Eol Fefalas Keeper of the Kazari RDI Staff Karma: 462/28 8466 Posts
Morning in Meadowbrook Pt II
11th Bre Tola; 453 E.R. - Shortly after dawn
Somewhat reluctantly, Samuel closed the door of the cottage behind him, padded past the herb garden and, after securing the gate at the end of the walk, trudged up the narrow lane that led from the small house to Meadowbrook’s main road. As he made the intersection, the soft scrape and shuffle of the turning of earth caught his ear and he turned his eyes in the direction of the sound.
As if she had actually felt the Kazari’s gaze fall on here, the young, dark-haired half-Syl looked up from the furrow she had been turning and blinked once at the cat-man before offering something of an apprehensive smile. “Oh,” she said, brushing one had on her apron before lifting it in a quick wave, “Quel amrun, Samuel.”
“Good morning, Ella,” he nodded in return, “A bit late to be planting is it not?”
“Huh?” Her blue eyes blinked, skipping between the Kazari, the harrowed ground at her feet, and the reed-woven basket that sat nearby. “Oh… No,” she answered, “Just laying in some radishes, turnips, and onions. They tend to do well in colder weather, you know…”
“I did not.”
“…Yeah. Thought to put some garlic in, as well, but squirrels got into the bulbs and the ones that they left were naught but mush…”
Samuel’s nose wrinkled as he nodded to the ramshackle shed that squatted beyond the little garden; “Perhaps some attention should be given to that,” he suggested, “The way the boards are hanging from the walls, I am surprised that it is only squirrels that get in.”
Ella glanced at the shed, heaved a sigh and, her eyes returning to Samuel, offered an almost dejected smile along with her shrug. “I’ve asked Simon to see to that more than once,” she said, “but he’s off to the lake before sun-up and at The Lakeshore until well past sun-down. I can’t even get him to stop by the smithy for nails between pulling in his nets and pouring beer down his neck.”
“Hm,” Samuel grunted, assessing the shed for a moment. “If you like,” he offered, his eyes going back to Ella, “I can bring a pound or two back for you this evening… or perhaps give them to Simon, should I see him at the tavern.”
“Would you?” The half-Syl’s smile brightened and her pale blue eyes sparkled as she abandoned the hoe and stepped closer to where the Kazari stood on the other side of her fence. “That would be wonderful,” she said, her hand dipping into the pocket of her apron and drawing out a rather light-looking purse, “How much for two pounds?”
Samuel shook his shaggy head and waved away her offer of payment. “Keep your coin, Ella,” he rumbled, “I shall collect payment from Simon, later, yes?”
Another blink of her large sky-colored eyes and another broadening of her smile followed. “Thank you, Samuel,” Ella beamed, re-pocketing her purse, “That’s very kind of you.”
“Hm,” he nodded, his ears flicking faintly before he moved to step back onto the road, “Welcome. And if Simon does not get to mending the thing before long, let me know. I will help.”
The young woman’s astonished expression only grew more so. “I… I’ll do that,” she said, staring at the cat-man’s back as he strode away, “Thank you… again…”
Detached and disagreeable, my foot, Ellaloth Cromelon reflected on her husband’s initial description of the odd creature who had recently become their neighbor, He seems bloody-well friendly enough to me. Maybe if you actually spoke to him, Simon, instead of just eyeing him over the rim of your mug, you’d know better… With a soft smile, a sigh, and a shake of her head, she returned to her gardening.
Posted on 2019-12-19 at 13:56:51.
Eol Fefalas Keeper of the Kazari RDI Staff Karma: 462/28 8466 Posts
Morning in Meadowbrook Pt III
A short time later - The Ironforge Smithy
Arriving at Rakiim’s, Samuel found the Khord’s door still locked, which was fairly unusual. Typically, the old codger was up and about by this time, the door to the shop unlocked and open in anticipation of his apprentice's arrival. That was not the case this morning, though, and so, with an almost irritated sigh, the big Kazari skirted the building and made directly for the forge which sprouted between shop and storehouse. After stowing the few items he’d brought with him from home, Samuel stoked the banked embers from the previous day, and set about piling on fresh wood from the stacks before giving the bellows some attention.
Once the fire was freshly kindled, the flames roaring and hissing against the brick, Samuel pulled the key to the storehouse from its pouch on the belt of his dak’tar and, after disengaging the lock, threw open the doors to the stockroom. Inside, he set light to the lanterns before gathering up the nails he’d promised Ella, pouring them into a small sack and tying them to his belt, before reaching up and retrieving the cloth wrapped rough from a higher shelf. Stalking back out to the fringes of the forge, the Kazari lay the bundle down, pulled loose the leather thongs that tied it shut, and pulled back the folds of dark fabric that had enshrouded it overnight. He smiled at the piece as it was revealed; his ears flicking and tail swinging, pleased at what he saw. Even in this raw state, the new blade’s vaguely curved shape shone with promise beneath the carbon that dusted it’s surface, and no small amount of pride shot through him as he examined the faint, yet, strong ripples that the marriage of metals had produced in the steel.
“This will be a fine blade, m’penzi,” he muttered to himself, taking up a brush to sweep away the excess carbonization, “worthy of your hand, Rrowl willing, and, Kezirir hold you, worthy of your heart, should you decide to accept it.”
He returned to the storeroom, then, retrieved the clay mold he had fashioned for this project and, setting the rough inside, slid it into the forge before setting foot to bellows once more. As he waited for the steel to yellow, he set about gathering the tools he might need and, in the process, turned eyes to the market square as it came to life. Shopkeepers wandered the cobbles, unfurling their stalls and setting out wares on their carts just as the doors were opened and windows unshuttered on more permanent fixtures. More than once, he raised a paw in answer to a “G’mornin’, Sam,’ and, just as often, he lifted his nose to the air to catch the scent of freshly baking bread or the earthy tang of newly uprooted vegetables as they drifted across the square.
Soon enough, though, the smell of molten steel eclipsed the other odors of the market and, taking up the tongs, he extracted the glowing rough from the forge, placed it gingerly on the anvil, and gave it the attention of the hammer that it deserved; losing himself, for a while, in the crafting of the blade. Orange went to yellow, yellow went to gray, and, soon enough, gray powdered into ashy black. The steel required returning to the flame, then, and, as he carried it to the forge, the door to the shop opened at his back and Rakiim’s wife appeared behind it, a large earthen mug cradled between her stout hands.
“Gamut manun, Samuel,” Tuli Ironforge called as she plodded out toward the hearth and offered up the steamed mead to the Kazari, “I’m sorry that Rakiim wasn’t here to greet you, this morning.”
Turning from the forge’s door and eyeing the lady Khord as his foot stomped the bellows, the Kazari shook his head by way of dismissing the apology. “Quite alright, m’zee,” he chuffed, bending down to accept the mug from the woman, “as drunk as Rakkim got me, last night, I fully expected he would still be abed.”
“Pssssh,” Tuli grinned, “Rakiim was nowhere near as drunk as I’ve seen him before when he came home last night. Though, he did have some interesting things to say about taking me on your back as if you were a rug.”
Samuel rolled his turquoise eyes at that, nodded faintly, and sipped at the contents of the mug. “Hm,” he chuffed, swallowing the sweet, hot, concoction, “He did mention something about that, last night, if I recall. My apologies, Tuli,”
She shook her head, her graying auburn braids bouncing from her shoulders. “It took me the first fifty years of our marriage to learn to stop apologizing for something that would never change, Sam,” she laughed, “Don’t let it take you as long to learn that lesson. That old goat is never sorry for a thing he says. Reckon that’s one of the things I love about him if I were truthful about it.”
The Kazari snorted. “Oh, go ahead and lie,” he chuckled, “and tell me what an sh’mol’a he can be. I might have an easier time believing it.”
The sturdy little Khord woman reached up a hand and scritched the fur on his belly as she chuckled. “Lie to you, Sam,” she snickered, “I thought you were more honorable than that?”
“I suppose,” the kazari shrugged as he set the mug aside, “where is the old coot, anyway?”
“Left early for The Lakeshore,” Tuli returned, “Got something on his mind or someone new has come to town, I suppose.” She nodded toward the forge, “Still working on that blade for Sara?”
“I am,” he answered, “another bout or two of hammering and I believe it will be ready for better.”
“She doesn’t strike me as the type to wield steel,” the little dwarven woman shrugged faintly, “seems perfectly happy with Mhera’s plant an’ potions, to be honest.”
Samuel returned the shrug. “You might be surprised, little mother,” he chuffed, “The seasons turn on people just as they do on the world.”
“I suppose,” Tuli grinned faintly. “I’m going to the fish market. Have you had breakfast?”
“I have had tea.”
“Pfffft! That’s hardly enough to get you through the day,” she snorted, “Shall I bring you something back?”
“I do not hate fish,” the kazari grinned, “Thank you, Tuli.”
“Of course, dear boy,” the Khord woman winked, patting his belly again, “I’ll leave the shop open.” She nodded to the forge then and sniffed the air pointedly, “Smells as if that’s ready, she said, drawing her shawl about her broad shoulders, “I’ll be back before you’re done with the hammering.”
“Holfikk,” Samuel chuffed as Tuli turned for the market, “And, should you come across your husband, tell him I am here, yes?”
“Of course, dear,” Tuli cooed as she stomped off across the square, “though, I’m sure he knows. You’ve not been late since he took you on. You’ll get paid. No worries.”
Posted on 2019-12-19 at 17:41:49.
Eol Fefalas Keeper of the Kazari RDI Staff Karma: 462/28 8466 Posts
Despite the fact that Rakiim had not shown his face all day, Samueal’s time in the smithy had gone well. Tuli had brought him fresh caught perch for breakfast, a farmer or two had dropped in asking for sharpening or repair of their tools, and even Brif and Orsric had stopped in; Brif asking for his spear to be honed and balanced, and Osric inquiring on the cost of having his mail tended. The spear he had tended for two kapak and, as to the mail, he’d convinced Osric into a regimen that would see the stout man bring the shirt in every fortnight for a cleaning and oiling, and once a month for inspection and repair of damaged links. The Kazari had offered, too, to reforge and replace bits of Grif’s armor, but the young monkey protested each attempt. At the end of the day, Samuel had made enough bargains to, not only send him home with an extra three silver in his purse but, also, had an ongoing contract with a guardsman to tend their armor that would result in a silver and three coppers per month over what he was making now. Beyond all of that, he had managed the time to hammer the blade he was working on to its end-length, hammered out where the tang would split from the blade, and all but defined the cutting edge of the thing.
After it’s last firing, Samuel had quenched the blade in a mix of oil, pure lake-water, and herbs pinched from Sara’s reserves… A tea of sorts, the Kazari had thought in stirring the concoction, Appropriate… Pulling the blade from the trough, he daubed at it with a thick towel for a second, before thrusting it back into the bath…
The steel hissed.
The Kazari grinned.
… He hauled the steel from the quench, again, and this time, stroked rather than patted the moisture from the blade. The black streaks of carbon came away beneath the chamois, and the glimmering blue silver of the alloyed blades fused into one flashed from his eyes. He could only imagine how beautiful it might be once honed and inscribed. With a look of satisfaction on his feline features, Samuel re-wrapped the blade-in-the-making and returned it to the oaken box on the topmost shelf in the stockroom. He was reluctant to let it go unfinished, of course, but, in the end, given the closing of Khr’a’s Right Eye and no hope of Her Left opening for another three days, the silver-furred kazari banked the forge’s fires, stowed his tools, and rapped on the back door to let Tuli know he was leaving.
Her response to the knock was muffled and unintelligible from the other side of the door but, all the same, Samuel nodded, grunted, and replied “Good night,” before plodding off toward The Lakeshore.
The Lakeshore Tavern - A few minutes later
The Lakeshore’s door banged open and, had it not been for the massive Kazari that filled the frame, the cool autumn breeze that stirred outside might have rushed in and stirred the flames on the little pub’s hearth. “Evenin’, Sam,” Blossom called without even turning her eyes in the direction of the door, “Havin’ your usual?”
“No,” Samuel rumbled in answer, shutting the door behind him, “thank you, Blossom. I am not staying long.”
His gaze panned the patrons huddled about the tables. Rakiim, of course, was in his customary spot speaking with a large man clad in the blue of the Lysorans; the same man Samuel had observed entering the town earlier this morning. However, Samuel wasn’t seeking Rakiim, just now, so his eyes moved on until they found Simon Cromleon seated at a hearthside table with the three other men who crewed his tiny fishing boat. Untying the bag of nails from his belt, the Kazari approached the table and set the bag down before the bald man. “Two silvers,” the cat-man chuffed as Simon’s eyes lifted questioningly to his.
“What’s this, then,” the fisherman asked with a faint scowl.
“Nails,” Samuel returned simply, “so that you might fix your shed before winter comes. Two pounds. Two silvers.”
Simon’s eyes flicked over the faces of his crew, fell to the bag of nails, then, his brow furrowing and a scoff blowing past his lips, lifted back to Samuel. “I don’t recall ever askin’ ya for no nails,” he smirked.
“I spoke with your wife, this morning,” the Kazari replied, “she asked that I bring them to you as you have been too... busy... to stop by the smithy, yourse...”
The fisherman scoffed again and nudged the bag of nails back toward Samuel. “Well then she can pay for ‘em,” Simon snarked, “What makes ya think I even got two silvers?”
Samuel looked pointedly at the array of mugs and plates that littered the table, then, back to Simon but the Kazari said nothing.
Simon’s eyes hardened a bit and he offered a slow shake of his head before giving the bag of nails another nudge. “Like I said,” he reiterated, “Ella wants th’ nails, Ella can pay ya for ‘em.” A sardonic smile pulled at the corners of the man’s mouth, then, and his eyes flickered over the faces of his crew again. “Hell,” the fisherman snarked, then, “If yer so damned int’rested in that shed, why don’t you pay for ‘em?”
