Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Fragments of the Last War 2.3 - A Camp by Night

Played 3/14 to 3/27

Continued from Part 2, this section introduced a new PC, saw one PC on his own (Nikala), and we ran our first combat.  It went fair. 

Finishing a programming project, so I'm behind on my blog.

Things to do:
  1. Compile summaries of all the characters' disadvantages with explanations for easier gameplay.
  2. Finish putting together my GM notebook for both this game and the tabletop. 

***

The 18th day of Equos, 22 years after the opening of the Caers:  early morning at the workgang camp near the village of Hygom, two days west of Cymru

Hours before sunrise and the hanging of Walt Durgman, Nikala woke from a crook in one of the tallest cedar trees, stretched his wings, and began to scale to the top. Once he’d gotten high enough for a decent view, he took in the landscape, his eyes attuned for movement: at this height, they would likely only be other scouts.

A thin plume of smoke, some five miles to the north, emerged from the cedar forest, then flattened as it meet the cool air above.  Scanning, Nikala spotted something shiny near the fire.

No doubt the quarry he’d been tracking these past few days...a messy, noisy bunch, whoever they were. He clawed his way around the tree, putting as many branches as possible between himself and the flash. Sometimes, the groundwalkers had far-seers, and sometimes a forward scout would be discovered when he was careless.

Nikala let his senses, his instincts lead the way. Allowing the breeze to drift into his nostrils, he narrowed his eyes at the smoke and the flash, trying to discern what might have caused it. Was the flash a far-seer that had already spotted him?  He shifted his weight to his legs, ready to take off and fly low over the treetops.

The distance was too great, even for his eyes and he would need fly closer, if he was to get an idea of what kind opposition he was facing.

The Night Flier, the voice of pure wisdom, taught in his works that the best way to approach an enemy was from the flanks, never the front. Nikala peered to the east, looking for landscape that would hide him. Though he intended to fly just above the treetops, a keen pair of eyes would pick him out all the same.

The cedar forest covered the land for some twenty miles until the foothills that marked beginning of the forested hill country.  To the east the sun slowly rose. The line of smoke slowly lessened as if a fire had died. 

Nikala pushed off with his legs, his wings beating the air. There wouldn’t be much time if the fire was dying, it meant they were striking camp or getting ready to strike it. He pushed out toward the foothills, not flying in a straight line, but in a wide circle, as the Great Hunter taught, moving in the direction of the rising sun, which might blind his enemies to his presence. As he passed over the forest, his eye spied a rabbit nibbling on a blade of grass, a deer drinking from a stream, and a strange large rodent he’d never seen standing on its hindquarters and stuffing horse apples in its mouth.

The forest was full of prey, including his. He leaned, banking around a little tighter. The sun would not be at the horizon for much longer, and it was essential he put it between himself and the camp if he were to gain a better view undetected.

Nikala quickly flew east of his target toward the foothills beyond. The smoke had all but disappeared in the dawn.  As of yet there was no sign of his prey.  The foot hills were also covered in the high cedars, many thirty feet high.  The air was cool that morning and a chill wind blew in from the ocean.  Not unusual weather from Nikala’s birthlands.

He began to circle higher, gaining altitude until he had a better view, as well as the cover of height to protect him from any arrows or stones the ground walkers might throw. He spread his wings and soared on thermal currents, looking for any trace of the quarry, circling outward from where their camp had been.

Soaring along the foothills, watching for a sign, Nikala did not see the launched net slung towards him.  At the last minute, he turned his head only to see it hit and wrap around his body.

***

The 19th day of the month of Equos, 22 years after the opening of the Caers: a waystation on the West Road

The second day out out from the workgang camp, the caravan stopped for the night at a waystation.  The night came on them quickly, with an unseasonable damp fog, as they made their camps (each wagon setting a watch and camp.)

Arlin the half-orc had mostly healed from his flogging thanks to Otso and was placed in the watch.  The kobold Meepo proved skittish and kept quiet. Edwina sat on her haunches finishing her supper before bed and watches began.
Dinty sings of halfling ladies

Dinty broke into a terrific song while staring into the campfire.

There once was a lass from Maiden Mist
She had not a leg and one eye was amiss
She’d handle any comers with a wink and a kiss
I had many a roll with her in total darkness
The best I’ve had but oh what a mess
She broke me heart and now I could-naa care less
Oh oh I'll never miss
That halfling wench from Maiden Mist

Once the goblin finished his lusty song, Edwina stuck out her tongue.  “I see you’ve still got that charm, Dinty,” she smirked and slipped into the darkness under the trees.

