L'Aurel's Journal (A Kingdom of Ashes) -updated 3/23
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  1. #1

    L'Aurel's Journal (A Kingdom of Ashes) -updated 3/23

    As with all journals, this expresses the views and memories of one person.

    For a view of everything going on in this same homebrewed campaign and written by someone who knows how to write far better then I, go to A Kingdom of Ashes (The Universe's Story Hour).

    As can be seen in the above story hour some quotes, chapter titles, other PC's, NPC's, and the world in general are not of my personal design or creation.

    Be forewarned that I will constantly be editing and revising the work here to hopefully make it consistantly better.
    Last edited by Laurel; Wednesday, 23rd March, 2005 at 05:25 PM. Reason: adding in updates

  2. #2

    Beginnings

    Every beginning arises from an end. The end as with most was death. At first I thought kindly not mine, instead it was my teacher, my friend, my father, Michael’s death. After thirty years of life I now have no family, no home, no friends, nothing to bind me with any person or any place. I only have shadowed memories, but it is all tainted with death now. Michael always told me that no one else can take that first step for you. This is my first step, my beginning.

    I never thought to keep a record of the events of my life, but up to now I have never thought to leave the safety of the forest that was home. Thirty short years of peace, shelter and happiness, and now I burn for something new - something different. I can no longer live through the excitement of my fathers stories and teachings. It is now my turn to live.

    I write these events in this book, so I may give my children the knowledge and strength to find their true path as Michael gave me. I, L’Aurel of the Druid’s Forest, only child of Michael, give you the knowledge of my life.
    Last edited by Laurel; Wednesday, 10th May, 2006 at 03:19 PM.

  3. #3
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    I am overjoyed.
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    Hooray! Background for L'Aurel. Well, now with you and Archon writing journals, I'm going to feel pressured to do the same.

  5. #5
    AHA! I found it!

  6. #6

    Chapter One- “Shadows of the Past”

    Day One, Thanesport

    The sun had long since said good-night to the land, and taken her warmth away from the people of Ares. With her departure the dark ashen clouds moved in, letting only slivers of the weak moon’s light through. I could not bring myself to yet end this day. I had stepped off the boat this very afternoon, and have just started to see the many people’s of Ares. I had stopped at the first tavern sign I saw. The faded paint and crudely drawn image let me guess this was the Rusty Scabbard. This is as good a place as any to pass my first night here in Thanesport, the largest port city on this side of the ringed continent.

    I peer around the darkened booths edge rotating my mug of now cool ale between my hands. It is easy to go unnoticed here, as everyone seems wrapped up in themselves or the fun that sits on their laps to care about a nobody. I have a face that can easily blend in with my surroundings with nothing strange or unique about it, or so I always thought. Though Michael often warned me that my eyes showed my soul. I had learned long ago how to hide my emotions deep, but apparently the truth always stood out in my eyes if one me at all. I often tried to trick Michael failing each time since he knew me as only a father could. I closed my eyes wondering why I was suddenly thinking these sad thoughts yet again, and that is when the gentle cords of a harp separated itself from the other noises.

    As I look around I see an elf bard playing on the dimly lit stage; her voice seems to rise above the rowdy yelling and cursing in a sweet melody of sadness. She is of the true alder blood with slightly pointed ears and pale skin shining in the torch light. I can make out some of the words, words of broken honor and broken spirit. It is a song of her true alder people and their disgrace. The song of my people as well.

    Though most of the patrons are busy fighting their way to the next drink, fighting for the newest companion who walked in, or simply fighting just to fight; there is a small collection of men at what passes for tables by the foot of the stage. The men have made no attempt to hide their fascination with the exotic looking bard. A true alder male sits at one of those tables with a look of lust in his eyes. Her hazel eyes roam the room managing to look at all weather they look to her or not in turn. One man she has so captivated that he has a growing puddle of drool on his shirt. I look back to my still filled cup of ale, and sigh. I have no destination and no plan, and foolishly thought that by coming here I would find my path. It does no good to think about what can not be changed, and so I look around once more trying to find all the nuances that this strange mix of people can teach me.

    I can barely see the bartender now, but from watching him all day I know he still defends the bar. Though his smile is easy, his tightly coiled arms could easily crush any unrest in the room. He also seems easy with the coarse world his patrons are escaping from and easily drifts from customer to customer. The bar stools in front of him are jammed with a variety of patrons and an ever changing crush of pushing people behind them. I see a young maid approach my table yet again. I have only to look up and shake my head, for her to snarl. Her smile is back in place before she turns to the nearest male though. I have already paid for room and drink which is not a certainty for most here, so I have also secured the privilege of being left alone. All the serving girls seem to have problems keeping her shirt up, though a few quick stitches could easily solve their problems. They seem content to let it hang dangerously low. Michael never told me this side of people’s natures, but the abbess at the Amastatian temple had. Ripples appear in the surface of the black tepid liquid, and I see distorted green eyes shining bright looking back at me. Michael. His loss still feels like a wound not completely healed. Forcing my self to continue perusing the tavern, I search and look. Searching for my future and looking for knowledge.

    At one end of the bar a little man is perched on a stool, well it can only be assumed that inside all the burnt red hair, under axe, armor, hammer, and other bags there is a man there. No, as the crowd shifts I see upon closer inspection, it is not a man for his feet only reach the top ring of the stool and his arm is completely straight. This must be one of those dwarf creatures Michael told me of. I see the dwarf again bring the spotted mug to his lips with a deliberateness that tells me he is trying to hide his drunkenness. He lowers it and pushes it away from him, but as with the other times his head rolls forward and his fingers wrap around the curved metal surface.

    As my gaze wanders further down the bar, I see more of the same males and females almost blurring through my vision now. Till I see a figure with light greenish skin standing a head taller then most around him with tusks patruding from his mouth. There is no mistaking him to be an orc, Michael described them aptly. Though he had always said they were tall creatures and Michael was no short man being about 6’3” himself. I wonder how this orc could have ended up here in this bar, though from the looks of it he could use more clothes. There seems to be a lot of green showing through the crowds as people stay our of his way.

    My ears alert me to a change in the room, and with a deep sadness the curses and harsh laughter grows louder as the bard’s last note fades into the thick damp air. Before the bard finishes retuning her harp, the crash of the door and the howl of the wind is heard again. My mug adds a new dent to the already pocketed tabe top as I gasp in horror. A tall True Alder stumbles into the tavern clutching her side. It is easy to see the red blood pouring from between her midnight black fingers, and she has twice as much blood covering her first Talon uniform.

