A Rose In The Wind: A Saga of the Halmae -- Updated June 19, 2014 - Page 8




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    2x05

    A man was shouting at Arden in the marketplace. At first, she ignored him. A lot of people were shouting in the marketplace; there was no reason to think that this man was shouting at her.

    "You! Pretty lady! Red lady!"

    With a sinking feeling, Arden glanced around to confirm that she was the only red-haired woman in the vicinity. She was.

    "Pretty lady! You want bagel? Please, over here, over here!"

    "No, thank you," she said, still walking.

    "Yes yes yes! Lady! Good bagel for you! Come and see, now!"

    As his voice briefly modulated from cajoling to commanding, Arden obeyed automatically, turning to face him before she could stop herself. He was a dwarf standing in a stall full of miscellaneous junk. He was holding some rocks.

    "Yes, yes, good bagel, you like, yes? Please, come and see, come and see."

    Arden stayed where she was, frowning at the rocks, seeing nothing special. In the blessed names of all the gods," she thought, "what is 'bagel'?

    "I don't understand," she said.

    "Come and see. Make good bagel for you. Special price."

    Arden squinted. The dwarf's beard seemed to be fake. Oh, gods, this is trouble. Her goal was to buy exactly what the Justicar wanted, no more, no less; her goal was to make them all accept that she was worthy of the Blessed Daughter's trust. She needed their trust. She didn't need a stranger in a ridiculous disguise calling attention to her and speaking in riddles.

    Still, she stepped a little closer so that they could speak without shouting. "I don't understand," she repeated. "Explain to me in plain Common."

    "Pretty lady want make bagel?"

    Right. Maybe you're selling some kind of useful contraband that you can't advertise openly. And maybe you want to force me to 'make bagel' for you until my death day in your underworld slave-camp bagel-making smithy. Whatever it is, there's no way you're legal.

    "I'm leaving," she said.

    "No, no, Red! Pretty lady! Bagel! Much much bagel!"

    She kept walking. The encounter bothered her because she didn't understand it. As she bargained for plain cloaks and dutifully poked at mule poop, she wondered about the disguised dwarf. She didn't regret moving on, exactly, but she would have liked to possess the autonomy and authority to find out his business. As she walked back toward the Temple of the Givers with the mule, a few leftover gold pieces jingling in the pouch to help prove to the Justicar that she had kept nothing for herself, she realized wryly: I'm going to be wondering what 'bagel' means for the rest of my life.
    A Rose In The Wind: A Saga Of The Halmae. It's like "Daughter Of Welcome To The Halmae." Um, literally.

 

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    2x06

    At the Temple of Alirria, Savina pushed a strand of hair off her forehead as she took a break from stirring soup. She was bone weary from labor. She had healed those she could with Alirria’s blessings, tended the wounds that remained with her mundane healing arts, cleaned floors, changed sheets, and was now cooking. The Honored Mother had worked steadily by her side the entire time. He seemed astonished and grateful to have such a dedicated helper. There were few Givers in Lord’s Edge, and they were overworked. He had told her repeatedly that she had done quite enough, but Savina had worked on for him regardless.

    She had been thinking about something her sister had told her. Men are all the same. Do a little something for them, and they'll do anything for you. She'd done a lot of work for the Honored Mother. Maybe now he would speak to her more freely.

    "Are you sure there isn’t anything more that you can tell me about Alirria's Spring, Honored Mother?" she began.

    He looked unnerved. "No."

    "Honored Mother, please, we – we have to travel that way, no matter what. But I know the road is dangerous. Isn't there anything you know that can help us? Please?"

    He closed his eyes for a long moment. "You could stay here and help us."

    "I can't, Honored Mother. I think – I think Alirria wants me to go on. Please help me. Please."

    His eyes were still closed. "I'm too ashamed," he whispered.

    The pain in his voice hurt Savina. She wanted to cry. "Alirria is merciful," she said. "You can't have done anything at all that she can't heal."

    "But I did it to her."

    Savina felt a little chill despite the heat of the cooking fire. "I – I don't understand," she murmured.

