By Brian Flood
Chapter 13 - Camping
Along the East Way
Near Kendall Keep, Kingdom of Cormyr
Early Afternoon, 16th Day of Mirtul; Year of the Tankard (1370 DR)
The party has traveled for about an hour along the East Way when they are hailed by Amiel and Salik, the two forward scouts. The cluster of adventurers around Velgardrin’s litter slowly closes on the pair.
Panting heavily, the three litter bearers set their cargo on the ground. They then proceed to rub their sore shoulders while groaning softly under their breath.
Glancing around, the companions can see that they are indeed near the location that Tiron specified for a campsite. A small stream – barely more than a foot in depth – trickles southward under the simple stone-and-wood bridge that spans the shallow gully. The trees of the Hullack Forest loom on either side of the trade road and cast long shadows over the area. Glancing to the east side of the bridge, the party can see that the selected campsite area is blanketed with moderate undergrowth and trees that range from one inch to one foot in diameter.
Tirondalin breaks his attention away from the wounded Velgardrin as he surveys the campsite, “It is not perfect,” he says mostly to himself with a sigh. “Let us set Vel down somewhere that is protected from the elements,” he says to the other litter-bearers.
Once that is accomplished, with Alain’s help, Velgardrin is lifted off the litter and covered by his blanket, and a pillow provided courtesy of Alain’s rolled up shirt. The half-elf then stands up and after unloading his pack, copies the majority of the party by stretching his back in weariness.
Declan moves over to a moderately clear spot and drops his pack. He stretches and then says, “Well, right, I’m ter gaffer some firewood, right. Would some bloke else cop the chuffin’ water?”
“That is a good idea Declan,” Tiron answers the mage in response to his offer of collecting firewood. “Perhaps someone would be willing to help?” he asks the rest of the group. But further thought strikes him and he speaks his concern, “Do we feel it wise that we light a fire and give away our position to those who wish us ill-will?”
Baulin puts his gear down and looks around for any area that would be the best place to defend the camp from attack. He then checks on Velgardrin to see how the fallen priest is doing.
Velgardrin, still unconscious, suddenly begins flailing away with his right arm as if he’s swinging his axe. He weakly shouts, “Mother! Behind you!” before falling silent once more.
Malk collapses back on the ground, staring at the sky and letting the earth support the weight of his body. After a few minutes, he drags himself to his feet. He turns towards Tiron, saying, “I don’t suppose there’s much fish in that oversized puddle. If its alright with you, I’ll get the knots out of my muscles and see if I can catch something for the pot.”
Tirondalin nods his head in Malk’s direction as the bard leaves to hunt, “I am also going to see what the forest will offer us today. Hopefully Solonor will be kind, I feel we’re about to have a hungry dwarf on our hands,” he states with a grin while unshouldering his bow.
“Amiel, Cob, I would ask for your able assistance in the hunt,” the half-elf implores. “These woods have been disrupted by evil, I fear,” he diagnoses with an uncharacteristically grim tone.
“I’ll stay behind and help organize the camp, Tiron,” Amiel retorts. “So I suggest that you take Salik instead. Given the likelihood of rain, I’m going to get a few lean-to’s for shelter.”
She looks around the group and then shrugs, “Well...maybe I’ll just build one for Vel. Whilst I get that organized, would someone like to gather some fuel, build a fire and so forth?” Then, with a grin she asks, “What about you Master Declan? You have some abilities where fire is concerned? We also need some water from the stream; Cob grab all our waterskins and fill them please.”
Getting busy with the lean-to, she says, “We’ll decide on a watch order when Tiron gets back. But just while we are getting the camp organized I think a lookout or sentry maybe a good idea. Alain, could you do the honors? Just take some out of sight positions that’ll give you a good view of the road, the stream and the forests. If you see trouble, either come running or make like the call of an owl if you can’t. Either way get back here in one hour; that should be how much time Tiron and Salik will take on their hunt.”
Salik is just about to open his mouth to reply to Amiel’s suggestion about going hunting but is cut off by Tiron’s reply.
Tiron offers an indifferent shrug to Amiel’s logical suggestions and subsequently looks across to Cob, “Come, hunter, and let us see if your skills match your title,” he jests, the prospect of a hunt energising him like no Haste spell could ever hope to.
