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"We met in Vayentsia while I was on a ship taking me down the coast. I guess I wasn't quite remarkable enough for her to remember after all this time, but it's heartwarming to see she's kept them. The trick to getting the tint right is heating the glass before you apply the alchemical darkener, and it'll soak right through the pores that way." Glaffin is a bit put off by the sudden enthusiasm, but talking shop, especially about his preferred trades, is always a welcome distraction.
"I'm sorry to hear about your shortened education though. Such tragedies befall us all every now and then. All you can hope is that that was your last such tragedy. A few words of wisdom and comfort that my father passed to me, as we went our separate ways." Glaffin resolves to pick up some more lighthearted conversation down the road, and learn just what spells the lad can cast, so he can scribe out the divine versions for comparison.
Alec gives him a small, serious nod and motions politely to Thorus. He doesn't repeat the obvious; trying to flee again, even discounting the rope, is likely to end in arrows. Having said all he needed to say for now, he just stands and moves back a step to give the boy some breathing room.
Glaffin turns from his conversation with Indrys momentarily and nods, "Let the kid sit up, and put a foot on where the rope is knotted around his legs. He'd be hard pressed to run that way." There, he's said his piece.
Following Glaffin's suggestion, the boy was allowed to sit against the wagon, though his legs remained bound. True to his word, he didn't try to run, although Thorus standing firmly on the ends of the rope may have had something to do with that.
"Alright," the kid began, getting himself as comfortable as he could. "The broken wagon bit, that's true, only it weren't broken by itself. We got attacked by bandits. They must be hiding in the hills somewhere. We didn't have much of worth, though. They got angry..."
He was looking as though he found this extremely hard to recount.
Cecily moves closer to the boy at this point and gives him a gentle, and hopefully reassuring, smile. "Take your time. What happened then?" She hides the twinge of urgency she feels. Bandits might be nearby? There's no use rushing him, though, just as long as he keeps talking.
Like Cecily, Alec doesn't rush him. He has questions, but he'll save them for the end. They have a little time. The odds of being attacked before the end of the story seem slim to him, although it might come not long after. His guess is that the scout was extorted into checking out the caravan and reporting back, but did a particularly poor job of getting a closer look. Smart bandits would've sent someone more trustworthy to do the job, or at least to watch this youth's attempt; by now, news of his failure might be reaching the other camp. In that case, ambushing the bandits, or outright hunting them in turn, is more risky.
On the other hand, the pirate suspects that their numbers, experience, or both are on the slim side. A larger and more capable raider band wouldn't have needed a captive to do the spying (thanks to the likelihood of this very outcome). Maybe this trial can be overcome even without the advantage of surprise.
Indrys sighs, despondently. "I can only hope," he says, his head down. "I very much enjoyed my time at the University." He straightens his back and shrugs. "But we move on, and I work with the caravan now. All of the traveling from place to place is an education in its own right." He casts another glance towards the dark elf. "And, of course, I have Laelaer around. Her being here makes everything a little more tolerable." It's at about that point where the boy begins to tell his story, and Indrys has the presence of mind to stop talking and listen. When the gray elf learns that the child's wagon had been attacked by bandits, he arches an eyebrow. "If your people were assaulted," he begins, "why did you sneak into our caravan in an attempt to abscond with our goods? Why not seek help?" He narrows his eyes and crosses his arms in front of his chest. "Your reception here would have been far warmer if you had approached as a victim, and not as a thief."
Glaffin stands back, preferring to let the others do the interrogating. Bandits recruiting their victims sounds like a full pantload to him, unless they've got the kid's family held hostage to keep him compliant.
Still, the kid seems to be more fearful for his own life than for others. It's definitely a hard thing to crack.
Laelaer stands back as well and reluctantly sheathes her rapier. The boy wasn't going anywhere anytime soon, and even if he did try to run again, she really wasn't going to try to run him through. Although if he kept refusing to answer their questions, the drowess may reconsider that. It was annoying her terribly.
"Aye," Thorus says, in agreement with Indrys. He thumbs his nose and sniffles. "Where was yer caravan when it was attacked? And when? Those bandits could've stuck around, maybe still lurkin' nearby." Thorus was aware that the boy might find this sentiment distressing, but he didn't particularly care.
