Dark Days Ahead

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Dark Days Ahead

Post by MachDhai on Mon Jun 08, 2009 9:56 pm

(OOC: Open. I'm not much of one for planning and the like; I'll generally have some sort of vague and open-ended concept and just roll with wherever the story goes. Play whatever you like, friend or foe.))

The fortress city of Port Llanna had need of soldiers; war was brewing and it was a time of growing tensions for the people of the powerful kingdom. An ancient artifact, held by the Royal Family for centuries had gone missing, and with its disappearance the land was beginning to suffer; rivers had run dry over night, disease had begun spreading like wildfire on the borders, and creatures of myth and legend had begun pouring out of mountains and dark forests, graveyards and ruins all around the kingdom.

Hundreds of mercenaries and loyal citizens had been attracted by offers of contracts and titles, and a great festival-like atmosphere had grown around their presence; with cheap ale and easy women, games of skill and gambling dens, fighting pits and music all common place where fighting men gathered and had coin. Few of the mercenaries broke the mold; hulking, intimidating brutes of men in scavanged armours and quick to temper, always itching for a chance to prove their worth. There were some few amongst the crowds that stood out though, as always was the case with such large gatherings.

A small group of young men, often thought too young to be mercenaries of any report or skill, drifted through the crowd with honest smiles and a friendly repoir, making their way from the heart of the festival and towards it's calmer outter edges. None were more then their 23rd year, and each was quite different then their counter parts. A hulkling brute of a boy, Shadrik hailed from the northern mountains and showed it clearly in size and dress. Dirty blonde hair was worn shaggy and unkept, his clothes were clean but clearly of home-crafted origins, made of thick leathers with a heavy fur cloak rolled in the top flap of a overburdened backpack. He wore a short, heavy bladed sword at his hip and carried a thick-shafted short spear, a blackened wrought-iron blade nearly two feet long at it's end. His voice was loud and gruff even for twenty years, but he had a warm smile and easy laugh.

Perhaps the oldest of the group, Varsil was from this region; fair skin and dark hair, well kept and clean. He wore what passed as a soldier's cut amongst the rich noble houses of Port Llanna and it's sister cities; gloriously long and unbound at the back, but close cropped at the forehead and sides for comfort under a helmet. His clothes were of fine quality, if a little out of style, and favored durable fabrics over silks and satins, prefering shades of grey and black over rich colours. His pack was much smaller then Shadrik but still with more then it should have held, and a slender long blade was belted to his hip, and a modest gold signet ring of a powerful merchants house. More refined then his counter parts, he was soft spoken and quite particular about pronunciation, a stickler for propriety and manners, a strong hint of an expensive upbringing.

The youngest was little Darryl, no more then eighteen at best and hailing from the grasslands that dominated the eastern center of the continent. Clearly born and raised on a farm, his clothes were sturdy and modest, well made but with no notion of embroidery or flavour. Light brown hair and sparkling blue eyes, coupled with his warm and honest smile made him surprisingly popular with the ladies. Mostly older women, who could see no more then a good little boy who needed a meal and a mother figure. His pack was the middle-ground between Shadrik and Varsil, and he wore only a simple shortsword and dagger at his belt. His weapon of choice was clearly the seemingly too-large longbow he currently used as a walking stick, two full quivers adding width to the heavy pack on his back at either shoulder. He was clearly the shy one of the group, hanging at the back of the four and not nearly as talkative, occasionally blushing at a rude comment overheard in the crowds around them.

The last of the four hailed from the valleys of the east coast mountains, his clothes of fine tailoring and rich colours. While he too seemed to prefer more servicable fabrics like Varsil, his clothes were more colourful, sporting a proud old crest in silver plate sewn into the shoulder and in thread of silver on his cloak. While not as 'stuck up' as Varsil, he was clearly well mannered and of high breeding, but seemed more down to earth then Varsil. Ericks wore a long bladed warsword across his back under the cloak, a high-quality blade yet as modest as Darryl's short sword. His dark brown hair was worn in a more classical soldiers style, short and close cropped, function over style. He held the reigns of a simple pack mule, the only work animal in the group which carried a modest load for so sturdy an animal. Carefully wrapped bundles of armour and supplies.

The small band had a slowly growing reputation, the high point of their short careers having simply been in the right place at the right time. The youngest daughter of a succesful merchant-lord of Port Llanna's sister city of Manteran some weeks travel north along the coast by foot, had been travelling to the family's winter estate by carriage when she was set upon by a wyvern. The beast had appeared around the towering cliffs of Dead Man's Bluff, attacking small ships and lone farms. The four had been heading south for the call of mercenaries and were in the region by pure chance, and had managed to slay the beast and save the girl.

Each of the four wore proof of their exploits. The clasp of their cloaks were fashioned from the larger scales of the wyvern's breast, expensively trimmed in silver to contrast the colour and add some unneeded durability to the scales. Amongst the gear strapped to the mule was a ten-foot banner pole, which was capped by the bladed bone of the wyvern's tale, kept more as an interesting trinket and souveneir then as any attempt at marketing on their meager fame.
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Re: Dark Days Ahead

Post by Shades Of Gray on Wed Jun 10, 2009 9:35 pm

Ezri drapped her arms over the crude rail used to border the fighting pit, her foot hooked casually over her ankle, seeming rather at ease with the violence, but... dissapointed. It hadn't been much of a fight; sure both men were built like gladiators, with their veiny muscles, the confetti of scar tissue and old wounds, but their methods were all focussed on brute force, not cunning strength. They reminded the woman of apes, seen far in the Eastern Countries when she had traveled growing up. They beat their chests, roared at one another, and strutted around no better than peacocks shuffling their feathers to try and win favor of the crowds. People cheered and jeered, they swore oaths on the brutes and bragged about honors.

The Kings favorite niece wasn't impressed.

She almost felt insulted, but her cousin's words rang loudly in her ears. Begars can't be choosers, Ezri. He was right. But she had hoped to have found more than hammers to use as tools in repairing the kingdom. Where was her fire? Where were her nails and bolts? Where was her foundation? Scowling with her find, she pushed away from the rail and started further down the dirt trail created by the heavy foot fall. They all looked the same; greed was in their eyes. Money. Land. Titles. Power... that's all they wanted. They weren't troubled like the common folk of the horrors drifting from the wood. With the notions of loosing their lives and family due to pestilance and plauge. It was all glory, a chance to inflate their egos.

A tall man with ebony hair, perfectly straight, worn loose and smelling of rosewater caught her pace. Edwin was her uncle's advisor. He was a handsome man, getting past middle years and reaching the point of old age; but he wore it well and with pride. "You're not going to even linger a little longer? Pretend you care?" There was a little bit of uncertainty in his voice, but he trusted Ezri well enough to not insist. "You haven't even seen the outcome of the fight."

The niece scoffed, passing a hand through the air as if she were able to wave his words away. "Those brutes wouldn't have lasted a week. Did you see how thick they were? They'd have to eat a horse every day to keep their bulk, and what use do we have for pure muscle? This isn't a test of brawn."

"Perhaps you're too hasty-"

"They're common rubbish, Edwin. The sort of man that would easily fall under wiles and changed their minds for greedier things. Bought and paid for; if our conquest had an 'offer' I'd be alone out there."

"Are you sure you're not being a little too hasty to judge a character?"

"This isn't a light matter." And it wasn't. Not only was there the threat building of plague and monsters, and oh my, but there was the chant of civil war brewing in the underground. They had one chance, and once she pulled her options out of the ground like tunips... she had best hope they won the blue ribbon. There was only one go. "We need more. Better. Not for parading but honor and commitment. Now come... let's go to see the other end of things. We've lots of ground to cover, and little time."


Ezri wasn't a tall woman, though she stood about average. Her skin was tanned from being out and under the sun, stating clearly that she was a hard worker, more than most nobles of her station. Her hair was cut short; out of fashion but practical for her possition, with blue eyes that were large and startling in their color, like rich gems framed by thick black lashes. She wasn't found in dresses, the woman's had comfort in her armor, studded leathers of dark gray that made movement far more easier, and blending all the better. A short sword was strapped at her hip, several daggers and stilletoes scattered on her person, and a long, white scar broke the beauty of her face from what looked to be from some sort of claw.

