By Brian Flood
Chapter 48 - Plans and Provisions
The One-Eyed Cat Tavern
Kendall Keep, Kingdom of Cormyr
Early Evening, 20th Day of Mirtul; Year of the Tankard (1370 DR)
“It is hardly my place to say – I am not even truly one of you,” Kerielle announces, speaking softly. “But for my part, I would cleanse the world of these fell living dead beings.”
Nathan stirs himself once more. “You all know my mind. I wish to return to the caves and revenge our comrades. Perhaps if we could scout the area near the door, we could find another way in. However, I feel that some form of protection against undead would be useful. Mayhap the priests here could furnish us with some holy water. At least we would then be better prepared for the unholy monsters.”
Tipping back his floppy hat, so that his eyes become visible to the group, Alain rejoins the conversation. “I also thirst to avenge our comrades, and I think that best done by exploring the caves. If history has any bearing, the caves are the root of this whole problem.”
Reaching up his hand, the warrior runs fingers over his face testing for stubble, and then continues. “I would also like to invite the elven swordsman into our group. Times are very dangerous, and an extra sword would be very welcome in my opinion. Although I’d like to see him in battle before I believe his tale.” Half-grinning, Alain looks over to Malk. “His story has all the drama and excitement of your tales of heroes.”
With a grin back at Alain, Malk chips in, “Oh, I think I can stand the story telling competition. My vote is that we ask the blade to join us, equip ourselves first thing on the morrow, and head back for the caves. I too feel that this is where the solution to these attacks on the traders lies. I wish I knew where Mendel was right now.”
“Be we headern ter the stone door er the ambush site termorror?” Velgardrin asks.
“I think we’re to the Caves in the morning, from what I’m hearing,” Amiel responds. “Something tells me, just like Alain and Nathan, that’s where we’re going to find answers... and revenge.”
She nods to Kerielle. “As to not belonging... Welcome to the Silver Claws. After the assistance you’ve provided, I doubt any here would object. I’ll be glad for you and your longbow’s company. If you agree to join our company, that is,” she says with a smile. “We will put your archery to use shortly. Have no doubt of that. But I suspect that you will be up to the challenge,” she adds, the welcoming smile dissolving into a grim one.
Turning back to Alain, she says, “The swordsman? Take him up on his offer? That’s a good idea. He did sound like a good warrior... if a trifle... er... bold. But perhaps that’s a sign of courage? I’d like everyone to agree to his joining us, however. We do need all the help we can get.”
“It seems to be settled then, as I have not heard any dissenting voices,” Kerielle pronounces grandly.
“As for joining you,” the elf speaks mainly to Amiel, returning to the woman’s earlier speech, “I am honored – but I feel I must show my worth before I can truly be a part of the Silver Claws. I am... touched... that you should offer, though, and will gladly accept when I have earned the right.”
Alain is the first to respond to the archer. “Luckily you have come to the right group then, Kerielle. I have never met a group that attracts more trouble than this one. If the past is any clue into the future, I’d wager that we don’t make it a whole day, or even to the entrance to the caves before we are attacked.” Even though he is still smiling, the big warrior rests a hand on the hilt of his rapier.
As the talk turns to plans for the expedition on the morrow, the elven woman offers, “I am lightly burdened – should there be equipment which may help us, but that none have room or strength for, I would be glad to assist.”
“Well,” adds Malk, “I could do with exchanging this armor for a leather set. I find the weight restricting. We should also decide what we need as a party to stop carrying too much of any particular item,” says the young bard.
“We obviously need some rope and a light source for those of us not blest with seeing in the gloom. We need rations and some cooking and camping gear. We have our own weapons, and some have books that they need. What else should we take, assuming that we will not be away long and can return here to the keep?”
“Are the owl bear claws we collected worth anything?” asks Nathan. “Perhaps we should we try to find a buyer in order to better equip our expedition. Alain I believe they are in your possession?”
