Campaign Logs

Silver Marches

By Jaap-Peter Hazelhoff

Chapter 5 - Winter's Cloak

Aedelvana’s Store, 13th Tarsakh 1372 DR, morning

Laughter fills Aedelvana’s kitchen as two foxes playfully chase each other under the table and chairs. Bagaudas’s companions seem to feel that spring is in the air though none of that is yet noticeable to those present in the herbalist’s kitchen. The young druid smiles as his two friends roll on the floor bouncing against Vaitha’s legs. The young woman looks under table at the two frolicking foxes for a moment, smiling she returns her attention to the affairs above table. Aedelvana is pouring a hot herbal tea in several mugs held by Alabain. Tarliy’s former apprentice sets the mugs in front of his friends and joins them at the table, closing both hands around his own steaming mug.

Outside, the howling wind carries Auril’s breath across the village; a clear sign that even though Greengrass is only half a month away, the Ice-maiden’s rule still holds sway in the North. Aedelvana’s ever present cooking fire provides enough warmth to the homely kitchen to keep the worst of the winter outside. The woman refills the old copper kettle and hangs it back in its place over the fire, the aroma of the herbal tea smells wonderful, and the warm bread on the tastes good to those inside. Aedelvana seats herself at the table, sipping from her own mug as she regards the youngsters in her kitchen.

“You know that it is time again to restock the woodcutter’s lodges in the forest.” The woman says to the trio at the table. “Last season’s supplies should be as good as gone, and that which was left behind has no doubt been used by our friends in the forest who had need of the supplies during the winter.” Sipping a bit more tea, she looks over the rim of her mug at the three. Feeling something bumping against her leg, Aedelvana sets her mug down and reaches below the table picking one of the two foxes up. The animal seems to welcome the attention, and in an almost cat-like manner settles in the woman’s lap, enjoying the stroking hand across its fur. “I have some supplies that need to be taken to one of the lodges a day-and-a-half into the woods, though with this weather the trek might take longer.” The woman regards the three young people, as if judging how they will react to the request.

Bagaudas breathes deeply as he enjoys the warmth of Aedelvana’s ever present coking fire, the aroma of herbal teas, and the taste of warm bread. He understands that agreeing to restock the woodcutter’s lodges in the forest means that he will have to return to life in the wild without such comfortable shelter from the howling winds. But this does not seem to trouble him much. He has the look of a man who enjoys the simple pleasures of life, but is not overly disturbed by the necessary hardships of life. He appreciates the warm hospitality provided by Aedelvana so he does not hesitate long after he swallows the bit of bread he had been chewing while he listened to her.

Alabain looks at his friends, Bagaudas and Vaitha, and says “Anything to get outside, please. We’ve spent too much time indoor during winter, and I need to feel the air in my face.” It has indeed been a long winter for Alabain. Even though he’s been productive by making arrows (always in need both by the hunters and defenders of the area) he feels it’s way past time for a long walk in the woods with some tree climbing along the way just for fun.

Savoring the taste of the fresh bread, Bagaudas looks comfortable in the priestly vestments of a druid of Eldath. He wears a series of sheer robes, each in different shades of blue and green. There are so many layers that the robes are not only modest, but sufficient protection from the howling wind outside. The sleeves and hems of the garments are artfully cut to look ragged like tossing waves or water ripples. From a leather necklace, he wears a wooden holy symbol of Eldath that is painted with a sky-blue disk fringed with green ferns.

As he sips his tea Alabain again considers the differences between himself and the others. Why is it that he can see in the dark and other humans can’t? He knows that elves have this ability but he clearly isn’t an elf. His mother, Natalair Wildfoot, can’t see in the dark, why can he? She says his father wasn’t an elf. And his ears don’t look like the half elves he knows. Other than a few minor things he is just like everyone else. His love for the outdoors, the wind in his face, and high places – all these are not uncommon among those who live in the woods. Anyway – he’s thought about this before and never come to a good answer. His mother will tell him about his father when she’s good and ready. No one ever has been able to tell Natalair what to do.

