The Horned Carriage Association
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We found ourselves wandering around the suburbs not too long after we booked ourselves a place to stay the night. The original plan was for us to head back to the guild so we could figure out what we needed to do in order to get back to the capital, but speaking with the lady running the inn we chose had caused us to change our minds.
The innkeeper was a businessman with a whole plethora of connections. The combination of the information she’d gotten from her peers and her instincts as a beastkin had immediately allowed her to identify Fran the moment she walked through the door. As a result, she’d treated Fran with as much fidelity as she could possibly manage. That is, she offered the best room she had for an extremely discounted price.
She then went on to declare that she would treat the form Fran filled out as a family heirloom before hearing out our plans and giving us a bit of advice.
It was precisely her advice that led us to our current destination.
“That?” Fran tilted her head as she pointed to a building that seemed to match what the innkeeper had described to her.
“I think so. The roof’s blue, and structure makes it look kinda like a barn. It’s pretty much a perfect match.”
Approaching the building a bit more confirmed that it was the exact one we were looking for; the sign hanging outside it labeled it as a branch of the Horned Carriage Association.
“Welcome,” a calm, collected woman in her twenties called out to us as we entered the building. She looked quite similar to the type of girl one would often find working at the Adventurers’ Guild, with the sole difference being that her uniform had been swapped out for another.
Unlike the innkeeper we met earlier, the association’s receptionist was human, so she didn’t immediately identify Fran. Many of the people we’d met along the way, however, did. Most of the people she walked by totally froze over the moment they realized that she wasn’t just any average black catkin. Even those that had yet to hear about the Black Lightning Princess ended up stopping and staring the moment they realized that she had evolved.
Some of the older men that saw her had been shocked so far out of their wits that they started worshiping her on the spot. All in all, she was treated kinda like the type of mythical creature that bless with happiness all that managed to spot it — basically every beastkin she came across would stop in their tracks just to get a good look at her.
“Want information,” Fran got to business and began questioning the clerk as I recalled the events that’d just transpired.
“Might this be your first time riding a horned carriage?”
The receptionist gave us a quick overview and explained the services the Horned Carriage association offered. Simply put, they basically provided a transportation service. They rented out carriages pulled by Dual Horns, rhino-like monsters with high speed and endurance. They took very few breaks, so they were able to reach their destinations roughly twice as quickly as horses could. They themselves were considered F ranked monsters, so they could also function to scare off thieves and other weaker potential assailants.
“I see,” Fran nodded.
“Here are the prices,” the receptionist showed Fran a piece of paper with a whole bunch of numbers written all over it. The fees seemed to vary based off of two main factors. The first was whether or not one was willing to share a carriage with other passengers. The second had to do with the amount of distance traveled.
“Want to go to capital.”
“Your destination is Vestia then?” The receptionist pointed towards the fees written on the page and paused for a moment before continuing. “In that case, the fee will be 40,000 golde if you’re willing to ride with other passengers, or 120,000 golde if you’d like to reserve a carriage for yourself. The trip should take a total of around 10 days.”
“Expensive.” Fran’s one word comment referred to more than just the cash cost. She also meant that the trip would eat up far too much of our time. Seeing that Fran seemed rather confused, the receptionist showed her a map and began to explain the circumstances.
“This is where Greyseal is on the map. Vestia is right over here, to its west.”
“Not that far?”
Greyseal was on Chrom’s eastern coast. Vestia seemed like it was just a little to the west of it. I wasn’t able to make any definitive conclusions seeing as how the map was missing a scale, but it didn’t really look like it would take 10 days to move between the two relatively close points nonetheless.
Being as experienced as she was, the receptionist addressed all my concerns before I even voiced them.
“The straight line distance between the two cities isn’t too far, but you see this green patch?” She moved her finger over to the large green area right between Greyseal and Vestia.
“Scorpion Lion Forest?” Fran read the words aloud.
“Exactly. The Scorpion Lion Forest is designated as a C ranked haunt. Manticores, C ranked monsters, are known to to live within it.”
Oh, so that’s why people avoid going straight through the forest.
There wasn’t any way the average person was going to be able to somehow manage to make their way through a C ranked haunt.
“The forest extends quite far, both to the north and to the south. The carriages have to go a rather long ways to loop around it,” the receptionist explained.
“No places to pass through?”
“It isn’t possible for a regular person, more skilled adventurers are known able to do it.”
“I’m an adventurer.”
“It does appear that way, but I don’t advise trying on your own.”
The receptionist was a really nice person. She seemed to think that Fran was a brand new adventurer, but she didn’t immediately shoot her down rudely, and instead phrased her statement in such a way to avoid injuring Fran’s pride. Moreover, she didn’t question whether or not Fran could afford a carriage ride, and simply continued to attentively answer all her questions regardless.
“Most adventurers setting off from Greyseal prefer passing through Argentlapn instead. The town’s fairly close to where the Scorpion Lion Forest is at its thinnest. You might be able to find yourself a party that’s looking to get through if you head over.”
