The King's Road to Ebonrock- a week later
The land northwest of Excelsior is lush forests and green fertile farmland. As far as the eye could see it was evident the wealth and power of the Human Kingdom were great. Truly worth all the renown and influence the King and his family had earned through their long reign. But like any great land their borders come to an end and the unstoppable beauty of nature takes back over.
Once you step from the stone road you fall into the wild no-man's land where the claims of Human Lords and Dwarven Elders are often in dispute with each other. Settled in courts, or in the dueling fields, luckily very little open combat comes from the disagreements. Though not unheard of it still pays for travelers to keep close attention on their surroundings. It was just before dawn and a small smouldering fire was slowly being brought back to life by Dire. Sabin and Guk-Guk have barely left each other's sides since they left the Human capital. They both missed Galmied terribly and the old Orc was happy to let them comfort each other. Right now they were cuddling in Sabin's bedroll next to the fire snoozing quietly in each other's arms. The former merc let out a quiet laugh once the fire was back to full, tossing a few hefty logs into the reborn blaze he stood up and left the two females to sleep a bit longer. There was a stream a short walk away and the Orc could use a quick wash, his people were an interesting breed. They didn't get dirty often, they sweated sure, but their bodies are generally hairless and all the dirt and such just kind of sloshed off with a dry towel.
But he liked feeling the cool water on his skin and scrubbing some of the road dirt off. Bringing just his sword he moved to the creek. The grass was slick with dew, and he partially walked partially slid down the small slope nearly sailing into the water before he wanted to. But using the sword as an anchor he saved himself and stripped down leaving his pants and boots besides the large saber in the grass. He didn't have any soap, but as he slipped into the water using some rough grass to scrub himself clean with.
-Back at camp-
Guk-Guk mumbled softly the front of Sabin's shirt was in her mouth. Sometime in the night her surrogate mother's blouse had replaced Lil-Bone's arm in the child mouth. It left her mouth very dry and soon it woke the child up and caused her to cough gently. Rolling her back to the Dark Elf, the half-breed looked tiredly around yawning cutely.
"Where Ganpa go?" She asked herself wiggling free of Sabin's still sleeping form and crawling across to her little backpack for her water skin. It was made of a yellow leather and she had attached some flowers and shiny stones to it for decoration.
She let out a full-body shiver as her exposed skin was assaulted by the cold. On the road Saba and Ganpa had told her to dress warmly at all times even when sleeping. But the morning was colder than normal even through the fur-lined pants and jacket she was wearing. Once she reached her bag she quickly slid her cold toes into her boots and wrapped her bear skin cape around her shoulders lifting the water skin to her lips and drinking deep. She swished the cold liquid around her cheeks for a bit before she spat it back at the road. That washed the cotton off her tongue, now she just needed a normal drink. She took another swig, but stopped halfway as she began to hear music in the air. At first it was soft, but soon it grew steadily louder as if someone was walking towards them playing it. She swallowed the water and gently placed the waterskin down her head tilting lightly trying to pinpoint the music.
Picking up Bonk-Bonk and stuffing Lil' Bone down the front of her jacket so just his little head was poking out. The girl began following the enchanting sound as if under some kind of spell. She knew Mama Saba and Ganpa would be mad at her for wandering off, but she simply needed to know where the music was coming from. She reached the road and decided it was coming from the East, back towards Excelsior. Her little heart quivered as she stepped onto the stone road by herself, she took one more glance back at the still sleeping Sabin then shouldered her impressive little hammer and puffed out her developing chest. If she was gonna be a tough independent warrior like Mama Saba, she'd need to learn to handle mysteries herself! Taking up a steady confident stride the girl followed the music.
After what she'd guess would be a five minute walk Guk-Guk found the source of the enchanting music. A beautiful pink skinned, woman who kind of looked like Miss Shani was seated by her own large fire strumming gently along her lute. Guk-Guk could tell she was a Bard, they came to Sŕmhach a lot on their ways around the highlands. Being able to play music always astonished the little girl, she tried a few times, but her hands and claws were too tough and sharp. Eventually the Bards got annoyed with her always accidentally cutting their strings. So like many of the kids in the small village she just sat on the floor around them and listened to their songs and stories while the grown-ups tossed coins into a jar or hat for the Bard's tips.
There weren't any bushes to hide in so Guk-Guk simply hefted her hammer and watched from the road trying to look tough. The woman didn't notice the girl at first, but as she finished her song and opened her eyes she looked at the Goblin girl and smiled.
"Well hello there little cutie."
Guk-Guk still trying to look tough thumped her narrow chest proudly.
"I'm no cutie, I'm Guk-Guk, fierce Goblin Berserker like Ganpa Dire!"
The woman let out a merry ringing laugh placing her lute down and sitting forward watching the girl amused.
"Oh really! I didn't know there was a single Goblin berseker around here let alone two! I bet your Ganpa is proud of you being a warrior like him!"
Guk-Guk pouted a little.
"No I'm Goblin, Ganpa is Orc. Him big and scary! What is your name?"
