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Another main group session. Tajna cooks dinner. Apologies to Taros are in order. I thought he was in the channel and just multi-tasking for most of the session... It turns out, I had a major miscommunication and he didn't know it was going on...

<=Scene=> Begin Chapter Twenty

Tajna - Eukara; Wimji - Rachel. Everyone else - Me.

<=Scene=> The first half of day two passes uneventfully. The soldiers were mostly silent, perhaps worried about poor Samuel and his situation, or perhaps for other reasons.

<=Scene=> Long about noon, the group stops for lunch. Everyone gets out of their respective carts... well, except for Ecthelion, who, like yesterday, is sleeping through lunch it seems.

<Aleric> Well, lets hope today’s lunch is a little less exciting than yesterday's eh?

<Tajna> Yes, that would be favorable.

<Wimji> Bah, don't know about the rest of you, but I needed a little excitement.

<Salov> Oh, don't worry.

<Salov> There will be plenty of excitement before this trip is over, I'm sure.

<Tajna> Ha! I was happy for once to not be running, sneaking or hiding for once. Sure, I like my line of work, but a break is good every now and again

<Salov> You may get a chance to do some of that soon.

<Salov> When we get to Gainesville in a couple of days, we'll need to try to dig up some information about our boy Roget.

<Tajna> Hmmm, I have been thinking about this... and wondering if I will need to employ my disguising abilities or if sneaking around will be enough.

<Tajna> ...I probably should have pondered that more in town. Grrr

<Salov> We know he's headed this way, and think he's still down here somewhere, probably somewhere in Tilverton or Smithson, but we don't know exactly where of course.

<Salov> So, I figure we'll probably lay over in Gainesville for a day or so, and you and Elisandra can see if you can dig up some information on him.

<Tajna> Sounds like fun.

<Aleric> Not to me, but then, it's not my line of work.

<Jennifer> Well, lunch is almost ready. It's not much today, just a bit of soup and some oranges. Hope that's ok.

<John> Thats perfectly fine by me Jen.

<Wimji> It'll do.

<Tajna> Hey, it has oranges, so I am good

<Jennifer> Glad you approve.

<John> So, I hear you're giving Jen the night off cooking tonight Tajna?

<Tajna> Yeah! I would love to cook up some fish for all of you. I have this really great combo that, if I can find everything, will be just awesome!

<Wimji> Fish! That sounds great.

<Tajna> Yeah, as we have been traveling I have been watching the areas closest to the road for certain ingredients. So don't be alarmed if I jump out periodically.

<Salov> Ecthelion likes to fish, assuming there is a place by a lake to stop.

<Salov> Considering the terrain down here, there likely will be.

<Tajna> Well, I hope he is up for it, then. And yeah, I have been betting on that. If not, I have an alternative

<Aleric> Does he like fishing more than sleeping?

* Salov shoots Aleric a dirty look.

<Aleric> Hey, it's a valid question, but never mind...

<=Scene=> Jen breaks the tension, by announcing that lunch is now completely ready.

<Salov> Thanks Jen.

* Salov goes over and gets himself a bowl of vegetable soup and an orange.

* Tajna gets her soup and orange and sits down. She smells it and feels her stomach rumble.

* Wimji grabs some soup and an orange.

* Samuel returns from watering the horses, and gets himself something as well.

* Wimji tastes the soup.

<Wimji> Hmmm... bit bland for my taste. Needs a little something.

* Wimji casts Flavor.

<Wimji> That's better. Soups tend to require a little seasoning for me to enjoy them.

* Tajna takes a deep breath and begins to eat. --If I just ignore it, I will be fine.-- She hums quietly, relaxing a bit.

<Jennifer> Sorry my soup wasn't flavored to your satisfaction, professor.

* Jen looks a little hurt.

<Samuel> Don't take it personal Jen. Gnomes have a different kind of taste sense than humans and elves. The rest of us think it's great, don't we?

* Tajna gets up for a second helping, if that is possible. "Got more, I am starving?"

<Wimji> The soup is very good Jen. I just like a hint more seasoning in my soups is all.

<Salov> It's very good Jen.