She wasn't intimidated by the abundant amount of heavily armed men and few women, and often strode with such a purpose that they were the ones who stepped out of her way, watching over their shoulders even as she passed. But a few knew who she was, and made offers to proove their metal. "I'm the best archer in the realm!" One man claimed, puffing his chest, grinning and nodding as men patted him on the back and shoulders to reassure their friend. "I can shoot the eyes out a snake from three hundred yards away." To which, Ezri replied, "What use do I have with a blind snake?"
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Re: Dark Days Ahead

Post by MachDhai on Wed Jun 10, 2009 10:09 pm

The four young men's progress through the crowded packed-dirt streets was slow at the best of times, but with Shadrik at point and little Darryl in the rear, their pack mule kept safe between Ericks and Varsil, they were able to maximize their movement with less worry of cut purses. Shadrik could advance with little worry of being bothered; most street vendors simply assumed he was too poor to be worth their time. The richly dressed two, however, had a slightly harder go of it.

Varsil easily ignored it all, not caring if he seemed rude or pompous in the least; he was, after all, exactly that. Ericks however would often wave to the vendors, merchants and ladies of the night with some attempt at being friendly, politely denying whatever they had to offer. And poor Darryl simply tried to ignore the women, casting about for anything else to look at. As it was, he was the first of the four to notice a well dressed woman who seemed to move through the crowds with surprising ease; either she had one hell of a glare, or maybe she had a reputation in these parts.

Of the four, Darryl was best known for his keen eye sight and hearing, valuable assets for a trditional hunter of his homeland plains. They were still a goodly distance off from the woman when she was again stopped by a band of men bragging their skills, and the line used peaked the boy's childhood memories, pleasant days hunting with his father and uncles. One of the village men had been bragging about just that, and he couldn't help but blurt out his dad's responce, pipping up over the dull roar of the crowd as only a young man's voice could.

"A real man need not shoot a snake with his bow. Hunt and defend, family and friend." Then the boy's eyes popped wide as he realized how loud he had spoken, as his three friends all glanced back at him in surprise; Darryl wasn't the most talkative around, so when he spoke the others listened. But...what in the Light was he rambling about?

"True skill lays in knowing it's lair and using that to your advantage." He recited the rest of his dad's words, glancing up at his friends with a sheepish grin then glanced towards Ezri and the men wasting her time, and the other three turned to follow his gaze, still clearly confused with what was happening. Varsil, however, took note of Ezri and recognized her on the spot. Born and raised in the capital, he had seen her around, had heard a few stories about her; everything was a few years out of date of course, having been away for some time now.
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Re: Dark Days Ahead

Post by Shades Of Gray on Wed Jun 10, 2009 10:41 pm

It had been completely unexpected; that voice. Deffinately out of character, if you were to compare it to all the other gruff, gratting bass of the brutes she was surrounded by. Idiots, these men. They think flexing their muscles and making lewd suggestions would win my favor? They were wrong, and were only earning dark marks on her maticulously accurate mental roster. Edwin scowled at one man in particular who showed far less respect to his pupil than required. But Ezri wasn't a fool about formalities, when it meant getting the job done. She ignored the fools, turning around to face the four and the pack mule.

She was patient with her evaluation, thorough. The sweeping eyes and calculating look wasn't demeaning or cruel, brows knitting together as she tried to form a solid opinion; at least something to work with. Here were three men and one just becoming, minus the mule, obviously together with their Arrow formation but neither appeared to be related. A brute, an archer, a swordsman and agility; or so she assumed. Ezri canted her head to the side, face suddenly blank as she took one final blink.

It was only a few moments later, straightening again and nodding her head that emotion seemed to return to her face. Nothing heavy; just less of that blank mask she had worn earlier. "Tell me then, what you would do with a nest of snakes who were caught plaguing your home and neighbors? Burn them out? Hit them with sticks? Or shoot out their eyes like the boasting fool behind me?" Her comment ruffled feathers. She heard the men bristle behind her and one cry out but was silenced with a stern look from Edwin. The man would have been a fool to have even tried. Her hands were placed casually on her hip, but her hands were possitioned just so, so that drawing her blade would have been smooth and quick. A brow arched in question, patiently waiting for his answer, curious as to what more this little group had to say.
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Re: Dark Days Ahead

Post by MachDhai on Wed Jun 10, 2009 11:04 pm

Oh great, what had he gotten himself into now? Darryl seemed to shrink for a moment, one hand arching up to brush through his hair uncomfortably; he had just become the center of attention. That wasn't his thing, it was always the other three that drew everyone's eye and always assumed he was just a porter or hired hand. "Sorry, My Lady. I didn't mean tah...didn't mean to interupt. But, those men there? They don't likely seem ta know what they're talking about is all."

All four weathered her scrutinizing gaze fairly well, squaring shoulders and standing a bit taller as she sized them up. Even little Darryl, following the example of the others managed to find a hint of confidence under her gaze and even flashed an honest smile. Varsil was rather proper about it, offering her a well executed, if informally shallow, bow and avoided direct eye contact. Shadrik just flashed a toothy grin and took to eyeing the men she had been talking to; he seemed gruff and aggresive, but his mannerisms with his travelling companions belied a soft side. Erricks just met her gaze with a polite smile, seemingly pleased with how much spine his young friend was showing today.

Erricks couldn't help but smile; his friend was really working up a sweat on this one, and he gave the boy a confident nod when Darryl glanced his way, "Well My Lady...father taught me of a weed you's can burn? The smoke puts things like snakes to sleep. Then we can just move them somewhere else? Better for the village, without killing the snakes. They're just trying to live after all?" He wasn't really speaking in questions, but was simply too uncertain in his mannerisms and tone.

"Aww come on Darryl! You really are a nature lover huh? Not really worth the effort is it, moving the snakes around. Just drop a rock on the hole." Shadrik shook his head with a grin; it was playful and joking, getting a sheepish grin from the boy, who shrugged a bit and tapped a thick leather pouch at his belt in responce, "Well maybe, Shadrik. But...we milk them for their venom and use it for our arrows."
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Re: Dark Days Ahead

Post by Shades Of Gray on Wed Jun 10, 2009 11:26 pm

Well well well... wasn't that interesting? The kid was squirming under her gaze, and the young woman was hardly even trying. She had the cruelty of a falcon, some claimed, she was quick to snatch you into her claws and mercyless to ripping you with her sharp beak. But she didn't lunge for the kill, and she didn't bark at the man as he appologized for speaking up. "No. You're absolutely right. These men don't know what the bloody hell they're talking about; and it's a blessing to find someone with more sense on their shoulders than in their stones."

She relieved him of her sapphire eyes, turning the gems onto his commrades in arms. The man with the haughty bow recieved an almost sarcastic bow of her head in greeting, and for the rest, something a little more respectable. But that kid... she didn't quite know how, but her face went astonishing blank before her lips tugged up in a dazzling smile, marred by the scar on her one cheek which puckered a little as her muscles tugged in a direction they weren't quite so familiar with. "Very good!" And she meant it.

"Too many fight with the thought of blood; they want to spill it, and foolishly rush in with a clouded head. It's far too rare to find someone with brains, and who knows the good and evil of their actions. You're from... the Lustrian Planes if I am correct? The Vixum poisons are used on the garrison's arrow heads at times, I believe that Capa Barsavi prefers this medicine over most." The smile lingered before it was pushed away with the sense of duty, and with a nod of her head over her shoulder to their right, she gestured at the rows of archer targets. "Shoot for me, if you will. A target from where your standing, and then an apple..." She turned, snatching the fruit out of a man's hand with his cry of protest. "An apple, from the air of you think you can manage?"
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Re: Dark Days Ahead

Post by MachDhai on Wed Jun 10, 2009 11:53 pm

Young Darryl had his bow strung before she had even finished her terms, the bow still towering over the boy even after it had been curved for the cord. It wasn't hard to guess why the boy was so eager to prove himself; she had smiled at him, and it had seemed honest. Women didn't smile at Darryl, they ignored him for his more charismatic partners. He shrugged his pack, Erricks stepping forwards to take it off the boy's hands, and giving him another approving grin as he followed the boy's gaze as he sought his target.

