Campaign Logs

The Sunset Vale Saga

By Brian Flood

Chapter 9 - Calm Before the Storm

Along the Uldoon Trail

Within the Reaching Woods, The Sunset Vale

Mid-Day, 23rd Day of Eleint, Year of the Tankard (1370 DR)

“At last,” Kjira cries out.  “Trees!  I can see some trees!  Much better than this bland old wide-open terrain we've been traveling through.”


Her cheer is diminished somewhat when she notices the dark clouds billowing in from the north.  “Sheesh,” she sighs.  “When it rains, it pours around this place.”


As the party stops to take its afternoon rest, Kjira rummages around in one of the wicker baskets that hang somewhat lopsided from either side of Bartholomule.  Eventually she raises her head back up, a bundle of cloth in one hand.  Closer inspection reveals it to be oilcloth, which she proceeds to wrap around her head and shoulders.


During the break Alani, whilst munching on a piece of preserved meat, watches Kjira thoughtfully.  “Not too much of the wine, mage,” she says cheerfully.  “I've heard that spell casting under the influence will just get us all roasted.”


“But waht 'bout da grup fireballz spell,” Kjira says, slurring her words deliberately whilst grinning at Alani.


Alani calls out to Tomar, “Hey, there's rain coming, merchant.  Just how waterproof is the packing for your merchandise?”


Turning to Darius, she says to Darius in a softer voice, “We may need to find shelter and wait out the rain, otherwise our employer will find that his precious books waterlogged and useless.  Do you want to scout into the forest for some decent cover?”


Zell approaches Alani and rests her hand on her shoulder, “ ‘Would be fruitless to scout out a forest we may have no knowledge of the area.  If cover we seek, then the trees it shall be.  It may not be much, but it is somewhat sheltered, a little.  If we are to travel through this” -- she motions her hands towards the tree line -- “forest, we need to travel tighter and closer to the caravan as possible.  Also, since Darius has the ability to shapeshift into his wolf form, maybe he and Soft Fang should flank us on the sides.  None the less, scouting would prove valuable at this moment.  Darius, Soft Fang, Cyzicus, and I should scout the area whilst everyone stays here and keeps a clean ear out for anything unusual, unless anyone else objects or has any better ideas.”


“I think we need not worry about that,” Kjira says to Darius and Alani.  “We walked through rain and mud most of yesterday and our merchant companion here wasn't too concerned.  They are either wrapped and protected well, or sopping wet as it is.”


Kjira glances over at Tomar, wondering which it will turn out to be...


The merchant puts down the block of cheese and the paring knife that has been using to eat and speaks up to answer.  “Do not worry yourself with the rain’s threat to my wares, Miss Kjira.  I assure you that this oiled canvas” – he gestures at the tarp that is pulled tight in a ‘U’ shape over the wagon – “will protect the cargo of the wagon from most elements and it may even provide a small defense against fire.  I thank you, however, for your concern.  It makes me feel somewhat safer to know that you are concerned about the welfare of my cargo AND myself.”


Glancing at the clouds on the horizon, Tomar pauses and frowns as he thinks to himself.  Then, he says, “I should think that we can make a little more distance today – we still have half a day’s travel left to us.  The forest may slow movement a tad, but the trail should make our navigation relatively easy.   Branches and other materials for shelters will also be more plentiful in the forest.  When you all are finished, I suggest we try to put a few more miles behind us before we stop to seek shelter.”  The merchant sits back and resumes carving small pieces of cheese off of the block and popping them into his mouth.


Kjira watches the already rotund merchant stuff his face with cheese as he nonchalantly orders the party around.  Mindful of the fact that he is indeed her employer, she still finds herself disgusted at the condition the man has allowed himself to fall to.


“Perhaps you are right, sir Tomar,” she says after her finishes.  “Let us break for a few minutes to eat our lunches and then we can continue on through the forest.”


“Miss Kjira wasn't the one who first raised the issue of the rain getting into your precious books, 'big cheese’,” Alani growls at Tomar, sharing Kjira's disgust at the sight of the merchant stuffing his face.


The elf then addresses Darius “If it's to be the forest, I'm leaving right now to take point.....sir,” she says with a cheeky grin.


“Aye, Alani,” Darius responds.  “You and Zell take the right point, and Soft Fang and I will take the left.  An ambush in this kind of terrain won't be too far from the road, so be extra careful,” the druid replies, still blushing at being put in charge.


Darius then turns and begins a spell-casting ritual, concentrating upwind (north).  After a few minutes, he finishes with a disappointed look on his face.  “There is no game nearby – at least, none upwind of us.  We should get moving soon.”


Alani nods to Zell to accompany her and moves off quickly to take the right point position 40meters from the party's main body.


Zell nods back, “Be cautious friend Alani.  The forest holds more secrets than any of us may come to know. Be sure to keep your hands rested upon what may save your life.”  The suggestion can mean only one thing, the weapons at hand that are being carried.


The remainder of the party reforms – this time with Zell added to the forward scouts – and begins moving. 


Once the party is moving again and into the forest, Kjira keeps an eye out for fallen branches and twigs along the side of the road.  She picks up any she finds and puts them on the back of Bartholomule as best she can.  It is obvious she intends to avoid cooking over animal dung if it can at all be avoided.


Dolak alternates riding and walking for most of the day.  As the forest of death looms nearer, he switches to walking completely.  Looking at Kjira, he says, “You'll not be glad of the vermin we’re like as not to meet in them woods.  On the other hand,” he grins, “there is alot less chance of us having to use mule dung fer the fire.” 


Lucas rides along after the mid-day lunch break in silence mostly, occasionally looking about the procession as if scanning for an adversary.


As the party reaches the woods, Dolak unslings his battle-axe and carries it in his left hand, using the right hand to lead the pony.


The afternoon proceeds without any significant encounters.  The Uldoon Trail soon enters the Reaching Wood and the party walks along, glancing nervously at the lightly wooded hardwood trees.  After a few hours of moving through the forest, Tomar calls a halt to the party.


“It will be dark in a few hours, let us find a spot to camp for the evening,” the bookdealer says.  Glancing up, he frowns at the boughs and leaves that prevent him from seeing the sky above.


 Lucas turns to the others, “We must make sure we get higher ground if these clouds unload on us.  I will see what I can find.”  With that said, Lucas slips from his mount and dismisses it.  The party watches, amazed as the horse that Lucas was just riding for the last few hours disappears into a mist which blows away into thin air in a few seconds.  Lucas walks a few paces from the others and starts to concentrate, apparently staring into the sky. 


Darius and the other scouts return to the party.  Then, the druid repeats the spell-casting ritual that you saw at the noon break, once again facing the north.


Darius finishes his concentration period in a few minutes.  “There are two things tell you,” the druid says.  “First, there is game nearby – something the size of a deer, or similar.  Whatever it is, it is to the north of the trail and not far away.  Second, I sense that the clouds we saw earlier will bring us a violent storm – both rain and lightning.  By my estimate, it should hit us around midnight.”


After a few additional minutes, Lucas turns to the others.  “There is a small clearing to the south – it is not far from the trail.  I was unable to locate a water source; however, judging from what Darius said, there should be plenty of water soon.”


Darius nods at the mage’s report.  “Soft Fang and I will investigate the clearing,” he says. 


Darius and Soft-Fang walk into the woods heading south and return shortly thereafter.  “The mage is correct,” the druid says.  “There is a small clearing about fifteen or twenty yards from here to the south.  It is about twenty feet wide or so and is surrounded by trees – it should provide a location for a campfire as well as material for shelters.  There is also sufficient room between the trees to maneuver the animals and their cargo to the campsite.”

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