Thrall of Kings
The weather was fair, for once. It was midday and Old Crow knew he'd fetch a good price for this silver spear he had scavenged. It was still in relatively good condition- the edges came out to form an almost perfect point that would easily pierce the flesh of a lesser man, and the grip was polished with a sticky liquid known as mesen that made the weapon cling to your hands. It was of fine craftsmanship, and if Old Crow's eyes still worked at his age, and worked they did, it was also of a Highland descent. Which, to the non-merchant, pretty much meant the spear was once used by a long-since passed away race of elves, and most likely carried with it some hidden magic. Surely, Old Crow would make a fortune.
He hobbled across the stone, his oaken cane pounding hard against the pavement. Each step he took grew harder for both him and his poor lungs. Nearer and nearer was his destination, but Old Crow stopped in a weird flush of astonishment to see that his path was blocked by a young man arguing with a Wall-Watcher. No one argues with a Wall-Watcher. Not in Bitewind.
It seemed he was not the only one whose teeth barred his tongue- seemingly half of Bitewind had formed a crowd at the scene, as if it was a grand performance made solely for their behalf. Even children gazed in amazement, their beady eyes staring at the scene so intently they almost tore holes in the earth.
"Bastard!" The angered Wall-Watcher reached for his blade, drawing it slowly, silver scratching against leather as he released it from its scabbard.
The young man was whistling idly, hands in his pockets, but something about the way he moved insisted a ferocity was there, even if you could not tell it by his languid demeanor. His hair was a deep black, short and unkempt. The wind seemed to stop before him, in fear of wrinkling his attire, which consisted of black leather trousers and a golden embroidered vest hung loosely over a collared white shirt. His eyes were a penetrating silver, the color of the moon, and seemed to grow translucent the longer you stared into them.
The Wall-Watcher took a careful step, thrusting his sword quickly toward the man's heart. It was an impossibly clean thrust, but by possibly a miracle, the man caught the Wall-Watcher's wrist, and with a sharp twist, pulled him in, pulling out a knife from within the Watcher's belt as he did so. He crumpled to the floor. Soon thereafter, moon-eyes was pressed against the crowd, with the whole of the Wall-Watchers and their glowing steel stalking him down. He took a good many of them down, twenty or thirty -he did not remember-, but he was careful not to harm them fatally.
After awhile, he allowed himself to be struck in the jaw, exaggeratedly falling to the dirt. His wrists were then bound by metal chains, and as he was dragged away from the speechless crowd, he laughed. It was an odd laugh, the type of laugh that spills out of you after you and your friends share a good joke and an equally good pint. But in this case, there was no alcohol, nor were there any of his friends around to share a joke with. Certainly not this far out south. His laugh was simply one of the blood-choking, lip-bruised variety. Yet it rattled the crowd, and some of them in fact started to laugh with him.
His laughter cracked like a boiled egg against a particular few of the crowd, and his stare caught hold of them like the chains that now him bound him.
"Help me." He said.
Tyrr stood among the halls of his castle, training. The castle was a half-destroyed wreck, parts of it eradicated beyond recovery. The collapsed ruins of the castle were used as a prison and dungeon, fixed just enough so that the prisoners were able to in fact, be, prisoners. What else survived and remained beauteous -the other half of the castle- was repaired and laced in a web of powerful magic. Tyrr was a man of morals, but that was not to say he did not like his riches. Many guards and Wall-Watchers poured in to the Halls of Valor, his place of training, but in spite of their urgent news they remained silent. They knew better than to interrupt their Lord's training. So they watched.
With the snap of his fingers, the ground quaked and roared at Tyrr. He snapped his fingers again, sundering the veil between this realm and the one beneath it. Demons poured through. Demons of hellfire, demons of lust. Trolls, goblins, orcs. Direwolves, golems. As he began to shut the veil, so that no more might enter through it, a Delyph forced its way through the closing gap as well. Delyph were mighty creatures, said to have entire control over both the flame and the wind. There was only one kind of magic that allowed this, and Tyrr was one of the few Humans left alive who knew it as well.
Delyph were tall, nearly eight feet, with thick bodies of impenetrably strong skin. Their leathery body was mostly a purple. Unlike trolls, they stalked the world naked, and with no genitalia to speak of.
"Come, demons." Tyrr bellowed. But they needed no more encouragement.
Fire lit the Halls of Valor, scorching the ceilings and almost turning the entire foundation of the cylindrical room into ash and soot.