    Silence fell for a moment, and then he began speaking in a monotone. "I was once an Inquisitor. Many years ago, I worked with that man who harassed us this morning – who harasses us all the time. Our job was to enforce Kettenek's primacy in the Sovereignty. One day, we got a tip-off that a group of Alirrian monks was living in secret in the City of the Cauldron of the Lord’s Sleeping Fury. We exterminated them." He paused. "None were allowed to escape."

    Tears sprang to Savina's eyes.

    "The chief monk was taken prisoner. He was to be tortured to death in the public square. I was sent to bring him to the execution. He was an elderly man, and oddly serene, given his circumstances. I asked him why this was so. The monk replied ‘The Spring will look after itself now; only those who travel Alirria’s path will find it. What else could concern me now?’”

    The Honored Mother paused again. “He did not die serenely. And his screams haunt me yet . . .”

    He was weeping now. "You have done so many good things since then," said Savina softly, her horror muted by the man's obvious repentance. "I'm sure you're in Alirria's hands."

    "I'm not," he said. "When the Lord Regent made legal the worship of other gods, I found in myself the courage to do what I had longed desired. I left the Inquisitors and dedicated myself to Alirria. I spent many years searching for the Spring, hoping to take the duty of its protection upon myself as atonement. But Our Lady has never allowed me to find it: she has hidden it from my eyes. I am not forgiven. Nor should I be."

    "She is merciful, Honored Mother." Savina reached out and covered his hand with her own. She wanted so much for him to stop hurting. He took a shuddering breath and nodded.

    "I can only hope. I will hope. But I cannot help you find the Spring. I must continue my duties here – no matter what happens."

    "What do you mean, no matter what happens?"

    He sighed once more, but he had stopped weeping. "That is my concern, Blessed Daughter, not yours. Come. I will tell you what I know about the journey to the monastery. You must start out by following the River of Winding Rapids . . . ."
    A Rose In The Wind: A Saga Of The Halmae. It's like "Daughter Of Welcome To The Halmae." Um, literally.

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    2x07

    As the sun slanted toward afternoon, everyone returned to the Alirrian Temple. With the Honored Mother's permission, Savina told the group his story. Then, pooling their information, and with the Honored Mother's help, Kormick plotted out a route that would take them to the general vicinity of the spring. To Savina, the Justicar seemed hurried and tense. He even accepted Arden's purchases matter-of-factly, apparently forgetting his suspicions of her.

    Finally, Kormick concluded one last consultation about the map with the Honored Mother. "Time to leave!" he announced.

    "Now?" asked Tavi. "It's mid-afternoon. Shouldn't we start in the morning?" Savina nodded. Tavi had asked exactly the question that was on her mind.

    "If we leave now, we can be several miles outside the city by nightfall."

    "But why couldn't we spend the night here?" asked Twiggy. "We could get a better map – we could even get a guide – "

    "If we spend the night here, we risk drawing unwanted attention to this Temple. And that is the last thing that the Honored Mother would want. Isn't that right?" He turned to the Honored Mother, who looked pained.

    "Honored Mother . . . ?" prompted Savina. "What – what do you think we should do?"

    "Much as I would selfishly like you to stay, Blessed Daughter . . . you should go."

    "I concur," said Mena. "If there is to be trouble here, I don't want Rose involved."

    Tavi unconsciously took a step closer to Rose and put his hand on the pommel of his sword. "Then we leave now," he said, and Savina accepted that the debate was over.

    ###

    They passed the great gates of Lord's Edge amid a progression of villagers who were leaving at the end of the workday. Kormick stalked at the front of the group, setting a vigorous pace and glancing back over his shoulder from time to time. Tavi, Mena, and Twiggy walked with Rose. Savina walked along behind them, ahead of the clop clop of the mule, barely noticing as their path began to wind along a river and the road acquired rough stones that tore at her delicate slippers. She was worrying about the Honored Mother. He had seemed so sad, and Mena had said there might be trouble. What trouble? Won't Alirria protect her children?

    She thought of the man that Twiggy had called an Inquisitor. He said that something isn't over. What did that mean? She gasped.

    "They aren't going to attack the Temple tonight, are they?" she blurted out.

    From the front of the group, Kormick gave a hearty laugh. "No," he called back. "No, dear girl, no. The religious fanatics of Lord's Edge certainly may not attack and destroy the Temple tonight. Take comfort. They might wait a day! Maybe a week!"