An irritated sigh that stopped just short of being a growl escaped Samuel, then, and, with a faint shake of his head, he snatched the bag from the table. “Sa’wa,” he chuffed, retying the sack to his belt. His ears flattened against his head and he scowled before stepping away from the table. “Your wife deserves better than you,” he rumbled softly as his feet turned toward Rakiim’s table.
As Samuel turned his back, Simon shoved himself out of his chair and tugged a slender filleting knife from his belt; “Wha’d ya just say?!”
The Kazari turned, cast an almost disinterested glance at Simon’s knife, and then sneered at the man. “I said,” he repeated flatly, “that Ella deserves better than you, t’mbili.”
Anger flashed in Simon’s mud-colored eyes and his finger tapped at the handle of his knife. His lips parted away from clenched teeth but, before he could think to advance so much as a step or even say anything else to Samuel, Rakiim appeared between the two…
“Oi!” The old Khord glowered, holding up a hand to each of them as he imposed himself in the space between. “What’n all hells is goin’ on oover here?!”
“Nothing,” Samuel rumbled, his eyes still fixed on Simon’s.
The fisherman’s gaze, though, broke from the Kazari and fixed on the blacksmith. “Yer cat’s speakin’ outta place, Rakiim,” he snipped, “puttin’ himself places he shouldn’t.”
“Aye,” Rakiim snorted behind a chuckle, “He does tha’.” The smith flicked a nod at the filleting knife; “An’ ye were gonna wha’, pick th’ fleas from his fuzz, wit’ tha’?”
Simon’s eyes narrowed again, skipped back to Samuel for a second, then, as his mouth fell open to respond, the Khord forestalled whatever the fisherman had thought to say.
“Trus’ me, boy,” Rakiim cautioned, “yer gonna wanna rethink yerself, here. Sam’s not much fer fightin’ but, I c’n guarantee, ye go at ‘im wit’ tha’ an’ he’ll gut ye quicker’n one o’ them perch ye hauled in t’day. Why’n’t ye go back ta yer drinks, eh?”
Simon considered the smith’s words, it seemed. He glanced at the knife in his hand, then at the Kazari who still loomed, almost lazily, behind the Khord, and, having thought better of things, offered a curt nod to Rakiim. “Yeah,” the fisherman sneered, “well, ya keep yer cat on its leash, then, Ironforge… an’ tell ‘im to keep away from my wife.”
“I reckon ye jus’ did,” the smith nodded.
“V’yo v’yo’te,” Samuel snorted.
As Simon begrudgingly returned to his seat, Rakiim turned and gave Samuel a shove in the direction of his window-side table. “Why’re ye comin’ in ‘ere causin’ trouble, Sammy,” he groused, clomping along behind the Kazari as they crossed the floor.
“I caused nothing,” Samuel protested, “I simply did a favor for a neighbor.”
“Aye,” Rakiim sighed, “seems it weren’t much ‘preciated. C’mon, lemme buy ye a drink.”
“Not tonight,” Samuel said with a shake of his head, stopping before he reached the table, “I did my work and yours, today. I am tired and I am going home.” His blue-green gaze turned to the Lysoran priest, then, and he offered a nod of greeting. “Besides,” he continued, “I should not care to interrupt your conversation.”
“A’right,” the Khord grunted, climbing back into his chair, “Have a good night, then, lad.”
“Mm,” Samuel chuffed, turning for the door, “Will you be at the forge in the morning?”
“I reckon so,” the blacksmith answered, lifting his tankard.
The Kazari snorted in return and, then, was gone from the little tavern.
Blinking in wonder, the Lysoran priest who had shared Rakiim’s table for most of the day, regarded the Khord. “What in the name of the Sacred Mother was that?”
“That was Sam,” Rakiim shrugged, “me apprentice. He’s a wee bit on th’ cranky side, but he’s a good lad.”
The Felarin library echoed with the sound of Shiv’s foot jolting out at a nearby chair, as her face fell out of her hand, waking her with a start. She looked around at the faces turned disapprovingly toward her, and lowered her head back into her book. Getting into the Circle and your order was supposed to have been the most difficult part of this, wasn’t it? But no, it was the studying. Not that she was any novice when it came to it. The majority of her twenty-four years had been spent in the analysis, discussion, and dissection of texts she had consumed. There was just no longer an end to her tasks at hand, at least there were hardly any she could see. That being said, she hardly slept anymore, and seeing in general was sometimes difficult in and of itself, for how blurry the world enjoyed becoming with each consecutive hour without rest.
Siobhan ran both hands back through her auburn hair. Alas, the luxury of restful days was over. She had failed her most important task, and for that there was no forgiveness. No rest. No respite until--
Another chair clattered through the large hall as Shiv jerked awake once more, and this time she could see the staff contemplating sending her on her way. Disturbances such as these were hardly tolerated, even less so for those clad in the black robes of the Order of Bone and Breath, as she was.
She sighed softly to herself, and leaned back in her chair. There was nothing for it. She was going to be useless if she didn't allow herself at least an hour or two of rest--not that she could afford it, but there was just nothing for it. She leaned forward again and began closing the books she had pulled, wishing as she often had that there was someone, anyone who could help her; anyone who could understand her work or at the very least, was strong enough to lend a hand to her end goal. But there was no one like that. There was no one to share in the gruesome path before her.
A blur of white and yellow suddenly rushed past her and Siobhan shook her head. Rubbing her eyes again, the young face came into focus. She hadn't seen him here before, and she was here the majority of her days, yet he had several texts that she had already pored over, and some she hadn’t even seen before. Some she would have greatly appreciated.
He slammed the books down on his table, with nary a look from the others, but such was the right given to someone in his robes.
Without another thought, Shiv took up all of the books before her and hurried over to introduce herself to the young, hopefully useful, priest of Solanis.
Posted on 2019-12-23 at 14:30:44.
Edited on 2019-12-24 at 14:10:50 by breebles
Reralae Dreamer of Bladesong Karma: 142/12 2505 Posts
Hiding the Cracks
11th Bre Tola, 453 E.R.
Samuel and Sara's house - Noon
Sara knelt before the planter, this small little garden that was her own. She smiled as she examined the small sprouts inside. Donning a set of gardening gloves, she hummed to herself as she began sifting through the topsoil, searching for errant sprouts that weren't of the ones she planted.
"That is a lovely melody. Did you make it?" Ella asked, leaning over the fence as she listened.
Sara's breath caught in her throat as she looked up towards their neighbour, and her hands shook. Mercifully, her hands were obscured from Ella's view by the planter's sides.
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to startle you," Ella offered with a gentle smile.
Sara shook her head, and averted her gaze to her hands as she replied, "It's alright."
She's not… She's not… Kithran, Sara repeated to herself. She took off her gloves to stall for a moment and steady herself, before she stood up to return a warm smile to their half-Syl neighbour, and answering, "I'm not the composer. The composer is a kind man who I briefly met on the road."
Ella tilted her head a bit, "Do you sing?" she asked, "If your humming is able to capture the melody that well, I can't help but wonder what it's like if you used your whole voice."
"I'm afraid not," Sara replied, sadness underscoring the smile she held for Ella, "I lost that ability a while ago."
"Lost?" Ella asked, her head tilting towards one side as she wondered how that might be possible, "But your voice… there doesn't seem like there's anything wrong."
Sara sighed, "Song takes more than a good voice," she held a hand to her chest, "I haven't been able to sing, not since, not since I lost my daughter," she whispered with a shuddering breath.
Ella's hand went to her lips as her eyes widened, "Is she… Dead?"
Sara shrugged her shoulders, "Lost," she repeated, "I don't know which is worse," she murmured with a sigh, "I'd rather… I'd rather not talk about it."
Sara shook her head and sighed once more, before looking back at Ella with a gentle smile, "I apologize, that was a long time ago. Would you like some tea, or was there anything I might be able to help you with?"
"Maybe later," Ella smiled, "I should see to my own lawn before that."
"No rush; whenever you'd like," Sara offered with a nod. She watched as Ella turned to return to tending her lawn, waiting a moment before sighing. She set down her gloves beside the planter, and slipped away, moving to beside the cottage, the side opposite any passerby and Ella's view.
When they settled into this cottage, it took a few days to tidy the place up. During the tidying up, the old wooden handle on the broom Sara had used snapped near the head. At the time, she had said she'd toss it in for firewood. As she approached the window sill, Sara reached out her hand, taking the broken handle in hand.
It wasn't a blade. It didn't sing. It didn't weigh the same. It didn't move the same. But for all those reasons, she could use it without her hands shaking. Taking a deep breath, she brought herself to a ready stance.
When the past threatened to overwhelm her, she pushed it all away by doing this. The same training exercises she remembered doing for years at Megilindor Nost. There was no past, only the present and the next motion in the routine.
Sara could still feel the symmetry in the exercises, something she didn't feel when she was just learning, and she took some comfort in that. Even if the chaos in true battle meant that the stances and steps couldn't be adhered to, going through the motions was still valuable to hone muscle memory, and for the benefit of the exercise itself. A pattern of four swings combined with one of eight steps - thirty-two different notes for the body to play in the song of battle. Even if she could no longer sing, she still knew the notes, the motions, and recall the feeling of the song.
At the end of her routine, she sighed, taking a deep breath as tears fell from her eyes. Sara imagined she looked rather silly, or perhaps pitiful. An oathbreaker swinging around a broken hilt, as if that might regain all that she had lost.
It was why she had tried to hide her exercise from Samuel.
Good day! I hope you two find yourselves well, and have at least begun to settle in to your new home. I have never been to Meadowbrook myself, but from what I have heard it is much like our home in Stone’s Hollow. Calm, peaceful, nothing like Calestra. I imagine our family will settle down there, once we’re ready to retire. Still some years until then, but it sounds nice, having the urge to stay in one place instead of to wander about as I do now. I wish you that happy contentment I am looking forward to someday.
I also hope you do not mind having visitors at some point in the future. Danny and Chora have become quite famous among their friends with all of the stories they have of their sister, the Kazari, and the bladesinger, and they continue to ask me each day when you two will visit again, or when they can traverse the Sylvari kingdoms to see you two. They are particularly interested in meeting you, Aranwen. They hadn’t even been able to meet you, and yet they have decided to belt out nonsensical sounds now whenever they play-fight each other with their sisters’ old wooden daggers.
That brings me to my next point. At Lina’s request, please accept the enclosed wooden daggers. The children keep bruising each other with them, and after Danny almost lost an eye the other day, Lina has declared the daggers must be prohibited for the time being, but I hate to throw them out. They were hers, after all. It is probably for the best, though I can’t imagine I would have ever taken them away from Kithran. I feel, Ch'dau, that you and I may have similar parenting styles where things like this are involved.
She did often come home full of bruises and scratches she wouldn’t want to talk about. And the dresses, you two . . . I imagine she didn’t explore many cave systems in a dress, but that girl would have a bright new dress nearly every week, for how quickly she would destroy them.
It is reflective times like these that I wish again that I had taken better care of her. She needed a mother, but one left her and one passed away much, much too early. If Kithran has never spoken to you of Tara Ikhari, I suppose I could imagine why, but you have been deprived of learning of an incredible woman.
But I digress.
The Laughing Maiden, Serah, gave these to me after Tara passed. Up until that point I had no idea she had been learning how to fight like that. Serah said that she didn’t try to stop her from using real ones outside of the Long Gamble (Shinara’s temple here in Calestra), but the moment she set foot inside, she would have to give up her real blades to Serah and could only play with the wooden ones on the premises. This decision, I am told, came after the cleric had become too tired of one of them rushing into her room, crying and begging her to heal Kithran after she had stabbed herself.
I am seeing now that perhaps Tara, too, was not the best influence on my daughter. And yet, I am laughing where I sit at the antics Serah has informed me over the years that those two got into. For instance, did you know the reason Kithran doesn’t drink wine is because the first and only time she tried it was when Tara gave her just one mug of it? Apparently that one serving ruined her until our little cleric friend was able to work her magic. Those two, what a pair.
It seems I have digressed once more. Please forgive the ramblings of a sad, old man. Well, not sad. It is impossible to stay sad for very long with Lina and the kids bouncing around all over the place. I hope likewise that you have been able to find solace in each other.
It is interesting, after all these years, finding people who care about my daughter as I do, who could share in this loss as I have. I won’t say I am grateful, as I would not wish this feeling on anyone, but the world feels less lonely, knowing you two are in it with me.
Enclosed as well are some of Lina’s favorite herbs and seasonings to cook with, some more grass blades to encourage Aranwen to keep persistent, as well as a fantastic picture the kids worked very hard on, depicting their new (and only) favorite aunt and uncle.
If you ever need anything, do not hesitate to ask. We will be heading back to Stone’s Hollow soon and will be there for a few months. Please let us know if you hear any word on Kithran. We will be asking for Fortune’s Favor to smile down on you every day.
With love from all of us,
Posted on 2019-12-27 at 21:37:06.
Edited on 2019-12-28 at 17:02:47 by breebles
Eol Fefalas Keeper of the Kazari RDI Staff Karma: 462/28 8466 Posts
Meadowbrook Nights: Part II
Samuel scowled at the weight of the bag of nails that bounced from his hip as he stomped from the Lakeshore; scowled at Rakiim’s intervention; and scowled even more that the Khord had spent his day in the tavern as opposed to at the forge. All of this, and perhaps more, grated on the Kazari’s nerves as his feet fell from the coarse woodworked porch of The Lakeshore and met the packed chip and dust street that ran before it. His tail lashed angrily behind him and his ears, once again, flattened against his head as he cast a disparaging glance over his shoulder at the still clattering door of the pub. Were this any other place, he fumed silently at Simon, any other time, I would have had your arm before you had drawn that fish poker free of your belt…
The karazri snarled softly. Then sneered. Then snorted and shook his head, forcing his tail to still and his ears to stand up as he tore his narrowed gaze from the weathered clapboards of The Lakeshore’s frontage.
...But this is no other place and no other time, he reminded himself, It is here and now and Ara does not need that sort of trouble brought to her feet. Following another deeply drawn breath and the low rumble that followed when he let it go, Samuel turned homeward, trying to put the day’s irritation and annoyance behind him for Sara’s sake… and for the sake of those v’tun’gu who do not know better.
