They had left at first light and traced back the route the boys had taken. Atop horses they followed the road, twisted along the rocky, arid hills. It was evident the received little rain, brush and pointed plants scattered around. The sun continued its climb.Parched, Rustiver’s hand shakily moved toward his flask. It was instinctual but he stopped himself at the last moment. Casually glancing over to Aelen he found the hyvalim preoccupied, lost in contemplation. Jerold too hadn’t noticed, his eyes focused on the landscape and his head turned frequently.
They followed the bend in the road and slowed their beasts. Ahead the path carved deep into a hill and the shoulders of the road formed tight walls all along. The three paused for a moment.
“If we’re intending to find some bandits around here, that path could be a deathtrap,” he said flatly.
“It’s certainly a chokepoint,” Rustiver added. “I’ve been surprised on the road before.”
“If we keep the sun over our shoulder we can fall off the road and still keep West,’ followed Jerold.
“I’d prefer to take caution before promenading into town,’” Aelen said.
Rustiver nodded and Jerold led them from the road. The marched directly along the red dirt and avoided this plant and that. They swapped stories, a couple of times bursting into uproarious laughter, but well past midday they hadn’t encountered Berylbrown.
“The horses are thirsty,” Jerold finally spoke.
“Let’s stop,” Rustiver said. He dismounted and moved to the head of the beast. He cupped his hands together and held before the horse’s mouth. Rustiver closed his eyes and mouthed a pray.
Water pooled in his hands. The horse sniffed and immediately lapped it. Though it drank copiously, the water level stayed, never overflowing or depleting. Rustiver watered the other two beasts and watched Jerold return with an armful of the brush.
“This will work,” he said and offered it to the horses. They ate it greedily, despite the red scrapes and inflammation on Jerold’s arms and chest.
Aelen stared up at the sky, watching an unusual number of birds circling over a far hill. Jerold then Rustiver spotted the birds and again they looked at each other.
“It’s odd,” Rustiver muttered. “It might be the bandits.”
“We’re already off from Berylbrown, " Aelen snorted. “We should get there first and then think about worrying over birds.” Jerold nodded and Rustiver relented.
“Alright, to Berylbrown.”
Horses fed and watered, the three remounted and striding toward the setting sun they made for Berylbrown.