<John> I like it.

<Aleric> Next time you do that, could you do my bowl as well Wimji?

<=Scene=> The knights shoot Aleric a dirty look.

<Aleric> Oh what, it was a JOKE.

<Aleric> It's good Jen, really. Don't mind me.

* Jen stops staring at Aleric long enough to give Tajna a second bowl.

* Tajna nods her thanks and sits back down.

<Jennifer> Sorry, Tajna.

<Tajna> Not a problem, you were dealing with other matters far more important that a second bowl. Besides, it was worth the wait.

<Jennifer> No, I should have just ignored him. At least someone likes it.

* Tajna shrugs slightly. Some things are just hard to ignore. No worries! Man, but that was great. I am not a good soup maker. We will have to sit sometime and talk soup!

* Aleric eats the rest of his meal in silence, then goes back over and climbs in his wagon.

<Jennifer> Sure, that'd be fun.

* Tajna smiles.

<Tajna> So, Salov, where will we be setting up camp when we get to Gainesville?

<Salov> I can't remember the name of the inn right off to tell you the truth.

<Salov> There's an elf run place there, that was recommended to me. The name will come to me I’m sure.

<Tajna> Nice.

<Salov> Well, I suppose we'd better be finishing up lunch so we can get moving on.

<John> Well, I'm done. Thanks again for a great meal Jen.

<Sameul> Me too.

<Jennifer> Anyone else want anymore of this before I throw it out?

<Tajna> If you don't mind, Jen, I am going to run down to the stream just over there and rinse out the bowl and wash up a bit. Need me to do

<Wimji> I think I'm finished up.

<Jennifer> If you'd not mind taking the bowls down to the river and washing them out then, I'd appreciate it.

* Tajna nods and takes all the bowls she can carry and heads down to the stream

<=Scene=> The knights all make ready to go.

* Tajna finishes up rinsing the bowls out and moves slightly to wash up a bit. Once certain she is hidden, she undresses slightly to run the cold water over her skin to cool down. She takes little time, but feels better. Once ready, she returns, refreshed and with clean dishes.

<Salov> Ah there you are. We're ready to go if you are.

* Tajna ducks her head slightly. "Yeah, everything is clean and ready. And I am too.

* Salov climbs up into the wagon then turns to offer Tajna a hand up.

* Tajna takes Salov's hand, enjoying this treatment.

<=Scene=> The wagons roll out into the afternoon.

<=Scene=> Nothing exciting happens during the long, dull wagon ride. Eventually, the second of ten or so days of riding comes to an end.

<Samuel> Hey, there's a lake over there. Shall we stop here for the night and try to catch some fish?

<Salov> Sounds like a good idea to me. Lets do it.

<Tajna> That would be great! Then I can cook!

<Wimji> Mmmmm... Fish!

<=Scene=> The Wagons pull off next to a lake, and everyone climbs out, this time including Ecthelion.

* Tajna hops off the wagon. "I am going to go searching for a few things. This is best cooked with freshly found ingredients!"

<Aleric> Apparently the answer to my earlier question is "Yes"

<Ecthelion> What earlier question?

<Aleric> Does Ecthelion like fishing more than sleeping.

* Ecthelion chuckles. “Smartass. Your day will come…”

<Aleric> Everyones day will come eventually, some sooner than others I expect.

<Ecthelion> Indeed. Well, I'm going to go catch a lot of fish, who's going to join me?

<Ecthelion> What, NOBODY?

<Samuel> I'll come I guess.

* Tajna searches the ground around a few very old trees, digging about and picking stuff up. The bag she carried begins to fill.

<Jennifer> Not me. I'm going to put out some traps and hope I can catch a rabbit or squirrel for breakfast. You two have fun.

<Ecthelion> Oh, we will, don't worry.

<=Scene=> Ecthelion and Samuel head off to go fishing. Meanwhile, John is trying to take a nap.

<=Scene=> Jen gathers her traps, and heads out into the woods.

* Aleric goes off away from everyone and begins praying.

<Salov> Well, Tajna, just the four of us around.

<Salov> Anything I can do to help, or should I just stay out of the way?

