Friends Along the Way

Friends Along the Way


The morning birdsong faded and the running water beneath her began to roar as she woke, face down. The sun rising over the Citadel Spires warmed her back as she stirred, lifting her face from the rough bark of the logs that left unknown sleep scars across her cheek. She sat up and allowed her eyes to adjust to the morning light, scratching her head and tousling her shoulder-length black hair. The sound of the flowing water rang differently, and as her eyes gained focus she saw cliffs at either side of her growing taller as they rushed past.

Sa'ro was jarred fully awake when her makeshift raft slammed back against a rock, loosening the logs in their hempen bindings. The raft swiveled quickly in the rushing water, turning to face forward, where she saw the river rapidly descending into a narrow stone corridor before her.

"Oh, Fuck Me!" She grabbed the long pole she'd been using for the past week to keep the raft moving and dropped the end in the water behind the raft to use as a rudder, but the river was moving so quickly that the pole simply floated on the surface. Downstream she could see a rock jutting up from the turbulent river, water crashing hard against it. She jammed the pole down into the water to try and shove the raft to the right, around the obstacle, but the corner clipped the rock with a crunch. The raft jarred, causing Sa'ro to have to reel to regain her balance as they twisted around the rock and continued downstream. 

Ahead the river curved to the right, and Sa'ro could see that her fragile little raft was headed toward the rock face rising up from the far side. She lifted the pole and jammed it between the middle two logs of the raft, inside the rope binding to keep it from floating up again, and used it as a rudder to steer the raft clear of the stone wall. Water washed over and splashed up between the shifting logs, making the already hard-to-control vehicle difficult to stand on or move across.  

Downriver, she saw two more obstacles in the water, the first a rapidly approaching deadhead, mottled with jutting branches and debris. Sa'ro Steered her rudder to direct the raft away from the deadhead but toward what looked like a divot in the river, where the competing currents converged, crashing against each other.

The raft cleared the deadhead with ease, but the rolling waves beneath the raft caused the logs to shift and her foot slipped between them. She banged her shin as she dropped to her ass and quickly retrieved her foot to realized that she had more stability if she stayed low. Kneeling she steered the raft hard to the right, hoping to avoid another spot of roiling current ahead. The raft turned, lurched as the rudder caught on something beneath the surface, and dove over a small drop. River foam splashed up between the logs, catching her in the face and eyes.

Before she could wipe the water from her vision, the raft twisted in the wild current and slammed into the right side of the narrow canyon, that now rose thirty feet above her head. The blow released an end of one of the logs that now floated independently, lolling dangerously high in the air around her head. She reached out to hold it in place but her shifting weight caused the support beneath her to loosen and she fell through the floor of the raft. She grasped for the logs on either side of her as she fell, missing the one on the right. Water splashed her face again, catching her with her mouth and eyes open, and rushed into her sinuses and down her throat, choking and blinding her. 

She clutched desperately to the log, unable to see any dangers ahead and each time she tried to clear her vision, the river would try to pull her from her life support. Seconds later the log slammed headlong into something, causing Sa'ro to lose her grip and tumble through the water. 

Waves crashed over her as she struggled to right herself, her throat still filled with water. She briefly caught sight of her Bedroll floating over a drop ahead of her and a moment later, she was airborne.


Sa'ro woke face down in the mud, the noon sun sitting high in the sky warmed her back as water rumbled in the distance. A low, frustrated growl jarred her fully awake, and she lifted her face from ground, leaving a visible imprint in the wet sand. She sat up and allowed her eyes to adjust to the midday sun, scratching her head and tousling her damp hair, to find herself between two large camels.  

Before her lay a 30-foot pool lined with lush plant life beneath a crashing waterfall that descended from a forty-foot cliff. About the pool a few of the logs from her raft and some of her belongings had washed up on the sandy shores, while others flowed downstream as it continued southwest. 

Sa'ro pulled her knees to her chest, wrapped her muscular grey arms around them, lowered her head and quietly cried. She'd left Jarren's Pride a desolate, hollowed-out village; yet somehow the way forward was so much more terrifying. She thought about returning home to the comfortable hopelessness she's known for so long. She thought about pushing forward toward some new, unknown loneliness. Peeking over her knees, with her lips pressed against them, she looked up to the waterfall. The way back was lost, that choice was no longer hers. 

"You can not stay here, child." She heard Nanna's voice ring as images of her village in flames flashed through her memory. She could almost hear the sounds of battle carried on the smoke, and feel Nanna's hand on her shoulder. "You must go, now." 

Orc Girl Near water by Jai

A camel nudged Sa'ro back to the present with another long growl. She   thanked him with a sniffle and a firm scratch behind the jaw as she wiped her tears on the back of her hands. Then she sighed, stood and surveyed the area.

Beyond the lush greenery about the pool lay a vast, desert. The camel to her left nudged her shoulder, urging her forward,  "Yeah, I know, " She said in response, sharing a scratch with her as well, "Time to get my shit together."

