• Solo • And life is too much like a pathless wood

Darbyton is a well established little village, most of the inhabitants are quick to point out that they were the first proper settlement in Scalvoris history. Although primarily focused on logging, enough hunting and trapping goes on to largely fulfil their own food needs and almost every home regularly grows bean sprouts to help make sure nutritional needs are met. Between that and spruce tips and the like, very little is imported, which fits in with the nature of the people who live here.

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Oram Mednix
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And life is too much like a pathless wood

29 Vhalar 721

Skai looked around appraisingly as he and Oram approached footbridge over the spring at the southwestern end of Oram’s property. ”Birches and aspens grew in quick, didn’t they?” the retired Ranger wondered examining the close, spindly woods surrounding them. ”I can remember when there were hardly but stumps ‘round here. Weren’t even but a dozen arcs ago.”

As they crossed the spring, Skai chose to stay upon his own mule, which bore the unflattering name “Mongrel”, while Oram led Mule across on foot. Indeed, he had made the entire trip from Darbyton on foot with a pack on his back, for he needed Mule to carry the box containing Gandersauce. Wether and Ornot, laden with their own burdens, traipsed between the two equines.

Oram had assumed ownership more than two tentrials ago, but had taken his time getting established. This would be Gandersauce’s first time here, and the goats’ second. The gold-and-red-feathered goose had borne his ordeal with surprising grace, hardly stirring the entire time in his mounted box. When they got to the house, Oram and Skai went, not towards the front door, but to the stable door. The stable was a decent-sized four-stall horse stable, which meant there would be plenty of room for everybody. Oram had initially not reckoned that Skai would bring his own mount, but that did not cause any problems. Gandersauce and the two goats had already shown that they were happy to share a stall, thus, even with Mongrel added to the situation, there was a stall to spare.

Oram did not release Gandersauce until they were all inside the stable, and starting to settle in. It was important that the goose think of this place as home, associate it with comfort, and with the other people. When released from his box, Gandersauce did not jump out right away, but instead simply poked his head out of the top and looked around, watching curiously as Oram and Skai watered and brushed down the pack animals and mounts. Only after several bits did he clamber out, enticed by the offer of grain and water. Within a few bits of eating something, Gandersauce’s mood and pluck came back, and he was soon exploring every nook and cranny of the stable that was to be his new home, including the hayloft.

Their animals sorted for the moment, the two humans proceeded to the house that was to be *their* new home.
Last edited by Oram Mednix on Tue Nov 02, 2021 5:31 pm, edited 1 time in total. word count: 418
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Oram Mednix
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Re: And life is too much like a pathless wood

What wood you do in my position?

”It’s cool,” Skai grumbled as he looked about the house’s interior, ”and dark. We’ll want lamps and rushlights aplenty.” Oram could hardly disagree as he examined the corridor, and nodded. Judging by the number of ceiling fixtures and sconces in the walls, the previous occupants had thought so, too. Sconces hung next to every door, and overhead fixtures in every room, plus two here in the hall. The sconces were for the convenience of people carrying lamps as they walked about the house, Oram guessed, but the ceiling fixtures were meant to house lamps permanently. Both tables and the desk left behind by the previous owners sported rushlight holders, as well.

The old attendant muttered as he scuttled from room to room, although that first observation seemed to be his only real complaint. But there was definitely a lot of work to do, he mumbled. Yes, quite a bit to get in place before the snows began in earnest. Skai did seem genuinely impressed by the woodwork, structural and decorative alike. ”I can say a lot of things about the Logging Consortium,’ he told Oram, as he stroked a door frame appreciatively. ”But that they skimp on the quality of materials or craftsmanship when it comes to woodwork ain’t one of them.” Most of that work was utilitarian and spare as befit an office, but Skai pointed out details that Oram had ignored on his first time through: the scroll-work on the feet of the desk, or the ingeniously-carved wall niches that housed the sconces.

Most of the fittings and furnishings were hardwoods like oak, but not all. The shelves in the pantry, Skai pointed out, were aspen. Oram took down one of the shelves and looked at the soft, light-colored wood. ”It doesn’t look that hard or strong,” he said, scratching at it with his fingernails. ”It’s not,” agreed the retired Ranger, ”but there’s still plenty of things you can use it for, as you can see. But the really good stuff you’ve got growing around here is the birch.”

