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The "Picnic"


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This is just a little something I belted out on the weekend for the Imoen Fan Challenge (Yes, I go to the IR Forums, be afraid). But don't let that fool you, there's nothing wrong with this story (Star Wars had worse).


Enjoy. And in case you wonder who Arlin is, he's the PC....



“Imoen, I don’t think this is a good idea.”

“Oh come on Arlie, what could possibly go wrong?” replied Imoen, scrambling over a gnarled tree root.

“Gorion said that we could have a picnic outside, as long as we didn’t stray too far, he didn’t say we could spend a night sleeping rough.” Arlin shifted the straps on his backpack. “When we turn up tomorrow, he’s not going to be very pleased.”

“Look, I’ve explained this.” said Imoen, rolling her eyes. “If we stick to the story about staying out too long and getting lost, then Gorion won’t be too mad. We’ll just get a scolding and that’ll be that. Stop worrying, will ya?”

Arlin considered this. It was true that they weren’t carrying anything that would tip Gorion off that they’d intended to sleep outside Candlekeep. All they had was a little food and a big blanket, not really camping equipment at all. But Gorion seemed to know when Arlin was lying and Arlin could always see the disappointment in his eyes. Then again, Imoen had wanted to do this for weeks, she was so excited about spending a night in the wilderness, though Arlin wasn’t sure that the woods outside Candlekeep counted as wilderness. Imoen had plowed on, regardless of Arlin’s thoughts, and was only partially visible through the trees ahead. Arlin sighed and hurried on after his friend.




As the two temporary fugitives entered a clearing, dark eyes turned and began to regard them. From a position of concealment, the eyes stared balefully at them, their owner beginning to consider its options.




“Here’s a good spot, don’t you think?” Imoen said, turning around to face Arlin as he entered the clearing.

Arlin looked around. “Yeah, looks good. Plenty of shade and not too many tree roots.”

“Yeah, that’s what I thought. It’s not a feather bed, but this is the wilderness.” Imoen grinned.

Arlin took off his backpack and opened it, pulling out the rough woolen blanket and spreading it across the ground. “Should we eat first, or look around a bit?”

Imoen canted her head to the side, put one hand on her hip and tapped her lips with the fingers of the other hand. “Hmmm, maybe eat first. I’m kinda hungry after that walk.”

“Right.” said Arlin and began to remove the cloth-wrapped bundles from the backpack. “Cut me some bread, will you Arlin?” said Imoen, crossing to the blanket and sitting, cross-legged upon it.

“Alright, here take the cheese.”

“Okay.” Imoen began to rummage through the backpack.




With nary a sound, the eyes ghosted around the clearing, trying to get a better view of Arlin and Imoen. High in a tree, the eyes stared down at the two. Attack? Not yet. Too much at stake. Just watch for now, there will be a better time.




Imoen sighed and leaned back “That was good. Well, what d’ya think? Should we have a bit of a look around now?”

“Alright, but we’d better be careful not to get lost”

“But if we do-oo,” said Imoen, in a sing-song voice, “Then we won’t have to lie to Mister G, now will we?”

“And what about Winthrop?”

“Old Puffguts’ll know. He’ll yell and holler at me an’ I’ll get some extra chores, but I’ll be alright. Mister G might stripe your hide if he knew the truth,” Imoen grinned “so you just let me do the talking.”

“He’ll talk to me Imoen. I’m the eldest; I’m supposed to be responsible.”

Imoen put her hands on her hips “You’re not that old Arlie. I’m only a few seasons younger than you, even if you are a lot taller. So, just stick to the story and we’ll be okay.”

“Alright, Imoen, alright. You win. Let’s go and have a look around.”




The eyes continued to watch as the two set off into the woods. As they moved through the trees they passed out of sight from time to time and the mind behind the eyes grew concerned. It would not do to let those two get out of sight.




“Imoen, come look at this!”

Imoen looked away from the quarreling squirrels and turned to Arlin. “What? Did you find something?”