    Savina felt sick. "What if they need our help? What if they – "

    "There is nothing we could do," Mena interjected. "By staying, we only made the problem worse."

    "But if they're going to be attacked – "

    "That is only a fearful thought," said Mena firmly. "It may never come to pass. The Honored Mother seemed like a very diplomatic man, and now that we are gone, the Inquisitors will have to look elsewhere for excuses to make trouble."

    Suddenly Tavi turned around and, walking backwards, looked straight at Savina. "It's all right," he said. "Those Givers serve Alirria, and you've strengthened the Honored Mother's faith, so Alirria will help them. That's how it works."

    Savina felt comforted. She met Tavi's eyes shyly. "Thank you, Tavi," she said, venturing to call him by his nickname. He gave a curt – but not unfriendly – nod of acknowledgement and turned back around.

    Kormick said in a stage-whisper: "Excellent. When we see the inevitable smoke and flames from Lord's Edge tonight, perhaps you all might suggest to her that it is a festival honoring Kettenek's wondrous city sanitation regulations."

    Just as Savina's heart began to plummet again, a low voice spoke up behind her. "Ignore him, Blessed Daughter. He makes jokes like that." Savina glanced back to see Arden leading the mule and looking at her slippers. "I think I should have bought boots for you at the market."

    "I have never worn boots," said Savina, puzzled.

    "Forgive my presumption, Blessed Daughter."

    They walked on. Savina's feet began to hurt.

    They camped that night a few hundred yards off the road, over a ridge that would hide them from the sight of other travelers, in a small valley. Savina was glad to sit down as the others made themselves comfortable and Arden bustled around quietly, lighting a fire, cooking dinner, and setting up Savina's small tent.

    Savina was surprised that the plain food seemed to taste as good as it did; she was very hungry. As she ate, she puzzled over the fact that no one else had a tent – not even Rose – even though most of them had burdened themselves with armor and weaponry that they would probably never need. They all seemed to be planning to sleep in the open air, by the fire. Savina had never slept under the stars in her life and shivered at the idea of doing so now.

    "That just leaves Tavi without a partner," concluded Kormick, who was organizing shifts for an all-night watch.

    "Arden can accompany him," said Mena.

    Kormick laughed. "Perhaps you will sleep soundly while the slave and her dagger stand watch over our unconscious, helpless bodies, but I will not. The slave is not allowed to keep watch. Young lady, you must join Tavi."

    He was looking at Savina. She felt a warm glow suffuse her, and the night, with its strange sounds and cool air, seemed suddenly exciting rather than scary. "Um. If you think so,” she agreed. She saw Arden beginning to unroll a blanket just outside the tent, in the shadow. "You can sleep in the tent, Arden," she added. "I – I have to keep watch."

    Kormick made a throat-slitting gesture with his hand.

    Arden's eyes widened in surprise. "In the tent, Blessed Daughter?"

    "Of course."

    Arden didn’t ask twice. She bowed her head low. "Thank you, Blessed Daughter," she said, and then ducked inside the tent. As the others lay down around the fire, wrapping themselves up against the chill air and preparing to sleep, Savina shyly walked over to Tavi's stalwart silhouette at the edge of the firelight.

    ###

    Arden curled up in the tent, astonished at her good fortune. She couldn't remember the last time she'd slept both comfortably and in private, and tonight she was forbidden to do anything but that. She felt exhausted, but luxurious, sliding toward a deep, oblivious sleep. Just before the darkness claimed her, she thought, Maybe this really is a vacation, after all.

    Later, when the scuttling and the screams began, her mind accepted them unquestioningly, allowing them to transform her dreams to nightmares. Such nightmares were old companions, though, and the bedroll in the tent was so warm and soft.

    She slept on.

  • #74
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    Ahh that tent. I amused myself immensely when I realized that *of course* Savina would pack a tent over armor. She's still puzzled that no one else brought one.

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    and all of a sudden, the reason becomes slightly more clear...
    Last edited by ellinor; Thursday, 11th June, 2009 at 05:57 PM.
    A Rose In The Wind: A Saga Of The Halmae. It's like "Daughter Of Welcome To The Halmae." Um, literally.

