Ann Arbor Adventure

Traveling West: Part IV

in which some of the party is reunited.

Despite a rather harrowing day, Owain finds his dreams to be quite lovely.  He sits, in a beautiful field, drenched with sunshine, and happily playing his lute.  It's one of the best dreams he's ever had.

Kai is not so lucky.  He tosses and turns; the goddess is yelling at him.  She is angry with him for stopping.  Time is short.  Kai is overwhelmed, and frustrated, shouts back at her, and wakes up.  Nervous, and agitated, Kai goes to wake Owain.  Owain, however, is too preoccupied with his own dream to awaken, so, grumbling, Kai pulls on his armor, grabs up his shield, girds his sword, and heads out in an arbitrary direction across the valley.  Shortly he notices the grass in front of him depressing, as if something were moving ahead of him.  By the time it is nearly dawn, he can see the faint outlines of a horse, trotting ahead of him across the plain.  Well, it was a plain before, anyway.  Now it's become much more marshy and wet.  Kai is very drowsy, but his attention is suddenly caught by a shrill whinny from what sounds like a real horse.  Unheeding, Kai rushes toward the sound, only to stop short when he comes upon a black steed, trapped in belly-deep mud.  Almost as soon, he notices the very large snake (longer than he is tall, green, with long, dangerous-looking fangs) making its way to the helpless creature.  Enraged, Kai lunges at the snake, but is dissapointed when his sharp sword does little more than scratch the huge reptile.  Of course, at this point, the snake is much less interested in the horse-shaped food over there than in the person-shaped food that just whacked it.  It lunges for Kai and misses; Kai whacks it again.  The snake does manage to sink its fangs into Kai's armor a few times, but thankfully doesn't manage to pierce the skin.  Eventually, the snake becomes so enraged that it blindly lashes out, and its fangs lodge in a rotting log.  Kai takes the opportunity to slice off the creature's head.  Mildly disgusted, Kai wipes the blade on some marsh grass, stowes it, and turns toward the horse.  His horse.  Proudly, Kai fashions a hackamore from some rope, and manages to get it on the horse's head.  He then attempts to tug the horse out of the muck, but is unsuccessful.  Um, nice try, champ.  Kai frowns at the horse, and then looks for something it can climb up on.  He yanks the snake's dismembered head out of the log, stowing it in a length of cloth that Owain probably intended to use for bandges, and sets it aside.  Kai then rolls the log over to the horse, and with some sweat and tugging, and lunging, the horse manages to heave himself onto the log, and then onto more solid (if still damp) ground.  Kai fetches his trophy (he has great plans for those fangs) and leads the horse back to the edge of the marsh.  Once they are solidly on the grassy plain, Kai ponders if perhaps the horse will let him ride.  Oh, I suppose, if you must.  Kai hops up, and the two set off at a gallop.  On settling himself on the horse's back, Kai has the curious sensation that he had once been the wind, but then they are off, and all he can do is cackle with glee, and imagine how proud of him Owain will be when he gets back.

Owain, meanwhile, with no one to kick him awake when the sun rose, has slept in.  He does eventually wake, and is quite concerned that Kai does not appear to be in camp, although he left behind his bedroll, cloak, and food bag. Perplexed, Owain searches the circumference of camp, thinking perhaps Kai put on all his armor to take a trip to the loo, in case the hedges were dangerous.  When he can't find his friend, Owain sighs, and settles himself on a rock.  He can only assume Kai will come back at some point.  The sun is warm on Owain's face, and he begins to play his lute, rejoicing in the quality of his music on this fine morning.  It seems even the trees and grass are dancing as he plays.  As he nears the end of his song, Owain feels a touch on his boot, which he twitches away.  All of a sudden, there are sharp little claws climbing up his leg.  With a cry of alarm, Owain jumps up, and looks down to see a small woodland creature (a hedgehog) clinging to his leg.  It almost looks as if it is smiling at him.  Owain watches in dismay as the over-friendly creature continues climbing and settles itself on Owain's shoulder.  Owain decides to ignore this, and attempts to begin playing again; however, he is distracted by the hedgehog snuffling his ear.

"Oh no!" Owain cries, "None of that!"  He picks up the critter and sets it on the ground. It looks indignant, and then pouty.  Then it begs for food, so Owain gives it a small piece of his journey bread.  Then he looks up, as Kai gallops in, pretending to blow a trumpet, and generally looking incredibly pleased with himself.  He announces to Owain that he found a horse, and tells a rather fanciful version of his fight with the snake, brandishing the head for proof.  Owain is a little put out that Kai had an adventure without him, but is somewhat mollified by hearing the 'whole story'.  Once they have caught up, Kai goes to clean the mud off his horse… only to discover that he is no longer muddy at all.  Puzzled, Kai puts his brush away, and finds that Owain is trying to shoo away a rather adorable hedgehog.  They pack up their camp, which consists mainly of Owain evicting the hedgehog from his various bags, and eventually giving up, when the creature climbs up to his shoulder again.

