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It takes you all the better part of the day to get the wagon finished. Sure with magic it could have been done in a quarter of the time but Cassiel would hear none of that. Preferring the “honest” ways of hard work.
By dinner time the wagon is finished with its deep flat bottom and high sides, looking like a moving crate on four rugged wheels. The driver’s seat a wide plank upon the front of the box like structure, almost like an afterthought. The long and wide yolk big enough for Stern and Hrothgard to stand side by side within? When asked what manner of horse will fit the yoke, Cassiel just chuckles and smiles, enjoying his secrets. He has packed all his earthly belongings into the wagon, as well as many specimens from his gardens.
That night you sit on the construction refuse, felled trees and stumps, and enjoy a savory stew provided by Lone Bear, laughing and enjoying your last night in the special clearing. One by one you retire to the cabin to catch some sleep, preparing yourself for the trek back to Fan Lu. Leaving at the end of the night Cassiel and Stern alone. Looking into the fire and discussing their futures together as well as the road ahead.
The dawn of your eleventh day away from Fan Lu, is bright and cheerful. You gather your gear, scarf down a quick tasteless breakfast of porridge and hard biscuits. When it comes time to leave you stand aside as Cassiel walks to the head of his wagon, to the immense yoke. He looks around at you all smiling then pulls something from a pocket of his rough traveling robes, and places this object on the ground within the yoke whispering something.
In the blink of an eye a mammoth creature stands, straining the yoke. Roughly ten feet long from its stubby tail to the viciously pointed pair of in line horns protruding from its angular head. At about six and a half feet tall at the shoulder, it is massively muscled with four stumpy legs. Its hide is smooth as finely polished marble with dark veins running through a light grey base color. It has beady bright glowing blue eyes and its dual horns are of jade intricately carved with tiny runes and chased in copper.
“Everyone, this is Stone Solid.” Cassiel laughs with a big grin, then addresses the giant marble rhino “Stone Solid, my old friend, this is everyone.” The rhino gives throaty “Chuff” of hello as Cassiel gestures at the group, before leaping sprightly for such a big man into the driver’s seat. With a slight tap of his booted foot on the rhino’s rear, the rhino chuffs again and begins plodding forward.
“First we must go to town to pick up your horses and I have some…” Cassiel pauses looking down at your astonished faces, “…I have some business to deal with.” He finishes suddenly grim, eyes forward. He starts cajoling the rhino to go faster.
You fall into step alongside the wagon, slipping easily into the distance eating gait of far travelers. In less than an hour you arrive at the gates to Tsurui Village. Cassiel takes the wagon straight into the center of the town and parks it directly in the middle of the main, and only street. He motions you to go into the inn to retrieve your horses and settle any debt for their boarding. Should only take you guys a few to gather your horses saddle up and settle yourselves before falling in line behind the wagon.
Once you are already Cassiel prods the rhino into action again plodding along through the well-kept village. By this time most if not all of the village inhabitants are out looking at the spectacle before them, and for once it is not you guys. It is Cassiel and his wagon, His rhino and his grim countenance that has them all transfixed as you near the other side of town and the gates out of Tsurui. The expressions on the townsfolk range from relief to face contorting scorn, from amusement to sorrow, and many more. Well before you reach the gates Cassiel suddenly calls for the Stone Solid to stop. Roughly in front of a larger than most home. He sits deathly still in the driver’s seat, eyes fixed ahead.
On the extended porch of this dark paneled home, stands a hunched well-dressed elderly man with a vulture like face. Bald but with large white eyebrows and a long wispy beard. The old fellow’s expression one of disgust mixed with fury. Behind this elder is another man, significantly younger, with long black hair tied back with an iron circlet. His features easily mark him as a son of the elderly man, though he stands tall in much patched ashigaru armor. A sword rests uneasily at the younger man’s hip, his right hand absently playing with the red tassel affixed to the swords pommel, his expression grim.
Behind them in the open door way, her mien inscrutable, stands an elderly woman, in fine robes, leaning on a cane watching you all like a hawk. You have the impression of others watching from the hall beyond the door and maybe from a window or two.
After a tense moment the elderly man spits on the ground, barking something in Yun Shanian.
Like a boulder suddenly freed from the top of a mountain Cassiel slides from the drivers bench like a landslide. Gliding effortlessly up the couple of steps to tower over the old man, who steps back a bit bumping into his son. The elderly man, then rally’s barking off long streams streams of obviously affronted and angry language at the towering priest. Cassiel just stands there for a moment taking it, beefy fists clenched at his sides, you can see his back moving as he is taking deep breaths.
When the agitated elder spits upon Cassiel, what happens next does so in the blink of an eye.
With one swing of his might left hand Cassiel knocks the elderly man down and back to send him sliding past his son to slam against the wooden wall of the house. Knocking the wind from the crotchety old crow and putting the fear of Cassiel into his rheumy eyes, as he lay there all disheveled and shocked.
Cassiel’s other hand shot forwards swift as a striking serpent, even as the elder was flying through the air, to catch the younger man’s hands on his sword. Crushing them in one big hand, gripping them both tight keeping the man’s blade in its sheath. To his credit the black haired fellow struggled mightily to draw his weapon, but against Cassiel he did not stand a chance. The struggling man gave up pulling his hands away and out to his sides, weaponless, eyes full of fear.
There was a commotion in the door way, a pair of young faces looking out past their grandmother to get a better view. One green eyed dark haired boy with striking Yun shanian features, the other a light to his shadow. Blonde blue eyed with pale features, features somehow familiar….
At this appearance of these boys, Cassiel straightens up, whispering to the stricken man before him something you cannot make out. The stricken man’s shoulders slump and his hands falls to his sides, fear in his eyes replaced by something else something difficult to quantify.
Cassiel slowly releases his grip on the man’s blade, stepping back for him but keeping eye contact, Cassiel’s large shoulders bulked out his chin held high as he stares down the man before him, everyone ignoring the cawing of the vulture like elder, berating everyone in sight.
Cassiel steps away and turns heading back across the porch and down the steps pausing to look back at the elderly woman in the door way. An elderly woman who is smiling gently at the departing warrior-priest. She lets one fine boned hand drop protectively across the shoulders of the blonde haired boy and silently nods to Cassiel.
Cassiel turns back face impassive as his stone rhino, remounts and without a word begins driving out of the village not looking back.
You however do get to look back at, seemingly the entire village gathered, near where you had stopped staring on in awe. You could swear you can hear the old man’s bitching long into the distance as you put the town behind you. You last look at the village, through the trees, is of the two boys standing in the road way watching you go.