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    2x08

    Twiggy felt a jostling against her arm, and stirred awake, muttering to herself. What was that for? She didn’t need much sleep, but it couldn’t possibly be time for third watch already. The sky was still heavy with dark. The air was cool.

    Across the camp, Tavi was yelling. “Rose! Mena! Get up!”

    Ah, not me. Five more minutes. No, you. NOOOOOOWWW!

    What’s wrong, Acorn?

    RAAATS!

    Twiggy sat up and opened her eyes. Rats were streaming in to the camp, over the bluffs, from all directions. Rats, and huge rats, and roiling piles of snarling rats.

    Tavi and Savina rushed around the camp, waking the others.

    Twiggy cringed in horror as the rats rushed toward her, their shiny coats and tiny eyes reflecting the dim moonlight. She froze, disgusted, and braced herself. There’s nothing worse than rats. But as she felt their rough fur brush against her ankles and the unnervingly soft flicks of their tails against her shins and knees, she realized that there was something worse. They were rushing past her, straight for Rose. They were all heading straight for Rose. Rose, who was still just barely awake.

    Savina screamed.

    Nonononononononono . . . came the voice inside Twiggy’s head.

    Twiggy tried to collect her thoughts. [i]Mama Rossi always kept a light on in the kitchen to keep the rats out. Rats are nocturnal. Rats don’t like light.[i] Learning to make light was one of the first spells she had learned. She cast, and the area lit up, as if the moon hung just above their camp. Easy.

    But all that did was to make the horror of the scene easier to see. The rats continued to swarm, just as before. Kormick arose next to his bedroll, a crossbow in each hand. Even moments after awakening, he stood with the confident and menacing air of . . . one accustomed to holding a crossbow in each hand. “These are some very strange rats,” he proclaimed, firing two shots at once.

    As if I didn’t already know that. Twiggy could do nothing but watch as the first rats reached Rose and started to climb her dress, biting and scratching. As Rose beat at her skirts, trying to shake them off, Twiggy thought back to their lifetime together. She had seen Rose in every kind of situation, but had never seen her lose her tight grip on her emotions. I’ve seen Rose at her best and her worst, Twiggy thought, but I’ve never seen Rose look helpless before. It wasn’t a comforting thought. Rose was famously calm and collected. Helpless seemed wrong on her. But it was galvanizing, too. I never want to feel as helpless as Rose looks right now, Twiggy thought.

    A knotted mass of rats was approaching Rose from behind the tent. Twiggy cast about for something that would stop them. Sleep. She concentrated and cast, focusing on the center of the mass. Let’s hope this works on rats. It did, but not as well as she had hoped—A few rats were stilled, but others just climbed over them, undeterred.

    Mena was up, and moving to protect Rose. As she strode across the camp, she slashed at the rats with her blade, stabbing, slicing, and batting them away. But she could only hit one rat at a time, and there seemed to be hundreds of them. “Gather up around Rose!” she hollered. “Rose needs our help!”

    Tavi was already on his way, wielding his sword with protective rage. Its blade glowed with green flame, scorching every rat he hit. The acrid, ferric smell of burning fur and blood began to surround them. But the rats continued to scratch and bite at Rose, her dress now torn and bloody. They attacked Tavi, too, with claws and teeth, as they struggled to stream past him and attack his sister.

    Kormick moved into a protective position and traded his crossbows for warhammers, swinging at the moving ground with both hands. “Young lady!” he hollered at Rose, “don’t just stand there cringing and flailing! Stomp on them! Fight back!” But she did not: Another rat scrambled up Rose’s skirt as she stumbled down on to one knee.

    Rose set her jaw in determination as Mena slashed at a huge rat just short of her hem. “I have never killed a living thing in my life,” said Rose. “I will not start now.”

    “Maybe this is an attempt to make you try!” Savina screamed, moving to stand between the rats and Rose. The rats clawed at her legs and skirt and swarmed around her toward Rose, running through the camp’s fire, covering the sides of the little tent. Determined, Savina focused on the swarm, and prayed for Alirria’s aid. It worked. A shaft of light descended on the swarm, immobilizing some and slowing others. But the rats kept coming, and Savina could not reach Rose to heal her. She said a prayer for Tavi, and his energy rebounded.

