In the Valley
The slope here is easily traversed, slanting gently down into the valley to the west. There are a few trees here, tall and widely spaced, giving intermittent shade to the area. These are mostly the tall cone-bearing type, stately pines and friendly larches, but the foliage grows decidedly more deciduous lower in the valley. The ground is covered with sweet-smelling grass and the occasional bank of heather, and a rough track leads further down into the trees. A chattering mountain stream disappears into the wooded valley to the west.
To the south, the mountains rise massive and insurmountable, white peaks often obscured by clouds. North is the range of rocky hills that separates the valley from the great woods, their slopes too steep and treacherous to scale easily.
Megren finishes filling a pot at the stream and sets it over the fire.
Darrin tends to the horses, which are hobbled near the stream’s edge.
Avery wanders around the area, picking up some dry sticks. “Do you need any help, Dame Megren?”
Lanisen helps sort out the general jumble of belongings near where they have built the fire. He carries his bedroll a little distance away from the pile and begins to lay it out.
Darrin gives Gambol a bit of extra attention to get the stallion to settle down, making sure he’s tethered a short distance away from the other mounts.
Megren waits for the water to boil. “If you want to unpack the greens and hand them to me.”
Avery drops the sticks close to the fire and wipes her hands. Searching through the packs, she finds the greens and hands them to Megren.
Lanisen dumps his pack on top of his blankets and returns to help with the campmaking.
Megren gets a good soup started in short order.
Deonyc rolls out his bedroll setting a smaller roll at the pillow with his knapsack before returning to the others, “Anything I should help with?”
Megren asks, “Help Sir Darrin with the horses?”
Deonyc nods and quietly goes and does so, taking off saddles and tack.
Avery pipes up, “Just be careful with Cyrian. He nips sometimes…”
Megren starts pulling out tin bowls for everyone.
Darrin leaves Gambol to graze and does one final check of the rest of the other horses.
Deonyc pipes up as he hears the stream in the distance and sighs, before going to sit down near the campfire.
Megren starts filling bowls and passing them out to the people who have started gathering.
Avery picks up some spoons and hands them out.
Lanisen stoops obligingly to let Glora ride on his shoulders.
Haft finishes arranging his bedroll and joins the others.
Deonyc takes his bowl and spoon and gets up walking around at the edge of the camp a bit eating as he goes.
Darrin wanders over to the others around the campfire and settles onto the ground.
Avery takes her bowl from Megren with a nod of thanks and sits beside Haft.
Lanisen follows the rest toward the soup.
Megren passes Darrin his bowl, and lifts another for Lanisen to grab.
Lanisen glances at her briefly and averts his eyes, murmuring thanks. He waits for a second for Glora, then picks his way around the fire to sit.
Darrin tells Megren, “Thank you,” and gives her a soft smile.
Haft glances at the others, possibly wondering where the usual chatter is. “Anyone fancy a game?” he says gruffly.
Megren pushes her mouth to the side, but glances at Avery and says, “We’ve never pulled Lady Avery in before.”
Haft asks, “Into what?”
Avery looks up at the mention of her name. “Pulled me in where?”
Lanisen holds still so Glora can step down off his shoulders. He glances up across the fire at Haft.
Darrin’s mouth curves up on one side. He sends an extremely amused glance at his cousin.
Megren says, “Any games.”
Deonyc finishes his bowl and walks back looking to megren, “Where should we wash these off? There’s a stream not far away.” he looks around, “Maybe we should take the horses as well?”
Avery eyes Darrin. “I rather like games, but my cousin does have me worried with that look.”
Megren hops up and reaches for the bowl. “Here, I’ll take them if everyone’s done.”
Darrin’s expression changes alarmingly quickly into one of wide-eyed innocence. He bats his eyes.
Lanisen grins and hides it in his soup.
Avery flicks a bit of soup broth at him before handing her bowl off.
Darrin wrinkles his nose, clearly Affronted.
Deonyc hands it off, though it seems like he would have much rather done the work himself, he slouches down.
Haft realizes what he’s just instigated. “Not that one, Sir…” he groans.
Avery looks from Haft to Darrin. “What game do you speak of?”
Darrin asks Megren, “Did you bring some dice?”
Lanisen keeps quiet.
Avery echoes, “Dice?”
Megren collects the last of the finished bowls and calls over her shoulder, “In the little pocket on my saddlebag.”
Avery turns to Haft and speaks quietly.
Avery mumbles “… … … fun game? … … … be …”, to Haft.
Darrin glances at Haft, perhaps hoping he’ll explain, and gets up to find Megren’s saddlebag and rifle through it for the set of dice.
Haft grimaces over his supper.
Lanisen pays attention to his soup.
Haft mumbles “They’ve … cubes into … embarrassing … … … … … secrets … …”, to Avery.
Avery ahs, nodding once. “I see.” She shrugs. “Perhaps I’ll decide after it’s over whether or not I like the idea.”
Megren washes up and hops back into the crowd in short order. “So what did we settle on?”
Darrin hands the dice off to Megren and drops back to the ground, crossing his legs. He waggles his eyebrows.
Lanisen withdraws to the stream to rinse out his empty soup bowl, then returns.
Megren takes one and asks, “What rules?”
Darrin says, “It’s Haft’s idea.”
Haft purses his lips but does not contradict Sir Darrin.
Megren asks, “Haft? What rules?”
