By the time they’d made it back to the cave and canceled the spells they were both exhausted. As the excitement of the trip drained away, Mat realized just how weary he was, not only their excursion and the walking but from the residual shock from their first encounter. Their bodies ached and his magic stores were low; still he forced himself to use a little more mana to reseal the cave. He was hyper careful at this point. When Mat eventually lumbered in, he found Devon already snoring, asleep in his spot by their fire. Mat laid down and was unconscious before he realized his head had hit the pillow.
The next morning when Mat awoke he could immediately tell things had changed with Devon. The entire cave was clean and packed, and something was cooking on the fire. Sitting up, he took a long hungry sniff, “I know what that smells like, but what is it really?”
“A herd of pigs came by this morning. One was wounded and the pack was leaving it behind. I saved it from the predators, butchered it and cooked it. Plus, I found eggs. We have real food. I’m sick of that shit, and as you said, we've gotta start doing this.” Holding out his hand at the feast, “How’s this for a start?”
“You butchered a pig? That means you killed it?”
“Yes, I did both, like I said it was wounded, it had a broken leg so killing it was more of a mercy thing than a hunger thing. Breakfast was the result of a kind act and not the other way around.”
“Fucking fantastic. I don’t care if it gets me bacon…” looking around the cave, “…and the cave is clean. If I’d know this would happen I would’ve let you be attacked by goblins sooner,” commented Mat as he scratched his balls and sat down beside the fire.
Wrinkling his nose, “Um...I hope you’re going to wash that hand now. I don’t want you bringing that sweaty thing anywhere near my food.”
Looking down sniffing, then making a face, “Ok, yea I could probably use a bath.” He ran over and jumped in the pool and took a quick rinse under the waterfall. “I’m going to miss this place.”
“We have the door, so I doubt we’ll be missing it.”
“Yea the real trick is finding a place to put the thing that we know is safe.”
“We’ll figure it out.”
After they’d finished breakfast and had the supplies and extra meat packed in Mat’s bag, they bid farewell to the cave and headed out into the grasslands in search of their futures. Devon remembering what Mat had said earlier, turned and looked back at the cave, “That was our first home. If for no other reason than the sentimental value I’m glad we can keep it.”
“Yea, it’ll be a safe place. I wonder if they mean it’s ours forever, I don’t know how expansion works on this world, but then it’s part of the mountain, so I guess there isn’t much they can do to it. We’ll come back and check on it from time to time, but I have a feeling we won’t be thinking of this cave much anymore. There's a whole world out there.”
Devon pulled his pack up onto his shoulders, “Well then let’s go find it.”
Their first day’s trek from the cave proved uneventful. They camped that night, cooked some of the leftover meat and then passed out from exhaustion. It didn't take them long to realize that not only were they unprepared magically, but that questing, or this world in general, was going to require physical stamina they didn’t have. With each step they took away from their cave, the more they learned how unprepared they were. They slept fitfully that night. With no walls around them and memories of their last trip, neither got much rest. It wasn't until a couple of hours after taking watch that Mat realized they could use Darth as a guard; this was the bat’s time of the day. Mat summoned him over, gave him instructions and settled down. The following morning when they awoke, they found the familiar sitting on the ground picking at the remains of some long-toothed rodent with six legs. Looking up, “It tried to invade, Master, so Darth ate it.” Devon liked how the bat always referred to himself by his name. He wasn't sure if that was training, preference or ego, but he thought it was cute.
Still half-asleep they were packed and on the road shortly after the sun began to rise. Still tired Devon watched as the golden light of morning began to light the plains as storm clouds drifted in from the way they came. The landscape hadn’t changed much during the last few days. Other than grassland the only sights were a small wooded area as wide as the eye could see and about a mile deep. An hour into the trip they started to notice the first signs of civilization. They crested a ridge and off in the distance was a small fenced-in shack with a sad garden beside it. The owner, if that’s what you wanted to call him, was tending the plants as a female pulled water from a small well. Both stopped when they saw the two strangers. Devon nodded and the man nodded back and offered what Devon could only assume was a slight smile. As Devon watched the farmer, Mat tapped him on the shoulder and pointed to the other side of the field. “Is that what constitutes a road, you think?”
Looking up, then behind them, “We better hope it is, those clouds don’t look good. We might be finishing this journey in the rain if we don’t hurry.”
They started towards the road and followed it for another hour before topping yet another hill; the land was no longer flat like before. Down below, spread out in the valley, was a village. It looked like it should’ve been in a video game or fantasy movie. Neither could hide their excitement. The buildings were set in a maze of roads, surrounded by a stone wall. The whole town was encircled by small farms and outbuildings. The town itself varied from single to multi-story, all barely looking robust enough to hold themselves up. In the center were several large cathedral looking structures. The entire village was abuzz with citizens traveling in and out the main gates. “This is what I’m talking about,” announced Matsugo.
“Amen brother Matsugo. Let's get down there and see what happens next.”
Just as they stepped off the hill, it started to rain. Not a quaint little spring rain but a full-on gully washer. “Great, you just had to ask what will happen next,” said Mat as they picked up their pace. By the time they made it to the village they were completely drenched. As they tried to race through the gates, a guard stopped them as he too tried to stay out of the rain. Halt...who goes there?”
“Really, they ask that?” said Mat to his friend. Devon just shrugged. Turning to the guard presenting his best smile, Mat answered, “We’re just travelers, new to this area, trying to get out of the rain and find a decent inn for the night. Any suggestions?”
“You’re travelers, excellent, welcome to Yalum. As for an Inn, I’d suggest “The Dancing Hobbit” it’s probably the best in the city. If you need something a bit cheaper try “Knife in the back” but as you can imagine, it’s not the safest of places.”
“Yea, no... though they get points for truth in advertising,” said Mat. “Thanks for the information. Can you point us to The Dancing Hobbit?”
Laughing, the guard added, “You do have to give em that. As for The Hobbit, go down the main street here and take the third left, you’ll see it halfway down. There’ll be a sign with a dancing hobbit on it.” The guard laughed again pulling his cloak closer.
“Thanks,” laughed Devon as Mat headed off down the street. As they ran their boots splashed water around them. There weren’t any sidewalks which meant they quickly learned how to dodge the local traffic, mainly carts and wagons. It appeared most of the residents weren’t too happy about the weather. Several times they both stopped dumbfounded as they saw strange creatures rush by bent on getting themselves out of the downpour. Taking the third left, they saw a sign with a little dancing guy carved into it in bright colors. They could only guess it was a hobbit. Mat darted over pushing the door open, and together they stepped into their first Inn.