War Camp

Valindra enjoys her time spent in the humans’ war camp, and not just because it offers respite from the travails of battle. She likes to take time, especially in the evenings, and wander away from King Cuthbert’s pavilion at the center of camp. She can spend hours in the wonter dusk, strolling among the tents, wolf’s fur mantle and bearskin cloak drawn tightly about her slender frame. She loves the sights and sounds, the smells even, of the camp and the easy comradery of soldiers that has sprung up among them all. She knows many of them having stood with them in battle from the common farmer summoned to the fyrd by his lord to grizzled veteran of many campaigns.

Certainly, the mood in camp has improved remarkably over the last month. Their astonishing victory over the bugbear horde at the Battle of Tamworthig and then their defeat of the Mother Grushenka, the bugbear’s patron demon, have raised spirits considerably.

As she walks among their tents, the men look up from their dicing games or meager suppers of bread and hard cheese to gaze upon her. They grow hushed or cease their conversations as the elf glides by. It puzzles her, the awe with which the troops regard her and her companions. Of course she understands that they regard her and her mates as heroes, and she imagines that they indeed are. But Valindra has no desire to be revered by anyone, and she is made uncomfortable by the high regard with which the humans in camp hold her.

The camp bustles at this hour. Soldiers are lighting the cook fires. Nearby, a Sergeant dresses down a spearman for some infraction, the warrior’s head hanging low under the withering objurgation of his superior. A bard sings a mournful elegy for the dead from somewhere close. A trio of young women, sloven in appearance, jostle past Valindra mumbling apologies as they go. Camp followers, wanton rampallions most likely, seeking to earn some extra coin among the bedrolls. She smiles at the thought. At their youth.

It’s funny. Not so long ago, Valindra regarded most humans with utmost detachment and disdain, seeing them as clumsy, inelegant boors, short-sighted and vulgar in both temperament and philosophy. But now, walking through their camp in the chilly gloaming, smelling the wood smoke of their cook fires, listening to their songs and rough japes, she feels otherwise.

She has fought beside these humans, stood with them in the shield wall against a terrible foe. She has seen them vomit and shit themselves in fear, and she has seen them stand together in the red madness of battle to kill the enemy with steel and with fire. She has seen them at their worst and at their best.

She hopes the war will end soon so she may return to her forest and her life. Often she yearns for that future. To spend her days in quiet devotion to the Great Oak, tending a sacred grove in the heart of the forest, living a solitary existence but for the company of Helgi, Ursor, and Sasha. And the wind and the trees, and the earth. Yes, that will be a good life someday. But that day is not today. There is much to be done, and in fact, tomorrow they must begin their parlous mission into the hills to the north. But as she walks through the camp, she realizes that for the moment, she is home.
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Awesome post. If only Dill were around for the wanton rampallions!
This is just awesome. I hadn’t imagined camp life this richly myself. I especially like how you capture the mood after the last two victories. And props for wonter, objurgation, and rampallions!