Leadership is Hard 7

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Those who were with the rear wagon were soaked to the bone. Brick merely shook himself off and pranced over next to a fire, but the others had more work to do. Fred looked down at his dripping clothes. The little cave was warm, but he was still freezing. He had one set of backup clothing with his bedroll that was only half soaked, he supposed. Before he could make a decision, Helvia came up to them. “You’re the last few, then. I can help you dry off.” She waved her hand over Fred’s head and he saw droplets of water gather around her hand, which she then flung out of the cave. He reached up to feel his hair and found it to be much drier. Just a bit damp. “If you get off all those damp clothes I can get the water off your body.”

Fred nodded. He had never seen magic before. Memories of it weren’t the same. Helvia hadn’t done anything particularly flashy, but it was certainly quite useful. They didn’t exactly have an abundance of towels around. In fact, towels as he was used to probably didn’t exist. Fred started stripping down to his smallclothes. It was quite embarrassing, but nobody was really watching. Based on how relatively dry everyone looked, he supposed they had done the same. 

Helvia’s magic felt like static electricity tingling on his skin, pulling away the water. She first dried Frederick then moved on to Reln, Eustathios, and the dwarf Thazeln- who Fred finally had a name for. Helvia also used her magic on their slightly drier second set of clothes before they changed into them, but they had to set up their soaked clothes on impromptu clotheslines throughout the cave. Fred saw the strain on Helvia’s face. “Thank you. Using magic for so much must be quite difficult.”

The dark haired woman half smiled in return, “Having a bit of magic is quite useful… but a real mage would be much better about it.”

Fred couldn’t help but be curious. View Status didn’t tell him much more than her name still, but he got a line reading ‘Water Control (~3)’. So, he didn’t have exact information for some reason. Did he not see her use it enough, was it a problem of her trusting him or his skill being low? It was really hard to say. Certainly, he could be better at View Status. It might also help if he asked, but he was going to keep it secret for the moment. 

Everyone bundled up next to the fires, crowded into the cave. At least the ceiling sloped up towards the outside so the smoke didn’t build up. Area was cramped, but it wasn’t so bad to be close to his companions. Fighting a storm together made him feel closer to the other three. There wasn’t enough room for everyone to lay flat, so Fred ended up sitting leaning against the wall inside his bedroll. Despite the awkward position and the thunder, he was exhausted enough he managed to fall asleep. The rain helped, providing a comforting steady noise to blank everything out.

—–

The morning came to wake Fred with the unpleasant sound of complaining. “… terrible accommodations, really. I didn’t sponsor this journey to be treated like common folk.”

Fred’s eyes turned to see Theobald and Maiele standing at the edge of the cave, the continuing drizzle keeping them from going further. Maiele crossed her arms in front of her. “Should have thought of that before you decided to come. No room for beds.”

“Hmph.” Theobald managed to turn up his nose at the slightly taller woman. “How pathetic.”

Maiele looked about ready to rip off Theobald’s head when one of his servants came up to him. “Breakfast is ready, sir.”

“Yes yes. Fine.” Theobald glared at Maiele as he walked away. The servant grinned sheepishly and bowed his head after Theobald passed.

“Oof,” Thazeln said. “Can’t believe he’d have the gall to complain like that when we were the ones who got left behind yesterday. Almost died in that damned storm.” Thazeln clapped Fred on the shoulder. “Good thing we got organized real quick.”

Fred smiled, “Hey, don’t be so negative. We might still be out there freezing to death, just mostly dead.” Thazeln actually laughed at that, and Fred was happy he’d guessed correctly at the dwarf’s preference for morose humor.