In other words, we had two choices. The first was to loop around the Scorpion Lion forest by taking a huge detour. The second was to pass through it by heading over to Argentlapn. The haunt was apparently only ranked in at C. It likely wouldn’t give us too much trouble, so we would probably be much better off breaking through it..
That said, getting to Argentlapn was still a task in and of itself. The map made it seem like we could reach it so long as we headed in a south-westerly direction, but it probably wouldn’t be that simple in reality. The route undoubtedly had its own ups and downs, ones that a mere map wasn’t capable of illustrating.
“How much to Argentlapn?”
“It should take about a day. The cost is 3000 golde if you’re willing to ride with other people and 9000 if you want a private carriage.”
“Riding a Horned Carriage sounds like a pretty good idea as far as I’m concerned. It’ll be much more difficult for us to get lost if we get ourselves one.”
“Agreed, ” Fran responded telepathically.
We’d been curious about horned carriages to begin with, so we ended up booking one that would set out first thing tomorrow morning. We spent a good bit of time debating whether or not we wanted to ride a public carriage or rent one out ourselves and ultimately ended up choosing the first option over the second. Publicity was important, and riding with other people was a pretty good way to advertise Fran’s status as an evolved Black Catkin.
“Do you have anything to serve as identification?”
“Adventurer’s Guild card okay?”
“Thank yooouwahat! You’re a C ranker!? Really!?” The receptionist’s eyes widened as she looked over Fran’s guild card. She flipped it over several times and examined it from all different angles before finally confirming its authenticity by scanning it with a sort of crystalline device.
“It’s… the real thing?” She was clearly taken aback and impressed by Fran’s ability.
“R-Right! I should give this back to you. I’m terribly sorry if I came off as rude.”
“So I hope you don’t mind, but there’s something I’d like to ask you, seeing as how you’re a C ranked adventurer.”
“Nn,” Fran prompted the receptionist to continue with a nod.
“To be honest, we’re in need of escorts. We can’t seem to find enough to fill all our positions, so would you be okay with being a guard rather than a passenger? You’re a C ranker, so we’d be willing to give you a 50% discount if you’re willing to accept.”
“Why not enough? City has lots of adventurers.”
“Most of this city’s adventurers focus primarily on escorting ships. That’s all the more true right now given the current state of international affairs.”
“Meaning?” Fran tilted her head in confusion.
“Oh, did you perhaps come to Greyseal by sea?”
“Things have started to get a bit tense between us and the neighbouring country, in part because the king’s currently off abroad. Most of the soldiers have been assigned to the border. Very few have been left to perform the usual patrols.”
The lack of soldiers led to a proportional increase in the number of thieves and monsters. Many of the adventurers that normally worked escort jobs were busy exterminating all the vermin that’d arisen due to the lapse in the usual military presence.
“War going to happen?”
“I doubt it given the agreements our country has with the Kingdom of Bashar, but tensions are rising nonetheless. That would in part because the Basharians don’t really quite like Beastkin.”
At present, the beastkin’s country was relatively free of discrimination. It was a peaceful, relatively accepting country. However, it hadn’t always been that way in the past. Beastkin used to hold many social advantages. Most other races were discriminated against, and even oppressed if one was to go further back in time.
Bashar was a kingdom comprised precisely of these discriminated people. It was originally established by a group that had either escaped from or been driven out of the Beastkin’s country. To that end, the Basharians hated the beastkin. They instead advocated human supremacy and ensured that humans were given more leverage and opportunities.
“As a human, Bashar’s past makes me feel ashamed. The country used to proclaim that humans were the ultimate race and that beastkin were just inferior beings meant to be treated as slaves.”
“Explained using past tense. Different now?”
“The royal family’s non-extremist faction rose to power approximately a hundred years ago. Though the two countries have yet to get along, the Basharians have become much more tolerant of our country than ever before.”
Unfortunately, the two countries were still keeping an eye on each other. The Beastkin’s Country recognized that they were currently in a state that made it so that the Basharians wouldn’t actually be able to do much against them, especially with the king being as strong as he was, but they still couldn’t help but have their soldiers gather up upon learning that the Basharians had done the same—even though the Basharians had declared that they were only using their military might to clear a dungeon.
“And that’s why we’re a bit short on hands at the moment,” the receptionist concluded. “Would you be willing to take up the job and help us out?”
The 1.5k golde we would save was honestly just chump change for us, but the request was one that would officially go through the Adventurer’s Guild and add to our credit, so we figured there wasn’t really anything to lose.
“Will accept escort job to Argentlapn.”
“That’s great,” the receptionist smiled. “Is 6 in the morning a good time for you?”
“Nn. No problem.”
“Then we’ll see you then.”
Woo. Transportation get.
“Alright. I guess we can just kick back and relax until tomorrow.”
“First, eat all local specialties.”
“There’s local specialties around here?”
“Saw on sign just now.”
“You’ve always been quick to notice that kind of stuff… But alright, let’s go check it out.”