its nature, and offered that he was sorry that Oakskin was frightened by what she had seen, but neither would he explain more. He offered that they were gathered together for a great purpose, that there were enormous opportunities in the coming age that they might rise to. The meeting ended after the Night Driver reminded the group, with great gravity, that the fruit of their distrust and accusations came at the expense of breaking into and going through his private possessions.
The next night, Brink gathered the group together, spritely with purpose. They had their first task, the Night Guards! It seemed there was a part of the Empire’s 6th Legion blocking the road ahead, and it was their task to find out what was going on, and remove them from the Caravan’s route.
On horses provided by the old herdmaster, they rode hours out ahead of the Caravan, and found 30 or so legionnaires holed up in the ruins of an old tower on a hill crossroads. Approaching, they were met by a Lieutenant of the Legion, one Grateful Bitch. She flirted with Chain saucily, while explaining the Legion’s plight. They were stuck here. The horrid port town a few miles away on the sea had taken supplies meant for the legion and closed its gates and manned its walls against them. When this small party returned to the remaining 70 or so soldiers waiting back at the crossroads to find them – and most of their things – gone. Without note or explanation. With the grog running out, without food or resupply or officers or knowing where their fellows were, they were stuck.
After some lively discussion, the group made an agreement on behalf of the Caravan to supply the Soldiers and conduct them back to the next Imperial port if need be – provided the soldiers got out of the way of the Caravan. The soldiers agreed.
Meanwhile, Grayn used his remarkably sarcastic powers of persuasion to coax Oakskin out of the dark where she’d been following the group. She quickly located the tracks of the departing soldiers and the group set off.
Some miles away, on a low rise, in the middle of the night, there was a woman standing alone and quite naked in the middle of the road, there was a woman with face tattoos and dyed short hair, hands to the sides of her head, perhaps humming to herself. When Sanction called out to her, she came around slowly, as if out of a dream. She turned and Chain approached, asking what she was doing there. She appreciated the boy’s good looks, before realizing with some chagrin that she was naked, and covered herself.
She was a local, from the mountains, and had never been anything special (so she claims), but had been called by a spirit named Arjos to bring its talisman to the nearby seaside town. There had been a woman there, with a sort of school or hospital or something already set up, apparently waiting for Arjos, who claimed to be a spirit of justice. That being that, she took the gifts the older woman had given her, along with thanks, and headed home to the mountains.
Some time later, she had dreams of Arjos calling out to her for help. She packed her things, and headed back to the seaside town, to find it in quite a state. Someone had taken over rule of the place, and it was closed to visitors. She snuck in and found the woman who had hosted Arjos wounded, and the cow skull that housed Arjos stolen. She helped the woman as best she could. Then, following a vague sense or just the voices in her head, she set out to find Arjos.
She apparently had wandered away from her camp in the middle of the night, naked, and had gotten this far before they’d stumbled across her. Chain offered her a blanket to cover herself – even if it was a bit horsey.
They told her what they were about, and she agreed to come along. She did something quick with the blanket to create an over-the-shoulder dress. She slid her strong brown arms around Chain’s waist, and seemed happy.
They rode slowly off the fields into an area of woods. They were confronted by some very foul-tempered goats. Sanction’s temper, however, was fouler, and Onyx only had to bonk one of them on the head with a sling bullet before they broke and ran.
Under the heavy linked pine arms of the wood, they investigated. They found a tunnel with a huge round stone door rolled aside. Beast-creatures wearing badly-fitting Imperial Legion armor stood guard. The group attacked the Beasts and quickly dispatched them. They blocked the door from closing, and down the stone tracks inside found the opening lever and a bolted door. There were dim sounds from beyond the door, perhaps metal on stone, from inside the earth.
They retreated outside to regroup, and to watch Oakskin go a little pale contemplating going underground.