Talking to Thazeln on the road was quite easy once the dwarf had gotten comfortable with the rest of their little group. He’d talk about anything, and he had opinions. Especially about people. Fred was glad they were far at the back of the caravan where nobody would overhear them. “That Theobald guy is a piece of work. Bet he’s never worked a day in his life. We might as well just dump him on the side of the road, would save a lot of wasted food and space.” Fred technically agreed, but he wouldn’t have said that. His other opinions were strong as well. “I’m not sure if that Maiele is cut out to lead an expedition. Sure, she knows the way and is a fine guide, but the fact that we got so far apart as to lose the caravan…”

“It’s not like she can be everywhere at once.” Fred didn’t think Maiele’s leadership had been perfect, but at least she was competent in her areas of training. “Though we could certainly have better communication with the other wagons. Maybe I’ll go have a talk with them.”

“Yeah!” Thazeln said. “You give ‘em a good talking to. Leaving us in the rain…” Thazeln grumbled to himself.

Eustathios looked down at Fred as he was going past. Fred smiled up at him and assuaged his worries, “Don’t worry, I don’t plan to make any enemies. I’d prefer they like us and want to look out for us. People just sort of got thrown together, so it’s hard to expect much.”

—–

During the next week of the journey, Fred started familiarizing himself with the other people in the caravan as much as possible. He didn’t ask, but those in the wagon in front of them explained that they’d been trying to keep up with the one in front of them… and so on and so forth. Theobald had pressed Maiele to move quickly, and she’d been focused on getting to shelter. 

Most of those in the caravan were workers of various sorts. Farmers, such as Helvia, along with those with some skill in carpentry and building. Fred had guessed at Thazeln being able to use an axe- he was strong enough, and so of those present he might have been the best choice regardless. It did turn out that Thazeln was officially hired as a logger, though he’d also been a miner for some time.

Fred’s position without a specialization made him one of the least desirable people in the caravan, on the surface at least. He would actually be able to assist with most jobs. Even though he didn’t have skills to back him up, having a capable body and the willingness to work hard was enough. Of course, the least relevant person was Theobald. He was just a weight dragging them down. His servants, however, were quite competent. There were only two who had actually come on the trip, but they were capable enough. Augustin was the more experienced of the two, and though his skills were more suited for maintenance of a home he had some skill as a cook and with gardening. Farming on a larger scale was different, but he would be able to do his job. The younger servant was Edric, and he was robust enough to do any hard labor that was needed. People would likely need to take part in many different jobs at first regardless.

They wouldn’t need Eustathios to work as a smith right away, but he would at least be able to maintain their tools- and they only had so many spares. If they didn’t take good care of them, the whole settlement could be a failure. His skills as a swordsman might be needed if there were any fights… though he didn’t seem to have a sword. 

There were also a pair of hunters, a strange pair of a dwarf and a halfling. The dwarf was an experienced woman who carried a spear that looked to have seen some use. Brurnaebelle indicated she had ‘some practice’ hunting boar with the spear, which Fred felt was modest. His senses indicated she was somewhere around 5’s in her spear skills, with some equivalent tracking skill. “Call me Belle, if you please.”

Lavias Tophill was a halfling- more or less a human that was half the size. Half as tall, that is, which made them quite a bit smaller overall, near the size of children. However, the only part about him that looked childish was his height. If Fred hadn’t been able to compare his size, he might have thought he saw a rugged mountain main in front of him. That said, despite the relative amount of muscle Lavias had he was still not capable of using a powerful bow. He had a shortbow- though it was more like a longbow sized for him- but he also carried a blowgun with darts. “Just a little bit of poison does a lot of good if you can sneak up on your prey,” Lavias stated. “Doesn’t hurt to eat it, but if it takes a few darts the meat might not taste as good. You can tell an experienced hunter by the number of darts they have to use. Sneak up close without disturbing your target and one good one by the neck… most things will go down.” He looked to Belle, “Maybe not so much for boar, but taking down a good deer or buck is possible.”

Fred managed to gather some idea of how they would be functioning when they arrived. It wasn’t that he had been in doubt, but not knowing who would fill what roles was troublesome. Ignoring Theobald, the rest of the expedition was mostly put together with purpose- with only a portion tagging along just for the opportunity. Everyone would have to work regardless, and if they didn’t yet have any skills, they would learn. Still, it wasn’t like things would be easy just because they had the right skills. Someone would need to make sure everyone worked together properly.

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