Another post from the Headmaster of the Warrior-in-Hero-Training School of the Round Table arrived on my desk this morning. True to his word, Sir Galgadin is supplying us with lectures and class notes that he believes will help both authors and heroes in combating the villainous alumni of the Academy of Ultimate Villainy.
Between rogue dragon attacks, exploding portals, and misplaced giants bumbling around, this week might be considered somewhat hectic out at the Warrior-in-Hero-Training School of the Round Table. Unfortunately, of late hectic has become more the norm than otherwise.
As I mentioned last time, one of our entry level classes is Questology 101, and one of the first things we cover is packing.
Now I can hear all you brave, young heroes groaning. You think there’s nothing more adventurous than simply strapping a knife to your belt and dashing into the wild to survive on your own. And you might be right. It is adventurous. You might survive for a day … or two … possibly three if you’re lucky. But we’ll get to the survival portion later.
I blame modern entertainment for the myriad misconceptions in regards to heroes and quests. Fantasy movies and novels love portraying heroes who dash off at a moment’s notice without a scrap of anything in their pockets and a suspiciously-empty-looking satchel on their backs.
But a good hero is always prepared.
The right supplies could just save your life. So today, we will focus on what to pack for your quest … and what to leave behind. (Namely, the kitchen sink. Trust me, you won’t need it.)
A reliable map
We don’t all of us have the internal directional system of a ranger. Some of us are forced to rely on other, more mundane means of navigation. (Yes, occasionally, we even need to ask for directions. Shocking, I know.) A good map is priceless. Especially when quests so often take us into that vast trackless land known as the wild, where maps are few and far between and rarely show what you need.
In such instances, a reliable guide is a suitable substitute. Emphasis on reliable. If he’s looks or smells like he’s just downed a bottle, best to move on.
Eatables – Non-Perishable
I can’t tell you how many novels I’ve read in which the heroes snare/trap/shoot their dinner and cook it over the campfire while singing heroic ballads beneath the stars. Fantasy. Pure fantasy. Hunting or trapping requires both time and patience – priceless commodities on a quest.
I don’t say you won’t have the chance to get off a shot or two at potential supper while questing, but you should consider this your backup plan … not your main food supply.
Pack plenty of non-perishable eatables, foods that will last and can withstand all manner of rough treatment in your knapsack. Hard bread. Dried meat. Sausage. That sort of thing. Expect to tighten your belt a notch or two as you go along. Never fear, a hero’s welcome awaits you when you return home.
Water is a must. Always carry a spare canteen. You never know when you’ll hit a patch of wilderness where all the water is brackish or poisoned for miles around, or when you’ll be stuck wandering in a desert for days on end. Water, my friends, will save your life.
Again, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read a novel or watched a movie in which the hero never carries a canteen. It’s as if there are magic springs that simply gush forth from the ground whenever he or she become thirsty. Wouldn’t that be handy?
I don’t know about you, but I know few heroes who are fluent in more than half a dozen languages. Most know only one. And yet somehow, in all those novels and movies we’ve already discussed, heroes rarely seem to have any trouble communicating with foreigners, both enemies and allies.
Until you pass your fantasy-linguistics class – much later on in our training – I suggest locating a helpful language guide and carrying it with you on quests. And by helpful, I mean one that does more than just tell you how to say words like “dog” and “cat” and “red ball.” In some fantasy realms, such phrases could get you killed.
On that note, it is best to know a little bit about the culture in which you must journey before embarking on your quest. Among scholars, this is generally considered the best way to avoid the armored cantaloupe headed monkey fiasco of 1349. (Ask your instructors about that one.)
Quests tend to be cold, wet, nasty affairs. If you wish to avoid developing pneumonia, or dying of some strange parasite or bacteria from raw meat, or freezing to death, fire is an absolute necessity.
Tinder boxes are quite useful creations. (For the uninformed: a tinder box consists of tinder – loose dry particles of charcloth or straw or lint – a flint, and steel. The fire-wielder strikes the flint and steel until sparks fly into the tinder. From there it’s a matter of blowing and feeding until the fire is large enough to catch twigs.) Handy, isn’t it?
Not the sort of thing you’d want to leave home without.
I am aware that this one seems fairly obvious. But it’s best to pack at least one extra set of clothes beside the pair on your back. One never knows when one might be dunked into freezing cold water, or half buried alive by a vengeful snow-clad mountain.
This however, is not the time to color coordinate your outfits. Warm, functional clothing is best. (Though who’s to say functional can’t be fashionable too? As long as you don’t pack the kitchen sink.)
I nearly didn’t put this one down, because hopefully by the time you are going on a quest, carrying weapons should be second nature to you. You should no more accidentally leave the house without your weapons than you should without your shoes.
Of course the type of weapons you carry will depend on your personal abilities and likes and dislikes. And occasionally, they may differ from quest to quest as you feel the need to go undercover now and again.
Well, ladies and gentlemen, I fear that’s all for today. I hear another dragon scratching at the gate -pesky nuisance dragons – so I must hasten to the rescue. Duty calls!
Oh, and by the way, do come back next time for my lecture on Stocking a Quester’s First Aid Kit.
(Thought I’d forgotten about first aid, did you? Marvelous stuff! It can save your life! Speaking of which, excuse me while I grab some burn lotion to carry into battle with me. Can’t be too careful when fighting a dragon, especially not one who carries a bottle of barbecue sauce around with him.)
~ Sir Galgadin
Headmaster of the WIHT School of the Round Table
What are some things you might include in your satchel if you were planning on going on a quest?