The big warrior looks up from rummaging in his pack, at the mention of his name. “They may well be worth something my friend, but I think they may be put to a better use by making them into necklaces for our new members.”
Adjusting his hat back, Alain looks about to every member of the party. “I would like to see everyone carrying five days worth of rations – that includes water and food. I can carry a lantern if someone has an extra one, or if we have one in storage.
“Kerielle,” the warrior continues, “glad to have you aboard, I was starting to feel like a pack horse. It’s good to have another person who can carry some weight. If you would be so kind as to carry another light source, be it a lantern or torches. Is there someone already carrying rope?”
“I be needern ter carry less er I be slowern the group down evern more,” says Velgardrin. “You long-leggered ones be held back by me enourgh.”
Looking over to his dwarven friend,” Alain replies, “Is there anything you can put into storage? Or barring that is there anything that I can carry for you?”
“I would be glad to assist with your load, Velgardrin,” offers Kerielle. “I can carry a great deal more than I am, so if you can find something heavy to hand over, please do so.
“A rope would be most useful,” the archer continues. “I believe there are several – even silk ones – in these packs we have been carrying. Shall I carry one of them?
“Finally, as to the claws; these are a symbol of the company, are they not? If that be the case, I would feel uncomfortable accepting one yet, although the offer honors me. Perhaps when I have saved the life of one here, I shall feel I truly belong.”
“Well put,” Amiel says approvingly.
“Five days rations?” the lady ranger then asks Alain. “Alright, that’s a good starting point. I’d prefer to travel as light as possible. The slower we move the more we’re exposed to attack before we even get to the caves. These are the lessons I’ve learnt in the past few days, and I’d rather not have the same mistakes made.
“That said, there are how many of us? Alain, Vel, Malk, Kerielle, Nathan, Declan and me makes seven. That means we need thirty-five man-days worth of rations. That’s a total weight of at least the same poundage. Water at a quarter of a gallon each per day adds another two pounds per person per day. So that’s... err... seventy pounds.
That makes over a hundred pounds of supplies or about fourteen to fifteen each before we add arms, armor and other equipment. Hmmm… that sounds like a bit too much. How about we budget to spend three days out there? Half a day’s march to and from the caves leaves us two days to explore. Plenty of time?”
“I’ve been carryin’ a hooded lantern in me pack,” Declan announces while jerking his thumb over his right shoulder indicating where the pack would be when he is hauling it around. “If’n we’re t’ b’ needin’ another silk rope, I’ve got a fifty footer in with all our other gear in the box.”
The mage ponders for a moment and then adds, “I’ve been thinkin’ o’ getting a few torches we could be throwin’ fer a surprise I’ve been workin’ on.”
Kerielle then adds her thoughts on provisions. “We should not overburden ourselves – certainly not to the point of slowing anyone down. But I think it makes sense to take as much in the way of supplies with us as we reasonably can. Who knows what may happen? One of us may be injured and unable to travel, or captured and a rescue needed to be mounted. Or we may find information that we wish to pursue with urgency, and not be forced to come back to the keep in the meantime.”
She continues with a small smile. “Remember of course that we will not be so burdened on the return journey!
“As I have said, my people are accustomed to traveling with nothing which will slow our running, so my possessions are few. I am well able to carry a week’s supplies for two others as well as myself, and still have strength to assist our dwarven friend, without it slowing me.”
Again she smiles. “All that clanking and rusty-smelling metal you insist on lugging about weighs a great deal I would imagine, which I, happily, am not burdened with.
“Three days’ rations should be fine to my mind,” Malk opines, “especially if we supplement it with hunting and foraging. Two or three water skins each can be topped up from the streams and rivers along our route. So far as a party, we seem to have agreed to carry also fifty feet of silk rope; a lantern – presumably with oil; say, five torches; food and water; and our own personal weapons and armor. On top of that, I would suggest a couple of flints and steels.”