He prowled along the narrow track that wound along the town’s lakeside edge toward his and Sara’s cottage; intent, at first, at simply returning home and forgetting the day for what it had been. As he came to the junction where the path intersected with the road leading to the fish-market and the harbor, though, Samuel felt himself drawn by the gentle lapping of the lake’s waves and, almost absently, turned his feet to follow the sound. Before long, he found himself standing at the edge of the fisher-docks, staring out over the black waters and marvelling at the reflection of the stars on the gently rippling surface of the lake.
Crouching down, Samuel stared out over the water or a long while before lifting his gaze skyward and regarding the moonless night sky undistorted by the motion of the waves. Finally, still trying to let go of his anger at the confrontation with Simon, his gaze fell to the palms of his hands and the tips of his fingers as he slowly extended the claws, there, and sighed; “Where are you Kithran?
It has been too long in this town, already, kibibi, and Ara will not be the same until we have you back.” He sighed over his whispered rumbling and, with the claw of his forefinger, reached between his knees to carve the Kazari approximation of the half-syl’s name into the deckboard. “She gets better with each passing day… your father helped with that, you know? ... and, yet, still blames herself - as I do - for the place in which you find yourself…”
He brushed away the shavings from the board at his feet, then blew the dust from his claw before retracting it back into his finger. “I do not know that you even hear me, Little Kitten,” he breathed into the Autumn mists hanging over the waters, “but all we need is an omen… a small sign to point us in your direction… That will be enough for her to…”
“Oi!!!” The voice took him by surprise only in that he had not truly been expecting to be interrupted in his thoughts. The tone, though, and the distinctive timbre were far from unexpected. “What’re ya doin’ t’ m’ boat?!?!”
With yet another weary sigh, the kazari stood and turned, his gaze falling briefly on the skiff lashed to the dock beside him before turning to where Simon and his crew swaggered down the road toward him. Of course he had chosen the dock where Simon had chosen to moor his boat. Why would the fates see fit for him to pick another dock, today?
“I have done nothing to your boat,” Samuel answered, prowling back along the dock to the fish-market, his assessing gaze flicking between the silhouette of Simon and the darker ones of his companions further behind, “I simply sought a moment of peace at the…”
“Half-truths and horse shyte,” Simon cut him off, meeting him at the head of the pier, filleting knife in hand and red-rimmed eyes narrowed, “I made ya look a fool in there an’ yer lookin’ ta mess with me boat ta have yer revenge… I know yer kind…”
Samuel allowed a fractional glance at the blade, another similar glance at the monkey’s eyes, and then let his gaze fall to the man’s chest. “I doubt this, very seriously, t’mbiil,” he chuffed, “else you would not be here.”
“Ya think, just b’cause ya’ve got yer elven wife ya can s’duce mine wit’ a bag o’ nails an’ some comments in th’ pub…”
“I sought only to help a neighbor,” Samuel snorted, shook his head and, placing a paw in the center of Simon’s chest, gave a shove that sent the man reeling back a few steps. “It is you who are mistaken in my intent,” he added, stalking past the agape monkey.
It was his own mistake, Samuel would realize later; t’mbili and alcohol rarely made a good mix and, for his own part, he should never have taken his eyes from Simon’s chest. Should he have maintained his focus, paid mind to his training, the man’s slashing attack with the thin blade would never have landed, let alone opened a bloody gash on his arm.
A short, barking roar followed Simon’s clumsy attack and the kazari stopped cold in his tracks. “You,” he growled, a thumb swabbing blood from the newly opened wound as his eyes turned on the battle-ready fisherman, “are making a mistake, Simon.” Samuel licked the blood from his thumb, then, glancing at the other three, still advancing, figures. “You do not want this anymore than I.”
“Oh,” Simon sneered, scooting sideways in an obviously street-fight trained style, “I think I do, cat-man! M’ wife’s cooed ‘bout you an’ your’s since ya come ta town an’ I’m tired o’ hearin’ of it! Startin’ ta think there’s more’n neighborly chit-chat goin’ on between you an’ my Ella…”
The kazari’s eyes rolled in his head at that. “There is not,” he tried to assure the man, “We spoke of your shed this morning and…”
“Yeah,” Simon lunged, making a wide sweep with the knife that Samuel avoided with a simple backstep, “You an’ yer fookin’ nails!!!”
Samuel flicked another glance over his shoulder at the sound of scraping gravel but returned it immediately to the man with the blade. “You do not want to do this,” he promised in a low rumble… but I do… “I have no designs on your wife… or your boat… I was only…”
Simon lunged again and, once more, the kazari easily sidestepped the attack, his arms spreading wide in hopes of signalling non-aggression. As he did, tough, and as Simon staggered past, Samuel felt the weight of a fishing net fall over one forearm, the weights on it’s edges providing momentum for the thing to wrap around and lay claim to the appendage. The kazari looked, almost in disbelief, at the netting and followed the tether of the thing from his elbow to where little, bow-legged Arthur held the far end. A quick jerk of Samuel’s arm was all it took to stagger Arthur forward and loosen the net’s tension and the kazari’s narrowing eyes went back to Simon.
“You are going to get your friends killed,” Ch’dau snarled, low and threatening, “if you continue with this foolishness.”
Simon sneered wickedly and, boldly, tossed his slender blade from one hand to the other as he continued his amateurish circling. “I see it otherwise,” he leered, the wooden hilt of the knife snapping clumsily into his off-hand grip, “There’s four o’ us and one o’ you! What’re ya gonna do… OOOOOH!!!”
Simon crumpled to his knees as the Kazari’s paw hammered into his nose. His vision went white and a high-pitched keening flooded his hearing. Over it all, though, he heard (or was it felt) the reverberating thrum of the cat-beast’s roaring. Even as he clutched at his broken nose, tried to secure a grip on the knife he had almost dropped, and forced himself to his feet, he felt the whoosh of air as a body flew passed him… heard the scream and abrupt expulsion of air from lungs as that same body landed with a heavy thud on the dock beyond him. Shaking his head and wiping the blood that filled his hand, now, onto the leg of his trousers, Simon’s vision cleared enough to see Oron and Leo charging the cat-beast even as he levelled his own strike with the knife at Samuel’s shoulder. Leo went low, aiming for the kazari’s knee, while Oron, with his long legs, launched himself at Samuel’s upper torso or throat…
The assault was clumsy but woefully effective. Oron thumped into the kazari’s chest, spinning the cat-beast around just as Leo’s tackle buckled the kazari’s fuzzy knees and, so, enabled Simon to land, with all his weight behind the stab, atop Samuel and drive the slim-bladed knife into the cat-man’s shoulder.
...The roar that escaped Ch’dau then echoed through the entirety of Meadowbrook. Whether it was a roar of pain or anger, though, can still be debated. Either way, all three of the fishing crew exploded away from their furry quarry and, in an instant, the kazari was back on it’s feet, teeth bared and claws extended as it roared another challenge into the moonless night. “Come!” The monster bellowed. “Bring me your blood! To the Hunt or blood for Kithran!!!”
The sound of the first roar had sent a chill down Sara's back. Sara had never heard that roar before, and she froze mid step, the broom in her hands stilled as she looked towards the source with frightened eyes.
No. I won't lose anyone else. I will not!
Aranwen's eyes narrowed and she leapt over the fence, rushing towards the sound as quick as she was able. A hand went to her side, fumbling for a sword that wasn't there. She shook her head, and instead adjusted her grip on the broom she held.
In the moonless night, she couldn't see the men around Ch'dau properly. But it didn't matter. Aranwen was once more lost in a memory, a battle already concluded that her mind was replaying for her. She didn't sing, but as she ran onto the dock, her golden eyes clouded by delusion, she rushed the first man she saw. She brought her momentum around into a wide swing, smacking the unfortunate Oron with enough force to throw him into the water. As she brought the improvised weapon back into a ready stance, she breathed deeply, as if to sing a song that did not come.
“Ar…. Sara?” The kazari’s eyes went wide even as he grabbed a monkey by the throat and tossed it after the one his wife had just sent sprawling into the lake. None of this is what he had expected, but in the same breath, sword or not, he was happy to see the Sylvari woman in action and the sword he had been forging shone in his mind and imagination as she pirouetted through his attackers.
Despite the surprise at Sara’s sudden appearance, Samuel didn’t let his awareness of the assailants slip. As Arthur got to his feet, the Kazari whirled about, claws coming to a stop just beneath the little monkey’s jaw line, scarcely pricking the skin, and he snarled; “You want to run away, t’mbili…”
Arthur swallowed, wanted to nod but, at the feel of the claws at his neck, thought better of it. “I… I… do,” he gulped, daring to move little more than his eyeballs in the moment.
“...Then, go,” the kazari snarled, tossing the little man away and not bothering to look after him as he landed, arse first in the road a few feet away.
The sound of scrabbling and scraping of gravel was quickly replaced by the noise of hastily retreating footsteps as Ch’dau rounded on Simon. The shave-pate scrambled back as, slathering and snarling, the cat-beast stomped forward and reached for the front of his shirt. Simon managed a grip on his knife before he was lifted from the ground, but that grip was quickly forgotten and the blade clattered to the dock. “Go home, monkey,” Samuel demanded, hauling Simon dangerously close to his sharp-toothed maw, “and treat your wife as she should be. If you do not, I will find you and kill you, yes?”
At first, the enraged cat-man didn’t register the voice.
“Y...yes! I swear!” Simon croaked.
The kazari blinked… Her voice was strong, commanding, and broke through his rage… he blinked again, almost as if he didn’t recognize the creature clutched in his paw. Then, he threw, more than tossed the gawking, choking form of Simon away from him and turned to where his wife stood with her broom… “Ara?”
Aranwen's eyes had refocused after hearing the splash Oron had made in the lake. Water didn't make sense. There was no lake in the underground. No. It was dark because it was night, not because they were underground. With the delusion gone from her eyes, she looked up at Ch'dau, her eyes soft around the edges as she raised her free hand to his chest, "Are you hurt?" she asked, before leaning into Ch'dau's warm fur, "I heard you and I- I panicked…"
The kazari blinked, then, the growl that rumbled in his chest dissolving into a low purr as he felt Aranwen’s weight press into him and the muscles of his arms loosened. Those arms snaked around her, then, and his cheek pressed to the top of her flame-tinged head. “I am fine, m’penzi,” he rumbled softly, even as the blood seeped from the stab and slash wounds he had foolishly let himself incur, “Scratches. Nothing more.”
Sara smiled, "Let's head home, melamin" she suggested, resolving to see to Ch'dau's injuries once they had returned.
“Yes,” Samuel nodded faintly, his eyes lifting to track the pair of shadows retreating into the dark of Meadowbrook’s streets, “Let’s.”
Behind him, the sounds of Oron and Leo extracting themselves from the lake snatched his attention and, as his arms unfolded from around his wife, the kazari leveled a glare at the two. Both elf and man froze in their tracks, dripping wet and blinking dumbly, first at one another and, then, at Samuel and Sara.
“Hiraetha amin,” Oron was the first to find his voice and, perhaps, his shame. He offered a stuttering bow along with his apology and, when it appeared that neither the kazari or his Syl wife would be making any attempt to stop him, found his feet and began walking tentatively past the couple.
Leo hesitantly followed and, as they passed Samuel and Sara, the lanky human offered a nod and an apology of his own. “Sorry,” he muttered on the back of a sigh, “Simon told us you were… well… and we just wanted to help… and…”
Samuel snorted and showed the man his teeth. “Keep to your fishing,” he growled menacingly, causing the man to skitter a few steps farther away, “and do not cross my path again.”
“Right,” Leo gulped, taking Oron by the elbow and urging him back toward town, “I’ll do that…”
As Leo and Oron skulked away, Samuel gave a slow shake of his head and, taking Sara’s hand in his, chuckled softly. “Even in a place such as this,” he mused aloud, “it seems that trouble has a way of finding us…”
Siobhan twitched awake to find her face smearing whatever it was she had been drawing as she passed out at her desk.
She sighed and dipped the tip of the sleeve of her black dress into the cup of water beside her, wiping her face as she attempted to discern what it was this time her weary mind had conjured. Her waning candlelight cast shadows over the arms, unnaturally long, writhing up from the ground and covered in insatiable mouths. They wrapped themselves around a big, dark smudge, where her face had been. She could just barely make out three forms, two large, one small, that had been merged together due to her having fallen asleep atop them. It was just more of the same, then.
She really needed more rest.
Shiv eyed her reflection in a small round mirror that fit in her palm and continued to wipe at her face until she was satisfied she had rid it of the black ink, then stared once more at the nightmare she had drawn. The indistinct blob made of three smaller smudged blobs was no mystery to her. She and her parents were consumed by these extremities nearly every time she fell asleep. She could still feel them gnawing at her flesh.
Rubbing her neck and arms to confirm they remained unmarred, she sighed once more and stood up from the table. Such was the delight in magic: with a wielder powerful enough, one could be rendered flawless after the most heinous assaults. She undressed as she made her way to her wardrobe, pulled out the first nightgown her hands found, and noticed how few mars pocked her own skin. She would likely look far different if not for that magic.
The young Solanis cleric came to mind at the thought.
Even in the angst he was feeling in his search for his missing friend, he seemed to radiate warmth and kindness--even toward her, a member of an order that could easily be seen as standing for tenets in absolute conflict with his own god’s. Siobhan only knew of Solanis from what she had read in her history books and other proxy research, but that warmth, kindness, and respect for life seemed fairly standard from one practicing in His wake. It was so different than her practice, that which she had followed her unfortunate parents into.
Shiv blew out the candle on her desk and slid under her blankets. Closing her eyes she resigned herself to what she would find there: unrest and undead, just like her picture. She opened them again to the dark, windowless room and for just a moment entertained the idea of who she might have been if she had let go of the pain and had sought warmth instead of retribution. Would others have seen her as she saw the cleric? She imagined her life would have looked far, far different than it did now.
