United once more, the two companions marched down the dusty path, heading south towards the kingdom of Neptos, known as the Great Western Kingdom of the Crossrealms.
According to the map, Eve would have to keep heading south and pass through two of those towns before she could reach Praedo’s castle.
“Shouldn’t take more than a few days,” she assured Dago, “though I’m not sure how people will react when they see you walking down the road with me.”
Dago snuffed, showing as much concern as any wolf does about what others think of him.
Now the bluffs began to diminish into rolling hills. Dandelions and clover spread from the roadside throughout the gentle hills, whose grass was beginning to turn from its rich green to a crisp golden with the growing autumn. To her right, just off of the road, stood a firm wooden signpost, with two wooden planks in the shape of arrows nailed to it. One of these arrows pointed to where Eve had come from, with “Lakerun” painted on its surface. The other pointed forward, towards the rolling hills, and read, “Pelagica”. Eve looked down at her map and, sure enough, Pelagica was the first town of Neptos they would have to cross.
They continued on their way down the dirt road, which lead them up and down the little hills of long grass and dandelions. Eve found some wood sorrel plants along the way, which she promptly made a snack of, chewing on the sour leaves as she walked. She was especially delighted to see clusters of clouds beginning to roll in, shading them from the blazing sun, and a cool breeze blew across her face and through her hair.
“Perfect,” Eve sighed with satisfaction.
What started as a pleasant break from the sun soon turned into the roar of a thunderstorm, and Eve was beaming from ear to ear.
“Run with me, Dago.”
With that, she took off, running through the downpour. Dago kept up beside her, never faltering from her side as she ran through puddles and soaked in the cool droplets as they rushed against her.
Remembering the supplies strapped to her back, Eve realized that she would need to find shelter, and soon. Moving quickly, she pulled the old cloak from her bag and swept it over her shoulders, finally pulling the hood over her face. It smelt of smoke from a dozen fires in the wilderness, the grass it had been spread across dozens of times on starry nights. Lightning flashed in the clouds, followed by the echo of thunder.
Unfortunately, Eve feared that the storm would mean a delay in her journey. The rain did not seem to be stopping any time soon, and there were the supplies in her bag to be thinking about. She looked down at Dago, who followed beside her just as diligently as ever, though his eyes were squinted against the rain, and he flinched at the sound of the thunder.
They didn’t stop, Eve kept her eyes open for a dry place to rest. Before long, she caught sight of what she thought might be a tower of some sort. It was difficult to see at first, as it was surrounded by trees, but as Eve drew nearer and nearer she realized that it was, in fact, a watchtower, or the remains of one. Quickly, to preserve the goods and her health, Eve sprinted towards the tower. The door was wide open. After Dago followed in after her, Eve quickly shut them in.
The inside smelled of wet wolf hair and soot, and the main source of what little light there was consisted of a narrow shaft of sunlight that came in through a thin hole in the wall that served as a window, though another such window provided a small bit of illumination against what appeared to be stone stairs leading up to the top of the tower. Spotting a fireplace, Eve made to retrieve the flint from her satchel.
“Ah, good! You both made it!” a hoarse, creaky voice exclaimed from the shadows. Eve sprang to her feet and drew her father’s sword, holding it towards the darkness. Something by the stairs caught her eye, so she looked and there, standing in the light of the upper window, was the form of Nicodemus. The light from the window illuminated half of his kind, smiling face, which looked down at Eve with joy. “It is almost time for some food, ey?”
With a relieved groan, Eve sheathed the sword.
“You scared me to death!”
Nicodemus laughed, “Me? You are the one whipping great big swords out and pointing them at helpless old men!”
They both laughed and Eve got started on building a fire. Nicodemus provided dry wood and kindling, and Eve lit it all ablaze. The light of the fire shone on the walls and revealed two old chairs and a creaky wooden table. Atop the table, however, Eve was surprised to see a pot of stew, already steaming, as well as a single goblet, some bowls and spoons, and what appeared to be a full pitcher of some liquid. She could smell cheese, vegetables, and beef. Her stomach moaned in desire.
“I hear you, child,” Nicodemus chuckled behind her, “answer your pleas and sit down!"
Eve hesitated, only to have Nicodemus’s staff poking into her back until she moved. She looked at all that was before her, it wasn’t much aside from the pot of soup, the bowls, and utensils. Yet the smell of the food danced in and out of Eve’s head, she felt ready to eat the entire pot.