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You are here: Home --> Forum Home --> Rules-based RPGs --> Dungeons and Dragons --> Simplicity (Game)
Parent thread: Simplicity Q&A
GM for this game: Vilyamar
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Vilyamar
Glorious Emperor
Karma: 28/16
428 Posts


Simplicity (Game)

Welcome to Simplicity! Posting will be made available as soon as all the introductions are completed. Apologies for the delay, but being ill made my head spin.

Disclaimer: Some scenes depicted within the following text may contain material inappropriate for some audiences. Reader discretion is advised.




Twenty years have passed since the treaties and accords were signed. After two generations of war and starvation, prosperity has begun to bloom in fields sown of hatred and blood.

Krissily still actively patrols their new southern border though the Rigenduns have long since abandoned any sanctioned raids across the border in an effort to cool political heads everywhere and promote the new, floundering trade.

The refugees from the north of Rigendun fleeing to their native Krissily have slowed to a trickle, although those who find the oppression of their heritage too great to bear. The lawlessness along the North Rheine has created a dangerous tract of land for all travelers and residents.

The least changed border lies to the east, along the Giant Sons. Lumbarskers have returned to traveling the safe and well patrolled Lower Pass since the end of Rigendun’s Northern campaign. Gossip and news of the western nation’s victories travels along the path of inns and couriers almost as easily as the tales of new disturbances detected during the Mage Patrols.

It is this news that caused listeners’ ears to open and coins to flow over the taps as bards retold the stories of yesteryear and how the ancient (at least by human standards) Curses were laid down to prevent mortals from ever pillaging the Elven and Dwarven cities of old.

They would tell the gullible crowds that reeked of the day’s sweat and the night’s drink that the elder races had cursed their cities with old magic and demonic creatures, the bards would weave the stories ever greater, until naught but myth remained. Any who would attempt to claim what was not rightfully theirs would be struck down by famine or disease or destruction.

But at the same time they, the Elves whose magic overshadowed all of humanity and the Dwarves who craftsmanship and faith had been unrivaled by any other, had been merciful, for they had confined their Curses within their city limits and to their outlying posts; the humans, gnomes and halflings innocent of crimes of plunder and desecration spared. For over 300 years, the boundaries of the Curses had held steady.

Until now.

The tales held a message as well, a call for brave soldiers to foray into the Cursed Lands seeking materials and samples for the Mage Guard’s studies. The Guard remained vigilant in their four Towers of the Elements since the elder races had retreated beyond the Giants and now, more so than ever before, they watched and they waited.

With the challenge of facing new dangers, adventure and wealth, several brave men and women gathered at each of the four Towers. Each was given their task: venture forth and retrieve so much of some mineral or earth or water from various regions.

Unbeknownst to one another, a second group was set after each to ensure the retrieval of the samples deemed critical to the investigation of these changes.

No one returned…


------------


Growing Season, Day 34, Haver's Hill, Central Lumbarsk
The night was warm as Cathoy Lyons entered the Lion's Head inn. The growing season was in full swing and many farmers of the mid east had time to spare from watching their fields grow and prosper.

A new gnomish invention had allowed those with the right coin or connections to plant twice as much land last year and this year many farmers had finally cleared enough to plant at least that much. So much of a surplus crop was expected that many farmers found a good celebration was in order and had started as soon as the last seed was in the ground. This day happened to have been three days prior.

So the ale was flowing and some group had even had the gall to request one of the Capital's bottles of fine wheat whiskey. Cathoy sat at a stool before the bar and traded five copper pieces for a tall glass of foaming ale that was likely worth three.

However, such were the times and twenty minutes and ten copper pieces later, the young man had learned much from the pair of farmhands who looked like they had barely enough summers under their belts to shave more than peach fuzz.

Apparently, only four days ago, a messenger from the nearest mage tower, Fire, had reached the town crying for brave adventurers to fulfill a task filled with danger and vast rewards. Two of their friends, both older, had gone while these two had 'unfairly' been detained by family by way of guilt and responsibility.

They, of course, thought this a terrible and gross indiscretion and had resolved to get thoroughly drunk in retaliation. Sufficiently supplied with more ale than they had probably ever had in their lives, they happily talked Cathoy to a bore about their lives and soon he found nothing else of interest in the boys.

After hearing about the exciting job opportunity, Lyons drained the last drops from his glass and left the two flushing teens as they hurried to match their new pal's pace.