Shoot an apple out of the air? Target found, he didn't even speak as he lost himself in the moment. His bow was hefted, an arrow snagged from a quiver and notched. He pulled string and sighted as the bow groaned, then loosed the cord with the faint 'fwip' of the arrow launching clear. The entire process was smooth and practiced; he'd been hunting since he was just a child after all, and had had a natural knack that had made his father proud.

"Yes My Lady. Darryl, son of Durnan, of Highwatch village. Took up mercenary work when I met Erricks four years ago, My Lady. He helped us with bandits, saved my life. So I was the second member of our band!" He always liked pointing that out; the youngest was the group's second longest member.

The arrow had flown true; some hundred yards off was a practice dummy spinning from a blow, a wooden ball on a chain floundering about maddly from the impact of a warhammer. The arrow embedded solidly into the swinging ball, the impact at that range enough to shear it clear of the rusty bracket holding it to the chain. Shadrik just rolled his eyes and gave the boy a melodramatic glare, "Showin' off now eh kid? Didn't realize you liked older women." He choked on his laughter though when he realized what he had said, covering quickly by waving his hands off at Ezri, "Not to say that you're old, lady. Just, older then he is."

Varsil rolled his eyes and gave Shadrik a look, mouthing 'smooth' and even offering a hint of an amused smirk despite the ludicriousness of the situation. Erricks, in the mean time couldn't help but laugh warmly at Darryl's discomfort, "Don't worry about them, Darryl. Does he pass, good Lady? We have to be up bright and early if we're to make it to the roster booths before lunch tomorrow." He was polite and honest; the four were tired from a long travel with a bit more exctiment then they might have liked, and had no reason to think she should have any interest in them.
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Re: Dark Days Ahead

Post by Shades Of Gray on Thu Jun 11, 2009 12:14 am

Ezri watched patiently, it took some effort to hide her excitement when the shot hit true. The kid was gifted, well learned, and there was more than muscle memory and practise with his shots. He leaned into the bow, used his whole body rather than just the strength of his arms. His hold was sure; the three fingered grip, the breathing timed, it was almost beautiful to watch. If deadly could be such a pretty thing. Ezri was delighted, grinning and nudged Edwin with her elbow as if to say, 'see? Isn't this better?'

"Well done." She didn't have to fake the pleasure in her tone, even as she shifted to face the four plus donkey again. "Darryl, son of Durnan, it does fancy a ring to it, doesn't it Edwin?"

"Yes, my lady."

Shadrik's remark was met with another arched brow, and now Ezri was stridding forward, reguarding him at a more personal level now. "Ahh, I've tasted that flavor of sarcasm before. A little bitter." She stopped just before the man, tilting her head so that viewing his face was a little easier. One hand remained loose at her side, the other resting on her hip. "And what, pray tell, would your purpose be sir? Other than quip remarks and stumbling appologies. You can't be more than a few months younger than I at best. Here for the party, like the rest of this rable? Dressed to find a swooning harlot who likes to play 'damsil in distress' to your 'hero'?"
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Re: Dark Days Ahead

Post by MachDhai on Thu Jun 11, 2009 12:34 am

Shadrik's jaw dropped at first, staring at her open mouthed and gawking as she stepped up and looked him in the eye. Darryl was too busy basking in her nice tone and words to even notice what was going on now, just shyly unstringing his bow now that his test was over, trying to keep anyone from noticing the faint blush on his cheeks by checking his bow with undue care, carefully curling the bow string and checking the wax coating, there to protect it from rain and weather.

Both Ericks and Varsil were watching with a hint of amusement as she faced off with the brute of their group. Shadrik finally snapped out of it, flashing a challenging grin and a hint of amusement in his eyes now, "Nah lady, you aren't my type. I've a special someone back home waiting for me, and there's not chance I'll find a real woman down this way anyways. Fine on the eyes, sure, but a real woman has a bit more meat on her bones." He hefted the thick shafted spear and rested it against his shoulder, drumming thick fingers against the smoothly sanded wood, "Ericks is a fine hand with a sword sure, and Varsil's little tricks are handy in a pinch, but sometimes it takes a strong arm and back. Sometimes."

He wasn't all boast and brawn. Speed and subtlety were just as useful in a fight as strength and standing power. "Besides, I've had enough of damsils in destress thank you very much. Last one, we had to put down a great scaled monster. Darryl's arrows could put it's eyes out, the fancy pants boys were fine dance partners, but it took my spear to punch it's hide. Scales were stronger then steel. Damn frightening thing, that was." The others nodded grimly and Shadrik fingered the buckle of his cloak, thumbing a thick knick in the side of his scale from part of the blade of his spear.
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Re: Dark Days Ahead

Post by Shades Of Gray on Thu Jun 11, 2009 12:56 am

"Don't flatter yourself." She teased, hardly being able to keep back that grin from sprouting to her lips. The scar tugged a little, drawing her attention to it, but she didn't flinch or look down, or pay no mind. "I prefer a proper man who knows how to use his tongue in ways other than silver coated wit." She crossed her arms over her chest now, hip cocked and weight shifted. She listened, she didn't pass off his words as nonsence. One thing could be said about Ezri; she took in what she was listening to, they weren't wasted words around her.

A story flashed somewhere in the back of her mind, and curiosity surfaced as she tried to remember... Ah. That's right. "A few weeks back, am I correct? Gentleman Marrs Gai'jan's daughter was troubled with a wavern." Her smirk saved her from the obvious nod of her head at their brooches and the tail used as some sort of crude banner. "Good to know those weren't just pretty trinkets picked up from someone else's lighter purse." She believed him. When Shadrik spoke of his tale she made certain to pay attention to the reactions from the other men. No one rolled their eyes, no one sighed or tensed or even bristled. She was liking what she saw... more than anythinig else she had stumbled upon today.

Now Ezri turned to reguard the two others, Varsil and Ericks. "May I have your introduction, please?" It was interesting, that the better dress of the two seemed the most reserves. One was more familiar, perhaps a passing face in a crowd, but she wanted to know none the less.
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Re: Dark Days Ahead

Post by MachDhai on Thu Jun 11, 2009 2:25 pm

Shadrik couldn't help but grin happily; she wasn't some stuck up noble or sugar tongued tart. Most men weren't willing to banter with him so openly, fearing a meaty fist to the face that would probably never come. Even for one so young, older men had a tendancy of backing down from the young man. That rumour of their exploits had beaten them to the city was a pleasant surprise that explained a few of the looks they had been getting since they'd arrived. He might have been willing to continue the bantering but was surprisingly polite enough to let her move on to the others, simply casting Darryl a wide grin.

Both Varsil and Ericks stood straight, heels together as she turned her attention upon the pair; Varsil's bow this time was one much more appropriate to their difference in station; she was the neice of the Emperor, he was just a minor noble's son, far removed from courtly power and responsibilities. He bent at the waist and down nearly to his knees, flourishing his cloak to keep it from awkwardly bunching about his head, "Varsil Castus, youngest son of the former Solomon and Odessa Castus, my Lady." His parents had died at sea, their ship lost in a storm some years back and the minor house had steadily declined until being liquidated a few years back. It had been rich once, but had never recovered from an invasion some two hundred years back when most of it's men-at-arms had stayed behind to protect the royal army's retreat in one of it's few defeats in history against an invading army, most of the family's men falling on that field. The deaths alone weren't the nails in the coffin, but rather the manuevering of other houses to steal business deals and lands from the weakened house and inexperienced leadership that remained.

Ericks simply put a fist to his heart and inclined his head politely, offering her a confident and friendly smile and meeting her gaze, something Varsil avoided from propriety and Darryl from shyness, and without the playful challenge of Shadrik, "Ericks, good Lady. Of the Lushakana Vales." Despite clearly being of privelaged stock, he made no mention nor intent of introducing his House; but from the crest on his shoulder and cloak he was a son of the Daleguard family, obscure and little known outside of that tiny region, it's only claim to fame a few adventerous sons over the centuries that had taken to adventuring; most of their stories ended with some undoubtably exagerated heroic death somewhere in the histories of the empire.
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Re: Dark Days Ahead

Post by Shades Of Gray on Thu Jun 11, 2009 4:08 pm

Ezri was getting a little tired of formalities. She was impatient with herself, angry with the choices she's had so far, pleased to have finally found possible candidates, but time was still passing. The longer they waited, the further the scepter would be, the more difficult it would become to claim. Patience, Ezri. Don't rush this, don't force the answers you want, it would all be waisted. She appreciated the respect, however. It was getting old, having to be warry of pinching hands, lewd suggestions... of no one taking this as seriously as they should.

