Stories of Túlaman

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Stories of Túlaman

Post by Kalon Ordona II on Mon Dec 20, 2010 7:23 pm

This is a collection of in-character stories taken from FOG role-play. The purpose of this topic is to make it easier to tell what has happened with each of the characters without having to scroll through the whole--very, very long... very, very complicated--role-play.

Characters qualify for the list when there are at least three POV posts for that character. I'll present the characters alphabetically by character name. There are hyperlinks at the end of each post, and you can always jump to the top of the page by clicking the small double-up arrow beneath the FOG's animated right side-panel navigation. If you just want to jump to the previous or next post, you can use the Find function and search for the tilde ~ character; these only appear at the start of each post, inside the time-stamp.

Thus empowered, please enjoy these Perspective Archives from the RP world of Túlaman!


Sephiris: The Price of Peace

. : Áirhath's Story : . PART 1
. : Áirhath's Story : . PART 2
. : Barin's Story : . PART 1
. : Barin's Story : . PART 2
. : Barin's Story : . PART 3
. : Barin's Story : . PART 4
. : Barin's Story : . PART 5
. : Barthon's Story : . PART 1
. : Barthon's Story : . PART 2
. : Brenard's Story : . PART 1
. : Ezekiel's Story : . PART 1
. : Gado's Story : . PART 1
. : Katerina's Story : . PART 1
. : Ragner's Story : . PART 1
. : Rurik's Story : . PART 1
. : S'harahe's Story : . PART 1
. : S'harahe's Story : . PART 2
. : Silahyie's Story : . PART 1
. : Tuuli and Tuula's Story : . PART 1
. : Z'anginthel's Story : . PART 1
. : : .


Last edited by Kalon Ordona II on Fri Nov 11, 2011 2:40 am; edited 20 times in total
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Kalon Ordona II
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Re: Stories of Túlaman

Post by Kalon Ordona II on Mon Dec 20, 2010 7:23 pm

Sephiris: The Price of Peace

. : Áirhath's Story : . PART 1


~ Áirhath Aeryän, Commander of the Ssandári Mercenaries
elf ; age 182 ; 5'7" ; brown hair tied back in three places ; green eyes ; lithe and athletic ; wears a dhiláthra of slate blue, silver, and yellow ; swordsman ; wields the dilssan ; red tattoo of a fire-drake over his left shoulder & upper arm ; appears fierce, focused and commanding ; has connections among the White Council ; speaks human language ; chivalrous, focused, tenacious ; racist, show-off, romantically ignorant ; overall: kind-hearted, calculating, adventurous.


. : Name : .
Full Name: Áirhath Aeryän, Leader of the Ssandári Mercenaries
Use Name: Áirhath
Other: Commander Áirhath, or sometimes simply Commander
Played by: Kalon Ordona II

. : Appearance : .
Height and Build: 5'7" ; lithe and athletic
Description: Áirhath has dark brown hair and green-gray eyes. The set of his eyes is wide and deep; his forehead sweeps back, continuing the straight line of his nose. His dark hair is usually tied back in three places, one on top of another along the back of his head; the hairstyle complements the way his pointed ears lay close to the sides of his head. As old as he is, and leading the lifestyle he has, Áirhath is physically stronger than most elves, though his musculature is as lean and graceful as any elf's.
Clothing: Whether dressed in linen or silk, Áirhath always wears over all an elaborate cloth that covers his left side, shoulder and arm. This squared cloth, with two corners fastened front and back at the belt, two sides fastened front and back at chest height, and the rest draped over one arm and typically coming lower than the knee, is known as the dhiláthra--or, kin's-cloth. The dhiláthra is an almost universal elvish garment that displays the family colors. Áirhath's dhiláthra, of the Aeryän family, is slate blue with a thick silver border and flowery yellow patterns. Áirhath's usual garments, aside from the dhiláthra, consist of a sleeveless black linen tunic and breeches--the lower parts near his feet being decorated with yellow patterns to match his dhiláthra. Around his waist is a wide, blue silk sash beneath a dark leather belt. His feet are wrapped in comfortable strips of uncolored cloth, and are shod with sandals of typical elvish fashion. The hand beneath the dhiláthra is gloved, to protect against the poisoned blade of his knife should he need to use it. The other hand is wrapped in comfortable strips of uncolored cloth, up to the elbow, with the fingers and thumb left bare. His bare right arm and shoulder display a blood-red tattoo in the shape and likeness of a winged fire-drake.
Weapons: Áirhath wields the dilssan. A common elvish weapon, the dilssan consists of a one-hand grip with no crossguard and a single-edged blade; the quarter-inch-thick bar of steel is half an inch from spine to blade and is typically two and a half feet in length. The dilssan is extremely light, meant for elf versus elf combat--against other races, larger, more substantial weapons are the norm. Áirhath's dilssan is kept in a slender sheath strapped behind his right shoulder. Another common elvish weapon--the throwing star--Áirhath carries in abundance inside special, thin pouches distributed across his midsection, lower back, and thighs. Finally, in a sheath strapped behind his left shoulder, Áirhath carries a knife with a poisonous, pinkish, crystal blade.
Other: There is a small form-leather pouch attached to Áirhath's belt, useful for storing small herbs, vials, and other odds and ends that might be difficult to obtain on short notice.
Impression: Áirhath's appearance is fierce, focused and commanding.

. : Heritage : .
Age: 182
Birthplace: Ardin, Hern--a village situated at the source of the Saerun.
Family: Of the twenty-six elf Families in Telmar, Áirhath belongs to Aeryän. Áirhath is the only child of Alandel and Aiya, since Aiya, like so many elf mothers of less than normal vitality, died from childbirth, at the age of 246, having led a full life. Alandel lived until his 302nd year, raising Áirhath before he too--as the elves of Telmar believe--passed into the void. All elves of Aeryän, all those who wear the Aeryän dhiláthra--no matter where they live in Telmar--would be considered Áirhath's immediate family.
Inheritance: Áirhath's mother, Aiya, was a weaver. The dhiláthra he wears had been made for him by her, in anticipation of her own death. Áirhath's dilssan belonged to Alandel, his father, who was a famous swordmaster in his own right.
Other: Áirhath has several connections in high places, especially among the White Council, but he has few role models. His true friends are the fellow swordmasters that make up his mercenary group. Áirhath has not yet married.

. : Persona : .
Biography: Áirhath remembers his mother's face, the moment when Aiya named him. As most elves remember such first moments, Áirhath can still see her, his mother, Aiya, when he turns his mind toward the past. Her hair, almost completely black with age, framing an expression of such love and joy, to have brought a child into the world even at the cost of her own life, knowing her legacy would live on. She and Alandel had been married for many, many years; they were deeply in love and wanted children as much as any elf, but Aiya was too fragile, even for her kind, and it was rightly guessed that giving birth would be her final act in life. And so, late in Aiya's years, when she felt she had lived to the fullest and while she was still fertile, she and Alandel coupled often for the purpose of conception, and soon Aiya did conceive. Through her term she prepared as much as she could in anticipation of her probable death, wanting to give as much as possible to the child she could but bring into being. An Aeryän dhiláthra of unsurpassable quality, journals and writings she had written and saved to pass on, all this and more. Then, when her child was born, and she held Áirhath at last in her arms, she died at peace, full of joy, with Alandel at her side.
Áirhath's childhood was happy. Though he only had one parent, there was no shortage of uncles, aunts and cousins at gatherings. Life was not difficult in the village of Hern. The springs of Saerun Anara provided pure water, and its streams carried fish aplenty. The surrounding forest was full of herbs and fruits, and gardens and animals were kept by all. Áirhath and his father lived together close to the mountains, where Alandel taught his son all about the world, how to read and write, how to tally, even how to speak human. As Áirhath grew, he learned more and more about his mother, and read everything she had written for him, and cherished everything she had left for his keeping. At gatherings Áirhath learned to leap and climb and fight, and when he was older Alandel taught him the way of the blade, and Áirhath learned of his father's history, and the deeds that he had done, and he marveled and wished to do such deeds and greater. And his father taught him to think deeply on every matter, and to be strength to those in need, and to remember always the greatness and the glory of the elves above all other forms of life. And then, over the course of time, Alandel's days came to an end, just before the beginning of Áirhath's fiftieth year.
Áirhath became a wanderer in search of great deeds, and great deeds indeed were waiting to be done. Áirhath quickly learned the true nature of the world, and for the whole of his life has done all in his power to make the world a better place, walking the path of the blade. Áirhath established the Ssandári Mercenaries when he was ninety years old, since a number of like-minded swordmasters had steadily joined him over the years.
The Ssandári Mercenaries have earned recognition throughout elvenlands, and have even been to parts of the human land Sephalia several times. So Áirhath Aeryän grew wise and strong, great in knowledge and rich in friends. Now, he is about to face an adventure greater than any he has ever experienced.
Motivation: Áirhath carries in his heart his mother's love and his father's teachings. He has also come to care for each of his fellow swordmasters as if they were the brothers and sisters he never had. Áirhath has never tired of adventure and the doing of great deeds, and he never will.
Skills and Talents: Hereditary talent, excellent instruction, and constant practice has made Áirhath an exceptional master of the blade. In addition, Áirhath's mind is naturally attuned to nature; knowledge of nature is both an elven racial trait and a heavy childhood course of study, for Áirhath as much as any elf. Áirhath can also speak fairly good Human as well as his native tongue.
Strengths: chivalry, tenacity, focus
Weaknesses: racist, show off, ignorant in regard to romance
Personality: kind-hearted, calculating, adventurous


