Sozo stood outside his cave, setting course to the north. Nothing stirred but nature itself, as the birds sang gently at the sunset. There hadn’t been any sign of knights lately, but it was his thinning food supply ,and the zephyr blowing northward at his back that made up his mind to go.
He walked through the night and morning, finally taking shelter in the undergrowth during the midday heat. He arose only hours later, adjusted his course by the path of the sun, and was off again by dusk. His pace was steady and didn’t slow. Only for a moment did he stop at a berry bush to make a meal of his remaining provisions. He stumbled upon a meager path then followed it until it was no more. A simmering pool now lied before him.
He threw himself at its bank, and drank of its water, pure and pristine.
Then he rolled into the cool liquid and let it bathe his aches and pains. He let himself sink to its soft sandy bed, then scanned the pond’s depths.
Growing up on the water had taught him how to hold his breath for periods of time that none but a pirate would believe, however it also taught him about the red-eyed creature that now locked gaze with him from an underwater cave.
He was back on land in seconds. Despite the near encounter, he slept in peace and quiet under a palm, not waking until almost dawn.
At last, he cared to notice what else was dispersed over his immediate surroundings, and investigated. Crates, barrels, and an assortment of other supplies were stacked about. A carrot, still fresh and good, proved this was new deposit. Whose was it all?
Sozo chomped down on the carrot, then heard the yells. “Thief! Thief!” Hooves thundered toward him. Everything screamed at him to run, but he didn't. If these were the knights, they would be calling a lot more colorful names before they ever got to ‘thief’. Still he dropped the carrot and retreated back from the boxes. Two horses rushed out of the trees coming to a stop before him. Both riders were armed, a man and an orc, so he didn't dare go for his scythe.
“What is that?” the orc asked, shaking his sword at Sozo.
“It’s a grer, you dummy,” the human answered, “Who are you, thief?”
“I came upon this pond fair and square, and all I’ve stolen of yours is a bite of that carrot. If this stuff even belongs to you!”
“Aren’t we looking for one of those?” the orc spoke again.
“Be quiet! I’ll be doing the talking, but yes, there is a bounty on one,” the man replied, then turned back to Sozo with a condescending tone, “This all belongs to our boss, grer. Now you wouldn’t happen to be running from the law would ya?”
The man laughed, “Then where’d you come from? Grers don’t grow on trees around here!”
“The battle of Blood Bay.” Sozo kept it short.
“Unless you were on a Mythron ship, that’s a nearly impossible story. But if you were on a Mythron ship you wouldn’t be running through the wood now would you…”
The man was cut off by a voice so utterly recognizable, “Believe what he says!” The owner of the voice stepped into the scene wearing his old pirate uniform and short sword.
Sozo pursed his lips and subtly shook his head, Of all the survivors I could have bumped into, it had to be Lt. Harris Lottamen.
“You know this grer, Harry?” the orc asked.
Harris cringed, he always hated being called that, but played it off, “Yes, this is Sozo, one of my good friends back in my days at sea.”
Good friends?… In my dreams. Sozo hardened his scowl and didn’t move a muscle as Harris walked up to him and gave him a fake hug. This pirate treated Sozo worse than the lord of manor did whenever he was placed under his command. He’d been a brownnoser then, a horrible mixture of vanity and cruelty. Apparently some things never change.
“I can’t believe it’s really you,” his tone was friendly but his smirk was as wicked as ever, “I see you met Brad and Dothel the orc. We work on a Caravan heading from Carthal to Falmor, and these are some of the goods. The caravan master will hire outlaws, especially a strong grer, he assures protection and in exchange they work for a laughable wage. Brad here was a thief, ironically, and Dothel is a runaway serf like yourself. I can get you a job with us, I told you I had connections in Mythron.”
Sozo clenched his fists at his sides. Coming from anyone else, he would have take the job in a heartbeat, but Lt. Harris Lottamen wouldn’t give such an offer if he wasn’t getting something out of it. Nonetheless, the deal was too good to pass up. Protection, provision, a little money, and a free ride to Falmor, he agreed with a nod.
“Fine,” Harris grinned, “We’ll take you to meet the others. It is quite a caravan.” Sozo trailed him into the woods.