“That was wonderful,” cried Meepo, the kobold, clapping for Dinty, while Arlin, the half-orc just chuckled.

Goreal joins in clapping with Meepo, while grinning with a mouth full of pointed teeth.

Otso, seated with his eyes closed, seemed to be talking with someone.  “Of course, the Lady of Fate favors us, but in serving the Wheel I ….?”

Meepo asked.  “Where did you learn so many beautiful songs, Dinty?

Dinty shrugged, "Oh here and there mostly. I've done a bit of traveling and met a fair number of different folk. They all have different songs and I like to sing. I don't always remember the words but I get by."

The human wagon driver, Chuck, who had travelled with the new wardens the past few days said little on the trip.  Not a warden himself, he tended to ignore them.  However, seated on the wagon, eating his plate of beans and rabbit, he frowned and his face soured.  “That sound was awful, goblin.  Just awful.  No wonder you became a warden, you certainly wouldn’t make it as a bard.”  He grunted and ate another spoon of beans

Dinty agreed. "Aye, that's true. I wouldn't have made it as a bard. That's why holy Desna saw fit to point me towards a more Noble profession. It could be worse… I could have been a wagon driver. A fate I hope to never suffer."

The driver tossed his empty plate onto the wagon.  “To hell with all you freaks.”  He jumped down from the wagon and stormed off toward the trees.

*****

Edwina
Edwina moved quietly through the forest.  Though the night was dark enough moonlight lit the forest floor for her to see.  In the distance, she could smell cooking meat.  Climbing an embankment, she found herself staring into a forest ravine.

In the middle of the ravine was the remains of a caravan. Five wagons had been pulled into a circle around a central fire.  Even the leads to the oxen were still tied to a nearby tree.  The wagons themselves had seen better days. The damage from some sort of attack was still evident, the weather had done a fair share of damage, and one wagon appeared to have been set on fire.

One wagon, though, was still in good shape.  The side appeared to fold out into a stage and  was covered in bright paint that exclaimed “Professor James Hawkins’ Miracle Medicine.” It looked fresh. Scattered near it was what appeared to be pieces of a broken door.  The back of the wagon had a door that obviously did not match the paint or wood of the rest of the wagon. Across from the wagons were several graves. Most were older, but a few appeared to be newer.  The new graves had a crude banner of green and purple cloth staked at their heads.

Mollie had spent some time going through the wagons looking for anything that might be useful or sentimental.  Anything of value had long been stripped from the wagons by whatever scavengers had wandered by.  Even some of the secret drawers had been found and pried open.  She had gathered what she could and had set to repairing her uncle’s wagon.  She had taken to staying in the wagon when she needed rest.  The town folk were not openly hostile to her, but she could tell that she wasn’t entirely welcome.  It was easier to be out here and not put up with that.

Seeing the wagons, Edwina ducked her head and crept toward the circle.  The shadows danced around her, and she attempted to stay within them as best as possible.  As she crept, the light caught her red hair for a moment before she sank behind another shadow. Unobserved, Edwina slide quietly between a wagon and watched.

Mollie stepped out of the wagon and headed to the piece of meat that she was cooking on the fire.  In her hands,  she had a pouch of spices, a plate, and some utensils.  She threw several pinches of spice on the meat then flipped it in the pan and seasoned the other side. After a few moments, she took the meat from the pan to the plate and began to eat.  She was armed, but did not seem to be on alert.  Her clothing was in the same purples and greens as the markers on the graves.

Edwina watched the young woman a moment, then decided she would speak to her.  Creeping back to the tree line, she stood and approached the campsite visibly and with her hands out and facing upwards.

Mollie turned to face the girl that had just walked into her camp.  From Edwina’s actions, Mollie quickly decided that she meant no harm. What if she’s a bandit?  Mollie grimaced and quickly scanned the perimeter of the camp. Ignoring the voice and the paranoia it caused, she decided to call out to her new friend.  “Hello!  Who is she?”  Mollie’s voice, while audible and friendly enough, sounded strangely hollow as if it was coming from somewhere farther away.

