Campaign Logs

The Sunset Vale Saga

By Brian Flood

Chapter 8 - The Second Day

Along the Uldoon Trail

East of Berdusk, The Sunset Vale

Morning, 22nd Day of Eleint, Year of the Tankard (1370 DR)

The normally radiant lady mage looks rather grumpy this morning as she and the others pack up and start the day's travel on the trail.  From the looks of it, Kjira’s sleep was rather unpleasant despite the heavy bedroll and quilt she stuffed in her small tent and buried herself under.


Alani in the early morning looks as stunning as she did the night before.  She folds and packs away her sleeping roll in silence, watching the others going through similar motions.  She nods politely to each in greeting.  Then she heads out with the druid Darius to fill the party's water skins, returning quickly, struggling under their full weight.  She distributes the skins between the cart and the pack mule (conditional on Dolak's approval of course!).


“We will be on the look out for a place when it comes time to camp,” Darius states.  Calling to Soft Fang, the druid heads out to take right-side point.


“We will be on the look out for a place when it comes time to camp,” the druid states.  Calling to Soft Fang, Darius heads out to take right-side point.


Zell turns to Alani, “Keep an eye out my friend.  I feel as though something may happen today.”


Alani nods at the suggestion and heads out with Darius to a position a hundred yards ahead of the party as it travels.  Then, she drifts into the tall grass along the left side of the trail.


Dolak alternates between riding and walking to give the pony a break during the day.  During the travel breaks, he hunts around for tinder and kindling to start the night's fire.  These he stores just under the tarp of the cart.  After gathering firestuffs for the night, he checks his cart and his animals for problems, allowing the animals to graze some.


Slyvia keeps a sharp eye out for trouble, looking around she tries to see if there are signs of other travelers on the trail.  She stops and examines the trail for tracks of others, if she sees anything out of the ordinary she will inform the others.  As they continue to march on the trail, she nervously looks around in the underbrush, looking for threats.


Kjira remains quiet for the first part of the morning, content to walk beside her mule as the party moves onward.  After a few hours, when the party pulls to the side of the road for a short break and a lunch meal, she seems to be more alert and awake and the frown that marred her visage all morning slowly begins to disappear. 


Seeing the main body stop, Darius, Soft-Fang, and Alani return from the front of the party. 


Kjira reaches into her backpack and pulls out some crackers wrapped in oilcloth and a bit of cheese, which she slices nonchalantly with her dagger.  Sticking the slices in between the crackers, she munches on this snack for a while before returning everything to its place in her pack.  Pulling out a wooden cup, she walks over to one of the kegs on the back of her mule and pours herself a little wine, which she swallows quickly.


“Hi ho, hi ho, it's up the road we go, with a load of books and dirty looks, hi ho, hi ho, hi ho, hi ho” she starts to sing, with a quick glance towards the smith Dolak nearby.


“Well...,” she says hesitantly after a while, “does anyone have any suggestions on how not to do things later tonight when we have to set up camp...Our illustrious employer seems to think we may not have done as professional a job as we were hired out to do....Maybe next time we should select a site before we begin to do anything else...”


Lucas nods to Kjira's comment on finding the camp first.  “I can help us locate a campsite fairly quickly once we decide to stop.  I can also help try and locate others that might be in the area.  Let's set camp up FIRST before running off to hunt or scout about the area so that the entire party does not have to wait around to set up camp.”  With that said, Lucas packs up his meager belongings and wraps his woodland cloak tightly about him to keep the chill off him.


Zell approaches Kjira,  “The merchant knows nothing and is incompetent.  Cyzicus and I ran into someone strange.  A cloaked man.  If it hadn't been a friend of mine, he would probably have slit someone's throat last night.  None the less, ‘tis wiser to scout from your original location, and then move to somewhere else.  I believe this gives an illusion of a false position we had held last night.  I feel if we had stayed where we were, we might've had some trouble last night.”


Lucas looks at Zell and shakes his head.  “Watch who you call incompetent Zell.  I recall you storming off into the bush by yourself without regard for the rest of the party.  We need to work together and get things set up BEFORE we go "scouting".  I say we need to break into teams at a minimum once we have the camp set up for the evening.  Also, start by going downwind from the camp then working your way upwind around the camp.  We might have better luck that way.”