The woman giggled again covering her mouth. It wasn't often she met people on these roads this early, it generally why she liked traveling so early. But never had she met a little Goblin child walking alone claiming to be a warrior and having an Orc as a Grandfather.
"I'm Aziara Nightsong the Tiefling what are you doing walking around this early by yourself Guk-Guk?"
Guk-Guk tried to wrap her mouth around the woman's name.
"Az....Azi...Azziia Ni...sung? And Guk-Guk follow music, it nice, but you might wake up Mama Saba. She been sad since Uncle Gemmy got stolen by evil witch and she needs her sleep. You wake Guk-Guk, you wake Mama Saba."
The girl continued to amuse Aziara and now the girl had a mother and a grandfather she has left, most likely without telling them first. These roads were dangerous at any time of day, and as formidable as the girl's hammer looked it would probably be best if she kept an eye on her until her family came looking for her.
"You can call me Az, hey why don't you come join me. I have some sweet meat here, and you look quiet hungry my little warrior."
Guk-Guk's eyes narrowed and she gripped her hammer more firmly. Both Mama and Ganpa had grilled it into her mind never accept things from strangers no matter what they looked like. She has heard of Az's race too, Tieflings were uncommon visitors to Sŕmhach, but many of the townsfolk trusted them even less than they did Guk-Guk and Papa Bone. They were half-demons or something, and while Guk had never seen a Demon she's heard about them and Papa said they're tough to chew and always taste burnt. She shook her head staying on the road.
"No Mama said never trust strangers, she Assassins she know these things."
The woman laughed nodding her head and holding her hands up. At the least she might be able to keep the girl from wandering off more.
"Very well, but at least get off the road, horses and carriages can come thundering down this road at anytime. I'm sure your Ganpa and Mama wouldn't want you to get squashed would they? Is your Mama a Goblin or an Orc?"
The girl tried to think of a good reason to say no, she even partially opened her mouth to speak. But no idea came so she did as the pink woman bid and stepped up onto the grass and sat down a few feet from it watching the Bard closely as if her question was silly. As far as Guk-Guk knew or cared her mama was world famous and everyone should know what she is.
"Heh no! Mama Saba Dark Elf, and Uncle Gemmy Snow Elf, he's bigger than Ganpa, but blue and less scary."
Az chuckled lightly picking up her things and going to join the girl on the grass being sure to keep eight feet between them so the child wouldn't get scared off.
"Really, and may I ask how a tough Goblin Berserker like you gets an Orc for a Grandpa, a Dark Elf for a mother, and a Snow Elf for an Uncle?" In her many travels she's heard of some pretty wild half-breeds and mixed offspring, but what little Guk-Guk was describing sounded more fiction than fact. Maybe she was an orphan and was making things up? If so that was a very sad truth, and maybe she could convince the girl to journey with her to the Dwarf mining town of Shatterspear where she could hopefully find a home for the kid.
Guk-Guk placed her hammer in her lap and pulled Lil' Bone out of her jacket and made him sit on the hammerhead so he could watch the Tiefling, she even made the stuffed toy cross it's arms before she crossed her own. "Well only Ganpa Dire is really related to me, I'm half-Goblin, half-Orc. But Mama Saba and Uncle Gemmy adopted me and let Ganpa come along to help them save the world!"
Az chuckled laying her cheek in her hand.
"Well that makes sense, I bet they love you tons right?"
"Duh, they save Guk-Guk from evil Elf Witch...well them and Papa Bone."
Another relative, Az could only imagine what "Papa Bone" was.
"An evil Elf witch huh, sounds like a story I heard as a girl. And let me guess Papa Bone is a... Lizardman?"
Guk-Guk laughed at the woman's guess.
"No, Papa Bone is...Papa Bone! I don't really know what race he is. I think Ganpa called him an...O...Ogre."
The Bard's eyes shot open in surprise. An Ogre? They weren't exactly known for being good parents especially to other races. More often than not Az heard they eat children. But she had the girl talking and staying in one place. She just hoped the Mother or Grandfather showed up to collect the girl and not the father.
"Wow you have quite the family Guk-Guk, and who is your little friend there?" She pointed to the stuff toy who had slumped over onto it's side with the arms still crossed.
The Goblin sighed as she looked at her toy shaking her head at his sillyness.
"That's Lil' Bone, he not much a morning person. But he be sad if I leave him allalone, Papa made him to look like him so I could always have my Papa around to protect me." She reached up and grabbed Lil'Bone tucking him back into her jacket and tucking his little head some inside so he could go back to sleep.
Az couldn't break the smile off her face at this charming little girl. The woman picked up her lute and began strumming it.
"Well how about I play him a little lullaby so he can go to sleep better? Think he'll like that?"
The girl nodded slowly kissing the toy's head before moving it so the spot where he'd have an ear was aimed at the Tiefling.
"Yea, he would just real quiet still don't want Mama to wake up, okkies?"
Aziara nodded and began strumming a very soft song. Her lips moving with the words Between the here, between the now, it was a lovely song and little Guk-Guk even felt herself beginning to fall back asleep as the beautiful woman played.