[P] Only the wild ones are the ones you can never catch
Location: Freetown || NPCs: Evelyn Escuella, Blackjack (horse), Amadahy (horse), Sassafras Mississippi (bNPC) || Form: Optime

The trek was long. Not quite as long as it was to get to Casa di Cavalieri for the competitions, but long enough that Rafaela was beginning to question why she had agreed to join her mother and Asher so soon after her last trip. But then, she was starting to enjoy the camaraderie and adventure that came with accompanying others outside of Del Cenere. The comforts of home were all well and good, and certainly appreciated after a long journey, but there was just something about being part of a posse out in the lawless wilds, just a small group and their horses, that she delighted in.

Sitting atop the smoky black stallion, Blackjack, whose saddlebags were swollen with goods -- primarily moonshine and "cure-alls" and bundles of horsehair -- was Evelyn Escuella. She had a shawl wrapped loosely around her thin shoulders and her bandaged hands held her mount's reins in a relaxed position. Long before Rafaela had been born, before even the Del Cenere Gang had been formed, Evelyn and Santiago and the late Calhoun, had come into these lands from the direction that Searsport and Freetown sat. In fact, they remained in Searsport for some time before making their way north, eventually settling along the precipice of Moosehead Lake.

This would be the first time in over two summers, Evelyn had told them, that she was venturing so far south again.

"You really reckon we gonna find much trade here?" Rafaela asked doubtfully, glancing around at the few individuals peering out at them from shanties and stalls.

Because, in conjunction with how flat and sparse as the land around it was, and how little-populated it seemed, Freetown itself was kind of a dump.

"Hn." Brief though the sound was, there might have been agreement with her daughter's doubt in the subtle inflection hidden within it.

But there were some traders around, as was evident by observations of bartering and sounds of haggling, so it wasn't too far from the realm of possibility. Anyway, if Freetown ended up being a bust, Searsport wasn't far off and might offer more in the way of trade.

"Oh hey! Hey!"

Easing Amadahy to a stop, Rafaela looked behind her at a large, golden-eyed dog waving them down. She approached them quickly and fearlessly.

"Y'all just come into town?"

Looking away from the loud woman, Rafa shared a brief glance with her mother and Asher, pausing to allow one of them to respond first.

[WC -- 419]
OOC: For Asher! This is for the bNPC Quest "Where's My Sister?" Related to this thread.
Travelling by horse was faster than walking, but at least while walking he didn't have to focus on not falling off the back of said horse. "You really reckon we gonna find much trade here?" Rafaela asked, as if voicing what he thought. The state of their surroundings did not offer much in the confidence department, no matter what stalls were around. Not even the clear sounds of bartering changed his opinion much. This place was a dump, and if it wasn't for a voice calling out to them, he may have suggested that they move past this spot. He slowed when his companions did and sighed gently.

Asher was thankful for the stop and adjusted himself on the saddle he had been provided when he went to borrow a horse. So far Bairre had been patient with him, which Asher was also thankful for since he didn't really know how to ride past the get on horse stage, and what little pointers he had been given on directing the beast carrying him. His legs were sore and he was looking forward to dismounting the equine no matter how calm and obedient the stallion had been up to this point. Catching a look from Rafaela, Asher glanced around their surroundings before focusing on the large canine that had approached them.

"Aye" he gave a charming smile towards the golden-eyed dog. "We are traveling for trade if we can find any." The white coyote wasn't sure if they would actually find any here, which meant more riding in the future. Deciding not to dwell on that he continued "Perhaps you know of someone in need of our goods my fine lady?" It didn't hurt to ask, or at least Asher hoped it didn't.

299 words
Location: Freetown || NPCs: Evelyn Escuella, Blackjack (horse), Amadahy (horse), Sassafras Mississippi (bNPC) || Form: Optime

Both of the Ashen women were happy to let Asher take the speaker's role. Rolling with the movement of Amadahy shifting her weight beneath her, Rafaela turned her attention to the golden-eyed woman and considered her silently. Even though she wasn't a coyote, she wouldn't have been an unusual sight in the Del Cenere Gang. Nor an unwelcome one, either. In fact, she would probably fit in quite well back home, Rafa thought.

