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((OOC: 5 Firstfall, 35 Dragon, with ))


Eight days on the road and finally the gates of Western Hills came into sight. He didn’t think he’d ever been this happy to see walls before, but the wind was biting and any longer at the mercy of the Ferelden’s weather and he was certain he’d freeze to his seat. As soon at civilization came into sight, he hopped off the carriage.

“Sorry Da’len,” he murmured as Revas was disturbed from her place buried in his scarf. She squawked grumpily and clawed her way up onto his shoulder as he grabbed his bow and wandered away from the cart. Finding a hollowed out log to stash his weapons before heading into the Arling proper. With a quick whistle, Revas took to air to hide out until he returned, but not without a quick scratch and a nip of his finger.

Esper was lucky he left when he did. The breeze on his skin was brisk and chilly, causing his nose to numb in the cold over the long journey to Western Hills. He’d pulled his scarf up to cover his head and lower face almost immediately after leaving the walls of Gwaren. He hadn’t encountered such cold weather since when he was with his clan, and the heat of Tevinter had made him soft to the elements. Revas didn’t have much of a good time, either. She spent a lot of the trip nested in his scarf or hiding amongst the furs in the caravan. Esper had to bump up the amount she was eating and keep an eye on her feathers to make sure she would be healthy during the winter.

It felt odd riding into a settlement atop a carriage laden with goods. He tugged the scarf from around his face, knowing that most likely wouldn’t help his image much. It didn’t take too long to track down the merchant some of the goods were to be delivered to, he only got turned away twice when asking after directions, which was a victory compared to how he’d been treated elsewhere. He’d poured over the list of what was going where on his journey, making sure he knew exactly what the merchant was getting. It wouldn’t be the first time someone tried to nick more than what they were owed from him, and the last thing Esper wanted to do was disappoint or anger the Teyrna by screwing up. Especially after she had been so kind to him.

The merchant was relatively easy to deal with, he unloaded the supplies himself, taking care that nothing was broken or damaged and made polite conversation while he worked. She was kind enough to point him in the direction of this ‘Mister Cameron’ and he was on his way within the hour. He had to admit, he was curious about this man. The Teyrna seemed quite fond of him, if her tone and bright smile when speaking of him where anything to go by. Esper hoped he was as easy to deal with as the merchant and the Teyrna. It wouldn’t do to insult a nobles close friend.

The village wasn’t exactly bustling this late in the evening, but there were still a few people taking advantage of what light was left. He scanned around him for the least objectionable person to ask for more specific directions, realizing a little late that he probably should have asked what this man actually looked like, or an address, or something. Anything would be better than the vague finger pointing that the merchant had given him. He spied a tall human with graying hair standing before what looked to be a building’s foundation and approached slowly. His naturally light footsteps wouldn’t aid him much in trying to make himself known without startling someone, but the clomping of hooves from the horses pulling the cart behind him did the job well enough.

“Excuse me, sir.” He greeted hesitantly, “I apologize for bothering you, but you wouldn’t happen to know where I could find a ‘Mister Cameron’, would you?”
The small village which lay near to the old cottage that had once been Innes' childhood home was blessed to boast one of the minor roads which passed through the arling.  It brought with it a number of travellers, not so many as some of the merchants might prefer, mind you, but enough to bolster the coin which the locals spent in the various stores and taverns.  Admittedly, those who were travelling through this part of the arling were not usually adventurers and the like, but more often other Western Hillers who were looking for places to conduct trade.  Still, the comings and goings helped to blunt the dullness which would otherwise have swept through the sleepy village, giving something interesting to consider every once in a while.

Tonight, however, while the bitterness of the wind crept through his many layers, Innes was considering something which he, personally, found far more interesting.  Masonry.  Now, he had never really boasted a love for architecture, though he admired beautiful examples of such work, but ever since he had embarked upon this madman's mission to rebuild what had once been his father's cottage, he had discovered a newfound appreciation for the most practical and mundane of things.

Like building foundations.