Alric nods in response to Lucas’ suggestion.  “That’s an excellent point, Lucas.  I think one of the problems we had last night is that everyone wanted to have a part in the activity, but no one stepped up to coordinate it all.  I think if we came to a conclusion on what needs to be done BEFORE we did it – and then specified WHO would do what, WHERE they would go to do it, and WHEN they should return -- we would do much better.  I will admit, I was a bit confused as to where exactly Zell and Cyzicus were going, when they were supposed to return, and how they were going to avoid an accidental confrontation with the hunting party.  It would seem to me that someone should take all of our suggestions and make a final decision.  Obviously, our employer does not intend to do that; we need to pick someone from among us to have the final say in our plans.”


Zell, wonders if this is just a ploy, “Then tell me who that figure was that Cyzicus and I ran in to then.  Worrying about where to camp and how to camp and not worry about the dangers in the area is far from getting things together.  I think Cyzicus and I did a fine job scouting the area, whilst everyone decides what and when to do it.  If we are going to act like a team we are going to all need to act spontaneously, not one

at a time.  That will be our weakest link, waiting for someone else to do something.”


With that, Zell turns to her position and continues on with her duties.


Tomar's rant about the campsite brings a frown to Alani’s face. “Again, truly exemplary leadership....,” she says in resignation.   Kjira's song sets her laughing merrily, however, and she replies, “Try this one mage: ‘No more camp fires, no more books, no more merchant's DIRTY LOOKS.’ ”


Slyvia stretches her aching muscles and grins as Alani jests with Kjira.  She smiles and quietly says, “'I didn't know we had a few bards in training among us.”


Alani’s face becomes serious, “Well, all jokes aside....perhaps we should agree on what constitutes a good site first?  That way Darius and I, as we are scouting ahead can keep on the look out for one?  I'd say a good campsite is reasonably sheltered from wind and rain, has a clean water, fuel for a fire and is defensible.”


Dolak interjects, “I've been gatherin' some firestuffs fer tonight, so we'll have an easier time of it this time.  Just tinder and kindling, no fuel, though.  If ya see some deadwood shortly before we stop, let me know and we'll throw it up on the cart.  Once we get ready to stop, I'll work with Kjira and Ori on parkin' the cart and wagon, and settin' up a line fer the animals.  After that, I will set up the fire for everyone."  Looking straight at Kjira, Dolak adds with a grin, "And I'll let everyone know before I use anythin' but wood fer the fire.  Is anyone here a bit of a trail chef, or maybe part Bard?”


“Please friend smith,” Kjira intones, “make sure you do not forget that promise either!”


 “I can cook, Dolak,” the druid replies, “but it will be a bit plain unless you have some spices in your cart.”


Slyvia looks around and quietly speaks, “I can search and see if there are any seasoning to be found after we've made camp.  It may not be much, but a few spices can make the food go down better.”


Darius nods at Slyvia’s offer and then looks around the group.  “We seem to have a start on the division of labor from what Lucas and Dolak have said.”


The druid continues, “We could do the following if all agree.  Lucas can find us a campsite when it is time to stop for the night.  We can all move there and establish where the camp is to be.  Dolak and Ori can setup the wagons and establish a picket line for the animals that need tethering.  Then -- with Alric guarding the campsite -- Sylvia, Alani, and I can go hunting, while Zell and Cyzicus scout the area.  The rest can help Dolak start the fire and prepare as needed.  In the morning Alani and I can fill the waterskins, and if necessary Dolak's barrel from a nearby water supply.  Does this meet with everyone's approval?”  Darius seems eager to listen to any responses, especially if he's misjudged any particular person's skills or preferences.


Zell merely shakes her head, and by the expression on her face, she approves of such.


Slyvia smiles at the druid, “It sounds like a good plan Darius.”  She thinks for a moment, “Maybe we all should setup the campsite together, that way we can be familiar with the terrain, and our surroundings.”  She looks around and continues, “We should have an idea of what we need to do if something threatens the party, the mages need protection from a direct attack and the fighters need to be protected from an enemy spellcaster.”