Chapter One: Shadows from Light


Eldin > a forest some miles east of the southern bend of Sildálina Anara ~ night of DAY 1

The night wind whispered through the leaves above as Áirhath Aeryän crouched beneath the boughs of a large maple tree. Spread out among other trees nearby were his comrades, his family, his brothers of the sword, the Ssandári. Áirhath checked to make sure his dilssan was loose in its thin scabbard, took mental stock of his equipment, and made several other minor, miscellaneous, necessary preparations.

The Ssandári Mercenaries had been tracking a group of elven bandits for four days. It was costing them more than they had bargained for in terms of time and expenses. Finally, tonight, it looked as if they'd be able to get this mission over with. They couldn't afford to take chances anymore: this time, no elf made a single sound.

Áirhath felt alive. He breathed deep of the cool night air, smelled the scent of leaves, flowers, and the distant waters of the Sildálina river. He could hear the constant droning and chirping of frogs and insects, the rustling of grasses and ferns, and again the distant babbling of the Sildálina. The moon shone bright overhead. It was a glorious night for an ambush.

The commander looked to one side and raised his hand, giving the signal. He looked to the other side and made the same motion. As one, the elves moved forward through the forest, scarcely disturbing leaf, fern or twig. As one, like the whispering wind, each dilssan was drawn from its scabbard. The Ssandári Mercenaries were on the hunt.


Eldin > a forest some miles east of the southern bend of Sildálina Anara ~ night of DAY 1

The Ssandári Mercenaries sprinted through the foliage, coming all at once on the bandits' camp. A large number of elves waited for them, wielding small bows (elves had neither the strength nor stature to use human-type longbows), pairs of long knives, and two or three elves even bore dilssan.

Both groups, bandits and mercenaries, were arranged in loose formation. It is dangerous for elves doing battle in large numbers to be close to one another. An elf needs space to maneuver, open space free of sharp surfaces or other combatants, even allies, otherwise the risk of injury--that is, death--is too high. Aiding an ally in battle was not as simple as standing beside them and hacking at the enemy. Skirmishes between elves essentially consisted of a multitude of simultaneous duels.

The bandits let fly a hail of arrows--not toward the mercenary group as a whole, but toward one elf at a time. The arrows were light, and they didn't travel far, but even one of them would be deadly to an elf. Sure enough, one of Áirhath's number was struck down by that first volley. It was nearly impossible to dodge that many arrows at once. These bandits knew what they were doing.

The mercenaries sprinted to reach the enemy before many more volleys could be fired. Elves are quick and work well naturally as a group. Two more arrow storms were unleashed on Áirhath's brethren, felling one more, and piercing the hand of another who nearly--but not wholly--dodged them all. By that time the bandits dropped their bows, flinging them into a central area. The mercenaries were upon them.

Of utmost importance during elf-against-elf combat is to make sure no enemy gets the chance to attack from behind. Most battles naturally turned into two concentric rings of leaping, dancing warriors, with the larger group on the outside. In this fight, the bandits had the greater number. Once the battle was joined, the mercenaries in front picked their targets and started fighting, while those yet to engage hurried to do so. With more bandits than mercenaries, this quickly turned into the usual pair of circles, with the bandits making up the larger circle on the outside.

However, close combat was the Ssandári life, their specialty and their creed. It quickly became clear that the bandits were no match for the deadly dance of this dilssan-wielding troupe. After a few moments, several of the bandits fled. "Dánë!!" Áirhath called, ordering some of his group to pursue the cowards. Several did, breaking out of the circle and making a dash for it, back on the hunt. While this left fewer of the Ssandári to fight the main body of the bandits, those who left knew their commander would not have issued the order if he was not convinced of victory.

Within minutes, the bandit group was decimated, all except for the leader--one of the bandits who wielded a dilssan. "Lli!" Áirhath called, before anyone could interfere. Their duel had lasted since the beginning of the battle, and Áirhath wasn't about to let anyone else influence the fight. Many more mercenaries went off to pursue the remaining bandits, while the rest formed a wide circle around their commander and the enemy leader.

Dilssan rang against dilssan as the two elves leaped at each other and struck in midair. The blades struck again as the two landed. Both elves swung and dodged incessantly, often leaping, almost dancing. The ringing of their blades was nearly rhythmic, as if keeping time to their dance. Weaving, leaping, spinning, striking, the duel dragged on. Áirhath's opponent was almost as muscular--for an elf--as he was. In the end, Áirhath's greater stamina was the deciding factor. At the first sign of his opponent's weakening, Áirhath unleashed a flurry of vicious strikes, most of which were blocked by the bandit's dilssan. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, and on the eighth strike--a forehand horizontal slash--the enemy weapon was sundered. Áirhath spun around to deliver a backhand final strike that sliced open the bandit's throat and ended with Áirhath's blade held out high to his side. Áirhath didn't move until the elf bandit dropped to the ground, more or less dead instantly, gushing a pool of watery blood.

* * * * *

In the aftermath of the skirmish, it was discovered that six of the Ssandári Mercenaries had fallen. Two fell to the arrows. (The one with the pierced hand managed to survive.) Three fell during the main battle. One was found dead who pursuing those who had fled into the forest; presumably one of the cowards had felled him using some clever, unforeseen trick. Hunting bandits was dangerous work, but even so, this ranked among the most costly fights the Ssandári had ever faced.

While most of the elves tended the fallen, some were tasked with gathering the evidence of their victory to present in return for their reward. That is, cutting off the right thumb of each of the bandits and putting the dismembered digits into a sack. The mercenaries' employers would burn them later on, after the Ssandári returned.

Those Ssandári who had been killed were carried to the river. There, a large cairn was put together slightly off the riverbank, into the river. The lowest quarter of the mound of stones was under water, with the six fallen comrades inside. The river flowing around the structure, while the top was covered over with more stones. Each of their dhiláthra would eventually be returned to their families, along with any other items or keepsakes the dead would have wish to be passed on.

By this time, dawn approached. Their task done, the Ssandári Mercenaries headed back to their current employers, to collect their reward.


Eldin > Érudan Dallathen, between Sildálina Anara and Anara Chunalië ~ morning of DAY 2

The sun shone in the eastern sky ahead, bringing to life the grassy farms, sparse woodland and wide fields across which Áirhath and the Ssandári mercenaries ran. They had covered more than seventy miles in eight hours, and were now just over half way to Dallathen stronghold. There they could finally rest. That is, after collecting their reward.

Ahead loomed what appeared to be a short line of tall trees. Closer, it became apparent that the trees formed not a line but a circle, a wide, unnatural circle of closely set, thick, tall, deciduous trees, their branches joining to form a continuous green canopy. This was the great stronghold of Dallathen, the Encircling Wood, an ancient haven that had even outlasted the Sixteen Years' War of times past. With time the stronghold only became more and more impregnable, as long as elves remained to tend and defend it. There were no other trees or homesteads nearby. Nearly two miles in diameter, the perfect circle of trees four hundred feet tall was a sight to behold.

Áirhath ran up the steep ramp of enormous roots--the gaps spanned by thick, taut, almost solid, leaf-woven bridges--to pass through one of the hundreds of gaps between the trees. The growing trees were joining together, one with another, and eventually they would become a single, solid wall. Already it was so, down near the roots. The gaps narrowed inch by inch with every passing year, and currently the entrances accessed by the ramps were about seventy feet off the ground. A similar ramp led down the other side of the root-wall. Elves were everywhere up in the green-lit, shady branches of the trees, but no one challenged, acknowledged or even greeted the Ssandári mercenaries as they passed through. They had been spotted afar off; they were welcome, but greetings were given inside, not at the door.