    Michael’s training kicks in immediately, as I search the doorway for whatever had caused this damage, and I run through my head all that I know of her just by a glance. The first Talon are the King’s personal guards highly trained warriors, and some say so dedicated they would kill their mother if the king ordered it. The danger must be great if some attacked her, and that something is skilled to injure this much. As most of the patrons just stare shocked into silence, a young blonde woman wearing the seal of the Apectin order on her blue cape walks quickly to help the dying woman. The Apectin paladin’s action spurs me to move to their side, as I have a little knowledge of healing. The paladin though maybe barely 20 years of age shows experience with wounds, death, and blood. She glances at the wound but taking the woman face in her hands tries to get her to stay conscience and focused by asking her what happened. I try to move her hand away to see the wound, but am stopped as the talon speaks. The talon's whispers, “I am a private royal guard and my ship… my ship- set a-fire by pirates.. It’s moving to the port. I…I must stop it!” She struggles to breathe in and on the exhale all her tension and worries disappear from her body.

    The paladin looks at me shaking her head. Here I wished for adventure, yet death seems to be following me. I try to fade back into the crowd. As her head slumps to one side a pale blue star is apparent over her left eye. The crowd pushes back against the walls trying to escape even the sight of the mark. The bluestar, once a hero known as Aregonn, is trapped in a dead wastland to the north after his lost battle for power. He is held by a magical wall in a land filled with his hate and his evil. He should not be able to touch this land or out lives. Michael had always spoken of him as a distant evil, like a cloud storm cloud far on the horizon. What if all she said was a lie.

    I turn to the window by my side, and through the fogged glass I can see only an orange glow, but it is definitely moving swiftly, and in the direction of the harbor. At the paladin’s plea for help to get the woman help, the short orc moves to her side. Without comment he slides his large arms around the limp figure and effortlessly lifts her. The member of the Apectin order follows closely behind the orc, and the true Alder who I saw earlier watching the bard is close on their heels trying to help the orc with his load.

    It is then that I notice a wave of silence descending on the room, even the bards notes quietly dissipate. All eyes stare at the figure of a man in the entry way. His eyes slowly survey the crowd, while they seem to measure him up. He carries an ornate long sword at his side that are rare and only given to those in the service of the King’s naval command. His clothes speak differently though, as he has on what looks to be common battle worn sea garb. He almost whispers, “I saw the talon’s ship set upon by a large ship made of bone and crewed by the dead and damned. I came directly from the docks to warn the authorities, but it seems she had alerted them already.” A man hidden by the crowd yells, “No, that can not be, sir, her ship… her ship was to carry the Leigeblade, the last of the falcon blades! It was to rest in Caer Albion close at hand to King Hawkson I!” He smirks at the hysterics the little mans words bring, and after a pause, “It is true I fear, or do you doubt John Darkson?” The feeling of fear grows within the room, “No… No this can not be!” The small dirty man looks around with huge freighted eyes. He screams “NO!” and charges out the door. The hysteria flows on into the others in the room, and soon chaos has erupted all around. The young Apectin warrior looks at the fleeing people in disgust, and looking to the orc motions him to follow her. Closely behind the orc is the only fair true alder I have seen who earlier was watching the bard he now is trying to shout above the crowd to orc and young woman that he knows where a healer is.

    As I turn back from the doorway, I see everyone rushing to the exits, yet the casualness of one man catches my eye, it is the form of John Darkson. This whole event seems surreal; pirates have not been seen in years as they are hunted by the king. The king’s personal barge on fire and floating into the port with no warning being sounded by the guards, and then I know what I must do is find the guard to rise the alarm.

    Once out the door, I follow a group heading in the direction of the naval barracks. I notice a streak of pale skin as the singer from the bar runs a block ahead of me. When I round a corner by the water I see the bard striking a blow at a slimy scaly bi-pedal lizard like creature with a spear. With ease she spikes him straight through; above her head the night sky is getting brighter with a deadly red-orange glow. I reach her side as she withdraws the spear, and with little more than a nod we run toward the river. Strangely we see figures in the Talon guard’s uniform climbing from the water. Their bodies marked with blood and the stench of death. As they enter the light of a passing building, their faces shine a pasty white with flaying flesh and missing parts. Their eyes are unseeing as they grope and jerkily walk toward us. What has cursed these souls? I raise my bow loosing arrows as we run. I try to note what spots seem to make these unholy things of death stumble or fall quickest.

    Looking into the sky we see a large pike fly from a docked boat into the river. As we reach the deserted wharf I quickly scan the area. The Talon’s ship unhampered is sailing straight for the main docks though a rope across the harbor in another ships mast. That must have been the bolt we saw earlier. The dwarf from the bar looking more spry now sprints up the ramp of one ship. Not seeing any other option I follow him, I hear a man yell from one of the other ships, “Fire at the ship. Try to sink it.” The Apectin warrior back pressed against the wooden base is trying to maneuver it into position. The bard swiftly moves to her side placing hands on the rear and digging her feet into the wood pushes. I follow the dwarf and with a few grunts we have ours is pointing the correct direction.

    After only one shot we see the ship tilt and then darken as water rushes through it’s haul extinguishing the flames as it slowly sinks into the water. Before too much celebrating can happen, the sound of feet pounding on the wooden ladder can be heard behind us. Swiveling I see a line of guards pointing steel drakes at the four of us. I can see the others who tried to stop the ship are similarly trapped. The guard tells us to show our hands. Once we have complied we are rounded up and made to follow him. The fair alder who helped with the talon at the bar identifies himself as Brad. Another figure slinking in the shadows that seemed to escape my notice till this moment, tries to tell the guards that we were just trying to stop the ship from burning the city down. They scoff at the tale and in close formation escort us to a jail in the center of the city. We are all luckily placed in the same cell without restraining implements. This must be a sign they are not completely convinced of our guilt. We are each wary of the others, not knowing what fate holds. Brad shifting uncomfortably from foot to foot starts talking into the silence of the cell. It does not seem to hurt anything and we may be stuck here for a while. Thus I learned the short muscular dwarf was called Arfin Kegsplitter, the pale beauty of the Apectin order goes by Justice Fairweather, the simple orc who is little taller then me is called Kareth of One Oak, the true alder bard from the tavern is named Selura Nightshade, the male who seems to dislike silence is Brad, and the shadowy alder in the corner crisply declared himself Edriss Kiva.

    After the initial greetings a silence descended among us once again. It was not long before Brad started to chat again trying to draw us out. Though soon it seemed Justice and Brad both wanted to lead the cell and both started proposing possible stories, theories, escape plans, and other ideas. Luckily the captain of the guard came in before anything beyond words could be exchanged. My hopes of an easy release dimmed as he started to ask us questions instead of just letting us go. Justice and Brad were eager to both tell the captain everything that happened starting at the tavern, and an unspoken agreement seemed to have been made as both spun stories of the truth. The captain motions to one of his underlings, who was guarding the door, but now leans toward the captain as he whispers in his ear. Looking back toward us the captain waves his hand dismissing the guard, and without a sound nods for Justice to continue. At the end of the tale, the captain looks at us blankly giving us each a turn under his piercing stare. He tells us simply that there are things he has to confirm and turning his back leaves the windowless room. I can not shake the feeling of unease that presses into my bones, but I can control the fear of being locked in a room surrounded by stone and metal.