“Salik,” he continues, “I feel Cob and I shall be fine on our own. Perhaps you could see to the water supplies?” he asks the rogue but fails to wait for an answer, bounding into the woods with Cob dragging his tired feet after him. Tiron walks into the eastern woods, spinning his bow in his hand and then blushing profusely as it drops to the ground. He picks it up and hurries off, chuckling at himself, his former grim demeanor lost on his childish antics.
Salik shrugs as Tiron energetically bounces off into the forest with Cob. The rogue shrugs and throws a dagger into the air, catching it deftly with his left hand. “Right, give me all your empty waterskins if you have any, and I’ll be the waterboy for the day.”
Salik gathers up all the skins, and then staggers off towards the water, trying not to drop any.
Alain looks to Amiel and nods. Dropping Velgardrin’s pack next to the unconscious dwarf, Alain grabs his gear and heads out looking for a good spot to guard from. When he finds a good enough spot Alain pulls out his weapons kit, and proceeds to clean then sharpen his weapons. Once he is satisfied with their condition, he gives them a light coat of oil and places them back in their sheaths.
Baulin and Declan – the only two conscious party members remaining in the clearing after the hunting, guarding, and water parties have left – set about following Amiel’s instructions to gather wood for a fire. The two adventurers move off into the nearby woods and begin to gather fallen branches in their arms. They proceed to establish a pattern of gathering wood, shuttling it to a pile in the campsite, and then returning to search for more branches and logs.
Amiel, meanwhile, begins to construct a small, crude shelter for Velgardrin. First, she leans a long branch against a tree to construct an angled center pole. Then, lacking any waterproof or water-resistant cloth, she proceeds to lean several other branches against the center pole in order to construct the sides of the shelter.
Working without stop, it takes the ranger about thirty minutes to finish building the crude shelter. Just as she finishes, Salik returns to the campsite encumbered by several full waterskins that he filled at the stream. Baulin and Declan, the two wood-gatherers, nod briefly to the rogue before returning to the tedious process of gathering wood for the fire.
“Salik,” calls Amiel. “Help me put Vel into the shelter. But first, unpack his bedroll and lay it out underneath the shelter.”
Once the rogue has done that, Amiel and Salik lift the dwarf of the litter and place him – as gently as possible – underneath the lean-to, covering him with a blanket.
“Did you see any tracks around the stream?” Amiel asks Salik as they try to make the dwarf comfortable.
Salik looks up at Amiel and shakes his head. “No, I didn’t. But I must admit, I wasn’t paying much attention as I was concentrating on not dropping the waterskins in the stream. And although my eyes are sharp, I’m not really an expert at tracking.” Salik pauses for a few moments, deep in thought.
“Although,” he continues, “it is an idea...this is an ideal place to camp and so others have probably been here before. If we do find tracks though, how can we tell if it’s just another party of travelers, or an enemy? Maybe you should take a look, I’ll take care of Vel.”
Salik turns his attention to Velgardrin and puts a fresh waterskin to the dwarf’s lips, in an attempt to get him to drink something.
About an hour after they he left the party to hunt, Malk returns to the campsite. He smiles triumphantly as he proudly relays the story of his ambush of a brace of wild turkeys. He graciously hands over the single game bird that fell prey to his sling bullet. Baulin and Declan merely acknowledge the addition to the evening meal and then continue their task of gathering firewood.
Malk checks on Velgardrin and offers him a drink from his waterskin. He then starts to help around the camp by gathering firewood, and building a spit with two forked sticks and one straight one. After he has finished these small tasks, he sits with his back against a tree and starts plucking and cleaning the wild turkey.
All the while this is going on, Malk hums a light tune to himself; it is clear that the hunting raised his spirits. The aches and stresses of the day are forgotten quickly, as so often happens with the young.
Soon after Malk has started plucking the bird, Alain returns from his lookout duties to report that he has neither heard nor seen anything – besides the occasional woodland animal – in the past hour or so. At about this same time, the two wood-gatherers – Baulin and Declan – finish their assigned chore. Following Amiel’s earlier instructions, Declan begins building a campfire.
Baulin takes a drink of water after he has dropped his last load of firewood. He then walks over to Velgardrin to check on the fallen dwarf. He finds that the priest is sleeping, although somewhat fitfully.
