Her second visit to South Tower is shorter than Hepalonia would like. The day after their interview with Rhodri, the caravan manager, she and her cousin have to be at the docks along the River Weldyn at dawn. Despite the hour, Alric is up to wish them well on their travels and get a kiss on the cheek from Heppa. It is way too early in the day for them to encounter Heledd, though, so Tric makes it out of the tavern without suffering any more veiled threats (or wild punches).
The docks are already quite busy when Heppa and Tric arrive. Some carts are being ferried across the river with their goods and owners to where the caravan is assembling on the western bank. Other carts, driven by professionals, are already on the far side with their drivers, waiting for their loads to come across. The variety of goods surprises the elves, as does the number of people involved. At a rough guess, a hundred or so people will be traveling together, moving material as diverse as linens, alcohols, preserves, and livestock. Tric had initially thought that lumber was also being transported, and during the interview with Rhodri, he expressed concern about where it had been taken from. This turned out to be a simple misunderstanding over the term logs. Rhodri is a task-oriented caravan manager who keeps meticulous record and is literate enough to maintain a detailed inventory for each trip.
This time, that inventory includes prisoners. Henrick and a group of fresh-looking recruits are keeping a close eye on the involuntary future bridge-builders they are escorting to Weldyn. Among that number is Efa, the sole survivor of Sleidr’s attempt to steal back Lady Sabine’s ruby ring. The prisoners are shackled to a chain that is itself connected to an enclosed wagon. The initial plan is for them to walk along with everyone else, but if anyone misbehaves, they will be confined to its hot, stagnant interior. In the humid summer weather, that is more punishment than reward. The prisoners are the responsibility of the South Tower guard, but Rhodri was wary enough about their presence to hire extra security. Although Tric and Heppa have not yet met any personally, the elves know they are not the only mercenaries along on this trip.
The caravan is a regularly scheduled run, transporting spring produce and the fabricated items that have built up over the past few months. There is not really a road between South Tower and Weldyn, just a well-trod track, so people do not feel comfortable moving their goods all by themselves. Instead, they band together for mutual security. Rhodri’s caravan is the first significant one to head out since winter. The spring mud has dried up and enough goods have amassed to justify the expense and risk associated with overland travel. There are not really towns along the way, so most nights will be spent in the open air, or at a farmstead if they are lucky.
The initial route hews close to the River Weldyn, heading upstream. As the entire group starts to move, Heppa cranes her neck around, trying to observe the behavior of the other mercenaries. “Are we supposed to have our weapons out?” she asks her cousin. “Is that what guards do?”
“We don’t have to be constantly ready to strike something,” Tric tells her. “That’s a good way to wear yourself out. We just stay alert, on the watch for interesting things. Rhodri told us we need to stop any trouble that happens. Going into or coming out of the caravan.” The prisoners are Henrick’s concern; the caravan is Rhodri’s.