The party comes over the ridge with Maro, Grendor and Durego in the lead. The others follow, spread out in case of trouble. They're half-way down the ridge before they draw attention from the people among the tents. Someone nudges an armored guard (?) and points. She looks up, studies the group for a moment, then whistles. A few other guards join her, and move to meet the group as they reach the west end of the settlement. A handful of other folk gather behind the guards, and Maro notes that many of them are armed, a mix of daggers, hand axes, cudgels and other common weapons. "Hold there!" calls the woman in mail, who seems to be in charge. In the fading evening light you can see her shield is emblazoned with the seal of Highcliff Keep. "Who are you and where are you from?"
Durego speaks first, "I am Durego Van, priest of Erlinga. I am from Auslaug, as are many of my companions. We've been exploring the western lands and are on our way back to civilized lands." He looks past the guards to the tents and huts beyond. "It appears civilization has come to meet us."
One of the guards moves up and whispers something in the sergeant's ear. Her eyes widen a bit, then she frowns. "Ah, that lot," she mutters, then, louder, "Right. You best speak with the captain then. She looks past the front group to those that follow, and the mules. Her eyes pause for a moment at the fat packs the beasts carry. "Likely you'll need to speak to the reeve too if those contain trade goods or valuables. Come along, I'll see you there." She turns and her eyes fall on the gathered crowd. "Make way there! Mort, Gabe, clear the way."
Two of the guards start to move people back and the crowd disperses, though you can still feel eyes on you. Maro asks the sergeant about the settlement and she says, "Two, almost three months ago Lord Thambar decided the best way to deal with the refugees was to settle them somewhere, and this was his choice. New Town they call it. Once the road's done and the land grants are issued it'll be nice enough I guess. Bit of a hole now though."
"Road?" asks Grendor.
She gives him a puzzled look, the shakes her head. "You've been gone a while then. The New Road. Runs almost straight west from Auslaug. There's a dirt path the whole way through now, and the main group is about to the Westwalk."
"That'll shorten our walk then," says Maro.
"And the war?" asks Durego.
She shrugs. "Still going, last I heard. Seems like the Baides are intent on thinning their ranks this time. There's still refugees trickling in from the south. I guess once the weather gets colder that'll slow them down." She stops at the wooden building, steps up onto the porch and opens the door. "Ingvar! Travelers from the west!"
OOC: on the walk you can see that many of the tents and huts are simple sleeping quarters, though a couple serve as rough taverns. There are several axes hanging from the fence by the smithy and you can see three people working inside. The stable looks fairly empty, just a pair of oxen inside, though there are six or eight empty stalls. The street is rough dirt and stone, little more than beaten ground. The wooden building is well-constructed and has a stone foundation.
A moment later a short Hasuden steps onto the porch. He's carrying a wax ledger and stylus. He looks over the group, eyes straying to weapons, gear and mules, then he sighs. "Right, who's first?" Seeing puzzled looks, he sighs again. "Declare your imports. Trade goods. Foreign coin and valuables. The usual. Surely you've been through this before." He frowns, then adds, "Haven't you?"
The sergeant, seeing the group will be here a while, orders two of her guards to stick around. "I'll let the captain know you'll probably be spending the night on this side of the bridge." She gestures toward the fort. "Gates close at sunset. Mort and Gabe can show you a spot to camp for the night, since I doubt you'll be done here before then." [Now that you're closer, you can see there's a heavy iron gate across the center of the bridge. It's open now, but apparently not for long.] She leaves, headed for the bridge and the fort beyond. The third guard heads the other way, resuming his street patrol.
The reeve sighs again, "Well, who's in charge here? I don't have all night."