Inside, entrants were presented a breathtaking view. Once up, over, and down the ramps of the root-wall, the true beauty of the Encircling Wood could be seen, for within sight was the whole of the circle of trees. Whereas on the outside one could at most see half of it, on the inside each and every tree was viewable in a single moment. It filled all the horizon in every direction. The place was stimulating, feeding the core of an elf's being. And elf could breathe deep, here. Dallathen.

Áirhath turned and beckoned his fellows jocularly, grinning and laughing. "Ennalë, lli dhila! Ssandári, natathalia!" Come, my kin! Ssandári, to the spoil! Their reward awaited them.


Eldin > Érudan Dallathen, inside the stronghold's Command Hall ~ morning of DAY 2

The stronghold of Dallathen bustled with activity. This was not normal. It had not been this way when Áirhath and his company were here last. Even this time, the level of activity was not immediately apparent. As the Ssandári made their way across the close-cropped grass between large wooden buildings, here and there they began to see more and more signs of commotion, elves walking about or training or running to and fro with messages or on errand. By the time they reached the Command Hall, the company had to wait until an opportune moment to slip inside without getting in anyone's way. Because the Ssandári were a large group, and because of the traffic in and out of the Command Hall was high, the 'opportune moment' was long in coming. Once inside, the Ssandári moved off to one side of the entrance, to assess the situation before moving forward.

The Command Hall was not as large as many of the other buildings inside the encircling trees, but it was still an impressive structure. Unlike most simple elven dwellings built of wood, the Command Hall--and several other buildings of the stronghold--was built of crystallized deadwood, using perfect blocks of various shapes and sizes. The long process of producing such a material was a testament to the elves' patience and alchemical prowess. The polished, multicolored, marble-like result was as beautiful as it was strong. The spacious Command Hall interior was full of steps, columns, desks and alcoves, with potted plants sitting on ledges or in corners of the wall or hanging from the ceiling near the columns. The ceiling was flat, though there were different levels to it: higher in the building's center than at its fringes. The place was crowded (that is, compared to normal elven lifestyle; this was nothing compared, for instance, to a large human inn on a feast day). The Hall was divided into two areas: the larger common area--where the Ssandári were currently standing--was for officers and stronghold heads-of-staff to conduct their administrative business; the smaller, walled-off area beyond was for special vaults and for commanders' offices. The mercenaries didn't need to see any commanders to collect their reward. They'd been recruited by officers who were responding to complaints from nearby homesteads. The mercenaries were just looking for an officer to talk to--one that was not busy.

By now, the level of activity was starting to bother--and worry--Áirhath and his company. In addition, nobody stood around long enough to be asked what was going on. At last they spotted one silver-haired elf sitting down alone at one of the desks. Áirhath led the way while the others followed.

"Naeí chindya dhän lle dhanath," said Áirhath, using a traditional elven greeting: May there be blessing on your path.
The silver-haired elf looked up and nodded congenially. "Aeris nin lle san lle," he said in response: Life to you and yours. "Hána lle elecher?" What is your business?
"Lli äenen Áirhath Aeryan. Lli äenen Dan Ssandári; lli--" Áirhath had only just finished the introduction and was about to explain their business, when the officer apparently recognized them.
"Ssandári selssan! Sëlthien, sëlthien! Asteha, lle ansserarië lle erech?" Excellent, Excellent! In that case, you have accomplished your task?
"Dan hyechr aer sunndha, san lli tílen ilarda." The bandits are dead. Áirhath brought out the proof--the small sack of thumbs--and placed them on the desk.
"Sëlthien! Lli heyara dantë," said the officer, most pleased, accepting the sack. "Lli tílen naith. San ilachth: lelali nin llíredan." He stood up, and beckoned for them to follow him, "Lelali, lelali," to where the commanders were expecting them. "Nalla chathë dene lle."

'They wait for us?' Áirhath glanced back at those behind him; he was as confused as the rest of his company. The officer said he'd bring their reward while they talked to the commanders. There didn't seem to be any reason to worry, but Ssandári couldn't help but wonder even more what was going on. They followed the silver-haired officer, as he had beckoned, and climbed the wide steps--the same steps as those just inside the entrance, only more of them--to the inner offices. The group turned a corner, keeping to one side of the wall so as not to hinder messengers and other elves on their way out. Arriving at the offices wasn't such a grand experience, though, since the decor was basically the same as back in the common area. If any of the Ssandári had expected a higher level of extravagance, they were disappointed. However, when the thin, silver-haired officer directed them toward a certain desk--a considerably larger desk compared to those in the common room--Áirhath and his mercenaries got their dose of grandeur. There, behind a dark-haired elf who presumably was one of the stronghold commanders, stood a white-haired elf in the full regalia of the White Council.

"Ssandári selssan," said the Councilor. Ssandári mercenaries, "lli tílen hahena erech dene lle." I bring another task for you. "Daelen lle, dan Irrarsil Dhallath." You are needed by the White Council.


Eldin > near Sildena, only a few miles from the border into Sephalia ~ evening of DAY 3

Áirhath looked up toward Dhashan deth Anatar, Anatar's Pass. Anatar Aeryän, the elf lord of Ardin, long ago convinced the White Council to help the Sephalians construct a serviceable pass through the Mountains of Mist, creating another trade route that brought a steady stream of human merchants and traders into Eldin. Without Anatar, elven lands would not have had the benefit of so much more human trade. Áirhath had always been proud of his history, of the Aeryän Family.

"Áirhath Llíredan, lli aeleth heyara srénn sen nna Sildena. Sildári chyun dhanathári nnáe sundra." Commander Áirhath nodded without looking back toward the elf who was speaking. Titanya was right, of course. They should all take rest back at Sildena for the night, since the humans over in Sephalia disliked travelers coming through the pass during the night. "Naeí lle dánë sen. Lli ilith ethalë." Áirhath gave them leave to go without him. He'd soon follow.
"Háei, Llíredan." Titanya and most of the others did as Áirhath had suggested. Five stayed behind, keeping at a fair distance, to watch over their Commander.

Áirhath needed to be alone for a few moments. He needed a chance to digest everything that was happening. If the actions of the White Council were any indication, this was a very important time in history. Something big was going on, and the elves needed people like him, capable and resourceful, to find out what it was. The White Council had recruited the Ssandári mercenaries to make a short circuit through parts of Sephalia and Sakira-thani, gathering what information they could whilst playing their normal mercenary role as a cover. The plan was to return within two weeks, hopefully having answered the question: How much did other races know about the change that had occurred.

If necessary, the Ssandári would need to actually perform mercenary tasks for employers. It could be done, and it would be advantageous in several respects, but it could easily put a strain on their deadline. This was nothing like a normal mission for an employer; the welfare of elven lands might be at stake. Áirhath breathed deep of the cool, twilight air. He was more than a little anxious to have all this on his shoulders and those of his company, but he was also quite ready to rise to the challenge.


Sephalia > near Shadewood, northeast of Oliphey ~ late afternoon of DAY 4

Áirhath and the mercenaries had covered much ground. Starting before dawn, the Ssandári had come through Anatar's Pass and immediately turned west across the low mountains and high hills. During the first day through the pass, they came near the village of Cedar Brook, sending one or two of their number in to extract information. As expected, nothing of interest was learned. Áirhath wanted to get to Barocula Lake as soon as may be, for he knew that humans had a few large cities situated upon its shores. They rested that night near the mountains and the following day resumed their trek. Later, when Shadewood town came into view, Áirhath decided it was time for a rest.

“Here is good place,” said Áirhath, “not much big, not much small.” Áirhath had a rule that, when in human lands, the Ssandári would speak the local language as much as possible, except of course when secrecy was needed. All of his mercenaries understood the language well enough, but not so many could speak it well. Áirhath himself wasn't the best speaker of human in the company, though he was decent enough, and at least he didn't have much of an accent. "Ready your sword," he told them all, still unused to plurals, "but choose no fight." There was a chorus of minute clicks as almost thirty sword-hilts were loosed in their scabbards.

In addition to their dilssan, the Ssandári were now also equipped with larger straight, single-edged blades. A dilssan is a delicate, elegant weapon made for precision strikes and quick incisions, since all that is necessary to kill an elf is a single deep wound. Humans were built of a tougher mettle than elves; their blood ran thick by comparison. A more substantial weapon was needed to do more damage: the sílssan. The flat, straight-edged weapon was heavier, yes, but humans were relatively slow, so the change was balanced. Each Ssandári wore both weapons on his back, both hilts facing the same direction.