"'Round here? Good luck!" And she laughed loudly. "But I do know one gal lookin' for trade."

Rafaela waited for her to continue but the dog said nothing. "And who would that be?" she asked, taking the bait.

"Why, me, of course! Sassafras Mississippi." She pressed the palm of a hand to her chest.

In an obvious expression of disinterest with the direction this conversation was going, Evelyn urged Blackjack to a walk and guided him away from the loud woman and her two companions without so much as a sound or a glance. Sassafras watched her go then shrugged, looking at the remaining two expectantly.

"I'm Rafaela Tejada," she said at length. "We come from the Del Cenere Gang to th' north."

"Uh huh. Look," Sassafras said, scarcely allowing Rafaela to finish her sentence let alone showing any evidence of interest in Del Cenere. Rafa set her jaw and bristled. "I ain't in need of goods so much as information."

Frowning, Rafaela considered Sassafras curiously before glancing at Asher again, wondering what he thought of this interaction.

"I'm lookin' for someone! My sister, Bluebonnet. Y'all heard of her? Or maybe seen her? I'll tell you what, she looks just like me, only with diff'ernt color eyes and hair."

She paused expectantly, looking from one rider to the other.

[WC -- 302]
OOC: lmao Evelyn is peacing out of this interaction i guess :')
Asher watched Evelyn leave then looked from the dog to Rafaela. Honestly if there was no trade here, then he wanted to move on. Even if that did mean riding a horse more. Shifting himself just a little he focused on Sassafras again when she mentioned that she would be interested in trade, as well as offering her name. For a moment he felt hopeful, but that died a bit when she revealed all she wanted was information. Asher looked her over carefully and shifted through his memories, but nothing really sparked automatically.

Since he was normally good with faces, he figured he had probably not met this dogs sister. Instead of admitting that out loud though he decided to get more information about the missing sibling. "Anything else you can tell us?" Surely Sassafras had heard something of her sister before now. Perhaps last known activities or even maybe a general area, which would actually help him more even if he hasn't traveled all of the land yet. There was also the fact that maybe Ragaela had heard something even if he didn't know anything. "Also what would we trade the information for precisely?" He was mostly curious, since that was what the dog had mentioned as part of a trade.

214 words
Location: Freetown || NPCs: Evelyn Escuella, Blackjack (horse), Amadahy (horse), Sassafras Mississippi (bNPC) || Form: Optime

Giving the woman a measured look, she flipped back though her memory bank to see if she could recall seeing anyone who looked like her and shook her head slowly from side to side when she came up short. And Asher, for his part, responded in like. She looked from her Ashen companion back to the tricolored dog when the coyote asked for more information, both about the woman's missing sister and also about what she was willing to part with for any information they could provide.

Despite the fact that neither of them could give her a hopeful response, Sassafras offered them a wide wagging of her tail and another boisterous cacophony of laughter.

"Honey, I can prolly tell y'all more than you'd ever wanna hear!" she barked, giving her wrist a lively flick.

Rafaela breathed out slowly through her nose, feeling her patience beginning to wear thin. "She travelin' with any other folks? She got any horses or is she on foot? Where you last see her? Where was she goin'? How's about we start with you answerin' us those."

"How 'bout I tell y'all this instead," Sassafras said. "She and her crew sailed from Savannah. They were expected to land in Portland but they never did."

Savannah. Rafaela watched the dog thoughtfully, silently, as some vague memory tried to loosen itself from the mire.

Sassafras carried on, offering the vessel's name and the identities of each of the Double Down's crew members. When Dawnsong Pembroke's name was mentioned, it was enough for that little memory to wriggle itself loose and rush to the forefront of Rafaela's mind. A flicker of recognition in her sharp eyes was all that the Del Ceneren allowed to shine through.