With a heavy breath she let her eyes fall, and drifted off to haunt her own dreams once again.
Posted on 2020-01-02 at 21:09:11.
Edited on 2020-01-02 at 21:16:09 by breebles
Eol Fefalas Keeper of the Kazari RDI Staff Karma: 462/28 8466 Posts
An apprentice's task
Dawn; 16th Bre Tola; 453 E.R. The Ironforge Smithy, Meadowbrook
As had become the norm, morning found the big Kazari crouched before the forge at Rakiim’s, knocking the ashes free from the banked coals and stoking the fire back to life. Once tongues of yellow-orange flame began to lick themselves free of the embers, Samuel began feeding them smaller hunks of dried and split oak, and worked the bellows until the flames danced higher and caught the kindle. Satisfied that the fire wouldn’t douse itself in his absence, he returned to the woodshed for another, heavier arm-load of wood to fuel the forge. He had just gotten the last of the logs placed and set his foot to the bellows once more when the door from the shop opened and, a steaming mug of kaf in hand, a bleary-eyed Rakiim trudged to his side.
The old Khord stood quietly for a few moments, sipping at his bitter brew and blinking into the forge’s belly as his Kazari apprentice coaxed the fire back to roaring. Then, as the heavy iron door was banged shut and the flames were taken from his sight, Rakiim grunted and squinted up into the cat-man’s eyes. “Marnin’, Sam,” he grumbled over the edge of his mug, “Wha’s the shed lookin’ like?”
“Hmm,” Samuel grunted in reply, rolling his shoulder against the tugging of the stitches his wife had sewn there not a week ago. “There is enough timber there to last the rest of the month,” he rumbled, wiping his paws on the front of his apron and backing away from the forge, “but we should re-stock soon lest you would prefer to do so when it gets colder. Would you like me to go speak to Warrek?”
Rakiim offered a shake of his head and scratched at his beard, then. “Nah,” he said, clomping away from the edge of the forge himself, now, “I’ll go see t’ th’ wood, m’self, a bit later. Got sommat else fer ye t’ tend fer me.”
“And what is that,” Samuel asked, following the old Khord to muddied track of land behind the smithy, “Go to the Lakeshore and fetch you a pitcher of ale for when you finish that piss?”
“Heh,” Rakiim chuckled, “I c’n do tha’, m’self, too, ye fuzzy bastard! Nah, th’ trip I got in mind fer ye’ll take a wee bit longer’n a stroll t’ th’ pub, aye?” With his mug, the curmudgeonly Khord gestured to the wagon that sat parked across the yard; “Got a list o’ shyte I need ye ta load up an’ take ta Calestra, an’ a secon’ list o’ shyte I need ye ta bring back.”
“Calestra?” Samuel chuffed, “That trip will take two weeks, at least. Perhaps longer if…”
“I bloody well know how far Calestra is, Sam,” Rakiim interrupted, “Tha’s th’ whole damn reason I’m havin’ yew go! I’m gettin’ too fargin’ old fer et, m’self, an’ yer th’ apprentice, aye? Et’s wha’ ye bloody signed up fer, innit?”
The growl of protest that welled in the Kazari’s chest died before it reach his throat and escaped the cat-man as a somewhat irritated snort instead. “N’do,” Samuel sighed behind a clipped nod, “I suppose so.”
Something of a scowl flitted across his face, then, and he glanced down at the dwarf. “What of Sara,” he asked, “I cannot just leave her her for a…”
“Bah!” Rakiim spat. “Take yer wife wit’ ye, fer all I care, ef ye c’n pry her away from fussin’ wit’ Mhera’s plants an’ whatno’. Prob’ly’d do ye both a bit o’ good ta get oota here a spell after what ye done ta Simon an’ ‘is crew, aye?”
“I did nothing that…”
“Aye! Aye!” The Khord smirked, cutting off the Kazari’s intended protest. “I know wha’ ye did an’ yew know wha’ ye did, but th’ tales bein’ spun aboot town’re no’ yer’s nor mine, they’re his, ain’t they?”
The Kazari’s turquoise eyes rolled in his head and, this time, the irritated growl didn’t stop in his chest.
“Oi,” Rakiim reached up and patted his apprentice solidly on the back, “I know th’ feelin’, lad. We’re I a decade er two younger, I’d feed th’ bastard ‘is teeth, m’self, as ye ain’t seen fit t’ show yer face a’ th’ pub o’ late. Things bein’ wha’ they are, though…” he shrugged, took another swallow of his kaf, and turned back toward the workshop… “Go home, pack up wha’ ye’ll need, an’ see ta yer missus. She goes wit’ ye an’ I’ll see to it as Simon don’ burn yer fookin’ ‘ouse doon while yer away, aye?”
“I should have killed that monkey and his friends when they asked me to,” Samuel snorted angrily as he stomped along beside the blacksmith.
“Ta hear them tell et, ye did,” Rakiim chortled, “right after ye buggered ‘is wife!”
“K’tomba v’tun’gu,” the Kazari snarled.
“Sounds a lot prettier when ye say et like tha’, lad,” Rakiim laughed, clapping the cat-man on his back, once more, “We get more time an’ ye’ll ‘ave t’ teach me some more o’ tha’ K’zari talk.
Now, get yer fuzzy arse movin’! I’ll have them lists fer ye when ye get back, aye?”
Posted on 2020-01-25 at 17:48:11.
Raven Resident Finn RDI Staff Karma: 73/3 1101 Posts
“Ceedriic! It’s dinner time! Go get your sister and make sure she washes her dirty little fingers before you come inside.”
The lad swung the birch branch he’d been using as an imaginary sword a couple of more times and turned to look at his mother standing on the their porch. She was wearing her favourite apron again, the yellow one. Cedric smiled. It was so torn and brown from all the cooking that even his father had begged her to get rid of it, but apparently it was the lucky one. And in the boy’s mind it was. Yellow apron meant mom had been baking and since it was Alvaday, it meant there would be either apricot tart or better yet, pulla for dessert. He tried sniffing for the familiar smell of cardamom in the air, but didn’t quite catch any. Tart it would be.
Cedric flung the “sword” up on his shoulder twisting his wrist a bit to make sure the weapon landed on the flat of the blade instead of its razor sharp edge. Amelia would be by the stream playing with her cone unicorns and stick knights again. Their castle was on top of an angular rock their dad dug out of the stream for his “little rose” two summers back. Cedric had helped her build the castle out of sticks and willow bark cords. He’d grown out of little kids’ games since and Amelia was forced to play alone. He felt like Mom was giving her more slack than she deserved. She was eight already! When he’d been her age, Cedric had already been helping Father on the fields and Mom in the barn. It was not fair!
Heading in to the sparse forest, the boy took a couple of practice swings at the trees. In his anger he struck an aspen so hard the sword nearly broke. The shockwave of the impact made him drop his mighty weapon to the ground. Cursing under his breath, Cedric forgot all about the dessert and yelled at his sister: “Amelia, you little prat! If my pulla is not hot anymore, I swear I’ll burn your darn sticks!” Waiting for a few breaths, Cedric didn’t get the answer he was expecting. She was not far and should have heard his call. Was she playing hide and seek again? Amelia knew Cedric would never really break her toys, but she also knew better than to make him angry. It wouldn’t be the first time she would sneak away and run back to Mom to be safe.
“Amelia! Where are you?”
Cedric stopped and turned his head sideways to listen. If she was nearby, he would hear her for sure. Carefully he took a couple of steps forward towards the stream and breathed through his mouth to hear better.
There it was! She’d made a mistake! “Ha! I heard you, Am! I’ll get you now!” The lad charged through the trees and in his eagerness to find Amelia, caught a root with his left foot and fell… head first into a bush. Cursing under his breath, Cedric pushed away the leaves and the branches and tried to get up. But it must’ve been a large bush as he couldn’t really see too well. Everything seemed to be strangely dark all of a sudden. “Am! Come help me out of this darn bush, will you?… Please?” But he couldn’t get up. The branches were pushing him down and the only way he could to go was crawl deeper under the bush. Cedric forced himself forward slowly and called out to Amelia again: “Am! Aaam! This ain’t funny anymore. Help me out of here!”
That’s when he heard something ahead of him… something that sounded like muffled crying.
“Amelia!? Are you ok?”
“Hold on, I’m coming!”
Finally after what seemed like hours, but was more likely less than a minute, Cedric pushed the last branches behind him. But the darkness that had surrounded him under the bush did not go away. It was as if the the night had fallen all of a sudden in the middle of the day. It was only dinner time! There should’ve been light for another good three hours still. Trying to understand what was going on, Cedric heard the muffled cries again, but at the same time he heard another sound. Something was grunting and moving just up ahead. Cedric reached for his makeshift weapon at his belt, but the branch was nowhere to be found. He hadn’t picked it up from where he’d dropped it. Darn.
“Am? Are you ok?”, the lad’s voice was quieter now, wary. He could see her dress now from behind a tree, her feet too. They were… shaking. She was clearly lying on the ground. And the cries had stopped. “Amelia?” Cedric picked up a rock from beside him and pushed himself up slowly. “Amelia?” He took a few careful steps closer and around the thick tree trunk. Something was kneeling over Amelia, a human of some kind, but it was dirty and smelled foul. Cedric swallowed hard and raised the rock high above his head. As he brought it down with all of his teen strength, the thing turned its head around more than should’ve been possible and glared at him with its… dead eyes and grinned with its broken, bloody jaw.
The rock smashed through the zombie’s forehead with ease and its skull exploded into a shower of bone shards. Cedric pushed away the twice-dead corpse and dropped on his knees beside his sister. At the very moment a cloud seemed to moved away from in front of the sun and a beam of its light hit the face of the still girl. The cold, staring, lightless eyes… the nose… the mouth… or even the hair… did not belong to Amelia… Lying on the ground was not the body of his sister… It was Kithran!
8th Ternoth Ore (Fallday), 453 E.R.
Crossroads a few miles out of Felarin
“Laddie… Cedric, wake up. You’re having a nightmare again. Wakeup!” A stern and warm voice brought Cedric out of his dreamworld and into the bright, sunny day. It took him a while to figure out where he was, why the ground was swinging and who had spoken. He took a look around and recognised the familiar, bearded and smiling face of a middle-aged man.“Welcome back, lad. Were you having the same dream again? The one you told me about? With your sister and miss Kithran?”
Father Connor Grenville was an elder member at the temple of Jusarin in Felarin. It had been an incredible coincidence and stroke of luck that had brought the two clergymen together. And in a way, of all people, he had Davena to thank for it…
A day after Ch’dau and Aranwen had headed out towards Meadowbrook Gib and Cedric packed up what little gear they had, stocked their rations and said their goodbyes. The younger cleric had been trying to get his friend to join him on his trip to the White City, but Gib had other plans and good reasoning for them too. The Warder’s fellowship had a major base in the nations capital, Ethryn, so it made perfect sense for him to go meet his brothers there to give his report on the late events as well as to learn what they knew about D’hurgen and his worshippers. It was exactly what Cedric himself was planning to once he reached Felarin, so after a couple of quick exchanges, he dropped the matter. Things actually made a lot more sense that way. Therefore, come morning light, the men clasped each other’s forearm, nodded and went their separate ways; Gib to the South, Cedric to the North.
With his backpack full or water and food and his trusty stuff as a walking cane, the young farmer’s son felt good. The rest in the village, the bath the previous evening and a new set of clothes all helped him feel like a new man. There had been no yellow robes available in Crandel, so replacing his order’s colours would have to wait a while longer. Cedric’s old clothes had been in a sad state after all the fighting with the undead and the time spent in the dungeons of the temple. So he’d arranged a sort of a cleansing ritual for himself by burning the filthy garments and soaking his tired body in hot water. It had worked wonders on his mental health. The young priest hadn’t forgotten any of the evil that had taken place at the Death God’s temple or Kithran’s fate. But all of that was in the past now and there was nothing he could do to change it, no matter how much he wanted and hoped. Right now was the time to concentrate on the future, to find out all they could about the enemy and figure out a way to rescue Kith before it was too late for her and… everyone.
There were no wagons heading towards Felarin on that particular morning, but Cedric didn’t mind walking. The exercise was good for him and gave him the time to take in the scenery and to have internal discussions about his life. He had kept on walking for a couple of days, having spent a peaceful night at an old camp site by the road, when Cedric heard sounds of fighting down the road. Something about the sounds was familiar to him and not in a good way… Without any thought for his own safety, he quickened his steps into a run.
The lad felt his pulse rise and hands sweat as he grabbed his staff tighter.Rounding a copse of trees the surprise of what he saw almost brought Cedric to a stop. In a large clearing, also a site much used for camping, was a group of zombies closing in on a lone human. The shamblers looked exactly like the ones Cedric himself had been fighting many times in the passing weeks. He frantically looked around for signs of Davena, but was happy to see she wasn’t around. These monsters were quite a distance away from the crashed ruins of the unholy temple anyway. Perhaps they were some kind of runaways? Had the situation been less serious, he might have laughed at the thought. Who knew if such things even were possible.
A few of the zombies were almost running away from the robed man who was swinging a staff much like Cedric’s own at the zombies closest to him. The young cleric’s eyes spied a grey pendant hanging around the older man’s neck and even though he couldn’t make out the details of the holy symbol, he was sure it was one. Having learned a trick or three about the undead and fighting them, Cedric picked up his speed and struck down one of the turned zombies without slowing down. He reached the rear of the group of six or seven walkers and prayed for Solanis to give him power to drive them away. The gold disk of the Radiant Father shone with a light brighter than the sun and he could feel once again his Lord’s power strong within him. And so apparently could the zombies. All but one of the remaining monsters turned around and fled the miraculous power of the God of Life.
The elder priest struck down the remaining zombie and nodded his thanks to Cedric. “Well done laddie. Now help me destroy them for good so that they cannot harm anyone ever again.” It was Cedric’s turn to nod and one by one the two priests hunted down the defenseless zombies. Once the grim deed was done, the older man who introduced himself as Father Connor, insisted that they burned the corpses. Though Cedric knew well the zombies would not rise again, he agreed. It was a better solution than leaving the rotting corpses beside the busy road and it gave the poor souls at least some kind of a burial.
