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Old 06-02-2017, 10:18 PM   #161
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Default Re: Campaign: Facets

(...continued)

The group paid the blood-toll and then headed through the arroyos to the base-camp Frank and Jimmy had spent most of the previous trip constructing. The weather on the other side proved much colder than on the 2014 end, and the 1918 Dark Canyon had apparently received more snow.

A.J. had drawn additional blood, during the previous month, so he paid the toll again as he took a second trip back through so as to fetch one of the ultra-lights. He and Stephen assembled it, and then took the buzzing aircraft for a spin and got an aerial view of the vicinity, much to the amazement of Izzy and Heck.

The next morning, Dec.20, Sunmi, Stephen and Claudia decided to join Henrietta for the trip up to Valle Grande to do some trading, since none of the three had ever made the trip, before. For her part, Henrietta had to go, since she was the only one who spoke both Apache and Spanish, and that made her the de facto leader of the expedition.

After some discussion, Stephen decided to leave his assault rifle in the camp and take only his semi-automatic, as he felt the long gun would prove too conspicuous (or too tempting).

The two buggies with their trailers crossed the cold desert easily enough, and soon reached the Ute Indian trading camp at the location of Moab. The quartet had little difficulty crossing the ford on the Rio Grande del Norte; the river grows to a respectable torrent in the spring and early summer, but in winter it runs low, slow and icy cold.

Once they’d crossed, the buggies took a left and headed north up el camino real at a respectable 40 mph, and reached the vicinity of the Navajo settlement in Valle Grande by mid-day. The group planned to sell off their existing cargo, quickly, and then try to make it part of the way back before the early sunset, with the notion of arriving back in Dark Canyon early enough to load up, again, and make a second trip.

As planned, the two buggies reached the outskirts of the Navaho town by mid-day, and Henrietta decided that, given the time of year and the dearth of traffic they’d seen, the four didn’t need to leave a guard on the vehicles and trailers. Instead, she found a place out of sight of the road and used her camouflage skill to conceal them in a way she considered good enough for the short duration of the visit.

The four travelers, who has donned local attire, shouldered heavy packs and made their way through the adobe-lined, crooked and curving streets. Even though crisply cold, Stephen, Claudia and Sunmi, noted the foul smells emanating from the alleys and gutters. Henrietta belatedly realized she should probably relay to them some of the warnings Doc Bascher had issued, on the previous visit.

Stephen sarcastically remarked that it might have been nice to know about the possibility of contracting cholera, polio and (oh, yeah…) smallpox before they’d arrived. Sunmi and Claudia resolved to stick to bottled water, religiously.

Nevertheless, the group pushed on and Henrietta led them to the Playa Central, and there discovered that, while not nearly the bustling chaos she’d seen at harvest time, it remained reasonably busy. Moreover, she noted that while the Spanish soldiers seemed to have withdrawn for the winter, both the Russians and the Americans remained.

Up on the north end of the playa, Henrietta saw Sergei mark their presence, and wave a friendly greeting. She gave a short wave back, but then diverted the group to the American kiosk, first.

There, Henrietta saw a similar selection of mass produced hand-tools as last time, and noted they remained inferior to the goods she’d brought, at Jimmy’s suggestion.

While Henrietta eyed the goods, Stephen eyed the men and their weapons. The former Marine immediately noted that, while the Americans didn’t wear uniforms, they were almost certainly soldiers. They’d varied their attire, he observed, and let their hair and beards grow out, but despite the primitive conditions, they remained clean; their boots and leather gear were well-maintained; not a single firearm showed any signs of neglect, and all carried identical models of bolt-action, single-shot rifles.

Stephen struck up a conversation and the Americans proved amenable enough, and they soon started swapping war-stories. At first, Henrietta didn’t pay very much attention (although Claudia did...), as she’d focused on haggling over the price of Wal-Mart bulk spices. The archaeologist realized how badly she missed Jimmy’s local expertise, and then became somewhat alarmed when Stephen mentioned service in Afghanistan.