A little too hot. Tyrr complained. He had also his men to watch out for, who seemed to be missing a few eyebrows. One unlucky chap even seemed to be naked among his brothers in arms, and his cheeks flushed a red almost as bright as Tyrr's fire when he realized this.
Fluidly, Tyrr moved, dancing between the creatures that crept through the large room. He beheaded many with his hands as blades, but the tough skin of the orcs proved rather impervious to his slashes. So instead Tyrr clapped his hands and whispered the hidden secrets of Alenta, and the creature began clutching its chest, dropping its weapons and shaking uncontrollably. It soon returned to its Heaven, our Hell, but whether from asphyxiation, a heart attack, or from neither, Tyrr's men did not know.
All that was left was the Delyph. It roared and flailed its arms heavily against its chest, shaking the room and dropping dust from the arched ceiling. A flash of thunder, and it was upon him. Tyrr felt wind blow into him, but his breath blow out. The Delyph's claws protruded sharply out of its skin, and began to ready itself for a thrust.
A flash of white.
It was several minutes later before the men's eyes readjusted to the sudden flare of magic and light, and when their eyes opened they saw the severed remains of the creature. Its body was almost unrecognizable, strewn across the marble, but its purple skin was detectable anywhere.
"So, what did you need?" Tyrr asked, wiping his face with a thick white rag.
Fiske rubbed his eyes with his clawed fist as he exited the small doorway of the ‘Drunken Juggler’ tavern and the sunlight hit his face. He blinked several times trying to clear the fog from his head as he at the same time began to rummage around his bag for the familiar cool feel of his flask, passing over the many other objects in his bag before locating it and pulling it out with a small grin on his face.
Today seemed the same as any other in the Tavern, he and the other few drunkards who stayed there rousing just before midday after the previous evening’s frivolities and mischief. Today though Fiske felt slightly restless for some reason unknown to him and decided to instead of beginning the days drinking at the Tavern as he usually did, he would wander the streets and see what was going on in the city of Bitewind and maybe even the surrounding area.
After only moments of wandering the great walled city his attention was drawn to the old half ruined temple where the most bizarre spectacle was rapidly unfolding in the street – the large throng of onlookers catching his eye initially before he witnessed an odd looking human take on a Wall-Watcher single handed, before then continuing to fight as more of them arrived to aid their wounded comrade.
Fiske’s jaw dropped slightly at the impression the man’s skills left upon him as he easily defeated not two, but three and then four Wall-Watchers in a row without taking a scratch himself. Fiske also noted as he took a swig of the strong dwarven spirit that each of the men defeated was done so in a way that he was not hurt fatally – a cut here and there and maybe a broken or bruised limb or two, but nothing that time wouldn’t fix.
As he watched Fiske instinctively pulled up his hood and made his way behind the gathering of people and across to the opening of an alleyway between two buildings where he spotted Old Gareth, one of the few homeless people who lived within the walls of Bitewind, the homeless man was also watching the unfolding spectacle with wide eyes as Fiske came and sat beside him, taking a swig of his flask before offering it to the other man.
“Fiske” mumbled the man in greeting, his bloodshot eyes not leaving the fighting stranger as he accepted the flask and took several large swigs. “First fight I seen in years, if you’d believe it” Gareth said in his deep crackly voice before handing the flask back.
“What did he do?” Fiske asked curiously, expecting the man to be either wanted or to have just committed a crime to warrant such an aggressive attack from the guards.
“Notin” Garth responded as the stranger dispatched another guard with ease as a group of three charged him “He jus talked to him, was all I saw anyway an then the fightin started”.
The pair then remained silent, the only sound being the occasional swigs they took as they passed the flask back and forth between them, enjoying each moment of the impressive combat unfolding, that was up until the point where suddenly the man was hit in the face and fell down onto the ground dramatically. Initially Fiske was shocked that he had been struck with the way he had been moving so flawlessly only moments ago, until it dawned upon him that the man had actually let the Watchers gain the upper hand and arrest him for whatever unknown reason.
As if to solidify this, the man then burst out laughing almost hysterically so as he was bound and dragged away. Fiske scratched at his head before he cocked it slightly, unsure as to exactly what was happening “Why would one do this?” Fiske asked out loud – more to himself than anyone else.
Gareth was now giggling along with the man and several others watching as the strong spirit started to make its way into his system and took no notice, nor did he seem to notice as the man turned his head to stare back at the gathering of people and utter the words “Help me.”