“A cave, Imoen, a deep cave!”

Imoen crossed the distance between them rapidly and looked into the crack in the earth. “Wow. It is deep. I told you we’d find something. Maybe there’s treasure in there!”

“We won’t be able to go very far Imoen. If only we had a light.”

“Well, it just so happens that I do.” Imoen triumphantly produced a small oil lamp “I figured we might need a little light for when the sun goes down.”

“Didn’t Winthrop think it was weird to see you taking a lamp?”

Imoen grinned “What Puffguts doesn’t know won’t hurt me.”

Arlin smiled in return “In that case, what are we waiting for?”

“See, you’re as excited as I am. Let’s go!”

The lamp was lit and the two friends entered the cave. The cleft wound deep into the side of the hill, twisting and branching leading Arlin and Imoen ever onward.




The dark eyes watched as the two went into the cave. They’ll have to come out eventually. Best to check back in.




“Nothing.” Imoen huffed, kicking a pebble across the small chamber. “Not even a copper.”

“You’d think that there’d be old carvings or something in a cave this big.” Arlin, almost as discouraged as Imoen, scraped the walls with his belt knife half-heartedly.

“Nothing but rocks and bat droppings,” Imoen sighed “Come on, let’s go back and see what else we can find outside.”

Just as they turned, a great, deep, rumbling sounded from towards the entrance, reverberating across the small chamber.

Imoen’s eyes widened in fear “Collapse?”

“I don’t know Imoen, maybe it’s just thunder.”

“But the sky was clear!” Imoen’s voice quavered for a moment.

“No, Imoen, I think that was thunder.” Arlin was worried too, but tried his best to keep his own voice level, for Imoen’s sake. “We need to go back to the entrance and find out anyway. Come on.”

As they approached the entrance, another rumble sounded, shaking the ground around them, and a terrible wailing roar followed close behind. Both of them froze.

“A monster?” Imoen asked, looking across at Arlin’s startled expression.

“I… I don’t know.” Arlin licked his lips nervously. “I should go on to the entrance and check. Imoen, you stay here.”

“No way mister!” Imoen stuck out her chin. “We go together! We’re friends and I’m not gonna stay down hear and let you get killed alone!”

“I’m not going to get killed Imoen, I’m just going to look.”

“Oh no, you can’t fool me Arlin! I’m going and that’s that!”

Arlin sighed. “Alright Imoen, just stay behind me.” Arlin paused. “Thanks Immy.”

Imoen’s grin was slightly spoiled by the worry in her eyes “Anytime.”




Imoen and Arlin made their way back up the cave, expecting some terrible creature around every turn and corner. The roaring grew stronger as they went, becoming almost continuous. At last the entrance came into sight and the source of the roaring was revealed, much to their embarrassment.

“It was thunder.” said Arlin, staring out at the driving rain.

“There’s a lot of wind out there. Doesn’t it sound eerie in here?”

“It must be the way it’s blowing down the cave. I think the blanket’s going to be very wet.”

“Looking at that wind, I don’t think we’ll ever see it again, wet or dry.” Imoen responded, as the trees outside whipped back and forth.

The two watched the growing storm silently, for a time.

“If we try to get back to Candlekeep in that lot, we’ll catch our death.” Arlin eventually said.

“Yeah.” Imoen nodded “We’ll have to wait it out.”

“Let’s go a bit deeper, that wind’s cutting right into me.”