* Tajna calls over her shoulder, "If you want! I am gathering little things to fry up with the fish."

<Salov> What do you need me to do then?

* Tajna digs through the bag and pulls out a bunch of smallish round things. "These are a type of mushroom. I need them cleaned, thoroughly. Under the miniature cap and everything."

<Salov> Ok, sure.

* Salov heads over to the lake to do just that.

* Tajna lets out a yelp of surprise and digs.

* Salov returns with the cleaned mushrooms after a bit.

<Salov> What was that yelp I heard? For a moment I thought maybe you were in trouble.

<Tajna> "Oh," *blushes* "I found something to add that I haven't seen in a long time. I think Wimji will like it the most though. Has a really strong flavor, a bit spicy, but not that spicy."

<Salov> What's it called?

<Tajna> Well, I have heard it called allius most often. Sorta like an onion, but with a peppery kick.

<Salov> It's definitely sounds different.

<Tajna> It's hard to find. Let's just say I first discovered it on the job...

<Salov> On the job? Should I ask, or is this a story for another day?

<Tajna> I was asked to steal something from a high end jewel dealer. I chose a dinner party to do it. Dressed up all fancy, disguised as a hanger on of rich men. Before I found the item, I had the opportunity to sample the food. The dish was made with this plant.

<Salov> I see, well, anything else I can help with, or should I go see how everyone else is doing?

<Tajna> I am going to quickly wash these and the tubers, then I will start cooking. So, perhaps checking on the others would be good. Just put the mushrooms with the cooking stuff and tell Wimji if she is up there that I am going to try to make her taste buds sing."

<Salov> You know...

<Salov> Usually using the word sing in the presence of a Gnome isn't a wise idea. I'll try to think of a better description for her.

* Salov puts the mushrooms he’s cleaned with the cooking stuff, then heads off to check on the others.

* Tajna heads down to the Lake and begins to wash of the tubers and allius. She turns the bag inside out and places the clean foodstuff inside, then washes her hands. The events find her happy and she sings, finding herself repeating the song she heard in the tavern that night before they left.

* Tajna decides that everything ready, so she heads back. Still singing, she heads for Jen. Finding everything already out but no fire yet, she gets one started and sits down next to it. She starts slicing up the mushrooms, allius and tubers, throwing the pieces into a large frying pan that sits over the fire.

* Aleric wanders into the area.

<Aleric> I say, I was just over talking with Elisandra, but I thought I smelled allius, and thought I'd come check.

* Tajna nods. "I was very fortunate. I was digging for tubers and came across a small patch of them. Find of a lifetime, considering how expensive they are."

<Aleric> I haven't had that in ages.

<Aleric> I like your cooking better than Jen's, and I haven't even tasted it yet.

* Tajna blushes

<Tajna> I think that is due to different worlds. I don't think I could do this everyday. But, well, with what we are doing, I wanted to do something special. And the luck of the area. I never expected to find all that I did.

* Jen comes out of the woods behind Aleric.

<Jennifer> I heard that you know.

<Aleric> Actually, no, I didn't know for once. Sorry if I offended you. It was meant more as a complement than as a slight.

<Jennifer> No rabbit for you in the morning if my cooking is so bad.

<Aleric> Look, I said I was sorry earlier, when I was only joking to begin with, and I said it again now. My honest opinion of your cooking is that it's slightly above average. That’s it. If that's not good enough, then I guess I'll do without the rabbit.

<Jennifer> Apology accepted... I guess.

<=Scene=> About this time, the men come up from the lake bearing many fish!

<Jennifer> Looks like quite a haul!

<Tajna> Oh My!

<Tajna> Good thing I found all this other stuff, or the flavoring would have been terrible thin.

<Ecthelion> I hope 9 rainbow trout will be enough?

* Tajna looks at all the faces. "I believe, Ecthelion, those well rounded trout and the fixings will have us sleeping well tonight!"

<Jennifer> Nine?! You caught nine in just a few hours.

<Ecthelion> Twelve, actually, but three of them were a little small, so I threw them back.

<Tajna> Twelve!