With a nod at Declan, he continues, “We can’t all produce a living flame. We will also need a cook pan and or pot; a whetstone to sharpen our weapons; and any written tomes that some of us may need. Does anything else spring to mind?”
“I plan ter store some things in ther chest while we head out,” Velgardrin announces. “I want ter get ther mirror I left in there. Kerielle, I have a hammer and pitons in ther chest and a lantern and oil. If yer could carry those it would be good.
“And I have daggers from those we slew. Ders anyone want a dagger er three? Else I be sellern therm. And ther be stuff in thers pack I carried back ter use – like a grapplern hook ‘n some er that silk rope, fer example.
“Alain, I be mendern that armor fer yer ternight while yer makes necklaces fer us. I be wantern a claw ter wear.”
“I believe I can accommodate your lamp, oil, hammer, and pitons, Velgardrin,” Kerielle says with a smile to the dwarf. “And unless another is desperate to do so, I will carry the grappling hook and silk rope also.
“And, I will take the water skin and rations from the other backpack.” Again, those at the table notice she avoids mentioning the names of the dead. “That should give me ample supplies for myself and one of our more burdened companions.”
“Does anyone want me to carry aught else?” the archer asks.
“Here, Kerielle, Alain,” Amiel tells her companions. “Let’s distribute the things in the two packs. It looks like you can take the additional burden.” Looking around at the rest of the group, she asks, “Can anyone carry Tiron’s healing kit?”
As the conversation ebbs and flows while the companions plan their foray, Kerielle remembers an agreement earlier that evening – although it seems an age ago.
“If you remember, bard,” she says to Malk, “we had planned to exchange armor, if it can be adjusted to fit. This eve would seem a most propitious time to do so. I believe our dashing friend here,” she nods to Alain, “offered to lend us his leatherworking expertise?”
Declan mentally considers his inventory of equipment and then asks, “Kerielle lass, kin I be storin’ some oil and rations in yer ruck? I’d like t’ eat two o’ the days o’ rations ye already be carryin’, add two more days o’ chow from me ruck, and add two bottles o’ oil from me ruck t’ yers. I’m nae th’ brawny lass ye are, and I figger I’ll be movin’ a bit quicker if’n I kin lighten me load.”
“I would be glad to assist,” Kerielle begins, “but I do not think I can fit anything else in my pack!”
“Let us see. I have a dozen days’ rations now – enough for four of us for three days. That will suffice for me, and you three.” In turn, she nods to Amiel, Alain and Declan.
She continues, speaking to the two warriors. “Neither of you look overburdened. If I give each of you three days’ worth, I should have room for the mage’s... items.”
“That’s fine. I can take them,” Amiel she replies. “And I’ll take the excess items that anyone else needs me to carry. We have over thirty days’ rations amongst the seven of us. That’s more than three days each – and that is sufficient. It looks like if we try to start carrying more, we’ll start to get weighed down. With three days each, we’ll have two days to explore the caves. Also, we’ll share the rations irrespective of who actually carries them,” Amiel states firmly.
“Declan, that tent of yours probably weighs a bit, too,” she continues. “Either, Alain or I can carry it for you,” she offers.
“Everyone, try to carry at least one light source. I’ve already claimed some of the excess torches and I’ll also take any unclaimed oil flasks. Caves being caves,” she says, “means that the amount of time we have to explore ‘em will be fixed by the length of time we can produce light.
“Magical means not withstanding,” she concludes with a glance at Declan and Nathan.
Looking around the group, the ranger makes a decision. “I think we’re almost ready. We’ve food, rope, light, weapons, armor, and water – we’ll get moving in the morning. Can anyone think of anything that we’ll need to purchase in the morning? Ammunition – arrows, perhaps?”
“Fear not,” answers Kerielle, “I have three full quivers’ worth – enough for two and seventy fell foes. Even were that not enough, I have no space for more! If need be, I can also make my own, or supplement my inventory with any our foes may carry.”