These words seemed louder and clearer to Fiske than if the strange man had been stood next to him, his piercing luminescent eyes appearing to look directly at him, and he felt like something was definitely odd as others around hadn’t appeared to hear this request either. Fiske stood and took a few steps forward subconsciously as he watched the Wall-Watchers drag him away from the broken temple, past where Fiske was stood and towards the dreaded Bitewind dungeons to receive whatever fate awaited him.
Once the man was out of sight Fiske continued to stare for a few moments before Gareth recovered from his laughing fit and poked at the Lizard-man’s leg causing him to once more shift his attention to the homeless man. “Ey Fiske, that was the best show I’ve seen since… well since I can remember. People don’t cause no trouble here you know?” he said as his eyes darted back to the flask still resting in Fiske’s hands.
Fiske grinned and shook his head before returning to his sitting position next to the man and passing the flask over again. They talked for a little while about the strange man’s appearance and manner – as the crowd began to slowly disperse from where they had been watching. By the time they had talked the fight over several times Gareth seemed to be thoroughly drunk and Fiske was beginning to feel the familiar warmth and happiness spread through his system as he removed a small thin pipe carved from wood, the small lizards carved up and down the shaft always making him smile as he packed in a small amount of dried herbs that he had collected the previous week, and lit it with a small match before inhaling deeply.
The sun shone and there were no signs of coming bad weather. The armor clad rider didn't seem to notice this. His steed was racing towards a distant city, for he was bound to go there for some reason. Occasional villager gave him a look and some dared to believe that he was a knight, while in reality, he was far from knight's way of life and conduct. Would they seen his true nature, they'd be hoping not to see him for once again. City was becoming ever less distant. Walls could clearly be seen from the distance and that was a pleasant look for the tired rider. Gates were before his eyes, and he was stopped by the watchman.
- Friend or foe? - brashly spoke the watchman. His voice reflected his last nights drinking session at local inn. Terrible smell was coming from his body.
- Friend, would I've been a foe, you'd weren't so lucky as you seem to be rather unprepared... I suppose you had a really rowdy night at the local inn? -
- Aye... I'll have to ask you your name, business and trade. It's standard procedure, rider. - said the watchman, who seemed pretty relieved as someone understood his plight.
- My name is Victor Ravenheart. My business is better kept to myself, and believe me, I have no intention of causing trouble. For trade I have chosen being a sellsword. Can I pass at once? I can assure that I will not talk to your captain of guard about your appearance, as I am caring man. - slowly, with confidence spoke the man who claimed to be Victor Ravenheart. The watchman gave him a good look and realized that he might just let him inside as he had no intention of letting the guard captain know of his incompetence.
GOING TO FINISH THIS VERY SOON. HAVE TO TAKE A QUICK BREAK.
“Why do you do this to yourself, old friend?” Asked the bartender, pouring out a rum for his silver haired patron. The man sitting on the other side of the bar simply shook his head, slowly and deliberately. Taking up the glass, Charon raised it to his lips and drank, savoring the intoxicating flavor of the distilled sugarcane.
“It would take a wiser man than I, to answer such a question.” Came his reply.
“To hell with that, I say! I mean the drinking before noon! You’ve only been awake now for two hours, surely your body must have some objection to this treatment.”
“I do not drink to keep my body alive, I drink to kill my mind.” Charon said, raising his glass once more, and tossing back the rest of it’s contents. “It’s time I go looking for another job, Leandros, your hospitality is always a great comfort to me, but you know I have never been one to over stay one’s welcome.”
“Ah, well it has been good to see you again, my friend. Know that my door will always be open to you. Is there anything else you need, before you go?”
“Just the rest of that bottle, if you don’t mind.” Said the Blighted man, as he handed his coin across the bar. The barman sighed, before handing over the bottle and wishing his friend good luck. “I’ll return next time I’m in town. For now, farewell Leandros, and take care.”
As he slung his swords over his shoulder once more, Charon left the bar, wandering out into the city streets. The man began making his way over towards the city’s half ruined temple, where he might be more likely to find someone in need of a man with Charon’s skills. Surely, the need for a monster had not diminished, and that was precisely what Charon was. A monster that killed monsters. After having done the things that he had done, it was hard not so see oneself as such. This didn’t mean he had preformed any sort of unspeakable atrocities, but still, a life of violence and death, no matter how righteous the cause, weighs heavily upon the soul. It was bad enough killing monsters, he thought, but that at least was what he had set out to do. He had signed up to kill monsters, but it was far too often that Charon was forced to kill humans. Though who is to say that we, the human race, were not the worst of all the monsters that inhabit the world of Alenta. Charon was a testament to this truth himself, hardly a man any longer, the demonblood pumping through his veins. When you stare into the abyss, the abyss also stares back into you.