“Yes, Aedelvana, I am willing to take supplies to the lodges. I just need to get my gear together and that will take only a little while.” He turns his attention to his childhood friends. “We’ll have fun. Maybe find some game on the way back. Ready for the first trip of the spring?” With that, he sits back to await his friends’ answer.

The druid grins and nods his head in agreement with Alabain, “I’d be glad to help you get your gear together if it might help us make our preparations more quickly. I don’t have much more than I can fit into my backpack myself and the rest can be worn or tucked into my belt. It would be nice to have some fresh meat, but if we go hunting let us choose our prey well. I’d rather not slay some young mother-to-be just a couple weeks before the coming of spring. I’m sure we can still have fun and get some good hunting done even while braving the howling winds that the Claw of the Storms sends our way.”

The druid says, “Thank you for the warm hospitality you have provided for us. It’s always a pleasure to visit you. You’re right that the woodcutter’s lodges should be restocked and this is the time to do it. Roudo looks very comfortable in your lap, but I’m sure that he and Vulpes are ready to return to the wild for a time with me. We’ll take the supplies out to the lodge. Is the lodge one we’ve been to before or do we need directions?”

“Directions? Since when have we ever needed directions?” Alabain replies to Bagaudas’ question, “Eventually we find where we want to be. And I want to be anywhere but inside!” Bagaudas chuckles and replies to Alabain, “True enough. Without directions, I’m sure we could still find the right lodge sooner or later. Directions will help us get their and achieve our task more promptly, but we can always take our time coming back. Maybe a little fresh air might help us clear this cabin fever! I’ve been a little restless here in town lately too and am ready to get back to the forest.”

Vaitha smiles a bit at this, and says quietly from where she has been listening, “I know not about your furry friends, but I could use a bit of time away from town. It’s been a bit crowded here,” she adds, waving vaguely as if indicating the town itself. “But still, we should be careful in this weather. Nature is rarely kind to the incautious.” She nods to Aedelvana, “I would be happy to help the woodcutters. Will we be heading for my brother’s work crew or another?”

Alabain nods to Bagaudas and Vaitha. “Very well Aedelvana. We are all ready to take on this errand. But I must return to my home to gather the supplies I will need on a trip in the snow. It doesn’t matter to me where we go but I want to be prepared. I will return in shortly, prepared to leave. I look forward to this trip with my friends.”

After setting the fox back on the floor, Aedelvana looks at her three visitors again. “I have no doubt that you eventually would be able to find the lodge, however that would exposing yourselves to the dangers of the forest.” A slight frown of worry creases the woman’s brow, “With the increasing activity of the denizens from the Evermoors, they have made the forest less safe…” The woman turns her head, looking directly at Bagaudas. “…Despite the forces of nature trying to keep them at bay. Sticking to the trail that leads to the lodge would be your quickest and safest route.” She stands up and moves to the hearth, stirring the contents of another pot that has been simmering and sending out a pleasant aroma. “I don’t know where your brother’s crew is Vaitha. It might very well be that they have ventured in the same area.”

Alabain turns to Bagaudas and says with a grin. “Are you sure that those pretty robes will keep you warm enough in the snow? Or are you going to wear those pretty little animals around you as a neck warmer? If you don’t, then I may want to.” With a final smile that makes it clear he’s kidding, Alabain puts on his cloak, goes to the door and leaves quickly, letting the minimum amount of heat escape into the cold outdoors. After Alabain departs, Aedelvana looks at the other two. “The mules are ready at the gates of the castle. The master of the stables knows you will be coming to take the two animals and the provisions. Be safe, and remember that the creatures of the forest are wakening from their long sleep. There might be hungry animals on the prowl.”

The content of Silver Marches are the property and copyright of J P Hazelhoff, and are not to be published or redistributed without permission.

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