    A few moments later the lock jingled as heavy metal keys twisted the lock open. The captain wears his now usual emotionless mask as he walks into the room, but it is not him that arrests our attention. Instead all eyes focus on the broad figure behind him. John Darkson from the Rusty Tavern, though it seems he has had time to clean up and wears a more tailors outfit. As he looks around the room with a malicious smile on his face, I dart my glance to the others looking for some guidance of action.

    Justice is the first to act springing from her seated position ready to strike, but balling her slim fingers into a fist chooses instead to fight with words. In a voice shaking with violence she telling the captain not to trust him. The captain for the first time shows emotion, and we quickly see the mistake as his face contorts with anger, “You would be wise to keep your mouth shut, as that man just vouched for your actions. He is also a close trusted friend of mine and the king. Since he has vouched for you already though, you may be spared your lives- if you accept to do something for the kingdom.”

    Arfin lifts his head from the cradle of his hands for the first time since being placed here, and with a throat in need of drink asks, “What is the reward?” The captain returned to his impassive face seems unfazed by this request, and simply answers, “What is the happiest thing that could happen?” Brad immediately replies with a smile of satisfaction, “A nice field of flowers filled with buckets of money.” The captain closes the two strides to Brad, and though looking up into Brad’s eyes, declares, “Then it will definitely not be that.” Turn his gaze to all of us he states, “Your reward is the chance at living.”

    I have not taken my first step only to be stopped here, and this may lead to other opportunities, or maybe even some more honorable and more distinguishing tasks for king and kingdom. As the captains eyes finally fall on me I nod my head silently in agreement of the deal. He starts to turn away then seems to remember our task, “Follow young Rhynn here. He will give you your assignment. If you do not return in three days and report back to me you will be hunted outlaws.” Then putting his hand on Darkson’s shoulder leaves our prison cell not closing the solid metal door behind him.
    Last edited by Laurel; Friday, 3rd December, 2004 at 08:35 PM.

  7. #7

    Tee-Hee

    Quote Originally Posted by threshel
    I am overjoyed. J
    Quote Originally Posted by xath
    Hooray! Background for L'Aurel. Well, now with you and Archon writing journals, I'm going to feel pressured to do the same.
    Hopefully you guys will enjoy this. I know I am enjoying writing it a new thing for me this writing stuff.

    Okay, so I was hoping by today I would have day two up, but it looks like it will be next week before I can post it.... too much happening in the actual game to proof-read... OH I can't wait to see how it turns out, and it's a good one!
    Last edited by Laurel; Friday, 23rd July, 2004 at 04:54 PM.

  8. #8

    Chapter One- “Shadows of the Past”

    Day two, Thanesport

    I had never been trapped for so long with no link to the outside, and once released I could not help but lift my face to be warmed once again by Anon burning brightly in the sky and tilt my ears to the chatter of seagulls nearby. I was not given much time to enjoy the freedom though, as our leader barked orders for us to follow him. As we formed a pack following Lieutenant Rhynn, I tried not to stare at the new wonders surrounding me. When we had made our trek to the prison the streets were dark and deserted, so this was truly my first glimpse of what the bustling city had to show me. Humans seemed to be in over abundance, crowding into tight spaces for the speck of clean street, shouting ever louder that their wares were the best, the brightest, the finest in all the lands. Most of those rushing about seemed dressed in confined colorful robes of cloth. I blinked as my eyes where blinded by a necklace of finely wrought gold and silver with red stones glinting in a guarded store front. I stayed in the center of our group peeking around and over the others letting them act as a wall I could safely look around while keeping the hordes at bay.

    I had let my hood fall back, letting my light brown hair cascade in waves over my hard defined shoulder blades. The only thing holding the mass in place is a simple long strip of leather. As we rounded a corner, I felt a sense of unease and turn looking straight into the eyes of hatred. A merchant standing in an ornately gilded doorway pierces me with his gaze. Quickening my pace, I pull my hood to shadow my face immediately missing the sun’s warmth.

    Michael had warned me often that my true alder blood would be shunned by most of the world. My blood was tainted by my mother’s people. A people that had committed a great atrocity hundreds of years ago, yet still they lived disgraced and powerless, scattered in groups through out the kingdom. In the last great war they had chosen the wrong side, the losing side. There was one of their kind, Link Woodshadow, who went against his people and choose the winning side. He became one of the greatest heroes of the time yet it is said even he shunned- turned his back on the true alder race. And so they pay for their deeds still.

    Many half-bloods lived easily among humans, their shunned half-blood hidden by their other exalted blood. I peer out of my hood at Selura, a true high alder, and see the face of a proud woman. A woman used to the stares of hatred and contempt some people threw our way. A woman ready to break the bonds and shackles society and her ancestors brought her. She gives me a warm smile, a comforting smile. Quickly trying to hide what she must have seen on my face, I focus my eyes forward again the mystery and excitement of the new scene lost to me now.

    I can not shake the feeling of dread for the first time, for I know I could not hide easily here should I need to. All those things which helped me amongst the trees and woods make me a beacon of discord here. My skin, even kissed by the sun, was still paler then those around me. My ears oddly pointed a the tips as almost no others. And my eyes, damn eyes again, I had yet to see anyone with eyes as clear and bright a green as mine. Somehow I got all my physical traits from the mom I never knew, and none from the dark bronze man that was my father. As the blocks passed and the coldness of the man’s stare left me, I eventually looked beyond the glares to find that I was actually mostly ignored. It was the party of armored warriors led by the king’s man that drew attention not one of us specifically.

    We stayed in a tight triangle, with our guide easily parting the crowds before us. Our guide with no sign of facial hair seemed young to be on duty with the guards, and his inexperience showed when he readily rambled answers to Brad’s persistent questions about his family, the Rhynn’s. They are apparently a prestigious family that holds a place of honor at the noble’s council and has close connections to the blood of Tain Hawkson, the bastard king himself. Rhynn continued with barely a breath between to explain that many in his family have been cast out of court like the plague and are cursed as rebels. When asked what he thought of those family members by Brad, Rhynn’s face contorted and seemed disgusted by the thought that anyone especially his family members could speak out against the kingdom. With no prompting this time he tells Brad that he is struggling to gain his families honor back, and thus why he is serving in the guard.

    About this time, I could see a clearing ahead, but just a clearing of the tall brick and stone buildings. If the noise was any indication there where more people in there then I had likely ever seen. I looked to the tall green one called Kareth to see if he knew. His face scrunched up for a moment then he simply shrugged his broad shoulders and continued walking. I turned to my other side and seeing Justice asked her hoping she knew more of this city then I did. “It’s the main square, where the four main roads through Thanesport cross.” She responded. Belatedly I remembered one of Michael’s lessons, always scout you terrain ahead, and I mentally berated myself for stopping at the tavern yesterday instead of scouting the city and getting to know even the barest of layouts. It seems there is still much for me to learn.

