“Take some rest, Lord Daven,” his gypsy companion instructed, “We still have a great distance ahead of us.” A tall athletic man stood atop a great boulder, looking out over the landscape. His green and gray tunic wrinkled with the wind against his loose armored mail shirt. His leather breeches were scuffed and worn from past excursions; but like his sturdy boots, soiled and beaten they still maintained their integrity. He leapt down from his perch and grabbed his gear.
“What are you doing now?” the gypsy inquired.
“This is too open. We’re going to reach the edge of the Malderan Forest and make camp in the cover of the trees.” Daven began to climb down the rocky slope they had stopped on an hour or so before. His gypsy companion sighed in surrender and, grabbing the rest of their belongings, resigned himself to following Daven toward the dense expanse of forest that lay before them.
Once down the rock slope they entered the tall swaying grasses of an open field. Daven broke into a run, glancing back over his shoulder with a smirk, “Come on Arrovel, I thought you were supposed to be quick on your feet.” The tall grasses whipped around them. Arrovel widened his stride, “My friend, I can outrun any westerner.”
Though Arrovel bore the heavier load it did not seem to pose any hindrance to him. He had closed the gap between them before reaching half the distance to the forest’s edge. He looked toward Daven, “Should not your highness be able to float above the grass’s reach?” He snickered.
“Ha … ha,” Daven jested between breaths. “I do not hold as lofty a position as my predecessors. I have not the heart to tell the grasses to bow before me.” They both laughed. Arrovel leaned into his run a little more and pulled an arm’s length ahead as they reached the tree line. They slowed to a stop, trying to regain their breaths. Daven looked back toward the clearing beyond the wood. It looked much further across from this vantage point than from the cliffs above. “Remind me to challenge you across a shorter distance next time, friend.” Daven patted Arrovel on the back, “Now lets find a good place to set up camp.”
Arrovel nodded and they began to walk at a much more leisurely pace than before. The crisp, clean scent of forest pine and sweet olive filled the air. The great trees reached high toward the clouds, through which the rays of setting sun sparkled. The birds sang light-hearted melodies and the squirrels chased through the branches, chattering all the way. The two men came to a small gully, sheltered by large rocks to the north. “This will do nicely.” Daven assessed, traversing the shallow slope downward. “I’ll start working on a fire pit, you grab some wood to burn?”
Arrovel rummaged through one of their bags and pulled out an ornamented rod, “Don’t forget to set this up as well.” He set the rod against the heap of gear. “We passed some fallen trees a few minutes back. One or two should do us for the night I suspect.” He placed a coil of rope upon his shoulder. And clipped a small hatchet to his belt. “I’ll be back before the sun retires.” Climbing the slope, Arrovel disappeared from sight.
Daven glanced back toward the rod and shook his head. He never did like dabbling in magical goods. There were too many things that could go wrong with them when handled improperly, but the protection of the ward assured both men would be rested to travel further in the day. No one would need stand watch through the night. This ward was not just any runed stick picked up at market; it had been specially made for Daven and Arrovel’s travels. Kristianna Whitegrove, a very skilled sorceress and friend, had insisted they carry with them her own personally created ’travel kit’ of potions, rods and crystals. Daven protested every last piece of it, citing that in his hands it was more likely dangerous than good. Only when she had threatened him with a hex had he agreed to take the gift.
Daven dug a shallow pit into the ground and surrounded it with rocks to keep stray flames in check in the campfire to come. Before long Arrovel returned dragging behind him several good sized logs lashed together. He cut from them some small branches to be used and kindling and several larger chunks to be split. As he arranged them in the fire pit, he glanced toward the rod lying in the same place he had left it, “I thought I told you to set that up.”
Daven shrugged, “I thought I’d leave that pleasure to you, oh wise man of the Eastern Tribes.” He made an exaggerated bow before Arrovel.
“You know one day you may have to set up one of these without me,” the eastern man shook his head. “At the very least you know you’ll have to wield some sort of magic as sovereign, wards, crystals, scrolls …” Daven waved Arrovel off.
“I get the point,” he sighed, “Just set it up for tonight. I’ll start on dinner.” Daven pulled a small decorated metal box from his backpack. He placed his index finger on the side of the box and pushed, revealing a small compartment as it slid out the other side. It contained a small bottle and some specially crafted sticks called firsatwigs. He placed one firsatwig among the kindling. Carefully he removed the cap from the bottle and poured a single drop onto the twig. There was a hiss then small flames erupted from it catching the kindling ablaze. Quickly the flames settled into the fire wood creating a warm glow.
"At least you don’t avoid alchemy like you avoid magic," Arrovel picked up the rod. He dug a small hole with his knife in the soft ground and drove the rod into it. He turned a ring of symbols near the top of the rod a quarter turn then spoke, "Adnavi ereth deigahr." Golden light erupted from the top of the rod like a fountain, rising into the air about eight feet then cascading down in a dome over the campsite.
Daven watched the brilliant light show as he tucked away the firsatwig box. "Alchemy makes sense. It has rules and it sticks to them. Magic is too unpredictable, wild and inconsistent." He retorted sifting through his pack again, this time pulling out a leather pouch, a cruet of cooking oil and a shallow metal pan. From the pouch he drew two portions each of salted pork and dried nigala leaves. He drizzled a small amount of oil in the pan and held it over the fire to warm. When it was sufficiently warm he tossed in the meat and greens.
"Kristianna’s Watcher’s Sigil is hardly wild magic," Arrovel gestured toward the rod. "You know she would never send you out with an artifact she didn’t believe was prince-proof." He chuckled at the memory of some her magic tutoring sessions with Daven, and the havoc that entailed. A sharp cry of a hawk chorused through the air above them. Arrovel held up his left arm in reply. As it swooped down to land a charm on the hawk’s leg glittered, allowing it through the magical barrier. It came to rest on Arrovel’s leather forearm guard. He gently rubbed the bird’s feathered breast with a his other hand, "Raelia even trusts it."
"If you care to recall it took you near to a month to get her to trust it," Daven set the hot pan down on a rock next to the fire pit to cool while he retrieved metal plates and utensils from their bags. He divvied up the meals and handed Arrovel’s share over. They settled in to eat their dinners and Arrovel let Raelia perch on the top of his pack. "Let us speak of other things, say perhaps, our plans for tomorrow. Now that we are within Medrivira’s borders again we should be within perhaps half a days walk of some small village or hamlet. I suggest we barter for some horses so we can make better time to Lastrivalle to meet up with the Whitegroves. I suspect we can make it back to the palace the day after."
Arrovel ate as Daven spoke of his plans. In his thoughts he carefully plotted the route they intended to take, "That will still make for a very full two days. We should rise early so we can make the most of the cool morning."
"Agreed," Daven handed his plate and utensils to Arrovel, who set to cleaning them, "Will Raelia wake us?" He gestured to the hawk.
Arrovel nodded and made a series of clicking noises at the bird. She ruffled her golden feathers and bobbed her head in acknowledgment. "That she will. Now we should get some shut eye." He tucked the dinner dishes away and tossed Daven a bedroll.