Lucas nods in agreement to Darius.  “I think this plan is a good start.  I will help with the camp and I can also forage around within sight of camp.  Make sure we send the hunting party out first downwind prior to sending the scouting party out so they don't scare everything out of the area.  No more setting off on your own unless you plan to keep on walking...”


Alani looks puzzled.  “What is the difference between the scouting party and hunting party?  And why should there be one?  Surely those with hunting skills are the BEST scouts?”  Then shruging she says, “But I agree that no one should walk of on their own, not without telling somebody where they are going and what they intend to do.  We are a team, and we should behave that way.”  Alani glances at Zell briefly, “But then so too is being willing to do just get up and do whatever needs to be done.  What we need is a leader.  Someone who can coordinate us instead of having to work things through by damn committee with EVERYBODY having an opinion, and expressing that opinion.  That too me is just too much talk.  And I can fully understand Zell just getting up and walking off.  Listening and waiting and letting the decision process take its majestic course kinda set me on edge too.”  The sultry elf takes a deep breath, “As to WHO should be leader, I have no idea. I'm not sure the rest of you will even agree with my sentiments, but for what they are worth....”


“I'll be glad to help you set up the campsite whilst the others scout the area and hunt for food,” Kjira says complacently.  Looking around at the flat terrain that still surrounds them she continues.  “Hopefully we'll be out of this before too much longer and selecting a site will not be as difficult.” 


Then, Kjira turns to Zell and says, “You should tell us more about this figure you and Cyzicus encountered last evening,” she says somewhat worriedly.  “I don't like the idea of strangers skulking about in the night while I try to sleep.  What business did he have last night near us?”


Zell looks over to Cyzicus and then back to Kjira, “This figure was wearing some sort of cloak, red I think.  From that, I couldn't tell what else he was wearing or totting around.  He seemed to have attacked a beast, which Cyzicus and I managed to avoid.  The beast was somewhat damaged, but well enough to lick it's own wounds.  As for his business for being around, I have no idea."


“By the way, Darius,” Lucas interjects, “Would you be interested in being the group leader?”


Blushing furiously, the young druid stubs his toe on the ground with his left foot.  Those gathered around him hear mumbling of 'all I want to is protect the wolves and the grove', but this is barely audible.  Finally, he makes up his mind, stands a little straighter with both feet on the ground and replies, “It is time that I assume some kind of responsibility.  It is after all why my mentor sent me out into the world.”


Darius continues, “If the group agrees, I will make decisions for camping and while on the trail outside of the cities, seeking guidance and suggestions from all.  It would be better if someone else, perhaps Zell, or Lucas, or Kjira advised us on how to act in the cities and guided the group there.  Also since I know the claw and fang -- not weapons or magic -- it would be better for someone like Dolak or Alric to make the fighting decisions if there is time for discussion.”


Before anyone can respond, Tomar clears his throat.  Once he has everyone’s attention, he says, “We need to resume the march.  You can finish your discussion this evening.”


The discussion – and noon meal – finished, the party packs up their belongings and prepares to continue moving.  Lucas steps a few feet away from the party and begins the low murmuring and intricate hand gestures associated with spell-casting.  Moments later, a mist forms nearby.  It coalesces to form a sleek riding horse.   Lucas steps forward and carefully mounts the beast in order to ride it (barebacked).  He clicks his tongue and squeezes inward with his legs and heels, guiding the creature into his place in the marching order.  He nonchalantly nods in response to the other party members’ incredulous stares at the sudden appearance of this horse.


The scouts move to the front of the party and off to either side of the road.  With a snap of the reigns, Ori gets the wagon moving and the tiny caravan continues down the road.


* * * * *


Late Afternoon, 22nd Day of Eleint


The day progresses uneventfully.  The biting, cold wind continues to blow from the north.  With a few hours of daylight remaining, Tomar calls a halt to the small caravan.  Once again, the party is halted in a rather open area.  Tall grasses stretch as far as the eye can see.  To the southwest (slightly behind the party) a small grassy knoll rises slightly above the rest of the surrounding area.