Oram peered about. ”Anything in here from birch?” he asked. Skai shook his head. ”No, but you could make things from it. But it’s mainly for the firewood and the bark you’ll want to use birch.”

Birch was a good firewood, Oram knew, although the smell wasn’t his favorite. ”And the tips are good for snaring rabbits, too,” the hunter added. Skai, who didn’t hunt, seemed caught up short by that. After shrugging as if to say: “I should have know that,” he made for the back door, the metal tip of his blackthorn cane sounding dully on the floor. ”Since we’re talking about trees, let’s take a closer look at the ones you’ve got on your land.”

word count: 484
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Oram Mednix
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Re: And life is too much like a pathless wood

Its blight is worse than its bark

Oram and Skai began their circuit around the property, examining the trees in particular. From a distance, the aspens and birches could be hard to tell apart, as both had tall, thin whitish trunks and compact branches full of yellow foliage. Oram found he sometimes had to come close enough to make out leaf shape before he could tell the difference, but Skai seemed to be able to distinguish them at sight, even from far away. One additional difference Oram started to notice after Skai pointed it out to him was that the outer layer of the birch’s bark was quite thin, and peeled off easily.

”Don’t take it off living trees, though, unless you’re fixin’ to chop it down,” warned the ex-Ranger, when he saw the hunter start to peel off a foot-wide piece that was already loose. ”It’s bad for ‘em. Let’s go find a fallen tree, and I’ll show you more.”

The trees were thick on the ground here -in numbers if not individually- with little undergrowth, as was typical for secondary growth. Finding fallen trees was, by virtue of sheer numbers, just a matter of patience, though most were not terribly large. Most of the growth here was, as Skai had pointed out, only a dozen arcs or so old. Still, they were able to find one decent sized one lying on ground, the bottom of the trunk still poised upon the stump it had broken from.

”Grab yourself and ax and we can chop this up good,” Skai muttered as he eyed the tree appraisingly. ”But first let me show you the bark.” Pulling out a knife, the old retired Ranger made a cubit-long vertical cut into the bark. ”Not too deep,” he said, as he demonstrated. ”On a dead tree it don’t matter too much, but you want to peel the outer layer from the inner one, anyway. They have different characters, and different uses.” Carefully, the man sliced, then gingerly peeled the paper-white bark off in a curling sheet. The layer beneath was strikingly darker, ranging from brick-red to almost black-brown. It also had a spongier texture to it than the outer bark.

”You can eat that,” Skai said, tapping on the dark inner bark with his knife, ”raw if need be, but it’s better if you cook it. You can make noodles out of it just by cutting it into strips. And the water you use to boil it can be drunk as tea.” The old man looked up at Oram with a wry expression. ”Not the best taste, though. Still, better than nothing. But that’s not what’s interesting. Here, Chief:”

Delicately, he unfurled the outer bark layer and flipped it back and forth. He handed it to the Chief Ranger. Oram handled and felt it. It felt surprisingly leathery. Where it was free of bits of inner bark, the inner layer was light brown. ”That’s the bit you usually see on canoes, shoes, baskets, the like,” Skai explained, pointing at the exposed inner surface of the outer bark. ”The outer bit you can actually use as a writing surface. That’s why it’s called ‘paper birch’.”

Oram shot him a questioning glance. Skai nodded knowingly. ”Loggers in the camps would actually use the outermost bits of bark for writing short notes, signs with their names on ‘em to put on their stuff, IOWs, the like. But that’s not the best use.”

Oram ran his fingers over the white surface. It was a bit rougher than paper, but only just. ”You know how to craft these things?” he asked Skai. ”Even canoes?”

Skai smirked. ”Of course. Most of us old-timers do. The new bloods aren’t learning these skills any more. -Don’t get me wrong,” he hastened to add: ”Rangers are better off out from under the logging business, but there are some skills shouldn’t be lost, if you ask me. Ranger should know his way around useful trees like this here birch.”