The company caused something of a stir as they entered Shadewood town. Twenty-eight elves, finely dressed in simple, elegant garments, each displaying elaborate dhiláthra, all bearing swords on their backs, was undoubtedly a sight worth seeing. The better speakers of human among the mercenaries--mainly Titanya--made clear the absence of hostile intent; this caused due relief among the townsfolk. Now welcomed, the Ssandári made their way to the nearest inn for a good meal and a couple of hours' respite.


Sephalia > Oliphey ~ DAY 5

The Ssandári mercenaries arrived in Oliphey the previous evening. Uncertain of the wisdom of dividing themselves into small groups to seek information, they stayed together and searched for some in where they might accommodate themselves over the course of the next few days. The search took some hours, for no inn had enough rooms available. Night fell. At last the elves discovered a less prosperous establishment nearer to the poorer district.

Apparently the owner charged too much for the surrounding people to pay. The inn was large, well furnished and in a relatively good location, so the man was loath to close his doors and move his business. If he was apprehensive around elves, however, he didn't show it beyond starting when the Ssandári strode through the entrance. It had been easy to convince the man to accept the elves' payment for rooms. Tired from their long journey, the Ssandári spent a rare night in contented comfort.

Secure in their acquisition of a viable headquarters, the mercenaries now spread out in groups of four to view the city. The sun shone brilliantly, though the air remained cool so near to Barocula Lake. “Years have passed since last we were here,” said Titanya. (Áirhath's group included Titanya by default, as she had been the first member of his company. Áirhath wanted each group to have at least one decent speaker of Human among them, therefore since Áirhath spoke Human well, and since Titanya was the best speaker of Human in the company, the other two spaces were balanced by elves who of Human understood little and spoke none.)

“Seven year, if recall correct,” said Áirhath. “Not much change.”

The four elves made their way leisurely through the city streets. Titanya did her best to coach them all in human as they went. By the end of the day, despite talking to a great many humans, they were unable to learn much at all concerning their investigation. It was mostly local news, with a few rumors about other cities and lands-nothing that could be connected to the general increase of energy. When the groups met back at the inn, however, it was discovered that one or two of the city folk had had strangely compelling dreams. Most did not know what to do with them, though they were eager to share. Intrigued, Áirhath decided that they would stay another day to follow this lead.

Afterward, Áirhath allowed any who wished to spend the rest of the evening enjoying the city, provided they ventured in small groups and spent only small amounts of their own money. Most of the mercenaries took him up on the offer.


Sephalia > Oliphey ~ night of DAY 6

The day had been much the same as the one before and just as fruitless. Night was falling, but Áirhath was disinclined to return to the inn without some piece of usable information. At sundown, Áirhath's group heard tell of a priest on Dove Street who had been having strange, recurring dreams. Before Áirhath could so much as head in that direction, however, a distant, wailing chorus of screams wafted over the city.

The two elves behind Áirhath and Titanya turned toward the city gates, disturbed.
“Hána ien dantë!?” said one. What was this!?
“Hána hyerna dan sildári?” said the other. What harms the humans?
Áirhath gad also turned in that direction. “Lelali,” follow me, he commanded.

The night air grew cool as the elves ran. Torches and lampposts had already been lit. More elves converged onto the wider streets as all the Ssandári headed toward the main gates of Oliphey. Humans everywhere were rushing toward the same destination-most of them wisely bore weapons. The gates came within sight; peasant folk streamed through them, fleeing from their outlying homesteads to get inside the city walls. Some were screaming, many were wailing, all were wide-eyed with terror; only a few had the presence of mind to cry “MONSTERS!” or “DEMONS,” giving some idea of the cause of their distress.

Áirhath led the way off to one side, making for a stairway onto the wall. Once upon the battlements, the Ssandári mercenaries looked out over the stone crenelations. The fields beyond were teeming with black shapes, solid shadows amid the moon- and torch-lit night. There was a collective gasp of horror as they all tried to reconcile the sight with their reality. To the elves it was like beholding, if it were possible, the incarnate power of death.

“Hána aer dantë níeurin ssulrrach?” asked Titanya, hopelessly, knowing there could be no answer. What is this new devilry?
Áirhath only stared outward in response, not seeing the group of humans climb the stairs. The men, armed with bows, arranged themselves along the wall and immediately set about firing arrows into the darkness. Only when the elves saw one of the black creatures dead, exploding into a cloud of smoke, was the spell of horror broken. Hope welled up, seeing death itself be slain. The humans cheered; the elves awoke.

At the same time, a troop of armed men emerged from the gate below, ready to defend the city. Áirhath's mind started working. The humans' arrows were not taking down the monsters fast enough. The men before the gate might well be overrun. The elf looked back inside the wall and witnessed the human families cowering in the streets or fleeing further into the city, pulling their children along with words of hopeless comfort. Áirhath looked back out over a roiling sea as black as ink, under a deadly rain.

The mercenary commander propped himself heavily by his arms against the crenelated battlements and heaved a long, calming breath. Standing up he looked to the side. Those nearest him could see the hardening of resolve in his eyes, and they took heart. Áirhath drew himself erect, rallying his brethren to come and defend the humans. “Ssandári, ennalë! Naeí lli erethendra dan sildári!”

Spoken as a benediction, Áirhath's words inspired his comrades. “Nalënän!!” they cried, let it be so, in unified response. Áirhath hurriedly through Titanya told the bowmen to aim further toward the distance. While arrows rained down on the distant, scores-strong horde, the elves would hold off the vanguard of the encroaching tide. When the request was acknowledged, Áirhath leapt up onto the wall's edge and drew his blade.

Following their leader, the mercenaries took the leap, drawing their own blades as they fell thirty feet to the ground, buckling their limbs upon landing. The elves' strong legs absorbed the shock without harm. Immediately they sprang forward, spreading out, rushing headlong toward the teeming black. Wild, varied, savage cries filled the air as the beasts got their first taste of the elves' leaping, slashing, tireless dance of death.


Sephalia > Oliphey ~ morning of DAY 7

The previous night's battle had ended in resounding victory. Following the elves' charge, most of the humans before the gate marched forward into the fray. The archers stifled the oncoming horde, the elves fell to eating away at the wings, and the humans held the line at the front. Amazingly, neither elf nor human suffered death, though a great many humans bore grievous wounds. The fighting had been over within an hour.

The Ssandári spent the rest of the night assisting the wounded humans. They would have done more, but most of the humans were none too keen to have a non-human patching them up. Perhaps rightly so, after all, since elves and humans were different in so many ways. At any rate the elves took little or no offense. When daylight came, the mercenaries received a summons from Duke Fergus, lord of Oliphey, to appear at the administration building in the center of the city.

The administration building was built almost entirely of stone, largely because of the library of records housed within. Inside, the place was carpeted and elegantly furnished. “We owe many of our lives to your skill on the field,” said the Duke without preamble, as soon as they entered the audience chamber. He was not sitting in the large chair but was standing several paces before it, considerably more informal. “Please, how may we repay you?”

Áirhath uttered a brief response in elvish, giving Titanya free rein to translate into the most appropriate Human representation of his intentions. “Your lord,” Titanya began, not quite as well versed in human honorifics as with the rest of the language, “we ask no reward. It is shame to turn away when death draws near to one's neighbor. It was our lord's honor to lead us in defense of those in need. However, so that you will feel no debt toward us, perhaps a small amount of gold, as however you wish....”

“I would be pleased to pay you an hundred and fifty gold pieces.”

Áirhath shook his head imperceptibly.
“Half so much we will gladly accept, your lord,” said Titanya.

“Then will you accept another thirty to remain for a day lest more of these monsters appear, and to fight with us once more should they again assault our city?”

Áirhath shook his head imperceptibly.
“Twice so much we will gladly accept, your lord,” said Titanya.

“Will you instead accept my first offer of a hundred-fifty, then, for both tasks?”

Áirhath thought a moment, then nodded.
“However you wish,” said Titanya.

“You are most generous,” replied the Duke. “You have my utmost thanks.”


Sephalia > Oliphey ~ evening of DAY 7

The Ssandári mercenaries' temporary headquarters had become grave and sullen. They had remained inside their rooms at the inn, puzzling over the shadow creatures until long past midday. They could find no explanation for their existence, let alone their sudden appearance and aggression. Their thoughts inevitably turned to their own lands, wondering and worrying at how widespread this cursed devilry might be. Eventually, they came to the conclusion that it was pointless to ponder the question further without more information-which they might easily obtain that very night.

Some elves then left to go about the city again, while others stayed to talk, sing, reminisce or tell stories. Some even went down to the common room. The humans' reactions to the elves and to the events of the previous night were extraordinarily diverse, to an elf's thinking. Some were depressed, many were distressed, others were angry or sorrowful or both, and quite a few seemed unable to make up their minds. The elves would sooner look down their noses at them than want to help, but they did want to understand, and they weren't above a song or two. A little singing went a long way to cheer up some of the gloomy folk.

