An Unexpected Cover

Before their meeting that morning, Voah had prepared a hot, shallow bath using well water in the wooden tub. Once their discussions and strategies were set, she took a quick wash, longing for a more leisurely soak but knowing time was pressing. Their previously wet garments had been cleaned and hung to dry. After bathing, Voah methodically dressed in her disguise as a young man, allowing the others some time to freshen up as well. She then equipped Islana's hunting bow and readied Amu’s saddle. With a heavy heart, she bid farewell to Ekero, who had to remain behind. Given the uncertain outcomes of their plan, this parting could very well be their last.

Voah, mounted on Amu, made her way along a known path that led to Ostiarium, with Alexis and Tarmen maintaining a discreet yet visible distance behind her. Their timing was fortuitous and impeccable, emerging from the woods onto the main trail just ahead of a very large convoy.

Ranchers, hunters, and loggers weary from some grand endeavor, were returning to the city of stone and the farms surrounding it. They had wrangled a considerable yield of large game, including live cattle, caribou, and horses. Their carts and horses were laden with packs, barrels, antlers, pelts, and lumber. Engrossed in their own tales of triumph, the party paid little attention to the solitary figure leading a horse out of the woods ahead of them. Amidst the rhythmic clatter of hooves, barking dogs, and the steady rattle of cart wheels, Voah’s quiet integration went largely unnoticed. This bustling group, preoccupied with their bounty and the recounting of some exploit against the Arcadians, provided the ideal diversion for Voah to pass through the city gates, blending seamlessly into the flow of routine commerce and activity. "May our harvest be as rich as the seeds we sow," she heard one of them laugh to another. Looking back, Voah could see Tarmen and Alexis trot into the road further behind.

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