A short while later, a medium blaze is burning – and a wild turkey is roasting on a spit – when Tiron and Cob return to the campsite after having been gone a little more than two hours. The two hunters carry a slain and field-dressed wild boar between them.
Cob drops his side of the dead beast to the ground saying, “Shoulda seen it, I tell ya. Came up on three o’ these ‘ere boars. Took us a couple ‘o shots each, but we brought this ‘un down! Had ta dress it right there just ta git it ta where we could carry it!”
“And our friend Cob here is quite the bowman, so long as his enemy is alive,” Tiron adds with a playful smirk in the hunter’s direction. “But I feel we’ve adequate food to last us,” he comments as he sees a bird roasting on the spit,
“Who’s the fearsome turkey hunter?” he asks, again in jest. With Cob’s help, they bring the boar closer to the fire in readiness, before the half-elf removes his bow and quiver and sits down in the scrub, warming his hands.
Squatting next to the fire, Alain gives the roasting turkey a sniff and smiles at Malk. “Looks like we will eat well tonight.” Then Alain continues, addressing the group in general. “I was thinking about our earlier encounter while I was on guard duty. I don’t remember hearing about any uprisings of the undead since the invasion of the Witch Lords, during the reign of King Galaghard around 900 DR. I sure hope they are not trying to invade again.”
Tiron is only stationary for a short time before asking the group, “How’s Vel been, everyone?” as he jumps up and walks over to the dwarf. “It doesn’t take a healer to see that this old battler is going to need plenty of rest,” he states as he returns to the fire.
“So, we’ve got a lot of time up our sleeve, what do we do with it?” He sits and stares into the fire, source of endless inspiration for countless bards throughout history. “Well, we could have part of the group explore other areas, perhaps take a trek to the caves but not enter?”
He lets the thought go, before picking up on another line. “Another option would be to wait and watch the road; see what kind of traffic we get along these parts and whether they look like innocent traders or something that shouldn’t be there,” he states, examining each face for a response. “Sure it’s a long wait, but there’s enough of us to rotate and take turns?”
“As for tonight,” Tiron begins, twisting his oaken ring on his finger. “Guard duty…well, my suggestion is for myself and Amiel to start, following with Declan and Alain, then Salik and Baulin, and finally Malk and Cob greeting the new dawn. Each pair with a shift of roughly three hours each,” he states, perhaps unsure of his calculations - he is of course unused to such military procedures and precautions. “We may as well stay alert the entire night. As we have found out, the day is just as deadly as the night in these parts,” he finishes, uncorking his water-skin and taking a swill.
“Fair enough, Tiron,” says Amiel nodding. “That order gives our spell weavers enough time to rest to awake with fresh minds and re-study spells. I have some ideas of how we should proceed next and will share them with you later? Or would you prefer we discussed them now?”
Tirondalin takes his attention from the fire and rests his gaze upon Amiel. “Let us abandon thoughts of tomorrow until it reaches us, it has been a long day and the stench of those hideous creatures has not left my mind,” he says, trying to offer his companions a smile but it fails under his yoke of weariness.
Malk looks across at Tiron and says, “If you want Cob and I to take the last watch, it’s fine by me. What do you say Cob, ‘Oh mighty hunter’—you certainly outdid my wild turkey? Did I say wild? It was furious!” he grins.
Cob laughs heartily at the bard’s jest. “I reckon I oughta be honor’d ta take watch with ya!” he replies.
Then, breaking the jovial atmosphere, Malk looks around and scowls, “For the love of Milil, I’ve left my cooking pot sitting on my ass. If I can borrow a pot to boil some water, I’ll make an herb infusion to aid Velgardrin’s recovery.”
“It’s a strong dried leaf,” he explains, “I got it from a merchant who swore it was the last remaining stock of a consignment that was tipped into a harbor in a fight over taxes. I can’t remember where, but somewhere beginning with ‘B’ I think. I know it wasn’t Baldur’s Gate, though. I only use a little at a time, I believe it may be addictive. It should speed his recovery.”
Alain reaches into one of his sacks and produces a small iron pot. He hands the item to the frustrated Malk. The bard graciously accepts it and then begins to prepare his herbal remedy – all the while muttering under his breath about how much he misses his faithful pack animal.
