It’s the eve of NaNoWriMo. What was I thinking? That I couldn’t quite leave the story where it was. As usual, if you want to catch up, go check out the Vote Your Adventure link above. Voting ends at the end of November. I’m doing it a bit different this time. I’ll explain after the story.
The ridges of the mountains were covered in evergreen trees. Snow still blanketed the forest floor, but was beginning to melt. Burnum mentioned that it could be around for another month.
Travel was easy. For the first two days, they traveled as they had for the last few days. On the third day, Burnum asked them to walk in a single line. He lead the way, and Bardulf followed him. “Walk in my footprints,” he said to Bardulf. “We hide how many we are.” It took a little while to learn, but Bardulf got the hang of it. Burnum led them through the trees, staying away from large clearings where possible. Late in the afternoon, they had their first encounter.
They stopped near a rocky snow-covered outcropping to scout the area. Burnum, Bardulf and two others walked to the outcropping, and looked around. Bardulf saw the men immediately.
There were three figures down below them, close enough that the winds carried snippets of their conversation, but not enough to make any sense of it. All three carried bows. The men followed a trail down around the edge of the mountain, and disappeared from view.
“Looks like they are hunting,” said Bardulf.
Burnum agreed, but pointed away from the direction the men were going. “Village is that way. Two more days walking.”
Bardulf sighed with weariness. At one time, this was what he did. Years of farming had softened him, even though it in itself was hard work. It just wasn’t the same as traveling through the forests and mountains of the world.
They lit no fire as they slept that night. Instead, they posted more sentries than usual for the night. Everyone took a turn. Bardulf was on the last watch. He had no trouble sleeping until his until his turn.
There was a lot of time to think as he watched. Bardulf found himself wondering about his wife and sons. How were they doing? Were they safe?
Light was just peeking over the distant hills when the bird call came. Burnum had explained to Bardulf how they used local bird calls to send messages while they traveled. If someone was seen, it was of a small bird they called tarm’gin. The sound, and description reminded Bardulf of a bird he called the mountain chicken.
“Trgrgrgr tip tip! Trgrgrgr tip!”
The call waited a moment before repeating again. The one who made it was near Bardulf, so he crept closer.
The one who gave the call pointed towards the clearing without looking at Bardulf. A man stood at the far edge of the clearing, his bow knocked and ready to draw. He wore skin breaches and coat. His boots looked similar to what Burnum and the others now wore through the snow. This person looked to be a hunter from the village. He had also noticed the sound, and was looking in their direction, unmoving.
Burnum came up behind them, and took in the situation. After a moment, he began to communicate with bird calls.
The man lowered his bow and answered with a call. Neither Burnum nor the sentry made any move to go to the man, nor did he make any move towards them. Burnum and the man communicated through bird calls for a few minutes. Suddenly, the hunter gave one last chirp, and ran off.
Without a word, Burnum and the sentry stood and began walking back to the camp. Bardulf followed close behind. When they returned, the sentry recounted the conversation to the other warriors. He was somber, but Bardulf could hear an excited edge to his voice. He turned to Burnum after watching for a moment. “What happened back there?”
“He a tribesman. We meet our chief and get help when we get near village. Then we prepare plan.”
With renewed excitement, the two days passed quickly. They saw more and more paths made by humans. Burnum and the others could tell they were not villagers. As Bardulf had it explained to him, the children were trained to travel without leaving a trace.
They glimpsed the village in the early morning of the fifth day. They rounded a corner, and buildings could be seen across the valley. Burnum and his warriors gazed at it for a moment before moving on. Bardulf saw the warriors shed unashamed tears.
The rest of the day was spent moving slowly through the forest, avoiding any possible contact. There was a close call with what looked like soldiers, but they were thrown off track by some quick thinking by one of the warriors.
They finally arrived at a cave just as the sun was setting. Inside, they found food and other supplies waiting for them. An older man sat on a stone as they entered. He was dressed like the hunter from the previous morning. When he saw them he stood, rushed over to Burnum and embraced him.
