The morning was deceptively peaceful; it was as if you could feel the dangers from the marsh rush over your body if you stepped anywhere near it. There was an uneasy feeling that gathered around our cart as we made our way towards the wet grounds. Birds chirped in the land behind us, but those chirps turned into the croaks of frogs and toads.
The ground felt as if it was absorbing the wheels of the cart until we hit a rocky path that had previously been created to help transportation along. With the morning still brisk, I had bundled up in a blanket and was leaned against Ragnvaldr, who was chatting away with Tobih about general battle tactics. Ragnvaldr preferred to use his trusty longbow while Tobih chose what weapon to use based on the journey or the battle. As a result, Ragnvaldr was skilled in the use of his weapon, but Tobih was completely average in all of his, though being just that was a skill itself.
Angel was whistling a tune in her driver’s seat. She refused to let anyone else drive and I suspected that her claim to the seat was her attempt to feel like a leader. Not that I minded a single bit. Angel made a good leader. Despite her bursts of rage and her anger issues, she had a good head on her shoulders when it came to planning and keeping the team on track.
It made me think about our team dynamic. Clearly, Angel was the leader. Ragnvaldr was the cook. He was also the most understanding and generally the first to dispel arguments between everyone, without jumping right in to take sides. He was probably the one keeping our team together. Tobih was the guardian, the healer. Without him, injuries would have added days to our journey. Tobih also helped to keep the cheer about us. Perhaps then, he was the comic relief as well. I smiled at the thought of thinking as if we were the kind of adventurers I would read in storybooks.
But what was I? I was the scholar. I could give out information based on over 250 years ago! But I didn’t feel as if I brought as much to the table as everyone else.
“Hey guys.” I spoke up as I was thinking, “What do I add to our team?”
Ragnvaldr looked down at me as if he knew I wasn’t thinking very well of myself. He brushed his hand across the top of my head. Before he could even get the words out of his mouth, Tobih answered, “You’re the one who began our journey. Without you, we’d be doing the same ol’ thing we always do. Angel and I would be traveling with our guild and I assume Ragnvaldr would still be working as a cook. You created the team!”
Ragnvaldr smiled and lifted my chin. “You’re very important to all of us, so stop worrying so much.” He kissed my forehead, “Besides, Angel and I were talking earlier about making you our cartographer.”
“Really?!” I exclaimed.
“Yes, really,” fe replied and I saw Angel look back to us before focusing on the road again. “We were impressed with the map you made based on memory. I was hoping that you could map out our journey.”
I wasn’t sure just how to show my excitement, but it all kind of burst out of me at each word, “Of course! I’d love to!”
When I woke up as the new Claire, every map excited me. I had a talent for reading them and I had drawn many maps of the Salma District in Divinity’s Reach. Once I saw a place, I could never really forget it. I’m sure that it was the reason I could remember so many locations from my past – why this land felt so foreign and yet familiar. I was honored that they wanted me to do this. If there was ever a way for me to belong to this team, this was it.
My role in the team: I was the cartographer, the scholar. I was the one who would help us navigate and keep records of our journey. I was the one who brought everyone together for the journey.
So we entered the swamp as the leader, the cook, the healer, and the cartographer.
A growl next to us caught me off guard. A pair of golden eyes watched from the water as our cart passed by. “You’ll keep quiet if you don’t want to anger them,” Angel told us, “I don’t feel like having drake kabob any time soon, so I’d rather pass through them if we can. I’m sure little Tenderloin here is attracting them to us already.”
“Tenderloin? You’re calling him Tenderloin?” I asked, although I did so quietly. I knew that she was referring to the dolyak pulling our cart.
“She. And yes.” Her response was short and exact.
Angel was right, though. Drakes were known to attack and devour dolyaks, even those protected by travelers. They would eat the travelers if given the chance. I watched as more eyes and bodies of drakes gathered to watch our cart.
“They’re planning to team up and take us all down.” Ragnvaldr whispered, “Make sure to have your weapons ready in case they commit. Claire and I will stay here on the cart since we’re ranged. Angel, you play offensive. Tobih, you protect Tenderloin.
“Tenderloin is the dolyak, right?” Tobih asked, obviously unsure of what we were referring to in our earlier conversations.
I nodded, “Yes, Tobih.”
He smiled, “I like that you use my name when you speak to me.”
I stifled a giggle as I focused my power into the staff. The staff, although I felt inexperienced in battle, felt a little more familiar each time I focused my energies into it. The crystalline flame on top shimmered with power as if a flame inside was burning. I could feel that same flame burning within me. For once, I felt confident.
Tobih drew out a staff as well. It was one I hadn’t seen before and I could only imagine it was something new, probably from a trader at Marshwatch. It was simple: a wooden branch that entangled a magic crystal at the top. It would be interesting to see how a guardian would use a staff as I had never seen it happen before.
Ragnvaldr kept his eyes on the drakes around us, watching and interpreting their every move. His abilities as a ranger were really beginning to show themselves. It was as if he could read the beasts’ minds. I could see it, too. I couldn’t entirely decipher their intent, but I could feel the hostility and hunger they felt towards us. The hostility grew as their numbers did. Ragnvaldr relayed commands to us based on their locations, however. He was so thorough and helped us prepare for what he deemed an inevitable combat.