Lyons left the inn soon afterwards and the small farming town entirely, beginning his own trek towards the tower of Fire...


----------------


Posted on 2009-07-31 at 04:40:05.
Edited on 2009-07-31 at 04:51:07 by Vilyamar

Vilyamar
Glorious Emperor
Karma: 28/16
428 Posts


A thief who is not a Thief

Day 31, Growing Season, Capital Square

Crowds milled about the open air market as hawkers called out their wares. Coin became food or goods or service and guards patrolled in pairs along the cobbled street.

Thirty-two people became victims that afternoon. Four thieves worked the people and stalls of that crowded marketplace. Two of those thieves were led away by the King’s Guard. No doubt they would regret the second half of bread or the hard steel link’s of a practical noble’s coinpurse. Their tenure in the locks would be brief. The King had need of labour elsewhere in the country and used those so indebted to society as his mules.

The woman adorned in a well-polished breastplate marked with the Capital’s Guard’s turret over the left breast yawned and wiped the glistening sweat from her brow as an over-fed man tried to describe the two thieves who had stolen each a loaf of wheat bread, each of which held a noble’s fortune in gold in the centre if the man was to be taken literally.

“I tell you, Miss Ren,” said the man before taking a gulp of air. “I saw the young whipper as clear as day. You say you ain’t seen ‘im before at all?”

“No, Stuart,” Lise Ren replied. “I haven’t seen this youngster before. Must’ve come in off a caravan. Three just arrived in the last week. You should be pleased; we haven’t seen that much trade in many a year since the wars started out west.”

Stuart the baker nodded and glanced at his own, half empty, stall. Business had been going well since the caravan’s had resumed and even better since the fighting to the West and North had ceased. With a two-fingered wave above her shoulder, as was the customary “good luck” sign, Lise turned back into the crowd to find her partner, Theodore.

Before she even spotted him, however, a loud crack sounded, almost as if someone had lit one of those strange, exploding cans that showered sparks into the air. This time, however, she recognized the feel of magic and looked to the speaker’s platform in the centre of the square. An oval of bluish-white magic cut through the air and a young man in robes of light green stepped through it. The magic behind him remained as he unfurled a fresh scroll and spoke.

“A post from the Mage Guard to all willing volunteers:” he started, his voice filling the square. With his voice so enabled by magic, it sounded to Lise like the man was standing in front of her having a nice conversation. She didn’t know much about magic but assumed it was much harder to do that rather than simply increase his volume.

“The Mage Guard of the Western Giants seeks able-bodied and strong-willed folk of any age or occupation to take up the task of gathering much needed goods and materials for experimental procedures. Reward of gold and service shall be bestowed upon those successful in retrieving the items required,” he continued. “Any who wish to apply may travel to the Towers of Fire or Water no later than the Day of First Harvest.”

The young man rebound his scroll and scanned the crowd from his place in the corner of the square.

“Good luck,” he added before turning and stepping back through the gateway as it the outline of the oval began to become fuzzy and undefined. The edge of the gateway blurred until it seemed to twist and fall back on itself, collapsing with a second crack, this time like a whip.

Lise shook her head as the crowd murmured around her; rumours were already starting to feed off the sudden job posting. She found Theodore and the two began to make their way towards the western street entering the square. Her gaze locked with a young boy, his dirty blonde hair tousled and a small glisten of sweat on his brow. His clothes were dirty and rough: the markings of a street rat. He smiled at her and took a bite of a fresh half of a loaf as he slipped back into the shadows of an alley.

A smile crept over Lise’s face and she saluted her replacement before walking the few blocks back to the guard station. She didn’t see the boy’s shape shiver and melt away into that of an elderly gentlemen in a scholar’s robe cut of a deep purple. She also didn’t see him hitch a ride on the first caravan out the South gates, on their way towards the Mage Guard tower of Fire.


-------------------


Posted on 2009-08-05 at 19:24:39.
Edited on 2009-08-05 at 19:46:59 by Vilyamar

Vilyamar
Glorious Emperor
Karma: 28/16
428 Posts


Number 3

Day 32, Growing Season, Gossan’s Crossing

Dark but fluffy clouds covered most of the deep blue sky that hung over Gossan's Crossing. The southern town just north of the port city of Albatross was small during the growing season. Once the Harvest season finished, the town prospered as traders moved through to access the ships and traders from across the waters and along the coasts. Now, the inns had plenty of room and many merchants closed up their open-air shops early in the afternoon.