Áirhath had remembered the previous day's search and the lead he had yet to follow. He headed to the Church of Zephiris on Dove Street. When he arrived, though, he found the place empty. A trifle confused and disappointed, he turned and left, making a mental note to try again tomorrow. Maybe they had left to be with their families before nightfall. Áirhath might have asked a human about it, but he saw that night indeed was falling. He hurried back to the inn.

Later, the Ssandári stood once again among humans upon the city battlements. Ready for anything, the elf and human warriors had gone over plenty of tactics, talking among themselves about various possibilities and imagining how they might take down different imagined creatures. Some humans seemed almost nonchalant. Some were resigned. Some were somber and brooding. The captains and officers, at least, seemed to have confidence in the abilities of themselves and their men. Several little speeches were given, most highlighting their previous victory and acquired experience. On the whole, all things considered, morale was high. Everyone waited, wondering when the creatures would appear. Eventually the night grew dark. But still, after all that time... nothing.


Sephalia > Oliphey > Church of Zephiris on Dove Street ~ pre-dawn of DAY 8

Gado had been sitting on the bed for a couple of hours, thinking. Morning approached, dim and gray outside the window high in the wall. He'd had the dream again, the same as the one a week ago that had put him on this quest in the first place. He read the transcript of the dream over and over, the one Semric had peppered with circles and underlines.

In my (dream I was flying) among the clouds, surrounded by light. The clouds were all different colors, but mostly (pink) like the dawn. I saw a woman of passing beauty hovering among the clouds. She had a shining amber face and large, deep, white eyes. There were feathers everywhere, glowing. I had a (feeling) that she was not human. I stopped flying and stood before her, hovering in the air like she was. Though stationary, yet I was buffeted by a fierce wind as if I were still in flight. The woman turned and looked down toward me, and she said: ("Come find me.") Then light enveloped everything, and then (all began to fade into darkness), and I felt myself expand beyond myself, filling all the land. I felt pain. And then I woke.

How long would he have to search? How long would Zephiris wait? They had found little of real help among the passages concerning dreams. Most of them had to do with wise prophets like Aramis Sient of Mandor. How, then, would Gado find what he needed to know? Where among the scriptures should he look? And what was the meaning of the black demons that attacked the city, night before last? The big man leaned forward and folded his hands between his knees. “O heavenly Mother,” he prayed softly, “I have failed these seven days to find you. Please guide my steps. Lead me to your temple, that I might see your face and hear your voice, according to the vision you gave me--” Scarlet stirred on the bed, interrupting Gado's prayer, but she did not wake. Gado finished softly. “Please, help me find you. ...Amen.”

Gado stood up from the bed and, with a loving smile, adjusted the covers for his sleeping wife. How he loved her. He knew everything about her. He knew what she would say, what she would do, how she would act in any situation. If she ever became lost, Gado would know exactly where she would go; why, he would find her more easily than... ... That's it! he thought. Silently he offered thanks to Zephiris. He only needed to find out more about his Mother, and he would know where she would have gone! Excited, Gado dressed hurriedly and then headed out of the room to find Semric.

As he neared the doorway that would take him into the church proper, he heard Semric's voice talking with someone. “...these past two nights. The tales I've heard of the horrible beasts that attacked us, and out of nowhere like that.... Zephiris be praised for sending you to us.”

Gado put his hand to the door handle and opened it. As he did, the volume of Semric's words increased in his ears, since the wooden door was no longer there to dampen the sound.

“What is your name, if I may ask?” said Semric.

Gado looked at the person Sem was talking to. It was an elf! He had pointed ears and long hair tied back in a curious style. His features were streamlined, his posture erect, and, oddly, he walked on his toes. His clothing was quite fascinating. In addition to quality garments of dark color, the elf wore a large, square-ish cloth draped over one side of his figure. The slate-blue cape was elaborately embroidered in yellow, and its thick border had a silver sheen.

“Áirhath,” the elf responded. “Áirhath Aeryän.”


Sephalia > Oliphey > Church of Zephiris on Dove Street ~ morning of DAY 8

When it became clear, as morning drew on, that Oliphey was in no danger, Áirhath had bidden his elves disperse to go wherever they willed. Most went back to the inn to rest. Áirhath took the opportunity to check once more the church on Dove Street. At first, when he entered, the place looked empty as before. Then the elf noticed the priest on the far end of the building, near the stained glass window.

The priest was a chipper fellow who seemed of middling age--it was sometimes hard to tell with humans, the way they aged. The man was slightly shorter than Áirhath, perhaps. He had the sort of face one might easily forget: kind but unremarkable. The priest seemed to recognize the elf instantly. It was possible, Áirhath supposed, that there were very few elves in the city besides himself and his company. The priest's subsequent display of gratitude was unexpected and refreshing.

“What is your name, if I may ask?” said the priest. At the same time, a door opened toward the right, and out stepped a much older, much larger man. Strange, the elf thought, for a human to look so imposing at such an age; they usually seem to shrivel up toward the end of their lives. The old man had a tenacious look about him, and he seemed anxious about something. Áirhath wondered what he was about.

“Áirhath,” the elf responded. “Áirhath Aeryän.”
“A pleasure,” said the priest. “I am called Brother Semric. A real pleasure indeed.” Brother Semric then noticed the older man and addressed him without greeting. “This is one of the elves who helped repel those vile creatures we've been hearing about. Meet Áirhath Aeryän.” He pronounced the elf's name unusually well, for a human. Turning back to the elf, he introduced his friend. “And this is Gado Tanager. He used to be a warden around here, some years back.”

Áirhath wasn't sure what a 'warden' was, so he afforded a slightly impressed manner and nodded his head to the man in greeting.

“Well then,” said Brother Semric, “is there something I might help you with, my good man? er- elf?”

Áirhath was about to answer, but the 'warden' fellow nudged the priest, seeming distracted, speaking in lower tones. “Sem, do you have any scriptures about Zephiris herself? I think that might help.”
“Oh! Uh...” Semric thought for a moment, “yes. You might as well start with Origins, chapters one through three. The scroll is on the left shelf, bottom left. And you might also want... the fourth book of Orion. The whole collection is on the top middle shelf. Just take them out one at a time and put them all back.”
“Thanks, Sem.” The big man made to go back through the door.
“Oh! ...Right! if you want, you could read some of the letters from Ezekiel the Seer. The newer copies are in the trunk next to my bed. They should be labeled, I think.”
“Alright,” the other replied, nodding his thanks. Then he seemed to notice the elf again, still standing there. “Ah, er, it was a pleasure to meet you, master Eryon. You should see the Lake while you're here in Oliphey. It's a right peaceful spot, definitely a sight worth the seeing.” He smiled, again seeming distracted, and nodded his farewell before closing the door.

“Sorry,” said Brother Semric, “he can be a little single-minded. He's a dreamer, that one. I'd never have guessed it. Well now, where were we...?”

“Ah, hear news,” said the elf. “I was not here, much year. Any news from past more week?” Áirhath was trying his best, but he never seemed to recall how to indicate plurals properly.
“Hmmm.... Would not an inn or tavern be a better place to hear recent news?”
“Ah... I-ah, We-do this already. I need news from one who know of, ah... life... energy... the plant and the animal... growing, ah... yes? Life. Is there more life, ah, 'recent'?”

The priest looked puzzled. More life? “I'm not sure what you mean....”
Hang it, thought the elf. He should have brought Titanya along. Áirhath concentrated, trying to think of a different way to explain it. “I people felt more life... 'recent.' 'Recent' means close today, yes? You people feel more life?”
More life.... Energy, he'd said. Was it possible that elves also felt the return of Zephiris? Semric wasn't sure, and even if he had been, he wouldn't know how to explain it. Furthermore, even if he did know how, he wouldn't be allowed to. If he wasn't supposed to spread the word to the human public, he certainly shouldn't give the information to other races. Maybe he should try to find out more. “When did your people feel this... more life?”
“Week,” the elf held up a finger, “one.”
Then he was definitely talking about Zephiris' return. Semric wanted to help him somehow; after all, the elf and his companions had risked their lives to help the people of Oliphey. Semric adopted an exaggeratedly secretive manner, to get the idea across. “My people felt it too, but I may not say. You should go to Telmural, the capital of Sephalia. The priests at the High Temple of Zephiris might be able to tell you something about the 'more life.'”
“High Temple of Zephiris,” Áirhath repeated, earning an approving nod. “Danael," he said, genuinely grateful. "Thank you.”