Deep down inside they cared; and she knew it. Boasting and bragging were simply ways for them to hide their own fears. She could respect that, Ezri was frightened herself, but she couldn't afford traveling with that fear, ever building, only to erupt like a violent volcano, smothering all in its wake. Delicate; she needed crafty hands and agile words. She needed wit and charisma and will. She needed people to help her keep a level head for the dark days ahead.

It would have been to hasty to simply accept the men then and there. It was tempting, but it wasn't right. After the introductions were finished the woman carefully evaluated the four men and their traveling chest on four legs. Impendiment. She named the mule with a small smile. Normally she was against pack mules; if she had the luxury of such options, but her path was still uncertain as of yet. Capa Barsavi was still working out the plans for when she and her party would leave. Perhaps a mule would be needed?

"Why have you come?" It was a simple question, but Ezri would expect nothing less than an honest answer. Was it greed? Was it for title, power, respectability? The glory of battle? Revenge for the deaths of family long cold in the earth? Or was it more? Did they have that deeper love that cried for justice of their lands, their people, their lives and their everything?
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Re: Dark Days Ahead

Post by MachDhai on Thu Jun 11, 2009 6:12 pm

The four men shared a look; they were starting to realize she had more then a passing interest in the group. Too many questions, too much inquiry about character and morales. But what was her game? Varsil seemed more intrigued then worried, for to have drawn the attention of someone like her for possible employment was a sign of good things to come. Darryl, of course, was just glad she was hanging around a bit longer, although by this point he had taken to watching the crowds around them more then sneaking shy looks her way. That tall, well dressed man she was with certainly warrented some attenion; intimidating, he was.

Shadrik and Ericks were contemplative though; the big brute of a man was apparently more socially perceptive then some might have expected. And her question about why they were there...? Wasn't that obvious? Ericks piped up, a hint of curiousity in his voice, unsure why she would ask something that seemed to scream it's own reasons. "Everything is falling apart, good Lady. Monsters, once little more then nuisance or legend, are striking nearly within sight of the capital's walls. Disease runs rampant and crops die as the rivers stop. Something must be done." He seemed honesetly worried; they had seen terrible things on their way back to the capital; subtle at first but worsening by the day.

Darryl nodded, "Yes, My Lady. We found an entire village empty; no one in the streets, and only abandoned clothes and treasures leading off in all directions. A family had come down with the plague, it seems...they burned their home with them in it." He sounded horrified, the look on his face telling all too well they had found the remains. It hadn't broken him, it had simply strengthened the point that things were out of hand.

Shadrik held a grim smile, tapping his spear against his shoulder, "These shallow twits want money and wealth, but this ain't the time for that sort of thing. Won't be none to be had if someone doesn't fix things soon. So, best we can hope is by that someone time, right lads? Do some good here, free up some of those elites in the Guard to do their hero work." Honest too, if they could free up a few of the Royal Family's troops to fix whatever was broken, then it was well worth the effort of just getting to the city.
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Re: Dark Days Ahead

Post by Shades Of Gray on Thu Jun 11, 2009 6:34 pm

It was enough, Ezri was satisfied for the moment, but there would be more to it than that. A plan must be presented, an offer must be made... these men seemed more useful to her than the rabal gathered here. Sure, they could follow the majority of the men and women gathered here; they could take a small cut of pay, scatter in the woods, and collect bounties for every body they claim; but that didn't stop plague. That wouldn't cure the drought. They had potential that couldn't be waisted.

"I'd like to make you gentlemen an offer if you'd listen." An offer, not an order. In the end it would be their choice. These four weren't part of her army. They hadn't given her an oath to pledge their lives to her cause and word. No... the choice, ultimately, was their own. But always there was the threat of espionage. Caution shouldn't be thrown to the winds because of desperation. "Later tonight, at sundown. If you're interested in hearing my wager you'll find yourselves welcome at the Red tent over to the East. I only ask that you dine and hear what we've to say, and your choices from there are on your own. Do we have an accord?"

It was obvious that some of the men withing hearing range were far from pleased. Why these four? Nothing more than children, the lot of them, as if their mothers should still be wiping their noses and picking out what tunic to wear. And she? Wasn't the woman blind? A fool? Picking those miscrients over the rest of the crowd? As usual, Ezri seemed oblivious to the mutterings. Edwin cast them all a condescending glair, which out a large portion in place. It was true; zri could have been a little more careful of her choice of words in such a crowd. It wasn't new information to hear that she had enemies. But it was also a test; something much more than shooting an apple from the air, or bantering with wits. Now it was time to see if these four were able to coa an angry mob; or encourage their rage and find themselves cornered in a fight. Ezri needed the best; and she would get it, in any way possible.
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Re: Dark Days Ahead

Post by MachDhai on Fri Jun 12, 2009 6:28 pm

The four men shared another look; they'd been together for some time already, enough to have built a solid understanding of each of their friends. All four knew that whatever she had to offer was undoubtably dangerous, but wasn't that what they had been expecting? Doubts flashed but were over ridden with the chance of doing something good, and finally there was a round of subtle nods and Ericks carefully stepped from behind their mule to offer her his hand to shake, "We will be there, good Lady."

She had drawn quite a bit of attention to the four, and they were already trying to think of a way of walking out of it in one peice; an unwarrented amount of anger was directed their way simply because they had caught her interest. Ericks knew Valris seemed to know something of her, which simply meant his friend had some explaining to do later. It wasn't hard to guess how Shadrik thought they should get out; a show of force would placate most of the wanna-bes and wimps, and those suffering from an over developed sense of false-bravado would balk and back down.

Varsil had lowered his head during the shake, seeming to speak to himself under his breath with one hand tucked into one of the pouches on his belt, and something about the four seemed to change just slightly. Shadows twisted and played at the corner of the eye as if there were tiny figures hiding in their darkness, unusual shapes played along surfaces as the shadows drifted in ways that should not have been possible. It was an illusion, intended to help scare off the weak minded, pure trickery of light and shape with no actual substance. Ericks returned to his spot in their little formation then, eyeing the small gathering of men that seemed to wish them ill-fortune, and after the group gave her one last round of nods or polite bows, they started moving again.

It was almost as if they were daring anyone to bother them; the group moved with utmost confidence, as if there was no chance in their mind that anyone would be stupid enough to try and stop them. They stood a bit taller, moved just a hint of dangerous intent, their hands hovering near sword hilts or clutching bow or spear with a casual intent of use. It was all a show of course; intended to create doubt in the minds of the men that were angry over the little conversation, and while it was true that the four would fight their way out if it was needed, all they really wanted was to find some food and somewhere to rest for a few hours.
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Re: Dark Days Ahead

Post by Shades Of Gray on Sat Jun 13, 2009 3:23 am

Ezri shook. Her grip was firm, confident, and precise. There was no girly shake of her fingers, or sensation of a fish. She worked with men, she fought with men, and she wasn't afraid to assert herself with one either. There was no challenging fle of her hand either. And when the shake was through, that was it, buisness was over with, they were able to move on to the next part of their lives. Ezri strode forward, polite enough to step to the side so that she wasn't passing through the men, Edwin following her lead without a sound. Luckily they were saved from skirmishes on either end.


The sun was begining to droop low into the sky, brilliant orange and red stained the clouds like blood, adding more contrast and color against the leaves of the trees. The feastivities were still active; to most the night was young, but Ezri was finding herself more tired, and passed a weary hand across her face. She wasn't certain if she had it in her anymore, any of it. Neary her twenty fifth fall still had her young... but she felt twice that age when she moved, and thrice that brittle at the end of the day when the armor came off. What she needed was a good soak in the tube with mint leaves to ease the aches and pains. Another day... maybe. If you live through this.

Capa Barsavi was a big man. He was one of those impossing sort that the gods made to be a true warrior, but a vetran more than anything else. He was wide and built like an ox, his chest and belly thick as a keg of ale, his dark brown hair curly and pulled back in a tail. He had three beards; stacked ontop of each other, and fastened in a gold twine at the ends. He was wicked looking, but it was his goodspirited laugh that gave way to the softy inside. A demon on the battlefield, but the sort of man that would save a drowning kitten and nurse if back to health and sing it to sleep.