Smiling to himself, Alain rises and moves off a little ways from camp, but staying in easy view. Starting with several stretching exercises, Alain begins his practice workout. Once he is suitably limber, he draws his rapier and begins practicing attack and defense routines. In his quest to master this fine weapon, Alain practices equally with his right and left hands. To add variety and a separate element of difficulty, with some attacks and defenses, he uses a dagger in his off hand. To make sure that he is comfortable carrying and fighting with a full load, Alain repeats all of the routines with his pack on. Then, to ensure that his body is well cared for, Alain ends his exercises by stretching for several minutes. After the warm down, he spends some additional time giving his weapons a quick once over with sharpening stone and oil rag.
After a brief meal of roasted turkey, the rest of the party also turns to repairing their equipment from the morning’s battle and preparing themselves for their next test. While some sharpen and oil weapons, others – such as Tiron and Cob – prepare the wild boar for the evening’s meal.
Baulin sits down to start sharpening his axe. As he is sharpening his axe, Baulin starts to hum an old dwarvish tune. After he has finished his task, he takes a short walk around the clearing to stretch his weary legs.
The afternoon wears on and slowly turns to evening. As early evening arrives, the wild boar is turning slowly on a spit over the fire. When it is finished cooking, the party members each delve into this next bit of delicacy that the hunters have provided.
Tirondalin eats his meal with relish. The Sylvan Elves aren’t particularly noted for their mealtime etiquette, “but food is something to be enjoyed!” retorts the half-elf defensively to any comments made. After finishing and wiping his greasy hands on the grass, he returns to the fire and sits, once again lost in the dance of flame. Thoughts wander back to the day spent in a fight with rather horrid creatures, creatures one would never find in the cool safety of Hullack Forest.
What are his people doing this evening in their happy solitude? His people? Hardly. He is half-elven. Tiron looks around at his companions. These are his people, if any. Absent-mindedly, he takes his ring off and turns it endlessly in his fingers, only to awake from his trance seeing that the sun has set and it is his turn to keep watch.
He looks around for Amiel. Amiel returns his look by giving him a questioning expression, as if to say, “What is it?”
The half-elf seeing that the shadows are long and that darkness will soon fall, gets up from his sitting position in one deft, fluid movement, strides over to his bow and shoulders it, along with his quiver. “Shall we stake out our spot for the night?” he asks his female counterpart.
Amiel stands and wordlessly gathers her equipment. Then, the two rangers move a short distance away from the party to start the first guard shift.
By the light of the fire, Malk cleans and oils his sword and armor. He checks his pack, equipment and his weapons for an edge, and sharpens them if needed. When he is finished, he quietly plays his harmonica, something soothing and relaxing before settling to sleep, wrapped in his cloak, his sword in his arms.
The others around the fire are lulled into relaxation by the bards soothing tune. They too, slowly drift to sleep, leaving the two rangers to guard the campsite during the first watch.
* * * * *
As the night wears on and the crickets tire of their inane chatter, Tirondalin, staring at the glowing face of the moon, begins to speak. “I had ulterior motives for suggesting that we share a guard post,” he concedes, “I am thinking that perhaps I spoke too soon in regards to the position of leader. There is another who I feel would make a better candidate for the position, and I don’t believe I must name her,” he states with an almost cheeky smile.
“I feel I am too carefree, too independent to be tied to the constant demands of a group, but most of all, I cannot give orders. I cannot tell another being what to do or how to behave or what to believe,” he says, the last point seemingly having little relevance to the topic at hand. Tirondalin is toying with his oaken ring again.
“You, on the other hand, milady, sorry!” he almost laughs but for the pressing silence of the night. “On the other hand, Amiel,” saying the name with grinning emphasis, “you seem to me to have less trouble in organizing the group, not to mention some of your excellent ideas and contributions to planning. What I propose is that, well, that you take on the position of leader,” he says with some noted uncertainty. An owl hoots as Tiron waits patiently for his friend’s response to his thoughts.
The content of Company of the Silver Claws is the property and copyright of Brian Flood, and are not to be published or redistributed without permission.
Return to the Company of the Silver Claws main page
Return to Campaign Logs