So the humans thought it was something to do with their goddess, Zephiris. Áirhath wasn't sure he needed to go all the way to Telmural, but at least now he had knowledge, options, and a possible destination. He'd had a feeling he would find an answer at this place. His instincts had been proven correct; it was a good lead, and Áirhath was more than pleased. The Ssandári were finally making some progress in their investigation.


Sephalia > Oliphey > on the shores of Barocula Lake ~ morning of DAY 8

“Ah, er, it was a pleasure to meet you, master Eryon. You should see the Lake while you're here in Oliphey. It's a right peaceful spot, definitely a sight worth the seeing.” That's what the old man had said. Eryon indeed!

Áirhath Aeryän had followed the advice, and he now stood on the shores of what might have been an ocean for all that no opposite horizon was visible. Áirhath breathed deep of the morning air, wet with dew, cold in a stirring breeze, sweet of scent for the freshness of the lake waters. The sun warmed his back and painted everything in vibrant colors. The elf took another breath. The faint scents of fish, wood, mud and trees added their unique touches to the overall experience of this morning.

Áirhath stood there for several minutes, letting himself meld with his surroundings. His dhiláthra, his kin's-cloth, fluttered in the chill, moving air, tugging softly on his left arm. Here and there a few birds chirped in sporadic patterns. The sound of shallow, lapping waves was a steady rhythm to accompany this orchestra of senses. The enormous presence of the lake itself magnified the moment indescribably.

Far to his left, Áirhath suddenly heard a sound. It was a woman's voice, singing. As the song progressed, Áirhath began to recognize the voice, and he drew toward it. Despite the distance, he could distinguish the words clearly. Beginning softly, like a whisper, the touching melody slowly gained strength and volume. The simple words moved his heart.

“Lle chant, alaeith hirrith,
“Alaeith theien, alaeith thechrith,

“San lli, ha thendíri,
“Sunn san chiri. Lli ithendra.

“Lle ennal
“San heth lli
“Undra nnáe
“Hyelenal.

“Dantë hyelle aen echeral
“An telärdël ich ichdhanath.

“Lli hyelen
“Ethin lle,
“San lli chyärd...

“Draei diral chara deth then,
“Tílenn nin lle srénn,
“Ethinári cherathel.

“San deth anar,
“An lle chyánt lli,
“Thaera san surëi...

“Char hyelle, hath ha ärrh
“Hyun ennen....”

The long, final note echoed across the lake as Áirhath came close enough to see who it was that sang with such strong and beautiful emotion. It was Titanya.

As soon as she saw him, Titanya disappeared like a startled deer... but not before Áirhath caught the sudden wave of red that colored her face.
“Titanya...?” he called, in a voice rendered too soft for anyone to hear. “Chathë...” Wait... But she was already gone.

The sunlight abruptly faded, and Áirhath turned to see rainclouds moving in from the east. Already they were shedding a light downpour over the roofs of Oliphey. The elf stood there, puzzling still over what he'd seen and heard. Titanya's song poetically recounted the way she and Áirhath had met. Áirhath had always thought of her as his most trusted friend, but Titanya had sung with such emotion. What did it mean?

In those few minutes, the clouds had invaded the lake's skies, and Áirhath felt the sparse raindrops as though they were tears.
"Titanya..."


Sephalia > Oliphey ~ afternoon of DAY 8

Áirhath was starting to feel the slow rain. His head and shoulders were just beginning to feel damp. The elf had walked slowly from the lake back to the city, deep in thought. He'd thought he knew all about Titanya. After all, she'd been with him, even at his side, for almost a hundred years. She'd been fifty-one when he'd met her; they were now both more or less on either side of middle years, she at 143 and he 182. Did he really know so little about her? That song... it had been no frivolous flight of music. They were words of the heat, spoken from the heart. He'd never seen her run away from him before.

Áirhath had been stuck in this loop of thought for the whole length of his walk. He was only half aware that he was nearing the inn where he and his elves were staying. Where Titanya probably was. He wasn't sure what he would say, if he managed to say anything. Maybe he ought to go somewhere else for a little while.

About this time Áirhath noticed a sudden movement—or rather, movement suddenly cut off. He looked over. A younger elf was staring at him. She wore no dhiláthra, but she was definitely an elf. Áirhath was glad to have an excuse to slip back into his own language. “Eltheran, éri," he said. "Aeris nin lle san lle.” Greetings, as toward a younger. Life to you and yours. “Dene ha sildári dallann... anndra lle naer hathil teldan.” He admired the bravery she must have to be alone in a human city, though inwardly he felt she didn't have enough pride in her own kind if she went without her kin's-cloth. He wondered which Family she was from. “An aer lle dhila?”

She was almost the same height as Áirhath, pale-haired with soft gray eyes. Her clothing was an odd mix of styles. It looked like pieces were taken from all three races. “Aer lle sëltha?” Are you alright?”


Sephalia > Oliphey ~ early evening of DAY 8

Darta came to an abrupt halt when she’d rounded a rain-soaked corner of a stucco’d home and spied Áirhath. She’d been gearing up, measuring every word she’d planned on using when she spoke to Áirhath. She hadn’t been on her own so long that she would have forgotten the correct forms, but she was more concerned about how to explain herself to the Mercenary Captain. The effect of coming up on Áirhath before she’d been completely able to steel herself was rather disastrous. All of her carefully planned speech flew from her mind.

She touched her heart as a SpellSinger would and greeted him in the Elven tongue, "I see you. Life to you and yours.” His kind, if formal greeting made her rather self-conscious of her lack of kins-cloth. But, she’d given up the right to wear it when she chose exile; at least in her own mind. Bowing slightly, Darta continued, not closing the distance between them just yet. "I am…” She paused, "I was Ellidartha Surärrhë. I…know you.” She smiled unevenly at the tall Captain. She finally stepped closer to him, the rain slicking her hair against her head unnoticed. "If I may? Might I have a moment of your time?” She paused again, so unsure of having approached the Mercenary Captain without Katerina with her. ”I would speak of the shadow creatures with you.”

Darta smiled softly; his effect on her was no less today than it had been years before. But, from his greeting she knew that he didn’t remember her nor did he think of her. It had the effect of dashing all such foolishness from her mind; like a bucket of ice cold mountain water thrown in the face of a drunkard. Gathering herself she swept her hand toward the tavern where she’d expected to find him, ”If you would permit? May we continue to the Inn to speak further?"

Darta waited for Áirhath to nod his assent and turn toward the Inn once more before she made to follow him. They didn’t speak until inside the warm common room and out of the cold, misting rain of the city. There were perhaps a dozen Mercenaries in the common room, eating their meals and tending their weapons. As one, they looked up and acknowledged Áirhath as their Captain and then Darta felt their eyes fall upon her. She lifted her hand to touch her heart once more and nodded to the room in general. She greeted them in their native language. ”Long life and the warmth of the sun upon you.” She self-consciously brushed her slender hand down her right side where her kins-cloth should have been and waited for Áirhath to settle at a table where they might talk privately.

Once seated and drinks delivered, Darta drew up her courage and spoke to Áirhath quietly in their native Elven language. ”Captain, I understand that you have assisted in defending the city against the shadow beasts.” She paused and then continued without waiting for him to confirm or deny. ”I am part of a merchant caravan with a fine Captain and we too have been attacked along the trail. We lost a few good people.” Darta paused to sip from her warmed ale. ”My Captain has had dreams. Dreams she tries to hide from the rest of us. But we see how it weighs upon her mind. Even now she is at a place of worship for Zephiris.” She lowers her head in thought, ”I was once in training for the use of magic. I was educated in many things. It is my belief that the shadow creatures and the dreams that plague my Captain are related.”

Darta sat back against the wall behind the bench she’d sat down at. In the common language, she added, “I know we will go in search of the meaning behind the attacks. I know my Captain will not rest until her people are avenged.” She lifted her eyes to meet Áirhath’s fully for the first time and finished in Elven, "I ask…no. I beg you to come to meet my Captain. To hear what she says and perhaps to join us to find the source of these beasts.”