Father Connor was sitting beside Cedric in the back of the gypsy wagon. The lucht siuil or travellers, had been kind enough to offer the two men a ride. By luck, they were headed towards Felarin too with plans of doing business with the scholars in the city. The lucht siuil were, at least according to themselves, experts in gathering strange ingredients for wizards and sorcerers and during their travels they collected a great deal of useful information as well. The ride was not free of course and while Father Connor had insisted on taking care of any costs, Cedric quickly forged another kind of deal with the travellers. During the two week trip, they exchanged healing and curing services for food, drinks and a sleeping place near the fire.
“I’m alright, Father. Just another nightmare again.”
As a child Cedric had heard many tales and rumours about the gypsies or pikeys as some prejudiced people called them. In those stories the travellers were rogues, murderers and horse thieves. And they always cheated anyone foolish enough to trade with them. “Avoid them whenever you can!”, had his own father instructed the kid a long time ago. But from the moment he had met this mixed group or family as they liked to call themselves, Cedric had realised all of those stories were false. The members of the Gray -family had been nothing short of kind, friendly and well-mannered towards the priests. And their matriarch Ethelinda had happily accepted Cedric’s offer of paying for their rides and meals with divine magic. Ethelinda was a proficient healer in her own accord and her knowledge on herbs, elixirs and ointments surpassed that of either of the clergymen. The three of them shared long discussions about medicine on the way.
“Vano says we’ll be at the crossroads soon. It won’t take more than a couple of hours from there to reach Felarin Wood. The enchantment in the forest will not allow the all of wagons to pass through though he tells me. I’ve been to the many times White City before, but never with a group this big.I have never met any trouble going through the woods myself, but these people know the area well. They’ll setup a camp close to the inner edge of the forest and will send only a couple of wagons and a small group of people in every day to trade. Since neither of us harbours ill thoughts towards magic or its users of, we can enter unhindered.”
The remainder of the journey was as uneventful as it had been since Cedric and Connor had joined the Grays. Felarin Wood filled the young man with amazement though. The mighty trees of the forest were by far the tallest he had ever seen and the trunks of some were so thick it would have been possible to carve small houses inside of them. He could see every shade of green in the lush undergrowth, quite unlike the forests of his home and the sweet smell of the flowers and other plants was almost overwhelming. Something about the place made Cedric feel calm and safe. It was as if the trees silently told him they would not let anything evil enter. He could hear and see birds, hares and even a couple of deer that were seemingly unworried about the fifty or so people traveling through the forest.
It was already evening when they arrived at the clearing the lucht siuil always settled down in for a few weeks every year. It was a wonder to watch the travellers work. From the moment the first wagon entered the meadow, it took less than an hour to unpack everything. Two hours later it seemed like the encampment had always been there. A large fire in the center of the circle of wagons was crackling in the dark. Most of the people were sitting around it eating, drinking, singing and dancing. Children were running around playing and dogs were sleeping under the wagons. The scene made Cedric smile with happiness and feel warm inside. Ethelinda’s people had taken the lad in as one of their own and during the fortnight they’d spent together, Cedric had learned to know most people by face and name. They were already starting to feel like family to him and the young man was glad he and Connor had agreed to spend one more night with the travellers and only enter the city in the morning.
It had taken nearly 50 hugs, just as many goodbyes and promises to meet again one day before Cedric and his priestly companion had been able to leave the camp behind. The matriarch had made sure that their bellies were full and they had enough food and brew to get them through the day before she send the duo off. Cedric was still grinning as he stepped out of the woods and into a field of wheat. He didn’t know what he had been expecting, perhaps a great white wall and tall, twisted, sky-reaching towers behind it. Instead it seemed that there was no barrier at all, at least physical, around the magical city. It took him totally by surprise. Yes, he’d read stories about Felarin and the enchanted woods around it; how the trees kept enemies at bay and only allowed benevolent people through just like Connor had told him. But never in his wildest dreams could he have guessed that the magical protection was so powerful, that no walls were needed.
The city was, even without walls, a magnificent thing to look at. There actually was a single, mighty tower in the middle of Felarin. Cedric recognised it from a couple of diaries he had read at the monastery; the tower of the Archmage Tharandul. From beyond the farmlands surrounding the the city proper, the priest could see the city was indeed of circular shape, or at least it seemed to be from where he was standing. A few other grand buildings stood out from the mass of smaller houses. Some were clearly temples while the two most magnificent ones had to be the Grand Library and the Academy of Magic.
Taking in the view, Cedric realised he had stopped walking. He could hear Connor laughing heartily twenty yards ahead of him. “One foot in front of the other laddie! If you think it looks wonderful from here, you’re in for a treat. Let’s go!”
An hour later Cedric found himself looking at the biggest golden disk he had ever seen. And if the symbol of the Radiant Father was great, his temple was the most beautiful building he had laid eyes on. It was as white as the cobbled street he was standing on, white and pure as if no dirt could stick to the surface of the walls. He knew it wasn’t the grandest house of worship his order had built for Solanis, but it probably was sitting in the most interesting setting of them all. He said quick thanks and goodbyes for Connor as the walker of the Path of Dynasty had been certain they would meet again soon. He promised to share what Cedric had told him about Davena and D’hurgen with the Lords of his order and was positive they would come up with something useful soon.
Ten minutes later Cedric was still staring at the temple, when he heard the voice of a young woman beside him: “Wonderful, isn’t it? Sixty years old and it looks like it had been built yesterday.” Nodding, he turned to face the owner of the voice. “Celia, novice second degree.“ A human… No, probably half-elven girl roughly his age in half-elven years, was looking at Cedric from toe to the tip of his nose.
“You wear our symbol, but your robes are not according to the order’s guidelines and I have not seen you before. Your stance is firm and you hold that staff like a person who knows how to use it in combat. Your face speaks of youthful innocence and yet… your eyes… Your eyes have seen things… things that have hurt your soul; terrible things.”
Celia gave Cedric a bow. “Forgive me, Father. I have spoken out of turn again.”
Cedric kept on staring at the girl for little while longer and tried to take in everything she had said. “Father? I’m not… Ehm.. I am just a simple brother from the Monastery of Eternal Illumination near Redfall. Pleased to meet you, Celia. I am Cedric.”
The lad cast a look at his plain and simple brownish clothes. “Ah yes, my robe. Unfortunately my previous outfit was damaged beyond repair a few weeks ago and I have not had any success in finding a proper replacement. I was kind of hoping that would be possible here in Felarin.” Cedric could feel the blush rising to his cheeks and kept his eyes down.
The young woman smiled back at him. “No worries. We have seamstresses at our disposal. And the prices are very low too as the Temple supports their business.”
Celia grabbed Cedric’s arm and started pulling him towards the Temple. “Come, I will show you around. And later on you should probably see the High Morninglord too, if he has the time. Lord Alinor wishes to have a chat with every newcomer as soon as possible.”
Next half an hour was filled with rooms and halls and sanctuaries and priests and monks and acolytes and artisans. Cedric met new interesting people, saw beautiful architecture, had his measures taken for a new robe and was shown a bed he could use for the duration of his stay, free of charge. The rest of the day went by just as quickly. There was lunch at the dining hall, a walk around the city with Celia, a quick visit at the Grand Library before hours of waiting for an audience with the High Morninglord.
When the summons finally came, Cedric found himself excited and nervous. So far the highest ranking member of his church he’d met had been Abbot Pleat and the Abbot was not very high in the hierarchy. The High Morninglord’s office was not as big as Cedric had imagined. It was not grand or luxurious either, but the room did have a private altar for the Luminary. Its walls were covered either by bookshelves of very lifelike paintings of Solanis and his greatest servants. There was on one wall a large, double window which overlooked the inner yard of the Temple. The master of the Temple was sitting behind his desk writing something as Cedric entered. He beckoned the young man inside and pointed at a chair in front of the desk. Cedric softly closed the door behind him and shyly took the offered seat. He kept his eyes on his hands until the Lord Alinor cleared his throat and spoke. The old man’s voice was low and hoarse and Cedric had to listen very carefully to understand each word he said.
“So, Cedric of Redfall, welcome to Felarin. What brings you here?”
The young cleric took a deep breath and began immediately explaining the High Morninglord the everything that had taken place since his first meeting with his would-be friends and didn’t finish until he said goodbye to Gib at the gates of Crandel. It felt good to tell the story to someone who had not experienced it, just like it had been to Connor. Father Alinor was a great listener and didn’t stop Cedric’s account of the events before there was a clear pause the story. He asked a lot of questions and made notes, but not once did he doubt anything the lad said. And when Cedric was finally done, the High Morninglord was silent for a long time before he picked up a chime from his table and rang it twice. An acolyte arrived and Cedric began to rise from his chair, but Lord Alinor indicated he should sit back down while he gave a few quiet orders to the servant.
The silence continued a while longer, until the same acolyte returned with two platters of food, wine and water. Two middle-aged priests followed the acolyte in and bowed to the High Morninglord. Dawnmaster Martyn and Dusklady Umaina were apparently his left and right hand and had been summoned to give their insights on Cedric’s story. It was well into the next day when the audience was over. Cedric had been asked to recount his tale once more and the two other priests had also had their share of questions in need of answering. When he finally was dismissed and got his head on the pillow, the young man fell asleep immediately.
Morning came extremely early at the Temple. After only a couple of hours of sleep, Cedric was still expected to follow the set rhythm like everyone else. After the Sunrise service and breakfast there was a package waiting for him on his tiny bedside table. His new robes were magnificent. They managed to be practical, luxurious and simple at the same time. It was bright yellow with white cuffs, hem and highlights. After dressing up, Cedric went straight to the seamstress to pay for the outfits, but she denied any payment for the robes saying it had already been covered. Not one to argue about money, Cedric did insisted on offering the lady lunch later on anyway as he didn’t want to feel indebted to her.
Since the young cleric was new at the Temple, he had no chores to take care off. Unable to resist the urge anymore, he decided to pay the Grand Library of Felarin another, proper visit. Cedric hoped he would find some kind of information about the Death God, the rituals of his worshippers, legends, history, everything. The High Morninglord had agreed to help too doubtlessly realising the threat Davena’s plans posed for the Order and the whole World too. It could take days or even weeks before the wisest of his own Order and those of Connor’s too would be able to shed any light into the matter. So Cedric figured he had plenty of time to kill in the Library doing research of his own in the meanwhile.
Big. Huge. Enormous. Cedric had been roaming around the open area of the library for an hour taking in the smell, feel and look of all the books and tomes and scrolls. Not the smartest monk in the Abbey, he still had a great hunger for reading. Ever since he had been accepted into the monastery school, Cedric had been reading through all the books in its library and later on in the personal collections of the senior monks too, reading some twice at others even three times. He was a slow reader as it often took him time to fathom everything he was reading. Especially books with mathematical theorems and algorithms had been beyond his understanding, but he had read those books too nevertheless. Cedric had no doubt he could find the information he was looking for at the Grand Library. If it had been written and still existed, there was bound to be a copy of the writing in the library. Or so Cedric hoped.
The ceilings of some of the halls were incredibly high, easily two stories or 20 feet, some even higher than that. Though he had no real understanding of architecture, it was clear to Cedric that the complex had been built in various stages and not all at once. The library was still fairly young for such an important building as was the whole city, but the ancient books made it feel like it was as old as the monastery’s oldest parts had been, centuries upon centuries. Most of the walls were covered by floor to ceiling shelves filled with knowledge, but there were also numerous sections dedicated to art; paintings, sculptures, dioramas, tapestries… In addition to being a library, the place was a museum too. Cedric was in paradise.
Tamas had often teased him back at the monastery about his constant reading. He’d said Cedric worshipped the wrong god; that he should be studying in a school of the Path run by priests of Jusarin instead. In a sense Cedric’s best friend had probably been right, but he didn’t see the two aspects of himself conflicting. He loved life, wished to dedicate his own into helping those in need and to driving away the evil from all corners of the Audalis. And yet, he loved to read of new things; to constantly learn. So although his soul belonged to Solanis, he did on occasion say prayers to the Magister as well. That was probably one of the reasons why he and Connor had gotten along so well on the road.
Soon the young Cedric had his arms full of books in pile almost too tall to see over. Luckily he found an empty spot at the end of long table. He tried to lower the books on it as quietly as he could, but failed miserably. The loud bang caused by the heavy books clearly startled a number of fellow information seekers, but most seemed to ignore the distraction he’d caused especially after he gave them an apologetic bow.
Cedric had barely had time to sit down and sort the books into three smaller piles when a pretty young woman with reddish brown hair dressed in all black appeared out of nowhere beside him. Standing so close to him, Cedric’s immediately felt irritated of her presence. There was no doubt she wanted to speak to him. But why would someone wish to invade his privacy? Was she really so pissed off about him breaking the silence? He emboldened himself and raised his eyes to meet hers. Surprisingly there was no sign of her being annoyed with him at all. Instead there was a slight smile on her face that melted away his irritation.
“Ermm… Yes? Can I help you?”
Posted on 2020-01-26 at 05:57:55.
Eol Fefalas Keeper of the Kazari RDI Staff Karma: 462/28 8466 Posts
Shrouded in his cloak and cowl against the eyes of others as much as the weather, Ch’dau sighed as the walls of the Trade City rose before him, a breath that carried equal measures of relief and disappointment. Relief that the road was now behind him and disappointment that, at its end, there would be no Aldeaths waiting to welcome him. As he guided the heavily laden wagon toward the city’s eastern entrance, the Kazari reached into his belt, slipped a piece of parchment from under the leather, and, unfolded it. A soft chuckle and happy purring escaped him as he looked at the picture Chora and Danny had drawn of Aranwen and himself and Randel’s words, read to him in Ara’s voice, echoed in his memory.
