Army of One: Garrett The Amazing

Army of One: Garrett The Amazing

This entry into the Army of One contest was written by Simon Matthews. He can also be found on twitter under @symatt.
The warm yellow firelight reflected golden off the weak beer up onto Garrett’s neck. The soles of his damp boots steamed gently as they face the open fire. Smoke from countless pipes meandered about the shadow laden room. Maidens with dirty aprons and dirty hands negotiated bags, boots and reaching hands as they went about their business serving warm beer and pale meats. A mix of Local farmers, out of town traders, quiet solitary types and loud half naked warriors with weapons placed at their feet, yet always ready for a fight if the opportunity arose.  The stale taste of sweat and dirt is only just covered by garlic and smoke. The cacophony of voices is broken from time to time with a burst of laughter or cheer from some other table or corner.
Being a Halfling didn’t stop Garrett from mixing with every race and creed, he managed it so well. His clothes, of Noble make, well kept but showed their age, his boots had holes that had been repaired so many times that there wasn’t an original piece left. His hair was unkempt, dark and hung in his eyes but he thought it gave him a mysterious look. A sword, well he says it’s a sword, no more than a long dagger really lay in the side grove of the high back chair he managed to acquire when an aged local left to relieve himself. Leaning against the back of that chair was a shield, way to big for one so small but it seemed to attract light like a candle attracts moths. A pattern of wind tossed leaves carved into the metal gave the feeling of motion where there was none.
“There I was, standing alone on the south end side of the bridge of Vakcher”  Raising his voice one more level. “The entire city of Tyndall was behind me” garrett took a breath. “Women, children and the old stood trembling in fear, only I stood between them and certain death”  The halfling leaned forward to give more drama to his tail. Spilling beer on his leg which he failed to notice or just didn’t want others to notice. “The hordes of VAK stood before me with teeth gnashing and weapons bashing” He demonstrated this by bringing his small hand hard down onto the arm of the wooden chair and bearing his teeth. An audience of three had gathered about him now with a couple more peering over their shoulders. “what did you do, what did you do? A young adventurer of no more than twenty summers questioned, he sat against the hearth, an untouched drink in hand, questioning him again and again at every scene Garrett described. “Shut up will you I’m coming to that bit” the flash in Garrett’s eyes faded momentarily as the creative juices had been broken.  “Well as I said, I was standing……” garrett stopped looked at the lads goblet and looked back at the lad. “Are you drinking that?” Pointing a grubby finger with a broken nail at the young mans drink. “ can have it if you want” he passed it to Garrett, who then poured it into his own flagon.
The wood upon the fire crackled sending a delicate cinder spark drifting into the haze of smoke to then come to rest in Garrett’s drink with a soft fizzle. Garrett took several loud gulps of beer and then continued his Story. “The first wave of Vak charged, I held my ground. They clambered and clawed over each other on mass to get at me”.  He looked about, now more had leaned in to listen to his Amazing story. A hidden smile crossed his face. Once again the young fighter interrupted. “What’s a VAK?” Several of the Audience agreed and looked puzzled. “Well when you have travelled the many lands and worlds as I have then you may come across the vicious and deadly VAK, but I’d hope for your sakes you never do”. Garrett scanned the ever increasing crowd.  “Who will fill my cup so I can continue and maybe a little meat too”?
His cup and plate filled Garrett yet again started to retell his amazing adventure. “There I was, my trusty sword in one hand and my life protecting shield in the other”. “The Vak, reached me within several heartbeats and all I could do was keep my two horse span width of the bridge. They slammed into my shield skidding me backwards. I dug my heals in harder until I came to a stop.” Garrett took a bite of his remaining meat, chewing with mouth open and spitting pieces of food as he became more animated in his telling.