<Aleric> Dude, you DO like fishing more than sleeping.

<Salov> Well, I didn't catch them ALL. Samuel helped.

<Tajna> Still, the two of you did wonderfully!

<Aleric> (whispered to Elisandra) You know, this guy sleeps a lot, and his snoring is a little annoying, but he's pretty good at his stuff.

<Ecthelion> It's just a matter of thinking like a fish.

<Salov> Well, how long will it take for you to cook dinner now that the fish have arrived? Do we have time to go take a bath in the lake you think?

<Tajna> I think you have time for a bath. Once I clean the fish and get them on the pan, I bank the fire a tad to let the juices absorb.

<Salov> Alright then, lets go take a bath then men. Jen, would you wake John up and see if he wants a bath while we have the chance?

<Jennifer> Sure, captain.

<Aleric> I think I'll join you in that bath if you don't mind.

<Salov> I suppose I don't mind.

* Tajna gives the stuff in the pan a good flip, and the sets of to the edge of camp to clean the fish, filleting them. She leaves the bones and disposed items far off from camp.

<=Scene=> The male members of the group all go take a bath in the lake while dinner cooks.

* Tajna returns and layers the fillets with the sliced items, and banks the fire so that there is but a quiet sizzle coming form the pan.

<Jennifer> (to Tajna, out of hearing of the others) You know, that Elisandra girl sure is quiet. Is she always like that?

* Tajna whispers back. "Very much so. She speaks to Aleric mostly. I don't know if she truly likes any of us or the situation. Not that it is the best one, but, well, she just keeps to herself mostly if Aleric is absent."

<Jennifer> I see. Well, maybe tomorrow night, I'll see if I can draw her out of her shell a little bit. I just don't have the energy tonight.

<Jennifer> If that doesn't work, we'll just have to talk about soup tomorrow.

<Tajna> That sounds good. Because if I ever cook again, it may have to be soupish, as I doubt favorable conditions like these won't come around again.

<Jennifer> Possibly not, though I'm pretty good at catching the odd rabbit or squirrel if you can make use of such things.

<Tajna> Wayward Stew! That is fun to make. It's like the scrappiest food item ever!

* Tajna carefully flips the entire stack of fish and stuff so that the juices all run the other direction.

<Jennifer> Well, tell you what. If I catch one overnight, you and I can compare notes while cooking it in the morning.

<Tajna> Sounds good!

* Tajna licks her fingers and smiles. "Well, I think this will turn out just fine. Oh and Jen, I stashed some allius in your food bags. I harvested enough to leave sufficient plants to propagate for next year, and still have some left for later meals. Just don't tell anyone."

<=Scene=> Just about the time dinner is done, the men of the group come wandering back from their bath.

<Salov> Not too late I hope?

<Tajna> Not at all! I think you guys are just in time.

<Tajna> So grab a bowl and help yourselves. We have plenty of fish and extras for everyone to take what they want, I believe.

<John> It's all thanks to the king of fishermen I hear.

* Wimji loads up her bowl with a generous portion.

<=Scene=> The knights all laod up their bowls.

<Wimji> Yum! This is so good, it makes me want to sing!

<Tajna> Yea, it is all thanks to the fisherman. They brought in one heck of a haul.

<Wimji> Did you know the art of fishing has been practiced for thousands of years?

<Aleric> One of the first things men learned how to do I expect.

<Wimji> There are many remains and fossils found over the years that prove it. Been practiced since practically the dawn of time.

<Tajna> Fish are some of the healthiest and filling meats, so good on them to start early. One day I want to retire on a lake, then I would have fish all the time. At this rate though... I think I will be dead by the time I could afford such a life.

<John> And it took all this time to come up with someone that was a fish catching machine like Ecthelion?

<Wimji> Do you know about the various methods of catching fish?

<Tajna> Hmm, well, Ecthelion said you have to think like a fish. So I assume that is one method.

<Wimji> You can catch them by hand, use a fishing pole, nets, traps, and even spear them!

<Wimji> There are many uses for fish other than for food.

<Wimji> There's of course pearls that are formed by certain kinds, which you know can be quite valuable.

