Chapter 8: Reckonings

 
Collin tramples through the woods, not nearly as lithe or nimble as the elves in the company. He soldiers along without much complaint, but he is looking forward to being closer to a town. If he were a knight he would be complete in plate armor and riding a magnificent steed, but those would actually be a detriment at the moment. And he was far from a knight at the moment, but still his thoughts were filled with the future of the time when he would be recognized for his valor.

The Halfling merely shrugged at Naomi's words, perhaps recognising the truth they held and unwilling to contest it. As the group sneak their way through the dense forest, he falls silent, his focus on the winding path that Thistle weaves through the undergrowth. Besides him, the black Labrador sniffs the air every so often, poised as if in search of either prey or predator, before following his petite master.

When the sun reaches its zenith and embarks on its westward trajectory, Kyle's stomach emits a low, prolonged growl, clearly audible to most of the party. Unashamedly meeting the questioning gazes his companions may throw his way, the Halfling Cleric clears his throat and approaches the head of the small column, seeking the two woodselves.

“We have been on the move for a while now, skipping second breakfast and elevnses...” He explains, the green eyes glancing up at Narnae and Thistle in full earnestness “Could we pause to have lunch at least? Just a short while.”



Thistle gives the stout Halfling a supportive nod, and then leads the group only slightly farther, until he finds a natural depression in the ground, or a stand of trees tightly clustered, so a small fire can lit without being seen through the murky dimness of the forest canopy.

Once he is satisfied no predators are stalking them from behind - or above - he signals the group to gather close, unshoulder their packs or burdens, and seek some respite. For once the Elf does not set himself as the watch, and instead rests comfortably, perched on a moss-covered stump, his bow resting on his knees.

Probably closer to what she looks like to me.
Narnae takes up the watch duty when they reach the hollow, bow at the ready in her hands as she
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scans the forest and
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listens for dangers, standing with her back to the group for the most part, though occasionally she turns her head to the side, indicating that it is not just the forest she is listening to. It is hard to tell which way a breeze might carry the scent of wood smoke, so her arc of watchfulness is necessarily large.

"I can eat on the move, if needed, but let us not linger overly long past the meal. I do not like this gloom."
Though she has no trouble piercing the veil with her eyesight, the forest is too choked with foliage for her to see very far.

“A fair request.” concedes Kyle as he carefully finishes fanning the flickering flame so that the rest of the small woodpile catches fire. Once it is burning merrily, the Halfing brings out a small iron pot, balances it somewhat precariously on the stones forming a crude fire-pit and fills it with water from his canteen.

Before the water has a chance to heat up, Kyle adds several handfuls of coarse oatmeal to the pot. Stirring thoroughly as the water comes to a slow boil, he then allows the porridge to simmer gently, stirring occasionally until it retains a creamy consistency. Adding a handful of the dried berries given by the Elves this morning, the cleric then uses the folds of his robe to carefully remove the pot from the fire, finally covering it as he sets it aside to sit for a while.

Once the battered lid is lifted, the inviting aroma of freshly-made porridge wafts into the air. Retrieving a copper ladle from his pack, Kyle looks up at his companions, ready to serve out the impromptu meal. The portions will not be overly abundant, yet they ought to stay the group's hunger for a while. “Bring out your cups and bowls. The porridge will taste better if served whilst still warm.”

Not sure when they'll have a chance again Collin hands his cup over to Kyle with a smile. It wasn't venison, but it was a good solid camp meal and he was appreciative.

Naomi sets her pack down with a relieved sigh, and immediately Pace launches himself off her shoulder and into the underbrush to find his own lunch. After checking around their chosen stopping point for any vines that might be 'living', as Betty had described, she nibbles on a bit of dried fruit and observes their surroundings as Kyle makes the group a simple but hearty meal. The path they had touched on earlier in the day and now presumably were traveling parallel to had given her something to think about. It might be a short cut to another town, with a road connecting it to Willowmere that went around the forest instead of through it as the shortest path would be. Or it could belong to someone who lived out here but made frequent visits to town for supplies. Not for the first time she wished they had a map of some sort. It would be good to know where the boundaries of the Baron's lands fell if nothing else. Willowmere, though a good sized town, could hardly be the capital of this entire country... whatever country they were in.

At Kyle's summons she digs a dented tin cup and matching spoon out of her pack and waits patiently for her serving. "It smells delightful, thank you."




Rhyoick fell in with the others as they struck the path then veered from it. He was glad to be leaving the strange Elven village, though the gloom of the forest did little to improve the morale. When the Halfling called for a halt, Rhyoick relieved his shoulders from the burden of his pack. He sat on the floor with a sigh and stretched out. His eyes were closing when the smell of the porridge hit his nostrils. He sat up on his elbows for a moment, then retrieved his simple drinking cup.

"Thistle," he said as he waited for his serving. "In your estimate, how much longer to Willowmere?"



Thistle sips some water from a small skin he keeps tucked on his belt. Looking to Rhyoick, he gestures deeper into the forest.

"Willowmere lies mostly due East of us now, and a steady march would bring us to the pallisades by nightfall."

Thistle looks to his left.

"The spider haunt is North, at the same distance. We will reach the clearing of our battle with the spiderlings with little if any light left."

Thistle looks back to the city-Elf, to gauge his reaction.

Kyle motions for Rhyoick to bring forward his cup, and fills it with a ladle-full of porridge. Then, noticing that the Elf seems to have no cutlery, the Halfling fishes a spoon out from his pack. It's soup size for him, but only tea-spoon size for his companion.

The petite cleric then looks up at the two wood-elves. “Will you partake in the meal? The quicker we are done, the sooner we can be on our way.” Dishing out the remainder of the porridge to Thistle and Narnae should they indicate their assent, Kyle then sees to Arco's lunch before finally settling down to eat. Once he's done, it takes but a few moments to rinse the pot with a little water and some leaves before stowing things back in his pack.

“Water and food might become a concern unless we want to obtain supplies from the town.” The words are spoken as he finishes loading up on of the Labrador's saddle pouches, getting ready to resume the march once the word is given.





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