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The Threads of Fate
Posted: Wed Dec 05, 2007 4:41 pm
"This is strange..." The old crone whispered in a hoarse and cracking voice. She peered closely at Nero's palm as he sat opposite her. She took his hand, drawing it closer to her face.
"You have no lifeline." She said, humming to herself with great interest. Nero looked up at her, curious.
"What does that..." He was cut off as the woman continued.
"But." She croaked. "I can tell that you shall undergo a task of tremendous importance. Your path will be one of great triumph, though not without great personal sacrifice." She said. Nero looked at her expectantly.
"Beyond that, I cannnot tell." She finished. Nero rose to his feet.
"I see. Thank you." He said, retrieving a small silver coin from his pocket, which he placed on the table. He nodded to her and turned back to the camp.
The clearing was a bustle of activity as merchants, pilgrims and families made their camp for the night. The appetising aroma of roasting meat hung in the air as a boar turned slowly on the spit. The large bonfire had been set in the middle of the clearing, with several smaller campfires off to the side, encircled by tents. There was a merry, almost festive atmosphere in the air. The sound of song and conversation carrying into the night. At the edge of the fire a group gathered around two chess players, spectating on their match.
Nero glanced around for the others. Since the caravan had made camp for the night he had lost track of them.
Posted: Wed Dec 05, 2007 5:11 pm
Caitir jumped on Nero's back like an excited little child, pressing her weight into his shoulders.
"Hey there! Long time no see." She walked around and took a seat adjacent to him in front of the fire. She reached into her back and pulled out a skewer of roasted meat, potatoes and peppers and tossed it at Nero.
"Catch." She said joyously, pulling two more out of her bag for herself. "Nicked them while nobody was looking. Girl's gotta eat somehow, right?"
She chuckled at her comments and haply began eating her stolen dinner.
Posted: Wed Dec 05, 2007 5:18 pm
Nero smiled and shook his head. She seemed different to the reserved and guarded woman he had met just hours ago.
"Thank you." He said, catching the food. Taking a palce beside her he began to eat.
"Have you seen the others?" He asked between mouthfulls of meat.
The silver light of the moonlight filtered through the clouds in the sky, bathing everything in a ethereal glow in contrast to the red flicker of the bonfire's flames.
Posted: Wed Dec 05, 2007 5:28 pm
It had taken Caitir some time to realize that the lack of company over the last year had sombered her tremendously. It was good to be with people again, she decided.
"I don't know... I think that I saw Ladarious a ways back haggling over bottle of half-drunk mead... although it could have just been another gypsy. I don't think that I've ever seen so many gypsies before in my entire life!"
Posted: Wed Dec 05, 2007 5:43 pm
Nero looked around. It was true. He had never before seen such a diverse group of people. From traders from the sandy deserts of Koro and mercenaries from Kuthersia to hunters from Avanoor and artisans from Sachem. He felt at home, strangely, lost in the crowd amongst all these people.
Posted: Thu Dec 06, 2007 4:19 am
About two days' distance from the caravan, Arden, Cujo and Greyhawk had made a small camp. They had, even though they risked it being seen by the people they were trailing, lit a fire, and were now roasting some venison meat over it. Since they had moved slowly today, the distance to the caravan had become greater rather than smaller. Cujo, however, had had trouble adjusting to the high speed of the two elves. The puppy was now sitting by the fire, enjoying it's warmth.
Greyhawk and Arden were busy sparring together. Though he still had a hangover, it had never affected Arden's fighting skills, and yet he had an equal in his brother this day, event though his brother fought with daggers and not swords. It was just another part of Arden testing his new lieutenant, of course.
The sounds of metal against metal echoed throughout the night, but Arden was satisfied with his brother's skills in combat, and soon gave up the fighting with a graceful bow and a grin to his brother.
As he returned to the fire and sat down, he took a deep breath, and said: "I wonder if that woman... Caitir..." But whatever he was thinking he didn't finish the sentence, instead sinking into thoughts. Shaking his head, he finally decided to get some food and sleep for now. It would be another busy day of running and tracking tomorrow.
