While the beginning of the journey had been bright and sunny, one week into a journey anticipated to be three weeks long the weather took a turn for the worse. The beginning drizzles weren’t so bad. Taking shelter in the wagon was good enough for short stints, though they had to really squeeze in. The driver Eustathios was fortunate that the wagon’s cover could be pulled forward to mostly cover him, except his boots.
Then the wind and rain really started to pick up. The canvas of the wagon trembled, but more importantly the wind drove the water almost sideways- which was sometimes directly into the wagon. Tightening up the openings prevented the carried goods from getting completely soaked, but that wasn’t the end of things. Thunder and lightning began, though they did little at first besides make things more atmospherically stormy- and cause Brick to start trembling. The moments without lightning were darker as the clouds blocked out the sun.
“I can barely make out the trail!” Eustathios called back over the wind and rain. Fred poked his head out just in time to see a flash of lightning on the side of the road. He wasn’t looking directly at it, but it washed out his vision and startled the horses. He couldn’t hear anything but the wagon shook mightily for a few moments.
Eventually his sight and hearing cleared up, but they weren’t moving. Ahead of them on the road was a downed tree- it wasn’t clear if it was from the lightning or if its roots had been washed out. It was too dark to tell, and there was no smouldering fire to confirm lightning.
Normally a fallen tree wouldn’t be much. On good stretches of land the wagon could just go around them… but the trails in the area were the only semi-navigable areas of terrain. Eustathios was standing in the mud next to the log, but there wasn’t much he could do. The wagon in front of them was… somewhere out of sight. Perhaps just a few dozen feet away in the pouring rain or perhaps hundreds. That left them separated from the rest.
Frederick started searching the wagon for tools he knew they had somewhere. It took a minute, but he pulled out rope. Then he found a hatchet. “Hey, you. Dwarf.” Fred poked the dwarf in the shoulder. He either didn’t hear him or chose to ignore his words… and definitely ignored the poke. Fred raised his voice. He didn’t have a proper name to yell so… “Ackath! You know how to use an axe?”
The dwarf turned to look at him, unfolding one arm from across his chest and grabbing the axe. “Of course I do!”
“Get out there and start chopping the low branches that are sticking into the ground!” Fred pointed, then without even looking turned towards Reln. “See if you can tie this rope around one end of the log. Whichever end is the easiest.” Fred kept his voice loud to overcome the recent deafening from thunder and the roaring of the storm. “I’ll start readying the horses.” Fred jumped out of the wagon into the pouring rain. “Eustathios! We need to unhitch the horses and use them to pull the log to the side.”
Eustathios looked up from the log where he was just staring. “If we… we’ll need to put blocks under the wheels, I think. Then we can try.” He looked to see Reln with the rope. “Help me find them.”
Fred had a waterproof cloak on. Unfortunately, that didn’t help much if it blew open from the wind, and he couldn’t afford to hold it closed as he needed his hands for other things. His boots sunk deep into the mud as he climbed into and then back out of the wagon with the blocks, placing them behind the wheels so it didn’t roll away in the slight incline. Hopefully they would hold, even in the mud.
Eustathios was already unhitching the horses from the wagon and Fred helped with that. Reln had tied the rope around the skinny end of the log where it didn’t touch the ground, and the dwarf was actually chopping through some of the branches which would prevent the log from being dragged around.
The ropes took a bit of work to attach to the horses, but soon enough they were ready. Instead of dragging the log in one directly, they would just spin it to lay parallel to the road. That would be easier, especially since there wasn’t a lot of room to move the horses off into the woods. “Alright!” Fred said, “Now, everyone get ready to push this log around! Eustathios will guide the horses to pull from the other side!”
Everyone got in place… and Brick ran up to the log and grabbed one of the remaining branches in his mouth, where he dug his hind legs into the mud and basically buried himself. He was a little quick on starting to pull, but a moment later the whole thing started moving. It seemed to take forever but probably took less than a minute before the log was turned ninety degrees away from its former position. Then there was the trouble of untying rain-slick rope from the tree. Reln and Fred were working on it for a minute or two when the dwarf pushed them both to the side.
“You just want this damn rope to be in one piece, right?” He took the axe in his hands and started chopping at the log. At the end with the rope it was maybe only six inches thick, and it didn’t take long for him to get through. Then he slid the rope off of the new end. “Here! Now let’s get going. I don’t fancy sleeping hungry in the rain!”
“Thanks!” Fred said, clapping the dwarf on the shoulder. “Good work everyone! We should be able to catch up to the rest of the caravan soon enough.” He wasn’t sure if that was true, but he was hopeful. Then he leaned in closer to the dwarf, speaking as quietly as the surroundings would allow… which was a low shout. “I don’t suppose you can share your name? I can’t just always shout profanity to get your attention!”
The dwarf thumped the handle of the axe against his chest. “I’m Thazeln Treasurechest! Make sure you don’t forget it!”
Fred nodded. He immediately set around committing it to memory. Maybe his previous attempts at talking to the dwarf should have involved more shouting. He thought about climbing back into the wagon… but that would just fill it with mud. They still had to get the horses properly hitched and start moving.
The storm didn’t let up one bit as they continued down the road, and at a few points a slight grade required them to get out and push the wagon. That was when they could make out the road. “I’ve lost the trail!” Eustathios called out. “It’s all washed out!”
Fred took himself to the front of the wagon again. He was soaked to the bone. The rain wasn’t quite so chilling as it could have been, but that only meant it was taking longer to sap the energy from him. “Brick!” Brick came running through the mud. Except for the thunder, he seemed to quite enjoy the rain. “Can you find the others? More horses and wagons?” Fred gestured to the horses. Brick ran towards the horses and barked, sitting down and wagging his tail in the mud, quite proud of himself. “More horses!” Fred pointed vaguely where the trail should have been. “That way!”
Brick ran around in circles sniffing, then ran off into the darkness. Fred was beginning to regret what he’d done when Brick was gone for a few minutes. He couldn’t see him to chase after him with all of the darkness and rain. Had Brick even really understood?
After a short eternity, Brick returned and barked, running close to them and away in a particular direction. “Did you find them?” Brick barked again, running a circle around him then off in that direction, stopping to look back. He grabbed Fred’s pant leg and pulled. “Alright, alright, we’re coming!” Fred looked to Eustathios. “It’s better than nothing, right?”
The half-orc shrugged. “Let’s just hope he doesn’t take us off any cliffs.”
Brick’s path led them through parts that were definitely not trail… but they managed to get the wagon through anyway. It involved a lot of pushing and pulling and then some chopping of bushes by Thazeln, but they managed to keep making progress. If they were actually going to find the others was unknown right up until the moment that the figure of Maiele came into view in the pouring rain. “Hello there!” the voice called out. “We thought we’d lost you! The wagon in front lost sight of you and we were searching for a bit of shelter!” the figure waved, “There’s a cave this way. Enough to squeeze everyone in… more or less.”
They pushed onward through the rain and soon enough the flicker of a small fire and figures moving back and forth in front of it came into view.
“We’re glad you made it!” The woman looked quite relieved to see them. “We lost contact with the back wagons, but I knew there was a cave not far away. It was a bit bigger in my memory, but then again it was just a few people. Now…” she looked at the cave- which had canvas stretched out past it to extend the shelter somewhat. It was packed full of people- barely enough room for people to sit. “Come on in! We’ll get you dried off at least.”