Unexpected Assistance

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Falling into a thoughtful silence, the two pressed on at the front of the column for the better part of the next turn of the large glass. Thankfully they were kept from the rising sun's direct power by the dense canopy overhead. But it didn't keep the air from growing hotter and more humid with each step until both men were soaked through from both perspiration and the water in the air, a dampness only exaggerated by their need to push through the thick undergrowth.

It was Charon who finally broke the silence.

"Patrik, if I may, any more time spent pushing through the jungle and we'll find our strength sapped by the heat and the humidity. Take it from a man who knows something about jungles: we need to have somebody blaze a trail by cutting blade or the effort of pushing through will have us exhausted by midday."

Patrik nodded in agreement, slowing to look over his shoulder. Could the paladin do it? They were capable enough with sword and axe; they should have little trouble cutting their way through the heavy undergrowth. But it'd also be a waste of a military resource, especially if the Ben'havid had spent little time doing just that. Nor could he use Jaeda's Scattered Kingdoms people; those that spent most of their lives on the desert sands would know little about cutting a path through a jungle. Already they labored just to follow Inureah and her paladin, their clothing dark with perspiration and looking tired.

Unfortunately that left only the Chain Islanders.

"Can I safely assume the Chain Islands troops would have equal experience with jungles as you, Charon?"

"You can, Patrik. In fact, every Chain Islands soldier, whether they are marines or ground troops, should be equipped with clearing blades called fokrim. Fokrim are heavy and wide bladed bush knives with a single cutting edge, a combination of axe and sword that are used by pathfinders and scouts to blaze trails and clear brush. They become very handy during jungle campaigns."

"I can imagine." Then, a bit louder: "Mistress Inureah, could you please have one of your paladin retrieve the Chain Islands commander and bring her to me?"

"Of course, Patrik," Inureah quickly responded from where she confidently walked a few paces behind Patrik and Charon with a knot of Ben'havid walking protectively around her. A runner was quickly sent back and within a handful of turns of the small glass, the Chain Islands commander was striding between the young man and his wizard companion. Already in her right hand was the heavy, squat length of a fokrim, bright green splashed along its edge where it had been used to clear branches and stalks that had fallen in her way.

"Commander, Master Charon tells me Chain Islands soldiers are trained in path making and trail blazing through jungle territory, using cutting and clearing blades called fokrim."

"Master Everstrider speaks truly, my lord," the commander quickly confirmed with a nod, bringing her fokrim up to show him. "This is my fokrim. I've been using it to clear the edges of our path as we pass through, in case we need to back track for any reason."

"Ah." Patrik smiled. "Do you think your command would mind using their fokrim at the front of the column to blaze our trail through the jungle? It would appear your knowledge and experience in such a place far exceeds mine."

A smile twitched the commander's lips briefly before she stifled it behind her soldier's professional veneer.

"Of course not, my lord; they'd be happy to have a purpose other than bringing up our rear."

"Then, if you would be so kind, commander, make it so."

The black uniformed officer instantly saluted, fist to breast.

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