“A little to port, cap’n!” called Frederick Jones, Bosun of The Gnarled Wonder. The thirty pace schooner came up on the long river dock at just too sharp of an angle and Jones nearly lost his footing as the rubber coated bumpers that were space along their bow and railing contacted with the thick rubber edge of the dock.

“Ah know whut ah’m doin, Jones!” yelled the captain of old Gnarly, as he liked to call it. Ricard Illyin was a man of average height whose shoulder-length salt and pepper hair tended to curl in the humidity and salt of the open ocean. Here, a few leagues up from the coast along the Resin, it simply looked frazzeled. His sinewy build spoke of years on the water and the rope scars on his hands and wrists told a story that wasn’t always of best decisions or intentions. He wore his captain’s hat backwards, a salty stain on the back of the oiled navy wool and a dirty white shirt tucked loosely into leather breeches that had cracks starting in the thighs and backs of the knees.

“Tie her down, lads. We don’t want her to grow legs and get a love of the land, know do we?” he chuckled down heartily to the handful of fresh deckhands that looked slightly ashen at how close they had just come to wrecking on the dock of a river town.

The boys, none older than sixteen summers, leapt down onto the wooden planks with thick-corded rope and quickly wrapped the anchoring cords around the piles of the dock. Dragomir Dysme had just come up onto the poop deck from his rented cabin bunk below, his gear over his shoulder. He had grown up around boats and captains, even dishonest and reckless ones, but he had never come this close to the drink in port.

“Ah, so yer off, then?” asked Illyin over the spokes of the steering wheel. Dragomir turned and took a few cautious steps backward so he could look the man in the eyes. He let the pack off his shoulders for a moment and lowered it to the ground before nodding.

“Yessir, I’ve got work to find, I do,” he said plainly. “Plenty for me to do around here, I think.”

“Plenty for you to do right here, if’n ye ask me,” replied the aging captain. “Ye’ve got quick feet, ye do. I can tell ye worked boats at least a little while. With a bit o’ trainin’ from Jonsie there, ye might pass for a second or third mate in a couple o’ months.”

“Ye don’t seem t’ be the type that’ll get yerself killed o’er a whore or a hand o’ cards, so ye’ll prolly outlast the rest of ‘em,” he added with a wry smile as he leaned onto the wheel. Dragomir’s eyes took in the organized, if not tidy, deck. Old Gnarly was a nice ship and had many years left skipping over the open ocean with good hands to take care of her. He had only spent a few weeks on her, traveling from up the west end of the south coast all the way from Cape Gibbling in Rigendun but he had learned her and become good acquaintances, if not quite friends, with her crew.

“Nay, but I thank ye for the offer, I do,” Dysme replied. “And I’ll take the last bit as a compliment, too. I’m for dry land. Artifacts are where my destiny lays and into destiny’s hands I leave my fate.”
Captain Illyin shrugged his shoulders and spat over the railing only to receive a cross shout of surprise. He had spit onto the dock below and onto one of the hands that had been busy securing the ship.

“Well, talk to Jonsie, then. He’ll get ye squared away,” he said, with a wave of his hand. Illyin turned around, running a hand through his rough hair and bent to bang away at a board on his deck that had started to come loose.

Dragomir smiled wryly. If the captain had been anything, it was consistent. He hefted his pack onto his shoulder and walked to the gangplank that Jones dropped into place with a loud clunk!
“Looks like yer off, then?” he repeated to Dragomir as the young man approached. Jones was a squared jawed ox of a man who didn’t look like he could get about quick on land, let alone on rigging and masts. Appearances could be deceiving, however, and Dragomir had seen Jones climb solo up to and tie up the main sail in a surprise South-Easter storm that would likely have driven them into the cliffs of the Giant Son’s otherwise.

He’d done it quick, too. Saved all our lives then, remembered Dragomir. Not to mention his skill with that saber he always has tucked into that swordbelt.
Jones had given Dragomir several bruises when they had spared with cotton wrapped blades. He was quick and strong and skilled. It was probably the reason why he was bosun and the oldest member of the crew besides the captain.

