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Quest Day One: Lost Lake Villiage, Oregon to Nampa, Idaho
February 4th, 1998 Open to all Questers

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By the time they'd gotten their gear stowed in the van, and put a dent in Steve's reserve of ready cash by eating at the Lost Lake Lodge, it was getting late in the afternoon. Some of the other members of the Fellowship, notably Dean and Queth, had argued in favor of setting out immediately, claiming that travelling at night was common, and not at all dangerous. But Luthien had found out the date, and a nagging sensation had told her that The Powers wouldn't have given them almost a month to travel to Nantucket if they didn't need it, so she'd insisted that they make camp-which also required a small fee-, and leave in the morning.

But now they were up, bright and early, and hitting the road. As the drove along, Luthien was torn between interest and terror at the speed they were travelling at, and at the sights they saw. So many people on the road, in towns as they passed.

And the road itself. Smooth as glass, without the potholes or bumps that came from centuries of repair done by hand or with horse drawn machines. And the land itself was odd.

This wasn't Luthien's homeplace, but she'd been here, when she was still an othar, the Ranger equivalent of a squire, before the War of the Jaguar. This was the heart of Association territory, which meant that it was a patchwork of small hamlets, each with its castle. The castles were still maintained, because of law and custom, even if the lord of the manor lived in a more comfortable and modern manor house.

In this world, the land was more-or-less familiar, but everything else was different. How different struck her when they passed by-flew past by-a sign for Odell.

She'd been to Odell, the Dunedain Rangers had been hired to accompany the Duke of Odell's bride from Westria, something that had been done for the sake of show and the swank of the thing, rather than any need to secure the lady's safety, but there it had been. It had been a festival, rather than a job, really. The last time things had been really carefree, before the War started. And...

"That was where Beren and I-" she trailed off, not wanting to give words to her thoughts. Realizing that Castle Odell didn't exist, that Conrand Renfrew still lived in Portland and that if she failed in her Quest, that her world might never be.

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Well here at least Belle fell easily into the role she'd expected to play: it wasn't the first time she'd been a camp counselor the only difference was that she didn't end the meal the night before with paper crafts...but there had been s'mores.

Breakfast had been really rather elaborate, bacon, eggs, pancakes, she'd even traded for the use of the next door RV neighbor’s waffle maker and tiny oven. They had been awful nice and adding two more folk to her meal for the supplies just made good sense. John and Sam were awful sweet but couldn't cook for the life of them.

Stuffing the rest of the party with good hot filling food, Belle had tucked a basket of apple cinnamon muffins under her seat. Sure they ended up in the 90s and she didn't have to cook as much as she'd planned on, but she'd rather they have some good known cooking than risk every dingy truck stop McDonald's and dinner from here to nantucket if she could help it!

“Ya know if we stop by that motel 8 ah can pick up their national map an’ start makin’ reservations as we go. Ah mean we have some cash an’ are in modern America no need ta have to spend every night in campin’ grounds or in the van.” She pointed out logically. “Plus showers an’ hygiene are a thing.” Belle wiggles her nose, between the left overs from the previous occupants and seven full grown adults in it for the majority of the day…

Well let's just say Belle was very very sad Febreze had not been invented yet.
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It was reasonably amusing, Arjay had to admit, they’d spent so much time preparing for this quest in the Hub, but once they got here, they ended up having to restart all of their preparations owing to a complete change in the situation of the quest. Some might be annoyed by the prospect, he simply went with it as another step on the journey. When Luthien had announced that they would wait until morning, he’d put down his own suggestions, ones that he thought were going to be fairly important in making the trip easier on them. The details were worked out as they ate dinner (during which he was increasingly aware of those staring at them), and a quick run into town was arranged, first to sell some of the gold for local currency, then to get clothes for those who didn’t have anything that would blend in.

That done, their first night, Arjay actually almost felt at home. How many nights had he spent camping rather than in an inn? More than he could count, regardless of how much he liked his luxury. For his part, he spent the night accustoming himself to the guitar he’d bought, strumming quiet tunes as he got used to the differences between that and the much smaller lute that he played. There was something about sitting in front of the fire, letting his music drift up with the smoke, that made him feel almost as if the world had more magic that he could touch if he could reach just farther. He supposed that if he could find an actual place of power, he could draw down enough of it to power a few spells, but he couldn’t count on that. If it happened, he’d count himself fortunate, but if it didn’t… well, he wasn’t going to make any plans around the idea.

He sat up later than the others, only stopping the soothing music when he could tell that they were all asleep, only then getting himself comfortable enough to slip into reverie, that restful meditation of the elves, letting his subconscious mind work through the problems of the day, the problems of his life, while his conscious mind went blissfully blank. He was alert and awake far before any of the others, only needing four hours of rest, and was pleased to find that while he hadn’t been able to turn them invisible, his minor magics still functioned. It was more difficult to power them, yes, but it only took one little spell to clean himself, and another to clean the clothes he changed out of before he stowed them away.

Breakfast had been much more enjoyable for him than dinner had been, and he had to wonder just how Belle paid the bills. If she could cook like this… but no, she probably had some other living to fall back on, he couldn’t start trying to get everyone he met to work in his tavern, now, could he? Besides, a woman like that would be wasted stuck in a kitchen all day.