This state of reflection however, was soon broken by a scene at the end of the long street that Charon had now wandered onto. As he neared the end of the street, the Blighted man slowed his pace, coming to a stop at the mouth of the narrow street, to watch the scene before him from a distance. At first, the only spectacle had been that a man had found the nerve to argue with a Wall Watcher, but as the guard drew his sword, the action seemed to escalate to insanity within the blink of an eye. The young offender easily countered the immaculate thrust of the Wall Watcher’s silver blade, and crippled him with his own knife. Charon’s heightened senses had immediately picked up on the non-lethal nature of the blow, further astounding the mutant, as the young man continued to drop guards left and right, without killing a single one. It was hard enough to fight off so many men at once, but to do it, taking such care to avoid killing any of them, that was a feat of extraordinary talent and skill.
Charon watched the young man’s movements intently, focusing his entire attention on following the man’s expert precision in the fight. This is why it came as such a shock, as Charon watched the young man pause, instantaneously, allowing a punch to connect with his face, and then proceed to throw himself on the ground. For a man with such skill in combat, such a pause could not have occurred naturally; the silver-haired onlooker may have been the only one to recognize this truth, but he knew that the man had not only taken that blow on purpose, he had been planning on losing the fight from the beginning. Whatever his reason may have been, this mysterious man had only started this fight with the intention of being arrested in the first place.
Despite all of these things, it was the haunting combination of the man’s laughter, and the cry for help that rang out inside his head, that sent a shiver down the Blighted man’s spine. The young man had caught Charon’s eyes, and even as the man continued to laugh, Charon knew that the words that had formed in his mind had come from the chained man himself. As he continued to look around at other members of the crowd, Charon followed his gaze, and could only assume that he was attempting to send his message to them as well.
The mutant withdrew back down the street for a few steps before turning around, draining the meager remnants of his rum bottle. Then he turned back to the now dispersing crowd, standing in front of the old ruined temple, and made his way out into the open street before him. “Hey you! Freak! Nobody wants your kind around here! We were getting along just fine before you monsters showed up, and we’d be getting along fine if you just got the hell out of here, you beast!” Called out an ornery looking man.
Charon turned his head, his piercing yellow eyes manifesting the blackest stare that the other man had ever seen. The beast firmly pressed his empty bottle into the man’s hands and without saying a word, the mutant stood the man down until he reluctantly shut up and backed off. Charon turned around and started scanning the remaining crowd for anyone else who looked like they had heard the young man’s call for help.
Melluch stared at the laughing man, a knot in his stomach upsetting the delicate balance of his psyche. "Why are you?..." He spoke under his breath, referring to the man LETTING himself be hit, letting himself be captured. He seemed to have enough skill to take on the whole of the wall-watchers; that or get himself lost in the crowd along with himself.
Melluch briefly took pride in how he blended in seamlessly with the crowd, not one person would even think twice bout him, some wouldn't even know he was there if they stared right at him... That happened a lot with him. He laughed under his breath, echoing the bound man, every "ha" perfectly aligned from a subconscious matching. "Help me." Went a voice, sending a cold chill through Melluch's body like a frozen fire, setting his nerves aflame with a chill.
It took an all of two minutes to register who it came from for Melluch. He immediately dashed out of the crowd in such a flash of limbs and a cloak he had been wearing, those he ran around or bowled over never saw what did it.
Melluch was hidden in a back alley by the time the crowd noticed the second commotion appear in their midst. He didn't smile at this, only frowned as he took down the many alleys and streets of Bitewind, following the man who had uttered those two words, "Help me."
Melluch had always been a good soul, helping out the idiots of the world: Drunkards, Debtors, Dealers, etc. (He had helped his fair share of orphans and homeless people as well, but that was a different story) By the gods he wouldn't stop helping out people starting with this man. How he didn't know, he'd just follow the man to the prison and start there. It wasn't much of a plan but it was the start of one.
As he followed, Melluch couldn't help but think about the fight he had witnessed. He was standing right there when it started. Well, not exactly right there but it was close by, in an alley, where he sat, playing a now abandoned lute for money, which was also now abandoned to scavenger cheapskates and kleptomaniacs. Wealth hungry bastards.