Maybe it was a tad too ambitious to be thinking of extending the current building.  Particularly as it was still to have its roof completed.  But there was little harm in thinking ahead, was there?  Idly, he scuffed the dirt with the toe of his boot, wondering how far down he would have to dig to lay the initial stones.  Of course, there was also the issue of how he would transport said stones, but digging the trenches was a more immediate concern.  Or as immediate as any of this burgeoning idea might be.

So lost in his thoughts was he, that although Innes register the sound of approaching hooves, he did not consider that he might be the one who was the subject of interest until someone addressed him directly.

"Excuse me, sir," came a hesitant greeting.  Blinking in surprise, Innes tore his gaze away from the building's foundations and refocused on the bundled up man who stood before him, the horse standing patiently behind despite the cold.  "I apologize for bothering you, but you wouldn’t happen to know where I could find a ‘Mister Cameron’, would you?"

Ah.  Well, this was a potentially delicate matter.  "Which one?" Innes asked drily.  He nodded his head in the direction of the smithy where his brother made his living.  The brothers were fully estranged but no secrets existed in this part of Western Hills.  So despite their very deliberate ignoring of one another, people still spoke of the two Cameron lads, one who had also lived here and one who had recently returned.  "If it's the blacksmith, Brodie Cameron, you should follow that road and take the second left.  You'll hear the forge before you see it."

"Or," he performed an exaggerated bow, done in full good humour, "if it's the former-guardsman-turned-mercenary, that's me."  He straightened with a good-natured grin, seeing no reason why he should not demonstrate his amenable nature to strangers.  It had stood him in good stead on countless past occasions.  "Innes Cameron, at your service."  His gaze glanced over the shorter shoulder of the man and eyed the cart.  It was suspiciously well-piled.  Almost as though the sender boasted very considerable means.  "Don't tell me: the Teyrna of Gwaren," he arched a brow, tongue firmly in cheek, "had some supplies going spare."
Esper struggled to with hold a startled laugh at the man’s sudden and dramatic bow. “if it's the former-guardsman-turned-mercenary, that's me." He spoke as he straightened up. The man had an odd sort of air about him, calming and easy in a way that Esper hadn’t seen much in the shemlen he’d met. If this was Teyrna Ainsley’s friend, he could see why she seemed so fond of him. "Innes Cameron, at your service."

The Teyrna hadn’t given him a first name, so Esper wasn’t exactly sure whether or not this Innes was actually the right person or not. He was about to speak up and inquire whether he knew her but his mouth snapped shut when Mister Cameron’s eyes flicked over his shoulder, eyeing up the cart with suspicion.

"Don't tell me:” He said, “the Teyrna of Gwaren had some supplies going spare."

Ah. And that answers that, he supposed. “It would seem so,” He replied with a wry smile. He tapped his foot on the ground and offered up a bow, only slightly less extravagant than Mister Cameron’s. “My name is Esper, of clan Ghilain. Her Ladyship, the Teyrna of Gwaren, sends her regards along with…” He glanced back to the cart laden with supplies and a few luxury items and waved his hand at it, “all of that.” He patted down his person, tugging a sheet of parchment from his pouch and held it out to him, “There’s a list, if you’re a curious. And any item’s or words you wish to return to her, would be my pleasure to deliver.”
A hint of a wry smile danced across the lips of the stranger.  "It would seem so," he acknowledged the truth in Innes' observation.  He performed a bow which carried similar theatrics to the one which Innes had given.  "My name is Esper, of clan Ghilain. Her Ladyship, the Teyrna of Gwaren, sends her regards along with…"  His head turned to indicate the supplies and he flitted his hand towards it, "all of that."  He searched his person for something and eventually withdrew a piece of parchment which was presumably the inventory.  "There’s a list, if you’re a curious. And any item’s or words you wish to return to her, would be my pleasure to deliver."

Arching a brow, Innes accepted the list and ran his eye down the contents, stifling his snort at some of the "essentials".  Essential to a Teyrna trying to obscure how protective she felt over his well-being, maybe.  Did anyone really need five blankets and three fur throws?

