Chapter 1: To the Outsider, the Answer is often more obvious.
Lofan was not making good progress. He had come up with a plan to brave the dragon mountains, where the Kindling was hidden. It wasn’t terribly complicated, he would hire some adventurers in the nearby town of Cozzlanga. He was after all just a coneman, he wasn’t even sure if his power would be good enough to carry the Kindling. The solution then was some hired muscle.
As it was, the bag of valuables (taken from the hoard Atticus had made back in his despoiling days) Lofan was dragging was slowing him down considerably. He was just glad that the tunnel to the nearest town was filled with so much cover at the sides of the well worn path down it. He was completely hidden beneath the glowing bulbcaps and the dimgrasses, a few errant upsidedown tree helped too.
Being so well travelled, it was not a dangerous route normally, but then in Elcon even a safe route could end up leading somewhere unexpected or turn out dangerous. The land had a fickle mind of its own. Conepeople are not in any particular danger from other denizens, as they often just get overlooked, literally and figuratively. No it is wild beasts and animals that are the real threat, for some reason Conepeople smell quite tasty to many wild beings.
To Lofan it felt as if time had stopped, that he was shorn off from the rest of reality into some dreadful pocket reality, doomed to forever drag his bag down an endless road. Lofan was broken out of his mindless soul rending trudge by the sound of arguing voices. Lofan quickly stashed his lootbag between some rocks, and went to investigate.
People weren’t good at noticing conepeople, but if they did most could easily take whatever they wanted from them. Lofan was brave, and wouldn’t just flee at the sight of something bigger than himself, but he wasn’t a fool either.
He could make out the voices more clearly as he drew closer to them.
“…this wouldn’t have happened if you were having your cart pulled by a good animal like an orse!”
One voice snapped.
Orses are a bit like horses, except for coming in all sizes and colours, having massive nostrils and cloven hooves. So, only a bit like horses. Supposedly there was orses smaller than conepeople. Orses are a common domestic animal in elcon, and there is even wild mismatched herds of them above ground and below it.
“Well, if you hadn’t been tearing down the road like a ram rider, maybe my Glopper wouldn’t have gotten spooked!”
The first voice had a point over this second voice. Gloppers don’t make good cart animals.
Gloppers are a large furry lumps (a bit like if you took only the hump of a camel) with six furless hooved legs. Oddly their mouth can appear anywhere from within their fur, though never uncovered. Given the timidness of the Glopper (the disposition of a coneperson some say) they aren’t suitable for much of any kind of work.
They can with difficult training and tending be made loyal enough to overcome their fear, but even then, the nature of their legs and how they can instantly move in any direction actually makes them good battle mounts more than anything else.
Lofan found his sentiments with the first voice in part, it was unkind to other cart drivers to have such an easily spooked cartbeast. Lofan gently pushed aside a few dimgrass stalks to get a better look at the situation, though he had from the two exchanges gotten a good idea of what had happened.
“My shipment is already running late! I don’t have the time for this” Moaned the first voice.
“You are late? My goods were held up at the other end! People will be panicking if my delivery doesn’t arrive!”
It was not a pretty scene before Lofan. Completely blocking the road was the ravaged remains of two carts, wheels and shattered timber where everywhere. A pair of cart drivers fussed over their respective ceramic urns, while blaming each other and shouting. Beyond the shattered carts the glopper and the orse were happily eating dimgrass together, oblivious to their owner’s frustrations.
Speaking of their owners, Lofan could see what they were now. The owner of the first voice and the orse was incensed looking fox in a green and black polkadot robe, with a brown flat cap, and heavy brown riding gloves.
The other was a pudgy shewpog. Given that shewpogs are little more than a fuzzy sack with hindpaws, hands and interesting head hair, most of them look pudgy. Like many elconic denizens shewpogs come in many colours.
Their usually interesting hair often covers their eyes, giving their kind a not undeserved reputation for clumsiness and poor sight. In terms of size they could be considered roughly three conepeople. This one however, was on par with the fox thanks to his wide girth.
The beleaguered shewpog wore a tatty waistcoat and a widebrimmed straw hat, from which hair like palm leaves sprouted.
What drew Lofan’s interest however, was that the goods of the cart drivers were all unbroken.
The Fox was fussing over his urns, which were filled with spices and sweets alternatively.
“Some very wealthy people buy these goods!” The fox lectured the shewpog “Not the kind of people you want to upset!”
The shewpog’s goods were much more mundane, cloths, waxes and oils.
“Yeah? Well there’ll be darkness and riots if my oils and waxes don’t get through, and plenty of people will be upset if the tailors run out of cloth!”
Now, Lofan could have just been on his way, but he couldn’t just leave after seeing what had happened. It would be bad if the goods didn’t get through to the town, and the fox had forgotten to mention that spices would be important for preserving food.
He looked at the carts, and the goods, an idea forming in his head. There was enough pieces to make one cart, and there wasn’t so many urns that they wouldn’t fit on the one cart.
Lofan strode out of hiding and spoke up.
“uh, excuse me sirs!”
The car drivers continued arguing, not having seen or heard the coneman among them.
“uh, excuse me sirs!” Lofan tried again, while the cart drivers were catching their breaths.
“Eh? Who said that?” The shewpog exclaimed, looking about.
The fox soon joined the shewpog, he clutched a urn to his body.
“Y-you don’t think it is bandits do you? We’ve been here a while”
The shewpog froze, then his body began to shudder in fear.
“N-not bandits! I’ve a wife and fifteen kids, four in-laws, a parent, several grandparents and a cousin with no hindlegs!”
The cart-drivers were clutching each out of their fears.
“down here, i’m not a bandit, i promise.”
The cart-drivers looked down, and seeing that it was just a lone coneman laughed awkwardly as they disentangled themselves from each other.
“Well, what do you want?, we’re very busy here!” The fox blustered, embarrassed to have made such a scene due to a mere coneman.
“well i could see you are having some problems, and thought i could help you with them” Lofan offered.
The cart-drivers both laughed for a long time at the thought that a coneperson could help them. Then their laughter slowly died as they remembered how desperate their situation was.
“Sorry about that” The shewpog said, wringing his hands. “What was your idea?”
Lofan explained how they could make a new cart from the pieces of the old and draw it with both the orse and the glopper, and how all their goods would fit in.
The cart-drivers were delighted.
“How did we not think of that?” the shewpog wondered.
“I guess were arguing too much and trying to find someone to blame, rather than actually fixing the problem” the fox mused, abashed.
In short order they had a ramshackle cart together, which Lofan helped assemble. The orse and glopper were happy enough to be hitched to the same cart, having bonded over a bit of grazing.
“However can we thank you?” The shewpog gushed.
The fox grinned.
“I know, how about a lift? You are heading to Cozzlanga right?”
“yes, i am, i’d love a lift, just let me grab my stuff from where i stashed it”
Lofan did so, and in short order, he and the cart drivers were on their way to the town faster than they had been going when as separate carts.