Oram had to agree. Being able to make a canoe would certainly have helped on at least a few occasions he could think of. Taking out his own knife, he helped Skai peel most of the outer bark off the trunk. The tree had been down a while, so the inner bark had dried out -although Skai still reckoned it could be used for tea in a pinch. When they were done peeling off the outer bark, Skai went back to get his ax while Oram went at the branches with a hatchet. The tree no longer had fresh tips, but the branches would prove quite useful for the kitchen fire.
word count: 801
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Oram Mednix
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Re: And life is too much like a pathless wood

Let's go sawin' now, everybody's learnin' how, Come on kerf safari with me

Skai was strong, and handy enough with an ax, but not long-winded; by the time Oram had removed most of the branches from the upper part of the tree, Skai was breathing hard. Oram handed the older man the small branches to make whatever he could of them, and took up the ax himself. The ax bit through the soft inner bark and quickly encountered hard heartwood. Oram had watched Skai’s technique and tried to imitate it: make a v-shaped cut and then widen it with subsequent chops. It was mainly a technique for felling trees, he realized.

He paused and turned to look at the attendant, who was peeling bark off of some of the thicker branches. ”Wouldn’t a saw be better for this?” he asked. Skai nodded. ”Aye, but I don’t have one. Do you?”

Oram thought a moment. ”I can get one,” he declared. He set down the ax and went into the house, to the chest Vhalar had gifted him. Once a trial, he could pull whatever tool he needed out from it, supposedly. Now was as good a time as any to find out. He reached in and, sure enough, there was a saw, just the sort he needed to saw through the fallen birch trunk and longer branches.

The hunter did not go straight back to the tree, though. Instead, he went to the stable. It was time to let the animals get to know their new surroundings. Gandersauce needed no prompting. After nattering a moment at Oram, the goose spread his large wings and head straight for the water. And not the spring, either: he flew up over the trees and straight to where he somehow knew the river was.

Ornot came out a few trills later, bleating questioningly as he looked about, then head for the nearest bush and started to nibble. Wether came out a bit later.

The two mules seemed content to stay in their stalls for now, although they both craned their necks forward to peer curiously outside. Oram decided to chance leaving the door open before heading back to rejoin Skai, who goggled at the saw. ”I didn’t see that when we were packing!” he gasped.

”Nor did I,” answered Oram. A sly realization came to the older man. ”That’s from that magic chest, isn’t it?” he asked. Oram nodded, as he knelt to place the saw blade against the trunk and began to cut himself a kerf.

”Saw will work better if you peel away the inner bark first,” Skai offered, peering over Oram’s shoulder. He seemed to have regained his wind. ”Saws actually bite better if the wood’s not too soft.” Nodding his acknowledgment, Oram took out his knife and cut away the inner bark before re-trying the saw. Skai was right; it was easier to cut a kerf in the heartwood.

The old attendant leaned back and looked around. ”I think I’m gonna like this place,” he ventured.

Oram grunted as the saw bit into the kerf. ”That’s good,” he replied; ”you’re gonna be here by yourself a fair amount of the time, taking care of the animals. Speaking of which, why don’t you go check on them?” It was, after all, the main reason Oram had hired the man.
word count: 575
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Doran
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Re: And life is too much like a pathless wood

Image
Oram:

Knowledge:
Animal Husbandry x 1
Fieldcraft x 1
Strength x 1
Woodworking x 3

Loot: Some paper birch bark and wood
Lost: -
Wealth: -
Injuries: Blisters and splinters because Oram forgot to put on his work gloves!
Renown: -
Magic XP: -
Skill Review: Appropriate to level.
Points: 10
- - -
Comments: I appreciate that you wrote a thread about Oram and his various NPCs moving into his new house. Oram gives me the impression of being someone that really cares about his animals – he did not go to the front door, but to the stable door first of all. I really like how much attention you dedicated to the animals, and to Gandersauce especially. He has personality!

Skai was a well-realized NPC as well. He gives me the impression of being a bit of an old grump, the way he complained about it being dark inside the house and the work that needed to be done – but not in a bad way. I really enjoyed the description of Oram and him exploring the house!

The penultimate post where they examined the trees was interesting as well, and what more, I learned something new. I didn’t know that you could eat the inner bark of a birch, for example!

It sounds as if both Oram and Skai like it there. I hope that it will stay that way!

Enjoy your rewards!
word count: 229

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