Last edited by Kalon Ordona II on Tue Sep 13, 2011 2:31 am; edited 8 times in total
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Re: Stories of Túlaman

Post by Kalon Ordona II on Mon Dec 20, 2010 7:23 pm

Sephiris: The Price of Peace

. : Barin's Story : . PART 1


~ Lord Barin Mirland, mercenary leader of The Hawks
human ; age 52 ; 6'2" ; auburn brown hair and full, well-trimmed beard ; deep brown eyes ; athletic and muscular ; indigo tattoo on her lower back: a triangle with a horizontal line through it ; wears simple clothes, leathers, chainmail and much flexible plate armor, plus a T-visor helmet ; wields sword, shield engraved with Hawks emblem, and dagger ; also wears a plain silver hawk hangs from a necklace, under the armor ; appears commanding and somewhat grim, noble and yet rugged ; used to be a noble ; skilled with sword, shield, and halberd ; practical fighter ; somewhat knowledgeable of different places, cultures, and history ; good bargain hunter ; willful, determined, loyal, level headed, man of his word ; stubborn at times, short temper, somewhat perfectionist ; overall: sociable, respect-worthy, close with his men, savage-seeming toward strangers, honorable, diligent


. : Name : .
Full Name: Lord Barin Mirland
Use Name: Captain or Barin (depending on who addresses him)
Other: Sir, Lord (very rarely)
Played by: Blackrock

. : Appearance : .
Height and Build: 6'2, athletic and muscular
Description: Looking at Barin one would notice his auburn brown hair, kept short but somewhat messy. Further down, his forehead lies, a few wrinkles etched on it, the signs of a troubled mind. A short, slightly hooked nose rests between his deep brown eyes. His round, somewhat elongated face, is covered by a full, well-trimmed beard. Time has begun leaving its mark on his features, as a few gray hairs can be seen here and there.
Clothing: Barin usually dresses in simple garments. A sturdy pair of leather boots, black pants, held firmly by an elegant belt. A white short-sleeved shirt, revealing his muscular arms, and a black vest worn over it. When in battle or on the march, however, he fields much heavier equipment. His torso is protected by a burnished, but otherwise unadorned and plain to the eye, cuirass, composed of two plates - a breast and a back one, a tasset hangs from it, protecting his thighs. Chainmail leggings provide further protection, defending his knees - a pair of bending plates, his feet are covered in a pair of sabatons (though they are not elongated like a noble's). Barin's broad shoulders are protected by a pair of compact pauldrons, made of overlapping plates. Chainmail extends to the elbow, where plates of similar make to the pauldrons protect it. His hands are gloved in flexible gauntlets, to allow unrestricted use of the sword. Finally, he uses a T-shaped barbute as protection for the head. A round, steel shield, roughly 20 inches in diameter is hung across his back, the Company's symbol, a hawk, is engraved on it.
Weapons: An elegant, black scabbard hangs from his left hip, true to his style it is of fine make, but bears no decorations. Inside it a longsword lies, well-forged, the blade carries the family's symbols on it. The grip is covered in a soft leather, allowing it to slip in comfortably in the hand. It seems to be a veteran of many battles, but the quality of its make shines even after all those years. On his right hip, a dagger rests, should the need arise.
Other: Like all members of his troop, a plain silver hawk hangs from a necklace, worn under the armour.
Impression: Barin has a commanding and somewhat grim presence, he looks quite rugged, his noble demeanor washed away by his years as a mercenary.

. : Heritage : .
Age: 52
Birthplace: Sephalia, Brookstone - a town situated at the foot of the Mountains of Smoke.
Family: The only sibling, his parents have now passed away. Barin knows that he has some relatives in both Mandor and Sephalia, but has found neither the desire nor the time to contact them.
Inheritance: What he inherited from his mother and father, in terms of coin and land he has used to build up his small army. The only thing he has kept is the family's sword, passed down since the time of his great-grandfather. Being of noble birth, however, he received an above-average education.
Other: Barin has yet to marry, but that is because of his lifestyle, when and if he retires, he would think about a family. Having carried out tasks for certain high-placed people, he could call in a favour or two. His noble blood would probably connect him to someone in power, but he has yet to explore that part of his heritage.

. : Persona : .
Biography: Barin was born in the family of Ilina and Hamlar, minor nobles, of a once proud and mighty line. Hamlar was the lord of the town of Brookstone and was a noble only in name. Indeed, he went to the feasts of the grand barons and dukes, people bowed and referred to him as "My Lord" and other such titles, but everyone knew, including him, that he had little actual power. The Mirlands were an old family, tracing back their lineage to the days before the Sixteen Years War and were once one of the most powerful families in the South of Sephalia. In time, however, their lands and riches, their nobility and power, dwindled and were lost forever. Barin's kin continued their steady decline, until, one Aldemar, his great-grandfather came to power. He used his political prowess to restore some of the family's lost splendour. Aldemar formed alliances, recruited soldiers and defeated enemies, no matter what the cost. Some regarded him as a hero, others - as a tyrant, no one could deny however, that by the end of his reign, the Mirlands had become a local power once again. It was he, Aldemar Mirland, who had the family sword forged, declaring that while his heirs wielded this weapon, their kin would live on. His son, Aldric, Barin's grandfather, was not like his father. He squandered the accumulated wealth, indulging in hedonistic pleasures, spending his time in taverns and brothels, while his lands fell into misuse. He died young, before he even reached his hundredth year, but not before fathering a son, Hamlar. Hamlar was a just and kind man, he did what he could to preserve what little his father had left him, but Aldemar's fire did not burn in his veins. He was content to remain where he was and made no moves to regain what was lost. In time, he and had a son, to whom he diverted most of his attention and he led a peaceful life.

Barin, however, was of a different stock. He yearned to live in the times gone by, when he could be commander of his own army, when people would fear and respect him. Being a noble's son, he received an education that most common folk would not even dream of. He learned how to read and write, he was versed in geography and history, in music and poetry. And of course, masters of the sword (though not the best, as Hamlar could not afford them) came to teach the young noble and he eagerly learned all that they would offer. The boy seized every chance to spend time in the estate's library, which still had quite a few books to offer, reading books of warfare, studying the strategies and tactics of ancient generals. In time, Barin grew to be a strong, young man and many claimed that he would be like his great-grandfather. He was ambitious, he was daring and charismatic, those who had daughters set their eyes on him. Hamlar and Ilina had married late and were by that time already growing old, it was not long after that they passed away. First, Ilina, the caring mother and then, two years later, Hamlar, the loving father. They both died with a smile on their face, knowing that their son would continue the family legacy. And so, Lord Barin Mirland came to power and the neighbouring nobles watched in anticipation, awaiting to see how this young man would forge his destiny.

Barin, however, was not content. He knew that the only battles he would ever see would be in ballroom halls and in dining rooms, the only army he would ever lead - those who would hide behind him. And he pitied himself, even though well-liked, he knew that no one, especially in times of peace, would give him a place in the military. That was reserved for the pampered sons of dukes and barons. He could join the army as a common soldier but who would allow him? The last of the Mirlands, Lord Barin, serving along with shepherds and pig-tenders? However, he would not give up so easily. Over the last decade, the villagers had complained, first to his father and now to him that bandits and other scum were getting bolder and bolder, raiding caravans and farmholds. Barin organized a militia, gathering those who would defend their homes and began training them. During the next few years, he lead his men in the surrounding woods and hills and steadily eradicated the brigands. The peasants hailed him as a hero. Barin was pleased, for a while, but knew that this was the most he could hope for. And then, one day, after secret negotiations and much planning, came news that shook the nobility.

Lord Barin was gone. His lands, property, estate - sold to a local, well-to-do merchant. For himself, he had only kept his title (which, for some reason, to this day has not been stripped off him). It was later learned that he had gathered those lads in his village who did not wish to spend their lives with a hoe in hand and had formed a mercenary company. The nobles, were of course, dismayed - one of their own, reduced to a sellsword! Many doors were thus barred to him, but Barin cared not. And so "The Hawks" came to be. Barin led his group throughout the kingdom, recruiting here and there, using the wealth he had acquired to form his small army. His men called him Captain and carried out his orders, he finally had what he had desired since a child. Twenty years later, he still leads the Company.

Motivation: Barin always dreamed of one thing, to be in command of an army, to lead his brothers and sisters in arms to victory. He also strives to maintain the Company's name spotless, being known to never break their word.
Skills and Talents: Years of fighting have honed his battle skills with both sword, shield and halberd. Barin is a practical fighter, focusing on winning rather than showing style and grace. Thanks to his education, he has knowledge of different places and cultures and possesses some knowledge of past events - although, most of it is strictly related to warfare. He never found the desire to learn other languages and as such, has only a basic understanding of Dragon and Elvish. He is quite cunning, always on the lookout for the best deal.
Strengths: Barin is willful and determined, once he sets eyes on his goal - he does all that he can to reach it. He respects those who fight besides him and does his best to protect them. He keeps a level head even in difficult situations, always trying to find the best outcome. Those who have worked with him know that he is a man of his word.
Weaknesses: Thanks to his determination and will, he can be quite stubborn at times, refusing to back down, even if he is wrong. He has a short temper, especially when his orders are not carried out. Barin is somewhat of a perfectionist, claiming that "If you do something, do it right or do not start at all", which can put him at odds with his troops and other people.
Personality: A sociable person, his men respect him because he drinks and laughs, mourns and cries, fights and bleeds alongside them. Strangers, especially more polite ones, can see him as a bit of a savage. He is, nonetheless, a honourable man and carries out his duties diligently.