Taking a deep breath, the girl moved into the firelight.  From the look of her, she was a wispy red-headed teenager dressed in some kind of brown uniform with the crest of Cymru on one sleeve.  “Umm, hi,”  she began.  “I’m Edwina,” she stopped and looked at her clothes.  “Private Edwina of the Cymru Wardens.  I saw the wagons and the fire.  My squad is camped nearby.”

Mollie stood up and did an exaggerated bow.  “Her name is Mollie and she was an acrobat for Copperbolt and Hawkin’s Mechanimazement Show.”  Mollie looked around the campsite.  “But she thinks the bandits stole all the ‘mazement with everything else.”

Mollie could be easily seen in the fire.  She looked a few years older than Edwina, standing at average height but thin bordering on frail.  Her hair had a purple sheen to it, and her skin was a  sickly green.  She’s going to see what you are. Again, Mollie ignored the voice.  Of course Edwina was going to see.  Besides, she couldn’t keep secrets from her best friend!  Mollie popped up from the bow and extended a hand to Edwina.  “It is a pleasure to meet you, Lady Edwina!”
Mollie Hawkins

Edwina stood staring with her mouth open.  “Umm, hi,” she sputtered.  “I’m not sure if I am amazed by you or just terrified.”  She held out her hand.  “Is this a carnival show?”

Mollie grabbed Edwina’s hand with both of hers and shook it heartily.  “She is probably both!”  Mollie’s face lit up at the mention of the carnival.  “It was! Her Uncle’s friend Cogswell built the rides and games, and her Uncle sold medicines and cures.  Not fake ones like other shows though!”

Mollie let go of Edwina’s hand and somersaulted backwards.  “She was an acrobat, and they were training her on the tightrope and the trapeze!”  Mollie’s shoulders slumped, “Then the bandits came…”  And before she could finish, from the south, a dull buzzing rose from the trees and a scream pierced the silent night. Mollie spun to face the sound and drew her short sword.  She called back to Edwina, “Did that sound like her people?”

*****

A few minutes later, from the direction Chuck had gone, a dull buzzing rose in the forest, followed by a scream.

Dinty grabbed his weapon and headed towards the scream at a wary pace calling out "To arms."

Goreal took on a serious demeanor  and joined closely behind Dinty - his great mace of Atgur
ready.

Otso stood surprised and watched Dinty and Goreal run off, while Arlin grabbed his axe and shield then rushed after.  Meepo hid under the wagon. “I will guard the wagon!”

***

Mollie and Edwina rushed into a small clearing in the woods from the north.  Everything was lit blue from the moonlight.  Across the clearing, they saw at least a half dozen black, dog-sized things flying around a broken tree.  The screams came from that direction.  Soon after, on the southside of the clearing came Dinty, Goreal, and Arlin.

Mollie frowned at the dog-sized wasps.  "Of course, it had to be them,"  Hoping to move in before they noticed, Mollie tumbled out of the brush on the north side of the clearing and removes the head from one of the wasps as it flew by her.  “Why is it always bees!?!”

Goreal charged at the nearest wasp and tried to swat it out of the air with his mace. With an audible crunch the wasp smeared on the mace head; it's mandibles chittering in reaction.  It's mangled body dropped to the ground leaving a pool of ichor, as Goreal finished his swing.

The giant wasps, angrier, flew about Chuck, continuing to sting him. The wagon driver cried and then was silent.   One wasp flew at Mollie flying too high to hit her, while another dove at Goreal.

Dinty aimed his crossbow and fired off a shot.  The bolt slipped through the night air and impacted into the body of the wasp that had just flown past Goreal.  The exoskeleton crunched, and the wasp dropped the ground. 

Arlin rushed toward the driver Chuck, shoving a wasp away with his shield, injuring and angering one.  While Edwina, pulled her knife and ran up beside Mollie.

As a wasp attempts to sting her,  Mollie ducked and rolled, lashing at at the wasp that had just buzzed Goreal and been shot by Dinty, cutting it in half.

Goreal attempted to place himself in a position to protect the wagon driver by attacking the nearest the man.  He missed, and it turned to dive at Goreal.  The wasp's stinger plunged deep into Goreal’s chest.  Blood welled up from the wound and covered his fur and leather armor.  He felt the wasps venom enter his body and dissipate.

The wasp on Chuck’s face stung him again and the man gurgled blood, covering his chest.  Arlin swore and slashed at it with his axe cutting vermin in two.  The injured wasp buzzed the half-orc and stung him in the arm.

