On the Road to Between Hebenford and the Grange of Eastling

Late-afternoon, Trenday, the 10th of Dutinell in the Year 331, Spring – It’ll Rain Overnight

Mrs. Bramblepatch pulls just off the road into a small clearing, halts the wagon, and sets the brake. “All right everyone,” she calls out officiously, “let’s get camp set up before the rain kicks in. We’ve got plenty of time, but not much to waste.”

Without much talk, Mrs. Bramblepatch and Justin set about unhitching the oxen. Erdo continues cooking dinner at the back of the wagon. Sir Jamie grabs a axe and a hatchet to collect wood for a fire. Inthernar continues reading in the back of the wagon, his nose in an old tome. It’s unclear if he’s figured out the group has stopped. Nyx follows Sir Jamie into the woods with a length of rope.

“Lydia, dear,” Mrs Bramblepatch asks with uncharacteristic lightness, “fetch us a few buckets of water from the stream over there.”

“Yes, Mrs Bramblepatch,” the red-haired girl says, grabbing a bucket before heading off to do as she was told.

Camp takes shape in a matter of half an hour thanks to Mrs Bramblepatch’s orchestration, and everyone else’s ease with what their parts in all this are. The week they’ve been traveling away from Koros has settled everyone into a routine. Justin, Erdo, and Lydia get the tent put up and as they start to move things from the wagon that shouldn’t be allowed to get rained on, Inthernar announces that he’ll protect the contents of the wagon from the weather and other threats… Mrs Bramblepatch shrugs dismissively. The work of wizards is a strange thing, but not having to unpack and pack the wagon saves everyone time and effort.

Sir Jamie hauls back a massive bough of a fallen oak into the camp in a display of strength that’s awe inspiring. “Found a nice dry one. We’ll have good wood to travel with with this thing!” he says, proudly smiling.

“I may be of some help,” Inthernar says, looking up from a tome he’s been reading, “what needs doing?”

“The wood needs trimming,” Mrs Bramblepatch says. She sees a lack of comprehension on the wizard’s face and adds, “The wood has too many small branches to be useful. We need to trim the smaller branches off before chopping the bigger parts becomes worthwhile. But your hands aren’t properly calloused for the work, and we don’t want our learned folk to get blisters.”

“Oh, quite right,” Inthernar says, not seeming to note whether he thought the halfling was joking with or insulting him. “No blisters for me,” he says and thumps his staff onto the bed of the wagon a few times before speaking in a strange language. Immediately, three hand axes begin floating into the tree and start trimming the smaller branches away. As they’re cut, the small branches float of their own accord into a stack that quickly becomes a pile of kindling.

Inthernar goes back to his studies while the magical axes continue their work.

Mrs. Bramblepatch shakes her head.

With the wizard’s magical aid, Sir Jamie and his squire make quick work of the oak. Sir Jamie decides they’ll cut and split all the wood, enough to use tonight, enough to fill their wood stores in the wagon, with enough left over to leave as a gift to the next set of travelers who stop here to rest.

Stones are found and set in a fire ring. A fire’s started, and water’s put on to boil.

A while later, Nyx comes back to camp carrying a deer that’s trussed up in the rope she’d taken. It’s a yearling buck, just starting to get antlers. She and Erdo string the carcass up for butchering, and Erdo notices that the buck was killed by having its throat cleanly sliced… not another mark on it. He raises his eyebrow in Nyx’s direction, and she answers him with a noncommittal shrug. No easy answers to this question, but the meat’s going to be very tender. “Venison stew for dinner!” he announces to the camp.

Sir Jamie and Justin begin their evening ritual of sword practice. Heavy, oak blades instead of steal rap against each other as the men work through the forms of blade combat… blade on blade, blade on shield, high shield, low shield… swing, parry, riposte… Sir Jamie is clearly in better form, but Justin is strongly competent in answering his knight’s challenges. As they get warmed up, speed and power increase. Both men sweat, and the camp rings out with the sounds of combat.

Lydia watches the two men, warrior and apprentice, work the deadly art of swordplay. She’s never seen warriors working like this in her life, and she’s enthralled by it… the sight of it, the sounds of it, and even the smell of leathers and oiled chain as the fighters practice. She sits a while, mesmerized by the display.

“Girl!” Mrs. Bramblepatch’s call breaks Lydia from her trance. “There’s still work to do.”

“Yes, Mrs. Bramblepatch,” she says, a little flushed at how lost she was in her moment. Lydia looks around, noting that the only real work left is a bit of tidying up to make the came fit for gentleman of Sir Jamie’s standing. The camp girl smiles thinking that she’s now part of the team. She begins raking the area of the clearing.

A shout comes from up the road aways, “Hail in the camp!” It’s a man’s voice.

Sir Jamie and Justin stop their practice. Sir Jamie makes sure his shield is covered while Justin answers, “Hail on the road!”

Six men-at-arms come into view. They’re carrying halberds and wearing short swords on their belts. Two of them also carry bows. “Gird’s grace be on your camp,” one man says.

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