The adventurers form a protective circle around the wagons as Lucas once again stares off into the distance, concentrating.  After a few minutes, he says, “That small hill about five hundred paces away appears to be uninhabited.  I did not detect any water sources, however.”


Darius quietly speaks, “Let us proceed there, and begin the setup.”


The party moves off through the tall grass in the direction of the hill.  Once at the site, Darius directs, “Dolak, you and Ori arrange the wagons and setup a picket line.  Zell and Cyzicus, scout between here and the road, starting a bit west and coming back around to the east.  Alani and Sylvia, wait a moment.” 


Darius moves off to the side and bows his head, muttering softly under his breath and beginning deft hand movements.  He faces south (downwind) and then slowly turns a bit to his left.  A few minutes later, he turns to the rest of the party, frowning.  “There is no game to the south.  Alani and Sylvia, head to the southeast, Soft Fang and I will head to the southwest.” 


Darius then crouches over, and repeats the shape-changing process into a wolf.  After a quick glance at the others, the two wolves bound off into the tall grass, heading southwest.


Alani and Slyvia look at each other, shrug, and nock arrows to their bows.  Then, the two females slip into the tall grasses, slightly crouched and alert for signs of game.


Zell and Cyzicus check their weapons and then also leave the campsite.  The pair of scouts heads out toward the northwest, angling toward the road.


* * * * *


{ Darius’ Hunting Foray}


Darius and Soft-Fang stalk through the field, sniffing the ground and looking for tracks of game.  Eventually, they detect large, cloven hooves.  Proceeding carefully, they soon surprise a small herd of bison that are innocently grazing on the tall grass.  Bursting from the underbrush, the two wolves rush the herd.


The herd begins a loud snorting and turn to run.  One of the animals stumbles as it flees.  That slight mistake is all the two hunters need.  They overtake the doomed animal, bring it down and slay it. 


After feasting on the haunches of the slain bison, the two wolves regard the remaining carcass.  They realize that it is far too large for them to drag back to the campsite.


Darius, still in wolf form says to Soft Fang,  <Stay, guard the kill>.  Darius then heads back to the campsite, still if wolf form.  He approaches openly and yips at Dolak and/or Alric.


* * * * *


{Cy and Zell Scouting Foray}


Cyzicus and Zell slip off into tall grass, heading to the northwest.  After a few hundred yards, they drift to the east.  Finding nothing, they turn to head back to the campsite.


* * * * *


After the hunters and the scouts have departed, the rest of the party begins their assigned duties.  Dolak and Ori begin to unhitch the various pack animals.  Kjira unhitches her mule and walks it to where the two are working.  Then, she starts to rummage her cart for camping supplies.  Alric and Kryian stand watch, their eyes scanning the horizon and their hands resting gently near the pommels of their weapons. 


While Dolak and Kjira prepare the fire pit for the evening, Lucas forages in the tall grass in the immediate vicinity of the campsite.  A little while later, he returns to the campsite carrying a dozen wild potatoes that he found.  “It is not much,” he announces, “but it should add some variety to the trail rations.”


More than an hour later, Alani and Slyvia return empty-handed from their hunting expedition. 


About the same time, a wolf appears at the camp perimeter.  The fur around the wolf’s snout is matted with what appears to be dried blood.  Pawing anxiously at the ground, the wolf stands in front of Alric.  When it has the warrior’s attention, it turns a walks a few steps back in the direction it came from, then it stops and glances over its shoulder.


Alric’s eyebrows narrow in wariness.  “It would appear it wants us to follow – would the other hunters care to join me?”  Shrugging, Alani and Slyvia join Alric and follow the wolf into the tall grass, heading southwest.


Minutes pass, and then the three adventurers return dragging a fresh bison carcass that has been partially devoured.  Two wolves, their snouts matted with dried blood, pad along contentedly behind the small expedition.


As the party prepares to finish the butchering of the carcass, Cyzicus and Zell return from their expedition to the north.  They report encountering an assortment of animal tracks, but nothing else.  Zell then catches Darius’ attention and calls him to the side for a private discussion.