The interested troops asked why an American had volunteered for the British Army, just to get sent to such a godforsaken place in the middle of nowhere? Stephen hastily responded that he was actually Canadian (a lie...) and, at that point, Henrietta interceded, saying they had other business to conduct. She bade the Americans good day, and marched the group north across the playa to see the Russians.

Sergei greeted Henrietta warmly, shook hands with the rest, eyed Sunmi appreciatively (as she eyed him), and asked about Aurelia. He expressed some very Russian disappointment at the news she’d not made it this trip, and asked where she could’ve gotten to, given the vast expanse of empty desert to west, and snow-bound, impassable mountains to the east.

Henrietta said Aurelia had needed to travel back to the West Coast, and sent her regrets. Sergei gave a huge shrug, tried to chat up Sunmi, and invited everyone to dinner. Sunmi managed to resist his darkly handsome Russian charms, and Henrietta told him she had a few cases of really good liquor available, if he were interested.

Sergei definitely was, and the group went back to the buggies to fetch them, as well as a few other items. After that, they moseyed down to the artisan’s playa and picked up some excellent winter blankets and nice warm clothing from the family booths there.

That moved the clock to mid-afternoon, and the group realized the sun would soon set, as this was one day shy of the shortest day of the year. Henrietta thought it a good idea to put some distance between themselves and the town, so they packed up the mostly empty trailers, jingled their silver and gold coins (noticeably fewer, this trip, but still a decent haul, given the price of precious metals in 2014…), and decided to drive a couple of hours south.

They made 65-70 miles in the two hours before the sun started to set, and the group found a dry wash with plenty of trees and undergrowth to conceal the camp. The group guided the buggies up the wash for a few hundred yards to put some high-ground between them and the highway, raked over the tracks, and Henrietta built a camouflaged fire-blind to provide further protection from prying eyes in the direction of the road.

The group set up a watch schedule, and burrowed deep into arctic-rated sleeping-bags for the night.

Stephen elected to take the third watch in the wee hours of the morning, and in the bitterly-cold hour before dawn, he suddenly heard a flurry of several dozen rifle-shots break out, somewhere in the distance to the north. Concerned, he woke Henrietta, who was set to relieve him soon, anyway, and informed her about what he’d heard.

The two listened, for a while, and Stephen slipped out toward the camino real, in case anybody came along. Seeing nothing after about 30 minutes, he made his way back to the camp and turned in, as Henrietta took the watch.

She woke up everybody as the sky began to lighten up over the mountains to the east. The group fixed a hot breakfast in the clear, bitterly-cold morning, broke camp, and headed out to the road. Once there, Henrietta and Sunmi – the two veteran SAR volunteers – spotted tracks that indicated the passage of five horses, traveling from the north to the south, sometime in the past couple of hours.

Henrietta noted that, unlike the Apache ponies, the tracks indicated these horses were well-shod, although one seemed to have suffered some sort of recent injury. Worried, the group decided to make haste south to try to reach the ford across the Rio Grande del Norte, with no delay.

Henrietta took the wheel of the lead buggy, with Claudia riding shotgun. Sunmi drove the second buggy, while Stephen stood in the back and braced himself on the roll-cage.

In less than 30 minutes, the two buggies approached a deep gully where a wash lined with pine trees and undergrowth came down from the mountains to the east, cut the road and then exited between two low bluffs to the west before it dropped down to the river. While deep, the sides were smooth and the buggies had crossed without problems in the past.

As the group passed the first hillock, Stephen spotted a movement on top and shouted a warning. Henrietta and Sunmi put the pedals down as far as they dared, but then were forced to slow down as they got close to the gully. As she got closer, Henrietta slowed for the drop into the draw, and saw a freshly cut tree lying at the bottom.

Sunmi also slowed to a crawl and suddenly Sergei stepped out from behind a tree to the west, with his rifle in his right hand, barrel pointed to the sky. The Russian shouted at them to stop the vehicles and step out of them, only to see an alarmed Henrietta turn her wheel sharply to the right so as to move down into the gully and bypass the log.