Barsavi was the Capa of the royal guard. Something in his fourty odd years, he stood below Ezri only because of nobility. But instead of causing strife, the two became fast friends, and heeded one another's advice. Barsavi taught Ezri when she was growing up, they fought along side one another, killed for one another, and shared a number of injuries and wounds from combat. Barsavi was like another uncle, perhaps an older brother, and the two were relaxed enough around each other that formalities were ignored.

Ezri poured the man a glass of wine, handing it over to him before pouring her own and set the canter down on the table. She wore a maroon tunic, the fabric was soft, tailered to flatter her figure, but far removed were the useless bobbles to decorate herself with. Black breeches, a dagger belted at her thigh, and black, knee high boots. She was casual, or as casual as she was allowed to be, absently sipping the wine while seating herself in a high back chair, legs dangled over the side. "You look like shit."

Ezri smiled. "Oh, you sweet talker."

"Not a fruitful venture I take it?" Ezri shook her head, looking into her cup as she lost herself in her thoughts for a moment. Barsavi's deep voice rumbled in her chest as he spoke, first a sigh, then the great bass. "You sure you want to go this alone?"

She gave an indelicate snort. "Stop it, Barsavi. We can't afford the men, and I won't, per say, be alone."

"You think you can trust a group of swords-for-higher with this? Even your uncle as... concerns."

"If Berklin was worried about my vertues I hardly believe he's place me as his vassel in the guard. I'm not worried about them slicing my throat in the middle of the night, and I'm not worried about them running off with the sceptor once I get my hands on the piece again. They're not greedy men."

"All men are greedy."

"Hm." Another sip, slower this time, an idle foot tapping as Edwin moved about their tent, lighting candles to provide more light. Distantly she could smell dinner cooking, and her stomach cramped for the want of food. When had she eatten last? She couldn't remember, her chaotic life had only gotten worse in these last few months, and she was struggling to keep her head above the surface so she could breathe. "Mind your manners, Barsavi; I've invited them for dinner to be our guests. You'll enlighten us of the task ahead; and we hope these men are keen in taking it, because I sure as hell don't trust any of the rabble collected here..."
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Re: Dark Days Ahead

Post by MachDhai on Sat Jun 13, 2009 1:55 pm

With the dinner date later that evening, the four knew it was a bad idea to set their camp and leave it unattended. Having escaped the crowd more or less unscathed (asides from a few burning glares and rumours of dark magics), they had made their way towards the outer edge of the throngs of people, past the tents and merchant stalls and fighting pits until they found themselves a relatively remote little hill. Their mule was released of it's burden and left to roam as it saw fit for a time, and the four men kitted down enough to relax comfortably.

The hours passed, spent teasing Darryl and Shadrik about Ezri, and discussing just what she might be up to. Varsil explained very little of what he knew of her; member of the Royal Guard, neice of the Royal Family, powerful enough to make or break them. But, as the sun started to dip, they were again gathering their things, having had a light lunch gleaned from a few of the vendors that left their coin purses disturbingly light. Mule retreived and loaded once more, they made their way following her simple instructions, even asking directions once to clarify, and finally the four were drawing up outside the red tent she had described.

They had changed into fresh clothes; most of their spare sets were travel stained, but each was smart enough to keep one set in reserve for special occasions. None were much different then before; the clothes were slightly finer quality, but the only real improvement was that they were fresh. Shadrik still bore his spear, Darryl his bow, and Varsil and Ericks still had their swords on, but that was more because they had no secure place to leave such things; bringing weapons to dinner was simply uncivil in most any society.

Approaching the tent, they were stopped by one of her soldiers for introductions. Having been informed she was expecting them, the man had another soldier see to their mule, the animal getting a few annoyed looks from the professional soldiers as it was lead away with undue care and attention, as if expecting the animal to act up on them at any moment. Their packs were, unfortunately for the animal, strapped to their mule, but they didn't feel right about wearing them into the tent.

The soldier ducked into the tent first, waving for them to wait outside for the moment, respectfully reported their arrival and finally ushered them in before sliding back out into the night. Ericks entered first, Darryl hot on his heels, followed by Varsil and lastly Shadrik, the young man easily crowding the entrance as he came in. Shadrik had thrust his spear into the soil outside, and Darryl's bow and one quiver were left there as well; the weapons were simply too large to be lugging about at a dinner party, and each man's sword had a strip of leather woven around the crossguards and sheath to bind their weapons, an indication of peaceful intent.
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Re: Dark Days Ahead

Post by Shades Of Gray on Sat Jun 13, 2009 5:14 pm

The Red tent was much larger than most of the others. Obviously it was used for more than simple sleeping and changing clothes. Even the tallest of them were able to stand fully upright, no need to stoop in order to miss the top of the tent. It stretched several paces wide, large enough to have a fight in if needed, but there were no signs of such ruckus here, save for one wooden dummy off to the side, recently chipped and dented from Ezri's practise session.

The tent was named for obvious reasons, the interior housed a good table near the center, with high back chairs comfortable enough for sitting in for long periods of time, but nothing that would be heavily decorated and crafted. Candles were lit to give a warm glow in the room, with glass bowls around the wicks that allowed air in, smoke to escape, but heat and fire to evade the heavy canvas of their room. There were no decorations or personal trinkets to display, simply a room, with modest comforts to lounge, and a great map curled at the end closest to Ezri.

Edwin looked up when the guard stepped in, closed fist over his heart, bowing respectfully before announcing their guests. Ezri remained draped over the chairs, watching Edwin escape to the back as silently as a wraith, and nodded to Barsavi. "Remember a civil tongue, hardly more than boys but my gut feels right in their company." She turned to the guard with a nod. "Thank you, Edwards. Show them in please."

Barsavi sighed as the guard bowed again with a "M'lady", then turned to do as he was instructed. "You're too polite for your own good. It's a wonder why you're still single."

"Ah, I've had that flavor of sarcasm before. Watch your tongue, old man, or I might serve it on a plater and make you eat it." She swiveled out of the chair once Ericks entered, standing until they all found a spot at the entrance. She didn't smile but her face was relaxed, a little more open than before. "Come come, relax yourselves and please sit. There's drink enough for all who would like some. Nothing fancy, mind you." If they were expecting a fine feast... she'd have to disapoint them. Ezri, high station or not, ate much like her men in the smaller tents scattered around the festivities. She didn't dine on phesant and quail while they ate beans and rice. Though tonight they would dine better than just that.

"Gentlemen, I'd like to introduce to you Capa Barsavi," The large man politely bowed his head, but took to carefully inspecting each one present with a practised eye. It was obvious that he was here to give his own opinions on the matter, but his trust and respect for Ezri kept him from laughing when the first of them stepped in. "Barsavi, may I introduce to you Ericks, Darryl, Varsil and Shadrik." She indicated each with a graceful sweep of her hand, leaving out titles and formalities out of respect to the one she hadn't received... as well as an indication that they were welcome to speak plain. The task ahead was more important to her than fluffing their own egos. She gracefully folded herself back into to the chair to how she was as Ericks stepped in; legs over the arm. "Gentlemen, if I may be blunt?" She waited for their answer before continuing on. "I've obviously asked you here for... deeper meanings than a casual bounty. I need to gather a party to go with me to take back what was stollen from us."
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Re: Dark Days Ahead

Post by MachDhai on Sat Jun 13, 2009 11:15 pm

Each of the four offered Barsavi polite nods and shuffled further into the room once introductions were done. Each man had even been aware enough to raise their hand when she listed their name, and since she was already seated they all moved to take one of their own. Shadrik seemed intrigued by Barsavi though, watching the man openly as if trying to size him up. The old soldier had the look of a real man; strong, sturdy, reliable. A natural leader, something gained through action and experience, not instruction and birth. He'd have gone far in Shadrik's homeland, he had no doubt.

Each of the four unbuckled their sword belts with varying degrees of familiarity and draped them over the backs of their seats. Shadrik's was short and heavy, Darryl's more akin to a classic short blade barely larger then a mere long dagger. Varsil's blade would have fit in well at court, a narrow bladed longsword. Ericks blade, even hanging from the back of the chair, rested to the ground. Wide as the palm of his hand at the cross guard, the hilt nearly two feet in length and heavy with the weight of long centuries about it.