Hanging back Dinty pulls out his flail. Assessing the situation and ready to attack at any opportunity.

Edwina rushed forward with Dinty.

Dinty move in to attack the wasp on Arlin with his flail.  Carefully swing his flail at Arlin’s arm, Dinty launched a partially crushed wasp toward Mollie.

After a brief flashback to the last time she tried the knife throwing act, Mollie decides not to toss a knife at the wasp on the bear and opted for the one still buzzing around. Turning towards the fallen human, Mollie saw a wasp flying right at her and decapitated it.

Goreal gasped from the sting and dropped his weapon, which landed with a  thud on the dirt, kicking up dust.  He grabbed the wasp, ripping it from his chest, and held it immobilized in his hand.  Goreal, bewildered, crushed the wasp with great effort.

Arlin leaned over the human driver, Chuck, and shook his head.   “Looks like this one’s dead.”  At that time, Otso came running into the clearing.  “Is anyone hurt he asked,” out of breath.

Dinty said. "Aye a couple of us and it looks like we're short one teamster."

Mollie quietly attempted to hide behind Edwina as soon as the fight was over.

Otso attended Goreal, examining the pierce in his armor and the stinger wound.  “You seem to have escaped poisoning,” he said and closed his eyes.   Motioning the bear closer, he touched the bloody wound with his fingers.  Then wiping his hands he pulled a handful of flowers from his satchel and sprinkled them on Goreal.

Goreal was stung by a Giant Wasp
The smkia’s wound closed and the bleeding stopped.  “You will require further treatment,” he told him, wiping his head.  “Let me see the driver.”  Walking to Arlin, he saw the half-orc’s arm had been stung though he was wrapping it.  Kneeling he examined the driver, Chuck, he shook his head.  “The poison killed him.”  Instead he prayed for Arlin and covered the half-orc in lilacs.  Now visibly tired, the samsaran sits on nearby rock.  “We’ll have to tell Hal we need a driver.”  Glancing at Edwina and the girl behind, he added.  “Dinty, looks like we’ve met someone.”

Dinty said.  "Well now that Goreal is done playing with that overgrown mosquito and the healings done. Who's that you got with you Ed?"

Edwina turned and looked behind her.  “Umm, this is Mollie.” She stares at the girl’s purplish hair.  “I met her over the ridge at the remains of some wagons.”

Dinty asked. "So what are you about Mollie? Where are your people?"
 
Mollie replied. "They are all gone. Except for her and Uncle.  Uncle is somewhere.”  Mollie gestured as if to indicate that somewhere is very far away.  “She is all that is left.”

Dinty asked. "Do you or your uncle need help?"

Mollie shook her head. "Oh, no!  They are fine. Uncle is off getting some rest, and she has been out finding bandits and friends!”  Mollie patted Edwin on the head.

Edwina smiled.  “I do seem to make friends easy, Dinty.”

Otso nodded and spoke with Arlin, then walked across the clearing.  “And you, Mollie, any injuries?” 

Mollie took a step back from the priest.  “She is perfectly fine and healthy!  He shouldn’t bother himself!”

Otso stopped and turned away.  “May Morrit bless and guide us on our journey on the Wheel.  We cannot guess what the Lady of Fate has prepared.”

Crashing through the brush came a tall human with the symbol of Desna visibly around his neck, followed by a kobold.  “What is going in here?”  the human asked?  The kobold wandered over to Goreal.  “Is that a new pet?” he asked pointing toward the wasp.

“That would be a terrible pet.  They are stingy," Goreal observed.

Meepo poked the squirming wasp.

Dinty said. "Cap’n, old Chuck here got huffy and stumbled into a pack o hornets. We came to rescue him when we heard the noise. We killed em all but they got Chuck. It's a shame, he was the best teamster we had."

Mollie continues to keep Edwina between her and the priest and the holy human.

Hal approached Edwina and Mollie.  “You seem to have picked up a stray, Ed.  Where's the young lady from and how about we escort her back there?”

Edwina turned, looked at Mollie, then pointed to the ridge.  “She was living in some wrecked wagons over the ridge.  I think she’s touched.”

Mollie sighed, “She is not touched. Also, she can hear you.”

Edwina blushed. “Sorry.”

Hal eyed Mollie, walked over to Goreal, and put his sword through the wasp.  “Arlin, Meepo, Otso, I want you to take Chuck’s remains back to camp.  The rest come with me, I want to see these wagons.”