Kai and Owain, being unable to find their trail back through the woods, decide to follow the edge of the valley around to the north, which was the direction they had come from, and slightly east, which was the direction they had been traveling, in hopes of coming across their companions.


MurphyChava, and Anfri are snug in a camp near an outcropping of rocks.  Murphy, being worried about the state of their traveling group, did not sleep well, but was somewhat relieved to find that any time he woke, Anfri was still awake and on guard.  Chava slept soundly. She doesn't believe in losing sleep over well, anything.  Plus she has faith in her protection spell.  When Murphy wakes before dawn, and begins to say his prayers, Anfri trots over and announces that he will go see if he can find the others, and tells Murphy to stay at the camp.  Murphy has no objections, but is a little sad when the protection bubble pops as Anfri walks out of it and into the woods.  At least the mist is gone.  Chava soon wakes, and she and Murphy eat their breakfast and chat about things interesting to magic users.  As they are bound to stay in the camp, at least until Anfri returns, the two then settle into various tasks.  Murphy ventures a little outside their circle to search for additional firewood, in case they should need it over the course of the day (the April air is still chilly), and suddenly stops in his tracks.  He could have sworn he heard someone calling his name.  He inquires whether Chava has heard anything,  but of course she hasn't.  Confused, Murphy sets out in the direction of the voice.  After some amount of wandering, he eventually suspects that the voice is coming from a nearby tree.  It looks to be a very old tree, though still entirely sound of limb, with new spring leaves sprouting from every branch.  Murphy examines the tree closely.  He has been thinking a great deal lately about making himself a staff, the better to perform holy rituals with, and he speculates that perhaps this is just the tree for him.  Having gotten to know magical trees a little, however, in his recent adventures, Murphy would not dream of cutting a branch, but instead decides to request it.  He ponders some time the best method for doing this, and eventually decides, as it is close to nones, to observe his usual prayers, and to ask God for guidance with regards to the tree, following this with a general polite inquiry of the tree as to whether he might have a branch.  Murphy is startled, but pleased, when he looks up from his prayers to see a branch extended in his direction.  He takes hold of it, as if to shake hands, and is somewhat startled when it comes off in his light grip.  In his hand, Murphy holds a long stave, of a good diameter and length to make a very suitable staff, with a little trimming.  Oddly, as the tree itself has only leaves, the stave has two sprouts at the top, one with a cluster of red and yellow berries, the other a bunch of rosy-white blossoms.  Murphy stammers his thanks (to the tree, and to God), and hurries back to camp.  He finds Chava, busily engaged making use of the firewood he gathered.  When he inquires, she informs him that she is working on the weatherproofing potion they had discussed several days before.  Murphy is then curious about the ingredients, and is informed that the potion includes candle wax, dried berries, a few beetles of different colors, and some of his 'fancy water'.  She appears to be stirring the concoction with a tail feather from a duck.  Murphy shows her the beginnings of his staff, and offers her the berries from it; Chava declines, concerned about taking a magical gift from the person to whom it was offered.  Upon reflection, Murphy thinks this wise, and when he strips the smaller branches from his stave, he carefully wraps and tucks away the sprigs with the berries and the flowers.  He then settles in to plan out his staff-making, and begins composing another story.

Owain, meanwhile, has spotted smoke, presumably coming from a campfire, so he and Kai alter their course to head for it, assuming that it is one of their friends.  Concerned, however, that it might be bandits or some such, Kai proceeds to scout the territory once they are close.  He spies Chava and Murphy, and jumps out of the bushes to say hi.  Happy to be reunited, the adventurers exchange tales, and settle down to wait for Branwyn (and presumably Anfri) to turn up.  Murphy is a little surprised to hear that Kai and Owain hadn't run into him, and had found them on their own.  Kai is most interested in showing off his horse, and proceeds to brush the horse's spotless coat over and over again.  Of course I should be brushed.  It's only right for me to look my best.  Owain, somewhat glumly, presents his recent acquisition, complaining that it likes journey bread, but he doesn't know what else.  Kai suggests that he might eat beetles, and Chava directs Owain to a few rocks she claims were very good beetle-finding places.  Owain procures a few, and offers them to his tagalong, who is only too happy to accept them, and crunches down on them with glee.  Owain settles himself on the ground, studying the hedgehog, and wondering what on earth he is doing here.

Of a sudden, Owain's mind is filled with a rather fast-paced and circuitous answer.  Like music.  Like you.  Like bread and beetles.  But mostly like you.  Ears smell nice wuffle.  Happy friends.  Like brothers.  Two brothers.  Three sisters.  And mama.  Mama call this one Kip.  Like Kip?  Kip like.  More beetles?  Favorite beetle green one with crunchy crunch.  Also like wormy grubs and berry munches.  Happy sun.  Is naptime now.

Though surprised by this sudden communication, Owain finds it reconciles him to the idea of keeping this Kip around.  In fact, he takes the opportunity to ask Kip to wake him with the sun the following morning.  Owain likes sleeping in, but he is not about to miss any more adventures!



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