Just as they had all done the same thing with drapping their sword belts, the same action done differently with each man, they received the news of her intentions in similiar style. Shadrik was clearly all for it; a big grin towards his comrades. Darryl was surprised, looking to his friends as if to judge their own reactions. Varsil saw this as his chance to regain his family's honour and lands, a sudden flash of pride and ambition in his eyes and a confident set to his shoulders as if a weight had been liften. Elricks was the most subdued of the group, clearly weighing what she had said, what it would mean. The one thing each man had in common was a sense of determination; they would agree, clearly, but while honour and ego would be fed with their success, it wasn't the whole of their reasoning. It had to be done, after all. Someone needed to, else things would just get worse. And then any of their worldly goals would be pointless.

Elricks finally spoke after the crew had shared a look and clearly made up their minds, and he looked to her directly, guessing he already knew the answer to his question. "Why us? Why not your own soldiers?" He was certain that she had sought their help instead, at least in part, because there was simply too much work for her soldiers to handle everything. Another part was likely their unique skills in comparison to even the elite rank-and-file soldiers; they were used to campaigning and travelling without thought of reinforcements or supplies. And perhaps most importantly, they were expendable. Whether she would admit that or not, he was sure it was fact.

Shadrik just laughed warmly and gave little Darryl at his side a slap on the shoulder that caused the young man to wince and grin up at Shadrik weakly, "See that Darryl? I always say you need to speak more. When you do, something good always happens! Stop your damn fussing, Elricks. She's got her eye on us because of our good luck charm is all. Don't you worry though, Lady. With us at your back, you ain't got nothing to fear."

Darryl saw an opening and took it for once, glancing at her almost appologetically with his lopsided grin, "Nothing to fear but his morning breath, My Lady. And heaven forbid if we pack beans for the trail." Another bark of laughter from Shadrik and another slap on Darryl's shoulder, giving him a rueful smile.

Refined as always, Varsil simply rolled his eyes at their crude humour and tried to hide a smile, showing merely a hint of a smirk. "Watch your tongue, children. He speaks the truth though, Lady Ezri. I might recommend a scent box?" Some of the more 'delicate' nobility wore one around their necks if they had to visit the docks or other unpleasantly smelling areas. In context, they were stuffed with incense or perfume, but it was widely known that some at least had a tendancy of filling them with drug powders instead.
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Re: Dark Days Ahead

Post by Shades Of Gray on Sun Jun 14, 2009 6:57 pm

"Why us? Why not your own soldiers?" That wasn't an easy question to answer, and while she had every intention of telling them the truth; she wanted to make sure she presented it correctly. They deserved honesty, they deserved better than what they clearly have been recieving since their arrival. Ezri tapped the nails of one hand on the armrest she hooked her elbow on, while the other rested on her knee. She looked much like a cat lounging, preditorial and graceful even in her ease. Through the flickering lamp light, her sapphire eyes seemed all the more vibrant. She blinked, and then settled on the next approach.

"My men have served me well. I don't question their loyalties, and I don't deny that I would feel far more secure and comfortable with known and trusted blades at my back..." She felt right in trusting these four, but trust itself wasn't so easily won. There was a degree of acceptance; that was it. A lot was ridding on what the gods would decide for them in these upcoming days... it was already evident they accepted without the verbal permissions. Ezri continued on. "But this isn't for them. They're charged with the duty of the land, the lives of our people... the law needs to be upheld in this chaos, people must remember not to loose hope, that they will always have order. I need my men to stay here for the people, they will have better, hm." She frowned, searching for the word. Barsavi supplied it for her. "Moral."

"Yes. Thank you. Taking the best with me would take away the hope I need to stay here. I've given orders, and after tonight, Barsavi will take my possition in the Royal Army." Barsavi bowed his head in respect, though there was a certain tension behind his eyes that clearly stated that he wished things weren't happening the way they were. He thought he should be going, taking the risks, and the young woman to be in comand of the troops. He had no doubt of his methods and abilities, but they both held the highest respect for one another, and was willing to make the sacrafice. "What more; this is... difficult. The task will be long, hard, and dangerous, the odds are against us, and I'm not able to do it alone. You all have much to gain, more than bragging rights as the other rable to it, and that was what stood out most."

She paused as if on cue, slidding out of the chair to stand on her feet and crossed over to the table. She filled four goblits with drink, passing them to her guests, and refilled Barsavi's after he gave a nod in thanks. She wasn't afraid to serve the others, and seemed to relax some more, now that she had a task to focuss on. They joked about the scent boxes, and she even smiled; faintly, lifting her eyes to show she was paying attention, and took a drink. It was warm when it slid down the throat, watered down enough that a few cups wouldn't get someone small of frame unbalanced. Of course, she had a much higher tolerance for alcohol than most women; it was almost expected of her. "Don't you worry though, Lady. With us at your back, you ain't got nothing to fear."

"Hm..." She didn't sound convineced. "Do you know who Jacobo Blanche is?" Who didn't? Jacobo was well known for his cruel ways, his black heart, his dealings with things malicious and dark. Not human, was the chant, something... older, darker, more sinister than mankind can be. She believed them, and through her quarter of a century of life, had stumbled across that heathan many times. It was how she recieved the scar on her face; though it wasn't by his hands directly.
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Re: Dark Days Ahead

Post by MachDhai on Mon Jun 15, 2009 11:03 am

Again, similiar yet different reactions amongst the men; Shadrik hadn't a clue who she referred to. He'd undoubtably heard stories when he was younger but had never payed them much heed. His mother had better luck scaring him into being good by threatening to have him go make dolls with the girls instead of hunting with the men. Ghosts and monsters had never been enough to keep him out of trouble. Young Darryl had heard the tales, and remembered them well; that was a name to be feared, and never spoken aloud else draw the attention of things that crawled in the dark spaces between our world and the next...if the elders were to be believed.

Valris' gaze grew contemplative and strangely eager; a challenge worthy of his growing skills, someone who had ruined the already shadowy reputation of people of his like in the eyes of commoners. No matter what good he might do with magic, most feared he was just a lesser form of that man; this was a chance to get out from under that shadow by crushing it under his heel. Elricks knew the stories, knew enough to seperate some fact from the overwhelming superstition. His gaze grew determined; this was a challenge he could willingly risk life and limb for.

Bored, frightened, eager and determined, but each was clearly commited now. They'd earn her trust and deliver her and the sceptor to the capital safe and sound with Jacobo Blanche either in chains for punishment, or dead and left to the vultures. "This certainly explains what is happening. With such wide spread suffering, I am not surprised that he is the one behind it all." The four raised their cups, Shadrik barely catching himself from sipping when he realised the others were toasting, and Darryl glancing about uncertainly and trying to follow the moves of Valris and Elricks as best he could.

"If you would have us, Lady Ezri, our swords are yours to guide as you need." Each of them brought their cups up to salute, but Darryl cleared his throat uncertainly and piped up, leaning forwards a bit to look at Ericks around Valris, "And my bow? I mean...not so good with a sword, right? Not sure why she'd want mine anyways...?" Shadrik barked a laugh and cuffed Darryl lightly upside the head, nearly spilling the boy's drink, "Ya dolt, it's their fancy speech for saying we'll do what she needs. Geeze, they teach you farm boys nothing out there?" Valris just rolled his eyes with a melodramatically heavy sigh and glanced at Elricks with a shrug, "It would seem my hopes that our higher manners would rub off on those two are meant to be dashed."
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Re: Dark Days Ahead

Post by Shades Of Gray on Mon Jun 15, 2009 3:12 pm

Obviously they knew, she could read their faces well, open books, reflective mirrors... it wasn't hard. Were they so young? Quite a ways to look at things, Ezri. Not much younger than yourself, hardly a year at best... And if their weapons and assorted scars were no tale, then the way these 'boys' held themselves was a clear indication. Young, perhaps, but not ignorant, not... soft. Like her.

Ezri hid a frown in her cup; it was meant towards herself. She hoped this was right, that this wasn't some foolish last try to find kindred spirits before the fates snipped her thread and she was gutted on a knife; or poisoned... the gods knew she had enough enemies. She became aware of her reflection in the wine, a hazy, undulating red Ezri, complete with scar striking down from left temple, across her nose, stopping at right cheek. She touched it without thinking, eyes flicking away from the glass as they clouded with an unfriendly thought and memory before the goblet was quickly set down and her palm pressed flat against the oak, as if keeping it in sight would keep it from straying.

