Day 323, third Wintersun of 17.

We counted our losses and salvaged what we could throughout the night. The dead I ordered the men to bury quickly, without a sermon. The next morning we set out again. I saw no cheer in the men's eyes naturally, and all they stared with reproach at me. Though I felt guilty about giving them ill advice, I couldn't have cared a Berry-hound's tit about what they thought of the whole thing, nor about the two dead buried in a random patch of dirt. The dead were buried and we had to move on. These things happened on expeditions like this.

Branddoon forest was large; it took us three nights and a day to get from the start to the end. We left the dark gloomy mass of trees behind us, and as we did so Ruhon called his men together and ordered them to get their morales back up or else. It's amusing to see how illogical some people are when they are confronted with a life-threatening problem.

Before us now lay a vast landscape, yellow of color and a thick stench coming from it. The sight of it would make a knight of the king's court soil himself.  A place only occupied by passing nomads and inhabited by only insects and rodents. The Strawy Graze this area was called. We set our boots into the first parts of rotting ground, immediately realizing our carts wouldn't be getting any far through this mud. I looked back and saw our mules sinking through the ground. With them one of the men, unluckily walking on a swampy piece of land had gotten stuck and was calling for help.

Ruhon and some others stayed back to help and pulled the man out, however the mules could not be saved. As they were kicking about wildly they sank deeper and deeper. It would have been an amusing sight had the beasts not been carrying what was left of the supplies. Two of the mules drowned in mud, Ruhon tied a rope to his waste and told the men to pull him out if he'd get stuck in. He jumped on the third and pulled off any provisions he could get. In his hands were two bags and he shouted at his men to pull the rope. After being dragged out of the mud and leaving the mule to die a death by drowning, Ruhon found the two bags contained nothing but coal. I walked back towards the end of the line and saw again a gang of demoralized men, two of them covered in mud and rotting vegetation. "Well? What are you waiting for?" I said, "Let's go on." I took some long branches from the ground and handed them out to some of them, showing them there's no need to die a painful death if you used caution. I lead the line again, poking my long stick into the ground to feel for air. This is how we walked a day, slowly, often getting stuck and only getting so far.

We didn't sleep that night as there was no firm ground to rest on. Not that it mattered, the men would have had to sleep outside in the cold, and the stench. And if there was one thing I didn't want more it was them staging a mutinee. Though as we had to keep walking most of them got incredibly tired. I often found a soldier wandering off the trail with his eyes closed, walking while asleep. I would hit the wanderer with my staff.

Ruhon ordered everyone to take off at least one part of their armor so as to save strength and sink away more slowly would one get stuck in the mud.

We walked for many hours and I saw the second sun rise sharply and bright the first dawn. Was the stench of the rotting vegetation not penetrating my nose I'd have been more cheerful for the rising of the day. Meja seemed unaffected by any of the happenings. She always had the most brightest smile on her face. She was ahead of the line while others were lagging and complaining.

I looked up above. Even though the sun was shining a bright white color, the sky itself was bloodred. An ill omen no doubt. As I was trying to read the patterns in the clouds a large-winged insect entangled itself in my beard. I tried to get it out but it was stuck firmly. Further entangling itself with every stroke of it's wings. I finally decided to light the thing on fire with my hand. In the process however lighting my beard on fire. Meja ran up to me and threw mud at my face to douse the flames. I stood there with a face full of mud and a half burned beard. As I removed the stains from my person, the bug, bright red now flew off. I was both upset and delighted. I had never seen this insect before.

 

The End

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