She looked to Finnal with confusion as they sat outside of the stables Tom's horses were being lead from. "I get why he's got to go. Word needs to be gotten out..."

"But?" Finnal watched as teams of horses were being hitched together. The halfling then looked to the forearm length knife in his lap and started cleaning the blade. this was less out of need and seeming more to keep his hands busy as the pair sat in the building's shade.

"I don't understand why Tom hates this place. the locals have done nothing but be helpful." Jen sounded confused as the halfling trader stamped a foot while shouting at one of the skeletons, Shinji by the looks of the uniform.

Finnal continued wiping the blade down as he spoke. "Look at it from his perspective. Any dungeon big enough to attract a town is going to feel like it's important, and it's used to getting its way because nobody wants to annoy something that has a small army to dogpile you with."

"But," Jen protested, "The dungeons here aren't like that."

"That should tell you how much of an oddity the group here is." Finnal pulled a small clay jar from a pouch, dipped a stained rag in and started rubbing a bead of oil along the length of the blade in small circular motions. "Want to know why I brought you here on that first run Jen?"

"Sure." The teenage goblin sounded unsure, but listened anyway.

"Because I thought there'd be a huge payday from digging through Damala's ruins. In and out before anything had a chance to pop up." Finnal gave a small approving nod as he flipped the blade over to repeat the process on the other side of the blade.

"So?" Jen still sounded confused as she watched Tom's lead wagon pull away. The dozen or so goblins at the stable looked confused as the trader headed for the gates even as several horses and another wagon were in the process of being hooked up.

"I wouldn't have brought you here if I'd known there were a bunch of dungeons here squabbling over things." Finnal's voice was matter of fact as he wiped the blade down, leaving a mirror finish just before sheathing it.

"So why did we keep coming back?" Jen asked as she got up to follow Finnal to the stables.

She was about to ask again when he raised a hand to shush her as he approached the team of goblins at loose ends. "Oi!"

One of the goblins turned to approach, given he wore a slightly fancier set of coveralls than the others, or at least had a sort of yellow trim to the green, Finnal took him to be the one in charge. "You know anything about what's going on mate?"

The Goblin shrugged and shook his head.

"Alright then," Finnal straightened himself as he continued speaking with more confidence than he felt. "You've seen me around, right?"

The goblin nodded.

"I need your team to hook that other wagon up." Finnal gestured to the wagon still parked beside the stables. Flat sides, Roof with railing along the sides that angled out slightly from the main body of the wagon and a pair of hatches leading from roof to the interrior.

A confused tilt of the goblin's head, but he was still listening.

It was at that point a skeleton walked up. He wore something that wasn't ornate, but had more detailing than most of the others. After a moment a chaulk board was handed to Finnal. 'Fin, I know you're not working with the trader. What are you planning?'

"Well," Finnal looked to the taller skeleton, "I don't think many of you know how to work horses, and it's going to be easier getting troops to and from in bulk with that thing than marching on foot."

Shinji looked down at the halfling, erased, then started writing again. 'A few of the other regulars have offered to throw in with us with Jjaro and Arin already headed to the library to try coordinating any magic users they have.'

Finnal nodded, but before he spoke Shinji held up a finger. 'Boss wants Jen benched.'

The skeleton met Jen's gaze as the goblin thief scowled, "I can fight. I'm not a child."

Shinji nodded once to her, 'I know. You're about as old as I was when I died.'

That caused the pair of thieves to pause, taking in the skeleton as he wrote more. 'It is a long story. I don't regret doing it, but I know boss would. Especially if Tom is going to just bug out like he did."

"So you want us to go make sure everyone else is warned?" Jen sounded, if anything, annoyed.

Shinji nodded. 'We don't trust Tom. We also know Stone Soup is headed to the front with Ishida, which we think is stupid but we can't stop her."

Finnal blinked, looking from slate to skeleton then back to make sure he read that right. "When did they leave?"

Shinji pointed to the horses that hadn't been hitched. Four were missing.

Jen's eyes narrowed, "And they just... left? Without saying anything?"

When Shinji nodded she deflated. "Alright. I get it, lot going on. C'mon boss. You know how to work these things right?" She pointed at the horses.

As they walked to the animals Finnal put a hand on her shoulder. "Look at it this way. He's trusting us to get word out, and this's looking big enough that we won't really be missing much."

Jen nodded as a pair of goblins lead one of the horses to Finnal and brought a step ladder for the pair. "They're counting on us."

Finnal paused, making sure to look Jen in the eyes. "That means whatever you're planning. Don't.

"Oh?" Jen played at innocence as she took Finnal's hand and threw a leg across the horse's back. "What makes you say I'm going to try anything?"

After a moment she looked at the horse she was on, then at Finnal. She then tried looking anywhere but at the ground.

"You're doing fine." Finnal patted Jen's shoulder. "We'll go slow."

In spite of his reassurances, when the horse started moving Jen yelped and had to fight to not cling to the animal's neck before glowering at the goblins surrounding the pair.

"We'll be back as soon as we can, with or without help." Finnal looked to Shinji and saluted before the horse started for the gate separating the alliance's holdings from everywhere else.

Jen frowned as she focused on balancing, "It feels like we're running away."

"We're not," Finnal tried reassuring. In spite of the lack of saddle he felt reasonably secure seated as he was. "I also know you're going to try sliding off. Don't. It's hard to properly tuck and roll from where you're sitting, and I'll just catch you anyway."

"But-" Jen sputtered as they crossed the gate between alliance and the rest of the city. "Can you just drop me off at the library? You need to go fast and if you know what I'm going to do, you know you can't stop me from doing it."

Their horse stopped in the middle of the road. Finnal looked first towards the way back to home, a settlement that was most of a day's walk from here. He then looked to the library.

"Jen." Finnal's voice was calm, and when he spoke it was with a solemn seriousness he hadn't had before, "I'll never stop being your friend, but if you do this. you can't be my apprentice."

The moment lasted longer than it perhaps should have. Jen slid from the horse's back and started running.

Finnal took a deep breath and wheeled the horse around before digging his heels in. Time was wasting, and he needed to get word out at what was happening.

He also didn't want Jen to see him cry.


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