Mollie pointed over the ridge. “Over this way. She wasn’t really living in the wagons.  She was just staying there for sentimental reasons until she decided what to do with herself.”

Goreal looks perplexed by the captain's actions, and he starts to worry he didn't do a good enough job killing the wasp.  He looks at attention and follows, while working through his confusion.

“Better a dead wasp than not, Goreal,”  Hal eyed Mollie.  “Dinty, keep an eye out behind.  Move out.” Hal stomped toward the rise and Mollie's wagons.  Edwina turned and rushed after.

Dinty said. "Aye cap’n Goreal you and I are on the rear guard. Everyone else on your toes and watch for ambush."

Hal Saldana questions Mollie
Hal gazed into the ravine at the five ruined wagons.  “Edwina,” he said. “Run back to camp and get Otso.  Quick.”  Edwina nodded and rushed away.  “Loose soil yes, but this is an old battle.”  He turned to look for Mollie.  “Dinty, you and Goreal go further down and flank the wagons.  You two can see better in the dark.  I will wait then go in here.”  He looked through the moonlight.  “Where is Nikala?”

Mollie sighed and continued on into the ravine.  “There wasn’t much of a battle.  The bandits attacked in the night and killed almost everyone.  When she came back, the scavengers picked everything clean and all she had left were graves to dig.”  Mollie motioned to the row of graves on the far side of the camp.  “She supposes she should give him these before she gets smited.”  Mollie produced a folded parchment from a small satchel attached to her belt and handed them back to Hal.

Climbing into the ravine behind, Hal took the parchment from Mollie, then unfolded it.  He read for a moment and frowned.  Returning the parchment, he said.  “I see.”  Calling to Dinty and Goreal.  Search the wagons for any sign of bandits.”  Hal refolded the parchment and handed it back to Mollie.  “I will ask Otso’s wisdom.”

Dinty and Goreal started to search the wagons.

Hal watched Dinty and Goreal poke around the ruined wagons.  Before long, Dinty spotted something branded into the side of one of the wrecks.  Lighting a torch, he identified the brand as a tied bunch of arrows.

Hal stood near what he assumed to be Mollie’s wagon.  He watched the ridge for Edwina and Otso as well as eyes Mollie.  “Your case must be a strange one,” he finally told her.

Mollie replied. “Well, it fits in with the rest of her life, and it beats the alternative she thinks.” Mollie balanced on one leg while she talked.  She pretended to fall only to go into a cartwheel that placed her standing next to Hal.  “She has found her condition to be a bit liberating.  She no longer has a lot of her old fears and anxieties, she can eat all the candy she wants, and she doesn’t have to watch her figure .  It’s not for everyone though. The food is so-so, and it can be lonely.  Also, she still gets weird looks in town even after she helped with the bandits.”

Hal nodded.  “If you’d met a paladin of the Stone today, you might have had a different night.  As it is, I am less particular or well Desna has bigger problems.”  He faced her full on now.  “Otso, will be back soon.  He is a priest of Morrit, Lord of the Dead.  So you know, I will seek his advice as to what is to be done with you.  Your papers there though are surprising and yet knowing the dwarves not so much.”

At this moment, Edwina, now holding a torch, and Otso climbed over the raise and into the ravine. Otso approached Hal and Mollie with Edwina in tow.  “You wished to see me?” he asked.

“Not sure how it is for you, but the goddess blesses me with the sense of the Other.” He nodded at Mollie.  “I want your wisdom in her case.”

Otso blinked.  “Well….”

Doing an obviously bad impersonation of Otso, Mollie says, “He thinks they should let her go.”
Mollie let loose with a laugh.  “She doesn’t know what is worse, that voice she made or that he thinks he gets to decide anything about her.”

Otso turns to one side.  “Odd after effects, of course, but not unprecedented.”  He shakes his head.  “Yet we do recall that well.”  Now to Hal.  “I haven't been granted, by the Piper of Bones, your gift to sense the Other.”  Looking Mollie up and down.  “The Lord of Death wishes for each of us to turn on the Lady Fate’s wheel.  This one I suspected, and you confirmed, has been halted.”  Raising his hands, “Yet with herself intact it is likely we would do more harm than good to push her along the Wheel.  The Lady Fortuna will decide, not us.”

Hal laughed.  “The priest of the Lord of Death is a pacifist, Mollie.  But he wouldn't have hesitated against the mindless.  Your papers maybe valid, but the priests of Grumbar won't care.”