The frown turned to a blank mask once again as Shadrick began to speak. He wasn't surprised; most people weren't once they heard more of the news, and it seemed to be a deciding factor for them. Good enough... that hand, pressed on the table, now scooped up her goblet in answer to their salute. She lifted it, as did Barsavi, who was quiet all this time. He had been watching Ezri carefully, but taking guarded note on the men as well. He was more comfortable... but he still didn't like the situation any. They drank, and the mugs were placed back down on the table.

She excused herself while they jested and joked, slipping out the back flap in the tent with easy strides where Edwin had slipped off to before their arrival. He was in the backroom now, eatting his meal, and stood once Ezri entered. "Oh sit, please. You don't need to stand up for me, Edwin, you should know that by now." The older gentleman smiled, bowing his head to her, much to her scowling annoyance, and sat. "Sometimes it's nice for an old man like me to entertain a woman now and then."

"I wouldn't say 'entertain' would be the correct way of phrasing our current buisness arrangements."

"Perhaps. But I know you're begining to stress, and I know that you're looking for something that's already out on the table, waiting for you." Ezri stopped fumbling through parchments and winced, looking over her shoulder to glance at Edwin. He continued. "I placed the map beside you before leaving out back, remember?" He sat back down, tearing off a piece of bread from the loaf. "It's been sitting next to you this whole time."

She cursed softly, looking back towards the flap she had passed through and slumped her shoulders, before twisting her fingers together in an attempt to keep from fidgeting. "You're frightened." It wasn't a question. She looked back at Edwin and frowned. "Uncertain."

"Uncertainties can be frightening."

"I'm not scared."

"But you're frightened."

"I'm... asking myself too many questions. I'm trying to keep this simple."

"There's nothing simple about this, Ezri. Not when Jacobo is involved. You know that once you and your party leaves on the morrow, not all of you will be coming back."

"You're wrong. I've a feeling neither of us will be coming back, and that only makes me homesick. I'm tired of this talk; give me something to take back so I don't look like an utter ass."

"Take the daggers, Ezri; on your cot. You'll need them to hold the map open. Best not to dull yours up in the wood." The woman sighed, flashing him a look of gratitude and snatched the four daggers up with a quick ease, before taking two in each hand, and made her way back out the flap. She made a mental note to thank him later, when there was more time...

Pushing the flap open, Ezri slipped back into the room with her guests and Barsavi. The large man was working to unroll the map , a great piece of parchment that took the two of them to unfold. Each corner was stabbed into on the wood of the table, and Ezri sighed once she looked down at the image, palms flat, head shaking. "Alright... it's going to be a long journey..."
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Re: Dark Days Ahead

Post by MachDhai on Mon Jun 15, 2009 6:30 pm

The group focused when she returned, reading nothing into her sudden absence. Only Varsil had caught her odd staring contest with her goblet, but whatever he made of her dark thoughts was hidden behind his calm eyes and he turned back to the others before she might try catching his gaze. As her and Barsavi unrolled the map, the four young men stood and circled the table enough for each to get a clear and close view, Shadrik whistling low at the quality of the map. He and Darryl rarely saw maps even of their home provinces, and those weren't nearly so well made. Skilled cartographers were few and far between, and their skill came at a price too hefty for the outlying provinces.

Darryl nudged Shadrik and pointed vaguely towards the eastern plains, whispering low as they got down to business, "My village is on there. Imagine that?" Shadrik just grunted in amusement and glanced towards the northern mountains, following the main roads until they branched smaller and smaller to end at his own hometown, a fond look in his eyes.

"I appologize in advance, Lady Ezri, but we all but sold our coin purses to get here. Our supplies are low and much of our kit is in need of tending. Young Darryl even hit a growing spurt it seems, and his boots down quite fit right any more." Darryl glanced over with a mixed look of chagrin and pride; he'd gained his last few inches these past few months and they'd barely managed to find him a pair of boots that would serve for the last leg of their journey to here. Ericks just smiled warmly at the young man and shrugged in acceptance, looking to Ezri again with that same confident smile, while Varsil nodded in slightly grimmer agreement.

Even their best clothes were a touch on the thread bare side, their boots worn near through the soles. Weapons needed tending, armour refitting and repairs, their mule needed new shoes, and a variety of odds and ends were on their last legs. The little group had done wonders with what little they had to begin with, but you could only mend something so many times before it was time for a new one. Ericks even looked a bit ashamed, or at least mildly upset at their tarnished image, as he got to his point, "We will have to ask for an advance for our services, else risk being of no use to you once our boots fall off our feet."

Shadrik of course just gruffed it off, "Bah, give me a night in the fighting pits and I'll get our purses full again. And Varsil can do his tricks and shows for the kiddies! That'll earn a few pennies, hey?" The group were no strangers to performing to earn a meal it seemed; they had done chores on farms for barns to sleep in, feats of strength and skill in small villages that weren't too baddly affected by the droughts to earn a meal. But to simply ask for money, especially in advance, before earning even a penny of it, seemed to chaffe the group.
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Re: Dark Days Ahead

Post by Shades Of Gray on Mon Jun 15, 2009 7:05 pm

Ezri looked up from the map, blinking several times with a puzzled confusion tugged at her face before she realized her mistake. Had she been a blushing woman she might have, instead she felt ashamed at forgetting herself, and almost winced. She needed to clear her head... she was going about this all wrong. These weren't her soldiers, they didn't know what she assumed they would. "My appologies." She meant it, and the inflections of her tone was sincere. "I'll be covering such costs. Your gear, your mule, clothing... it'll all be taken care of come morning, I'll see to it. However, should you favor... specialties, I can give you an advancement if you wish."

She straightened, trying to get comfortable and...failed. The food, weapons... all of it. Ezri had every intention of seeing to it that their gear would be replaced. The thought accured after she had invited them earlier to join her for dinner, and it traveled to the back of her mind to be dealt with later. She had... assumed they would know this. But they weren't her soldiers, she had to remember that...

Licking her lips she then parted them to speak more, possible ramblings that were interupted by Edwin... bless him. He, and several assistance came in shuffling with trays of food. Bread, honey, a thicker mead, pork and even some chicken. She was surprised herself to see the quality presented for them, which she wasn't able to keep off her face before Ezri blinked and looked up at the Gentleman. He winked at her before nodding in respect to the others, and parted ways once more. Sighing again, Ezri gestured to the guests. The table was big enough to hold map and food, and it would be better to discuss their task ahead, than to practise pleasantries and fine dining ediquete. Ezri broke off a piece of bread, dipped it into the honey, and rolled her shoulders. Finally, with a clean hand, she pointed along the coast line, high in the North East where the map began to curve away to more unfriendly and unfamiliar grounds. "This... is our destination." And incase there was any confusion she tapped where they were currently located. Obviously she's been studying this map often. "And we're here... With luck, high suns, beautiful weather and the gods on our side it would be a week's journey. I'm not so foolish to see it happening that easily, and by my calculations, I've rounded it to near two... But we won't be followin' the Road, I'm afraid rougher terrain is called for. We need to keep our location as quiet as possible."
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Re: Dark Days Ahead

Post by MachDhai on Mon Jun 15, 2009 7:31 pm

None of the four knew her, yet each could tell the woman was exhausted. Their feet were sore, muscles tired, but she seemed bone weary. They settled down a bit, focusing on the task at hand to make things easier on her and obviously greatful for the food. It didn't sit so well with Elricks though, as he couldn't help but imagine places where this food was needed, but he wasn't about to complain. They needed a good meal, as it could well be their last for a long time. Each dug in with varying degree of manners, Varsil and Elricks eating in small, manageable bites, Darryl carefully loading one hand after scrubbing it clean on his vest and eating a mouthfull at a time, and Shadrik just plucking what he wanted and tossing it into his mouth...although he was careful to try and chew quietly for once.