The two men talked rapidly for a moment, tears flowing. Burnum finally looked to Bardulf, and said something to the man about him. Then he spoke to Bardulf. “This is Chief. This my father.”
Inventory: hatchet, flint & steel, traveling cloak, heart necklace, 80 coins in a pouch
Health: broken left arm
So, I’ve left you hanging. Now, you have a month to tell me what’s going to happen next. What do you want to see? What should we learn? Thanks for following, and I’ll see you in early December!
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Looks like my plan of letting others go first failed… Okay, some thoughts. Bardulf has major brownie points with the Yul’aric. Also, as I noted in part 11, methinks the Yul’aric are likely the ‘people living out in the wilds’ ‘entrusted with guarding the secrets of a lost empire’. Putting two and two together, it sounds like the one from the expedition who ‘took control and has imposed his will’ with the amazing artifacts is likely in the vicinity of Lord Alain’s son, somewhat likely a threat to him, and quite likely an enemy of the Yul’aric. This puts Bardulf and the Yul’aric as natural allies, aided by the whole ‘saving the chief’s son’ aspect. Also as a side note, we can be reasonably sure that Lord Alain’s son is not the one who took control, as the servant wouldn’t have referred to him as ‘one of the party’ if that were the case.
Therefore, I think Bardulf should go all-in. He should explain that he knows there was an expedition that came this way seeking knowledge, but one of its members greedily took control of certain amazing artifacts they found. He should at least imply, and perhaps ask if it is unclear, if these artifacts were those guarded by the Yul’aric. He should establish himself as being on the Yul’aric’s side, hoping to foil the greedy one’s plans and rescue those of the expedition who only seek peaceful knowledge. No need to explain about Lord Alain and his son, unless he feels it is necessary to sway feelings (noting that the Yul’aric apparently have strong family loyalties, it might be). He should also ask after the ‘paths made by humans’ if the Yul’aric are being reticent — demonstrating friendship and knowledge and competence (to the degree possible) is excellent for getting a working alliance. Language could prove a difficulty here, Bardulf should make sure that he is communicating in a way that Barnum can comprehend and translate.
If Bardulf’s mission and the Yul’aric’s do in fact coincide, as seems plausible but by no means certain, then all is good. If they know of this rampaging expedition, but it is an entirely separate problem from the slavers in the town… I think we’ll need to press on with the mission. Getting dragged into a war tangential to your mission is a good way to not get home.
Which brings us to the topic of Burnum’s debt. While Bardulf detests the ‘fratinal’ concept of voluntary slavery, Burnum knows the area and the various Yul’aric people and such, and his assistance greatly improves our chances in the mountains. Accordingly, if we are heading off into the wilderness with hopes of talking to other Yul’aric, and locating the expedition and such, having Burnum with us makes it a lot more doable. However, we should definitely be looking for a way out of the arrangement once Burnum’s skills are not necessary to Bardulf’s mission. My best thought so far is to give Burnum a direct order to stay in the Yul’aric village, that Bardulf wishes that Burnum serve his people. If he balks, throw in a request that he make and maintain a small monument to Bardulf — I have a feeling that would get him to be more content with staying.
Lots of great thoughts there, Matt. Thanks for your input!
I have to say, there are times I wonder if you are looking at my notes 😉
Bardulf should ask questions about the people who have taken over the village, how many, what they have done in the village, etc. He needs to know what the Yul’aric know. He may even want to ask about what the Yul’aric have been guarding, as this may be important to both Bardulf’s mission and saving the village. I also think he should ask about the serpent creature he saw earlier that seemed change back into a man. I have a feeling the Yul’aric may know something about this.
I agree with Matt that Bardulf should ensure the Yul’aric know he is on their side and he wants to help them. He should be honest with them as to why he is there in the first place. I believe that Bardulf and the Yul’aric can both help each other.