The regular squeak of the cart's axle had plagued them the entire way, and yet the driver seemed entirely oblivious. Meiyo thought it would be wise to stop off and get some fat to lubricate it before they got to the harder part of their journey, but she knew that'd be unlikely. Even though they were in friendly territory on the east side of the high ridge mountains the further west they went the less populated the land became. Her mind wandered back over the events of the past few days.
After his father's orders to head west a few days ago, Mychel had wanted to take a strong force of 20 men with him to ensure their safety but Staffen would have none of it. Meiyo listened as Staffen told Mychel that he needed the men of the Conzaga private militia with him in case his enemies struck again, and he offhandedly remarked that "the bird" would keep him safe. Meiyo would miss the safety and comfort of the eastern lands, but getting some respite from Staffen's sharp tongue would be welcome.
In the end Meiyo had gone to the barracks and asked for volunteers. There had been few hands raised, but when an old veteran came forward and declared he would accompany them some of the younger soldiers wanted to come along too.
"What is your name soldier?"
"It's Gineto. I served with Nestur in the wars against Ravaage." Meiyo examined him closely - he had a neatly trimmed goatee in the Varlyrian style and a well kept but well used chain mail shirt. But his eyes were dark and hard, just the kind of man they would need in the wastelands.
"Very well Gineto, you are coming of your own free will mind." Meiyo didn't want anyone to abandon them when the going got tough. Gineto nodded. Meiyo continued, "Pick two of those who have volunteered and meet us at dusk."
Travelling with a smaller escort had a number of advantages. For one, the cart and driver that Staffen had supplied his son was not large, and food would be hard to come by once they'd crossed the mountains. Carts would slow them down and become a liability if they were attacked. Additionally, the fewer men in their group meant easier access through the dwarven lands who, being wary of the humans inhabiting the eastern side of Varlyrio, might refuse them passage if they felt threatened.
Once the soldiers were gathered and the cart loaded with ale, bread and a few of Mychel's essentials (he expected to travel in a certain manner) the group set off west. They travelled through the rolling green fields and since bandits were rare here the mood was light and conversation flowed. Gineto had an attentive audience for his war stories.
The cart's squeak began to slow meaning the convoy was coming to a stop, and Meiyo's thoughts drifted back to the present. A small group of peasants were out picking grapes near the road side. They were using a small storage barn to store their produce before it was transported for sale. Mychel began to veer off the road to engage them in conversation and Meiyo stuck close by, just in case. After a brief chat, the group returned to the road and continued on their way. Meiyo realised she had forgotten to ask for fat for the cart axle, and it's renewed squeak reminded her of how far they still had to go.