“Thanks for everything, Jones,” Dragomir said. He shook the bosun’s outstretched hand and took the three silver pieces that the bosun counted out; his wage less the transport fee that had been agreed upon back when he had boarded ten weeks ago.

“See ya around, Drago,” Jones replied. “Good luck with yer treasure huntin’ or whatever ye think’ll make yer fortune out there.”

A sincere quality in the bosun’s tone gave Dragomir a drop of pride. He liked it when people liked him. He loved it when the respected him.

Dragomir’s coins slipped into a pocket in his coat and he walked down the gang plank, nodding and calling a farewell to the young hands that were finishing up with their tasks and getting ready to unload the freight that had brought them all here. The port was relatively empty, but Gossan’s Crossing still had several little fishing boats lining the lengthy river docks. Some had come up to wait out the stormy season before heading back out to the Great Sea to fish for giant Bluefins and Swordbeaks.

The town now, though, passed a little trade in merchandise that a few brave or foolish (or both) captains brought and took during the storm season. Only a few dockhands worked at moving the unloaded crates to the pickup yards for the next caravan. There wasn’t much for than a few to do and still warrant the two coppers a day the Harbour Trademasters were willing to fork over.

Dragomir passed a pair of them who jogged out to where he had come from. He turned to get a good look at the little bay that jutted out like a blister in the wide river (). Over a mile wide where the banks were farthest apart, the () river was a quarter mile wide at the mouth to this little bay. The water lapped at the muddy shore beneath the long dock and small boulder’s glistened in the shallows. They had been placed there to slow the erosion beneath the town proper and the harbour.

This place made a perfect trading post since the head of the bay was shallow and narrow with a small collection of rapids that prohibited most boats and certainly any sea-faring vessels from getting any farther upstream. The natural river block had created Gossan’s Crossing as a trading post. Not many folk lived here, though, that didn’t operate shops that charged a little more than anywhere else and weren’t charging tariffs and collecting taxes for various governments and gangs, both legitimate and not. The flat land around the town allowed for farming, but not hunting or even much foraging until you got a league or two away. The large open market, harbour, large layover warehouses and several inns, four to be exact, then comprised most of the town as a consequence.

Dragomir walked into the large square and imagined it during the peak trade season, when roads were cleared, crops were moving and the seas calmed. It must be crazy at that time of year. Now, only a single lonely man sat with some uninteresting general goods that looked like iron pots and a few pieces of leather and cotton clothing hanging in his shopfront. Dragomir turned to the right, which happened to be towards the north exit and walked into the cool shade of the ‘Lord ‘n Lady’ inn.

A young woman, probably six or seven summers younger than his own 26, looked up and smiled nicely at him. The round face with a small, cute button nose looked quite pretty with the rim of white teeth breaking it. Her grey eyes twinkled as they caught and held Dragomir’s own brown orbs.

Damn, but those eyes, he thought as he struggled for something to say to break the soon-to-be awkward silence coming over the soft ringing of the silver bells above the door he had just entered through. Luckily for him, he didn’t have to do or say anything just yet.

“Hello there, brave sailor,” the woman said in a bright and sweet voice. Her slender figure was well accented by a dark blue band of cloth that conformed to her midriff just above her waist and up under her breasts, supporting her chest in a manner that had likely enamored many men for the past couple years. The white ruffled shirt that tied not too low, but not high either, showed a little cleavage and ended in rolled up sleeves above her elbows. Slender fingers reached up and pushed a few strands of strawberry blond hair behind her ear to join the rest of the long but bundled mane.

“Welcome to the Lord ‘n Lady,” she continued. “Anything I can get you to wash the salt of o’ your tongue?”

“Uh…um, well, uh, yea, I guess, uh, sure,” stammered Dragomir. Usually he wasn’t this flustered, but goddamn she was pretty.

“Sit down and clear the door for all the rest o’ my customers why doncha, eh?” she said with a little giggle. “Don’t make me kick you out ‘afore I even get your name.”

The young woman tossed a damp cloth into a wash bin near a swinging door at the end of the bar and filled a mug from the tapped keg beneath the counter. Dragomir swallowed audibly (at least to him) and walked up to the wide oak counter, sitting on a hard stool. The mead was cool and refreshing, especially after drinking processed (and usually hot) seawater for the last day and a half. That stuff usually left you barely hydrated.

