The Smith Returns

Farm Road
Farm Road is a rutted dirt track that obviously sees quite a lot of use. Nearer the town, it twists through overgrown shrubbery and the remains of driveways, and at the other end it is a long winding way through grassy hills. At this end, it loops gently between two rising hills, and passes between two gateposts neatly constructed of stones and mortar. A tree with fernlike leaves shades the right-hand post, and each post has a round bronze plaque set in among the stones. There is no trace of a gate. In the distance, you can see higher hills, furred with forests, but as yet there is no sign of a farm, only the rolling green hills. (there are views here)
Obvious exits:
New Moon Farm Towards Town

Kelsey approaches from the direction of the town.
Kelsey has arrived.

Kelsey ambles along the road looking for nothing in particular, simply exploring. Her untrained voice precedes her, cheerfully, "... but the loveliest of all was the unicorn!"

Layla decends from the hill beyond the gateposts and passes between them, stepping out onto Farm Road.
Layla has arrived.

A large wagon covered with tarps is making its way along the rutted farm road, drawn by a dark roan draft horse. Another drafter follows placidly along behind the cart, although it doesn't seem to be tethered. The lead horse is being led by a tall, broad fellow in a long oiled canvas coat, its collar turned up against the wind.

Kelsey's eyes alight at the sound of hoofbeats, and she trails after the wagon. Her singing drifts off in mid-song as she draws near, but she calls out, "Heeeey! Master Lucas, isn't it?"

Layla strolls down the center of the dirt street. She is coming from general direction of the farm.

The blacksmith turns at Kelsey's hail, the wind tossing his brown curls into a wild froth. Squinting into the afternoon gloom, his face creases into a grin. "Hullo!" he calls, cheerily. He frowns, a bit embarrassed, "Kelson, was it?"

A largeish-to-medium-sized mongrel dog slinks out from under the cart and cautiously moves to greet Layla.

"Kelsey." She draws up level with him and steals an admiring glance at the lead horse Her walk is more even, her motions a little more slow, her voice lower, so as not to disturb the behemoth. "They're beautiful."
Layla had paused and stepped to the side of the road to let the wagon pass, but at Lucas's hale, she grins and steps closer to the gang. She deliberately steps to the side of the wagon that's away from the mongrel dog.

Once out of shouting range and within easy speaking range, Layla replies to Lucas's hale. "It's going well, thank you. How are you?" She smiles a greeting to Kelsey.

"Kelsey! Sorry," he smiles sheepishly. A hand moves up in a gesture that looks like it was meant for the brim of a hat, but since there *is* no hat, he runs the hand through the unruly curls instead. "And Ah'm sure Harebell and Campion are pleased by the compliment, the vain things." He pats the roan's massive neck affectionately, and the animal lays back its ears. If Lucas notices, he ignores it.

Kelsey oozes horse-worship fairly blatantly, to judge by the shine in her eyes and the direction they keep turning. But she does halt to turn and wave at the Strider. "Hai, Layla. How's Eve?"

The dog trots to the patch of ground between the roan's back hooves and the wheels of the cart, and there he sits, tongue lolling. His head swivels back and forth between Kelsey and Layla.

The quiet Strider brightens at the mention of the child's name. "The last I checked, she is thriving in the care of Sashenka."

Layla extends a slim hand up to Lucas. "My name's Layla. I live around here."

A smile lights the Shadow Lord's face further. "Got to stop by and check on her this evening, give Mama Bear the night off maybe."

The smith takes the proffered hand with a pleased smile. "Pleased to meet you, Layla," he says in a soft Midwestern drawl. His grip is firm, but not crushingly so, and his huge hand, gloveless, is surprisingly warm for a blustery day like this. "Ah see you're coming from the farm -- by chance do you know if Sarah is home? Ah was hoping to borrow her barn again."

The bay, of its own accord, has moved up along the far side of the cart, to stand with its neck companionably over the roan's withers. The huge horse seems uncannily to be listening to the conversation.

Layla blinks. "I did not see her, but I'm certain that's her laundry hanging out to dry, so I imagine she must be around."

Kelsey's thick eyebrows start merging in a conspiracy of puzzlement as she peers towards the bay. "Hey, you," she whispers to the pair of horses.

"Terrific!" Lucas declares. He dips his head in an informal bow, "Ah should go and see her, then. I hope Miz Sashenka is serving supper tonight?" His eyes light up hopefully.

The bay pokes out its huge, rubbery lips and blows moist horse breath at Kelsey. The roan merely snorts.

The dog, meanwhile, has slipped from its sheltered spot and is sniffing at Kelsey's ankles.

Kelsey starts at the snuff of breath through her socks and briefly loses her usual genial composure, biting back a squeak. She looks down, chuckles, and holds her hand carefully at nose-level for the dog to make his acquaintance with her. "And hello to you, too."

"Don't be a noodge, now Arslag," Lucas admonishes the dog, but Arslag seems inclined to behave himself. After some judicious sniffing, he leans his head in toward Kelsey's outstretched hand for scratching.

Kelsey obliges thoughtfully, attention still more on the animals than the people. But she does remember to tell the man, "I think the villagers were hoping you'd be back, soon. We've had quite a storm--" she nods towards a shattered tree or two alongside the road-- "and we're still trying to repair all the damage. Miss Anita lost her house."

The big smith looks dismayed. "Did she, now? I've seen the damage everywhere about... I hope no one was hurt?"

Kelsey shakes her head. "Nothing that didn't heal," she says with an odd laugh. "Miss Allison's threats gave us fair warning, and we had time to get everyone to safety. I think..." she pauses as they reach the barn, and goes to open the door for him. "I didn't hear of any injuries, apart from a few bumps and scratches, and some livestock."

Kelsey passes between the gateposts and begins to climb the hill that lies beyond, heading towards New Moon Farm.
Kelsey has left.
Layla passes between the gateposts and begins to climb the hill that lies beyond, heading towards New Moon Farm.
Layla has left.

Near Barn, New Moon Farm
The old concrete floor of the barn is crumbling a little now, attesting to the great age of this old building. It is a big round room surmounted with a hayloft, which is presently empty but still perfumes the dusk of the barn with the scent of sunny grass. In one corner, pieces of an old cart and broken hoes, scythes, and other farm tools await mending. There are a few stalls in the back, built sturdily of heavy timbers, but for the most part it is open space. A stick horse leaning in one corner, and a child's pull-wagon mutely testify to the present uses to which this barn is usually put.
Obvious exits:
Barn Doors

Kelsey enters the hay-smelling gloom of the barn through the big double doors.
Kelsey has arrived.
Layla enters the hay-smelling gloom of the barn through the big double doors.
Layla has arrived.

Kelsey tells Lucas belatedly, "I think Sashenka's got something yummy planned, but I haven't been by today."

Once inside, Lucas excuses himself to go ask for Sarah at the main house. "Ah'll chat with Miz Sarah and get everything sorted out here. Ah reckon Ah'll head in to the diner after that, if you all are likely to be around? Ah'd love to hear all about how the storm went here."

Kelsey smiles at Lucas. "I think we will be, yes. We'll tell you all about it."
Kelsey turns to head back towards the Diner.

Layla asks Kelsey, "Shall we go check up on Eve?"

Kelsey smiles. "Yes, please."

Kelsey has left.
Layla exits the barn through the large twin doors.
Layla has left.