The fight had unfolded quickly before Melluch's bright eyes. The seemingly deranged man starting up an argument with a wall watcher over who-knows-what, and it escalating at such a pace that within minutes the guard had lunged with the knife, only to be crippled. (Something Melluch had done before... to much more slow-witted people)
The man took out watcher after watcher in quick succession, to appear as a stunning "dance" to the musically minded Melluch (who is at this moment whistling a tune as he remembers the deranged man's escapade). He had followed the man's movement with a keen eye, watching as familiar tricks were pulled off on a much higher level than Melluch had ever been able to do. The man was fascinating,... And dangerous.
Who exactly was he helping?
“...and to your diktats I pledge myself, my blade and my armor, until death claims me either through age or in battle.”
His prayer compete, Captain Terence Iron-Bound rose from his kneeling position, tucking the holy, diamond-shaped pendent into his linen tunic. The room the man stood in was simple enough: a plain cot covered in standard bedding, a small night table playing host to Terence’s full-face helmet and a dresser containing a few of Terence’s personal belongings. The room had been given to him out of kindness by one of his many friends, Thomas Silver-Stone. Thomas, like most of Terence’s acquaintances, hailed from Sunderfell when it still existed and either smelted the fresh iron, helped in the forges to create weapons and armor, or toiled away deep within the city’s mines. Thomas did those things and more for a time, but he was ultimately forced to abandon the city when the metropolis’ labor needs began to take their toll on the man’s crippled back. His sister and her husband were more than happy to take him in of course, and did not protest when he requested to allow Terence to hold a bed for a few nights while he recovered from his injuries.
Iron-Bound ran his palm across his stomach area. A gash ran across abdomen, with the majority of the wound’s length wrapped tightly in a hardened scab. The holy knight examined the wound through touch for a moment. It was healing nicely, but Terence was still disturbed at how easily the marauder had been able to sneak up on him. Death had been his reward however, but Terence knew that other enemies—more dangerous foes than a simple highwayman—could end his life in an instant if given the chance.
He would not give them that chance. Not anymore.
A window was cracked open, allowing the sunlight to pour into the room and the noises of the outside world to reach Terence’s ears. Screams, yelps and the clanging of sword striking against armor could be heard, but Terence paid it no mind.
“I never figured you for a religious man, Terence,” came a voice from somewhere behind the warrior.
Iron-Bound turned. In the doorway of his room stood Thomas, his aged face with a grin about it; in his hands he held two tankards.
“Now, I know for a fact most men of faith usually don’t drink,” Thomas said, walking up to Terence’s nightstand and placing one of the tankards next to the man’s helmet “So you don’t have to give me the whole speech about how your belief forbids you from downing a few swills of mead. This is simple juice made from sort of fruit they have around here— take it.”
Thomas handed his friend the other tankard. Inspection by way of smell told Terence that it was nothing more than fruit juice. Satisfied, he took a sip. It was slightly bitter at first taste, but the sweet aftertaste overpowered the bitterness. Terence liked it.
“I figure you want to know what all of that praying was about, eh Thomas?” Terence asked, taking a set on the floor. Thomas in turn took to the cot.
“Just a little curious is all. I’ve known you since we were lads Terence. You never did give off the vibes of a holy man, but now I find you’re some sort of religious warrior—a paladin no doubt—of a belief I’ve never heard of before. I figured most people took to religions that promoted peace or health, or even fertility. ”
Terence shot Thomas a puzzled look at the mention of fertility.
“…well, you get the picture anyway!” Thomas laughed. “But a war goddess named Sai? What’s her story then? Did she create the entire concept of war of something?”
Terence shrugged. “ Sai and the religion built by her don’t hail from Alenta or, if I heard her correctly, from this sphere of existence. She came here out of personal need, but found that her power had been diminished in the process. My senses as a former captain of Sunderfell’s guard tell me that she was running from something. Sai’s a smart goddess; she wouldn’t bring herself to near ruin just for a short vacation and a little fling with a mortal man found in some tavern.”
“Sai’s more than just war manifested into a godlike form. She also stands for determination, courage and strength—aspects of the warrior, knight, berserker or even the common bandit. Sai doesn’t really consider honor a major factor when it comes to warfare. To her, honor only gets in the way of what an army can accomplishment, and that while it shouldn’t be completely dismissed, it shouldn’t be the driving force behind every decision a fighter makes.”
Thomas took a sip from his tankard. “Interesting Terence. Whatever scared off a divine being devoted solely to the maiming and slaughtering of lesser men and women must have been really something. But if she’s not from this world, how’d you come across her when you were in Sun—”
The noise outside had drowned out Thomas’ words completely and disrupted Terence’s concentration, which prompted the two men to oversee the event from the window. A large crowd had formed at this point, with the entertainment being that of one man in combat against many others. Terence was not shocked at the engagement’s unraveling outcome; he himself had done something similar when his hometown had been attacked by bloodthirsty monsters years ago.