    It was as we entered the square that a voice could be heard shouting above the city clatter. Standing waist high above the tallest pedestrians in the center of the square is a young man who has a striking resemblance to our lieutenant. The grumbling voice could be heard booming off the sharp walls surrounding the square, and thus we could hear clearly his shouts of ‘the kingdom is need of a change’ and ‘the king has wronged us all.’ There was a small circle of peace around him as people stopped to listen, and gently the crowd grew as I can only it had grown since he started speaking. Most of those in the square were continuing rushing through their lives not seeing or hearing much that which went on around them. Our guard spit to the side of the street and then looked at the man on the podium, his eyes lit with anger. Glancing around at us, he crisply told us to wait there so he could deal with his cousin. Before we could react to his statement, he quickly became lost in the midst of the rushing crowd. The seven of us move to one side of the street just outside the square letting the merchants, beggars, horses, carts, and wailing children through. “I hope he remembers where he left us,” grumbles Brad adding, “I want to be done with this as soon as possible. Why doesn’t he just leave them?” Each I think for their own reasons, we choose not to respond.

    As I move to investigate the abandoned cart in the alley behind us, I feel the little dwarf, Arfin, moving to stand beside me, but with leg up he tenses to completely motionless. While Justice hardly moving in front of him slowly rests her fingers on her sword hilt. Then I hear what started as a distant and random clink of metal became an ominous beat as the randomness solidifies into a uniform pounding. Selura and Kareth also spring to readiness. Not wanting to reach for my bow in this crowd I tilt my staff, so I can hold it with both hands slightly off the ground. Brad is the only one not readying a weapon, and instead is leaning on the wall facing the square. Wishing for more room, the others automatically start to surround my position pressing me back into the brick wall still warm from Anons travel through the sky. We were instructed to stay and with no idea where to go, staying is our only option.

    Angry shouts could be heard filling the square, and a solemn voice telling everyone to disband immediately. Suddenly a loud boom went off. An acrid smoke wafted toward us and instinctively the mass rushed from the square to the safer side streets. This was the start of mass panic. I moved fully behind the group and toward the side of the alleyway as the tide of people rushed at us. The guards were yelling at people to stop, so we tripped and hit a few people charging toward us. Some of this due to honor to abbey orders, but mostly it was simple protection. The rest rush past in a seamless herd of confusion not caring who went down or where they where going so long as it was away.

    As the air cleared and the street became virtually empty, one of the guards came by puffing himself up, but not keeping the fear and worried glances away from the drawn and obviously calculated movements each of my companions had with their varied weapons. He stopped feet from us and glancing over his shoulder once gave us our orders, “Th…. The lieutenant s… sent me to t..take you to Mr. Fip..p..ps. Please f..follow me.” Not having much choice in the matter we follow the small strides the little pudgy man makes as he tries to walk quickly away.

    We are led across town and inside a store decorated with bright cloth from the southern mountains, herbs from deep in the druid’s forest, and many more rarities from around the kingdom. Once ushered inside we are introduced to the man we are to get our assignment from, Mr. Fipps. The lieutenant stands to one side and looking down at his hands tries to remain still. Mr. Fipps gives a sigh and waving at the man says, “Go and report to the Captain that they have arrived and are given their orders.” The lieutenant looks relieved and not wanting the merchant to change his mind almost stumbles over a dark cherry desk in his race out the door.

    The shopkeeper then turns to us and tells us our job. One of his caravans has gone missing, and it held very precious cargo. He only knows it was coming from Dun Moradin and it should have arrived in the city days ago. The leader of the caravan is called Jane Rilmore. Once both caravan and it’s leader are found, we are to escort both safely and quickly back to Thainsport. The shopkeeper almost as a forgotten thought adds, “The items in the crates are for the king’s eyes only. It is a special gift for his upcoming welcome ceremony.” He simply waves us to the back of the store, “There are horses in the back there to speed you on your way.” As we exit the building Brad and Edriss exchange a look and Brad declares to us, “I have to go get some extra supplies before we leave.” Justice glances at her light and almost empty pack, “I have my own horse that I must get, so why not let us meet just outside the south gate in an hour.” Apparently their need for their private tasks are great, and so without waiting for a reply the three head off, Justice toward the docks and Brad with Edriss at his heels to the East.

    I go and look at the horses, trying to see which would match up best with who of our companions. Though not magnificent creatures of beauty, they are sturdy and look able to handle hours on the road. As soon as I see my remaining companions with the animals though my fears are laid to rest. Each seems to have no hatred of the beasts. Though I worry Kareth may over feed his, after watching him feed the horse five carrots. I reach over placing my hand on his as he reaches for another, “We may have to go far, and if they eat now they may get sick.” He looks at me as if trying to see if I am telling the truth, but with a short nod of his bald head he places the carrot back in the sack and turns to me, “Sick horse no good. I stop feed.” I feel the ghost of a smile touch my lips, he has such a pure heart and wants to do such kindness. I again wonder what could have brought such a simple gentle creature to this city.

    Then I hear the grunts of the dwarf behind me, and I turn to see him scowling at the smallest of the horses. It’s still a full two heads taller then Arfin, but he seems determined. He pushes a crate over to the horse, who nervously pounds it’s hooves. From what I have already seen of this dwarf, he will not wish for my interference, so from my position I look into the horses great dark brown eyes and whisper in elvish to stead the beast. Arfin grabs the saddle horn and with legs flying and armor clanking he finally sits astride the beast. I smile as Arfin grumbles about needing only his legs and not understanding human’s needs for dependence on these unbearable monsters. I can tell the horse is not going to be his best friend, but it has already settled into accepting it’s rider. Selura I had seen immediately taken with one, and it let her approach with only a twitch of it’s ears. She easily saddled and harnessed the creature, and without thought lept in the saddle with practiced ease. Soon we are ready and we slowly meandering our way to the south gate.

    As the high noon sun bears down on us, we finally got on the open road and set out path south. We almost left Brad and Edriss after having to wait over half an hour. I looked back not once glad I was leaving. I had seen much that I wanted to investigate further, but I learned in my short stay I could not take much more of the horrible odors and the often dirty bodies always pushing together. Finally, I am again in the open air and space to really breath it in.

    The ride seemed to be going steady. Justice and Brad in the lead continuously arguing over the best strategy and best direction, and Edriss seeming to think us diseased and staying almost out of sight in the rear. We had only gotten a few short miles from town when one of the lead horses bucks. I see the paladin weild her horse away from Brad and his wild beast. Brad manages to stay on the horse for few scant seconds yelling at us that something is in the pack.

