– 1st week of the third Goldhorizon 53E - Fort Norlan --
Cold air on a clear sunny day with a light breeze was still cold and Commander Ellard Nurth hated the cold leaving him rather flustered toward the fact he had been stationed in the Northlands so far from his desert home. He stood with his paws on the stone parapets of the terrace that overlooked the village below as he surveyed the slowly brightening eastern horizon in the hour before dawn. Norlan had been around for generations and over the seasons local woodlanders and northlanders had built their homes in the shadow of the mountain stronghold finding it a place of safety as well as a place of easy access for traders being near the coast as well as a large mountain pass that went south. Nurth sighed and listened to the carts below, not all of them were the carts of the beasts native to this land a few of them were the main reason Norlan had ever been built. Silver, a valuable yet untapped resource that was rather abundant in the Northlands and that had been the only reason Nurth had tolerated the cold though now Nurth found himself interested in the locals. Being an Imperial if the red clan he had been raised for one thing, battle, but here there were very few battles especially when the enemy considered the giant stone fortress watching from the mountain above. Instead there was trade with the occasional adventure seeking a challenge; Nurth gave an amused huff at the thought of the word adventurers. Adventure in the local tongue could mean any number of things that to the Group Commander were trivial who in his mind thought adventure as fighting with blade and arrow to survive.
His thoughts were shrouded in awareness as his scout Birnar Piketail pushed open the door that led out onto the fortress terrace. Nurth turned to the table next to him and reached for the pouch that sat tied shut on it “Find anyone head down there?”
Piketail shrugged in reply to his commander “Possibly but not positively. What’s the whole point of this anyway, sending somebeast south with a bag of seed?”
Nurth snorted as he juggled the pouch in his right paw “Redwall was hit with a blight this spring, a blight that killed of all the laterose. And it so happens that laterose is a primary symbol for the Abbey which means that without it the Abbey isn’t exactly the same.”
Piketail twitched his snout as he watched the pouch of seed bouncing in the air as Nurth juggled it in his paw “Laterose, why not just have somebeast from Noonvale take some down to them? Why do ‘WE’ have to send someone from way up here?”
Nurth gave a sigh of resignation and grasped the pouch in his paw “Noonvale was hit with the same blight and it didn’t come all the way up here because it’s just a tad too cold for it but not too cold for the laterose though the blooming period is earlier for us. I don’t like sending beasts on trivial runs like this but symbolism of one’s self is important.  Take the Imperial symbol on our tower shields for example though this symbol of Redwall is even more than that… it’s alive, a symbol of peace, life, and passing all in one, that I have to respect and that is why I am granting this request.”
Piketail nodded as his commander gave him the pouch “I understand sir, I’ll deliver this to the adventurers now.”

-- Port Norlan --
The patrols from Fort Norlan were known as the Northwinds and Branson Tidebreaker was proud that he was in charge of one such patrol. His father had been in command of the woodland group before him and Branson felt that it could potentially become a family tradition. Right now his group was resting after a long tour of the eastern region rounding a few bandits who had been brave enough to raid one of the mining posts.  The burly otter watched one of the elderly inhabitants as he hobbled up to the blacksmith with the help of an ancient looking oak cane. Normally Tidebreaker would have tried to help such a beast but he had dealt with this particular beast before and had learned that the hare did not like being helped. The blacksmith, a soot covered hedgehog turned his attention from the recently arrived mining cart to the hare and raised an eyebrow as he walked over “Why guud morning to yu sir, what is it I can do for you?”
The hare while elderly wasn’t ancient and still sounded quite healthy for his age though the cane indicated otherwise “Good morning chap, the old ears picked up some hinting about there being a questing to Redwall and…”
The hare pulled a few silver coins and a scroll from his vest pocket as he continued “I was wondering if you could smith something for the lot to deliver to Salamandastron for me?”
There was a meerkat leaning against the mining cart and he took note of the silver coins then looked over his shoulder into his cart as the hedgehog took the coins and scroll and inspected them. On the scroll was the image of a rose and scribbled in the corner was an indication that the rose was made of silver and studded with red and green quartz. The hare took a pouch of prasiolite and rose quartz from his belt and gave it to the uncertain hedgehog who looked from the pouch to the drawing “Not going to be easy or cheap… at least double…”
He stopped as the hare frowned then both of them were distracted by the Imperial’s fake cough who waited until they looked at him before raising his paws up and speaking “Won’t be a problem chap, I just brought this in from the mines so any silver he uses is one me and I’ll pay for the work… Heh, I’ll help if’n he lets me.”
Branson’s ears were distracted by the Imperial scout who had apparently came up to him without gaining his attention “Commander?”
Branson gave a small jump then saw it was Piketail and sighed “Arr, what you trying to do scare me ta death? Hmmm, what’s that in your paw?”
Piketail held up the pouch with an emotionless almost unhappy face “The package for Redwall, I assume you know where to find the adventures you told me about?”
Branson took the pouch and winked “Don’t worry about that mate, they’ll find me.”
Piketail twitched his snout with a slight wrinkle in disapproval but said nothing as he turned and strayed back towards the mountain path leading up to the fortress.