“I stabbed and slashed with my sword, Vak were dying with every stroke of my blade. My arms ached with the force of my blows and the strain it was taking to hold these evil monsters back from the innocent I was protecting”. Garrett’s breathing became faster as though he was living the moment again or was it the first time?
The tale continued, drawing more and more people about him, all enthralled in the heroics of this small but mighty Halfling. Garrett carried the story and his spectators farther into the spectacle that must have taken place upon that bridge so far from this small travellers inn.  “The Vak bodies lay about me” Garrett continued. “My feet, ankle deep in their green fetid blood. Took me days to clear the stench from the soles” he pointed at his boots, everyone looked at them and as if in a choir, Oooooed and aaahhhed in unison. “What about the Vak, surely there was to greater number for you alone”? A voice from the back shouted across the tables. A human of many years and by the looks of him many a battle. Clambered onto a table and again repeated what he had said, now to the whole room which lay in silence, looking at Garrett for an answer. Garret looked about him. Stumbled for words a couple of times then spoke clearly as if recalling a memory. “You are right to ask my friend for there was a horde of Vak. Even though I had killed more than I have fingers and toes there was still more beyond.” Garrett’s eyes wondered across the faces of the crowed. Sweat trickled down his brow like hot oil running from the skin of a roasting chicken. Had he faltered, had he been discovered? “yes I had to think fast.”  Now standing upon his chair and holding his hands outstretched, holding the attention of his audience. “I jumped backwards and landed a full ladders length away from the drooling Vak” Garrett touched his lower lip in thought. “I looked about and studied the bridge in total detail. It took but a thoughts moment and then I saw how to beat the Vak.” The whole crowd seemed to move to the edge of their seats even if they were not seated.  “There was a crack, only slight, but it ran the whole width of the marble white bridge.” Garrett waited, giving the tension time to increase. “The Vak charged again, I paused, I had to surprise them with my plan. The sound of so many Vak in one location was the sound of the underdark come alive upon this land. Hell itself was bearing down upon me. I drew my sword high above my head”. Garrett demonstrated by raising his sword from the chair and with a great leap. As great as this halfling could manage, landed hard on the inn floor striking the hearth. “My sword penetrated the marble bridge, like a mole beneath the dirt, moved from the point of my sword to the left and right of me, the crack crumbled and broke before the Vak, their side of the bridge became hidden in a cloud of dust and in their charge they could not stop and like a waterfall of evil flesh they tumbled and fell to their doom one after another until all was gone, down screaming to their end”.
The crowd cheered with excitement and clapped, several bought Garrett fresh drinks and coins clattered like heavy rain against the wooden floor. once again the hubbub in the Inn returned as patrons resumed their own stories and life tale. Not as dramatic and not as world shaking.
Garrett slumped back into his chair exhausted from the sheer drama of the whole evening. Wiped the sweat from his face with a maidens apron as she delivered a tray laden with drinks.
“Is that True?” The young warrior made his final question. Some hidden disappointment lay upon his face. “Is that True”?  Garrett leaned forward close to the young lads face, with a voice close to a whisper. “What do you think?” “For I am ….” And as if on cue the two together still in a whisper spoke with a smile upon their bright faces. “……..Garrett the Amazing”

Wheeled Wagons of Wonder

Camped for the night
In our gaming life as our Characters be it in D&D or any RPG we use Caravans, those collected means of safe transport from one major city to the next stopping off at small towns along the way to trade, drop off and pickup passengers. Whether you Are a passenger or a paid employee of the caravan owner.

We love these wheeled wagons of wonder. What goes on with these traders and their travels when we aren’t looking. Here I,ll try and show you.
People of importance and note aboard the Caravan.

The Master.
He/She could be the owner but never assume this. They also could just be hired to do a job but remember they get well paid for a job completed. Although if a caravan is lost they will not fear their bosses wrath to much. If they are the owner then they will possibly fight to save it by their hired guards side. Trade Guilds own many caravans and make it difficult for any independent trader. Most of the time its undercutting prices but they charge for the extras like food. So if you are new to this form of travel, seek out the small companies.

The Cook.
You may think this person should be a long way down the list but fear the hungry man for without a cook to keep the employees happy then it will soon loose staff to the better fed trade companies. Its the cooks job to calculate the provisions needed for the trek to the next supplies. They always welcome extra food caught by passengers.

The Wrangler
This person is in charge of the well being of the animals that haul the loads and Caravans. Be they cattle, horses or tamed beast. They will make sure there is enough feed and water for the journey. Also watching there general health as a sick animal is unless to any road train. Also having some skills as a smithy for shoeing but also for general caravan repair.

The Scout/Tracker.
Not all Caravans have a Scout. As most employers see them as an over spend. But those that do use them find them beneficial. They will find safe routes avoiding danger and difficult trails that may be blocked from weather, landslides and beast movement like Orcs on the march. They carry a horn with them at all time for signalling danger. They will scout ahead each day before sunrise.

