The One Who Would Be King Chapter IV: A Late Summer Storm

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They left around mid-day, walking because Trever had long since sold or given up the last of his stable of horses.  They did, however, have a good pack mule – whom Trever affectionately called Snork, to stow a lot of the provisions Trever had packed. Their former idea of taking a boat down was vetoed by Trever. He said he knew of some trails that would make it fairly easy to get to the sorceresses keep, and they wouldn’t run as big a risk since he was aware of goblins patrolling the upper two thirds of Astabor.

While Cookie and Djar were used to traveling ultra-light, Trever was the type who spent a good, long time on the trails, and wanted (and, at this stage in his life, probably needed) some of the comforts of home.  He packed grains, salt, sugar, coffee, rope, canvas tarps, wool blankets and a variety of other goodies Cookie and Djar would have died for just scant days before.

The first day of travel turned out to be quite hot – the late-summer’s still air felt heavy and wet; not unlike soaked rags draped all over their bodies.  The fetid air also invited a lot of mosquitoes, gnats and a variety of other little nasties, though Trever had the good sense to pack a small brown bottle of some plant-extract that at least kept the things from alighting onto the exposed skin for a quick bite.  They were now reduced to buzzing nuisances.  One literal bright spot was that there were no thunderclouds in sight.  The skies were a uniform fish belly white, but the thick clouds and hazy air hid the fiery orb that fed that luminescence.

Their luck – if that is what it could have been called – ran out three days later.  At first it looked pretty good as the morning’s fog was completely burned off by the hot sun, but soon the first of the thunderclouds could be heard rumbling in the distance.  By late afternoon, fueled with the sun’s hot energy, the giant, green-black monsters were upon them.  This was one of those epic storms which tore into The Land on occasion during the late summer months, when it was still summer, but change was in the air making the weather uncertain at best.  Both Cookie and Djar savored these storms in their youth because they usually brought out all sorts of excitement from the mundane, day -to-day courtly activities.

Trees began swaying, gently at first, then really bending under the ferocious onslaught.  Huge, old limbs cracked like cannon-fire, adding to the already frighteningly resonant thunderclaps.  Sand, twigs, and bits of other forest debris whipped about, and the company of travelers all squinted tightly and brought their hoods close about their faces to protect them from the assault.

It soon became apparent that the storm was not going to let up all-too-soon, so Trever called a halt.

“We gotta’ take cover; this storm is going to murder us!”

Cookie agreed, and Djar suspected that she, like him, had wanted to stop earlier, but didn’t want to appear weak in front of Trever.

Trever looked around briefly, then pointed toward a steep little rise.

“Over there!” he screamed, but was barely audible over the furious winds.  “That hill faces into the wind, so we can get some protection from it – and anything else.”

The ending was lost in a thunderous boom, but both Cookie and Djar got the general idea – it was time to hunker down.  This was no ordinary storm, by any means!

Trever immediately set to work setting up a small shelter.  Djar and Cookie tried to help, but the old man just waved them off.  After a moment he sent them in search of several large rocks, then he turned to his work once more.  It was as if he were possessed.

Putting up canvass tarps in a storm like this was pretty stupid under most circumstances, but Trever ingeniously staked the tarps with long, metal poles very low into the side of the hill, then he reinforced the edges with rocks Djar and Cookie had gathered.  It took about twenty minutes in all, but it was a long twenty minutes.

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