Edwina looked nervous trying to figure out what was going on.  She glanced at Dinty and Goreal.

“Dinty, Goreal, I have a question for you.” Hal called.  Looking around he continued. “Mollie it looks like the Red Arrows hit your caravan here.  Sometime in the recent past.  And as for what has happened to you, well, I’m a bit surprised to see the dwarves granted you the rights they did.”  Turning to Dinty and Goreal.  “It seems Mollie here is one of the Risen, though I can just detect the Horror-taint on her from undeath.  What do you two think?  I’m tempted to offer her a place in the Wardens, since she likes killing bandits so much. Frankly, I don’t know what Desna would think about this, but I will pray.  But Otso’s wisdom from his lives, I do know.”  He faced Dinty and Goreal and waited on their input.

Dinty shrugged. "I find it a lucky thing that she was given the chance to avenge her kin. Besides the goddess might look favorably on us if we are able to help a lost soul travel from this place to a new destination. I say she's a bit touched in the head but we could use the help."

Hal said.  “Dinty is faithful and also a pragmatist.”  He turned to the shmkia. “And what would the Eternal Sun say, Goreal?

Goreal shrugs, “Atgur’s never spoken to me, but I would judge her by her actions.   She fought to save our wagon driver, that says enough for me.”

Hal nodded. “When it comes down to it Mollie, those papers give you rights to go anywhere,” he stopped.  “But this band of Wardens is an eclectic bunch, which I believe will serve us well.   I invite you to sign on and help us clear out bandits and any other threats.  You’ll be stationed at the last village on the north road of the Republic, just before the frontier and as the forests give way to the grasslands and then the deserts.”

The moon had begun to set and Mollie’s fire burned low.  “It’s getting too dark out here for me.  Think it over.  You’d sign on for a year and renew if you liked it.  Dinty and Goreal have done the same.”  Clambering up the side of the ravine, followed by Otso and Edwina, he said. “We can always use someone of ability and if the Carbona family vouches for you, that’s good enough for me.”

Mollie grumbled a bit when the goblin called her touched.  “It’s like she’s not even here! Gosh!
She was happy that the wee fuzzy bear liked her. It only took her a few seconds to answer after Hal spoke.  She looked over at the ruined wagons.  “Give her a little time to pack and say some goodbyes.  She will meet them in the morning.”

Dinty shrugged. "Do as you will Mollie, the caravan heads out at first light. We'll see you there at the rear wagon."

Otso stopped Hal as they walked. “Any particular reason you are recruiting every misfit along the way?”

Hal squinted in the darkening forest at the samsaran.  “The frontier will be unforgiving.  We will need any help we can.  Though I have a feeling, Desna has something in mind.  Especially for Dinty.  He may need options.”

Otso asked.  “How do you know you can trust them?”

Hal said quietly. “You and Dinty will get to figure that out.”

Goreal overhears the Captain and Otso, and is visibly relieved that the new members won't be his responsibly.

*****

The 20th day of the month of Equos, 22 years after the opening of the Caers: arriving at the town of Lonah - five days on the road

The morning was unseasonably cool and damp.  The caravaneers packed the wagons for the day’s journey to the town of Lonah, the last town before the frontier.  Hal told them that they would stay a full day in Lonah to recuperate.  He also sent a spare cart driver, a human called Jorg, and told them not to lose this one.

Edwina watched the forest as they packed trying to pick out in the fog some sign of Mollie.

Mollie had spent the night gathering up what she could from the wagons.  Most items of value had been taken long ago, but she knew of a few secret cubbyholes and hiding spots.  She had put together what she thought was a fairly decent adventuring outfit from what she scavenged and had previously taken from some bandits.  She changed out of her old tattered clothing into her old acrobat costume.  The purple and green costume was a bit loose on her now, but it was still wearable.  It also gave her room to hide a few things if needed.  Mollie surprised herself with a yawn.  She didn’t sleep much anymore.  In fact, she had used that to her advantage when chasing down some bandits like the one that used to own the pretty set of black leather armor she had been wearing.

After donning the armor, she slipped over it her most prized possession. It was a hooded tabard she had scavenged from the show.  It was purple and green like her old costume, but it had the show’s heraldry on the front.  She also liked the hood, because she could flip it up and hide when needed.  After securing her sword and her assorted knives and daggers, Mollie filled a small pack with the rest of her belongings.