The Entertainer.
These colourful people usually travel with Caravans for their own benefit. As this is the easiest and safest way to travel. Occasionally a caravan owner will hire an entertainer for his own benefit and piece of mind, that a calm crew is a happy crew.

The Followers.
These come along for the comfort of the men folk and to sell their wears as they go. The Owner tries to stop these women coming but in the end they serve a need. Its also good for moral. They help around the camp. Willing to cook and clean for a price if that’s what you are after. A little touch of home.

The Priest.
Priests or Acolytes travel for free. As they are a good source of well being and calm among the travellers. Most have skills in healing and with a donation to their church will be willing to help.

The Guard.
Most Caravans will have and keep regular Guards. These are possibly the highest paid of the Caravan crew next to the cook. These will put their lives on the line for the safety of the Caravan its stock and its passengers. One Guard in particular will be designated  Captain and may get a gold more than the others. He will organise and lead the guard but also it his job to physically protect the Master.

The wise one.
Also know by other names most notable is Witch. Not many caravans have a witch. But when they do they have all kinds of knowledge to pass on be it about the local areas Forna  and Flora. To herbs and poisons. They also may have knowledge of magic. If a caravan owner chooses to have a wise one along they can be expensive. So if one chooses to come along they are not charged. But they do seem to travel at the back beyond the guards and alone.

Now comes the paying passengers and the trade goods. Also some crews will bring their families with them attaching their own caravan to the line up.

Time to look at the Caravan its self.

caravan in detail
Most are constructed from wood and metal and drawn by animal. With a sturdy wooden roof be it flat or arched. Some are barrel-shaped with a smooth curve from one side to the next.
Painted in vibrant colours, all kinds of decoration from flowers to epic battle scenes of some hero passed. Horns hang from a peg on the side of every caravan for use in signalling danger.  Steps lead down from the rear door and Lanterns hang from the roof. Lit at night to keep in view and count at a distance.

The lead Caravan has a high driving seat to allow a good view of the road ahead and immediate surroundings. Its living space is the best kept and luxurious, with cushions and carpets throughout.

Then next is usually the coach that carries the stock and trade goods.
This one is more secure. With no windows and a heavy lock upon the rear door. Metal plates can also be found nailed to the sides and the underside. Shields hang along the sides and can be retrieved and used when needed.  The wheels are protected by used shields.

Any number of Caravans can now make up the most of the road train. If they are owned by the trader then the caravan has a uniform look be it the colour of the paint work or a uniform for the crew. A lite loaded Caravan is used for paying passengers but most will travel happily with one or more of the crews families.

Placed somewhere in the midst is the food and water caravan. This will carry living food like chickens and small pigs also a goat for its milk. Dry goods and vegetables are stored in sakes and crates. Water is contained in Barrels attached to the outside of the caravan for easy access and refill. The amount of food stock carried depends on the journey time to the next town or trade post.
The final Caravan is used for the Guards that are hired for the caravan protection. Not the best kept but then the guards get the best pay.

Dogs also accompany a caravan for protection and for their heightened sense of danger. Large but untrained is the cheaper option. Two to four is usual.

A typical day with a Caravan road train.
Typically a Caravan will not depart before sunrise. So during winter months it makes for shorter travelling days. They will move at a steady pace as not to exhaust or hurt the animals. They will generally stop once at around noon then make camp just before Sunset. It would have to be an extra ordinary reason to travel at night. Food comes within the price of your passage. So no extra provisions are needed.
Hot meals are served at noon and supper camp with a hearty breakfast in the mornings.

A large pit is dug when the caravan first stops in the evening, between 1 and 2 feet deep with a circle of stones around the edge and a campfire is lite within. This keeps it as hidden as possible from a distance. Food Is cooked above, hanging pots from a chain and hook upon a metal tripod. The hot stones are also used to warm the caravans on chilly nights.
The hole is then filled in in the morning before departure.

There is an obvious hierarchy within the caravaners and their teams. If you join with your own caravan you join at the end of the line just in front of the guards coach. Last in usually means last served. Don’t feel put out or insulted by this its just the way they are.

It is seen that if you have any fighting skills and the Caravan is in danger it is your duty to help protect the Caravan and its occupants. Most towns and villages will look coldly upon any who think this is not the case. Getting work in any towns from then on may become difficult.