"The beauty of a living thing is not the atoms that go into it, but the way those atoms are put together." - Carl Sagan
Grimness comes to Alec's expression, less because of what was said than of what wasn't. Very little mention of the rest of this group, presumably still in the hands of the bandits. Unless they're already dead, his friends don't seem to concern the boy so long as he keeps his own health. He comes off as cowardly rather than mundanely selfish. Someone should do him a favor and fix that.
"What was supposed to happen, if you found us and this went according to plan? We need to know their numbers, too."
So the road to Seabreak is set for an ambush then. Glaffin scowls for the first time since the boy was caught, considering things carefully. Skirting around the bandits would be impossble if they were watching the road from the hills, at least without knowing their exact locations. Turning around and heading back to Ferrum would be a waste of time and resources, even if they could convince guards in the city to help deal with bandits this far out.
More thoughts come to his mind. Why have there been no reports of highwaymen come back? It's either because the bandits are too new to the area or they were good enough that there was no one surviving to tell of the attacks. If it was the latter, it wouldn't be long before people in Seabreak or Ferrum became suspicious of missing cargo and merchants.
"How far is it from here to where you were ambushed?" Glaffin still doesn't quite believe the kid's story about not being one of the bandits, even if he might be a conscripted one. They wouldn't trust him not to run away on a duty like this unless they had some hold over him besides a fear for his life.
"Not far. Five or ten minutes, maybe? Took me longer on foot, but you have horses." The boy shuffled to one side, adjusting his seated position in an effort to get more comfortable. Now that the immediate threat of death had vanished along with Laelar's rapier, he seemed more compliant, and less terrified. "I was supposed to draw off the guards, seperate you so it was easier for them. There's not a lot of them. Twenty, maybe? I guess one of you saw me before I was ready, though..."
"Quite right, we did!" Put in Willam, silent until now listening to the boy's story. "Good thing too, aye? Lead us right into a trap, you would have. Well, I'll have none of that. Nobody makes a fool of Willam Tallhelm, you'll see!"
The master of the caravan had begun pacing back and forth, waving his hands and apparently thinking out loud. "Twenty bandits. We're sure to outnumber them there... maybe we ought to clear them out, make the roads a bit safer. The villagers in Seabreak would be grateful, I'm sure..."
On one hand, this is something Alec thinks the nearby town should have to deal with. If they want to continue enjoying land trade and travel, anyway. Fixing their problem for them won't encourage better control of the surrounding region. That said, he and the others have clearly come across the highway robbers for a reason. He cannot ignore an obvious trial.
"Very grateful, I'm sure. You could retell the story in detail while we set up the wares. I'll be surprised if this doesn't draw a crowd, ready to buy." He adjusts his sword belt, then raises one index finger. "Even so, I would send a scout to confirm what we know. No offense to you, boy, but your trustworthiness isn't as solid as it could be."
"We'd be better served to rush through them assuming they haven't barricaded the roads or dug pitfalls for the horses. No offense meant to you or your guards Sir Tallhelm, but I don't trust the kid's estimates, even if his tongue isn't lying. If we have to fight, we'll be ready for it, but this is a task for the guards of Seabreak, not us. Just think of the riveting tale of a running battle you can tell later, if nothing else." It may not be very heroic, but Glaffin thinks this way would save the lives of the guards that likely didn't sign up to be bandit killers.
"We should be careful. The last thing we want is to lose someone when we have other options." Cecily speaks up, clearly directing her comment toward Tallhelm foremost. "And yes, a couple of us should definitely look ahead." She looks toward the others. Being stealthy isn't exactly within her talents.
Indrys listens to the others, a hand cupped under his chin, pondering. When a few of them have had their say, he feels compelled to speak up on a subject he feels may have been forgotten. "Are we taking into consideration the possibility that the bandits have taken this boy's people hostage?" he asks, raising the hand in an inquisitive gesture. "If we do decide to assault their fortifications, they may threaten to slaughter their captives if we do not stay our retribution." He looks at the others, his amber eyes glinting brightly in the sun. "Do not misunderstand me, I am as eager as the rest of you to see justice done, here. Banditry must be punished, and refusing to do so would only encourage them to continue their predation of the honest merchants that travel these routes. But if we pursue a course of action, we have to be cognizant of the fact that we'll be placing the lives of others at risk of premature cessation." He sighs, then, and shrugs his sloping shoulders. "If we choose to take responsibility for the bandits, we must also take responsibility for their unfortunate victims." He looks at the child and shakes his head. "I truly wish you'd come with honest intent."