(continued...)
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Old 06-02-2017, 10:19 PM   #162
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Default Re: Campaign: Facets

(...continued)

Sergei dropped the barrel of his rifle to his left hand, pointed at Henrietta, and shouted again for them to halt. Sunmi drew her Glock as Stephen’s long-range pistol-shot took Sergei high on the right side of his torso and spun the Russian to the ground behind the tree that had concealed him.

Henrietta dropped down into the gully as fast as she dared and began to work around the east end of the tree as two Cossacks to the southwest and northwest stepped from behind cover and took aim. A.45-70 caliber rifle round from the sharpshooter on the first hill hit Stephen between the shoulder blades and smashed him, unconscious, to the floor of the buggy, where he began to bleed out rapidly.

Sunmi snapped off three shots at the Cossack a bit behind them, to the northwest, and he threw himself prone. Henrietta had just about cleared the west end of the tree when a rifle-shot from the Cossack to the southwest took her in the chest. She immediately passed out, but her prepared Major Healing spell triggered and pulled her back up to within a single hit point of regaining consciousness.

Claudia, who disliked firearms intensely, grabbed the wheel of the buggy and reached over with her left foot to smash the accelerator down. She managed to bounce the buggy up out of the gully, as Sunmi plunged down the north side and got her left front wheel stuck in some soft sand by the trunk of the downed pine.

Up on the south bank, Claudia lost control of the steering and found herself heading for a tree, as the southwest Cossack (now almost directly behind her) pulled out his cap-lock cavalry revolver rather than reload his rifle, and charged. Desperately, Claudia tried to slam the buggy into reverse so as to run him down. She couldn’t reach the clutch but tried to force it, anyway, while still moving about 20 mph forward.

The buggy’s suspension tore itself apart and the vehicle lurched to a halt short of the tree, filling the air with the smell of smoking oil.

Sunmi managed to back up out of the gully, fired three times at the northwest Cossak, tagged him once, and then the sharpshooter put a rifle round underneath her left armpit. Sunmi’s prepped healing spell triggered and she managed to remain conscious as she drove the buggy down into the gully where its banks offered cover.

Over on the other side, the Cossack ran up beside the front buggy, pointed his pistol at Claudia and pulled the trigger as she smacked it aside at the last second. The caplock smashed into a metal bar of the roll-cage as the bullet buried itself in the dashboard. Claudia went for a grapple and just managed to get a good grip as the Cossack pointed his pistol at her face, pulled the trigger and heard the abused mechanism click as the cylinder jammed.

Claudia tried to capitalize on her grapple and went for his throat, but her position (seated in the buggy) allowed him to break free and he cracked her left collarbone with the butt of the heavy pistol. Claudia’s vision went white for a second, but she managed give Henrietta a solid thump in the chest and shout at her to wake up.

The Cossack stepped back and got ready to smash Claudia again, just as Sunmi roared up from behind him. Badly wounded, Sunmi felt her buggy lurch to the right at the last moment and she missed running down the Cossack. She slammed on the brakes and jerked to a sudden halt before she hit a tree.

The man turned around and took a wild swing at Sunmi with the heavy pistol, but missed. Claudia managed to pull herself together, and realized the man had turned his back to her. She rose up out of the seat of the buggy and threw her right elbow around his throat as Sunmi picked her pistol up from out of her lap and shop the Cossack in the chest.

Stunned, the Cossack started to sag to the ground just as Claudia gave a solid heave, and she felt his neck snap. Horrified at what she’d done, Claudia dropped the paralyzed Cossack to the ground as Henrietta started to regain consciousness.

Sunmi had a second healing spell prepped with a verbal command as a trigger, and she reached back and cast it on Stephen just before he died. That stabilized him but brought him nowhere near consciousness.