She took off her wet clothes and hung them over some shrubs to dry in the sun. Then she moved about the pool gathering the items that had spilled from her pack during her river ride. Over the course of an hour she also found some fresh fruits and vegetables, and nearly an ounce of ditch weed, in the growth about the oasis which she gathered as well. She carried it all back to the northern bank, where she took time to let a few things dry out and take inventory.

Natural 20 - Animal Handling

"Okay, So the bedroll and crowbar are gone," She explained to her new companions as she fed them each a freshly picked Wood Pear. "But, I found two gold coins and this great walking stick!" She held up a simple wooden staff of four feet. The camel she had begun calling Aklu snorted. "I know, it's not alfalfa but I got a long walk," As she lowered the staff a sprig of alfalfa grew there in the sand, where the staff made contact. " ... You know, unless you wanted to give me a ride downstream!" She said with a sarcastic shrug. Aklu ate up the alfalfa immediately.

"Wait! What?" Sa'ro held up the staff, placed the end back on the ground, and a daisy sprouted, which Aklu also ate. "Oh, you probably shouldn't ..." She considered for a moment, as she stepped away from him, but he had already devoured the plant. "Alfalfa!" She said, unnecessarily loud and another sprig of alfalfa grew where the staff contacted the ground. Mataya curled up on the ground and ate with a thankful groan.

"No Shit!" Sa'ro marveled. "Okay! Well, I can fuck around with this on the way." Another daisy sprouted at her feet, which Aklu moved for but Mataya beat him to. "Thank you both for your companionship," Sa'ro said in farewell. Aklu nudged against her, pushing her backward. She scratched his neck again, I know buddy, I'm gonna miss you too." She joked. He groaned and pushed her again. "Easy buddy, I'll get some more alfalfa, jus-" He pushed her again and she stumbled, falling over the laying camel, who began to stand immediately. Sa'ro grabbed a handful of long coarse hair and was hoisted into the air. To her amazement, she was given a moment to get properly situated on Mataya's back, and then the three started west, along the river bank.


The lush foliage about the oasis diminished as they moved away from the waterfall, giving way to open desert beneath clear skies, though she could see dark clouds over the mountains far to the south.  They traveled in near silence for many hours, broken only when Sa'ro occasionally reminded her companions that she would like to remain within eyesight of the river.

It wasn't long before the sun began to hang low in the west.  Ahead she spotted what, at first, appeared to be a rocky up-cropping, but as they approached it became apparent that it was a small tent settlement. When they were within forty feet a short round man approached,

"Aye! Hold There!" He said with authority, drawing some attention from others deeper in the encampment. Sa'ro asked her mount to halt but she only slowed some.

Natural 20 - Animal Handling

"Mataya, stop!" She said with a little more authority, concerned for a moment that she was atop a beast over which she had literally no control. Thankfully the beast came to a stop and Aklu sidled up next to them with a groan. "Thank you." She said hopping down and giving the beasts a quick pat and a few sprigs of alfalfa.

Natural 20 - Perception Check

"What do you want?" The man demanded, holding up a spear nearly twice his height. Beyond him, Sa'ro could see they had built the encampment about a small bend in the river, where the water pooled. The plant life here, however, Seemed different. It was similar to the prickly coniferous plants back in Randa Fell, in the hills beneath the cursed Citadel Spires, and not like the broad flat leaves of the oasis she'd left earlier that day.  The people within the encampment looked malnourished and haggard from days or even weeks of travel, and consisted primarily of women and children. A few of those moved forward, between the circle of tents, to see who the small man was addressing. One of them, a tall, slender woman of remarkable beauty with brown hair, made her way to the front of them.

"I-I don't ... " Sa'ro stammered unsure of what to say. She stepped forward a few paces, leaving a trail of 3 daisies, which Aklu immediately began to devour. 

"Hey - Hey! Don't you come any closer" The small man threatened, jutting the spear in her direction. 

 "I un, I'm just a traveler, " Sa'ro said, nervously. "I-I lost my bedroll ..." 

 "Oh for goodness' sake," The tall pretty woman stepped up beside the short guard and raised the tip of his spear away from Sa'ro with her forearm, "She's clearly a child."

"She's an Orc! Lookit 'er!" The tiny man contested.

The woman stepped toward Sa'ro slowly, "What's your name?"

"Sa'ro." She replied plainly.

"Where did you come from, Sorrow?" The woman seemed very kind and behind her, still within the tent line, she could see more people coming forward to see what the commotion was about. In all Saro could see at least a dozen people, the adults murmuring amongst themselves, while the children just stared.

"Randa Fells." She again said plainly, opting to keep her Village a secret. More murmurs ran through the crowds and behind her Matay let out a long groan.

"That's over seven hundred miles ... where are your parents?" She asked, a twinge of concern in her voice.

"There was Ogre?" Sa'ro questioned the last word, unsure it it was accurate. Images of Jarren's Pride aflame; people screaming in terror flashing across her memories, "...and Trolls, so many Trolls."  Scenes of neighbors and friends being beaten and stabbed flashed across her thoughts, "Nanna told me to run ..."

"Ohmygod!" The woman whispered under her breath, "Okay, why don't you come in, its going to get cold when the sun sets." She put her arm around Sa'ro's Shoulder and ushered everyone back to camp.


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