Chapter 7 - First Trip to Bask
“Do you have everything you need?” Whitelaw asked while I hurriedly packed my bag of supplies.
“Yes uncle.” I said absentmindedly. Should I bring two extra shirts or just one? Better to be safe, it’s a day and a half trek through the woods…
“Stay away from alleys. Bask is safer than most towns, but even it has thieves.”
“Let Hyacinth do the talking. Don’t wander out of her sight.”
“And take this.” He walked over and placed something next to my bag.
Hmm? I looked at the thing my uncle placed on the table. It was a short sword in an old, worn out scabbard. There was a symbol engraved on the weapon’s hilt: a blazing sun with twelve rays, surrounded by the black silhouettes of five birds of prey.
I picked it up and drew the sword from its scabbard. The slightly bluish metal gleamed, reflecting the sunlight coming in from the window like a faceted gem. “WHITELAW” was engraved on the blade. Even though I don’t know much about weapons, I could tell this was made from higher quality stuff than what my uncle uses to make farm tools.
“If you get in trouble with merchants or the town guards, just show them that blade.” He said.
How enigmatic of him, talking like some sort of big shot. Does my uncle carry that much influence? I found myself wondering about his past yet again.
“What does this sigil mean?” I asked curiously, pointing at the hilt.
“It’s the mark of our Elswain Kingdom’s royal family.” He said offhandedly.
Oh, that’s cool. So this is what the royal family’s crest looks like.
“You… we’re…” I stuttered, looking at him with huge round eyes.
“Don’t get any stupid ideas, boy. We’re not related to them.” He explained, looking at me with some amusement. “I just did a favor for one of the princes a long time ago. This sword was my reward. I don’t really care if you lose or sell it.”
“What kind of-”
“Enough of that, get moving.” Whitelaw cut me off before I could ask more. “Don’t make Hyacinth and the others wait any longer.”
He pushed me out of the doorway with my bag and shut the door behind me.
Man. Talk about secretive.
* * *
Today was a day I had been looking forward to for the past few months. Southcreek sends a shipment of goods to Bask four times a year, and this was my first time coming along with the caravan. I hurried outside the village’s palisades to a nearby meadow, where everyone was preparing to depart.
When I arrived, the first thing I saw was the large amount of goods we would be escorting. There were six carts loaded with lumber, furs, dried meat, honey, and crates full of herbs and miscellaneous products. Of course, several of those crates held potions and medicinal items Hyacinth and I made. Each cart would be pulled by two workhorses through the forest’s paths.
“Took you long enough, Thomas.” Gina giggled when I arrived. “That pack is huge! How much stuff are you bringing?”
I shrugged. “Enough. Better to have and not need than the other way around.”
“Well, there should still be enough leftover space. Just hide it there so you don’t have to lug that bag the entire way.” Gina nodded.
She led me to the back of one of the carts, and helped me stow my pack right next to hers.
“Where is Hyacinth, by the way?” I asked her, looking around.
“Mom should be here soon. She went back to grab a few tools.”
Right as she said that, I spotted Hyacinth emerging from the village’s main gate. My teacher was dressed in her usual attire of a loose fitting yellow tunic with a thin leather vest. Comfortable breeches and laced boots ensured she wouldn’t have trouble moving through the woodlands. Like any self respecting herbalist, she was also wearing a small pack for gathered plants. Her wavy purple hair was hanging loosely over her shoulders - looks like she’s ditching the ponytail today.
"Morning you two." She said cheerfully as soon as she arrived. "Thomas, did you even get any sleep last night?"
"Of course I did." I answered, my arms crossed. Come on, I wasn't that excited. Don't treat me like a chil- oh right.
Hyacinth nodded. "Good, because we're going be doing a lot of walking today. Hope you ate a large breakfast too."
"We've been taking long walks in the forest for almost a year now. I can handle this much." I said confidently.
Given how much stuff was on the carts, there wasn't enough space for people to sit. Well, Gina and I could probably get away with it. But we would feel bad if we were the only ones who could take it easy during this trip. I'm sure the girl has way too much energy to just sit still for hours anyway, so we decided to walk alongside the carts like everyone else.
Fifteen people in total would be coming along for this journey. That many would be more than enough to deter wolf attacks, and there weren't any bandits around these parts to worry about. It should be completely safe.
* * *
Hyacinth wasn't kidding when she said it would be a lot of walking.
Are we even headed in the right direction? This place looks exactly the same as everything we've passed in the last four hours. At least when Hyacinth and I gather herbs, we go to cool, shaded areas with lots of interesting landmarks like small ponds, flowering trees, and such. Meanwhile, this is just one long forest trail with the sun blazing high above us. I should have made an umbrella.
Gina was even worse off. The poor girl would occasionally spot something in the distance that she'd want to check out, but Hyacinth wouldn't let her go.
"We can't slow down the caravan just because you want to go chasing after prey." She admonished.
"Aww... okay." Gina pouted.
When midday came, our group pitched camp at a wide clearing. We took an hour long break to cook lunch and recover our energy. I helped Hyacinth and the others with cooking since I was fairly decent at it - back on Earth I made all of my meals, but I never really bothered learning more than a few basic dishes that I could prepare in minutes. Hmm, maybe I should ask Hyacinth to teach me more when we get back. The food she makes is always amazing.
"Mr. Hans, can I try using your bow?"
"Sure, but the draw weight is pretty heavy. Don't force yourself."
I turned around and spotted Gina pestering one of the two hunters that came along on this trip. Hans, a lanky man in his early twenties with silky silver hair that went past his shoulders. He's married to a baker named Madalynn, I think. I've never talked to him beyond the occasional greeting, but I've heard that he's easily the best marksman in his generation. Old Man Norwyn claims that he's probably going to become the next leader of Southcreek's second hunting party.
Gina then asked him how to hold and shoot it properly. While I was worried that Hans would get annoyed, he looked very happy to be teaching someone.
"You're Hyacinth's daughter, right?" Hans said as he corrected her form.
"Yup! Do you know my mom?"
"Not very well, but I really looked up to your dad back then. He taught me a lot too."
"Ah, sorry, sorry. I shouldn't have brought it up." Hans quickly apologized.
"No, it's fine." My friend forced a smile. They went back to the archery lesson.
I watched the two of them for a while longer before turning back to my food. Then I noticed an odd expression on Hyacinth's face as she was roasting another batch of meat skewers. Damn, she must have overheard that conversation. Whenever anything reminds her of Gina's dad, she becomes unusually quiet for hours afterwards. The pain of losing someone that important to you... I doubt it ever really goes away.
* * *
The rest of the trip was fairly uneventful. At night we made camp, ate dinner, then went to sleep after assigning sentries in shifts. I didn't get much rest though; sleeping outdoors was uncomfortable enough, but the loud snores from some of the guys in our group kept me up for hours. When morning arrived we continued on our journey through the forest. Right as the sun began to set once again, I spotted the stone walls of Bask in the distance. We had finally arrived.
"Waa, it's so big!" Gina said excitedly. Since she had never travelled outside of Southcreek and its surrounding woods before, this was her first time seeing an actual town. Her enthusiasm was charming.
"You don't look very impressed, Thomas." Hyacinth pointed out.
I shrugged. During my previous life as Richard Brooks, I lived in one of the most densely populated cities on Earth, with countless skyscrapers that reached the heavens. Bask was certainly beautiful; it looked like a picturesque medieval town from a painting at this distance. But it wasn't going to leave me gaping in awe.
Well then, let's go rejoin civilization, shall we?