In the other buggy, Henrietta regained consciousness and, despite her injuries, managed to see through the small copse of trees well enough to spot the sharpshooter advancing from the direction of his hill, as the first Cossack Sunmi shot paused to assess the situation. She also saw Sergi, badly wounded but still alive, moving toward the buggies through the trees on the north side of the wash.

Sergei spotted Henrietta just as she saw him, and he began to bring his rifle to bear. The stock of Henrietta’s nine-mil still lay under her palm and she raised it quickly and squeezed off three shots. Despite the range and the cover, she hit Sergei twice and he collapsed in a heap. (Great roll!) That was enough for the other two Cossacks, one of whom was badly wounded, himself, and they beat a hasty retreat.

The group spent the next 30 minutes, or so, binding wounds and doing general First Aid on one another. They sorely missed Doc Bascher’s services. Even though both she and Sunmi were badly wounded (and Claudia not in very good shape, either), Henrietta decided to use her second healing spell, also triggered with a verbal command, to bring Stephen around.

Remarkably, the spell worked like gangbusters and Stephen woke up to find himself in the best shape of anyone. As the women rested for a while, he assessed the situation, and realized that A.J. and Beatrice and engineered and built the buggies with just such a contingency in mind. Both the buggies and the trailers had solid construction and plenty of rings and cleats to allow one buggy to tow everything else.

Stephen got out some heavy rope and, with Claudia’s limited assistance (she had one good arm), managed to get everything lashed together. Although limited to no more than about 15 mph by the jury-rigged tow-harnesses, Stephen felt it was good enough. He took the wheel of the first buggy while Sunmi remained in the driver’s seat of the second to steer (and because she really didn’t want to move, much).

The slow speed meant the battered quartet didn’t reach the ford until mid-afternoon of Dec. 21. Stephen managed to get across with one buggy, but the second buggy and its trailer got stuck as he tried to tow them across, even though the icy river was quite low.

Stephen got out and took a look, moved a couple of rocks, and said he might be able to pull it free if at least two of the ladies got out and pushed. Henrietta and Claudia clambered out of the second buggy and did just that, as Sunmi remained in it to steer. After a bit of a struggle and a thorough drenching of Henrietta and Claudia, Stephen managed to get the buggy and the second trailer to the western shore.

There, Henrietta saw that Claudia’s face had gone white and that her lips had turned deep blue, and that the scientist had started to shiver uncontrollably. The archaeologist immediately recognized it as the early stages of hypothermia, got Claudia out of her wet clothes and bundled her in some of the (mostly) dry Indian blankets and a thick plastic tarp.

Henrietta wedged Claudia between her and Sunmi in the front seat, and Stephen began to tow the train again. About 30 minutes later, he heard a buzz and looked up to see a worried A.J. overhead, in the ultralight.

Arthur landed in the desert nearby, and dashed over to check on everyone. He ran back to the ultra-light to grab a thermos, but held off on the use of magic until the group got back to camp, just before nightfall. There, he pumped a healing spell into Sunmi and got a quick briefing about the events of the day. Realizing the rest of the group were stable, A.J. took the good buggy back through the portal.

Once there, A.J. quickly drove home to his sacred space in Moab, where he healed himself so he could pay the blood-toll again, and then prepped two more healing spells, triggered on verbal commands. That took him to the wee hours of the morning of Dec. 22, and he decided to get a few hours’ sleep.

Just after dawn, A.J. took to the road again, and made it back to through the portal and drove to the camp-site. There, he got everybody mostly healed, and listened to a fuller account of the trip to Valle Grande and the subsequent ambush.

Deeply frustrated to discover that the Russians had somehow managed to catch up to the travelers despite the better buggy engines, A.J. recommended everyone return to their own world, rather than attempt a second trip.

With that, the session ended.

##

GM Notes: This one turned out rather more fraught with hazard than I expected. I make combat rolls openly, and the sharpshooter just couldn’t miss, the first couple of shots. He proved devastating, even with a single-shot breech-loader. As soon as Sunmi had to make a roll to stay conscious, I started to fear the fight would turn into a TPK.

