In the pre-dawn dimness, a driftwood fire burns fitfully. The wind off the firth is strong, penetrating layers of wool and fur, and tearing breath away in strips of freezing steam. The fire cracks and dances, burning salty driftwood as fast as it can, as if afraid that the wind might choose at any second to blow it out completely. Three men* try in vain to warm their hands at the blaze and regard their sleeping subordinates with no small amount of envy.
The eldest of the three turns to the others, and speaks in halting Gaelic.
Owen: I know you've both been here before, but I think it's worth going over what we know one more time.
He pauses to draw a crude map in the sand with his fingers.
Owen: This is Girvan... here's the smokehouse... tannery... church... and our friends' precious tree which you, Wodin, saw being hacked at by dead norsemen on Wednesday night. The lookouts in Alerock's watchtower never spotted a raiding vessel, so it's likely that Girvan lies under the shadow of some magical threat. (He pauses again, trying to rub the weariness from his eyes, but he only succeeds in rubbing sand into them.) It would be nice if we could commit everything we have to the defence of the Hairy Tree and let the rest of the village go to Hell, but it looks like there's too much at stake here for that.
Owen: North of the river lies the tannery, and the houses of the folk most involved in that craft, including the few who make the wizards' parchment. Too much lost there and there'll be no new books until they can find a new source. Then there's the boats on the beach. Most are just used for fishing, but a few belong to the men who ferry Alerock's supplies out and its trade goods back to the mainland. I suppose you could find others, but they'd be coming from further away, and that means everything would get a bit more expensive.
Owen casts an eye over a small knot of men sleeping in the lee of some bushes.
Owen: I was able to bring five men from Ayr, but it was hard work getting leave to bring them here, and even harder marching through Carrick without arousing any undue alarm. If I'd brought more, I think someone would have thought it was an invasion. I see that the men from the watchtower accompanied you over here, but our numbers still aren't great. I haven't spoken to the head man of the village, but I don't imagine we can expect much help from that quarter. The men of Girvan don't fight wars, they raise cattle and pull oars on fishing boats. Still, if need be we can probably gather some warm bodies that will distract a raiding party for a while.
He looks from Wodin to Padget.
Owen: Have I forgotten anything?
- [size=85]The three current companions - I'm assuming the two who have yet to be created are off on other errands.[/size]