"You don't expect any of the money to come back to you, right?"
Amnor Sen let out a sigh, shaking his head.
"It is a test. Nothing more, nothing less. He has three scrolls and a weapon for self defence. If he decides to use any gold he makes for a room, so be it."
He pointed to a thin column of smoke against the twilight sky.
"I believe that is our cue to pause for the night."
"Great, I'm starving," Jeremy replied, nudging his horse toward the smoke.
As they drew toward a small campsite surrounded by four figures, a quiet buzz sounded.
"Well hello there!"
A young woman looked up as they approached, smiling slightly.
"I don't suppose you are two hungry travellers hoping to share a meal?"
"Mia, we can't feed everyone we come across," a woman sighed, looking up from a book.
"Nonsense, we can't be more than two days from Mechitar," Mia denied. "Please, join us."
Jeremy slid from his horse gratefully, moving to tie the mare up.
"I'll accept gladly," he smiled, noticing a small ankh necklace around Mia's neck. "It is always a pleasure to meet a good soul on the road, especially in these lands."
"We aren't good-" a man said sharply.
"Shame. I was hoping to share a mug of ale among friends," Jeremy said, holding up his cup.
Amnor Sen huffed quietly, setting Zephyr beside Jeremy's horse.
"We can see her symbol," he pointed out.
"Shit… Mia, what the fuck is wrong with you?"
"Oh come on Neela, it's not like you've never made a mistake," Mia frowned, tucking her ankh in her shirt.
"Isn't a glaive a strange weapon for a horseman?" the fourth figure said, remaining cloaked.
Amnor Sen shrugged.
"Not for Shelyn's faithful. I make no claims otherwise, and if you desire to fight me over it, all I ask is you reconsider."
The man nodded slowly.
"Well spoken and well met. I am Jaime, knight of Lastwall. This is Mia, of the Order of the Sun, Vudra, druid of the Wastes, and Neela, arcanist of Nex."
"I am Amnor Sen, formerly of Anuli. This is my husband, Jeremy. It is a pleasure to meet you."
The two sat, Mia handing them small bowls of stew. Jeremy ate happily, though Amnor Sen held off, studying Vudra.
"That is an interesting name. If I am not mistaken, Neela is a Vudrani name. You named yourself for a nation?"
"Certainly. Neela is my friend. Why would I not honour her homeland through my name?" Vudra said, face still hidden in their cowl.
"Your skin. It reminds me of a plant," the elf continued, Vudra sliding their exposed wrist into their cloak.
"Vudra is a Ghoran. They are under our protection," Jaime said firmly.
"Understood. I merely found them a little curious," Amnor Sen said. "I do not know what a Ghoran is. Why would they need your protection?"
"Because Vudra is delicious," Neela said, setting her book aside. "The people of Nex view them as a delicacy."
"Oh. Well, I'm not planning on eating someone who is obviously intelligent. You have nothing to fear from us."
"That stew though…"
Jeremy stared at the small pot, his tongue running over his lips. Mia chuckled, handing him another ladleful of the stew.
"You can thank Jaime for this. He caught a brace of rabbits today."
"It is delicious," Amnor Sen said, finally eating. "So what brings such a diverse group out here?"
"Various reasons," Jaime said quickly. "Safety in numbers, and since we're all heading to Mechitar, we decided to travel together."
Jeremy dug through Amnor Sen's bag, pulling out Jakun's book.
"Neela, you seem knowledgeable. Can you tell us what you get from this book?" he asked, handing it over.
The dark skinned woman opened it, her eyes twinkling at the pages within.
"A conjuration primer, I believe. It is remarkably empty. The mage it belongs seems to be self taught, with the amount of mistakes in the magical theory, though the writing is clear. There is… residual necromantic energies in the pages, though nothing I see is responsible for that."
She looked up at Jeremy.
"What is a cleric of the Drunken God doing with a spellbook?"
"It belongs to an amurrun. We're keeping it safe for him while he moves through Mechitar."
"Shouldn't you have let him keep it?"
"The catfolk in question summoned a ravener from the book and it destroyed part of Mechitar. We thought it best he didn't retain that power," Amnor Sen pointed out.
Jaime snorted suddenly.
"Sorry, but a conjurer summoning undead to kill undead? It has a certain poetic justice, doesn't it?"
"It does, but we're trying to help him better himself. Part of that is removing the temptation," Amnor Sen replied.
"In any case, you say Mechitar was destroyed by a ravener? How bad was the damage?" Neela asked. "Also, do you mind if I copy a few of the spells in here? They would be useful to have, and I am willing to pay for them."
"I have no issue with it," Amnor Sen shrugged. "How much are spells usually?"
"Generally a hundred gold per spell copied," Mia said. "But we barely have a hundred gold between us, and we certainly do not have six hours to spend copying spells Neela."
The arcanist frowned at the cleric.
"But this summoning spell… I've never seen anything like it. It's almost… like, it's so intuitive…"
"Fifty gold and you can have the spell," Jeremy said suddenly.
Amnor Sen glanced at the human, a frown on his face.
"What? Jakun wouldn't mind, surely. Besides, we need the gold."
"I suppose you're right. Fifty gold then, and you can tell us about the Axan woods. We're heading through there, and all I've heard is not to trust the trees," Amnor Sen said.
"Do not go through the woods. The trees are angry," Vudra said quietly.
"It's not the trees you have to worry about. The wolves are the worst part. Ravenous, undead, unfeeling…" Mia shuddered.
"They died all the same," Jaime added. "Just make sure you pray for the light. Channelling positive energy may be illegal in Geb, but in the middle of woods that are trying to kill you, who cares if you throw some magic around?"
"Wait, that's illegal? No wonder we were run out of Mechitar…" Jeremy frowned as Amnor Sen accepted a small bag of coins from Neela.
"Fire worked too, but it never burned long enough. The wolves are simple enough to entangle and burn. You aren't heading in there by yourselves, are you?" the woman asked, pulling out some ink.
"No, the catfolk will be coming with us. We just had to get out of the city because the Urgathoan church was trying to kill Jeremy."
"Well… if you let me have a second spell, I can put something in the amurrun's book that might help in the woods."
"Any help you can give will be appreciated," Amnor Sen said. "I'll stand watch if you need."
"Nonsense, we're close to our journey's end and yours is just beginning. Let us take the watch this night," Mia denied. "You two sleep well. I'll make sure Neela doesn't take more than her share of spells."
"Thank you," Jeremy smiled, already pulling his blanket from his bag. "Amnor Sen, you realize this means we get to share our bed for once, right?"
"We shared it last night. Besides, I doubt these fine people want to hear that."
"Hear us cuddling?" Jeremy smirked.
The elf grunted, before moving aside. He let Jeremy drape their blanket around them, laying flat on the bed as their companions spoke in quiet whispers.
"We'll wake you early so you may be on your way," Vudra said, gazing at the two curiously. "You will not copulate?"
"Um, no…" Amnor Sen said, his ears burning at the question.
The Ghoran seemed almost sad, but nodded.
"Forgive me. I have never seen it in my lives. I was merely curious."
"We aren't really into people watching us," Jeremy added. "Still, I'm sorry we can't put on a show for you."
Amnor Sen smacked the man, Jeremy letting out a tiny ow.
"I will let you have your rest then," Vudra said, moving away.
Sighing quietly, the two snuggled in closer to each other, Jeremy soon falling asleep. Amnor Sen was not far behind.