Fortunately, the ladies mostly made really good decisions throughout the combat, although they had some bad rolls (Claudia crit-failed her Driving roll, at minuses, and destroyed the transmission).Then my dice-luck shifted and the Cossack with the pistol crit-failed and rolled a jam. The fact that they actually remembered to hang healing spells, this time, saved their bacon.

I did fudge a bit when Stephen failed his HT roll to stay alive, after getting shot. Rather than kill him, immediately, I gave him 10 seconds to bleed out. This was Jeff’s first full session in which his character got to take the spotlight, and I knew the party had healing spells prepped. I just didn’t want to force him to generate a new guy almost immediately upon joining the campaign as a full-time player.

(continued...)
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Old 06-02-2017, 10:25 PM   #163
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(...continued)

As for Anten’s frustration about the ability of the Cossacks to catch up, I do understand it, but some additional research should indicate how they managed it. That said, there’s also a reason I rolled a single d6 to see how many of them actually made it, that far.

G&AInc. commented that I was probably a bit lenient by giving out only a -2 penalty for maneuvering around the log in the gully, while under fire. He probably had a good point, but given Becca's missed "Driving" roll and Tisa's critical fail, I think the whole "stuck/broken buggy" thing worked out, okay.

Despite the near-death experience, both Debbie and Sunmi said it was one of the most fun sessions for them, thus far. Their actions were key, and Henrietta has come a long way since the days she was more of hazard to herself and her friends, than she was to any of the enemies.

Funny Quotes

Aurelia: Step One – stay in the same universe! Step Two – No more losing limbs!

(Bernetta, who repaired helicopters during her service in the U.S. Army, explains what it’s like to land under auto-rotation.)
Jeff (OOC): It’s like those spinning seeds.
Bennie (OOC): Only, in a giant metal death machine!
GM: With 20,000 moving parts, all flying in formation.

Sunmi: Hey! You guys want to do Secret Santa, since it’s December?
Randy: I’m down.

(Beatrice gripes about having to remain behind.)
Sunmi: Use the time to go to work. And learn your lesson.

(Stephen begins to swap war-stories with the not-so-clandestine American reconnaissance unit.)
Tisa (OOC): Maybe you want to stop talking?
Jeff (OOC): Nope. <points to the disadvantage, “Chummy” on Stephen’s character sheet.>
Anten (OOC): It’s the gift that keeps on giving!
Jeff(OOC): I’m gonna tell them about the time I was in Afghanistan!

##
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Old 06-03-2017, 12:24 AM   #164
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Sunmi: Use the time to go to work. And learn your lesson.
Oh-hohohohohoho! That one had to sting!
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Old 06-03-2017, 12:39 AM   #165
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Something I've been wondering about for awhile now...

How did the Giant/Trolls get into the cave in the first session? The portal bridge two worlds, in neither world are their such creatures (so far?).

Has this little mystery been solved by the PCs or did they eventually forget about it? Or did they just never really pay attention to this?
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Old 06-03-2017, 01:38 AM   #166
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Oh-hohohohohoho! That one had to sting!
Yeah. Sometimes Bernetta's daughters take advantage of my blanket ban on my sister exercising "mom authority" on Samantha and 'Becca, during game-time. :)

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Something I've been wondering about for awhile now...

How did the Giant/Trolls get into the cave in the first session? The portal bridge two worlds, in neither world are their such creatures (so far?).

Has this little mystery been solved by the PCs or did they eventually forget about it? Or did they just never really pay attention to this?
They didn't really check into it, much, but I've dropped a few hints about the possible nature of those things. As noted, back then, I drew them from American Indian mythology.

Basically, just about every culture has its version of ogres, which act as magnified reflections of particularly problematic sociopathic behaviors. In effect, myths allow those who tell them to discuss human experiences -- especially traumatic ones -- by making them into monster stories.

The wendigo is the most obvious example (humans who degenerate to cannibalism), but tsiants are the same sort of thing.

