The sound of bird song filled the cool air as the sky began to lighten, the woods were still as if the plant and animal life were savoring the short time they had before the summer’s heat gave way to the cool temperatures of autumn. Until night came to offer a short reprieve from the heat the day would be hot and muggy, unpleasant to labor or play in. But for now the heat of the day was only a distant memory, a passing thought in the minds of the creatures. The surrounding land was colored in soft hues as morning light peaked over the mountains creating a peaceful ethereal feel. Such a peace was quickly shattered by the sound of men shouting and the creaking of jibs. Birds watched from the trees as men ran to and fro upon the deck of a flying ship, held in place like a floating balloon tied to a child's wrist by two heavy anchors connected to thick chains. The schooner hovered at least twenty feet above the meadow it was anchored in, the rigging chattering, boards creaking as it slowly bobbed up and down. Patiently waiting as the crew lowered barrels from her side with ropes and pulleys. The going was slower then if they had unloaded at the docks and at times a little awkward, but the crew had fallen into a rhythm and so the work went by steadily. Bellow men awaited to load the barrels into a wagon pulled by two armored iguanas. It was strange for a ship to be unloading outside of the trade post, and one might wonder the legality of the cargo the ship held for her crew to undergo such an arduous task in the woods. But the cargo was legitimate, the contents of the barrels a wheat like subsistence someone had ordered. The only reason the captain had decided to dock in meadow beside one of the many small roads leading up to Dry Creek was the fact that his employer live outside of the town of Vail far from the ports. And so to cut the time he’d spend upon the wagon and away from his ship he decided to unload here (plus he wouldn’t have to pay to dock at the ports).
Shouting instructions to his men the captain helped undo the last barrel from the ropes securing it to a board before loading it onto the back of the wagon. Securing the last of the barrels to the wagon, Tray went over the knots and lines to make sure all would last the ride on the dirt road before turning to bid his crew a farewell. Leaping into the bench Tray took the reins from a crew mate, today he’d be making the journey alone. Perhaps a foolish idea with bandits and pirates around, but the captain didn’t seem bothered by the danger. Snapping the reins the man clicked his tongue sending the iguanas into a walk. Dirt billowed up behind the wagon as the large lizards picked up speed steadily moving farther from the Stargazer. As always the man felt a sense of nostalgia as he drew farther away from his beloved ship, he often felt this way when he did business on land. Today was no different as he let the sounds of the forest envelop him when the wagon entered the trees, their branches casting pleasant shade over him. By now the sun had risen over the mountains heating up the land as it rose farther into the sky, its light filtering through the trees dappling the earth bellow. The going was moderately slow even with the lizards plodding along at a fast pace. The rattling of the wagon, the moan of shifting barrels, and the sound of the wheels creaking as they turned seemed so out of place among the forest's musical tones. Though the driver found the noise comforting as he watched the land move around him.
Perhaps he’d stop by here another time and hunt, he always enjoyed a good challenge and his men would be happy for the meat. But for now he had a job to do and the noisy wagon would have alerted all prey to his presence anyways. Fingering the yew longbow slung over his shoulder Tray lost himself in the memories of hunting with his father. It had been a while since he had visited his folks, he should go see them before it was too late. Maybe they could go hunting again, or perhaps he could take his family aboard his ship. Avena would love that, she was always the outgoing type of gal which worried her elder brother. Their neighbors would joke that she would send him to an early grave with all her crazy antic, even so as his first mate and younger sister she'd be missing their parents as well. A tender smile teased Tray’s lips, he wondered how they were faring, did his mother have gray in her hair? After this job he’d turn the ship toward home, he was sure his crew wouldn’t mind visiting his family. His mother’s food was enough to keep anyone from leaving, and a bunch of hungry men would certainly please her.
Ah but that was all wishful thinking, he could not visit them for fear of putting them in danger. if the Argo government ever found out who he was and learned of his connection to them... He couldn't even allow himself to think of what would befall them. Their best defense was the knowledge that their son hadn't visited them in years, with any luck they'd be completely overlooked. A loud snort from one of the iguanas jolted Tray out of his thoughts. Studying the large reptiles Tray noticed how their gate had become choppier then normal. “Ho, ho, “ he said firmly, in an attempt to steady them before switching into a softer tone, “What’s wrong guys?”
The words hadn’t had a chance to properly leave his mouth when someone shouted “Freeze!” As if on cue a large group of men dressed in military uniforms stepped out of various hiding places, bows, crossbows, and other weapons in hand. Instinctively Tray reached from the hint of one of his swords but his hand didn’t even leave the reins before having to return to keep the reptiles under control. Startled by the sudden noise and appearance of the men the lizards lurched forward into a full on sprint managing to pull the wagon several feet before they were forced to a stop by Tray engaging the break with his right foot while tugging on the reins. The wagon came to a sliding stop just before hitting a man who had stepped out into the road a crossbow pointed at the captain’s chest. Letting go of the reins Tray raised his hands a look of totally confusion on his face, though this ambush had caught the man completely off guard it had not rendered him speechless and so he cleared his throat and asked. "Is there something wrong officer?" The man was a tall one, built like a bull. he held himself with authority distinguishing himself as the leader of this group.
The man surveyed Tray and his cargo, slowly circling the wagon his brows knitted together in a constant scowl. "We're looking for a thief that stole from the garrison, you haven't seen anyone have you?" The man's voice was deep and gruff, filled with a tone that Tray instantly recognized. This man obviously looked down upon him. Keeping a smile on his face the young man thought for a moment then shook his head. "I'm sorry sir but the only people I have seen were the men that work aboard the ship that commissioned me to deliver these barrels. " He hated brining the Stargazer into this mess but he knew that such a prospective fish could lure the man away from him. The crew would have long since wade anchor and would have vanished into the sky, they'd return in a day to pick up their captain. For now they'd remain low until the time of the designated rendezvous. The news perked the man's interest like tray knew it would. "I didn't receive any reports of a ship near by." he said, scratching his chin as he eyed Tray suspiciously. "You would be correct, they birthed a small port just before Dry Creek, didn't want the pay the extra fare costs to bring it all the way from the main trade post."
The man nodded, that made sense. Merchants were always trying to get a deal, if they could pay this man to ferry their goods to Vail at cheaper price then at Dry Creek they would. Stepping aside he waved at his men to clear a path. "Very well, you take care now and let us know if you see any suspicious people lurking about." Tray gave a nod before he clicked to his team whipping the reins down to get them moving again. The lizards snorted but complied and soon they were out of sight of the army. Letting out a sigh Tray tried to calm his racing heart. That had been close! If they had known who he really was instead of believing he was some wagon driver he would have been a goner. He smiled, it would have been funny to see their expression if they learned that the pirate chief of one of the four high pirates clans had just passed by their check point hauling barrels of food. He laughed with relief shaking his head, he felt sorry for the poor sap who had been discovered stealing from those guys. Silently he wished them luck in escaping.