“I’ll have to admit Thomas my curiosity is getting the better of me here,” Terence said, turning to his friend.
“Go on then have look. We’ll take up this conversation some other time. Tell me about the exciting details when you get back. Don’t be late; my sister is making that famous roast of hers tonight you know.”
Thomas took the two tankards, now empty of their liquids, and exited the room. Iron-Bound retrieved his claymore, swinging both sword and scabbard over his back and placing his helmet over his head. He then departed the abode, weaving through many people of all ages and sizes to get to the heart of the commotion. When he arrived he had found that the combat had ended. Now only Wall-Watchers remained. They helped their defeated comrades to their feet, dusting some of them off and restoring a meager amount of their pride while others with more serious injuries were taken someplace else to be attended to.
Terence had been too little too late.
Bitewind smelled atrocious. That was all the main thought that was revolving around Willet’s head as he approached the city. He had smelt it on the wind for the past three days as he had wandered his way through the woodland and fields that surrounded the area. He could smell it even over the pungent stink of the drying hides of the fallow deer he had caught a few days before. They were natural smells, and the smell of a city was not natural in Willet’s opinion.
The weather had been fair enough on his approach for most of the day in fact, but it was starting to turn grey, and by the time he had reached the outskirts of the city, it had just started to rain a little bit, seemingly from out of nowhere. He didn’t mind, the water would maybe put down the smell a bit more, which now seemed intolerable to Willet since he was right in the heart of it. Now he had arrived at Bitewind, he was actually fairly disappointed, never in his life had he been a fan of towns or cities, but he had been under the impression that Bitewind was one of the greatest, one of the largest cities that Alenta still had to offer. But it was a wreck, just like all the other former strongholds of man. The walls were big, but crumbling and patched in many places. It just looked… shabby.
Still, in comparison to most other places it was large, far larger than any town that Willet had been to before. But that wasn’t exactly hard to do. He mostly stayed off the beaten track, kept his head down to be sure. The forest was the place for him, he only went to town when he needed, and that was little as possible. Stone and wooden houses were nowhere near as friendly and welcoming than the sight of a tree line to Willet. That was home, not these artificial warrens.
“Hail, friend!” Willet shouted to the man guarding the gate. The man looked startled, as if surprised someone had greeted him.
“Friend or foe?”
“Come on man, use your ears!” He berated him slightly, but with a smile on his face. The guard was the first other voice he had heard in the best part of a moon. “Friend, I said I was friend.”
“Ah, okay. Name, business and trade?” The man shook his head, he didn’t look very well in Willet’s eyes, seemed sick and a bit shaken up. Had they had someone who was trouble through here? Or was it just a heavy night at the tavern?
“Name’s Willet, my business is trade, I have skins and dried meat to sell. I’m a hunter and trapper for most moons, though I’ve been known to work other jobs if I have to.” Willet replied, conversation was a joy, but his tongue felt leaden in his mouth, he didn’t know how to extend the answers to the question. He had gotten rusty out there.
“Well, don’t cause any trouble or you’ll have the wall watch to deal with.”
“Wouldn’t dream of it, mate.” Willet meant it, getting locked up in a town was about the last thing he wanted in this life. Keep your head down, your nose clean, and then go back to the forests where you can do as you please.
The guard let him into the city without much fuss. The large wooden gates were opened by two more men inside and Willet found himself presented with an odd scene, what he had thought would be a fairly busy city going about its business was empty. It was eerie. Somewhere down a decayed looking side street he could hear the sounds of a crowd shouting, he decided to follow it to see what the hell was going on. All around him were buildings, pressed up hovels and shacks, constructed in the ruins of mighty palaces, some had been build afresh and looked in good shape, but the whole place was exactly like the rest of Alenta, a ruin within a ruin. Above all this mess of old and new was a castle, epitomising the chaos wholly. One side of it was new and fresh, looked like it had been built just yesterday, whilst the other side was a ruin, broken and battered and looking like it had been there for hundreds of years.