The life of a mercenary was indeed a hard one, he thought with a sigh.
Posted: Sat Dec 08, 2007 2:35 pm
When the three woke up the next morning, the fire was cold, and their bodies stiff from the harsh ground they had slept on. Arden got on his feet, waking first of them, and in the morning chill shivered slightly before pulling his green cloak over his shoulders and yawning while gazing up at a bird flying past in the sky. He then kicked his brother in the side. Greyhawk woke with a surprised jump, and Arden said: "Get up, brother. We've got a long ways to travel today. And wake that puppy as well." Leaving his brother to it, Arden then began to remove the traces of their night camp, including the remains of the fire. Soon, they were once again on the move, this time at a high pace, running through the wilderness, Arden carrying Cujo so that they could keep a higher pace than they would have been able to with him running by their side.
Once again they stopped by sundown later that day, when they had reached a high cliffside that gave an incredble view of the surrounding lands. Cujo left to scout the surrounding area, and Arden then signaled for Greyhawk to come up to him by the edge. As his brother did, Arden pointed northwards, and said: "Look there, bro. That's beautiful country, isn't it?" GReyhawk nodded his agreement. Arden looked at him and said: "Lesson number two, brother. That country is Lycoria, and any agent of Bregan Savant is captured and most likely executed there. You, as my spy master, is responsible for their lives, and the rescue of them before they are executed."
"Yeah... I've got a question. When we were there, the kingdom seemed to take massive amounts of refugees...", GReyhawk mused. He looked at his captain, and asked: "Why, and where do they come from?" Arden crouched on the very edge of the cliffside, and gazed down at the caravan below and ahead of them. About a day away, the caravan had made camp. He seemed to regard them while thinking about his brother's question. Finally, he took a deep breath and began to speak.
"There was a war...", he said. "A terrible war fought by Neseldin. I..." Arden went mute for just a moment, then continued with some trouble: "I should tell you this now. Bregan Savant took part in that war. We fought in the armies of the Dark Imperators during the war. We had recently fled from Sherldasia, as renegades who did not fit in with the peace-preaching lifestyle of our people; While peace is admirable, I and everybody who left with me, though that some times, peace can come at a greater price than war. So we sought a new home, a home where we could live our chosen life, a life that was centered around grueling combat training, and an almost god-like revereness for strength. I thought that the country we were looking for was Neseldin, and I did not realize how terribly wrong I was." He gazed up at the blood-red sky, colored by the falling sun, and there was pain in his face, and in his heart. "Many of my brethren died back then. Many more good men fell before us, though. After the war, we were ashamed, as elves, over what we had done in the service of the Black Imperators. We managed to escape imprisonment, but we could not escape our own shame."
"After a few years of wandering - nomads without a country, regarded as simple dogs of war by the kings and queens of the kingdoms we passed - we came to Kuthersia. There, we found what we had so feverishly sought after, a home. When we joined them in their war against Avanoor they in return offered us their protection, and a home of our own. But some will never forget these first years of Bregan Savant as henchmen of Evil itself..." He fell backwards, lying down in the grass, and sighing deeply.
"Since then, every member, agent and spy of Bregan Savant setting their foot in Lycoria has been branded a traitor or a spy of Neseldin, and executed - unless we've managed to save them before the execution. And not always have we managed to do that. And so it came that we became enemies of Lycoria.", he finished his story. "We are prisoners of our own past. And mark my word, brother... When we return to Lycoria, we will once again be prisoners of this past. They must not, no matter what, learn of who we really are. If they do, we will never again leave that country alive." He waved dismissively with his hand, and said: "I'll tell you more about the war some other day. I don't like thinking about it much..."
The discussion ended when Arden got up from his lying position, Cujo returned, and the three began to set up the nightcamp. This night they decided not to risk lighting a fire, due to the visibility of it on the high cliff. Eating a dinner made out of berries, roots and other vegetables, they soon went to sleep, with a guard posted at all hours. Arden took the first watch, and he gazed thoughtfully out over the dark lands before them, gazed at the distant kingdom that was Lycoria, and at the camp of the caravan below and about a day's march ahead of them.