She smiles fiercely, eyes flashing. “I am prepared. Does anyone need aught else?”
“We will fill our water skins at the Keep’s well in morning before we head off,” Amiel answers. “And I’d like to purchase a long bow – a powerful recurve one – if it can be found. I didn’t have the gold to do so originally, and I hope that the rest of you will allow me to use party funds to do so?” she asks.
Declan’s gaze drifts around the table finally resting on Amiel. “I’d like t’ be findin’ out if’n our vial is magical er no first thin’ in the morn. If’n it turns out t’ be a potion o’ the Weave, we might be askin’ around within’ the walls fer a travelin’ mage better’n I t’ be identifyin’ it fer us. That’ll be costin' us some mean coin, tho’. Castin’ the spell should no be takin’ much time, so I kin be helpin’ with th’ water skins after we break our fast.”
“I am ready,” states Kerielle, eager to be off. “I can leave as early in the morning as you slumberous humans can manage!” The archer grins, the prospect of leaving the confining stone walls of the keep already cheering her.
Velgardrin lightly fondles his beard as he seems deep in thought then he speaks. “I be thinkern. If we be takern that Seth with us, he be needern a watchern. Killern all those gnolls seemed ter be easy fer him and maybe he’s not what he seems. Livern dead be hard ter deal with but they don’t be thinkern and reactern like livern livern.”
“He will be watched, Velgardrin,” assures Kerielle, “fear not. You may be sure that I watch any I have no reason to trust, most closely.”
The elf’s stern tones remind the companions that, as yet, she does not consider herself to be one of them – although she does appear to be warming to Velgardrin since the incident with Jadale. Indeed, she has yet to use any of their names, other than the dwarven priest’s.
“There was plenty of bravado in his story,” Amiel admits with a shrug. “I expect that the number of gnolls slain will change upon each telling. In any case, I think we’ll need to talk to him tonight about joining us. Otherwise he may make plans for tomorrow.”
Amiel stands. “Then I bid you all goodnight! I’m going back to the inn to see if I can find our mighty caravan guard, Seth, and ask him to join us in the morn. Speaking of which, ‘see you all tomorrow at dawn outside the inn. Make sure you remember our discussions here about the allocation of supplies and pack what you’ve been allocated to carry. I’ll do a check in the morning to ensure that everyone is carrying what they’re supposed to,” she says, with a trace of a smile to take the command from her words.
“Once we’re organized, we’ll resupply the water skins, find the quartermaster regarding a bow for me... and a handcart… as well as finding a wizard to divine the magic of the potion.”
She glances at Vel. “Though I’m not sure where to find one... perhaps you could ask Jess or Sabine?” she suggests.
“And after all that – we’ll be off!” the ranger declares grandly.
* * * * *
The Green Man Inn
Kendall Keep, Kingdom of Cormyr
Early Evening, 20th Day of Mirtul; Year of the Tankard (1370 DR)
Minutes after she has left the group in the tavern, Amiel finds Seth in the common room of the inn. The elf, apparently short of funds, has elected to spend the night in the common room on the floor. His bedroll is already spread out as the ranger walks in through the door.
“Good evening,” Amiel says by way of greeting. “I have come to offer you employment, if you will have it. Our group is leaving in the morning. While I will not tell you our destination now, suffice it to say it will be dangerous work. We could use another skilled sword arm. We offer you an equal share of whatever bounty we find. What say you?”
“To be honest, it sounds like a fool’s offering,” the elf replies. “I know not where I journey and what I should find – and that makes it ideal for me to accept,” he says with a smile. “Where shall I meet you, come the morning?”
“We’re all staying here tonight – so the logical place would be right here!” Amiel grins. There is something about the elf’s roguish reply that entertains her.
“We need to get some supplies, fill the water skins and so forth before we head off. I’ll fill you in on our mission once we’re on the road... Fair enough?” she asks.
Extending her hand, she smiles again. “I can only hope the hunting will be enough, bold sir!”
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