    Twiggy had little time to wonder why Arden hadn’t yet joined in the fight. She was too busy casting. But she found it difficult to concentrate, and her spells fizzled on her fingers. Too many surprises, she thought, backing toward the little tent. Remember what Mena said. Block them out. Concentrate.

    Suddenly, a loud ripping sound erupted behind her, and she spun to see the point of a short sword tearing heroically through the tent. The sword skewered a large rat, and then another, pulling back to leave their carcasses to roll down the side. As the sword tore through the other side of the tent, slicing at a swarm, Arden rose through the gaps her sword had left. Arden was, most definitely, awake.

    As Arden moved to complete the circle of allies around Rose, a huge rat bit at her ferociously. Mena pulled Arden into the circle, receiving the wound in Arden’s place. As Arden stared in surprise at her rescuer, Rose pulled a vial from her pack and drank a healing potion. It gave her the energy to remain standing, but not much more. Mena saw Rose’s weakness, and knew the allies could not let many more rats penetrate their circle. But there were too many; soon, they would be overcome. Mena yelled: “Pull it together! This ends now!”

    It was Mena’s version of an inspiring word, and somehow, it helped. Twiggy focused her mind on one swarm after another, pushing waves of psychic energy into the center of each. The rats’ movement changed, becoming disoriented. As the rats scratched and scrambled, Mena slashed at them, cutting them deep, and batting them away with the broadside of her sword. Tavi, with a short incantation, released the hilt of his sword, which swung around in a circle like a boomerang, rats flying in all directions from its impact, before returning to his hand.

    And as Twiggy watched, Kormick held the handles of his warhammers together in front of his face, concentrated, and said softly enough that only Twiggy could hear, “Elizabette.” A burst of force exploded from the space between the hammers, like a lake’s worth of water being pushed through a very small pipe. The force and flame seared at the rat swarms as they climbed atop, around, over each other. It obliterated them, turning the ground to red paste.

    Twiggy filed that information away. I guess he really did have powers, back before he was expelled from the Academy. But she couldn’t stop to think about who “Elizabette” might be, she told herself. She had to ready herself for more rats.

    But the rats had stopped coming. And as Twiggy surveyed the area, she saw that this was not because the rats were running away, although a few stragglers did so. It was because the rats were dead. Well, not all of them. One remained incapacitated by Twiggy’s sleep spell, until Mena strode over to it and stepped on it, slowly increasing the pressure under her foot until Twiggy heard a “snap.”

    Then silence. It was night again in the forest.

    Night, but with what seemed like hundreds of rat carcasses littering their tiny camp.

    Twiggy stared at her bedroll, marveling at how little time had passed during the fight, but how different she felt now than she had before they’d laid that bedroll out. It’s just like Mena said. No matter how much training you do—and she had trained, first at the Academy, and then with Mena, whenever her responsibilities allowed—it never really prepares you for what you’ll have to face. She wondered if Tavi felt the same way. If he does, she thought, he’d never admit it.

    A short investigation revealed that the rats had come from all directions; there was no source to follow. Twiggy thought back to her studies: There were stories of those who could rain down evil, or compel people to do something—at the Sorcerers’ Academy, there was a story about a student who figured out how to make everyone on the campus raise their left hand at once—but nothing about a ritual powerful enough to carry out this sort of large-scale animal control. “Who could have done this?” she mused. “No one even knows we’re here.”

    “Perhaps this is a warning,” Savina offered, “telling us to stay out of the Ketkath.”

    Kormick chuckled, wryly. “Or Kettenek’s version of a hug.”

    “If it is a warning,” Mena announced, “it is one we cannot heed. Let us finish our rest there,” she pointed to a bluff, about a hundred feet away, “and set out again in the morning.”

    “If we are fortunate,” Kormick offered, “the stench won’t follow us that far.”

    They were not so fortunate.
    A Rose In The Wind: A Saga Of The Halmae. It's like "Daughter Of Welcome To The Halmae." Um, literally.

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    3x01

    Kormick had smelled a lot of bad smells before. Back alleys; tavern privies; fishmongers’ shacks, the squalid rooms of small-time crooks who hadn’t paid up and soon would be screaming about their broken knees . . . Gods, you break man's knees, he just won't shut up about it ...