* * * * *


{Darius and Zell}


Zell approaches Darius and Soft Fang while they seat alone and whispers to only he and the wolf can hear, “Darius, I must show you something, but in private.  It may matter in the future.”


“Certainly, just let us finish up the discussion here,” the druid replies.


Once all have had their say about the planning, Darius and Zell walk off to a semi-private spot a short distance from the rest of the party.  After glancing over his shoulder, Darius turns to speak to Zell.


“Yes, what do you wish do show me?” the druid asks.


Zell, with her back turned towards Darius, “Some people call me elusive, and quite.  Others call me strange and wicked.”


Zell turns around with something in her hands.  Darius can barely make out what it is, but it seems wooden. Zell continues to speak, “There will be a time when you and Soft Fang will come upon a strange scent.”


Zell places the wooden object on the ground and Darius can see that it's a wooden statuette of a cheetah.  Zell slowly backs away still in the crouching position, “Come out, Deerminais.”


Blue and white smoke begins to pour fourth from the statuette.  Darius can see a slight tail.  As soon as the smoke clears, Zell stands with a large black cheetah in front of her.  The cat seems harmless.


“I figure if you come across her scent, you know who she belongs to, not to mention she can sense things that no mortal being can sense, no offense to you or Soft Fang.”


“No offense taken’” Darius replies.  “It is good that you have shown me this.  I will let Soft Fang know.”


Zell pats Deerminais on it's shoulder, “Go scout and don't start a fight without me.”  The cat jaunts off quickly and for the first time, a half smile can be seen on Zell's face.  “I thought I would tell you just in case you come across her.”


* * * * *


Early Evening, 22nd Day of Eleint


As the last light of day finally disappears, the party has constructed a small cooking stand out of scrub branches and proceeds to roast the slices of bison meat that were cut from the carcass.  These small portions are passed around, supplemented by a small portion of Lucas’ potatoes.


After all have eaten, the party settles down to their second night of sleep on the road.  The night passes uneventfully as, once again, Kjira, Zell, Dolak, and Cyzicus man the first shift of three hours or so.  They are followed by the second shift of Alani and Alric.  The last shift - Lucas, Sylvia, Kyrian, and Darius – wakes the others just after first light.   


* * * * *


Morning, 23rd Day of Eleint


After all are awake, the spellcasters of the group occupy themselves with their various required daily rituals.  Meanwhile, Alric, Kryian and Dolak put out the smoldering fire, eat a small morningfeast of trail rations, refill the party’s waterskins from Kjira’s casks and then allow the mounts to drink from Dolak’s trough.


Kjira looks on grimacing as the party drains her kegs.


“If I have to drink wine all afternoon,” she says pointing to the only remaining filled cask, “I'll not only be very cranky, but very drunk as well!  At least YOU'LL enjoy the day, Bartholomule,” she says as she caresses the animal's muzzle.  “That will certainly be a load off of your to speak.”


Two hours after sunrise, the party begins moving again.  The air today is warmer than the previous day, by about fifteen degrees or so.  It is still cool enough to chill exposed skin, however.


As the party finishes packing up the evening's camp, Kjira wraps herself tightly in her blue cloak.  Looking up and around she inspects the sky, a disapproving look on her face.  “More cold,” she says to no one in particular, “but at least it's a bit warmer today than yesterday.”


Taking Bartholomule by the reins, Kjira falls into her customary position behind Tomar and Ori's cart and leads the beast as the party begins its day's journey.  As the morning wears on, she reaches into her pack and pulls out a wooden cup and a small linen bag that she takes care to open, rolling back the top.  Pausing her beast momentarily, she fills the cup up with a reddish wine from one of the small casks.


One by one, Kjira pulls out chunks of what appear to be some kind of dried fruit, which she munches on cheerfully as the party travels.  Every now and then she washes the fruit down with a sip or two of the wine.


The morning wears on, and soon the first trees of the Reaching Wood are visible on the horizon.   By the time the party stops for its midday break, they are on the outskirts of the Wood.  No rain is experienced during the morning; however, as the party prepares to for its rest break, a mass of dark clouds can be seen approaching from the north.

The content of The Sunset Vale Saga are the property and copyright of Brian Flood, and are not to be published or redistributed without permission.

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