    I use my knees to veer my horse alongside Brad’s horse, and holding the reigns and commanding voice force it to be still. There is confusion from the others as to what exactly happened when Arfin yells, “Kill it!” and charges the horse with his axe raised. The monk must have seen the same movement for standing next to the pack he reaches down, as a shiny flash of light head pops out and bites the monk slithering quickly back into hiding. Kareth stands motionless for a few scant seconds his hand inches from the bag’s opening. He then slowly pulls his back toward his chest and almost cradling it suddenly falls to the ground.

    As the bag hits the ground, I pull the horse forward. He is terrified enough without everyone drawing weapons next to it. And whatever is in that bag is attacking everything within reach. I jump down from my horse, and push both horses further away from the chaos unfolding. A shiny head raise just above the level of the grass and hisses, so this is some strange snake. Backing against the horse with one eye steadily trying to follow the snakes movements I look over the horse for any injuries, but I can find no injuries other then the damage to his nerves.

    My riding companions seem to be hacking the ground, grass, and everything within that small space with their various assorted weapons. They continue to stand around the bag trying to kill what upon closer inspection looks like a cobra with strangely crafted metal armor. I walk toward the monk cradling his hand and sitting on the ground watching every blade and glint the snake makes in it’s travels. Taking his hand gently, I grab some herbs from my pack that should sooth the injury and help to heal it. Kareth shouts to the others as much as he can see and determine the place of the snake, but after just a few minutes the glade is quite. The horses have settled, the dust has settled, and the grass moves no more. The snake has either died from it’s wounds or escaped into the tall grasses and underbrush where some other animal will surely finish the job. “We must keep to the road and find the caravan,” Justice states as she re-sheathes her sword. Brad flicks at the dirt covering his cape, “That thing was in my bag, and I want to know who put it there and why. We should go after it.” “No.” Arfin states looking up from his axe blade, “The lass has finally spoken some sense. We move on.” Not looking at Justice he moves to his horse and starts the process of climbing into the saddle.

    Justice walks over the monk and with calculated movements and practiced words of prayer slowly drains the poison from his system. I stand back and watch helping him to his feet and then back into the saddle.

    The rest slowly mount up and seeing Anon moving to late afternoon we know that time is against us. We agree to push through the night, as it seems even with what we have been through no one would sleep well anyways. There were still questions unanswered, about what we where doing, what we saw in Thainsport with no evidence, and even more questions about each other. It seemed Brad and Edriss were on good terms as they rode together talking quietly, yet it was strange that Brad kept motioning to Edriss’s pack. It figures they would be haggling over supplies and only a few hours on the road, but maybe they had made a deal in town without the rest of us.
    Last edited by Laurel; Tuesday, 21st September, 2004 at 04:39 PM.

  9. #9

    Chapter One- “Shadows of the Past”

    Day Three- Road South of Thanesport

    The day seemed to be perfect. The birds sang a greeting to Anon, thier joyful wing beats knocking the marron and dead leaves from thier perches. One falls crunched unoticed beneath black hoof. Anon brightly lit our way, and brought a disturbing contrast to the dense forest just beyond. The metal jingle of the horse’s bits and harness' ring in the quiet peace around us.

    I wrap the worn brown cloak around me, the smell of horses, blood from the battle on the wharf, added to days of dirt and sweat reminding me that a bath is required. The streams are running colder, and within a few weeks ice will surely cover them. Braving the icy waters would be preferable to going with out dinner because of our ripe stench.

    I glance forward seeing the narrow ridgid back of Justice. She occasionally pauses without comment to glance off the path. Then somehow satisfied starts on her way again. She is a soldier, and seems at ease with taking as wel as giving orders. The captain in the jail had given her orders to follow whatever the merchant told us. It seems so far she will go to the ends of the earth to fulfill those orders. The Apectin priests in Greenwood, the closest town to my home, were withered old humans, but though thier bodies had started to decay thier minds were kept active as the gathered anyone close to hear of thier travels through the kingdom defending and enforcing the king's law. I tried to listen, to gather what I could from their lives, but I quickly learned Michael could actually teach me what they could only now speak of. The one thing that finally drove me away was their almost blind sense of duty and calling. Justice seems to follow in those footsteps, knowing her ordered place and following within it. She is an Apectin after all warrior, leader, and law of light.

    Glancing through our ranks I see each in a hive of thier own. Our only common goal to find the caravan and to return to Thainesport and for the others to get on with their lives. I still had no idea what those lives really were. I looked behind me and saw Arfin his armor shining like a beacon in the afternoon light. Pulling out his water skin, he throws back his head burnt red hair flying and worked his throat muscles quickly gulping down half the bag. As he lowered the bag, I caught his eyes they were red rimmed again and from the smell he had filled the bag with ale. Michael had said drink was a weakness. Dink could make you slow by seconds, and is all it took to take a life. Arfin stayed in the saddle somehow, though he always on the brink of some unknown void. Drinking was a large part of his life, but he just happen to stumble into Thanesport? What would he do once back there- would he simply loose himself in the spirits once again.

    For me, I finally had a goal. I finally had something to do. It had been a long time since I had purpose, since I had someone around who I knew. It was…. All those months ago before Michael was taken from me, I had a purpose then. All our kills we cleaned and skinned for trade in the small community of Greenville. Every feast day I went to the Amastatian temple to sit an let their teachings flow over me. I had always been to nervous to approach those of the order. They wore white gauzy robes and had such beauty and elegance. They had a freedom of heart, body and mind that I envied. I saw them comfort anyone who needed it, and bring words of life and love to those who survived because of it. Michael new that I went there, but he did not stop me. He was just glad I remained un-noticed. Maybe that was why I liked it there amongst their wooden walls. With them I could- *snap*

    I snap my horse's head around forcing him to stall as a series of snaps are heard dircelty ahead followed by a scream and a deadly thud. I stand up in my stirrups to see the blonde head of the Apectin has disappeared. I jump from my horse and with the others run to the edge of the pit. Edriss thinking ahead pulls a rope out of his sack before going to the edge. Once there we see Justice, she has managed to pull her body free of the horse. She has calmed it some. Edriss throws the rope down to help Justice, and she lashes around her arm and starts the accent. The horse is in pain, and even more fearful when the paladin starts to leave her. I move quickly to the other side catching the wide eyed stare of the horses large brown eyes. Not letting it see as the other reach down to grab Justice’s arms and heave her the rest of the way up.

    A dart hits a tree to our right, and I dive to the ground. As more darts come from the woods, I crawl back to the edge of the pit as the horse starts to thrash again. The dwarf starts yelling at them to show their cowardly faces each time getting redder in the face. The paladin now on her feet quickly drops to the ground drawing her sword at the same time. Edriss with cross bow ready crouches by a tree. With lightning speed he points at a tree across the pit and pulls the trigger. A violent shaking starts at the center of the bush and a piercing squeal is heard. Edriss pulls his lips back in a what passes for a smile.