    All those olfactory nightmares were part of his life in Dar Und. But as he awoke, the wind carried an odor so bad he didn’t just smell it—he felt it. The ferric stench of dead rats permeated the air, coating his nostrils and the back of his throat, sinking into his stomach. Note to self, he thought, unsurprised. 100 feet is not enough.

    Mena and Twiggy were patrolling the last of their watch shift, and the slave Arden was standing over the fire, cooking the morning meal. As Kormick watched a rivulet of steam rise from the slave’s cookpot, the thought of eating brought with it a new wave of nausea. He pulled his pack together and set about waking the others.

    As each person woke, the consensus grew that they should pack up the camp as quickly as possible and put some serious distance between themselves and the rat-strewn valley before doing anything else.

    “If you think that is best,” said Rose, “but we should carry with us the breakfast that Arden is cooking. It smells good.”

    Everyone in the group spun to look at her. “How can you possibly smell breakfast,” Twiggy asked, “with this overwhelming stench in the air?” Twiggy went back to what she had been doing—which, as far as Kormick could tell, was trying to calm the agitated mouse trembling in her hand.

    “The only thing I smell is breakfast,” replied Rose. She paused a bit. “No, that’s not true. I also smell the flowers growing on that shrub,” she pointed to a bush that looked like honeysuckle, but with bluish flowers, “and the dirt of the forest floor... ” she trailed off as she looked at the ground and the legion of dead rats scattered not far away.

    Savina gave her a quizzical look. “You mean to say you don’t smell the dead rats?”

    Rose stared at the ground. “I don’t smell them at all." She shook her head. "Why don’t I smell them?” She looked up and around at the others, a hint of panic creeping into her voice. “Why don’t I smell them!?”

    The others had never seen Rose so agitated. They looked at each other, uncomfortably unable to answer. “I... maybe...” Twiggy began, and stopped, at a rare loss for words.

    “Try over there,” Savina suggested weakly, motioning Rose toward the rat carcasses. “Maybe if you got closer...”

    As Rose began to walk toward the remains of the battle, her unease increasingly apparent, Mena jumped in. “We are not going to test whether Rose can smell them ‘up close.’ Nor are we going to play twenty questions or dangle a dead rat in front of her face. We have a long way to go today. Rose, naturally we will bring the food. It is in limited supply.”

    Effective, Kormick thought, admiringly, as he watched Mena calm Rose, giving her packing tasks to keep her mind off this apparently new manifestation of her uniqueness. I like that in a woman. Let other men talk of opal eyes or golden hair. Effective, and good with a flail. He'd known Mena for a few years, back when he was at the Academy. She had a certain ... presence even then. He tried to summon up a memory of her smiling. The best he could do was a bemused scowl.

    Kormick pulled the pen from his breast pocket – it was his sole magic item, and one he treasured for sentimental reasons in addition to the obviously practical reason that it never ran out of ink – and made another note in his lambskin book.

    Excerpts from the notebook of Jan Kormick

    March 19 28 days of food.
    Terrain: river bank, forest.

    “Six months walking in front of a spoiled city girl riding a mule,” I said, when I left Dar Und. Clearly, someone has other ideas about this trek. Our tiny, nasty, biting little visitors last night were clearly unnatural in origin. Dame Mena says Sedellus herself may have sent them; whoever it was, they didn’t succeed. Oh, they did succeed in making an impression, but not in actually killing anyone.

    Signor DiRapezzi's brood is competent in battle, but clearly inexperienced. It will be interesting to see how they fare when it’s not just rats. I don’t think any of them has killed a person before. Rose says she has never killed anything, ever. They all seem content to keep her from needing to.

    Signor Tavi is the one to watch. He fights for a good cause, and he's classically trained -- but he's got a nasty edge, he gets that smile a good street man gets when the blood hits the floor. If we were in Dar Und, I'd add him to my crew in a liar's heartbeat.

    We have planned our route, combining information from all three of the maps we obtained in the city of Lord’s Edge (a city about which I have already written much, and will write much much more another day …). The Water Walker’s map is more or less complete, showing terrain, forest, plains, streams, mountains, and so forth. The Healer’s map is basic, but it seems to identify an area (in the mountains to the south) where we should look. It is a large area – to be sure, several days’ travel in all directions – but searching merely part of the Ketkath is much better than searching the whole damn thing. Dame Mena explained the annotations on the Questor map – a “maelstrom”, “crab-like rock monsters,” Derro, “giant flying lizard,” other so-called “challenges,” along with dates indicating how long ago the Questors had found them. These have given us a good idea of which areas to avoid.

