Shadow of Hope 45

Cheskith had settled back somewhat from the fire to eat, the better to allow others access to the ready meal. He wasn’t rushing to the same extent as Kurn, though, and thus had to interrupt his only partially finished dining to attend to this new question.

“The watches, they have been settled? If this is as yet undone, then I would prefer the first, I think, but can settle for any,” he spoke, addressing whomever seemed to have been drawn to the topic.

Gathering from the looks around the camp that they had not yet been settled, and not wanting it to be a long drawn-out discussion of merits — a discussion that could readily cut into everyone’s needed rest for the day ahead — Kurn nodded tersely to Cheskith’s statement and looked to everyone else, “Fine; any other preferences?”

While listening intently to what Erellia had said, the Sunari tended to his weapon, carefully whetting its edge.

When she had finished he added softly, “It is good to know that this exists. As you say, it probably will not matter where we are going, but, we will not be there forever. We will have to return to civilization and thus to the Purification.”

The barbarian set his weapon aside and slowly shook his head stating, “I have no idea why people have to try to tell another how to walk their journey.”

He glanced around at the group. After a moment he continued to speak, “As I was taught, magic is like everything else, only evil if it is turned to that use.”

A very sad look fell over the Sunari’s face. “Unfortunately, as the history of my people proves, not everyone is worthy of the power they have inherited. In thinking it over, I can see why some are afraid of magic,” Borlak said, “Many have perverted its use.”

“In any case, it is good to know that this Purification exists.” With that, he picked up his sword again and returned to whetting the blade. When he had accomplished the desired edge he cleaned, oiled, and returned it to its scabbard.

As the conversation ended the barbarian walked to where Galagina was picketed. He removed the saddle and bags and rubbed him down with a soft cloth that was kept in one of the saddle bags.

As he rubbed, he stopped often to check the physical health of the horse. No detail was overlooked. He inspected the hooves for pits and cracks, the muscles for tenseness or heat, the hide for burrs.

All the while his soft murmur could be heard as he talked tenderly to the horse. His actions clearly stated that the horse was not merely a mount, but a companion.

When he finished tending to the horse, he removed a feed bag and strapped it to the horse harness. Having made sure that Galagina was comfortable he now began to think of his own meal.

Borlak gathered his bedroll and mess kit from the saddlebag and headed towards the steaming pot.  He spread a blanket out a short distance away from the fire before stepping up to the stewpot. He dished out a bowl for himself and grabbed a slab of bread, and then strode back to his blanket and took a seat. He began to eat, but interrupted himself as his eyes widened slightly and he looked across the fire at Cheskith to give him a nod of appreciation. “Thank you,” was all he said.

“If no one wants it, I will take the dawning,” Borlak said, finishing his stew.

“I’m sorry, sir,” Haron addressed Marcus, “How much water to how much flour exactly? You started so fast, I didn’t get a good look.”

With that, conversation dwindled to the mundane for the better part of the meal with everyone partaking of the savory fare offered. Zulian made her way back into camp in due course and helped herself to a small portion of the stew. Watches were set without difficulty and each found that they only need bear the cold night air for an hour before being able to return to their fire-warmed blankets. Somewhere in the wee hours of the night between Rôhn’s watch and Zulian’s, a knifing wind picked up for half an hour or so before fading off to normal gusts for this unpredictable time of the year.

Borlak found himself rousing the camp in the early morning light to what promised to be a clear and sunny day. The weather had finally broken, and all enjoyed the inherent lifting of spirits as the rays of the sun sparkled across the frosted landscape.

“Fortune smiles upon us,” Katarina offered to the morning sun with a smile upon her face.

Haron, his bed hair still standing awry and catching a glimpse of the priestess as he moved across the camp, managed to kick one of the cooking pots that had been upended to dry last evening. The resulting metallic clanging served as an excellent wake up call to any who may have been slow to rouse. Sheepishly he uprighted the offending cookware and made for the safety of the horses.

As the company began going about its morning ritual, Erellia addressed the group. “By the end of the day, weather permitting, we should be on the outskirts of the Horned foothills. We will be camping one last time near the river before making our way into the Troll hill country. We’ll begin our journey as soon as the practitioners are prepared to do so.”

Marcus got up and stretched, yawning, before heading to the fire. Using last nights embers to liven it, Marcus set a pot filled with water and an empty pot nearby to warm. Kneading the dough he made last night, he divided it in to two piles on a makeshift table using the chests.

When Haron arrived after he checked the horses, Marcus showed him how to make pancakes and the buns they would use for lunch. Using the empty pot like an oven he set small batches of dough to cook into buns as the pot was tipped towards the fire. He then decided the water was warm enough for the strong tea he makes in the morning and he added it to the heating water.

Finally, he took a small sheet of metal and put it over the fire, making sure that it would not burn the flat cakes, but cook them quickly. He also set the crock of butter and honey near the fire to warm. Cooking quickly, Marcus and Haron after a few tries start making pancakes, dribbling them with butter and honey, before serving them as people want, along with the strong tea.

After feeding everybody, Marcus made Haron and himself breakfast before cleaning and getting everything packed. He set the buns he made, along with the cheese, dried fruit and meat to one side. Packed separately, they would be lunch on the trail.

Kurn wasted no time in the morning; his bedroll was quickly stowed with familiar efficiency, his gear and weapons checked and seen to, and morning meal taken quietly. The time it took for the practitioners to ready themselves, Kurn spent twenty yards outside the camp proper, within the thin trees, making slashes, feints, and stabs at the imaginary surrounding force. His sword rarely touched a tree; though he held nothing back in the force of his attack, he reversed his strength in the moments before each impact, pulling the blade or stopping it before the hit. Though he had no particular love for the trees as anything other than useful objects, his sword was not an axe and did not deserve to be needlessly worn cutting tree and limb.


Shadow of Hope 46

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