Varsil waved off her appologies seemingly sincerely, "The fault is ours, Lady Ezri. We are not used to such high profile contracts. Payment after the task is finished, expenses from your own pocket. A hard go, but we have managed well so far." As she went on to explain their intended route, he nodded quietly and studied intently, Elricks also commiting it to memory. Only Darryl seemed more intrigued with the little details; hills and forests, rivers and roads, as if trying to map it in his mind as they would be travelling, rather then over head.

"Well, we aren't strangers to rough days, lady. Bandits favor the back country more then highways." Shadrik flashed her a confident grin, and the group nodded in likeminded agreement; none were uncomfortable with the idea of travelling cross country, even if it tacked on some extra days to their trip.
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Re: Dark Days Ahead

Post by Shades Of Gray on Mon Jun 15, 2009 9:24 pm

It was a good think they held confidence in the backwood... there wasn't really any other option, less they were to go around the other direction and then back down. That would have taken months, and they didn't have months. Ezri wasn't even comfortable with saying that this was going to take weeks. People were already begining to grow hungry, rivers were drying out, the fish and nature normally offering full bounty were scarce and thinning. Ezri felt guilty, too, for eatting as they did, but to her, this could very well be their last meal, and silently she prayed her thanks to the gods, while cleaning her fingers from traces of honey by sticking them in her mouth.

"Well I have no doubt that we'll be encountering bandits on our way, as well as some of the nasty beasties that have been crawling from the Northern mountain range. Are either of you familiar with this territory?" She lifted her eyes, scanning each face to read their responce before continuing. Two assurances out of four wasn't bad. No bold confidence as if she were to point to their homes... but it was better than nothing. At least she wouldn't be the only one out there who knew where she was going. Mostly.

"Unfortunately, I'm not so worried about our trek of getting there. Arriving to the location, unseen, will be one thing. Getting in.. is another." Her finger slid across the map once more, tapping nearly a mile from the shores to a small remote island, hardly a distinguishing shape on the paper. "He'll be here on Jazaroe Isle... And I'm afraid I don't know much about that particular piece of land."
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Re: Dark Days Ahead

Post by MachDhai on Mon Jun 15, 2009 10:07 pm

The group leaned in closer to get a clear look at where she indicated; Shadrik of course tried to spot a port anywhere near that location with little luck. Darryl's best guess was to build a raft and try to sail across on that, but the open ocean was a much more dangerous place then the ponds back home. Elricks and Valris, however, simply shared a knowing look. Valris was smiling with almost mischevious glee and Elricks took it as a yes to his unspoken question. Then Valris turned to her and nodded confidently, "I can get myself and one other onto the island, where we should be able to find a boat and come back for the others, if no other opportunity presents itself."

Darryl and Shadrik looked at him in confusion for a moment before they understood what the other two had come up with. Darryl seemed to hesitate for a moment then finally stood up again, glancing about the table with a hint of determination, "I can cross with him. I've sailed a few times when I was a kid. Rivers and lakes mostly, but a mile of open sea...that shouldn't be too bad."

Elricks shook his head, smiling appologetically to Darryl, "No, I think not. I shall accompany Valris across. It will be too dangerous for you to go in the advance party. Between the two of us, we should be able to handle anything that gets in our way." Shadrik seemed to agree, and didn't even argue that he should go; he had a queasy look about him in regards to whatever they were planning to cross the water.

"That settles that then." The four clearly had made up their minds on the whole matter without even explaining to Ezri. "Ericks and I will cross when we reach the coast and bring a boat back for the rest. I appologize in advance for leaving you alone in the company of Shadrik and Darryl, Lady Ezri."
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Re: Dark Days Ahead

Post by Shades Of Gray on Mon Jun 15, 2009 10:32 pm

Ezri turned to reguard Barsavi, who was tearing a piece of pork off his knife with his teeth. He shrugged while chewing, showing he wasn't exactly certain what they were plotting either. That wasn't very assuring... Should she simply trust them? Demand an explanation? Shrug it off to deal with later? What did need mentioning was something she was... rather embarrassed about. Then again, sometimes you couldn't choose the path of life you lived. Sometimes you couldn't get dealt all of the good cards. "Be that the case, I'm sorry to burden you with a... rather unavoidable problem that may lie ahead. I can't swim." She shrugged, clearly annoyed with the fact, but it couldn't be helped, so she didn't linger on the issue. Now they knew, and could keep it in the back of their minds should the situation ever arrive.

Ezri took a drink of the mead, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand. "Whatever we do to get across, we'll have to be quick about it. Jacobo won't simply twiddle his thumbs, awaiting our arrival to dry lands, and the waters are known to have wolf sharks. Vicious bastards that like to jump." Excellent hides, however, which were what her boots were made from. One had nearly taken her into the waters once, just at the begining of the year, and the could very well have been the end of her, had she not Barsavi's ready blade at her side. The boots were her birthday present, gifted to her just a week ago. "Are there any questions so far?"
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Re: Dark Days Ahead

Post by MachDhai on Mon Jun 15, 2009 11:16 pm

"Ya can't swim?! Ah nine hells lady, if that's yer big vice then you've got some confidence issues." Shadrik was as subtle as ever, shaking his head with a rueful grin, clearly just toying with her. None of the four seemed upset about it, "Well, guess we'll just need some more rope. Or we could stuff her in a keg? They float right?" Darryl shot Shadrik a shocked look and shook his head, speaking up quickly to keep Shadrik from saying anything else, "Don't worry, My Lady Ezri! I uh...I promise we'll get you across safe and sound. Not a drop of water on your boot!"

"What skills do you bring to the table, Lady Ezri?" Elricks was studying her directly; each of the friends knew what the others were capable of, but she was the outsider to their little group after all. Best to have those sorts of things out in the open. "I've the least of the four of us. My blade, my armour. Siege engineering and a wide if undetailed education in various topics. Apparently, I am the leader of our little band as it's founding member."

Darryl spoke next, squaring his shoulders to look taller, "Skilled archer as you know, My Lady Ezri. Woodsman, herbalist, hunter. I've no schooling, but my dad and uncles taught me all sorts of things about the woods."

"Darryl's got the woods, I've got the mountains and caves. Monster Hunter, although there's a bit too much work for my ilk these days! Never really got anything worth noting till that Wyvern though. Things like that ain't been prowling much for some time now. Know my way around a forge too." Shadrik and Darryl were the hands-on knowledge types, skilled at the day-to-day stuff.

Valris was last, and he glanced at Elricks with a hint of annoyance in regards to the current conversation, but finally he gave in and looked to Ezri, with a calculating glance at Barsavi, "Book keeping and merchantman skills of course. But my true value on this little outting is Summoning and Illusions." He patted one of the pouches at his belt, the one he had dipped his fingers into earlier that day to manipulate the shadows to their advantage.
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Re: Dark Days Ahead

Post by Shades Of Gray on Mon Jun 15, 2009 11:57 pm

That smile was back, causing the scar across her face to tug, but again it was something she was used to feeling, and easily ignored. She liked Darryl, she almost had instantly, and it was amusing with how genuine he was about caring for her welfare. She rewarded him with a wink and relaxed a little more, finding it reassuring in ways that surprised her. "I think I'll place my safety in your hands then, Darryl. You seem to stick with methods I prefer..." Keg... she knew they were joking, but there was no way in hell she'd cross waters in a barrel.

Elricks spoke up then, and his question was sound. She nodded, showing every intent of answering them, listening intently as the others gave their own brief bios. Blade, herbalist, caving and monster lore, and finally... magics. They were all very good things to have, things that Ezri has dabbled in, but nothing more than experience in topics. She new about monsters, but couldn't recognize more than the very common ones on site; her kills have mostly been human, though a few on that list have been questionable. So what did she have to offer this group?

Ezri shrugged. "Do you mean other than my charming personality, and stunning good looks?" Another wink, and this one was for Barsavi, who snorted and muffled a chuckle behind one beefy fist. The woman stood a little straighter. "First, and foremost, please... Ezri, is just fine. I promise I won't be insulted if you lay away the 'my ladies'. I appreciate the respect, but in all honesty I've never found much comfort in titles. Secondly; what have I to offer to you? I'm a Dancer of the Blade. I may not be as strong as your swordsman, but I am fast. I'm quick on my feet and if the need arises, I can pick locks, disable a variety of traps, and give the slip better than any thief."


Last edited by Shades Of Gray on Tue Jun 16, 2009 2:22 pm; edited 1 time in total
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