Things started badly for the party, and now they’re worse.
Arvin’s Man, Piotr and Carraksul arise before the sun, and head down to prepare their cart for departure. They find that the cart they hitched outside is still there, but the animals to pull it are missing. Knowing they’ll need help, they awaken Hiccup and Toothless to help in the hunt.
After scouting, sleuthing and intimidating their way through the elven quarter of Altaruk, they finally find it hidden in plain sight – in a public stable. Already late for the caravan departure – too late to satisfy their urge to punish the thieves responsible – they rush to get to the city gate.
There is already a huge lineup of wagons waiting when they pull up: about 30 wagons all told, carrying loads of grain, timber, and arms and armor. About 30 merchants and 50 guards are making the trip to Tyr to see for themselves the state of the city and learn the truth of the fate of the sorcerer-king Kalak. It’s one of the largest caravans anyone’s ever seen.
As the wagons are about to roll, Belana Wavir, the head of House Wavir, stands up to make a speech. She tells the merchants they are walking into an unknown situation, but she’s determined that Wavir will emerge stronger than ever. Rumor has it that a slave uprising brought down Kalak, she says, so it would not be seemly to bring slaves on this trip.
“Who among you is a slave,” she asks the gathered men and women. Several raise their hands – slavery is accepted but not encouraged in Wavir.
“You’re free,” she says with a wave of a hand. “I release you from your bond. But I ask you to help us one more time before you leave us. Help us get this caravan to Tyr. Help us and I’ll remember and reward your service. Abandon us, and I’ll remember that as well.”
All of the slaves, including Carraksul, look slightly stunned, but none leave, and the wagon train rumbles into motion.
Four thri-kreen runners serve as the caravan’s scouts, fanned out wide (as much as a half a mile) from the front of the convoy. At the fore of those traveling on the road is Belana, riding a litter carried by eight well-armed mul guards. Behind her is a mekillot – the enormous, saurian creature. Atop the mekillot is its handler and an assistant riding in a howdah, and it pulls the carapace of a giant, dead beetle, which has been outfitted with wheels and filled with an interior structure to make it suitable for human travel. About 15 prominent merchants – VIPs in House Wavir – ride inside the beetle. Behind that stretches the long line of wagons. Outriders on crodlus and erdlus keep watch and carry messages up and down the line.
A full day of travel passes. The caravan is making good time and not being harrassed. The sheer size and numbers of the group must be intimidating to would-be marauders.
Belana signals a halt for the day, and the caravan comes to a halt and sets up camp for the night. The night, like the day, proceeds without incident.