“Where is that blasted halfling?” Elise muttered. Everyone but Dirk had arrived at the docks and they had less than 10 minutes to get aboard.
“He does have little legs after all,” replied Shadow, “it will take him a long time to get here.”
“We can’t afford to wait much longer. Our ship will be departing soon,” said Edwin.
Elise shuffled to and fro, trying to decide what to do. “You’re right, let’s go ahead and board.” Climbing aboard, Elise looked once more towards the city, hoping to catch a glimpse of Dirk amidst the fog.
“Ready to push off?” asked the ferry captain.
“Yes I suppose so. We were waiting for one more, a halfling, but looks like he won’t be joining us.” Elise sighed. She quite enjoyed his company last night and thought he would make the trip livelier.
“Not joinin ye?”
The group looked about but could not determine where the voice called from.
“Oy! Up here.”
They gazed upwards towards the ship’s rigging to see Dirk perched high above.
“Dirk? We’ve been waiting for you this whole time, get down from there so we can get going,” stammered Elise.
“Yes ma’am.” Dirk grabbed hold of a rope and began sliding down to meet them. As he approached, Dirk leapt forward and upon touching the deck, gracefully rolled, popped up, and bowed.
“Bravo.” Edwin clapped, appreciating his antics and finding Dirk amusing.
“Thank you Edwin,” replied Dirk. “Alright captain, let’s push off.”
As the boat began drifting away, Dirk noticed Shadow staring at him.
“What is that ridiculous garb you are wearing?” inquired Shadow.
“Oh this? I decided to look the part, got an eyepatch and handkerchief. I’m quite the handsome pirate I am.”
“But Dirk, isn’t that a woman’s blouse you’re using as that handkerchief?” asked Elise.
“Is it wrong for one to want to be pretty?” replied Dirk as he batted his eyelashes.
They laughed as he looked quite ridiculous.
Sailing for a few hours, they chatted and enjoyed themselves, even Shadow began to lighten up. Once they broke free from the fog that laid over Shadow Port, the weather was beautiful. At midday, the captain approached them with stern eyes.
“Do you lads know anything about Tenderfoot?” They shook their heads.
“Well you should know that they are superstitious people. Don’t be surprised if they don’t take kindly to you.” The captain looked towards the sea. “We’ll be ashore within the hour.” He slumped up the ladder to the helm.
“Hmm. I’ve met similar folk in my day. If we run into trouble, I’ll try talking to them… maybe they’ll trust us,” said Elise.
Edwin nodded. If she failed to garner their trust, he could, at the very least, talk them out of a bad situation. However, having never been in Tenderfoot himself, it was hard to know what was in store.
They arrive ashore while still morning, the sea sparkling with sunshine. Smitten with sea-spray and windswept locks, they hopped off the ship and looked round as they absorbed the beautiful cliff-side.
“Tenderfoot’s east by six hours. Godspeed.” The captain nodded goodbye and prepared for departure.
“Thank you sir,” said Edwin. “I suppose we should be on our way.”
They agreed and set east towards the nearest town. Upon arriving, they immediately noticed the dichotomy of the town’s rustic nature as compared to the lovely seascape. Having imagined quaint fishing huts covered with thatched roofs, it was odd indeed to see log cabins, the color a light driftwood as the sea air had aged it quickly.
They chat among themselves, keeping the mood light despite the strange gazes they received.
Edwin approached a shop stall to learn more about the area. “Hello friend. We’re on our way to Tenderfoot. Could you perhaps point us in the right direction.”
“Eh. Go through that clearing over yonder. Dependin’ on how circumstances, you could be there ‘fore evenin’.”
“Thank you kindly. Do you happen to sell any spiced fish?” asked Edwin. He had a fondness for the treat and it was difficult to find exotic flavors.
“Nah, ‘ol out.”
“Ah, very well. Thanks again sir. Let’s be on our way, we should strive to get there before dark.”
As they walked through the town, they noticed the townsfolk engaging in very odd actions. One chanted to herself constantly, another purposefully spilling milk outside her home. Many also wore necklaces with unfamiliar emblems.
Edwin, Dirk, and Shadow glanced at Elise inquisitively from time to time, hoping she might have insight, but she was as clueless. She pursed her lips and raised her eyebrows, displaying the universal message of, “I don’t know.” Returning their gaze to the road, Elise eyed an older man kneeling down beside a young child. He threw pellets of some sort over their shoulders and though she could not be sure, she assumed it was salt. She had read of this ritual in the past, but this was the first time she had seen it in practice.
Reaching the edge of town, a large cemetery stood solemnly beside the forest, next to what looked to be unused farmland. Rows and rows of grave markers extended towards the farm, leading Elise to believe that either the they believed the land to be unusable, tainted by some curse, or perhaps they needed more room.
Once a goodly distance from the town, Dirk asked, “What was all that about?”
“I can’t say for sure. I’m not certain if they were trying to ward off spirits it was peculiar to say the least.”
They trudged along in silence another hour, passing a city similar to the former, including the strange townsfolk and extensive graveyards. The next two hours they passed another town. Same setting.
“I’m bored and this landscape is dreary. Time for a song.” Dirk began whistling a lively tune, and so passed the next couple hours. The happy music was uplifting, considering the landscape and unfriendly glances they exchanges with the commoners.