Along The Path: An Adventure to Remember

Just something I couldn't get out of my head again. Thought the idea was too interesting to ignore. Hope you find it the same.

Mistral was a beautiful land, to be sure. What had once been rolling rocky hills interspersed with dry stretches of dirt now opened out to a valley tinged with short golden grass. Short trees dotted the landscape, low-hanging branches providing decent shade in the now baking heat. A single dirt road stretched on between the fields of grass, leading to what looked like a formidable settlement. It's large walls of stone shone white as the sun glared down from on high, making it easy to see the number of people along the wall's length. To the side of the wall, a river snaked its way along the valley, winding off into the distance.

But that wall was still some distance away for the group of travelers on the dirt road. Just cresting one last hill before descending into the valley, they had thought it prudent to have a rest near a particularly shady tree and enjoy the view.

One had shirked his dark hoodie in favor of simply wearing his undershirt, blond hair already damp from the unrelenting dry heat. Another had his ornate robe's sleeves rolled back, and the collar loosened, he had also had the forethought to tie his hair back with a strip of cloth, keeping the perspiration and hair out of his face. The third member of the group was having a seemingly easier time of it, pink skirt and light colors providing a slightly cooler and breezier experience, allowing her to spin in place with an open smile at the view before the group. The head of the band however, decked in black and crimson, was not so enthused.

"Gaaaaah… I should've taken some of Yang's clothes...Why hasn't it rained again!?" Ruby Rose gasped.

She trudged forward a few more steps before the sun finally won the fight and brought the poor girl down on her knees in defeat, small puffs of dry dirt kicking up at the disturbance.

In one last sign of defiance against an angry and unjust power, Ruby shook her fist weakly at the source of her woes, willing all of her focus on forcing the sun to cease its illumination. The sun was not moved by the young girl's bid, and continued its unrelenting torment.

"Hey Ruby? Maybe you should have a swig. Don't want you getting dehydrated." Jaune Arc, ever the knight in shining armor, pulled a canteen from his belt and held it out to the defeated huntress, still kneeling in submission to the all-powerful ball of nuclear fusion.

In a blink of an eye though, Ruby grabbed at the canteen with both hands, desperately uncapping and guzzling the contents down.

All watched as the seconds stretched on, Jaune uneasily wondering how much water there'd be left. Nora Valkyrie, staring as Ruby went past the ten second mark of her water binge, quietly whispered 'Go, go, go!'. Lie Ren simply looked on in amusement.

"BWAH-hah….Phew! Thanks, Jaune! That was the stuff…" Ruby finally tearing herself away from the canteen and taking a couple breaths, idly held the container back to Jaune.

At this point he knew there wouldn't be anything left within, peering into the now dry bottle. Ruby, re-energized and ready to continue her struggle against nature, spun with a small wobble back towards her team and struck a commanding pose.

"Okay team RNJR! We have reached our latest waypoint! What's the next one, Head Navigator Ren?"

At that, Ren idly pointed down to the settlement in the distance.

"Alright then! Hopefully we'll make it in an hour or two! In the meantime, MORALE OFFICER VALKYRIE, a marching tune if you would!?"

Nora squealed with delight and tore a flute from her pack, Jaune and Ren quickly sharing a look of dread as Nora blew through each opening in quick succession. Satisfied that all was in order, Nora threw a quick salute before readying her instrument of tort-entertainment.

"BY YOUR COMMAND, DEAR CO-LEADER!" The next hour would consist of manic flute music drifting up and down the valley, slowly creeping closer to the team's destination.

Ever since it had rained a few days ago, Team RNJR had followed the many back roads and paths of Mistral on their way to their ultimate destination of Haven Academy. Besides the occasional fellow traveler, the group had seen little of any people since the start of their journey into the continent. But with their route apparently passing by a large and relatively fortified settlement, they believed it was acceptable to take a quick layover within the walls, if only to restock on supplies and gather what information they could.

After all, one couldn't subsist on jerky and pancake mix forever, nor could their two sets of clothing keep for much longer; not to mention their depleted supply of vital munitions. Their map needed updating as well, much of its information being outdated and/or unclear, Ren's proficiency in land navigation at Beacon came to great use in the past couple of weeks. This stop at the settlement was much needed, indeed.

