Winner of RPGC #35: There's no camp like...
A camp for the night
The sun was on its way down as a man dressed in simple clothes made his way through a thick part of the forest. Simon had left the village in the morning and had been travelling the entire day. There should be a clearing ahead and if his memory served him where there was a good place to rest for the night at the edge of the forest.
The bard followed an animal track uphill and ducked to go under a thick branch. When he stood straight again, he had a good view of the area ahead. Instead of an empty field, he saw rows and rows of tents and the flags of their kingdom.
After a moment of hesitation, he went to the camp. The soldiers looked up as he approached and one of the lower officers came towards him.
"Civilians are not allowed," he told him.
Simon took in the camp as far as he could see it; the tents were put up in neat rows, but the soldiers seemed pretty laid back. "Are you at war?" he asked.
"No. Training exercise and equipment check."
"Ah…" Simon paused. "And… would you guys like some entertainment this evening?"
He opened his cloak and showed the lute he always had with him. "I'm a traveling bard. I can tell some stories or sing some songs when it's time to eat."
The officer let out an amused sound. "And join us for the meal, I reckon."
"A meal and a dry place to sleep is what I ask in exchange for my services," Simon replied with a bow.
The officer promised to ask his superiors and asked Simon to leave the camp for now. Simon retreated to the hill he had stood before and sat down between the roots of the tree. He nibbled on some dry fruits he had purchased in the previous town and watched the camp below. It was possible he wouldn’t be allowed to enter, but if they felt he was far away enough, this was a suitable place for tonight. Wrapped in his cloak he shouldn’t be too cold during the night.
He heard people shouting orders and witnessed a group of soldiers doing marching exercises, but nothing seemed urgent. He noticed a soldier leave the camp and come in his direction. He remained seated and waited patiently for the soldier to reach him.
“My superior wants to know if your offer still stands.”
“Then you are welcome to stay the night at our camp, bard. Fires are being lit; pots will boil soon. It’ll only be a simple soldiers stew.”
Simon got up and brushed off some twigs and leaves from his cloak. “My meals are rarely lavish.” He extended his hand. “My name is Simon.”
“Steve,” the soldier said in reply as he shook it. “Come, there’s a place at my fire.”
“Am I supposed to bring entertainment to the entire camp?”
“Only to south quarter.” As they walked to the tents, Steve explained the camp was always divided in four groups; each group had a commanding officer, who had a couple of lower officers under him. And then there was a camp commander who had his tent at the centre.
That evening Simon joined Steve and some of his fellow soldiers for a meal and told them a story. After that the south quarter gathered and he sang a couple of songs for them. He was allowed to sleep in the tent where the supplies were kept; the tent was there because it was a part of the camp, but because it was just a training exercise there were barely any supplies kept inside. It was much better than sleeping outside, and Simon praised Lady Luck this had been on his path.