Being this close to the blighted area, nothing bothered us, which was a good thing because the both of us slept like the dead. We woke deep into the next day.
And a glorious waking it was. I had such a contented feeling. The only flaw in the day was the hunger that gnawed at us. I was able to heal us, finally. Bob was so shocked that he cried. I don’t think anyone has ever been very nice to Bob.
We were running out of supplies, but we had our weapons and I had my pack. Cook pot intact, journal, ink, quills, and wrapped in a bit of scrap cloth at the bottom was the potions and scrolls, along with some gems I’d kept out of the treasure Liz and I had hidden after the dragon attack.
I was laying out all my gear, unwrapping each potion and setting it carefully on the soft ground and taking stock of things when Bob let out a quiet exclamation.
So, idiot that I am, I had one thing that we needed without knowing it. Bob pointed them out for me, explaining their history. I had two vials of what I had thought were poison. There had been a time of bleakness and despair when I had tried to kill myself, if you recall.
Well, I was near enough to starving to death with disease, vermin and pestilence overwhelming my otherwise good mood. Recall when Kithri asked how I had not withered to skin and bones?
These vials did not hold poison, they held emergency rations. I know, Brother Durham may have called this one correctly. Some days I am a menace to myself and everyone around me. Bob took the vial that I had been drinking in an attempt to kill myself, and poured it into a pot of boiling water. There was only a third of the vial left at that point, so the pot was enough to contain its suddenly explosive growth.
There was serious magic here. The pot wasn’t filled with the drabs of chewy potion diluted with water, instead the pot filled with a rich stew redolant with chunks of beef, carrots, onions, and thick potatoes.
One vial would feed an army for three days. One-third of a vial would feed the two of us for weeks. It boggled us both once we started eating. I have not eaten so much since the same festival that saw the demise of Sister Edna. The potion had a way of replenishing itself. We would dish a bowl of stew and before we reached the bottom, the pot would have refilled itself.
Bob had utilized these potions before so knew what to do. Once we were sated he removed the pot from the edge of the fire and let it cool. Magically the stew shrank to a congealed lump slightly smaller than the one we’d started with. I was able to pour this back into the vial and cork it for when we needed it next.
I wish we’d had something like this that winter when I was nine. Those were hungry days. Was that the first year we had ritual meat as part of the high holy days? We lost so many that winter. I still have nightmares of all those who died. But we survived somehow, eh, Father Mulcahy. I’m sure it was due to the prayer and gentle blessings of Kithri and Semaunya (may she keep her people fed).
Bob and I debated our next course of action. We needed gear and supplies. Apparently you can only live on the potion meal for a few days before it starts to negatively affect you. Good enough for me. We could make for Morden’s Gate, which was his preference, but I wanted to head back to where Liz had vanished. I refuse to believe she’s dead. Bob does not argue the fact, but I can tell by the look on his face that he doubts the possibility. I thought about the monsters we’d fought so far, and facing them nearly naked was not a happy thought.
I didn’t want to go all the way into that town, no matter how great an idea Bob thought it was. In the end we compromised. He knew the general area where he’d been captures and the merchant caravan he’d been help protect had been attacked. There was a chance we could scavenge some supplies from there. I didn’t need much beyond new robes, but Bob needed boots and clothes. He also suggested we could use some armor which was an intriguing thought since I’d never really worn any other than the grieves and vambraces. They were destroyed, alas. I was feeling a tad vulnerable now that he kept arguing about all the things that could happen to us. He was pretty persuasive.
We decided to stay here by this clear lake for one more night, rest up, fill our bellies once more and set off at the crack of dawn. I gathered fire, and he gathered water. It was a quiet evening with neither of us talking much. He took the first watch and I curled on the soft ground while he hummed a tune so quietly I could barely make it out.