The group did not manage to leave the unnamed village quite as quickly or secretly as Jasper might have wished, as the community in general seemed puzzled by their exodus. Jasper had to rudely shoulder aside the majority of the well-meaning population in his quest to get to the main road, and the crowd only seemed to grow larger as he made his way out. He supposed that that was mostly due to the toad who was sitting on his shoulder with his chest puffed out, shouting that all of the inconsequential bit characters had better get out of the way, there were terribly important people coming through.
Their little ragtag group did mange to escape the city eventually, but they did so at a price. Morwen refused to stay behind.
"You can't come with us," he told her in his most persuasive voice once the road around them had emptied. Newlin was still seated happily on his shoulder (for the dragon refused to go anywhere near Ted after having been examined with such great attention to detail), Ted was walking close behind and thinking so hard that he was biting at his fingernails, and Jasper himself was leading the way by memory, having traveled on that road to reach the village in the first place.
Morwen was keeping pace next to him, taking almost two steps for every one of his. Her cat was draped over her arms (asleep again, he assumed) and her face was red with the effort to keep up, but she showed no signs of slowing down. "I can," she replied quietly, her breath a bit ragged.
"... fine. You may not come with us," he amended, scowling.
"You can't enforce that. If you try to turn me around, I'll simply follow at a distance. Wouldn't you prefer being able to keep an eye on me?"
"I would prefer that you go back to your parents, where you belong."
The girl tucked a strand of flyaway hair behind her ear as she jogged a bit to catch up, her face bland and eyes sharp. "I'm twelve now. It's time for me to seek my fortune- they'll understand."
Jasper could have pointed out at that moment that younger daughters and sons did not traditionally seek their fortunes until they had come of age, but he had determined long before that Morwen had reached a mature state of mind abnormally early. Therefore, he settled for continuing to walk at his fastest pace (Ted could keep up- he was an adolescent, his legs were long), hoping that she would eventually give up and turn back. She didn't, of course.
They did not encounter any other groups on the road (they were in the middle of nowhere, after all), so they kept up a decent pace until the sun set. Morwen eventually fell back to talk to Ted, and Jasper shook his head at how she actually listened to his overly complicated sentences, interrupting him every now and then to ask for a definition or an example. By the time two hours had passed she was discussing the energy needed for a physical transformative spell with him with intuitive logic, if not years of study. Luckily, Newlin did not appear to find anything strange with Ted's extensive background in theoretical magic- he was too busy commenting on the surrounding landscape and situation in Jasper's ear.
They had found a place to stop for the night once dusk fell, and Jasper laid out the tarp from his bag on the flattest piece of ground. Morwen ventured off in the direction he gestured to to get water, so he seized the opportunity to figure out how to get rid of her politely.
"Ted," he muttered once she was out of earshot, "how do we convince Morwen to go back?"
The boy looked up from the charm he had been setting up- a do-it-yourself safety spell, the kind that would ward an area for a day and required no magical resources- seemingly puzzled. "Go back? Why would she do that?"
"She can't come with us," Jasper explained, exasperated, "she's only a child. We can't drag her along on some ridiculous quest."
Newlin shouted his indignance at that remark from inside Jasper's bag (which the dragon was examining most thoroughly), but as he didn't follow it up with any other threats, the two men ignored him.
"That reminds me," Ted said in a lower voice, leaving the charm on the ground and inching towards Jasper. "Why are we leaving so rapidly? I believe you said we were safe in this place."
Jasper struck his flint a little too roughly, cursing quietly as the resulting sparks scattered over the grass surrounding the area as well as the tinder that he had piled up to start a fire. "I was mistaken. There are wizards stationed outside the village, apparently. I'd bet my last spellbook that they're on our trail."
The boy whistled softly, watching the tiny glow of the starter fire, but didn't respond.
"Well, yes. So there's clearly a need for urgency. Now, a way to get rid of the girl, please? We can't take her from her parents."
"Why not?" Ted asked, his voice low. "You took me from mine."
Jasper rubbed the base of his palm against his forehead, biting back a groan as he spotted Morwen in the distance. "Different situation, Ted. Please. Try to think of something."
His ward didn't respond, getting up in order to borrow a few drops of water from Morwen to activate his charm instead.
That night, the four of them sat around the fire, eating the traveler's soup that Jasper had cooked and discussing the path they would take. The conversation did not actually take the form of a discussion, unfortunately, for Jasper did most of the deciding as Newlin interjected with vague and unhelpful comments, Ted got so distracted by the details that he didn't help with the general plan at all, and Morwen simply sat and listened, her cat kneading its paws against her leg.
"From what you've said, Dragon Newlin, the Ford is close to the Enchanted Forest. I have an old friend who lives in a kingdom not far from that forest, and she owns a teleportation portal--"
"Those were discontinued four years ago," Ted interjected.
"But they still work, so it doesn't matter. Of course, if we want to use it we'll need to find another one of the same model. Luckily, an old roommate of mine is a traveling salesman, and he's usually in these parts this time of year--"
"I don't know if I trust these old friends of yours," Newlin interrupted, croaking for emphasis. "You mortals have such short life spans, who's to say they're even still around?"
"-- so if we can find him and if he knows where we can find a teleportation portal, we'll be able to get there in less than a week."
"A week!" Newlin shouted, hopping agitatedly on his bucket (he had insisted on some type of leverage to put him closer to eye level with the humans and cat). "That's far too long! You must do better than that."
"The Enchanted Forest is hundreds of leagues away," Morwen murmured thoughtfully, looking up at the sky.
"Exactly. We have no other choice, Newlin. Do you have a better suggestion?" Jasper asked, his voice tight as he tried to keep sarcasm at bay.
"Well, if any of you could fly, this would hardly be necessary..."
"So it's settled. We'll continue on this path in the morning," Jasper replied firmly.
No one seemed particularly happy with his decision (except perhaps the cat, though it seemed detached from the situation as a whole), but no one objected to his words. Jasper felt rather confidant as a result; he even thought to himself in a hopeful and encouraging way that they might get through the situation without any trouble after all.