    The pitter patter of little feet running off though we can see nothing. As Brad stands up, Justice grabs his arm, “This was a well devised trap, we stay low until we know for sure they are gone.” Brad bristles, but hearing the controlled politeness he settles back down. I look to Selura who is next to me on the ground, “We must get the horse out of there if we are to save her.” The others over hear this, and the paladin tells us multiple times that it is her responsibility and her horse that she will think of a way.

    The horse is getting anxious again and is starting to move again. I look over the edge of the pit and try to calm her some more, while Justice tells everyone else how to make a rig. When it is done I see she has devised a set of pulleys that just may work. Arfin continues to stand apart from Justice trying to anticipate her every order. The first was when he heard her say she needed wood and as she turned to him, he pulled his axe blade out and went to the first log he saw. I don’t really know what to attribute this to, but so long as the work is being done.

    With the rope lassoed around the horse and each end wrapped around two opposing trees we manage to pull the horse up. Justice runs to the horse checking her over for injury. I move quietly to the other side, double checking just in case. Luckily it just looks to be a sprain of the ankle. Brad suddenly asks “What’s down there Edriss?” Edriss reports with slight mocking “Just a man, but he looks a little flatter then he was.” Seeing Justice cold face he continues a little more seriously Edriss, “He must have died approximately two days ago. There are no markings or badges and he wears only peasants clothes.” Edriss and Brad convince us to leave the body as it is, undisturbed.

    Looking down in the hole one last time I shiver pulling the thin brown cloak tightly around me. I slowly back up trying to not think of loss, of death. I can feel the sunset coming, and with it will come ever cooler air. Soon nature will enter its sleeping death. The world will be held in white and gray, but for now I simply ease into the saddle letting my hand rest on my horse’s neck feeling his heat, his pulse, his life. For Michael showed me long ago, all of life is a cycle.

    With nothing better to do we ride a few more miles south, till we stop. No one wants to stop long enough to build a fire or heat the rations we brought. None of us think to forage or hunt, we are already at our deadline and no closer to an answer. I again check the wound of the monks hands which have almost completely healed. I go to the Paladins horse, and with a fierce look she tells me she has seen to her blocking my path. She does not need to tell me, out here her horse is her life. She doesn’t know me, she can not trust me that far. I walk away turning my back on the paladin, Michael would have said I was being weak. I could only hope she understood that I was giving her my trust. I automatically tread lightly for my larger size and move to stand beside where the monk is happily chewing his food. He is not one for conversation, but seems happy enough to answer questions when asked them. It just takes me a while to sort through how to ask him what I am wondering and then sort through how he meant the answer.

    I almost jump when a voice over the monks shoulder calls to us, “We are rested. We must continue the search.” I tip my head back and see beyond Kareth’s uncovered green shoulders, Edriss barely outlined in the shade of the tree. Brad rushes forward to his horse, “We should set out. There is still a lot of distance to cover.” His face slightly split with a cocky confident smile. As we move to our own horses, I hear Justice mutter, “We don’t know how far, imbicile.” It seems the road just got longer, and we still have seen no signs of a caravan.
    Last edited by Laurel; Monday, 27th September, 2004 at 09:08 PM.

  10. #10

    Chapter One- “Shadows of the Past”

    Day Four- Road South of Thanesport

    I feel the warmth of the sun on my face and roll onto my back selfishly taking in as much of it as I can. As I slowly come to consciousness, I feel the harsh steel of my kukri slightly digging into my side and know that I was again foolish enough to sleep in the open. I can only hope father…. “We have to get moving quickly. We can eat in the saddle.” Intrudes a female voice. I roll to my feet in a smooth move slowly stretching each muscle on the way up. I can hear Arfin arguing with Justice across the ash remains of our fire. One thing I am learning fast is that dwarves do not like bowing to woman and a non-dwarf woman leading seems preposterous to the little man. Arfin finally agrees with Justice’s order to move out, but only when no one posses a better idea.

    After mounting up, we quickly settle into our normal silence and watchfulness. A line of horses blindly following the leader and a line of riders dressed for battle, yet passing no one and nothing in the trek south. The road bends and weaves; it narrows and widens. It is sheltered by a canopy of branches and leaves in spots and others we are laid bare to the sky. For a main road out of a main city it is surprisingly deserted, but I am rather glad of that. I had my fill of crowded streets and loud sounds that barley let you think over them. I am content with less people since it means I can see the world better. I can smell the fresh dirt as the horses hooves breaks it to crumbles. I can hear the soft foot falls of a deer on out left. I can see the red of the turning leaves flash like fire as the wind caresses it into the sunlight.

    My knees press into my horse’s sides slowly moving him along side Selura. The only other alder I have ever known. I hear the soft discordant sound of one cord played over and over again slowly gain in volume as I reach her side. I see she has her harp out and I see that her high alder features seem almost ethereal with the light glinting off her hair and skin. Lost to her own world she seems entranced plucking that one cord in time with the step of her horse. I lean over and touch her arm, “Selura,” I venture. She closes her eyes as some would from dreams and breathes a deep breath. Slowly her eyes look over at me, “Yes.” I look away from the sadness in her eyes, and I quietly ask her of her travels through the world as a bard and as an alder. For the moment she is open, and seems in truth about all she says. I could tell that at points her eyes would go dark, but with a quick smile and laugh she returns to herself. At those moments I would be left wondering if I was simply seeing a shadow from above or if there was more hidden and closed off. I was simply glad of what information she offered so freely.

    As Anon rose high above us slowly heating all that it touched, Selura stops in our conversation and interjects, “Maybe it is time for a song. This may tell you more of what you seek then my words alone. A song can be a great gift.” My brow furrows as I scoff, “A gift? A song?” Apparently she has never heard the likes of me nor Michael sing, nor heard few… rowdy songs he knew. Her white teeth flash as her mouth turns into a bright smile, “If done right a song can be very powerful. You are very young as yet, so today I give you this gift of knowledge, a glimpse of your people.” With that her slender fingers subtly shift on the strings and her eyes close as dark lashes fall gently on her pale skin. “Listen,” she whispers her voice even in speech melding with the strange soft melody.

    The others visibly relax in their seats as the tune slowly works it’s way into the air, and I shed my cloak in the new heat of midday. The melody speaks of a time long ago when her people- my people- the high alder lived free. I let my lids slowly close knowing my horse will follow the others slowly walking along. At first I see only darkness in my mind, but as I let the alder language sweep me away images come unbidden. A shifting of pictures and sounds so real I can feel them move through my mind. I see no clear faces, no harsh lines as with her song individual images can be seen like the notes played but they meld to make the whole. Shadowy colorful figures regally sit and dance around a table. They wear crowns and effortlessly spin the world round their fingers. This is a song created long ago by the high alders, and it can not help but reflect their grace, their beauty, their agelessness, and their pride.