Thorus strokes his chin in a manner he hoped was thoughtful, listening to the others. "I say we send a scout ahead to see what's up. If there's bandits in the way, we take care of 'em. If there ain't, then they ain't our problem. This caravan doesn't need to go wanderin' off into the wilderness sniffin' out every foul odor."
"The beauty of a living thing is not the atoms that go into it, but the way those atoms are put together." - Carl Sagan
"Excellent plan," Tallhelm concluded. "And of course, there is the threat of hostages. Not that I didn't think of that, but yes, very good point. Where's Dayne got to? He'd make a good scout, I think."
The caravan owner began to head in the direction of the copse, then paused. "Oh, umm, would you be so kind as to find somewhere to put our young friend? Don't, you know, untie him or anything. I'm not about to leave him here, but I'm not taking risks with my wares, either."
The boy in question had gone silent again, seeming none too comfortable with the things being said.
The ropes in their current tangled state don't seem too tough to escape if given enough time, so Alec sits down by their prisoner to unravel the pile and bind him again. He isn't cruel about it; lashing the boy's hands together and later tying the other end to a beam somewhere should be sufficient without needing to wrap him head to foot. While he works, he asks another question.
"We've assumed that the bandits took everyone else in your wagon, but you haven't mentioned it much. Did they? Do they have your friends or family?"
Glaffin grumbles under his breath a bit as he sees Alec appropriate his rope. That was good rope! His only coil too.
"I'd better be getting that rope back, or at least be reimbursed for it if the kid manages to break it trying to escape again. That reminds me, we should take any knives he's got on him before he gets any ideas." Whether ones for escape or otherwise. Assuming there's no protest from either the boy or the others, Glaffin will grab the knife that it was mentioned the kid had in plain view. He'll leave it to the others to pat him down for any more weapons, if they care to.
While ALec worked with the ropes, the boy hung his head. He wasn't resisting, though he squirmed a bit when Glaffin took his knife. "I was travelling with friends. I don't know what's happened to them. Two of them."
"You don't know?" he repeats with some confusion. "Were you separated? Did the bandits not capture them as well?" Alec works quickly with the ropes and does a pretty decent job; must be his sailor's background. Or maybe he's done this kind of thing before.
"The more you can tell us, the better chance we have of saving them. Please be clear."
"Seperated. Bandits got them too, but I dunno where they got sent. They got a camp. The bandits, I mean." Alec's rope work was solid, the knots well secured. It was unlikely, he thought, that the boy would be able to escape, whether he tried or not.
Alec just nods, with most of his attention on the knots. He isn't sure he trusts the boy (well, he doesn't trust him in the overall sense anyway, but his individual claims feel just a hint shaky too). Still, he probably isn't a threat now, other than as a source of potentially faulty information. Perhaps, Alec thinks, he'll be more than that if he gets the right sort of help. To do that, the pirate would first need to find the other two captives and have a chat with them.
"We'll do what we can," he finally says. He helps the boy up to his feet. "Come on. Let's find somewhere safe to put you while we sort this out."
He's open to suggestions, if anyone offers them, but if left to his own devices, Alec will look for a wagon without anything sharp inside it and tie the rest of the rope to a secure interior beam or fixture. Failing that, he'll lead the prisoner over to the trees and do it there. Either way would give him some shade, but the second is a last resort because Alec would prefer not putting him so close to a convenient horse.
Glaffin mulls over the new information, "If they've got a camp, they'll be much harder to rout than just twenty loose bandits. There would be scouts posted, probably some way of defending it too even if it is just a few tents lashed up. This is looking like a much larger problem than some new bandits." Any camp they'd have would be far enough away from the road that their cook fires couldn't be seen, and both leaving the caravan for long enough to find the bandits or taking the entire thing over hills and off roads aren't real options.
"If we get attacked, we should deal with them as we can, but I can't say I approve of going after them when we don't know what we're getting into."
Upon his return, Alec frowns at the suggestion. So many people want to avoid clear opportunities like this. The pain and peril that ride hand-in-hand with growth frighten off all but a few. It's a real pity.
"Our decision should depend on the scout's report, first of all," he recommends. Not that his own feelings are likely to change, unless the bandits are truly beyond their capabilities. "But I suspect we had better be on the offensive. The highwaymen know we're here; unless they're frightened of our numbers, they're almost certain to attack. If we wait for them, they'll choose the site of engagement and the arrangement of the battle. I would much rather catch them in their camp. If even a few of them aren't yet combat-ready, we'll be better off than otherwise. They also aren't likely to be mounted this way."