After properly greeting my long-time quill-companion, Hraela saw fit to sheathe her "practice" longsword and take her seat at the far end of the wagon once more. Though even now, she does not seem very pleased with Elrusyo's presence or continued antics. I find that he is a decent fellow in person, however. We are kindred spirits, after a fashion, with both of us sharing a deep and motivating feeling of frustration with our respective worlds. For Elrusyo, it is the deeply entrenched practices and beliefs which define the use of the supernatural, as well as superstitions and prejudices against it, ultimately resulting in an environment in which an intrinsic and integral part of the world is misunderstood, and access to knowledge of it is limited at best. For me, it is the simultaneous denial and hoarding of more mundane or secular knowledge by certain bureaucratized places of learning.
Hraela does raise a valid question however, breaking the silence which Ciudo and Sarq were awkwardly contributing to for the past several moments. She draws enough of Elrusyo's attention in fact that I have now returned to writing, though now with my off-hand, and a bit more discreetly.¹ Hraela asks how he boarded the wagon unnoticed, why he did so, and what exactly he plans to do now that he's joined us- she could be practicing the flick-release execution of a ranged murder-stroke under the tutelage of her master instead, and she will not have this expedition derailed by witch-men with affectations.
Elrusyo blinks at her, and is silent for a moment. Then he bows his head in acquiescence, but comes back up smiling again in a moment before looking the three of my associates over curiously.
"Oh, she's spirited, 'Ber. You picked your muscle well. I doubt she's the doctor, though. Something about her makes me think she is lacking in... bedside manner." He raises both hands up with flat palms in deference as she once again grips her sword. Now his staff is resting across his front, iron cap glinting dully in the sunlight as we shudder slowly onward. Fortunately our delay did not leave us more than a few moments behind the rest of the caravan.
"Sorry, sorry. But that is why I am here, at least in part. To know that once you've left my territory, you won't be forging headlong over a precipice made slick with blood, tears, and piss. At least, not without someone who can adequately patch you up. Which one of you is the team's medic- this so-called "botanist" among you?" Gradually Elrusyo's tone turns from smalmed and casual to one that is quite serious as he speaks, and his vaguely owl-like eyebrows arch and contort to go along with it. It is enough that, in addition to looking to Sarq, they slightly shift along the bench away from him in either direction. He swallows and hesitantly raises two fingers into the air.
Elrusyo smiles, but doesn't look any less sharp and serious for it.
"Ah! Hello there. Sarq, was it? I understand that all of you have been able to take academic leave because of your outstanding marks back home- is that correct?" Sarq nods without a word.
"Splendid!" He raps his stick on the floor once.
"Well, I have my own exam prepared just for you, and just between you and me, I think it will be a cut above the material they've drilled you on, up in that dingy little glorified steeple of yours. Let's begin now, shall we...?"
¹ It is a little-known fact that, despite the huge amounts of red tape surrounding the veneration or even mention of Dherna in Deneroth, the publicly-available resources used to identify and ferret out potential worshipers of the goddess of confessions and secrets include a wealth of information on how to mimic the high-speed and shorthand writing styles of ordained Guilt-Takers. I quite enjoy it, though it does make sharing rough notes challenging when most other readers can't make front or back of it.