As he grew closer he saw the remnants of a fight, in the remnants of a temple. A whole load of those wall watcher fellows were down in the dust, and the rest were dragging away some guy with black hair, and bright silver eyes who was laughing manically. Surely, one man couldn’t be responsible for taking out so many guards? Willet was about to leave, he had no taste for such events, when he heard a voice clear as day:
What the hell was? He turned around and looked at the crowd, he had been standing meters away and yet it felt like whoever had said it had been standing right behind him. The eerie feeling he had got when he had saw the empty streets of Bitewind came back with that voice. Something wasn’t right here, and it was more than Bitewind just being a city. He felt uneasy, about that man with dark hair and silver eyes in particular. His instinct was telling him to get the hell out of there… but he also felt compelled, someone, something had asked for his help. And he couldn’t shake the feeling it was the man he saw being dragged away.
Thrall of Kings
Bitewind was no different than everything else, sprinkled with forgotten secrets, scattered with ruins, and scabbed over with battles that seemed never-ending. Humans had survived whatever blight had sown such destruction, but they were reduced to small surviving pockets of civilization. Iadia had a special insight that many did not have the luxury of enjoying and one that many of her former clan-members abused in the name of power and self-righteousness, as if they were somehow better or of higher stations than most. Her former family were not angels or holy guardians, but just humans that had by mistake, stumbled on secrets that had been lost and were now found. She would not succumb to such arrogance, but she understood well the temptation. Though her clan was not famous in of itself, the secrets and knowledge they displayed on the field of battle was more than enough to make even veteran survivors raise an eyebrow in curiosity.
One could argue that Iadia was even more so in this category. A lot of people knew that someone even wearing an exotic blade such as a katana meant two things; either you were showing off or you were a cut above the norm. Katanas had always been a bit sharper, a bit more deadly than normal blades, but required discipline and skill to use effectively, so that stood out wherever she went regardless. This coupled with knowledge that had been forgotten, skills and abilities that only a few shared and none shared in the unique combination that Iadia held (at least to her knowledge), made her out to be a gem among swordsmen.
Today was no day for battle though, at least that's what Iadia originally thought when she walked out onto the balcony. She had paid her way into the most expensive inn of Bitewind, which was only partially restored to it's former glory, and all for the chance to stand outside and enjoy the soft breeze that caressed her hair in the morning. She was getting ready to leave however, taking one more chance to enjoy the overhang, as it was already midday and it was getting close to the time she had to leave. That's when the crowd below caught her eye, surrounding the most unusual man she had ever laid eyes on. Demons and beasts she had expected unusual looks to come from, but no human - if that was indeed what he was at all. It was easy to think otherwise, knowing there was many strange things in this world yet unknown, as the man weaved in and out of the wall-watcher's strikes like flowing water. Why he allowed them to strike him then was a mystery, causing her to furrow her brows.
Then suddenly through his laughter as he was drug across the ground, she heard...
'Impossible..' she thought as she nearly dashed to the railing of the balcony. She was nearly twenty feet away and yet his words reached her ears as if he were right in front of her, whispering, and his stare pierced her very soul. 'Magic?' she quickly thought, relaxing as her eyes quickly darted among the crowd. No way had that message been for her only, but if it were magic, it was extremely powerful utility magic - that or it was something not of this world that allowed the man to reach his voice so far. Something was definitely amiss for the man to let himself be captured as such and her personal code of morals could not allow her to stand by and simply let him be.
Iadia was quick to tighten the strap around her waist that held her blade in place, adjusting her robe-like attire that was custom-designed by her clan and something she had carried over - something she was just, simply, comfortable in. Not something any sane individual would've normally done, especially being a fully-bred human with no notable magical aura about her, she stepped up onto the railing that outlined the balcony. She didn't have time to wander down the stairs if there were others that heard the message... no, this was urgent. She then jumped off with twenty feet between her and the ground ...
Focus was something that anyone and everyone had. On a lesser scale, everyone did use it, to concentrate on a painting, to listen to loved one, to swing a blade with precision, to strike a hammer onto a blade with accuracy. It was something else entirely to use it for something not wholly natural, bending the very laws that restricted the minds of the masses. Something that the man with silver-eyes might've been using with more practice and ease than Iadia could muster yet. She fell like a rock until the moment that she was but a couple inches from the ground, a moment away from breaking her legs in two from the fall, suddenly floating as if she were in water. Even her clothes seemed to pause in slow animation as her feet gently touched the ground and as she did so, everything of hers seemed to resume it's normal operation; her hair falling into place and her robe drooping off of her arms. Focus and willpower was the key and it was a secret that humanity had almost lost, like many others.