He carefully folded the parchment and ferreted it away into a pocket.  "Your pleasure would swiftly become your pain," he remarked, a grin tugging at the corner of his mouth.  "Her Grace expects nothing but an empty cart to be returned to her.  You would be subjected to a thorough interrogation if I sent you back with anything."  Not that Kahrin would take her ire out on the messenger - mostly - but because she would want to know precisely what Innes had said so she could argue about it with him the next time they saw one another.

Sticking his hands deep into the warm layers of his clothing, Innes jerked his head in the direction behind the cart.  "My cottage is actually out of the town.  Not far, but," his eyes rose to the darkening skies above them, "far enough that you're likely to be caught out in the dark and cold.  How about you stable the horse and cart at the inn for the evening?"  His eyes flicked back to the man.  "I can come back in the morning and you can be directly on your way once we empty the cart."

Innes rolled his shoulders in an easy shrug.  "Whatever suits you best.  I'm not sure how you've planned your time."
"Your pleasure would swiftly become your pain," he said, a quirk to the edge of his lips "Her Grace expects nothing but an empty cart to be returned to her. You would be subjected to a thorough interrogation if I sent you back with anything." 

Esper smiled a little nervously, “Really? She seemed exceptionally kind when I met with her.”

Mister Cameron motioned his head back towards where Esper had come, "My cottage is actually out of the town. Not far, but, far enough that you're likely to be caught out in the dark and cold. How about you stable the horse and cart at the inn for the evening?" He looked back to Esper, "I can come back in the morning and you can be directly on your way once we empty the cart."

He supposed he could. He’d intended to simply hand over the goods and head back, regardless of how much daylight he had left. It wouldn’t be the first time he’d moved during the night and Esper wasn’t particularly keen on spending the night here, as kind as the people were to one of his kind. But, Mister Cameron had a point. He hadn’t spent much time in Ferelden and the cold was not what he was used to. He didn’t want to get caught out if the weather turned for the worse and if he stayed overnight it meant he could purchase some warmer clothing in the morning.

"Whatever suits you best. I'm not sure how you've planned your time."

Esper nodded, “That seems like a fine plan, Mister Cameron. But uh…” He glanced around him a little awkwardly, “would you mind pointing me in the direction of the inn? I’m afraid if I’m left to find it on my own, I’ll be wandering the streets all night.” His hand raised to tug at his hair back from his face in a nervous gesture, “I’m still getting used to your kind’s convoluted settlements.”
Whatever else might have been his plans, it seemed Esper was willing to consider alternative options.  After a moment of consideration, he gave an affable nod.  "That seems like a fine plan, Mister Cameron. But uh…"  He glanced around them, flicking his eyes in all directions in the encroaching gloom.  "Would you mind pointing me in the direction of the inn? I’m afraid if I’m left to find it on my own, I’ll be wandering the streets all night."  Nerves seemed to govern his next gesture as he tugged at his untamed hair.  "I’m still getting used to your kind’s convoluted settlements."

To Innes, the oft overlooked village was incredibly small, albeit not sensibly laid out.  However, given his many years in Denerim which sprawled in all directions without even the slightest notion of forward planning, that was to be expected.  "Of course," he agreed with an affable grin.  "You wouldn't have been wandering that long, anyway.  The inn is just up this way."  Small with only basic amenities, it managed good enough business from those who passed through on their way to bigger and better destinations.

Waiting until Esper fell into step with him, Innes led the way along the street, shoulders hunched slightly against the sharpening chill in the air.  They arrived at the inn where one of the workers was quick to turn ostler, leading the horse around to the shed-turned-stable at the rear, promising that the contents of the cart would be carefully stored until the morning.

"The food is quite good here," Innes remarked, shouldering open the door.  Inside, the main room was half-filled with patrons, some enjoying a warm meal while others slaked their thirst with an ale.  His arrival was greeted with a few nods and raising of tankards in acknowledgement.  "Don't be afraid to haggle on the room price, though.  They do tend to try and squeeze as much money from travellers as they can."

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