"Would you understand?", he asked himself, thinking of the men and women he had met at the Jaded Wayfarer some days earlier. He didn't think they would. Not many people had understanding to waste on simple mercenaries like him and his kin. Had no understanding for what it was like not to have a home country...being renegades.
Posted: Thu Dec 13, 2007 10:49 am
Ladarious stumbled into Nero and Caitir laughing like a madman. "Oh, oh dear, excuse me." He tried to steady himself with his staff. "Tis good ale in these parts, good ale indeed." He patted Nero on the back and winked at Caitir. He ate his meat with relish. "Friendly souls here, friendly indeed. They share freely."
Posted: Fri Dec 14, 2007 3:24 pm
While arden was on guard, he sat at the edge of the cliffside, his eyes closed and his legs crossed, deep in a meditative trance, which was, for some elves, a possible surrogate for real sleep. Still, even in the meditative trance, he had no trouble hearing his brother approach when his guard shift was at it's end. As he rose and greeted Greyhawk with a short nod, he said: "I can't sleep now, anyway, so I'm going to take a look around. I'll whistle when I return, so you don't kill me in the dark."
"Another lesson?", he asked with a wry smile. Arden grinned back, and said:
"Lesson number three. When you can't sleep, use the time to something more creative. I'm going to take a look at their tracks, see if I can gather some information on them. We'll see." He did a gesture, and disappeared into the darkness of the surrounding forrests.
As soon as he was out of sight, he made course towards the caravan's camp. He knew he wouldn't be able to reach it even at running speed, before dawn. But he was hoping he could recognize their strength of guards and fighting able people just by studying their tracks.
And perhaps find tracks of Caitir...
He shook his head with a frown as he found his thoughts circling around the woman. Gazing up at the beautiful moon, he sighed and smiled at himself as he muttered: "Rukie is going to kill you, you know..." His smile disappeared as he thought about her, wondering what his beloved lieutenant was doing now - wondering if Bregan Savant had left Merolder yet, and how the death of her brother had affected her. The thought of her dead brother once again brought a cloud of worry over his face.
He was expecting Elkhazel to contact him with a report in a few days, but until then he had other things to worry about as well. The caravan, for one, which was on it's way to Lycoria, to a north which was struggling to rise again after a devastating war - a war which he and his had taken part in, he reminded himself - and where former soldiers turned bandits had been let loose and now roamed the wilderness as highwaymen.
Though it wasn't his business to protect them, the bad vibe that he had caught off the woman called Caitir had bothered him, and he felt drawn to the group, willing to abandon his mercenary business temporarily, to watch over their backs.
"We'll see if it brings any coins to boot.", he muttered to himself as he stopped by the clearly visible tracks of the caravan.
Posted: Sun Dec 16, 2007 6:01 pm
Nero rocked forward as the older man struck him on the back, looking over his shoulder with a gentle smile. Yes, it had been too long since he had properly enjoyed the company of others.
"I think its about time we got to know each other a bit better. I hardly know anything about you all." He said,
Posted: Mon Dec 17, 2007 8:37 pm
Ladarious crooked his head slightly thinking back on his very long life and all the tales he could tell. "There is much to tell in my life story dear boy. Ah yes much to tell. "I am Ladarious the tamer of dragons and the bearer of light." With a flourish he bowed deeply in greeting. "I was trained as a wizard when I was just a boy you see. I longed for adventure and excitement and was just filled with energy and facing challenges." He shook his head and gazed at the ground. "It wasn't all good Nero" he said in a somber tone." Then looking at the young man he smiled warmly. "But the light leads us ever onward doesn't it? To other places and experiences. Some never even dreamed of before."
Posted: Mon Dec 17, 2007 8:42 pm
Nero met the old man's gaze. thhe hesitation in his eyes told him that there was much that Ladorious was not willing to divulge. He could understand that, even if it was not a problem he suffered from himself.
"Sorry. You don't have to talk about it if you don't want to. I just thought that it might help if we're going to be travelling together for the forseeable future."