He was reading one of the ‘newspapers’ that they’d picked up at the start of the journey, puzzling together things about this world, when he heard Luthien’s quiet statement with a pang of sympathetic heartache. He knew there was nothing to be said for that sort of feeling, he knew it from repeated experience, and he knew that she was not a woman who needed coddling to start with. Glancing over, catching her eye for a moment, he reached over and squeezed her arm before turning back to his newspaper, leaving her to let the thoughts pass as she wished.

“If time is an issue, we can drive through the nights, but finding an inn would be a good idea if we have the time to spare. If any trouble comes up, we’ll want to be fresh and alert, not road-weary and sore,” he agreed, nodding with a slight smile in Belle’s direction.

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Steve didn’t require the amount of sleep most people did. The serum had done wonders for his health, as well as for his abilities, and so he tended to be an early riser by habit, if not because he was naturally a morning person (years spent in bed trying to catch as much sleep and rest as he could had not left him naturally inclined to mornings) but he enjoyed watching the sun rise nonetheless, and his time in the army, and as an Avenger, had him awake well before they’d need to get up to pack and leave.

He’d gone to shower in the campground’s outbuilding, taking as little of the hot water as he could to leave enough for the others (he didn’t mind cold showers really) and then he’d returned and combed his hair and gathered his things. He had a bag, yes, but he also had his shield, which… Honestly, in this setting he worried just a little bit about it standing out too much. Not that he had any intention of leaving it behind anywhere; Tony had been kind enough to let him take it for the quest, and Steve knew that he’d have to give it back when he got home, but in the interim? He didn’t want to let it go any more than he had to, keeping it nearby wherever he went. He obviously couldn’t wear it comfortably in the van, but it rested against his knees just fine.

The night before, Steve had let Arjay’s music lull him to sleep. He didn’t mind camping; he’d done that plenty, both in the army and since. He liked it, it was peaceful, and sometimes, with his senses increased the way they were due to the serum, he found it easier to unwind in the relative quiet of the woods rather than the hustle bustle of the city. Still, he had pulled out a sketchbook and had drawn what he could see before he’d slept. His companions, his shield…

And he’d drawn what he’d seen before they’d all arrived, too. Tony and Bucky, standing together, talking to him…

He was still wrapping his mind around what had happened, what he’d seen, or been shown. What the two had said to him, how they’d admonished him. What he’d realized.

Luthien’s words reached Steve’s ears as well, and he looked up, his expression that of someone who understood. They’d all lost and had their own troubles. Then his gaze dropped back down to the shield, wondering at how easily Tony had handed it over, trying to puzzle out what, if anything, that meant, and what it meant that he’d asked for it in the first place, knowing he shouldn’t, that Tony had been right about it. They all had their issues, he supposed.

“You’ve got a point, both of you. I don’t mind driving, and I don’t need all that much sleep,” he shrugged, “But it’s nice to rest properly. And I’ll agree about the hygiene… It’s more important that we give it credit for most of the time.” And not just because of their noses, either. "There's really no reason for any of us to get trench foot or anything."

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Having spent nearly a lifetime on the road, Dean was surprised at how much of a...thing everyone was making of it. In his experience, there was a rhythm to traveling by car that didn't change much, whether it had been him and Sam or him and Dad or the three of them. Depending on how much of a rush there was, you drove in increments of 8 or 12 or 16 hours, trading off if necessary. Gas stations were reliable sources of fuel of both the gasoline and caffeinated varieties. Food too, though, there were more options for that, fast and cheap. Wherever you were gonna land that night, it was motel first, hit up a local joint for food, pick up some cash if needed, then back to the motel to plan for the next day. Then wake up, pack up the car, and do it all over again. Sometimes they might stay a while in a town to work a case, or otherwise break the routine to have a little fun, or wash the blood out of their clothes or do maintenance on Baby or heal up from a case.

But however you spun it, there was certainly no... lute playing. Or homemade apple muffins. Or wide-eyed amazement at cars or cities or roads. Or (and this seemed to be the big one) sense of grand adventure. Dean found himself town between bemusement, because really, there was nothing exciting about driving to Nantucket, and genuine enjoyment of his companion's antics. It beat sitting around in the bunker, that was for sure.

So he got up that morning, secured his weapons in the hippie van, and went to use the campground's showers. Having a sweaty gigantor of a brother, he'd very long ago learned the importance of hygiene on the road. "Nobody wants trench foot."

Breakfast was good, though he'd done a serious double take at their campground neighbors being a John and Sam. Sam had gone off to college in 2002, which meant that '98 was one of the last few years Dean and Sam and Dad had all been together. Hearing the names, along with the unmistakably late 90s surroundings, brought with it a strong tug of nostalgia. If only his 19-year-old self had known the crazy shit that was coming his way.

"Yeah, no reason to sleep in the Scoobymobile if we don't have to," he said in response to Belle and Arjay's talk about lodgings. "I wouldn't worry too much about reserving ahead. Way we're going, there'll be plenty of stops along the way. That way we can cover as much or as little ground as we want." Not to mention, the idea of staying at a Motel 8 made something in him squirm uncomfortably--even when they were kids Dad had insisted on shitty no name motels to make sure their names didn't end up in any system. It wasn't like anyone was likely to be tracking them here, as far as he knew, but he still didn't have to like it.

"Who's Beren?" he asked.

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