    (Here, Kormick drew a simple but clear map, to which he could refer later.)

    By the banks of the river, Savina asked whether Derro really exist.“So . . . when my nurse told me to go to sleep or else the derros would drag me to their underground caves and eat me, she was telling the truth?”

    Adorable.

    Mena patiently explained that they seldom leave the wilds, but “now that we are in the wilds . . . we would do well to avoid them.” She is a master of understatement.

    The best route – following the river, manageable terrain, furthest from Questor “challenges” – takes us past the spot marked “giant flying lizard,” from two years ago. It may be long gone. Or it may be waiting to devour us all. Lady Chelesta thinks “giant flying lizard” means dragon. She seems almost excited about it. But clearly, if they had meant dragon, they would have said dragon. This must be some as-yet unnamed giant flying lizard. “Bet you it’s a dragon,” she said.

    Even more adorable.

    March 20 27 days of food.
    Terrain: forest, foothills. The last signs of civilization are behind us. Walked all day.

    Apparently one can develop blisters through satin slippers. This surprises no one but Savina. Why did the Givers not suggest she bring boots? She has had to use her healing talent on her own feet. To recap Savina's preparations for a secret mission into deadly territory in the heart of a hostile nation, in opposition to the Goddess of Death: Boots, no. Armor, no. Tent, yes.

    It appears that Savina really is as sweet and innocent as she appears. It is as endearing as it is annoying. She is ridiculously dedicated to her goddess.

    Signora Rose is still quiet. Perhaps the reality of the quest is sinking in? Dame Mena looks after her. Signor Tavi is always by her side. A good brother, protector.

    March 21 26 days of food.
    We have left the road along the banks of the river (“Alirria’s path,” perhaps?) and entered the mountains. Terrain: up, followed by down. Mostly up. Snow-capped peaks above us, melting.

    Without rushing water, the nights are too quiet. It is hard to sleep without the sounds of the city. The rats and the quiet have made the kids jumpy, and they rouse at any animal noise. Savina asks every five minutes what is making various sounds. Usually it is our own feet. Sometimes it is some strange animal.

    The Ketkath is as strange as we have been told, if not stranger. The nature here is not normal. 25% of everything seems not quite right; 15% seems downright wrong. Electric plants. Strangely-colored animals – purple, blue.

    March 22 25 days of food
    Terrain: mountains.

    The slave, Arden, has given Savina her boots and is now using the slippers. Why did Savina not order the switch earlier? She seems singularly unclear on how owning a slave works.

    We have found a rocky clearing for our camp. Two fires this time; we need the heat. First supper, then sleep.
    Kormick tucked the notebook back into his pocket, and looked fondly at the pen. He wondered if Dante di Raprezzi had known – all those years ago, when he handed it to Kormick and said goodbye – that Kormick would still be using it today, that it would be such a help as Kormick observed, noted, planned. Now he was helping to keep Dante’s daughter safe.

    Dante’s daughter, who was apparently being hunted by the Goddess of Evil. Kormick imagined what the others must be thinking: it’s a walk in the park. "Hike through the country, ask questions from some crazy Alirrian Spring, hike back." He tried think of it that way himself, but it didn’t work. Gods are like Bosses you can’t pay off, he thought. Cross them, and it doesn’t matter how innocent you are, how well protected you are, how many people care for you. They’ll find you. They’ll make you pay.

    He slipped the pen back in its spot, next to the book. It was time for supper.
    A Rose In The Wind: A Saga Of The Halmae. It's like "Daughter Of Welcome To The Halmae." Um, literally.

  • #78
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    Kormick is awesome.

  • #79
    Quote Originally Posted by babomb View Post
    Kormick is awesome.

    Agreed. Most heartily agreed.

  • #80
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    coyote6's Avatar

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    I Defended The Walls!

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    Does/did Kormick's player (jonrog1, right?) write the notebook entries?
    - Bob Huss

    [H]e's dead and poisoned and possibly insane on another plane. It's a very stylish death, but a definitive one. - Piratecat

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