As Ruby lead the way down towards the gates of what now looked like a full-fledged medieval castle with the trappings of a modern city, Nora's flute notes carrying strongly around them, she just hoped this settlement might have a lead on their mission, no matter how small, besides a location. She also hoped for a shop that carried clothing in her size, and preferably lighter, as she squinted her eyes upward. 'I wish you had a great big chunk taken out of you too, stupid sun…'

The large, archaic-looking gate leading into the settlement itself was host to a number of travelers, merchants and small temporary camps. Tents and wooden stands littered the space in front of the gate, bedrolls and carts, and the rare truck lying between them. The entrance itself was bustling at the moment, folk forming lines in and out, guards either checking over merchants' stock of wares or giving directions. Horses whinnied, oxen bellowed, and the overall noise of people reigned.

Thus, one might understand that attempting to meditate in such a place might be rather difficult. But one figure between the crowded stands and tents was not dissuaded, his own mare lying patiently beside him, long used to the typically strange bouts of inaction from its owner.

Garbed in a greyed-out hooded cloak and a pair of dark boots, all else was obscured. The figure had not moved from his kneeled position in the dirt for at least four hours, if any of the nearby vendors were to guess. Several curious passerby had stole glances at the figure on their way into the settlement, none noticing a muscle moved, besides the shift of cloth denoting a breath. The figure slept within his own mind for the past few hours, allowing the din of the gate area to fade out of consciousness for some respite.

However, even he could not ignore the especially hot day, the sun now almost directly over the makeshift camps. And with heat came thirst, sweat having rolled from the figure's shaded brow for quite some time. Rousing from his trance, he pulled a flask from his pack adorning the mare, and took a hearty pull.

'Damn good stuff,' He thought. 'Wish I had gotten some of that Atlesian stock sooner. Time to see about those rumors, should help pay for that drink.'

And with that, the figure finally rose from his spot on the ground, some folk noting with surprise, having gotten used to the stationary stranger. As they stared on, they finally earned a glimpse at the man behind the hood, the first thing noticed being his eyes; yellow cat's eyes nearly glowing within the shade of the cloak. The second noteworthy feature was his hair, a uniform white in stark contrast to the man's apparent age, somewhere between forty and fifty. Third, was the scars; at that, most folk quickly jerked their gaze away, an uncomfortable shiver felt as they saw the many adorning the man's face.

Though others still looked on, and for that they were ignored, the figure checked over his ride to make sure all was cinched tight, before taking the reins and pulling the young horse along into the now lengthy line leading inside the city.

With the time of day now high noon, traffic was at its highest at the gates to the city, the previously low din of conversation earlier that day now a cacophony of sound as all attempted shouting over one another, not to mention the loudspeaker relaying information on customs and goods before entrance. The mare shifted its front hooves and whinnied softly as its ears flicked in discomfort, earning it a firm pat on the neck by its owner in commiseration.

'I know, Roach. I know. Just till we get inside, then we'll find a nice quiet alley or post to hole up at.'

Roach, not being able to understand language or read minds, resolved to lower its head towards the ground to muffle the noise overhead as the line slowly went forward. From what the stranger could see ahead, the line should only take a few minutes. Thankful that at least there wasn't anyone behind yet, he settled for biding the time till he reached the front.

A couple minutes passed, a gaggle of people forming behind him as he continued waiting, conversations from all around finally starting to settle as the majority of people seemed to have gotten through, he paying no mind to their subjects, simply letting the talk wash over him. To be truthful, while a bit loud the overall noise did not bother him too much, though he wished the cloak's hood came with a pair of earplugs to block out the particularly annoying or rowdy sorts; off-duty guardsmen cradling their rifles and sharing a bottle as they tried trumping each story told. A woman ahead of him chatting at a disturbingly high pitch on her scroll to a friend inside the city. The loudspeaker occasionally squawking with interference. The stranger closed his eyes and merely accepted the discomfort and waited.

And then someone started playing a fucking flute in his ear.

And there it is, chapter one, done. Like I said, just something I had the need to write down, if you like it, let me know, but I'll be posting more chapters very soon. Till then.