<Wimji> There are fish whose skin can be used to make leather.

<Jennifer> Not to interrupt, but I have to say, this is one of the best things I have ever tasted!

<Wimji> There are a few kinds that have been used as medicines in a couple of ancient cultures.

* Tajna blushes and keeps eating.

<Wimji> The inky secretions of cuttlefish can be used to make sepia pigments.

<Samuel> I'm not sure which is more impressive. Ecthelion catching fish, or Wimji's knowledge of obscure fish lore.

<Wimji> You can make fish glue by boiling the skin, bones, and swim bladders.

<Tajna> Both!

<Wimji> Swim bladders are also use to obtain isinglass, which is used for the clarification of beer and wine.

<Wimji> You can use spare fish remains to make fertilizer.

<Aleric> Gives new meaning to the words "Fish Tale.", this does. And I have to agree with Jen, it's very good. You should definitely share the recipe with her.

<Jennifer> That's it, no rabbit for you!

<Aleric> Aww, you know I'm only teasing!

<Jennifer> Well, I'm not teasing, no rabbit for you!

<Aleric> Sorry, I'll try not to do it again.

<Salov> It was very good, Tajna.

<Wimji> Of course I could continue on, but I think that's the most interesting things to know about fishing. If you want to know more, I'm always open for your questions.

<Tajna> Thank you Salov, and you also, Aleric and Jen, for your comments.

<Salov> You wouldn't mind doing this again sometime, would you? We will have at least 5 more nights in the wilderness.

<Tajna> As long as Jen is OK with it. We are already looking at discussion some cooking.

<Samuel> It was very good, but, it's my bedtime I think. Good night all!

<Salov> Night Samuel.

<Tajna> Good night Samuel.

<Salov> Well, maybe before we leave Gainesville, you could come up with something for the first night out from there.

<Salov> Gainesville is a fairly large city. Over seven thousand I hear.

<Tajna> That is a possibility. Surely a city that size would have good places for herbs not easily found on a journey.

<Salov> It's the largest city in it's province, not to mention anywhere in the southlands.

<Tajna> OH! That would mean it is also a trade center, too then. Maybe, if I am a good girl, I will come into possession of a few interesting spices and herbs? yes?

* Salov laughs I suppose that could be arranged, sure.

<Aleric> Well, I'm off to say some prayers before bedtime. See you all in the morning.

<Tajna> Good night Aleric.

<Tajna> Wimji, was the seasoning right for you? Anything I could have done differently?

<Jennifer> No matter how hard you pray for rabbit in the morning, you aren't getting any.

<Wimji> It was perfect! Don't change a thing.

<Tajna> Oh good!

* Tajna smiles

<Salov> Probably bedtime for me too, actually. Is there anything you need before I turn in Tajna?

<Tajna> No, I don't think so. I am going to take the pan and stuff down to the lake real quick and then get a swim in and take my turn at the bathing thing. Sleeping after a large meal and bath will make tomorrow's trip that much better.

* Tajna begins to collect everyone's bowls/

* Wimji yawns quite loudly.

<Wimji> Definitely bedtime for me. Night all.

<Salov> Well, take Jen with you. You shouldn't go swimming alone right after a lage meal.

* Tajna nods.

* Wimji turns in for the night.

<Jennifer> Sure, I'll go with you.

* Tajna nods at Jen, arms full of bowls. "If you will grab the pan and utensil?"

<Jennifer> Sure, no problem.

<John> Well, I'm actually not tired since I had my nap. I think I'll just stay up with you on your watch Ecthelion.

<Ecthelion> Sure.

* Tajna heads to the lake with Jen. "Thanks for letting me cook. It is one of the few things I can do well that doesn't include my 'profession'"

<Jennifer> No problem.

<Jennifer> I get tired of cooking all the time, honestly.

<Jennifer> I guess it's sort of expected of me most of the time, though.

<Tajna> Why, because you are the girl?

<Jennifer> Yeah, because I'm the girl.

<Tajna> Psh, sometime, we should sleep in and make the guys cook. Though... we might starve.