“I am sorry to have missed you, m’rra’fiki,” he muttered as he carefully refolded the picture and slipped it back into its place, “but I hope that your journey home was safe.”
Aranwen leaned in beside Ch’dau, giving the Silver Cat a warm embrace, “It’s a journey they’ve taken many times; I’m sure they’re just fine,” She smiled, though inwardly a bit relieved at missing them this time around. Though she looked far better than their first passing by Calestra, she just wasn’t sure how she’d feel around Chora and Danny if she had met them.
Ch’dau reined the horses in, slowing the wagon to a halt as it came into the shadow of the Captain’s Gate and a pair of sentries emerged from the guardhouse to meet him.
“Ho, there,” the burly human who approached from the right called out, lifting a gloved hand to pat the flanks of one of the horses as he passed, “Welcome to Calestra, travelers. What’s your business beyond the walls on this fine fall day?”
“Trade,” Ch’dau rumbled from the depths of his cowl, “I bring sundries from Rakiim Ironforge in Meadowbrook.”
“Meadowbrook, is it,” the guard queried, peering up at the large figure that sat on the wagon’s bench, “You’ve had quite the journey then, eh?”
“Mm,” Ch’dau nodded, his gaze ticking for an instant to the slender Sylvari guardsman who strolled along the wagon’s left, now, “better than a week.”
“A long journey,” Aranwen agreed, “Thankfully a generally peaceful one,” She added.
The Syl, who looked vaguely familiar to Ch’dau, had lifted a corner of the tarpaulin that covered the wagon-bed and was scrutinizing the payload. “Just what sort of sundries are you bringing,” he asked without looking up at the driver, more intent on his inspection of the cargo.
“Khord-forged locks, hinges, picks, spades, and the like,” Ch’dau answered, producing another piece of parchment from under his belt, “I have a complete inventory written in Master Ironforge’s hand, if you would care to see it.”
“We would,” the human nodded, reaching out a hand to accept the stock list, “Carrying any weapons on you, friends?”
Aranwen shook her head, holding her hands open before her to gesture that she was unarmed.
“I am,” Ch’dau answered, offering over the inventory, “As you said, it is a long journey from Meadowbrook and my wife carries no…”
“Whoa!” The human guard forgot all about the inventory when he caught sight of the massive fur-covered paw that offered it. Rather than accepting the list, his own hand fell to the hilt of the sword at his hip and took a step back. “What in the name of…”
Aranwen held a hand forward, still open palmed, towards the guard, “Relax, and be at ease,” She offered to the man, “Breathe,”
“But what…” the human’s hand remained on his hilt, but it remained undrawn.
“You need not fear,” Aranwen offered with a soothing voice, and she gave a smile, seeing that the human’s hand relaxed a bit on the hilt, though stayed upon the pommel.
At his counterpart’s exclamation, the Syl guard, too, abandoned his inspection of the wagon’s cargo and, his hand going to his own blade, rounded the rear of the cart to see what had so startled the man. As he did, he also caught sight of the silver-furred appendage that still held the manifest… and he heard the heavy sigh that escaped the wagon’s driver at the human’s reaction. A curious expression that might have been read as recognition flitted across the elf’s face, then. “Easy, Evin,” the Syl said, echoing Aranwen in reassuring the human, before tilting his head in an attempt to get a glimpse beyond the shadows of the driver’s cowl, “I believe I may know this one.”
“This one what?” Evin blinked.
The Syl smiled faintly and, showing none of the fear still evident in his partner’s eyes, stepped forward to take the invoice from the alien appendage that offered it. As he did, he at last got a look at the face hidden by the hood and his smile brightened a bit. “Adaron’s ears,” he chuckled softly, “it is you! Ch’dau, isn’t it?”
It was the Kazari’s turn to look confused or, perhaps, surprised. Despite the dumbfounded expression, though, Ch’dau offered a short nod and replied; “It is… Forgive, friend, but… do I know you?”
“We have met, yes,” the Syl grinned, “though I’m not surprised that you don’t remember. It was quite a while ago, at Castle Greymonte. I used to squire for Roddric Cassel…”
Ch’dau’s eyes went wide as the light of recognition sparked behind them. “Garion, yes? You used to bring me food.”
“Yes,” the Syl beamed, pressing a hand to his chest, delighted that the Kazari remembered even that much, “Garion Shalithil!”
Laughing, Garion turned to his partner and, again, waved the man’s hand away from his sword. “Evin, this,” he gestured at the enormous creature sitting on the wagon’s bench, “is Kh’ur Ch’dau; The Silver Cat of Coria. Although... I do not know who your companion is, Ch’dau.”
“Call me Sara,” Aranwen offered, “We were wed in Meadowbrook,” she gave a smile, “It is good to meet someone else who is familiar with Ch’dau.”
“Wed?” Garion’s eyes widened a bit at that, looking back to Ch’dau with a curious gaze.
Evin still blinked in disbelief and gawked at the monster at the wagon’s reins. “You’re kidding,” he breathed, “I didn’t think there was any truth to those tales.”
“Oh,” Garion chuckled, “they’re true, alright. Every one…” He gave the Kazari’s inventory slip a cursory glance, then, and offered it back; “…except for the one that said you were dead, it seems.”
“So it would seem,” the Kazari chuffed, “You are no longer with the Wyverns, then, friend Garion?”
“No,” the Syl shook his head, “no more than you are, I suppose. After what happened to your troop in Sendria, I decided that life as a city guard was a safer choice. How did you ever end up in Meadowbrook? And wed, no less.”
“That is a tale long in the telling,” Ch’dau rumbled, “and I have much to do before the market closes. If it is all the same to you, Garion…”
“Right,” the Syl chuckled, “my apologies. Mayhap you’d do me the honor of letting me buy you a drink at the Bent Copper, later? I would like to hear that long tale.”
“I suppose I can manage that,” the cat-man grinned, “Where is the Bent Copper?”
“Just near the Long Gamble,” Garion offered, waving vaguely in the direction of Shinara’s temple, “Little more than a block past. I’ll see you there after sundown?”
“After sundown,” the Kazari nodded, taking up the reins again, “I will see you then, Garion Shalithil.”
With that, a flick of the reins, and a clipped growling coaxing of the horses, Ch’dau proceeded through the Captain’s Gate and into the bustle of Calestra’s open air market. Behind him, a grinning Sylvari and a gawking Corian strolled back toward the warmth of the guardhouse.
“The Silver Cat of Coria,” Evin repeated, shaking his head as he tugged off his gloves and warmed them, now, over the guard house’s little stove, “Unbelievable!”
“So you have said,” Garion snickered.
“Think I might join you at the Copper, tonight?”
“If you promise not to make a fool of yourself, Evin,” the Syl nodded, “I don’t see why not.”
Posted on 2020-01-26 at 12:33:39.
Edited on 2020-01-26 at 14:51:59 by Eol Fefalas
Reralae Dreamer of Bladesong Karma: 142/12 2505 Posts
Rumours and Disquiet
Sara stared at the metal knife on Mhera's counter. Once again, she reached for it. The closer her hand came to it, the worse the shaking got. Her lips twisted, teeth grinding as she clenched her hand in frustration. She could tell it had gotten worse. Why?
That other night replayed in her mind's eye. What would have happened if it was a true attack, and Aranwen had needed to support Ch'dau with a blade - any blade? If she had struck from the bladeless stance, and wrest the sword from an attacker, what then? What could she do with a blade when she wavered with uncertainty and regret? Sara sighed, but before she could think on it further, movement caught her eye. As her golden eyes glanced through the window, they met with the curious, yet scared, eyes of another. They quickly slipped out of sight from the window, and Sara sighed once more.
"Too bad it's not simply someone here to admire your features," Mhera observed, "Sam could just cuff 'em over the head and be done with it," she paused a moment as she regarded Sara, "If you didn't yerself, first."
Sara shook her head, "It seems as if I'm scaring away some of our customers lately," She sighed.
Mhera shrugged her shoulders, "'appens. It's a quiet town, usually, so talk of a fight spreads like wildfire from house to house. And your Samuel certainly looks the part-"
"He only defended himself," Sara protested.
"I know; it ain't me you need to tell that," Mhera chuckled, "You two are far from the first to venture all the way here, to Meadowbrook, in search of peace and quiet. But rumours tend to have some hint of truth underneath the undesired tale put together over it, and the thought that you, of all people, are far more capable of battle than you look... that draws curiosity."
"I am not capable of battle," Sara replied, averted her gaze from Mhera.
Mhera nodded slowly, "But you were, weren't you?"
Sara's gaze fell towards the knife once more. There, she could see both blades she had lost. The first lost because she had to catch something even more precious than it, before it slipped from her fingers. The second lost because there was no path to victory, only the path walled in by her inability to read duplicity. Her eyes flared with hatred as her heart beat faster. Would that she could have just cut him down, before he made his move. Make safe the path.
She felt a small hand at her shoulder, and Sara blinked, turning to see Mhera with concern in her eyes, "Forget I asked," Mhera said, gently, "If you need, go ahead and head home early," She offered, "Pushing yourself to learn while your mind is elsewhere is a good way to put together a wrong mixture in the future."
Sara nodded, "Thank you," She replied.
Later on, when Ch'dau offered her to accompany him to Calestra, she eagerly accepted, to his surprise.
The waters that lapped at Felarin's shores had seen many things. They trickled as snowmelt down the sides of the Kharolis Mountains, watchers of stone and the khords that worked it. They raced merchant caravans and lonesome wanderers through the pathways of the Thrace and Indigo Rivers. They saw more than any creature ever did when they sunk beneath the earth to water Sendrian farmers' crops or filled the bellies of Drannese horses. They even carried memories of the heavens, spit and thrown as raindrops, collected with their earthbound brethren. What these waters had yet to witness, however, was the strangest assault on a the mages' city yet.
A man, stripped to his smalls and bearing only a hook for a hand and insanity for brains stood opposite Felarin. Grey-blue eyes kept watch on the marvelous city, almost like he dared it to move of its own accord, as he wound rope round his ankle. His package, a bundle of blue linen and lamellar armour, was tied to the other end of the rope. The man finished the knot, figure eight in shape and surprisingly well done with a sharpened hook, and levelled his eyes once more on the city across Lake Haven.
"Be well and no horseplay," the man warned the waters. "Your nonsense with the woods was trouble enough for me." He waded into the waters til it reached his waist, then dove under.
For a magic lake, the waters were surprisingly like most others the man had swam in. Of course, the salt of the Leema Krags burned like dragonfire whereas Lake Haven's was almost a caress against the eye, but the world beneath the waves was the same. Calmer, more fluid; a world suspended in slowed animation, where a kick propelled you as much as the water. Light penetrated best it could, revealing jagged rock and growing things, and gave enough vision for the man to maneuver with ease. He made certain to place his now-waterlogged package as far from catching stones and winding weeds as possible, and with definite strokes, he swam on.
Eight minutes passed and the man surfaced, filling his lungs with precious air as he treaded water. He gave a cursory glance at the city, closer now than when he stood on the shore but still at least a half hour's journey. Nevertheless, the man drew in a large breath and ducked beneath the waves again, just missing the silhouette floating above the lake as he dove.
The man cut through the waters like rivers, gaining traction even with his metal prosthetic, and his legs powered his strokes. His pack was most certainly behind and just a few feet below him when it caught on something. The man glanced downwards, spying no rocks or weeds about as he'd been sure of before. A frown creased his lips - as well as it could with his cheeks full of air, anyways - and begun his trek anew.
He didn't make it ten paces before his pack was jerked again, with much more force this time. Bubbles escaped into the water as the man grunted his surprise and spun to see what had grabbed him.
Nothing. There was nothing there.
But so had it seemed when he ventured the Felarin Wood, seeing nothing amongst the branches until walls of trees covered his tracks and the sun was blocked by leaves. And so he had taken his axe to the trees, which finally produced a noise amongst the damnable silence of the forest, and the man did battle with nature until he stumbled from the woods by Raven Isle.
With his axe and armour in his pack, however, the man was at a considerable disadvantage within the water. Whatever magical defense the mages put up could not be so mild as a maze of trees, lest Felarin be flying Sendrian banners now. Whatever sunk a fleet of warships was within the waters now, toying with the man.
When the next tug came, the man was prepared. He launched himself to the pack, hook flailing first, and snagged his pack before it could be used against him once more. But his enemy evaded, obviously more skilled in maneuvering underwater than a human, and so the man was left alone beneath the waves, seeing ghosts in every shadow.
Damn magics, he cursed to himself. The Vidarak would lay waste to the lot of 'em if they dared come to the Coast.
But this was not the Artarian Coast, and the man was not with his people. And the silhouette had reappeared.
What seemed to be a shadow of a woman blacked out the lights, almost too quickly for the man to catch, but the strike to his side was unmissable. More bubbles escaped and the man made haste to reach the surface.
This time his glance was not so casual. Keen eyes scoured the waters, searching every break and swell to see that womanly shape. One... Two... Three heartbeats passed and then he saw it.
The silhouette traveled not through the water, but like it was the water. It rippled with the swells, leaving only the smallest of surf in its wake. It made short work of the thirty yards the man had spotted it from and was aiming right for his head.
He ducked below the waves once more, just barely sucking in a breath before he broke the surface again. The shape made a quick turn, sending a bigger wave to crash against the ripples, and again aimed for the man. He kicked outwards, flinging himself back, but the silhouette managed to ram his shoulder still.
The silhouette gave him no reprieve, turning quicker than a Dran who heard a war march, and blew past the man. It caught his right arm, though he felt little of it since so many nerve endings were deadened near his amputation. As for his side...
Oh. He was bleeding.
And it was his hook sticking from between his ribs.
So preoccupied with extricating his prosthetic from flesh, the man barely registered the trail of surf heading straight for him. But he did notice when he was dragged beneath the water.
He thrashed, side on fire, blood filling his vision as water filled his lungs. He kicked and jerked, twisted and clawed. His feet passed through the silhouette as it did water, as light and the surface were swallowed up by darkness.
The man gasped once, twice, then had no choice but to yield to unconsciousness.
