Ann Arbor Adventure

Traveling West: Part V

in which Branwyn returns, and Kai is petulant

The previous evening, having narrowly escaped an unpleasant fate, Braenwyn attempts to travel throughout the night.  Her pace is slow, but sure, as the light from the half-moon sufficiently illuminates the forest.  Eventually, though, even our brave Braenwyn starts to fade, and her horse to limp, after a day of travel and exertion, and, rather than risk falling asleep, and perhaps falling from her horse, the shield-maiden dismounts and uses what foliage she can to create a concealed camp.

As the morning light begins to peer over the mountains, Braenwyn is awakened by the sounds of approaching creatures.  She remains quite still, laying a hand on her horse's head to keep it quiet, and waits, as the sounds approach.  Two creatures, of the same ilk as those from the previous day come into view, one of them carrying a large wicker box, which is apparently the subject of some dispute.  Eventually a fight breaks out, and the creature which had previously not had the box, claims it from his injured companion, and they head off towards the North.  Once they are out of sight (though Braenwyn can still hear them occasionally screeching at each other), she breaks her camp, wolfs down some jerky with a few sparing gulps from her canteen, and examines her horse's wound.  It seems to be festering, although the horse's attitude is very insistent that she is fine.  Braenwyn washes the gashes carefully with some ale she had been holding in reserve, and re-binds the wound.  After some debate, she determines that the travel will be faster mounted, and that the sooner she can find the rest of her companions, the sooner the horse will receive proper attention.  They set off, and are well on their way, continuing downslope, when Braenwyn is alerted to the sound of the creatures coming back.  She spies them running almost at her, the injured one carrying the box, and closely pursued by the creature who had stolen the container earlier.  Frowning, as they will soon be upon her, and she does not care for another close fight with these things, Braenwyn notches an arrow, and lets it fly at the pursuing creature, and, before it even falls, looses another arrow at the creature carrying the box.  Both arrows hit their marks, and kill their targets instantly.  Braenwyn then investigates.  She finds in the box what appears to be a falcon, and gingerly opens the door to let it free.  The bird looks at the woman suspiciously, but eventually climbs out of the box and sits on top of it.  Braenwyn turns her attention to the creatures, ensuring that they are both quite dead, and retrieving her arrows.  In doing so, she notices a belt and pouch around one of the creatures.  Upon further investigation, both appear to be made from the skin of some strange reptile, well-cured, but not artfully constructed, as the clasp for the belt is only a sort of hook.  In the pouch Braenwyn finds six polished gemstones, oval, and nearly as long as the end of her thumb.  Two of the stones are a translucent orange-red.  The other four are milky white.  As they appear to be simple stones, and not tainted or evil, Braenwyn packs the strange belt and pouch into her own things.  At this point, she had expected that the falcon would be long gone, so Braenwyn is surprised to find it still sitting on the box, regarding her with interest.  Braenwyn tries to encourage it to go by making flapping motions.  The falcon responds by stretching its own wings, which makes the break in one of them painfully apparent.  Braenwyn considers a moment, offering the bird a piece of beef jerky, which the bird takes and nibbles on politely.  Thinking that perhaps her friends can also heal the bird, Braenwyn offers the falcon her gloved wrist, and after some consideration, the bird climbs up.  Braenwyn then settles the bird on the pack on her horse, and sets off again.  In a few hours she meets up with Anfri, whom she is delighted to see, and he leads her back to the camp.


Once there, Braenwyn has to relate her story in full to Owain, and be told the story of Kai's adventure (which Braenwyn listens to with a pained expression, obviously doubting Kai's ability to do anything so fantastic.  Meanwhile, Murphy heals both the horse and the bird, who takes off for distant regions.  Kai grumbles about how Owain can never tell a story right unless he has been there, and is rather put out that Braenwyn also had an adventure, and then Owain must complain to Braenwyn about the hedgehog who seems determined to follow him around.  Chava is still working on whatever potion she is concocting, and so the others settle in to tasks in camp.  Kai goes back to brushing his spotless horse, Braenwyn unloads her packs and lets her horse enjoy a good roll on the new spring grass, Murphy continues working on his staff, and Owain, after running around for more bugs for his hedgehog, seems deep in thought, probably composing some new outlandish tale.  Anfri settles down to take a nap.

Eventually Chava asks Murphy what he'd like to test.  Murphy suggests the hood of his cloak, upon which she promptly appropriates the whole thing, dumps it in her cauldron, and continues stirring.  Owain takes the opportunity to tell a fantastial story about how the falcon came to be imprisoned in the box, and to where the creatures were conveying it, ending with how the bird was rescued by Braenwyn from a most unfortunate end as the second course in an elaborate meal for the king of the 'skree critters'.  Braenwyn is thoroughly pleased with the story, although Kai pouts, insisting that the story isn't really about Braenwyn, just about the falcon (which at this point is back, with a small hare, which it is eating near Braenwyn's horse).  Once the story is over, Chava calls attention to the fact that more wood will be needed to last through the night, and pulls Murphy's cloak out of her pot.  To everyone's surprise, it is completely dry, and Chava has a devilish look as she inquires whether there is a stream about, so that they could dunk Murphy in it and see how the waterproofing works.  Everyone assures her that they will let her know if they find anything, and Owain and Murphy set out to gather firewood, while Braenwyn begins setting traps.  In the course of her trap-setting, Braenwyn comes across the entrance to a cave.  Intrigued, she walks in a ways, feeling the wall as she goes, and is interested to note that about a meter in, the wall falls back to what is likely a large cave.  After finishing her traps, she returns to camp to make some torches, planning to return to explore the cave.  Murphy also comes across the cave as he gathers firewood, although he does not venture inside.  He merely mentions it to the others as he comes back to camp.  Chava is at once interested, speculating that there may be water inside the cave, which she could dump on Murphy to see if his cloak worked.  Kai is always up for adventure, and immediately makes a few of his own torches.  Murphy is reluctant, but does not want to be left behind, and Owain is at first not going to come, but Kai makes such a stink about how he can't tell real adventure stories right unless he sees them first-hand, that Owain sets off up the hill even before the others are ready to go.  They quickly catch up with him, and set off, Anfri staying behind, as "Wolves do not do underground places".  Which puts everyone's mind at ease as to having a guard at camp before they set off.



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