A story of 446 words written for the No Dialogue Competition, September 2019.
| A Night Of Rest
Tired of travelling, bone-weary and exhausted the three cloaked figures dismount. For a moment it seems like one is too weak to stand, but then, with the aid of the horse, they find their balance.
There is no time to rest, not yet, for there are branches to be gathered, sticks too. The three spread out, seeking the broken limbs that scatter the ground. Those that have lain there a while will burn best; the newer, greener branches will last longer when the fire gets going.
Backwards and forwards they go, making piles of all that they find. Only when there seems to be plenty does one stay behind to lay a framework of kindling. Getting a spark from flint is not easy unless you know how; the travelers have had plenty of practice. The pieces of flint strike hard together and the tiniest flame licks at the tiny sticks until one begins to smoke, then to pop. The campfire has been ignited; now all they need do is to build it up.
Carefully, some of the driest of sticks are placed on top of the kindling that is now glowing with flickering flames. As the wood begins to slowly burn, the travelers sit with the wind at their backs. Cloaks are woven thick enough to keep its chilling fingers out, while the smoke that billows up from the campfire is drifting away from them.
Without exchanging a word, they take rations from their sacks. They will eat sparingly, drink sparingly; only when the worst of the gnawing pains of hunger have been banished will they share tales of their exploits.
Never before have they traveled together and there is many a tale to tell. One comes from the east, one from the south, the third from the west. They are united in their task, traveling northwards to remove a menace who is threatening all of their lives. They do not discuss the task, refuse to give voice to any doubts they might harbor. The country and it's population rests with them.
For this night the campfire will keep them safe. They might close their eyes, let their minds drift; they might even lie out on the ground to stretch out their aching muscles, but none will sleep too deeply and the campfire will be kept burning until morning.
Once the sun begins to make its way over the horizon, they will stamp out the smouldering embers, scatter the ash. Any remaining branches will be tossed away to land roughly where they had fallen.
It will appear that no campfire had ever been burning, and the travelers will be on their way again, stoically heading north.