-- Not much later - Port Norlan --
Branson had made his way to the theatre and was now standing on the raised stone floor in front of beasts who had gathered in curiosity as to what the rumors of a quest were about. Tidebreaker looked around as he spoke, the shaping of the tiered stone incline creating an echo so he didn’t have to scream until his voice gave out “Beasts from near and far, I am glad to have your ears and patience. Word has come from the south that a prized symbol of their home, a rare type of rose known as the laterose, is dying. Redwall is known far and wide as a place of peace and comfort and the loss of this symbol hurts their moral and their spirit. I called you all specifically because you all have said you were already considering going south and I did not want to ask someone to perform this task if it would take them out of their way. I… we ask that you would take this gift to their abbey and be rewarded with their hospitality. This is not a quest for wealth or glory; it is a quest for kindness and friendship. If any of you are willing to depart with this package early Nurth has agreed to provide you with the necessary supplies to make the journey. Will any of you volunteer?”
In the shadows at the top tier of the theatre Piketail stood watching silently. Like all meerkats he looked a lot less intimidating without his armor clad instead in his red and yellow striped uniform with the only exception to his less threatening appearance being his eyes which displayed doubt and distrust of all those who were not members of the Empire. Even though it was a task to help other woodland beasts he was not confident that these woodlanders would be willing to do anything.

It was funny, how you could spend a night working in a tavern and hear hundreds of statements of bravado and longing for adventure, but when adventure came calling, no one stepped forward. Izzy rolled her eyes and pocketed a small coin pouch from a tall bystander. Typical youngling behavior, all talk and no fight. You would think, being a port town, with Guard and patrol members coming through regularly, all dashing and important-looking, that most of the young lads some of the lassies would jump at the chance for a bit of adventure. But no. After that announcement, there was a lot of quiet murmuring, some nervous shuffling of feet and clothes, but none called out to volunteer. Somewhere, a baby fussed, and on the fringes already somebeasts were leaving.

Izzy shook her head and wondered when being close-knit had turned to being so clannish you wouldn't help someone else in their time of need. Not that she was such a saint herself. And it wasn't as if Port Nolan hadn't been good to her. It had been very good to her, really. It was bustling, bright, and although it was colder than hell, it was nice. She had been able to find honest work, and some that was not-so-honest, too. And she couldn't act like she hadn't used the town's clannish ways to her advantage; the few bounty hunters that had figured she'd come up this far were rebuffed by locals.

But perhaps it was time to move onward, she wondered, as a cold breeze whipped through the crowd. Izzy was happy to see she wasn't the only one who pulled her cloak a little tighter. She had seen that old wanted poster the other day, too. Granted, it had been for when her hair was shorter, and she had been going by Miriam Cliffmoss, but it could mean someone was getting too close. And it was getting colder by the day, and waiting tables in taverns had gotten old. It was time to move out. And what better way than to go on an adventure? She needn't worry about work; she had been fired just yesterday for hitting someone over the head with a serving tray.

It was settled, then. She stood straight, smoothed down her skirts– the uniform the tavern had given her and which she would not be giving back-- and stepped through the crowd quickly. Once out in front, she pushed the hood on her cloak back and called out in a clear, strong voice,  "I'll volunteer!"

It would have been terribly dramatic if not for the gust of wind that chose that exact moment to push her hair into her face.

OOC: If there's anything I can do to improve this or anything you need to know PM me. The start and story might be a little dragged out at first to give time for other possible rpers to join.

BIC: Both Branson and Piketail looked across the crowd in silence with the earlier of the two becoming slightly shocked as a few started leaving while the later stood both unimpressed and unsurprised towards the lack of spirit and motivation in the “indigenous” population. No need to say Piketail was quiet surprised when a wood mouse stepped and called out from the relative silence of the crowd ["I'll volunteer!"]
Piketail gave a slight rejecting snort, not only was the entire ordeal pathetic to him but seeing a single mouse with a waitress uniform volunteering brought it to a whole new level. The scout began to slipping out from the theatre as Branson looked around at the beasts who still remained. Tidebreaker scowled slightly as he motioned towards the remaining spectators with his free paw “Are the lot of you really going to make this maid travel alone?”
Branson lowered his paws to his sides and stepped down from the raised stone floor and looked at the mousemaid who he bowed to politely “Sorry about that, I never expected such a lack of emotion from such a crowd. Hmmm, may I have your name marm, I’m Branson Tidebreaker.”