21st Bre Tola, 453 ER
Along the shorelines of the Thrace River
The rapids between Lake Haven and the Lake of Heroes ran parallel to a trade route, from Calestra to Felarin. Many travelled it, as it was the quickest way between the trade capital and the mages' society. Donnic Hendry was one such traveller, with his mule and cart of textiles. His days since leaving Calestra had been spent staring at endless wood, nodding at the occasional fellow traveller, and hours of tedious driving. After the bustling Corian city, the open road was so empty, even if he did see an average of five fellow merchants per hour. All the people clustered in the market, cooing over his rich fabrics. Cooing over them until that damn Drannie set up stall beside him, that is...
Donnic minded the road before his unfortunate time in the trade city made him see red again. Perhaps he could swing by Felarin and offer his surplus to the mages; Alvareon knew those robes were ever in demand. Maybe then the missus wouldn't be so displeased with his light coin purse. How Donnic dreaded returning to Morad and the tutting hen he married back there.
Absentmindedly, he slowed the mules. Surely tacking on another day to his travels wouldn't be the worst thing. Now at a comfortable walk, Donnic let his gaze wander to the raging Thrace River beside him. The rapids and the rocks made for awful fishing, but the salmon didn't mind much this time of the year. He'd seen enough of the silver bellies jumping upstream the past few days that the metallic flash didn't mean much to him until a yell accompanied it.
"Stick, damn you!" a male voice growled, apparently emanating from the silver hook jammed between two crags. Whatever the man said next was cut off by splashing and the hook disappearing. Donnic had to stop his mule to gape when the hook caught onto another rockface a few paces downstream and a soaked man hauled himself onto the shore.
A bedraggled and bleeding man sprawled onto the grass beside the Thrace River. He wore little more than a pair of braies and a large, ornate belt. Around his ankle a rope was tied and when the man dragged his foot a little further inland a bag of waterlogged items clanked onto the stones.
Donnic stared as the man turned on to his side and spewed blood-died water from his mouth. A few hacking coughs later and he slung his flesh hand across his waist, hissing at the contact with a jagged slash across his ribs, and laughed. A mad, cackling thing that bespoke of a weariness beyond limits, that echoed across the waters and spooked Donnic's mule.
"You won't have me yet, you black-eyed bastard!" the man screamed to the sky. "The Varigads enjoy their toying too much!" He glanced at the Thrace and shot a one-fingered salute to it. "You won't deliver me to the Devourer's domain, Skälmader." His lunatical laughter died down, so the man gathered his soaking pack, stood to his feet, and turned to Donnic.
"Ho, friend!" called a thick Vidarak accent, raising the hook high in greeting. "I'm in need of some directions. Might you tell me where Felarin is from here?"
It took a couple moments and the Vidarak's eyes narrowing at him for Donnic to respond. "Ah, you - that is - Felarin's nearly a week from here, ser. It's probably faster by river, but the road..." He trailed off when storms clouded the blue of the man's eyes. Donnic swallowed a new lump in his throat, and gestured at his cart. "I've a couple blankets I can offer you, to cover your bits and dry off with, but I'm afraid I must move on now."
He went to cluck at his mule when a cold metal point traced his jawline. Donnic felt hot breath warm his face, and turned enough to see the mad, but deathly serious glare in the Vidarak's eyes. "Felarin is too far in my condition. How far are we from Calestra?"
"A-a coup-ple days, ser," Donnic choked out around the hook's caress on his throat.
"Take me there. Now."
Donnic went to nod, then thought better of it, and gave a quick "Yes, ser!" to the man's demands. The Vidarak nodded, withdrew his bladed hand, and settled in the back of the cart. Donnic had a thought to mourn the fabrics now soaked with lakewater and blood, but decided hurrying his mule would be the safer option.
The man pressed a cloth to his side, hissing at the roughness of it against his jagged wound. His brow furrowed and he let his head thunk back against the wagon wall. To wake up again, after fighting whatever that shape in Felarin's waters were, and to somehow have his belongings and body together, seemed a miracle. Or a curse, as the man considered it.
For what he sought was what only the gods could give him, and they seemed to delight in their cruel mercies where he was concerned. Einar Holgeirsson shall bring death to his foes but never to himself, he mused.
And as the cart rumbled towards the trade city, Einar, son of Holgeir, thought of all the feats he had managed in the years since leaving his people, and dreamed of returning to them in the arms of the gods.
*Old Norse for b!tch
Posted on 2020-01-26 at 15:04:40.
Edited on 2020-01-26 at 15:09:04 by CameToPlay
Eol Fefalas Keeper of the Kazari RDI Staff Karma: 462/28 8466 Posts
The First Evening in Calestra
26th Bre Taola; 453 E.R. The Market; Calestra, Coria
The reception he and Aranwen had received at the gate earlier in the day had, at once, relieved and unsettled Ch’dau. For the one, the recognition that Garion had displayed had made gaining entrance to the city much easier than it had been since he wore the colors of the Silver Wyverns but, for the other, there was the fact that such recognition might yet be a danger. Davena still lived, after all, and, as far as he and Aranwen, and any of the rest who might be aware of the events in Crandel knew, Kithran Aldeath was, as well. If either of them had so much as a sense that any of the party that had ventured into D’hurgen’s Temple all those months ago still breathed, surely there would be hunters in pursuit. Surely, neither of them would think that any of them would stop looking.
“Something bothers you, m’une,” Sara cooed, turning her warm golden eyes on her husband as he drove Rakiim’s wagon to the fringes of Calestra’s market, “Tell me.”
A soft grumble of protest welled in Ch’dau’s chest, then, only to be quelled an instant after, when Sara’s fingers rippled gently, soothingly, through the fur of his shoulder. When those delicate but strong fingers reached the crook of his neck and lingered lightly, the grumble melted to a sigh and, on that breath, he turned his gaze to meet his wife’s. “I fear that bringing you here was a mistake,” he confessed, “Garion did not recognize you, m’penzi, but he did know me… by my own name. Such things worry me.”
“Because you think that news of you may lead to news of me,” Sara smiled knowingly, leaning farther into the Kazari’s chest, “I know.”
“Hmm,” Ch’dau nodded, letting go of the reins with one hand in order to wrap that arm around the Sylvari woman. He said little else in the short distance from the Captain’s Gate to the stables of Market’s Edge but, as they drew close enough that he started reining in the team, again, Ch’dau felt Aranwen’s head shift against his fur, again, and looked down to meet the gaze he had come to expect.
“Do you worry more about Davena,” she asked, “or hunters from Megilindar Nost?”
“I worry about, neither, melamin,” he answered, “and both.
Let either of them send their best,” he snorted softly, “and I… we… will manage well enough. At the same time, for either of them to know we still live is more trouble than we need now.”
A tinkling laughter that Ch’dau had not heard in quite a while escaped Aranwen’s lips, then, and she plucked a single hair from his chest in response. “Do you think me unready for whatever trouble you might bring us, cat-beast,” she teased, “Do you think I will not stand at your side?”
“Never do I doubt either of those things, m’ke,” Ch’dau purred, wrapping her tighter in his one-armed embrace, “I would prefer, though, that neither that slitch, Davena, nor the Bladesingers become aware of us before it is due, hm?”
He regretted the words as soon as he had spoken them and, despite his best efforts, the heavy sigh he heaved in the wake of those words betrayed his thoughts. He hadn’t intended to question Ara’s readiness for battle with either faction, of course, but he had spent the last months with her, all but alone. He heard the fretfulness of her dreams when she slept. He saw the way her hands trembled when they reached for anything resembling a blade. Both of these, it seemed, had worsened following the fight he had unknowingly provoked with Simon and…
...An elbow to his ribs jarred him from those disheartening thoughts and, as he blinked into Sara’s eyes, Ch’dau recognized the good this trip had done her for the first time. There was a light behind her eyes, again. A flicker of hope and inspiration and, perhaps,mirth, that, it seemed, he had not glimpsed in a hundred turnings.
“I know what you meant,” Sara taunted on the end of that elbow, “Have you still not learned sarcasm?”
"Have you still not learned sarcasm?" Kithran’s eyes widened in surprise as she regarded the Silver Cat before her
"Saying things that are the opposite of what one means,” Ch’dau chuffed, crossing one paw over the other, “It does remain a strange concept to me…”
"That's what it is, but not really what it is like, it's like, uhh" Kithran paused at her attempted explanation, feeling eyes on her and turning to see Aranwen staring with what she could only guess as confusion in those golden eyes, "Don't tell me you don't get it either!"
"I understand, I think,” Aranwen offered, unconvincingly, ”but sarcasm is seldom employed in the Sylvari forests, less so by patrols or at Megilindor Nost. I do have to admit that it is rather different to hear in person."
"Are you serious? Of course you are; you're always serious," Kithran brought a hand to her forehead in disbelief, until she saw Aranwen smirking at her, "Wait. That was a joke. So you can joke!"
"Only when circumstances allow, Kithran," Aranwen smiled.
Sarcasm, playfulness, laughter… Ever sharp witted, Kithran seemed to make the wordplay into an art form. Another way her absence was felt ever keener. As soon as she had asked the question, Aranwen felt as if the question was not with her voice, and as she looked into Ch'dau's blue eyes, she saw that he, too, shared the same thoughts.
Both Ch’dau and Aranwen swallowed hard, then, and each one’s grip tightened on the other as the wagon clattered to a stop.
“We will find her, Ara,” Ch’dau muttered, holding the Sylvari woman closer to him, still.
“I know, melamin,” she whispered in reply, her fingers still twisting themselves, anxiously into the fur that covered his chest, “I only hope it is soon...”
“...And we are not too late,” Ch’dau finished, squeezing his wife tight and completing the mantra they had shared for the past months.
“You should take advantage of what remains of the trading day, vernoamin*” Sara chirped, lifting her head from Ch’dau’s chest to plant a kiss on his cheek, “and then go meet up with your old friend…”
“You are not coming,” Ch’dau asked, his head swivelling to frame Ara’s eyes with his own.
“Not right away,” Sara smiled softly, “I will find us lodgings while you tend to Rakiim’s business and, then,” her golden gaze drifted skyward before sweeping over the city, “I may pay a visit or two…” She felt her husband’s skeptical gaze fall upon her, then, and, with another giggle and nudge, continued; “Stop worrying, melamin. I’ll be fine… and I promise to meet you and your friends at the Bent Copper when I’ve finished.”
She kissed him, again, as the wagon came to a stop and, as she hopped down from the buck, she flicked him a playful wink. “Besides,” she quipped, throwing her arms wide as she backed away into the crowd at the market's edge, “however else would you find your way to our bed if I didn’t lead you?”
An explosive laugh escaped the Kazari, then, and, if a cat-beast could blush, Ch’dau did in that moment. “I’m sure that I would find a way, m’penzi,” he called as she melted into the crowd.
“You had better, Kazari,” the now disembodied voice called over the hum of the market, “Na’ku’penda, m’une.”
“Na’ku’penda, m’ke,” Ch’dau answered, climbing down from the wagon, now, and studying the list that Sara had translated for him on their trip. The first order of business seemed to be delivering a crate each of locks and hinges to a shop called The Brazen Bolster…
Nearing sundown - The Market; Calestra, Coria
As the din of the market dimmed with the dwindling of its crowd, Ch’dau lumbered back toward the wagon for what would be the last time, today. He grumbled softly under his breath, rolling his shoulders against the ache that had settled into them from carrying crates and bundles to and fro for the past hours, and leaned against the van’s stake-board for a moment, watching as the merchants began to shutter their shops and close their stalls. Despite the pitiful few hours he’d had to do so, the kazari had reduced the wagon’s load by better than half and, he imagined, were he to get an early enough start, tomorrow, all of Rakiim’s deliveries could be handled before Khr’a’s Right Eye was highest in the sky. He stifled a yawn, then, and tugged the Khord’s list from his belt, again, glancing over the deliveries that still needed tending but paying closer attention to the items that he was expected to return to Meadowbrook.
“Mostly ingots and ore,” he chuffed quietly, nodding his head as he tucked the list away and shoved himself off of the wagon’s flank, “I can likely secure the rest while the wagon is being loaded and we can be off and away by sundown…” He chuckled softly, almost mischievously, as he rounded the front of the wagon and undid the feed bags from the horses. “...Or, maybe, Aranwen and I will take another night in whatever rooms she finds for us and we can leave the morning after.
What think you, Meat,” he rumbled, scritching the neck of one of the draft-beasts, “You would like an extra night in a decent stable, yes?”
The horse nickered at him and he nodded in reply.
“I thought as much,” he chuckled moving to the next animal, “and you, as well, Pili Pili?”
The big roan snorted and snapped it’s large teeth at the furry paw that sought to stroke her neck.
“Sa’wa,” Ch’dau snarled back, shying the horse a bit, “stay on the yoke for all I care! Snap at me again, though, and I swear by Rrowl’s whiskers I will bite you back!”
The horse he called Pili Pili snorted again but, this time, simply nudged him with her muzzle.
“As I thought,” he rumbled, still teetering faintly from that playful push. He didn’t try to touch her neck, again, though. Instead, he slung the feed bags over his shoulder and, en route to the wagon’s seat, patted her withers as he passed. “I would only eat you if I had no other choice, girl,” he assured her before tossing the feed-bags into the wagon bed and tying the tarp down again, “Rakiim would take it from my pay, I am sure.” He climbed up onto the wagon’s bench, then, and, with another glance at the sun where it started to disappear beyond Calestra’s rooftops and walls, flicked the reins and goaded the horses south and westward from the market.
The route he chose to follow from the bazaar to The Bent Copper tavern was relatively discreet, winding through less trafficked thoroughfares and side streets in order to allay any undue attention or alarm that might arise from too many of Calestra’s citizens catching sight of a Kazari wagonning his way across the city. As tactfully plotted as the path was, though, it still took him past or, at least, within sight of some of the trade city’s more recognizable landmarks. The last rays of Khr’a’s waning Right Eye gleamed brilliantly from the smooth faces of The Mirror Towers before the wagon rattled over the cobbled streets and past the Lysoran temple known as the House of Care and, then, turned on a more westerly course to pass The House of Bells before crossing the broad avenue that bisected the city from north to south. On the western side of the city, then, the road angled southward again and, in the distance, atop a small hill, The House of the Rising Sun shone out in it’s splendor despite the dying of the light.
