I remember the first time I ran out of blade oil. About seven years ago, I was stuck in a desert cave. Not the kind with the beating sun and nothing to drink; no, this one had water all around and sub-zero temperatures to go with it. I had been stalked by a pack of wolves for 5 days at that point and I was just excited to spend a night without having to climb another indigo spruce. My sap stained hands were still purplish - black from the night before and I knew, at that point, the only way to get the same glue like goo out of my hair was going to be with my blade. As I entered that inky-black pit in the side of the rocky outcrop, I failed to realize that the entrance was also my only exit.
That night I used up my last bottle of mage light (the two mix concoction, not three, as I don’t like the sulfur smell). Of course that meant it wasn’t as bright, or warm, but it did the trick all the same. I remember sitting there rubbing my hands together in the dim light, watching the filaments of sap between my fingers. It reminded me of a time when my father was showing me how to scale a white wood tree (you know the ones that look like dragon bone without any bark) anyway, he used the mucus from a gastropod to coat his palms so they would stick. After he made it to the top he threw down one of the heart branches (I later made into my first bow). He slid down using his forearms and legs, keeping his hands well clear of the trunk. He landed lightly to the ground, touched my arm and swiftly pulled away. I yelped from the sting of flesh pulled tight from the sticky mucus. He pulled out some blade oil and poured it over his hands and rubbed them together. (I love the smell of that oil…) Anyway, after a few seconds of rubbing, I noticed the mucus began coming off his hands. He stopped, holding a small sticky mucus ball, he threw it at a tree where it flattens out then slowly returns to shape and starts rolling down the bone white surface to the ground.
So I get this great idea. I pull out my blade oil and pour some over my hands. Sure enough, the pitch starts to liquefy again and I add some sand to my black ooze blend, the grit helped, and in a few moments I had a sticky black heap of spruce spunk (a new compound I named and found other uses for later) again I digress… Anyway, it worked for my hands, why not for my hair? After about 10 minutes, and all my blade oil, my hair is spruce spunk free with the lovely smell of cloves. I found the glob of spruce spunk quite fascinating. Sometimes liquid, sometimes almost a solid. Sticky, but preferring not to mark surfaces and keep its ball shape. I decided to keep it in my blade oil side pouch as the years of oil spilling in there seemed to keep the spunk from sticking.
At that point, I got up and obstructed the door so those hell hounds couldn’t enter and garrote me in my sleep. With the last of the mage light I pulled out my twin blades (my girls… daggers really but they look much bigger in my hands) with their grip and pommel carved from extinct rhinocorn bone. I started my nightly routine of inspecting the cutting edges and the hilt. The wrapped grips were constantly being repaired from over use and the caustic blood of the local fauna. I took out the last of my blade oil to shine up the girls before calling it a night only to realize I used the last of it in my hair.
Idea… I had a small vial of olive oil still (why I had olive oil is another funny story) anyway, I figured, it’s oil, it should do the trick right… So I lubed up my blades in the normal manner and stuffed my oil cloth back into my left boot and called it a night. The howling outside that night was like to wake the dead as it was to let me get some sleep.
As the gloom of dawn appeared at the cave’s maw, I gave the mage light one last shake. It was all but out, so I wasn’t going to warm up my hands before removing the boulders. The air outside was so cold and dry. I put my hands up to cover my mouth as I inhaled my first breath of the perma-frozen day. Father used to call this temperature “the south end of a north bound ice wraith”. (Note to self: Never meet an ice wraith) Strangely there weren’t any tracks in the hoar frost except mine from the day before. Tricky, tricky little hell hounds. I took about 3 steps out from the entrance and crouched down a bit to inspect my own tracks.
I’ll never forget the growl that emanated from the pack leader. It was a reverberation that pained my ears. I twisted to see him standing over the cave entrance. The sound intensified until I had to cover my ears while I dropped the rest of the way from crouching to my knees. The Alpha had only one eye and half of an ear. The fur on the left side of his muzzle, across his face and missing eye was all but carved away. Rough, pitted leather grew back years ago, but not without showing the three jagged claw marks that left the face permanently ravaged. (Probably from an ice wraith!) The Alpha was about twice my size, but I was fast.
I get this sensation when something is about to happen. It feels like a centipod crawling over the back of my neck. All I need is this feeling and I react without thought. Time seems to slow down. Colors are brighter, sounds are deeper. I go for my girls… they’re STUCK in their sheaths! The Alpha is leaping. I see the tensed muscles of his haunches, tendons pulling tight. Think! My only thought was of the spruce spunk. I pulled the globule from my hip pouch. In the last moments before he would have splayed me flat from his leap, I was able to precisely fling the ball to the right side of his face and side roll out of the way. I felt the ground confirm his weight as he tumbled over me. He sprawled out on the ground twisting and clawing at his eye. I had one chance to use both hands and rip a sheath halfway and peel out one of the girls. The Alpha, still blinded, staggered to his feet as I shoved my dagger up though the bottom of his jaw and into his brain. The relief I felt with his shuddering death. I gave the blade a final twist for good measure.
I was a little light headed as I stood. I staggered to the side and leaned against the cave mouth. Still a bit dizzy, I looked up to see no less than eight large wolfs in a semi-circle around me. I quickly used my dagger to free the other and took up my standard half crouch fighting stance. One-by-one, the wolves looked to the sky and let out howls. The howls reverberated the ground and soon all matched pitch. I could almost swim in this sound. It started to snow. (I heard it happens only once in every 10-12 years) I stood up, half in trance, listening to this chorus of sorrow. The reverberation was felt in my feet, hands, spine and soul. This Alpha was something else, and THIS was something I had never heard of before. I felt a tear run down my left cheek and freeze before it touched my lips. The wolves stopped the howling suddenly. The largest wolf of the pack (the new Alpha?) stepped forward with ears and eyes fixed on me. A low rumbling growl escaped quavering lips. The rest of the pack turned and trotted away. The new Alpha looked over his shoulder to the East and then looked back at me. I slid east along the rocky outcrop never taking both eyes away from his. It wasn’t until I was at least 100 paces away I had the courage to turn my back on the pack and keep walking. I remember smiling as I turned for the south and for warmer winds. The pack let me go…
I’ll never forget that the rest of my life.
Never lube a blade with fucking olive oil… How was I to know... I was only twelve.
– Campfire stories: Kaylee, on the proper care of your dagger.