“Well, how about it, eh?” she asked after Dragomir took his second swallow of his drink. He looked up slightly confused for a moment before he remembered that not only was he the only one in the bar but he was probably the first non-local customer she had had in a few days at least.

“Um, well, my name is D…Dragomir. Dragomir Dysme,” he said finally, after clearing his throat and coughing a bit as some mead bubbled the wrong way. “Erhem, yes, Drago, if you will. I’m out of the West, looking for a bit of guarding or, preferably, uh, hunting work.”

“Well, Drago,” she said wryly; Dragomir was unsure of her impression of a shortened version of his given name.

It sounds so stupid, he thought, barely fighting off a wince. Why would I have said that?
“You ain’t about to find that sort of thing out of Gossan’s, not much call for hunting of any kind around here, unless you’re hunting someone else’s stuff, like… bandits,” she continued. Acid could have dripped off her tongue as she finished that and gave Dragomir a look that took him aback. He quickly shook his head and swallowed the sip of mead in his mouth.

“No, not at all miss. I’m looking for honest work, but if its treasure to be found, I’m the man to do it,” he said.

“Well, in that case, you might be interested in the call that came through town yesterday. That godless mage apprentice nearly made me jump out of my dress, he did, when he popped through that magic hole in the middle of the air above the square,” she said, rummaging below the countertop for a moment. “A hah. Here it is. All us in the inns got a couple copies o’ the flyer, see?”

She stood up, handing him a neatly written scroll that was covered in an uncannily even hand with long flowing script. He read it aloud:
“A Call to all who would Seek for the Mages:

We, the Mage Guards of the West Giants, require strong men and women able and ready to risk life and limb for the sake of all others. Those successful in retrieving the objectives set before them and their fellows shall be handsomely rewarded for their efforts and the dangers of the tasks before them.

All comers should arrive no later than First Day of Harvest to the Mage Tower of Fire, second among the Greatest Towers in the West.”

“Well, I guess you just answered my prayers,” he said and chuckled. “And since you already know my name, who should I ask the gods to favour tonight?”

“Oh, that would be Sable, Sable Worth,” said Sable said, stretching out a hand. Dragomir’s own strong hand clasped hers and he felt the hands of a working girl under the supple and beautiful skin that covered the rest of her.

“Now, maybe you could answer my prayers and stay the night, eh? It gets mighty… lonely round these parts in the off season,” she added, leaning over on the smooth counter and looking up into Dragomir’s eyes again. “Just a silver piece for everythin’. Meal, included.”

Dragomir smiled and took another swallow of his mead. His hand reached into his pocket and drew out the silver dollar that was in his pocket and pulled a few copper pieces with it. Another night wouldn’t leave him wanting for time. The First Day of Harvest was a long way off and the Mage Tower of Fire was definitely close enough…

----------------


((Gawd, sorry folks. Work piled on. I'm working on things. If anyone wants to drop, fine with me but I'm still planning on moving forward with whoever is left.))


Posted on 2009-08-15 at 06:00:45.
Edited on 2009-08-15 at 16:52:19 by Vilyamar

Vilyamar
Glorious Emperor
Karma: 28/16
428 Posts


Dust to Dust

Day 30, Growing Season, Western Road near Bear Tooth Creek

Rodric Lundmeister wiped the salty mud formed of dust caked onto his sweaty, browning face with an even dirtier sleeve. The winds kicked up the fine dust of the fields in the southwest high country and it could become thicker than a morning fog on the coast south of the Giant Sons. Today happened to be one of those days and he cursed it under his breath.

He looked around as he recapped his canteen, a battered metal tin for holding water that he’d picked up from a small fishing and trading village out in west Rigendun, and pulled up the scarf that he’d been using the cover his mouth and nose from the invasive dust. The other caravan guards looked as miserable as he did in the midday heat, all of them sweating beneath armour and the light cloth cover.

The horse he was riding, an older Arab (the name came from long ago, somewhere beyond the history lessons he’d had as a child) mare called Littlefoot, snorted and shook its head, trying to rid its own nostrils of the stinging and clogging dirt. Rodric reached down and ran a hand along her neck and scratched her withers.

“Easy, old girl,” he said. “Just a little further for today, I think. Then we’ll be into a nice watering hole. Hey Farley! How much further ‘til water, did ya think?”

“Mayhap and hour or two at this pace,” the older man called back from the front of a wagon drawn by two larger breeds of horses, the names and kind of which Rodric had been told but failed to remember.

