CARAVAN ROSE OVER THE HILLS, in a total of three carriages, and six, brown mules. Senn was standing on the wooden bridge, ahead of them, and he stared for moment before he moved closer, onto even more range of seemingly endless plain lands. The stream below was quiet. The only sound, now and then, was the faint sound of a bubbling fish, or the wind passing through the holes of his helmet.
The caravan moved faster when they saw Senn stop again, when he scrutinized how expensive the carriages’ goods might come, by the material of their vehicles. They appeared simply of wood and cheap metals. When they were close enough, they stopped too and Sen knew they would try their tricks for a sale. The group, adorned in scraps, bandits and outcasts like Senn himself, crept out of their vehicles. There was even a pregnant woman; she was old enough, carrying a second young child in her arms.
“Are you looking for something?” one bearded man asked, eyebrows frilled and speckled with white. “We couldn’t help but see that you stopped as we neared.”
“Do you people ever let me stop you?” said Senn.
“You stopped to look for something, no?”
The freelanser dropped his caustic demeanor. “I am looking for something.”
The freelanser removed his helm, one fair gesture he could display without truly revealing any benevolent intention. He never smiled, not in front of other people.
“What would it be? Hansa,” he called the pregnant woman, “show this young warrior what we have got to offer.”
Her eyes blew up wide, and she ran toward one of the carriages. Ten or twelve other young men and small children popped out the carriage like maggots exiting a sopping wound.
There was an attached rope to one of their vehicles; a massive, silk blanket draped where a window would be located. She pulled the rope, a lever it seemed, and the blanket retreated backward to reveal a display of vast assortments of ornaments, of spices, silks, maps, and very small amounts of precious metals. One of the travelers ordered for a boy to grab an item on the menu and bring it to Senn. In fact, there were plenty of kids accompanying the travelers, a smart tactic to steal all of these gewgaws and valuables.
Senn eyes shot directly to the map. He shook his hand at the boy who approached him holding a strange and rugged stone.
“I will take one of those maps,” he pointed. “I have lost my way.”
The bearded and frilly browed man smiled and Senn filled in the blanks where his teeth should have been. His Loynn was broken, worse than Senn’s himself, and heavily accented with a language from the south.
“We have maps of the west, east, south, north, lands halfway to other lands, Thundertöd, the plains—”
“Thundertöd, the south gate.”
The man’s face tightened and his eyelids pulled in close together in frustration. He finally compromised, quickly, with a smile.
“Of course, of course,” he said frantically, and called to a young man who bowed out of one of their carriages, heavily robed in...