Ch’dau’s gaze lingered almost wistfully on the Temple of Solanis for a moment and he couldn’t help but sigh as the sight of it called to mind memories of young Cedric. He couldn’t help but wonder, now, about where the cleric of Solanis might be and what information he might have found regarding Davena’s D’hurganite cult and, more importantly, Kithran’s whereabouts. “Wherever you may be, my friend,” the Kazari rumbled quietly, blinking his gaze free of the temple that had transfixed it, “Rrowl’s heart is with you. Let us hope we meet again, very soon.”
Turning the wagon south, again, he followed a road that took him past The Long Gamble and, catching sight of a crimson-clad Maiden as she disappeared through the inviting doors of the place coaxed yet another pensive chuff from the cat-man’s mouth. The sounds of mirth and excitement the swelled around the place brought joyful memories of his Little Kitten to warm his heart and, at the same time, caused the scar where she had run him through with Aranwen’s blade to go cold enough to ache. One paw fell unconsciously to that scar as the other drew the reins taut, causing Meat and Pili Pili to come to a stop and, for a long moment, Ch’dau sat and watched from the wagon as folk from all walks bustled in and out of Shinara’s temple. More than once he gave thought to delaying his arrival at the Bent Copper in favor of entering the Long Gamble, himself, if for no other reason than to be surrounded by the unbridled joy and enthusiasm that his kibibi had once… to lose himself, if only for a moment, in the carefree exuberance of the Laughing Maidens’ company and imagine that it was Kithran by his side once again… When Ch’dau realized that a low growl had crept into the soft purring that the sight of Shinara’s temple had evoked from him, though, he thought better of the detour and loosed the reins, again, urging the horses onward even as his gaze lingered on the place.
“We will find you, Little Kitten,” he promised before turning his eyes back to the road ahead, his growl still coloring the breath on which those words escaped, “I only hope that it is soon and we are not too late.”
Posted on 2020-01-28 at 09:58:50.
Edited on 2020-01-28 at 10:03:39 by Eol Fefalas
Eol Fefalas Keeper of the Kazari RDI Staff Karma: 462/28 8466 Posts
Drinks at the Bent Copper
Early to Mid Evening; 26th Bre Taola; 453 E.R. The Bent Copper Tavern, Calestra, Coria
“…wait! What?!” Evin exclaimed, drops of ale sloshing from his tankard as he banged it on the table and trickling into his beard as his mouth fell open in disbelief, “You’re telling me you tore the leg off a necromancer and clubbed her to death with it?”
Beside him, Garion chuckled quietly into his cup of mulled wine as the Kazari across the table offered a faint shrug and nodded.
“I do not know that she died in that moment,” Ch’dau rumbled, “but she had stopped moving, at least.” He took a slow pull from his own mug before continuing; “There was much blood and the place was burning already, so we did not linger to see if she would open her eyes again.”
“Merca’s dugs,” Evin breathed, shaking his head as he took up the tankard again. “If you don’t mind me saying so, friend, you were barking mad, the lot of you, to even have gone back in to that place.”
“I said as much, myself,” the Silver Cat chuffed, “but Kithran was determined to have that book and, as I owed her my life, I could not let her go after it alone.”
“Kazari honor,” Garion said simply, forestalling any words that might have threatened to spill past the human’s lips, then. To his credit, Evin drowned whatever he had been about to say with another mouthful of ale as Garion’s gaze returned to Ch’dau.
“What happened then,” the Syl asked as Evin signaled the serving wench for another round.
“We left,” Ch’dau shrugged, his own eyes warily skimming the tavern for perhaps the hundredth time since he’d sat down, “Kithran had her book, the place was in flames and the streets were in chaos as a result. It seemed the best time to put Davnor and all of Sendria behind us.”
“I should think so,” Evin chortled, still trying to wrap his mind around the entirety of the tale, “Gods!”
Garion was chuckling, too, though it was more at the Kazari’s matter-of-fact response to that last question than in any sort of disbelief. He’d had the terrible pleasure of having seen Ch’dau in battle on a few occasions, after all, and was far from doubtful that the Silver Cat had embellished the tale. “So, I assume you accompanied this Kithran back to her employers, then,” he prompted, sipping away the dregs of his wine, “What became of the Bladesinger and the Pick?”
Ch’dau waited until the serving girl had refilled their cups and vanished from their tableside before answering. “After Mosic saw to tending our wounds, he chose to return to Davnor,” he began, turning the wooden mug of liquor-laced milk between his paws, “His god, he said, still had work for him, there. I have not seen him since.
The Bladesinger, though, stayed in our company,” the Kazari’s tone seemed to soften and something of a smile played on his feline features as he carried on, “She travelled with us from Davnor to Felarin, where Kithran delivered the witch’s book and collected her payment, and stayed with us in the weeks after as we sought other employment…”
Ch’dau might have sighed, then, but it was difficult for either of the guardsmen to tell over the buzz of surrounding conversations and behind the mug that the cat-man had lifted to his lips.
“…In fact,” the Kazari continued, turning the mug between his paws, once more, “she became the leader of our company when we, at last, found a job, elsewhere in Ertain.”
“She became your… your…” Garion’s features twisted in concentration and he snapped his fingers as he tried to remember the word, “your Khan… that’s the word, yes?”
“Khatun,” Ch’dau corrected, “but, yes, Garion, it is the same idea.”
“And what sort of job did you pick up, then,” Evin asked, “More burgling from wizards, was it?”
“Hardly,” Ch’dau snorted, shaking his head, “We took on a much simpler task, then; more the sort of work to which the Bladesinger and I were accustomed. Along with a pair of clerics – one of Therassor and one of Solanis – we were hired to clear a road of bandits and eliminate them altogether if we could…”
“And, of course, you did,” Garion assumed.
“Well, sure they did,” Evin half-belched and half-laughed out his own interjection, “Wiping out a nest of highwaymen’s easy as falling off a horse compared to tearing a witch’s leg off!”
“To be fair,” the Kazari smirked across the table at the monkey, “that leg didn’t belong to the witch to begin with.” His blue-green gaze ticked to the Syl, then, and he nodded. “Yes, of course we did.
Our next job,” he proceeded in the wake of Garion’s grin, “still in the company of those same clerics…”
Evin rested his elbows on the table, tankard tottering between his hands, and raised questioning brows; “Whose names were?”
“Gib and Cedric.”
“Which was which?”
“For Adaron’s sake, Evin,” the Syl scolded, “will you shut up and let him tell the story?”
“What?” the human managed to grin and look indignant all at once, “I’m just trying to get the whole picture.”
The Kazari snorted in amusement and held up a hand to the Syl. “It is all right, friend Garion,” he rumbled, “Evin has paid for all the drinks, so far. I suppose it only fair that I provide him the details he wants, hm?”
Garion threw up his hands in mock exasperation. “Very well,” he chuckled, “but only if he buys the next round, as well.”
“Done,” Evin agreed, his eager gaze crossing the table again.
“Gib is the cleric of Therassor,” Ch’dau offered, lifting his mug once more, “and Cedric is Solanis’ man, yes? In our dealings with the bandits, we had taken on a pair of mages – a human called Atharis and a Cidal called Midge,” he nodded pointedly at Evin, “and, at the request of their order, we were to escort Atharis to Crandel so that he might meet with another wizard of their kind.
Again, a simple enough task when the sound of it reaches one’s ears,” the Kazari’s tone and even his mood seemed to darken, then, and he took a healthy pull from his mug before continuing, “and, yet, it is one we failed…”
For the next while, Garion and Evin listened in fascination as the Kazari related the tale of the events that had transpired in Crandel. Food was ordered but, as the tale became more and more gruesome, it went mostly untouched. Libations, too, were kept flowing, though Ch’dau seemed to have stopped drinking in favor of staring into his cup and, by the time the story neared the end of its telling, Garion, at least, felt he understood why.
“…It took days, perhaps weeks, for us to dig out of those ruins,” the Kazari rumbled somewhat wearily, “and days more until any of us were fit to leave the place. When we were well enough to do so, both the Bladesinger and I had lost our taste for adventure, I suppose…”
“And that’s how you came to be a blacksmith’s apprentice in far-off Meadowbrook, then,” Garion queried quietly, almost timidly.
“Mmm,” Ch’dau nodded, “Gib and Cedric set off to see what more they might learn of Davena’s cult and where she may have taken Kithran. I escorted the Bladesinger home and found my way to Meadowbrook…”
“Where you met and married Sara?”
At that question, the Kazari, at last, tipped his mugs to his lips again and then shrugged as he swallowed. “I… met Sara… along the way,” he didn’t quite lie, “and she accompanied me to Meadowbrook, but, yes, we were wed there.”
“Bloo… hic… Bloody f***in’ hells,” Evin blinked, weaving unsteadily over his tankard, “Shhoundsh like you need t’ quit get… hic… gettin’ y’shhelf tosshed in front o’ D’h… hic… D’hrugen, m’fren! Tha’ shyte’s obvioushhhly no’… hic… healthy…”
“Evin,” Garion snapped, nudging his partner enough that Evin nearly toppled from the bench, “what’d I tell you about not making a fool of yourself?”
“Welll, I’m sshhorry,” the drunken monkey slurred, clumsily righting himself in his seat and blinking at both Garion and Ch’dau, “but tha’sshh,” he waggled his fingers in an attempt to indicate the invisible words of Ch’dau’s tales, “tha’sssh f***ed up!”
“And so are you, mellonamin,” the Syl sighed, casting an apologetic look at the Silver Cat.
“He is not wrong,” Ch’dau admitted in answer to and dismissal of Garion’s unspoken act of contrition, “and, perhaps when I have found and freed Kithran, I will go out of my way to heed that advice. Until that happens, though,” he lifted his mug in salute and, before draining its contents in a single swallow, said, “K’wa uw’ndaji na damu kw’a Rrowl!”
“I dunno wha’ tha’ meansshh,” Evin chuckled, hoisting his tankard and nearly spilling whatever remained inside, “but here’ssshh to it!”
Garion shook his head, rolled his eyes, and hauled himself out of his seat. “I’ll tell you what it means as you puke up your innards on the way home,” the Syl said, trying to lift the drunken Evin to his feet, “but we should leave now lest you start doing so on this very table.”
As Ch’dau chuckled at the scene, Evin rose and wobbled between the Syl’s ready hands. “Fine… hic… fine,” the monkey chittered, “It wassshhh good t’ meetcha, Sssh’d… Ssh’da… hic… cat-man! I’nnng goin’ home, now, ‘parently…”
“As well you should,” the Kazari chuckled, “Us’ku m’wema, t’mbili.”
“It was good to see you, Ch’dau,” Garion smiled, shaking his head as he tried to get Evin pointed toward the door, “I’m sorry our visit couldn’t have lasted longer…”
“Monkeys and alcohol, yes,” Ch’dau chuffed, “It was good to see you, as well, Garion.”
“I won’t tell anyone of you,” the Syl promised in a lower tone, then, “it sounds as if you might prefer it that way.”
“I would thank you for that, m’rra’fiki. Perhaps we will meet again.”
“I do hope so.”
“Wha’…wha’d ‘e say,” Evin asked, finally getting his legs to cooperate enough to make for the door, “Wha’s ooshkoo mama tumbly mean?”
“He said, ‘good night, monkey’,” Garion translated as he followed Evin to the door, “Keep walking.”
“He called me a monkey,” the human giggled, grinning as his head wobbled around to squint at the Kazari.
“He calls all humans monkey,” the Syl returned, “it’s a Kazari thing.”
“Tha’s’shh brilliant!” Evin would have turned around and staggered back to the table had Garion not caught him and spun him back toward the door. “Shhooomebody buy that giant pusshhy ‘nother drink! He’shh fought death, y’know!!!”
“Will you shut up,” Garion sighed, shoving Evin through the door as Ch’dau laughed in their wake, “Get outside and start throwing up before I decide to leave you in the gutter.”
As the two guardsmen disappeared into the streets of Calestra, the serving girl reappeared at the table as if she had taken the drunken Evin at his word. “Another, sir?”
Ch’dau’s eyes flitted about the place and, still finding no sign of Aranwen, returned to the girl. “Why not,” he returned with a shrug, “One more as I wait for my wife, hm?”
“Vera well,” the girl said, dipping a knee, “rum and milk, was it?”
“Unless you have any goat blood to mix in, as well,” the cat-man grinned.
An anxious, almost uncertain, smile flitted across the young girl’s face, then. “N-no, sir,” she tittered nervously, “I don’t think we’ve any…um… goat’s blood… I can… ask…”
“Rum and milk is fine,” Ch’dau assured her as he, at last, reached for a strip of bloody meat that had spent the last hour cooling on the table before him, “Thank you, kibibi.”
As the little monkey girl scurried away to fetch his drink, Ch’dau picked at the food that remained on the table, happy to be filling his belly enough to absorb some of the alcohol he’d ingested. Just before she returned, though, his ears pricked up having caught the sounds of scratching, scraping, and the occasional thump from somewhere above. When the serving girl sat his drink down before him, her eyes followed his gaze to where it was fixed somewhere between the rafters above…
“Do you hear that, t’mbili m’chana,” the Kazari’s voice thrummed.
“Hear what, sir?” The girl queried, still blinking into the shadows of the ceiling above, “I don’t hear any…”
A violent crash, issuing from the tavern’s upper floor, echoed down the stairway and into the common room, then. This was followed by grunts, curses, and more clashing noises that, now, Ch’dau could not fail to identify as the sounds of battle.
“A fight,” the Kazari snarled, getting to his feet and pushing the girl behind him as the sound of bodies tumbling down the steps drew his narrowed gaze to the stairway.