“Little longer is the more likely, howe’er,” he added glumly. “The beasts t’ain’t likin’ this much dust ‘tall.”

Howard Farley was a man in his 50’s, though from the scars that ran down his gnarled forearms and the leathery, sun-weathered look of his face and the shock white fluff of hair that seemed to get thinner with the wind, you’d say he might have been sixty at least, perhaps older. His hard seat was the driver’s place on the covered wagon, plain lacquered pine before a good hardwood body and gnomish axle with an expensive addition of what Farley proudly called his “gear box”. Rodric didn’t quite understand what it did, exactly, but Farley had said it made it easier for the horses to pull the wagon up and down hills and get moving with heavier loads.

The thing had cost the man a small fortune and Rodric thought him a little mad but didn’t begrudge the man who was paying him and the five other guards who had traveled with Farley from Gwellenheim. The only permanent member of Farley’s band was Thomson, a large dark-skinned fellow who seldom said a word but was big enough that he didn’t ever really have to.

The big man towered over everyone else in the party, easily topping seven feet with his thick, steel helm resting over his sleek dark brown dome. Thomson grunted at one of the other men and waved him over to the wagon. It was Lorik, a wiry many with eyes that shifted from one thing to the next, always looking for the next attacker or the next score. Rodric could tell from the height difference between the two men; Lorik was the shortest member of their group on horseback.

At least part of what he’s looking for is why he’s lasted so long in Farley’s employ, thought Rodric glumly. A man’s always got to look out for what’s his own. And shifty-eyed men are a good way of doing that when you need to see what’s gonna hit you from behind.
They spoke for a moment and Lorik nodded before turning his nimble horse ahead along the trail and trotted into the dust. He would be off scouting the road ahead and to the well that was sheltered from these mid-growth dust storms. There might be others there and someone had to make sure that they were friendly enough to share shelter in a store without anyone getting greedy. Farley’s gear wasn’t so worth it that just anyone would take on the entire group just to get it but desperate men wouldn’t even think of the risk and would likely see the gear that the guards wore as an opportunity for greater spoils to come, rather than a swift death at the end of a sharp sword.

Farley hunkered down against the backboard of his wagon and urged his two heavy horses into a speed slightly faster plodding. Rodric kept his eyes on the road ahead and to the side. Nothing to it but to suffer through and hope the end was worth it.

Finally, after more than an hour’s travel through the stinging and clinging dust, the wind died a little and the air changed from sapling-smoke thick to merely pigpen dusty as Rodric rounded a small tree stand. It turned out that trees grew on most sides of the small clearing and after a minute, they found a grassy area, or at least as grassy as the dry conditions allowed, with a stone well and a community bucket resting on the lip. It was an unspoken traveler’s custom that you left a water hole as a place of sanctuary, not that the bandits and other greedy folk had given much thought to that the past few years during the lawless wars of the west. Rodric picked the brown stained cloth from his mouth and nostrils and let it hand on his neck before leading his horse to the open side of the space.

His horse bent its head to munch on some of the dry grasses as he stripped gloves and took a complete onceover of the two strangers that Lorik was conversing with easily. They were tall, but not overly so, and of a fighting stature: visibly heavy in the shoulders, even beneath the brigandines, and the wrists and sturdy in their open stances. They both stood cross-armed before Lorik, nodding as he spouted off some tale to them. The dark-haired man on the right looked up first and nodded towards the group, unsurprised. Lorik turned his head around momentarily and nodded to the rest of them before continuing with what he was saying.

Rodric nodded and took the opportunity to remove the leather chinstrap on his steel helmet. He flipped it off his head and poured a bit of the warm water in the bucket into it before tucking it over his head, wetting his hair. His mouth formed a frown as he realized that most of the water didn’t drip quickly through to his scalp and onto his face because it was congealing the dirt that nearly outweighed his hair into a thick muddy mess. Rodric growled under his breath and washed another dose of water over his face before lowering the bucket to get water to refill his canteen and water his horse.

The latter of which had heard splashing water and wandered over to nudge his shoulder affectionately. Rodric pushed at its prying nose and sighed. Perhaps the strangers would at least have an interesting tale to tell while they camped out the dust storm.