Izzy didn't seem bothered by the lack of response of the crowd. She wasn't helpless and in need of a full caravan to escort her. Instead, she was grinning as she stepped forward, pushing her hood and hair back out of her eyes. Another gust of wind pushed the impractically full skirt of her frock about, and she was glad she chose to wear her high, sturdy boots. It was too cold to actually go barefoot. "Bloody cold out here, innit, Mr. Tidebraker?" she laughed.

While she had an air of allover irreverence and confidence, the kind associated with soldiers and the like, but Izzy could be as ladylike as she needed to be, and dropped a quick, graceful curtsy. For a moment she was stopped up on what she should introduce herself as. She had so many aliases, and a few had been slapped on wanted posters. But this was a mission of goodwill and kindness. Surely she could use her given name. It was only known to such people that she trusted, and none of the gentlemen and ladies that hired her for requisition purposes knew it.

"Isobella Whitecotton," she told him, her grin still in place, though there was a little glint of cockiness in her bright gold eyes. "Y'all c'n call me Izzy, though." Her voice was warm, all soft consonants and Southern drawl, more than a hundred miles from the typical Northern cadence. She flipped her hand over her shoulder and shrugged, dismissing the dispersing crowd with a noncommittal noise. "Let'em stay here, an' don' y'all worry 'bout it.  Prolly better this way; too many inna group an' it'll slow ta a crawl, y'know?" She spoke with a tone of experience, despite her young face.

She shifted on one hip, and shook her head sadly. "S'a shame, what's happenin' ta th' Abbey." Her right fingers rose, unbidden to her left wrist, and stroked at the thick silver cuff that lay there, polished smooth and bright with wear. "Blights like that'r nasty damn things, huh?"

["Bloody cold out here, innit, Mr. Tidebraker?"] as the otter captain straightened up he took note of the mouse’s attitude. Even as the wind blew around them she looked happy, even eager to start something that was even rarer than the willingness to travel long distances in these parts. Branson gave a slight smile from the corner of his mouth “Aye that it is, and to think that it’s only just the start of fall!”
The mouse gave a curtsy and gave a quick pause before she finally revealed her name still grinning ["Isobella Whitecotton, Y'all c'n call me Izzy, though."]
Tidebreaker noted the southern accent and blinked a few times having not expected the sudden change in speech ["Let'em stay here, an' don' y'all worry 'bout it. Prolly better this way; too many inna group an' it'll slow ta a crawl, y'know?"]
Branson gave an amused huff towards Izzy’s reaction to the other beasts “Nice to meet you Izzy. Hah I know what you mean, I’ve seen many patrols go amuck when we’re escorting beasts. Har, har, especially when you mix voles and shrews!”
["S'a shame, what's happenin' ta th' Abbey."] Tidebreaker’s face lost its grin and his expression became more serious “Aye, an me and a few of the others here aren’t wonderin if somebeast did it intentionally!”
["Blights like that'r nasty damn things, huh?"] Branson waved a paw through the air “That they are, hard to detect and even harder to stop before the damage is done. Odd thing is the blight was never reported in the areas surrounding Mossflower but then again I’ve never explored the area that much so I wouldn’t know how common laterose is err… was.”
He gave a momentary sigh of resignation “If I wasn’t involved with the patrol I would’ve up and gone on my way already but… Heh if I did that now they wouldn’t be too happy ‘bout that… What will you need for the trip so I can get it ready?”
–Outside the theatre--
Beasts were trickling out of the theatre however one beast was pushing feebly passed them to get inside his pleas drowned out by the muttering of the uncertain woodlanders.

Izzy gave quite a bit of thought to her answer. What did she need? Often enough, she had to drop everything that wasn't important when she was being chased out of town. She was good at traveling light, though. Had to be really. Her left hand came up and started to twist a lock of hair, seemingly of it's own accord. She had been here long enough to get a room and acquire small things. Stuff. But she never did get rid of her bedroll, did she? And she had plenty of clothing. Part of her wanted refuse the offer and just get the things for herself. But it was being offered, and it would seem…odd for a waitress who'd been here for a good season and a half to be ready to disappear at a moment's notice.

"Hmmmm..." Her hand released the lock of hair and she came back to the present. With a smile, she turned to the otter. "A good pack, travelin' rations, an' a canteen," she told him, ticking each item off her fingers. "If it's not too much trouble, that is."

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