<Jennifer> Doesn't matter that I could kick most of their asses, I'm the girl.

* Tajna laughs out loud. "That I don't doubt. The men seem like a good bunch, but I can see you able to do that."

<Jennifer> We'd starve if we made the men cook.

<Jennifer> Unless Ecthelion was actually awake, then we might stand a chance.

<Tajna> Yeah, I won't hold my breath.

<Tajna> This lake is perfect. The beach is sandy, not grimy. Perfect for washing stuff and laying it out. And you don't have to worry about your clothes getting gross when you go for a swim.

<Jennifer> Yeah, we were lucky to stop here.

<Jennifer> Maybe whoever they send to replace Samuel will be able to cook.

<Tajna> I am wondering who that will be.

<Jennifer> I have no idea.

* Tajna kneels and begins to rinse out the bowls. "Well, after what happened with eh wolves, we needed a stop like this one."

<Jennifer> As long as it isn't... no, surely she won't send him.

* Tajna looks up after placing the last bowl on the sand. "Surely she won't send who?"

<Jennifer> Kasparov.

* Tajna chokes on the air she had breathed in. "That... would be... disastrous."

<Jennifer> You've met, I see.

<Tajna> Yes, though my first impression wasn't an action, but the revelation of his thoughts by the priestess...

<Jennifer> He's good at his job, but, he's like a 13 year old boy the way he thinks of women.

<Jennifer> He's not evil, or mean, he just needs to grow up.

<Tajna> Yes... and that would certainly not be a problem at all here...
*rolls eyes* I swear, it would make the journey a bit more crazy. And I know he isn't evil, but well, I want to know that I am not being watched 24 hours a day.

<Jennifer> I don't think he's THAT bad. ALMOST that bad, but not quite.

<Tajna> Probably not, I am just paranoid about stuff like that.

<Jennifer> Of course, you'd probably gather more attention from him than I would, so maybe he would be like that around you.

* Tajna scrunched up her nose. "Bleh, well, we will have to worry about that *if* the man is sent to replace Samuel. Alright, I don't know about you, but I am ready for that swim."

<Jennifer> Me too.

* Jennifer disrobes and wades in.

<Jennifer> It's a little colder than I expected, even at night.

* Tajna lays out her clothes on the sand and gets in. "Yeah, there must
be some cold springs that feed it."

* Tajna picks up a handful of sand and begins to rub it on her arms and shoulders, enjoying the feeling of scrubbing away a day of travel.

<Jennifer> Hard to say, but you could be right.

<Tajna> Either way, this may not be a long swim. I can only stand being in cold water for so long.

<Jennifer> Yeah, I agree. Just a few more minutes, then I'll be ready to go when you are.

<Jennifer> Next time WE swim during the daylight.

* Tajna unties her hair, letting it unravel and disappears below the surface for a few seconds. When she surfaces, she nods. "Definitely. The men can clean up while we bath and have a swim."

<=Scene=> A few minutes pass.

<Tajna> Alright, I think I am about done.

<Jennifer> Well, I know I'm done.

<Jennifer> If you don't mind, I'm going to go to bed. I have last watch, so it'll be a short night for me.

* Jennifer walks out of the lake, and begins putting her clothes back on.

* Tajna exits the lake too. "No, go ahead. I completely understand. Thanks for the company tonight. It was nice to have a woman to talk to."

* Tajna wrings out her hair before beginning to get dressed.

<Salov> Thanks, good night then.

<Tajna> Good night.

* Tajna watches Jen walk away and begins to gather up the bowls. She walks back slowly, reflecting on the days events and smiles. When she gets to camp she notices John and Ecthelion on watch. She nods and puts the dishes away. She realizes her hair is down, but doesn't care this night.

* Tajna walks towards the guys. "Good night John, Ecthelion. Again, you were great today fishing Ecthelion. You have made tomorrow that much more bearable. I hope you have an uneventful watch and good sleep when your time comes."

<Ecthelion> Goodnight.

<John> See you at breakfast.

* Tajna smiles and turns towards bed. She walks away playing with her hair, absentmindedly.

<=Scene=> End Chapter Twenty.
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