    “I see wagons ahead,” a deep yet harsh timber voice yells out ripping me from the vision. My eyes flash open to see Brad spur his horse into the clearing ahead. “Foolish,” comes the dark words from a cloaked Edriss in back.

    The rest of us act with more caution and slowly enter a small clearing filled with broken and smashed carts and wagons. There are no horses nor people about, but the closest wagon has one large shard that remained intact and shows some familiar markings. I am the last to dismount stunned by the wont destruction surrounding me. Justice quickly settles into the role of commander and investigator, but within moments stalks back to us a slight frown creasing her young brow, “These have the markings of Phipps store. This is the caravan.” Her voice reflects her normal calm, but her white knuckled fist betrayed her confusion and indecision and maybe even… anger? As the others start to spread out looking for clues, I go to each horse collecting them, making sure they don’t decide a fuzzy rabbit is cause to bolt away.

    Arfin stands by one wagon side bushy eyebrows pushed as one waving around a metal disc through his short fingers. It’s sharp points reflecting Anon’s glare better then even his steely plate of armor. The others notice as well and we all move foreword cautiously. Upon closer inspection they seem to be perfect throwing discs formed flat and smooth. Arfin voice holds fascination and wonder as he stares intently at the discs. We think he has forgot all but the new toy, until he utters, “I ‘ave ne’er seen the like.”

    Brad stalks over demanding “Where would they have gone?” with a flourish of his cloak as he lifts his arms and turns in a wide circle. A commanding and practical voice cuts him off, “The woods. There is blood here and here,” Justice points out the largest of the blackened puddles and splash marks. “I will check for tracks in the woods,” I suggest needing to be of more help then the horse handler. Justice nods briefly her golden hair snapping over her shoulder as she sharply faces the others, and so having been dismissed I turn to leave.

    Before I finish my turn away from the group, a shot is fired from the trees to our left. I hear Brad yelp in pain as a red sun brightens across his shirt sleeve. Edriss silently moves into the shadows and we can follow the brief glimpses of his dark brown cloak as he skirts around the outside of the encampment slowly moving toward the tree that shelters the gunner. We try to cover his movement by a full assault on what seems to be a lone attacker. Arfin gives a battle cry leaping forward, I pull my bow quickly knocking arrows and letting them fly. Brad runs for brush to tree slowly getting closer and closer. Justice long legs quickly over running Arfin draws the long sword from her back. As another shot is fired, I duck as Justice and Arfin weave apart. It seems the attacker missed us all. It is then that I see Kareth’s large green form silent in the chaos moving swifter then Brad or Justice getting within feet of the attacker. I rise from my crouched position and start to walk closer still releasing arrows as the shadows change around the attackers position.

    In a flurry of brown and green, Edriss leaps from behind a tree while the shooter is attempting to reload. We abandon the shelters we had hid behind and run for the two figures. When I finally reach the group I peer around Kareth’s hulking form to see Edriss holding a knife to the attackers throat. The figure reminds me of a willow tree though shrouded in a tattered cloak. The hood is pulled forward and only shifting shadows can be seen beneath. As the figure moves a single red drop starts it’s slow journey down the long light bronze throat. Brad moves in front of the shooter slowly taking a small blade from his hip. Brad raises his hands moving them round and round. Selura quickly moves her smaller form between Brad and the shooter, and puts a hand on Edriss’ shoulder hopefully staying further pressure.

    Selura’s voice rings in the silence around us, “What is your business and why where you shooting us?” At the same time Selura pushes the shooters hood back, and we gaze into the face of a woman. Not just any woman, but a woman of unusual beauty. I lean further around Kareth’s hulking frame in surprise, in amazement, in…Even with ragged clothing, dirt and blood covering her hands and face, her beauty can not be hidden. But it is more then that… Edriss seeming unfazed by her looks continues to press the blade closer, forcing her to speak. In the hushed silence of the woods she tells us her name is Jaine. The very Jaine we were sent to collect it seems. She feared we were whatever attacked the caravan days before and so attacked us.

    There are no others about, and from my hidden spot behind Kareth my eyes dart to the trees and brush wondering if there are the others. If there are others surely she would not have risked this alone, clearly outnumbered. Justice moves forward and lean muscles tightening pulls Edriss’ hand away from Jaine neck. At the same time she tells Jaine that we were sent to collect the caravan and give them safe passage back to Mr. Fipps in Thainesport. At Mr. Fipps name her eyes widen in surprise, and soon she confides that she is not the last. There are others about, other survivors from the caravan.

    Her features are hard to read until the placid mask seems to fade away with the remnants of the adrenaline, and the lines of stress can be seen faintly. It seems those she works with she will protect no matter the personal costs, since rather then running to the others for protection she fought us, standing her ground against great odds. Since the moment the hood was pushed back I felt drawn to her, her strength in purpose and in character can be seen from her clear honest gaze to her proud stance demanding one to feel honored to be in her presence.

    She has shown a rare gift for loyalty. Michael told me loyalty is not a common trait through the kingdom or the lands. But… She looks at us in turn weighing the costs of letting us in and trusting us. Most people I would think would have been happy to see a group of warriors take this burden from her. Yet she stands firm knowing she herself maybe lost to us for ill, but she seems cautious enough to protect the others. And from the sound of her voice and the destruction we saw they need protecting. She seems to be thinking of their safety and of their lives. She definitely warrants more attention for she is someone I think I could count as friend, but my path until she is in Thainesport is already set. I will trust in the light, I took the first step and it led me to here. The light will show me my path.

    Finally she nods briefly and points westward. As she moves off ahead, Brad races for the privilege of following closely at her back. The signs of passage can be seen on the trail, though all recent and maybe traveled three or four times. I grab the reigns of my horse as the others hold theirs and start to head off. I quickly tether Brad’s forgotten horse’s reigns to my saddle. Wondering if this was the lust the Amastatian Abbess told me could blind a person of thought, sight and reason.

    When Jaine’s mask was lifted, it was easy to tell that she is younger in years then I, but her wariness, her eyes, her furrowed frown tell me that she has lived so much more of life then I. My gut tells me I should be thankful I have not lived her life, but I can not help wonder if this is my path to follow her. As father said more then once the only way to learn is to ask, so I shall have to once we are all safely back in Thanesport, once I have been released from the King’s service. My thoughts drift to the wind as Jaine brushes back a branch to reveal a large encampment.