The water from the well was a little dirty and Rodric had expected that; you found most water a little gritty in this country, especially during the dry season, as soon as you exposed it to the dirt-filled air above the edge of wells. It was one of the reasons wells were more common here than simple watering holes. That and the dry sun would evaporate any water left standing for more than a few hours in any quantity less than a small lake.

As he watered his horse and took out a small bag of barley to feed to it a handful from the dwindling supply, Rodric saw that Lorik was coming back to the rest of their group. The others had taken a share of the water that had been drawn up and some of the others filled canteens or water-skins and the two large jugs that were bolted to the underside of the wagon. Thomson stood stoically beside Farley and listened as Lorik relayed the information he’d gleaned from his chat with the other fellows.

Farley nodded along and made two circles with his finger above his head, his sign for settle down and make camp. This was as good a place as any during the storm and there wasn’t going to be any more progress east today. Rodric fiddled for a moment with a tight leather strap on one of his saddlebags and reached in to pull out a packet of tough, salty jerky. He’d grown used to the bland taste after eating the same road food for the past few weeks.

They built a small fire from some deadfall that had been piled recently. They would have to restock that for the next group of travelers along this road. Such courtesies were done for any decent man on the road and maintained by everyone. There was a small amount of foliage in the immediate vicinity and more up on the bluffs that sheltered them from the dust and wind.

Thomson cooked a meal for himself and Farley over the low fire and someone had filled a kettle to boil at the same time. Lorik, like Rodric, had satisfied his hunger with some dry rations and water. They sat beside the wagon, watching their horses and, incidentally, the strangers.

“Said they’re on some kinda trek to one o’ the mage towers, eh?” Lorik whistled through the few, yellowed teeth left in his mouth. “Said they’d be getting on some kinda job that pays real well. That is if you get paid.”

“What do you mean?” asked Rodric.

“Well, word is round here, at least back in thet town or summit we passed two nights ago, thet men were called up to go into the Black Cities a bit ago, eh? You here o’ thet, right?” Lorik said, looking over at Rodric expectantly, who shook his head and took another bite of the tough jerky. Lorik shrugged and spoke:

“Said thet a whole lotta them got called up, eh? They all went out to one o’ the towers, Fire or Water, mebe, an’ then they all got sent into the old cursed lands. Summin about ‘speriments,” he mumbled.

“Experiments, yes,” corrected Rodric. “I’ve heard that the Mage Guard sometimes sends out requisitions for the more… capable adventurers to seek rare materials and creatures for experimentation.”

“Yeah, whatever,” replied Lorik, waving his hands in dismissal. “Anyways, what most blokes don’t know izzat they sent out twogroups o’ folk to get each thing they wanted. You know, like inshance or whatever.”

“Insurance, of course. It only makes sense,” Rodric said, receiving a scowl from Lorik.

“Anyways, story goes thet none ever came back. You know, just up and vanished like that!” finished Lorik, giving a snap of thumb and forefinger to exaggerate his point. “Now them crazy wizards are figuring another go of it and collecting adventurin’ types from all over again. Them two are headed out thet way, they are.”

Lorik nodded towards the two travelers who had been at the water well almost all day. Rodric followed his gaze and caught the blue gaze of the blonde man as he stood from tightening a strap on his gear. The tall man waved at them and Lorik returned the gesture with a greasy smile.

“If’n yer askin’ me,” he said to Rodric. “Them two are just the next line o’ suckers to get ‘sperimented on themselves, they are. Ain’t no real adventurin’ to be had with them wizards and magic and all. Only good wizardi s a dead un, I say.”

“Without a wizard, you probably wouldn’t be alive today, Lorik,” replied Rodric. His left index finger came up to point to a tear in the side of Lorik’s studded leather armour. There was a small patch of scar tissue just visible in the fading light right where the smaller man’s right kidney would be. It had been a mortal wound but healing magic had saved him after they had dispatched the last of those bandits.

“Bah, that’s work of the gods. Just cause Farley knows enough to recite a scroll don’t make him a wizard an’ I’m pretty sure he got them at one of the temples back in west anywho,” protested Lorik. He touched the spot absent-mindedly but quickly frowned and crossed his arms.

“Well, Alex, I better be seein’ t’ my own, eh?” said Lorik eventually, giving Rodric a friendly tap on the shoulder. The members of Farley’s guard detail this time around had all been friendly. Except Thomson, who never was friendly to anyone except Farley. Rodric nodded and pushed himself up off the ground to give Lorik a pat on the shoulder in return. He watched the smaller man turn round the wagon and then saw that the two strangers had stoked their own fire across the well. Taking a steadying breath, Rodric crossed the short distance to join them for a time to talk.