Without so much as a pause, caring not for the couple onlookers that watched her in amazement, she ran to the dispersing crowd and caught the eye of a specific man that did not seem fully human. Charon was right in front of her as she stopped and took a quick glance around, obviously standing in the man's way. "Do not tell me that I was the only one to hear the man's cry for help," she called out among the others, verbally confirming that the scattered individuals were not so alone in hearing what silver-eyes had said, though she herself was unsure of who heard her question or if anyone else truly heard the man or not.
"No, it would be cruel to ask me to pay for such a small morsel, wouldn't it, dear Mr. Balder?" Lorelei spoke soothingly, her Voice caressing the very air as she curled her fingers around the large loaf of bread, still warm from the oven.
Mr. Balder, the baker, replied in a wooden tone, “Cruel, yes, dear one.” His vacant eyes stared past her, towards the door to his shop. He stood still, his usual busy hands hanging motionless at his sides.
She smiled sadly, wishing her life hadn’t come to this, using her power merely for food. If only she had the money to travel somewhere else, to start anew! But alas, it was not to be. She pulled her cloak around her and scuttled out of the shop, her bounty tucked safe beneath the cloth. Mr. Balder made no move to stop her.
As she was searching for a quiet corner in which to enjoy her feast, she noticed the dynamics of the market crowd had shifted. Numerous Wall-Watchers were converging on a single location. Strange, one was usually more than enough to handle the small day-to-day altercations. What had them so riled? She could hear the sounds of fighting, of swords being drawn, of flesh hitting stone, the grunts and yells of both participants and spectators. She could see nothing through the press of bodies, and for a moment was tempted to slip through.
The warmth of her bread seeped through her shirt, reminding her of her original mission. Her mouth watered, and she tore off a tiny piece to bring to her mouth.
The words resounded in her head and she dropped the bit of bread from suddenly nerveless fingers. For a timeless instant she saw eyes, piercing silver eyes boring into her own, as the demand for help shivered through her. She closed her eyes, the vision fading, but not its impact. She reopened them and looked around, but everyone else seemed unaffected. She trembled, wrapping her arms about herself, touching the polished surface of her concealed blowpipe. Everything would be fine.
She looked up, towards the ruined castle. They kept dungeons there, for those few foolish enough to get on the wrong side of the Watchers. Perhaps the one with the silver eyes was being taken there. She took a step forward then stopped in dismay. Was she actually considering going to the rescue? She’d be killed for certain! She looked back, at the crowd that was dispersing with the end of the spectacle, then again at the castle. Holding the bread protectively, she started towards the dungeons.
She hugged her sword happily, as she walked down the street.
On her back was her source of joy, an official shield of the Paladin, a sign that she was truly a paladin, albeit just one of the Shield Maidens. She had come to this city to meet High Templar Gressa, one of the higher ranking paladins overseeing this area. While he seemed a bit tired, he did welcome her with a smile and had approved of her passing apprenticeship to Shield Maiden. A rather long and boring wait, though she did not say it for obvious reasons, she was put through the ceremonial sword exchange, and the Shield Raising. This does mean she will now receive commissions from the Center, and is expected to do her duty as one of the Paladins of the Black Sparrow.
Scilicet Periurus was sure the master would somehow reject her, perhaps for her tampering with some books in the library back home, but her fears proved to be in vain. As of now, she was making her way through the river of pedestrians to a comfortable inn somewhere where she can rest and eat something warm.
And then the commotion took her in.
It was a man, crazed judging from his actions, for he was fighting wantonly with the guards, wounding them as if it was a game. And from the way he so exaggeratedly took a blow and collapsed, it seemed he truly believed it was so.
His voice broke through the murmuring of the crowds and of the guards angry shouts. She had started at that, startled by the clarity of the words. As the guards dragged him away, she turned her attention to those that was wounded. Though they had not been fatally wounded, a wound was still a wound, and wounds often get infected if left untreated. Worse, was wounds from a weapon, for they have a chance to cause blood poisoning. The man could wait, but there are wounded people here that needs treating.
She approached the wounded, upon which an unharmed guard looked at her with eyes narrowed, as his hand darted to his weapon.
"Stay your hand, sir guard, for I wish only to help."
He nodded and let her take a look at the wounded. She took out a bottle, filled with red crystalline liquid, and poured enough into the wound to saturate it. With a brief incantation, the wound knitted itself shut visibly. Thankfully the wounds weren't of the kind that needed lengthy preparations and long complicated incantations. The man looked at his once torn sides and looked in wonder at her.
"Do not do anything to strain that side of your chest for at least three days, and it should heal properly."
The guard nodded and moved to give her a hand as she started to look over the rest of the wounded the strange man had left behind him.