    As we step into the clearing, a wave of quiet silences conversations mid-word and all eyes turn slowly to inspect the intruders. Seeing Jaine in the lead most relax again, slumping if they were even able to stand. An elderly man rushes over scanning Jaine with his gaze. He puts an arm familiarly around her, and then protectively moves himself between us and her. Jaine calms him quickly and then looks to us finally introducing us to Joshua Preston. He carries steel drakes and swords, and moves comfortable with the weight of each. A seasoned warrior it seems. I spy Justice though she seems wary of this new man instead of the easy comradery I would have thought. Looking to Justice he tells us he is a cleric, challenging her to defy his words. Her stance changes, relaxes. His white hair tells of his long life, and his hard calloused hands tells of his hard long life. Then the moment is past, Justice has shown the ability to tell evil in a person some strange gift from the light to help in the call of the Apectin warriors. I reach my hand up patting my horses nose, thankful they are easier to deal with, easier to anticipate.

    Brad asks about those Jaine said where praying on them in the night, and Jane answers, “They are like ghosts, but in the morning we find more supplies missing, and usually at least one more casualty. We are hurting enough. All we know is they attack at night and then slink into shadow.” Joshua asks if we plan on staying and helping. Brad’s face having fallen with each new problem added. Edriss in a strange humor mutters, “Our lives depend on it.” “Then you need to protect yourselves,” puffs out Joshua. With that he takes one of the steel drakes from his belt and thrusts it at Justice. Arfin’s face quickly lights with a grin, for here a man of the Apectin Order has given us permission to us the banned weapons. He pedals his legs towards the closest open crate with Edriss, Selura and Brad not far behind. The monk follows his pace slower but his stride keeping him equal with the others. As he reaches the crate he looks around uncertainly then down at his hands simply stating, “hand smash better.” Arfin’s normally squinty eyes widen in surprise, I turn knowing this will lead to another argument. I found out later the monk won and left his trust to his hands.

    I watch as Justice pushes the weapon away as Joshua shoves it more forcefully at her. He then forcefully grabs Justice’s arm and pushes the gun into her belt. “You will carry this,” he declares with quiet steel. I am now the only who has not moved to take the metal weapons. He turns toward me drawing another form his belt, and not wanting to cause a scene. I wrap my fingers around the hilt and test the heavy weight, then looking up quickly tell the others I will scout the area. Justice’s commanding voice reminds me to return before nightfall. I have begun to tell that for most people it would have been an order said as such but for Justice it was simply a reminder. I heft the weighty object in my hand again, but I know I trust my bow’s accuracy and speed above any gun. Once out of sight I put the steel-drake in one of the wagons under some broken pots. I would not even know to use the silly thing.

    As I break the line of trees, I kneel hanging my head and relaxing my body. I remain motionless simply listening to the trees, air, movements around me. I block out the curses and laughter behind me. I push away the banging of wood on wood and metal on metal from the camp. I focus outward on this new prey. I figure the best way to track this game is by ever larger circles around camp. It would have to have eventually left some sort of mark or track. I move left slowly working my way around.

    Within a very short time I see a set of strange tracks. As I run my senses over the indentions, I can tell it must be some kind of footwear for a bipedal creature. Not any common footwear that I know of not slipper, nor boot, nor shoe. That is not what worries me though, it is instead the fact that the tracks are not hidden at all. The remains of the caravan group must not have even looked. I follow the prints, the strands of thin threads on thorns, the snapped branches, and the bruised leaves west towards the sea. Why would someone come from the sea coast? As I move further west I see that other tracks meet up with this pair, and they all carry the signature marks of the strange footwear. I slowly retrace my steps, and enter the encampment as the lowering sun descends past the tips of the trees.

    There is a small fire already going. The wagons have been moved into a more defensible position, with the weakest survivors in the center. Justice and Joshua and Jaine walk around the camp bestowing words and commands as commanders would before battle.

    Selura tells me she and Arfin set up traps around the edges of camp, and then with lowered voice asks me to check them without Arfin seeing. Brad has also set up his own trap using the steel drake powder. Remembering the times I tried to trick Michael into a harmless trap, I walk the perimeter checking Arfin and Selura’s covered ditches. I quickly see that I need to cover them more securely without letting Arfin see me. I know how quickly he would boil at an female not thinking his work satisfactory. I also look to Brad’s traps, but can only wonder at the design and use. He has placed piles of the power around the encampment with a smaller trail leading in the middle where he sits by the fire.

    Away from everyone else the bald green head of the monk reflects the firelight, casting an almost menacing look to the normally peaceful and innocent tusks and muscled form.

    The tension grows in the camp as night creeps in. Soon all is encompassed in darkness but our little ring of fire. With a small hiss of air followed quickly by a soft thwack a series of metal disks sink into the sides of wagons around us. I try to fire my arrows into the forest where I see movement, as the other spring to action. Drawing steel drakes and firing into the darkness. At the edge of the clearing a lone figure stands covered in complete darkness, his shadowy movements like a lion on the prowl. I take aim as Justice turns and lifts her arm as well. Lead bullet and arrow fly toward the man. He barely shifts his weight and remains motionless. I can only think both missed their target. As I reach for another arrow, he disappears leaving only the slight movement of leaves to mark his passing. A strange call pierces the air above us and soon all that is heard is the ringing in our ears as silence descends the area again.

    Through the acrid fog a groan is heard in one of the bushes. One of the caravan members rushes over a wagon wheel trying to stay below the fog line. Jaine moves quickly to fill his place quietly calling his name. A voice is heard calling back to her. It’s him, the caravan worker. As we move to follow his voice Justice places a hand on Jaine’s shoulder motioning her to stay there. Silently we creep out working our way toward the sound of his voice. Occasionally we pass by some of my arrows that found a mark. I try to keep track and see that most of my shots landed a hole uselessly in the trees and shrubs. As the wind slowly separates the smoky air into nothingness, we approach three figures. Two wearing all black separated by mere feet. The caravan man is leaning over one pressing a shaky hand over his wound. The wounded ones are wearing simple black cloth that blends with the starless night and the only weapons we find are more of the deadly discs. I help to lift one, noting the warm blood that quickly covers my hands making his clothing slippery.

    Once back at camp Edriss drops his load next to the fire and just states “He’s dead.” Justice standing next to him re-sheathing a bloody knife, until now I had never seen her pull out any of them. She seems to prefer her big sword instead, but then this is our first battle together and only the fourth day of knowing each other. There is still much undiscovered. The knife must have been from the battle earlier.

    The other prisoner seems to have taken less damage or is simply more resilient. I drop to one knee to look at his wounds, but he stares with a murdering gaze and I back off. He mutters in a strange harsh dialect unknown to me, so I glance at everyone to see if anyone can speak to him. Kareth chuckles, and says one word back. The captive looks at Kareth surprised and they start a short dance of simple conversation. Kareth finally says in common, “They try kill leader.” Kareth points to Jaine and Joshua, then “They hungry. He takes us to camp morning.” We tell Jaine and Joshua that we must go and make sure these attackers so not follow the caravan on the trip back to town. Jaine and Joshua exchange a glance, telling us only that they do not care as long as they get to Thanesport quickly.
    Last edited by Laurel; Wednesday, 18th August, 2004 at 07:20 PM.

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