Brogan looked around thinking about recent proposals for the Forest Folk home. The Briars was a good place, out of the way ...quiet. The fellow had some good ideas about better using the space and creating a common area that would still be secure. Brogan walked the grounds with the fellow.... listening. There was a lot of potential to be worked into bringing more strength to the province, more strength to bear against the torment.
Removing some of the briars would be a good start. He paced the length of the area to be cleared and tried to estimate the man hours involved. He would make some pickaxes and shovels hatchets and grubbing hooks. This would be many days work for one man. Brogan would set the trail sign to indicate to likeminded folk of the forest that there was a need for a work gathering and those of like mind that could read the sign would seek him out to know of the time and day and nature of the work.
It would be like many good days he remembered from back home when the folk gathered to work together as one to accomplish much more than they possibly could separately, even with much greater time and effort. It would be like the gatherings of home first work hard then play harder. There would be much food and drink then the bonfire and dancing.
He pulled out his flute and played a cheery tune as he thought of better days when he was at her side for the dancing.
He headed off into the briars walking all the trails still playing the tune and leaving the trail signs at the places the folk would know. He found himself sitting on that log looking into the mountain spring pool. He sat there a long while remembering. He looked all around and up rubbing his chest and throat then got up and ran off to the south.
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A figure stole into the night, paying as much attention to their surroundings as they did with the suitcase in their possession. The nonstop colorful shades from gypsy lanterns paved the way towards the lounge just across from the only tavern there. However, the hand froze mere inches from the latch when the sound from inside poured from the wooden door. The silhouette pressed an ear against it, determining they came from an animated female voice interspersing chatter with muffled moaning. They sighed under their breath before opening the door.
"Dig it in there, right there!", Nivellen giggled, watching her bare feet on Maximus lap. The blonde pressed the round bones close to her toes, both of them comfortably settled on fluffy pillows on the floor. "Trevor, lad, come on in!".
"Good evening", Trevor nodded, pressing a pair of eyeglasses closer to his nose once he cast his hood down. The new arrival chose a yellow pillow across from the pair after a moment's indecision. He kept his appraising look on the other two, displaying a frown so characteristic it was difficult to imagine him without it.
"Oh, cut us some slack, will you? It's such a fucking long trip!", she made a face, still letting Maximus work on her sweaty feet. "You have it easy, you hang around here all the time".
"I love the smell of this place! It's so...spicy!", the blonde Athaerian inhaled, puffing his chest just to make the buttons on his shirt work even harder.
"We might as well do the split while no one else is here".
"Okay, fine", she pulled her feet and sat cross-legged, reaching for a heavy bag. Maximus followed suit.
"We can spread them over here", Trevor suggested, pouring the contents of his suitcase on the carpet. They nodded, and soon everyone was counting silver from one week's worth of sales.
"Any news?", Maximus asked, focused on the scattered coins that went into ten-piece piles.
"Not much", Trevor shook his head. "We basically have one active competitor in here, but business has been flowing nonetheless".
"Oh, I have something", she said in the far northern language, making both men simultaneously raise their glances and stop counting. "I've spoken a few times with a man that had me thinking lately".
"Can you tell us more?", Trevor said, scratching his hand distractedly.
"Well, his name is, erm, Breegan? Bogart? I can never remember", she smirked, playing with her ponytail. "Anyway, a few days ago there were a few signs over the valley, not many people could tell up from down".
"What sort of signs?", the oddities' tradesman asked.
"Drawings, mostly, but they were peculiar and very familiar to knowledge preceding the Angel God conquerors".
"Hey, I saw one or two!", Maximus said loudly, shifting on his pillow. "Did you follow the trail?".
"Yeah, and that's the point: this man had arranged a gathering of sorts to clear a wide patch of all manner of thorns, bushes and briars. So, you'll understand when I say I have a gut feeling about someone who has odd symbols leading to someplace away from Republican eyes, right in the middle of blooming nature".
"So you think he's like you?", Trevor asked, a hand over his chin.
"I have no idea. If he is, he's been very cautious and I can't say anything for sure", she shrugged. "I don't think he's like you, and Maxi's talents don't seem to fit him either. But frankly, I don't know".
"Oh, one more thing", she smirked and shifted to face Maximus. "Know that guy who came for the bowstrings?".
"Well, Jakell was there in that gathering too. I pulled him aside today and asked how he knew how to read the trail", she twisted a finger into her hair, focusing on her words. "His explanation involved his curiosity and a desire to solve puzzles, but I don't know".
"He actually asked me out for a drink", Maximus unleashed the slaying smile that earned him sales and action.
"I know, honey! What do you think?".
"I don't know, he's pretty young, ain't he?".
"Sure is, but for what he told me, he has some baggage despite it. Might be a little confused, though", she pursed her lips. "He told me he likes men, but he's with some woman now that dumped him in the past".
"Ahem", Trevor coughed politely.
"Oh, you're gonna say that doesn't leave you at least a bit curious at all?".
"Not in the slightest", Trevor added, plain.
"You're so boring, Trevor", she smiled apologetically, "we'd have dumped you already if you weren't so fucking intelligent".
"Back to counting, then".
They split everything into piles and each got their equal share of the week's earnings. Maximus left a peck on Nivellen's cheek before taking his leave, and Trevor had already packed his suitcase.
"One more thing, dear", she said as he prepared to rise.
"I need your eyes", a bent smirk appeared on her lips. His frown dug deeper in his forehead.
"What do you mean?".
She tossed a folded newspaper square on his lap, followed by another printed in darker hues.
"Read them for me?".
"My usual fee applies", he nudged his glasses again.
"Ain't you a peach. Your coins are inside the cover, sweetie. Now go on", she leaned backwards, resting her head on her crossed fingers.