The two retired to the first spot out of the wind and sat down to wait out the storm. Outside, the wind strengthened, lightning flashed and coursed across the sky, as the storm swelled into a hurricane, howling down the cave and making speech impossible. The hours passed, Arlin and Imoen drawing closer in the clinging darkness, ending up in each other’s arms, listening to the fury of nature rampage outside. Imoen slept and Arlin watched her, whenever the lightning provided enough illumination. He’d been noticing her much more of late, although it wasn’t as though she was more present in any way. No-one could be as there as Imoen. But she’d been in his thoughts so often lately. He felt a need to protect her, not that she really needed him to at Candlekeep, and go along with her wild schemes. He sighed. The lightning flashed outside and Arlin saw the smile on her peacefully sleeping face. An urge seized him and he leaned forwards…




Only to have a sharp rock jab him in the side. Arlin fished about for the offending stone and pulled it out from under him, intending to cast it deep into the cave, but before he could do so, a great coruscation of lightning outside showed him what it was. The rock that had so rudely broken his mood was a gem. Well, not a gem, Arlin amended to himself, a quartz crystal. He ran his fingers over the crystal in the darkness and then, his train of thought disrupted, put it in his belt pouch and went to sleep.




Outside, the storm raged. The dark eyes that had watched Arlin and Imoen the previous day found refuge as best they could, waiting for the storm to pass. And, of course, pass it did. Before the next dawn, the ragged clouds had scudded away, east across forest and away into the lands beyond.




As the sun rose over the sea, its rays found their way into the cave, casting brilliant light on the wall across from the sleeping friends. The light caused them to stir, open their eyes groggily and finally get to their feet.

“I suppose we’d better at least try to find the blanket and my backpack” Arlin said, stretching the kinks out of his back.

“Yeah, but I think it’s a lost cause.” Imoen rubbed the sleep from her eyes and led the way out of the cave.

“I suppose that when we tell Gorion that we couldn’t come back last night, he’ll believe us.”

“Yeah, that’s a point. Maybe Puffguts won’t give me extra chores either.” Imoen sighed. “I’d hoped we’d see something interesting out here in the woods, find something exciting to do. This whole trip’s been for nothing.” Standing at the mouth of the cave, Imoen looked out at the rising sun.

“I found something last night.” Arlin said, reaching into his pouch and retrieving the quartz crystal. “It’s not much, but here, you have it.”

Imoen took the crystal and looked into its smoky, purple depths. “It’s beautiful Arlin, thank you so much. Maybe this trip wasn’t so bad after all.” Imoen leaned over and gave Arlin a kiss on the cheek. “Let’s go find that blanket.”




Exiting their erstwhile refuge, Imoen and Arlin headed back towards where they had left their blanket and the food. The clearing had been extended by the hurricane and it took a little while for the friends to orient themselves. The dark eyes watched from a nearby tree.

“Hey, I see it!” Imoen shouted. “Up there in that tree!”

“That’s not going to be easy to get. Oh well, here goes.”

Arlin began to scramble up the tree and the owner of the dark eyes tensed. Now?

“Okay, I’ve got it. Here, catch” Arlin threw the blanket down.

“Geez, you couldn’t bundle it up a bit?” Imoen complained, reaching down to pick up the blanket. “Maybe it’d actually throw a bit if you haAAAGH!”

“What? Imoen, what’s wrong?” Arlin half-shouted, dropping clumsily out of the tree.

Imoen’s face flamed red “Nothing, never mind.”

“Something must have happened, why did you yelp like that?”

Mutely, Imoen pointed down at the blanket, where a huge hairy caterpillar was crawling off of it and into the grass, managing in some odd way to look affronted.

“A c- caterpillar?” Arlin said, on the edge of laughter “You screamed like that for a caterpillar?”

“Look it touched my hand, alright? How was I supposed to know what it was?”

“But, I mean, it’s just a hairy little…”

“Don’t you get cheeky with me, Arlin!” Imoen put both hands on her hips.

Arlin’s face creased with the strain of keeping his laughter in, but Imoen’s imperial expression was too much and he erupted into gales of laughter.

“Oh, that’s it you’re gonna pay mister!” Imoen surged forward, reaching for the hooting Arlin.




Arlin, still laughing, ran off towards Candlekeep, Imoen in hot pursuit, swearing a deadly revenge. The dark eyes watched them go and finally, when they were satisfied that the two were gone and no more threat to its still intact nest, the magpie swooped down and gobbled up the caterpillar.

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