"Now, as far as what I have to trade," Sassafras continued, her golden eyes settling on Rafa's face a beat longer than normal before they moved on to Asher. "If y'all can show me to my sister's whereabouts, I'll give y'all a jar o' honey and a lovely wool blanket for your troubles."

Rafaela looked at Asher, offering him a long and meaningful look that she hoped he would catch onto. Because she knew exactly where this woman's sister was, and she was willing to let this woman have the information she was seeking -- hell, she would even be fine with her traveling as far as Del Cenere with them if she so chose to -- so long as her companion agreed.

[WC -- 424]
Asher raised a brow at being called 'honey', but kept his thoughts of the term to himself. Before he could ask the female dog to clarify, Rafaela got to it first. He listened with his normal expression, the closest he got to something neutral. His ear flicked a little at the mention of a crew, but he didn't know Savannah. Asher did know where Portland was, but that knowledge didn't seem very useful in this situation. At the ships name, he frowned a little, but it wasn't familiar either. He supposed that wasn't too odd, there were plenty of ships that the one he had been on had never crossed.

Asher finally lost most of his interest at what Sassafras had to offer. The white coyote didn't really need or want honey, and Morris made wool blankets so he had no use for that. He looked towards Rafaela only to find his fellow Ashen giving him a rather meaningful look. Raising both brows he gave a quick look between the two females before he realized that Rafaela might know the information that Sassafras wanted. So he smiled and gave an almost carefree nod "Aye, sounds fine to me." After all, his pack mate could have more use of the items, or they could take them to the pack for someone who might need them. Also, they might find better trade on their way to Sassafras' sister, even if they didn't it would help him learn more locations that could be important in the future.

He met Rafaela's gaze again and gave a shrug "I'm in no hurry to go back."

278 words
Location: Freetown || NPCs: Evelyn Escuella, Blackjack (horse), Amadahy (horse), Sassafras Mississippi (bNPC) || Form: Optime

Truth be told, Rafa didn't have much use herself for honey or blankets, but seeing as she hadn't worked especially hard for the information Sassafras was seeking, the items she was offering would practically be free. And it wouldn't be too much out of their way to get the woman to her sister if they used the landbridge. If Asher and Evelyn stayed behind with the horses, Rafaela thought that she could walk the landbridge with Sassafras and reunite the siblings without too much hassle.

She thought all of this in the seconds after Asher had given his blessing. With a blink, her eyes were back on the golden-eyed Southerner.

"Then I reckon you got yourself a deal," Rafaela said evenly. "'Cause I met Miss Dawnsong Pembroke not long ago. Said the crew sailed from your Savannah an' set up camp south o' where I met 'er. Called it Oglethorpe, this camp, an' said they came lookin' to explore an' trade. That sound like the folks you're searching for?"

But Rafaela hardly needed to ask, because Sassafras was already bobbing her head and making approving sounds in her throat the entire time.

"How far away do y'all suppose they are?" she asked, excitement plain on her face.

"Don't rightly know," the Tejada said with a shrug. "No less than four days, I reckon." She glanced at Asher again and met his gaze, nodding at his approval.

"Plenty of time to tell y'all about Savannah!" she warbled. "Oh, and there is ever so much to tell! Y'all can consider it a gift, how about that?"

Rafaela didn't honestly think much about that at all, but she nodded neutrally and waved Evelyn over when the fire-kissed woman glanced their way. Silent though she was, it was clear to Rafaela that her mother, once she had been brought up to speed on their change in plans, was less than thrilled with the notion of playing chauffeur to a loud and garrulous outsider. But she had little choice in the matter, and, being an astute Comerciante and an industrious Quartermaster for Del Cenere herself, she both understood and could appreciate the deal for what it was.

And thus, with few other trade prospects to be found in Freetown and little else keeping them in the area, the Ashen posse and their client set out for Oglethorpe, serenaded all the while by Sassafras' endless stories about her faraway home.

[WC -- 415]

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