Avery waits patiently, an amused look on her face.
Haft raises his hands as if to ward off the question. “Don’t ask me. I was thinking of standard cubes or Fox in the Barn.
Deonyc glances at Haft and Darrin
Darrin looks between Megren and Haft. “Want to just do something like our standard? Red, yellow, green, the roller has to answer a question; blue, purple, white, the roller has to take a dare.” He pauses, getting up again to rummage through his own saddlebag. “If you pass, you have to take a drink,” he says, holding up a flask of some likely alcoholic substance as he returns to the fire.
Avery bites her bottom lip, considering the rules. “Alright. I think that sounds reasonable enough.”
Megren looks quite pleased by this. “Anybody else in?”
Deonyc shrugs, “I don’t see why not.”
Haft doesn’t look too pleased by these rules, but acquiesces.
Lanisen shakes his head slightly.
Megren hands the cubes down the line. “New players get first honor.”
Darrin sets the flask on the ground in front of him, ready to pass it along too.
Avery takes the cubes. “Here goes nothing.” She rolls the cubes after taking a playfully, dramatic deep breath.
Megren asks, “Blue, that’s a dare. You want to do it, Sir?”
Avery rolls her eyes. “It would be.” She clasps her hands in front of her. “Alright, what am I to do?”
Darrin steeples his hands together. “You have to…do something that makes everyone in the group smile.”
Lanisen’s eyes dart to Avery.
Avery arches a brow. “Something to make you all smile? But you are each too different.” She thinks a moment and then stands up. She goes through one of the packs and pulls out a shiny box. “However, perhaps I might have something that will make you all smile.” Avery unties the ribbon and opens the lid, revealing an assortment of sweets.
Megren says, “Aw, no, that’s too nice; you don’t have to share that.”
Deonyc shakes his head but smiles.
Avery grins. “If I don’t, I’ll eat all of it. And we can’t have that. You’ll have to roll me back to Anvard…”
Megren snorts. “Please.”
Haft says, “Thank you, no.”
Darrin gives a crooked smile. “Sweets for the road, cousin?” he teases.
Avery passes the box into her cousin’s hand. “Oh, indeed.” She sits. “Also, I do believe I failed my dare. Couldn’t you have just asked me to eat a bug or kiss my horse?”
Darrin says, “I think we all would have laughed if you kissed your horse.”
Megren says, “That definitely would have fulfilled the challenge.”
Avery says, “Oh. Well, he doesn’t deserve any attention, really. He’s been stubborn as of late. More stubborn than usual.”
Darrin says, “Deonyc next?”
Deonyc nods, “I don’t mind.” He rolls the die and watches it land yellow side up ,”Uhmm so that’s a truth.” he looks around the round to see who will ask.
Megren taps her lip thoughtfully. “What do you think you’ll miss most about home while we’re away?”
Lanisen draws his knees up and hugs his legs comfortably.
Deonyc thinks about it a moment, “Well friends I suppose.” he nods
Megren asks, “The other guards?”
Deonyc shrugs, “Some sure but I was thinking more my closer friends from town.”
Megren glances at Darrin and then looks back at Deonyc and nods with a small smile on her face. “All right, good enough.”
Lanisen tilts his head up to look at the stars.
Haft says, “Yeah, he don’t like the rest of us at all.”
Darrin snickers at Haft. “Who’s next?”
Megren reaches for the die. “I’ll go.”
Megren rolls a red.
Darrin reaches out to poke at the fire. He glances over Megren’s shoulder. “Truth, then.”
Megren spreads her hands. “I am an open book.”
Haft asks, “But what sort? Bestiary? Poetry?”
Darrin asks, “What’s the most old person thing that you do on a regular basis?”
Megren squints an eye. “What.”
Darrin says, “Getting up really early even when you want to sleep in, for instance.”
Megren’s eye does not unsquint. “Um… lecture people on inconsequential matters?”
Haft smiles. “Nah, the experienced have learned not to do that.”
Megren sticks out her tongue.
Darrin bobs his head in a more repetitive motion than a mere nod and seems to find Megren’s response an acceptable answer.
Megren picks up his hand and drops the cube into it.
Darrin rolls the cube on the ground, and gets blue.
Megren screws up her mouth. “Sing the most melancholy song you can think of, as passionately as possible.”
Darrin perks up, looking highly amused. “Hmmmm….”
Megren drops her hands into her lap and waits with patient eagerness.
Darrin thinks for a few moments and then sits up straight and launches into a song about partings and loss. The tune is a common one, and bittersweet, and he sings in a soft, clear tenor that’s just loud enough to be heard over the crackle of the fire and the wind in the trees.
Megren pulls in her lower lip to listen, clasping her ankles quietly while he sings.
Lanisen quietly slips off toward the stream.
Darrin’s voice trails off as he finishes the last verse.
Megren’s eyes track Lanisen and a small frown crosses her face, but she returns her attention to the group as Darrin finishes, albeit a little less enthusiastically. “Good,” she observes, “Not quite as over-the-top as I was hoping.” She nods at Haft. “Haft want a roll before we all doze off?”
Darrin looks a little abashed as he realizes he wasn’t quite living up to the dare. He shrugs sheepishly.
Haft pulls a small face before declaring it “only fair.” He rolls white.
Darrin suggests, “Uhm, say the alphabet backwards in under a minute.”