“Hello, there, fellow travelers,” he said as he approached.

“Hello, and well met, good sir,” said the taller of the two, a man with shoulder length blonde hair, waving down over a deep gray cloak. A brown vest buttoned over a cotton tunic stained with the wears of travel. As he stood, he wiped his hands on his loose breeches that had the marks of wear common with continuous riding. They tucked behind tall riding boots that were well kept besides being a bit dusty, even compared to everything else. His sword belt lay on the ground beside where he had been sitting, a longsword thrust through the loop on the left and a dagger on the right.

“The name’s Warda, Jayne Warda,” he said, extending a hand towards Rodric. Rodric took it and gave a firm shake, feeling the swordsman’s calluses and barely holding his own against the thickset wrists of a man who practiced daily. “This here is my friend Edwick Lars.”

Edwick Lars stood and wiped his own hands quickly on a pair of breeches that fit looser than often seen. He was shorter by a head than his companion with dark curls cropped short. He was also of the same skin tone as Thomson. He smiled showing clean and straight teeth, which took Rodric back a bit since most dark-skinned fellows had not much station or class and this one obviously had enough to keep himself tidy and clean in better times. His traveling ensemble completed with a stained white tunic of cotton under a cracking leather jacket with ties at the wrists and a dark gray cloak matching Warda’s. Unlike Jayne, though, Edwick still wore his own weapon belt with a longsword and dagger as will as a loop to hook a quiver on the back.

“And I am R…Alexander, Alexander Aztek,” he said. He blinked. It had been a long while since he had even thought of himself as Rodric Lundmeister, let alone introduced himself that way to strangers. How long had it been, exactly, since he’d abandoned his home for this life?

An uncomfortable cough from Edwick broke his train of thought and Rodric shook his head and let go of the man’s hand. He hadn’t realized that he had tightened his grip against the dark man’s hand.

“So…um, what brings you all the way out here?” asked Rodric, recovering quickly. “I heard from my companion that you travel to adventure for the Mage Guard?”

“Correct, my good sir,” said Jayne. “A noble quest to retrieve artifact and magical material from the cursed lands. Apparently the reward is great indeed. Much greater than guarding an old man’s trade, I hear.”

“Aww, Jayne jus’ likes t’ git unner blokes skins, aye, he does,” said Edwick, grinning from ear to ear at his friend. “Don’t mean nuthin’ by it, none ‘tall. But you might like it, sah. The adventurin’, ah mean.”

Rodric laughed a short, barking laugh at that. He smiled at the pair as he replied.

“I can see why Lorik liked you two,” he said. “But my honour is with Farley over there, at least until we hit town. Once he pays me the second half of my wage, maybe I’ll head down if there’s still a job to be had. I have always liked going out to find adventure more than waiting for adventure to find you.”

“Ah, there will be plenty of adventuring, there will,” said Jayne. “The callout was for the bloody first of the Harvest season in this country, which isn’t for another thirty, maybe forty days.”

“And you’ll ‘ave to go t’ the Mage Tower o’ Fire, ye will,” finished Edwick. “All the blokes called are s’posed to head up there. It’s just east o’ the main road t’ the Capital by a day or two. There’ll be signs and folks, o’ course.”

“Perhaps once I’m done this job,” reiterated Rodric, nodding. It seemed like a fun employment, especially if these two were indicative of the type of fellow who applied for such a task.

Although, Rodric thought, I really wonder how good at adventuring these two are. I would certainly need the help.
Talk moved on to other, more mundane topics before Rodric grew weary and coughed up a bit of dusty phlegm. The three men said their farewells and Rodric fell asleep on his bedroll under the high wagon as a cool breeze blew away the last of the dust in preparation for the morning’s dew.

The pair of travelers had woken early to get a good start on their eastward journey and only the smoldering embers covered mostly by dirt and a few foot and hoof prints marked their passage. As Rodric packed up camp and prepared for another day of slow riding, he reminded himself of the offer to join them. He would have to see just what this new employ would have to offer him once they reached their next, and final, destination with Farley’s Caravan…


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Posted on 2009-08-19 at 03:18:41.

   
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