Remember, this is (basically) a variation on an "Infinite Cabal" campaign, with healthy doses of GURPS: Voodoo, as well as dribs and drabs of ideas from other sources. G: Cabal includes a healthy dose of the notion, "monsters are (frequently unpleasant) people, too," which helps make it so interesting and unique.

Moreover, the group has already seen a few examples of what lies within the veil of faerie.
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Old 06-05-2017, 01:16 PM   #167
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I've been mulling over the ambush (very nice BTW*) and I'm somewhat surprised that the group didn't make one or two diesel motorcycles. Sure, less cargo capacity, but they'd be par excellent as outriders and rapid escape vehicles.

Though... I suppose they didn't consider the need for scout riders before this.


* Nicely setup with the possibility of the party realizing someone may had pressed ahead of them (the rifle shots at night and tracks at dawn).
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Old 06-05-2017, 01:32 PM   #168
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I'm unsure of the politics in the alternate world, but was this an ambush, as such?

Sergei took care not to point his gun at them as he asked them to stop. Even in the face of behaviour which would have seen most modern soldiers or police aim at the driver and shout threats, Sergei continued to beckon them to stop while holding the rifle non-threatheningly.

As far as I can tell, the Cossacks with him were simply a security element and none of them seems to have been actually aiming a weapon at the PCs during Sergei's attempt to communicate.

In fact, not a single Cossack aimed a weapon at anyone until after Sergei was shot. While he was standing in the open with his gun held in a deliberately unthreathening way which rendered him defenceless. Which he had no reason to do if this was really meant to be an ambush, as he could have simply shot them from cover.
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Old 06-05-2017, 02:40 PM   #169
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Sergei took care not to point his gun at them as he asked them to stop. Even in the face of behaviour which would have seen most modern soldiers or police aim at the driver and shout threats, Sergei continued to beckon them to stop while holding the rifle non-threatheningly.
Sergei (as per the description) pointed his rifle at Henrietta before he was shot. It is likely this threatening gesture is what prompted Stephen to shoot him (which kicked off the firefight).

"Sergei dropped the barrel of his rifle to his left hand, pointed at Henrietta, and shouted again for them to halt."

I take this as the rifle is now pointing at Henrietta.


Regardless, you do not block a road and flag down travelers with a firearm unless you are the authorities or seek to rob them. Had Sergei's intentions been anything other than highway robbery, he'd have made himself visible without a gun or attempted to barricade their path with a tree.

His intentions were obvious.
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Old 06-05-2017, 03:12 PM   #170
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Sergei (as per the description) pointed his rifle at Henrietta before he was shot. It is likely this threatening gesture is what prompted Stephen to shoot him (which kicked off the firefight).

"Sergei dropped the barrel of his rifle to his left hand, pointed at Henrietta, and shouted again for them to halt."

I take this as the rifle is now pointing at Henrietta..
I took it as him holding the rifle unreadied by the barrel in his left hand and pointing at Henrietta with his now empty right hand. After all, you don't touch the barrel of a rifle you are about to fire, that's what handguards are for.

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Regardless, you do not block a road and flag down travelers with a firearm unless you are the authorities or seek to rob them. Had Sergei's intentions been anything other than highway robbery, he'd have made himself visible without a gun or attempted to barricade their path with a tree.

His intentions were obvious.
That's why I mentioned my lack of local political knowledge. I don't know enough to rule out the Cossacks being soldiers/mercenaries/guards/law-enforcers (the lines have historically been blurry) in the service of a local polity or landowner. Or working on behalf some polity (Russia or whoever) further away, investigating a suspicious group of armed strangers, who are clearly lying about most of what they say, and seem likely to be arming Apache raiders in contravention of local law and treaties.

The Cossacks had a firefight the night before. Against whom?

It's not unreasonable of them to be wary and, in any case, a rifle is a standard part of travelling kit out West. Just carrying one isn't unfriendly when away from civilisation.
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