She thought about taking her sack of rations, but while the smell didn’t bother her anymore, she was sure the condition of the meat would not be to the liking of her new friends.  Just before morning, she knelt down before each of the graves whispering a goodbye while crying the best her undead eyes would allow.  “Are you sure about this?  You don’t know them, and there’s a paladin and a priest,” the voice said.  “No, if they were going to hurt her, they wouldn’t have talked to her, and they are heading to the frontier. She has made her mind up,” Mollie said out loud.  She grabbed her pack and headed where the other caravan slept.

It was Meepo who spotted her first, approaching the campsite as the squad packed.  Poking Arlin, he nodded in her direction.

Arlin said aloud.  “Here she comes.”

Mollie spies Edwina as she comes out of the fog and waves enthusiastically at the other girl as she approaches.  “Hello!”

Edwina smiled and waved awkwardly.  “Umm, hi,” she stuttered.  “Glad you came.”

Otso watched with detachment as he positioned Chuck’s corpse on the wagon.

Edwina continued.  “We need to see where Dinty wants us.  Meepo and Otso usually ride in the wagon.  Meepo, he’s the kobold, has short legs and Otso’s kind of old.”  She pointed to the samsaran.  He smiled quietly.

Edwina continued.  “Five days walking and my feet are tired.”  She stopped.  “Do your feet get tired?”

Mollie shrugged at Edwina “Sort of, but it’s not her body that gets tired..  She can take her spot walking if she wants.” 

Edwina smiled.  “Nah, I’m getting use to it.  Besides, Dinty sets our places.  Like how Goreal is at the rear.  Not sure where Arlin’s gonna be now.”  She looked at the sky.  “Then there's the crazy birdman who just shows up and mutilates small animals.” <>

Mollie peered up in the sky to catch a glimpse, but alas there was no birdman to be seen.  She peered back at the wagon that held poor, dead Chuck.  She paused for a moment then walked over.  “She is sorry she was too late to save your friend,” she said equally to Otso and Edwina.

Dinty called. "Alright you two, less talking and more readyin' the caravan for travel. We'll be coming up on a town soon and will have a wee bit of down time before we head out to the frontier.  Otso, what is the status of the wounded? Is everyone fit for marching?"

Otso blinked tiredly.  “Everyone but Goreal is completely healed.  The bear has a healing puncture wound on his chest.  Fortunately, he has no ill effects of poison.  He’s hardy, but still an injury is an injury.  I am tired and intend to rest the day in the wagon in case my healing is needed.”

Dinty. "That's a good idea, we need you rested. Okay marching orders. Goreal, are you up for walking today?  Ed and Molly I want you on either side of the wagon keeping an eye on our flanks. Arlin you have rear guard with me Meepo I want you on top of the wagon as lookout

Goreal has a grim look on his face,”Yes Commander, I can walk today.”

Dinty nodded. "Glad to hear it Goreal, you'll be between me and the wagon."

Mollie snapped to attention and gave Dinty a salute.  “Yessir, sir!”  She place her pack in the wagon with Otso.  “She’ll just leave this here for now,” she said and sprung to the other side of the wagon.

Dinty replied. "That's the spirit Mollie. This will be everyone's position until I or the cap’n says other. Meepo, run over to the cap’n and tell him we're ready to move out when he is." Looking to the sky, he asked. "Where is that blasted bird person?"

Meepo eeked at Dinty’s shouts and scampered off.  Arlin grabbed his gear and headed back to the rear position.  Edwina leaned against the side of the wagon waiting.  Otso sat praying, burning a stick of incense.  Suddenly he stopped and looked at the sky.  “The Lord of Bones weighs heavy on the town of Lomah.  Many may be taken to the wheel before their time.”  He leaned back and closed his eyes.

Mollie leaned against the wagon waiting for it to move.  She looked behind her to see if the bear was seeing what he could see, the she peeked under it to see if Edwina was there.  After that, she decided to scan the edge of the forest for anything interesting.  If it was going to stay foggy, spotting anything would be difficult.

Soon word came down the wagon train that they were moving, and finally the last wagon rolled out as well.  The day was grey and drizzly.  The cedars seemed to shimmer in the rain.

Walking was long and tedious, especially with the slow moving wagons.  With the rain growing heavier, there were few chances to talk.

