Chapter 523: One Step at a Time

Name:Firebrand Author:Quill
Chapter 523: One Step at a Time

One Step at a Time

Being a small town, barely worthy of the title, Esmouth had only two gates. One to the east as part of the fortifications that guarded the bridge, and one to the north-west attached to the only road in the area. Leaving the town through that exit, Martel soon left the cobbled path to enter the wetlands along the river.

"Glad I fortified my boots before our sea journey," Eleanor remarked as her feet sank into the muddy ground.

"You don't have to come along," Martel told her. "Just go back to town." His staff came into good use, helping him find safe footing.

"If you think I will ever let you step outside the walls on your own" She did not consider it necessary to finish her sentence.

"We're on the western bank," he pointed out with a glance at the river to his right; it was at its widest, entering the delta before emptying into the sea. At a guess, he figured it was at least half a mile to the other side. "Even if the Khivans somehow figured out I'd be here at this hour, I think I'd have time to get away before they manage to swim across."

"We do not know the range of their muskets nor accuracy," Eleanor retorted. "I am not willing to chance it."

Martel looked again at the other side; vegetation was sparse, especially in winter, with little foliage of any kind. "We'd see them coming from a long distance, wouldn't we?"

"Yes, exactly. Which is why I am here to keep a lookout."

"I guess I can't argue with that."

"And yet you felt the need to try," she said. "Now go pick your flowers."

"Yes, sir."

***

They trudged around the wetlands for hours as Martel searched for herbs. Pickings were slim, given the season, but thankfully, strangleroot was a perennial plant, and he filled his pouch. He grabbed what else he could find that might come in useful in order to build up a small inventory.

"If nothing else, our good tavernkeeper knows how to cook."

"Unlike us," Martel admitted. So far, all their meals cooked on their own had been the simplest fare.

"Well, we got time to learn. Maybe the owner will even teach us a little actually, what is his name?"

The battlemage shrugged. "No idea."

Eleanor gave him a look. "I thought you had a whole plan to befriend all the little folk."

"We've been here a fiveday," he defended himself. "I had to prioritise. I meant to make more lightstones, but then Henry showed up with the right material for heating stones, so I switched to that."

"I noticed. And thanks," she added between sips of her cup. "I do enjoy my little oven. What did you do with the old stones?"

"Gave them to some of the legionaries. You know, befriending the little folk."

"I thought you would go after people in positions of influence, not random soldiers."

"Casting a wide net, I suppose." Martel scraped the last of his bowl into his spoon. "It cost me nothing to make those stones, so nothing lost by giving them away. Even if the recipients can't give me something in return."

"It cost you time and effort," Eleanor argued. "I suspect, underneath all your talks on the ship about how we should ingratiate ourselves with influential people, you still have the same soft heart. Orphans or legionaries, you cannot help but pick up strays."

Martel wiped his mouth with a rag. "At least these strays got weapons."

"I hope you are ready for the consequences, though. Unless you think you can make such gifts for every soldier in the legion, you will only have appeased a few and made everyone else envious." Eleanor pointedly dabbed her lips with her own cloth. "You may have made more enemies than friends."

"Nah, really?" Martel considered it and shook his head. "I'm sure it's fine."