It was the second day of their journey and Brynhild was bored. She sighed, gazing at the grey sky overhead. So far this “adventure” the Imperial priest had taken them on was proving to be about as exciting as milking a goat. She looked over at the mead-skin in the corner of the wagon, contemplating whether or not to take a deep drink of the sweet bjorr it contained. Sighing again, the warrior-woman rolled over and took notice of the rest of the party.
The young boy-man, Savoir lay wrapped in a woolen blanket, softly snoring; his unkempt brown hair the only thing visible . Brynhild snorted softly. He hadn’t moved in so long that he may either be asleep or dead in there. That young man was definitely a loner. He never talked about any family or other acquaintances. But he had proven himself in battle and was no coward- and that was enough for Brynhild- for now.
Brynhild’s eyes shifted further up the wagon. Sursiria, the high elf sorceress sat alone on the second wagon bench, behind the priest. That one, on the other hand, never seemed to sleep very much- if at all! The elf sat straight as a sapling, even though the wagon swayed as it moved. Even though Sursiria faced towards the front of the wagon, Brynhild could clearly imagine the scowl on the elf’s face. By the Ascended!- That one was even more secretive than Savoir! The only elves Brynhild had ever heard of, or even seen glimpses of, were of the Winter Court of the North. And they were not to be trifled with! But exactly where Sursiria came from- and why, was still a mystery.
At the head of the open wagon, trying his best to urge the horses along, sat the priest, Tasius. Brynhild had little use for those who called themselves “chosen of the gods”. In her mind, all mortals were pawns of the Greater Powers, whether priest or pauper. She had only known Tasius for a very brief time, as Savoir claimed him as a trusted acquaintance, even going so far as to say that the priest had possibly saved his life.
Brynhild wrinkled her nose. What was that smell? Sitting up, she kicked Savoir’s foot. “Is that you, reeking up the air?” Savoir leaned up, sleepily. “Wha?”
The priest partially turned in his seat, and called back to the rear of the wagon.“We’re going through some sort of bog. The rotting plants and swamp-gas is what you smell, woman.” He glanced at Sursiria, who was dozing in the seat, behind him. “Wake up, fair one!”
Sursiria jumped, now fully awake, looking about. Calling back again, Tasius asked: “Savoir, do you know of this area?”
The wiry youth rubbed his eyes, looking around. “Are we still on the Coast Road, Tasius? If so, the village should be fairly close by- but I don’t know anything about a stinky swamp.”
Standing up, using the wagon reigns for balance, Tasius stood up, attempting to peer through a thickening mist. “Yes, we should still be on the Coast Road, but this fog is growing thicker by the minute and I should probably let the horses rest.” He glanced at the road behind them. "Let’s stop here for the night.
As Tasius fumbled with the reigns, guiding the wagon to the side of the road, Brynhild sprung from the rear of the wagon, landing lightly on the spongy ground. Once the wagon was far enough off the road, Tasius stiffly climbed down and offered a hand to the elf Witch. Sursiria sniffed and stubbornly climbed down on her own accord, tightly clutching her hooded robe about her thin frame.
Grinning, Tasius turned to the group. “Perhaps we should camp here for the night, instead of going through this rotten bog, eh?”
Brynhild shrugged, rubbing her hands together. “Fine by me, I could go for a bite to eat, anyway.”
“Excellent, I can gather some decent firewood, and the women can prepare us something to eat.” Sursiria frowned, glaring at Tasius.
Savoir, standing, spat. “‘Merde’! I’ll go with the Priest- if only to keep him out of any trouble!”
The two young unlikely heroes turned west, walking into the waist-high grasses. Once the two had disappeared from sight, Brynhild turned to Sursiria. “So, what’s for dinner?”
Tasius peered through the thickening mists, toeing through the damp grasses. Every step left a soggy footprint in the soft, wet ground. Savoir, sighing, hopelessly swatted at the fat gnats and mosquitoes that hungrily buzzed about his head. What a waste of time this was.
“Tasius, perhaps I can find us some berries or something to eat, eh?” Tasius shrugged. He knew nothing about foraging in the wilds for food. Savoir’s eyes scanned the grasses for anything that looked remotely edible.
Coming to an abrupt stop, Tasius called out. “Savoir, what’s that?” He pointed up ahead. Overgrown by grasses and weeds, lay the wreckage of an overturned trade-wagon. Savoir licked his lips. Perhaps this had been a good idea! Trade-wagons usually carried something valuable!
Walking cautiously up to the wagon, the two examined the wreckage. Savoir picked through the rear of the wagon, while Tasius looked near the front. Every so often, Savoir would look over his shoulder, peering into the encroaching darkness.
“Well, Savoir, what do you make of this?” Looking over at his travelling companion, Tasius’ brow furrowed. “The wagon has been emptied. No bodies, no nothing. And by the looks of things, this wagon has been here for awhile.”
Savoir looked back towards the campsite. He could just see the flickering, smoky campfire through the oppressive bog mists. “Let’s just get some wood from this wagon and get back to the camp. It’s obvious that there is nothing worthwhile here.” He bent down, grabbed an armful of wagon debris and turned to walk back towards the camp. Tasius, filling his arms as well, fell into step behind Savoir and the two quickly made their way back.
Brynhild watched as Sursiria slowly stirred herbs into a steaming pot of water. The warrior-woman leaned closer to the pot, wrinkling her nose. “What’s in there?”
Sursiria rolled her eyes. “Water and herbs.”
Leaning even closer, Brynhild peered in the pot. “It looks a bit…thin. Perhaps I can find something to add to it?”
Sursiria stared at Brynhild for a moment.“You are not putting any dead animals into this pot. Are we clear?” With a smirk, Brynhild stood and walked over to the wagon. At that moment Savoir and Tasius appeared from the mist, bearing wood for the campfire.
Tasius grinned. “Ah, the fire has started and dinner shall be ready soon! We arrive bearing gifts!” He placed the wood next to the campfire and kneeled down. Savoir placed his bundle of wood down. Looking in the small pot, he scratched his head. “Whut’s in there?”
Before Sursiria could form a venomous reply, Tasius interrupted. “Look at this!” He held a piece of wood from the destroyed wagon in his hand, turning it towards the light of the campfire. A wicked-looking arrowhead was imbedded in the soft wood. “Has anyone seen anything like this before?”
There was no immediate reply, but Brynhild moved closer, taking the piece of wood from Tasius’ hand. Easily pulling the arrowhead from the wood, she held it closer to the fire, paying no mind to the scratch the arrowhead made on a finger.
“It’s not Orcish or Goblinoid; at least not any that I have seen from the North.” She turned the arrowhead around. “The bronze craftsmanship is very crude, but effective. See how jagged the head is? That is intentional.”
Savoir, quickly growing bored with the tutelage on arrowheads, slipped away, towards the front of the wagon. Returning to the fireside, scant moments later, Savoir eased next to the pot, as Sursiria continued to stir; her attention focused on the ongoing discussion. When Brynhild finally handed the arrowhead back to Tasius, Savoir was kneeling on the opposite side of the fire, his arm barely concealing the goofy grin covering his face.