By mid-day, the caravan stopped at a new post station with its corrals.  Each wagon threw up a canvass tarp between some trees so they could eat in peace.  “What is a post station,” Meepo finally asked.

Otso added. “The Council is looking for ways to get news to and from every town or village in the Republic.  In addition to the waystations, every half days travel between is a new station with horses for the couriers.”

Goreal walks up to one of the tied up horses and strokes it along the mane.  He thinks wistfully about how nice it would be to ride a horse, with the wind blowing past him.  He wonders if there are bigger horses out there that could handle his weight.

Carrying a few apples from the wagons, the kobold, Meepo, approached the horses with happy chitter.  Seeing  Goreal, he stopped.  “Hello there, shmkia.  You like the horse?”  Feeding an apple, he spoke low to one.

Goreal is slightly startled, too deep in thought to notice the kobold approach.  “Yes, it is a fine horse.  Do you know much about horses Meepo?”

“Meepo, know there's horses farms near the village we will live,” the kobold began.  “and they takes the horses north of the dwarf lands to Baktara.  Maybe they know great horses there.”

“Great Horses?” Goreal asks, trying to hide his excitement at this prospect.

Meepo seemed excited.  “Yes.  May we can visit Baktara.  Ask the human-boss, Hal.  Baktara is nice but scary.  Meepo safe with Goreal.”  He jumped up and down.  “See the horses, see the fight pits, lots to eat from all over,  see the Pragni traders!”  He bounced off to feed more apples to the horses.

Goreal walks over to Meepo and crouches  down to continue petting the house, “That sounds like fun Meepo.”  He says with a friendly grin.

Meepo nods his small reptilian face and smiles with his little pointy teeth.

After a meal and a break, the caravan began again.  Tired from days of walking, the wardens slowly marched to the the new barracks on the eastern edge of Lomah.  Peering out into the rain off the ocean, Otso said.  “There is rarely any rain like this in Equos especially this far north.”

By evening, they had stopped at one of the newly built and now empty barracks.  The wagons unloaded, Hal Saldana told Dinty to take the squad in and grab a bunk.  He also distributed some pay to each of the them. 

***

The barracks were wooden structures, still smelling of sawdust and drafty.  In the center of the room was a brick fireplace with a stack of logs nearby.  “Cosy,” said Otso.  Hal stepped in as everyone was finding a bed or a pile of blankets for Goreal.  “Alright, squad.  We will be in town tonight, tomorrow, and leaving the next day.  Make sure to check in and let me know you are alive and try not to go to jail.”  He laughed.  “Other than that enjoy the town.”

Lomah itself sat on a cliff overlooking the ocean.  A small town compared to Cymru, it still had several thousand residents and a variety of shops.  Lower Lomah was down the cliffside, reachable by lift or stairs, and housed the docks and wharves. 

Mollie stowed her gear near one of the bunks and turned to face the group.  “Well, she wants to go to see the town.  Who’s with her?”

Edwina counting her silver, smiled and raised her hand.  “Sure, where are we going?”

Mollie shrugged.  “She hasn’t thought that far ahead.  Maybe somewhere they can eat something besides trail food?  Even she’s tired of it.”

Edwina smiled and looked around the bunkhouse.  Otso was deep in prayer.  Arlin cleaned his gear and declined.  Meepo had disappeared as soon as they arrived, in search of snacks, he’d said.  “Well, Dinty and Goreal might be busy.  I guess leave word with where we’re going.”

Mollie nodded then pointed to herself then Edwina.  “She will go tell Hal, and she can check with the others.”  With that, she pranced off to find the paladin.

She found the paladin, after asking a few uneasy wardens, in a small room overlooking the Warden compound.  His door open, he sat cleaning his weapons and armor from the grim of the road.   A small candle burned over a purple medallion of the Goddess Desna, but nothing from it hinted at malice towards her.

Mollie peeked around the door frame and knocked.  “Hello!  She and Edwina and maybe some others are going into town.  Does he feel like coming along and eating some real food?”


Hal shook his head.  “No, you go on.  I need to take care of Chuck and report to the base Commander.”  Staring into the flame,  “Desna’s grace has been troubled tonight.  An ill wind from somewhere, she says, but what ill and what wind.”  He finished cleaning his gear and blew out the flame.

“Hmm, maybe she’ll see if there is any gossip in town.  Sometimes there’s something worth listening to.”

***

First combat.  A bit clunky with room to improve.

The story continues in Fragments of the Last War 2.4.

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