Chapter One: Shadows from Light


Sephalia > Near the source of the River Amros ~ night of DAY 5

With his arms crossed over his chest, Barin surveyed the surrounding area. His position on a small rising overlooking the river Amros, allowed him to look far into the forest below - a sea of endless green as far as the eye could see. To his left, the last rays of the sun flickered, giving the waters of the river a majestic, golden hue. There was no other living being in view, his lone figure, grim and tall, stood alone amidst the landscape. The very same figure sighed and looked down, his gaze briefly passing through his hands - muscled, rough, bearing the scars of battle, the hands of a fighting man, who did not enjoy the comforts of civilized life. At that moment he wondered if his life could have been different if, all those years ago, he had decided to do away with his mad plan and settle with a more simple living. A large enough estate, respectful subjects, he would find a wife and have children and when he grew gray and old, he would enjoy the shouts and screams of his children's children. A quiet life, a simple life, a peaceful life. Barin smirked, he knew well-enough that he would never be content with such a living, that he would never sit by the cosy fireplace while, out there, people were making a name for themselves. He slowly returned to the present and glanced in the direction behind him. The sounds of shouts and clashing of steel could be heard in the distance, the campfires, small dots on the outskirts of the forest, began to slowly pop up. It meant that the time for training was over and, further proving that, the clanking of armour was soon heard.

Barin turned around and saw a colossal figure approaching his small hill. He knew right away who that figure was. And indeed, as soon as the person's features came into view, there was no doubt that this was Sergeant Ratibor. The bushy, red beard, the wild hair and, most of all, his massive build. Barin was tall for a human and there were few people who could actually look down on him, Ratibor was the brightest example. It was surprising that this man, this Avatar of War, had spent most of his life as a simple farmer, he joined "The Hawks" less than a decade ago, after being ran out of his homestead by a rival. He came to them, battered, broken - and now, just a few years later, he stood as a proud warrior, unrelenting, indestructible. No man who had seen him in battle could question his constitution and stamina, along with his practical mind, it was no wonder that he rose through the ranks so quickly. He had a great respect for Barin, the man who had helped him in his time of need. The red-haired titan spoke in his gruff, deep voice:

"Capt'n, the night's training is over. There are no serious injuries to report, every man and woman is accounted for."

The mercenary captain looked up, straight into his companion's jet-black eyes and simply replied: "Good".

Barin, however, knew that there was something more the other man wanted to tell him. Why else would he come here to simply give him a formal report? One of the corporals could have been sent to take care of that. And even if that was not strange enough, the sergeant's expression indicated that something weighed on his mind. Ratibor was a master of warfare, without a doubt, but, after all, he was a simple man and controlling his face muscles was not his forte. It was painfully obvious that he wanted to say, or perhaps, ask something. To relieve him of this uncomfortable position, Barin asked, in a slightly annoyed tone:

"Is there something else, Sergeant?"

"Y-yes, sir. I know it's not any o' my business, it's not like he's one o' me boys...but" - a short pause followed - "But..see, it's Rin, the man's been acting bloody strange lately..."

"I will talk to him, do not worry, my friend" - said Barin and with a nod of his head hinted to Ratibor that he was dismissed. The other man slammed his mailed fist at his breastplate, saluting his captain and then swiftly departed.

Barin turned around towards the river once more, running his hand through his beard, deep in thought. Rin was the other Sergeant and was, apart from the Captain himself, the oldest member of the company. It was he whom Barin had met back in Brookstone, it was with him that he laid the foundations of "The Hawks" and it was he that gave advice to the still inexperienced and young noble. In short, Rin was instrumental in the creation of this small army. The man was a veteran mercenary, having been one since his teens and he knew no other life, despite that, he had a family - a loving wife and three children. What coin he earned he sent back home, keeping only a small portion for himself. He knew where the good deals were and who was trustworthy, it was thanks to him that Barin and his group of peasants turned into a real troop of mercenaries . In the early days of "The Hawks", he was the Captain's right-hand man, but as their numbers grew, he stepped aside and allowed younger men to assume that position, claiming that "he was too old for that sort of work". And indeed, when it came to age, Rin had no doubt seen the most winters of any man or woman in the company. Nevertheless, he was still a fearsome combatant and his men knew better than to question his orders, lest they feel his iron hand on their necks. (it was well-known that he was a harsh taskmaster, but he cared for the men under his command and they respected him for it).

The Captain continued standing on the hill, wondering what the Sergeant's cause for concern was. Thinking about it, he had indeed noticed that Rin was not his usual, grumpy self as of late, it was as if he was planning something, but did not have the courage to talk with his leader about it. As usual, Barin had to take the initiative, as the head of this company, it was his duty to ensure that each and every one was content. In a way, this group of mercenaries, men and women from all walks of life, were his family and he cared for them and in turn, they loved and respected their commander. Without further ado, he headed towards the camp, walking with an assured stride.

Not long after, the mercenary's camp came into view. There were no fortifications, as it was temporarily established for the night, however, a defensive ring of vigilant sentries surrounded it. As Barin approached the "main" entrance, he was greeted by two guardsmen, who saluted him proudly. Upon entering, he threw a glance to either side of the small camp and smiled - it was perfectly set up. On one side was a clearing, where the men practiced their combat skills, a few training dummies, quickly assembled with what materials could be found, stood there. On the other, the majority of tents were situated. Straight in front of him, a slightly bigger tent was located, the Captain's Tent, on either side of its entrance the banners of the company stood, golden eagles on a crimson background. When the men noticed his approach, they all stood up immediately, but with a wave of his hand, Barin bade them sit down.

"At ease, lads. Now is not the time for formalities"

And that is why his troops respected him - their Captain knew when discipline was needed, but he also considered himself one of them. And in truth, Barin knew that he could not demand anything from these people. For this was not a real army and he was not a real captain, no matter how many times that title was repeated. No oaths of fealty were sworn, these men and women saluted him out of respect and he never forgot that. Barin set by the bigger fire, around which the more senior members of the company were gathered - the seneschal, the sergeants, the corporals, some veterans and their non-fighting companions. Wasting no time, his gaze wandered to Rin, who was discussing something with Brand, the smith. Barin asked his corporals some standard questions - how were the recruits doing, were there any complaints, have there been any crimes committed, how was morale and discipline in the ranks. He then shared a few words with the seneschal, an energetic, young man by the name of Randor, about wages, rations and their next course of action. It was decided that they would travel through the forest to the town of Fenwater, at the foot of the Majestic Mountains, where they would restock and prepare for their journey to the heartlands.

After that, the mercenary was consumed by silence. He stared at the crackling flame before him, chin rested on his fist, the sparks dancing before his eyes. As his thoughts strayed and his vision blurred, they formed interesting shapes - mighty castles, snow-capped mountains, damp forests, crystal-clear lakes, bloody battles, whistling arrows...He was snapped out of his trance-like state by the song coming from one of the nearby fires. Barin shook his head, stood up and after giving the camp a brief glance, spoke to the people around him:

"It is settled then, tomorrow we march for Fenwater. Rest now, for we have a hard trek ahead of us. Pass the news to your men." - he paused for a moment and then added, as if he had just remembered - "Sergeant Rin, come to my tent, we need to talk".

As he turned around to leave, he caught a glimpse of the Sergeant, who looked quite taken aback. Barin, however, was certain that the old man would come, if only to shout at his Captain for a bit. He greeted the members of his Honourguard, clad in golden and red, standing guard by the tent. It was quite simple on the inside, two chairs, a table with a couple of maps on it, as well as a bottle and some cups. A simple bedroll, along with a thick blanket stood on the far side, the Captain had fully forsaken his noble upbringing, he needed no luxurious beds. The "furniture" was made for quick assembly, so that it could be carried in parts when the mercenaries were marching. The only other inhabitant of the tent was his suit of armour, on a stand, positioned by the "bed". Barin sat on one of the chairs and then poured some of the liquor in one of the cups. He surveyed the amber-coloured contents before drinking some of it, it passed smoothly down his throat, leaving a warm trail through his body. The captain was not mistaken in his judgment, soon after, Rin entered the tent. Barin gestured for him to approach and filled another cup for the Sergeant.

"Come, take a seat. Taste some of this, the mayor of that village gave it to me as a bonus. It is liquid gold I tell you." - he smiled, as they both emptied their cups in one go. After exchanging some pleasantries, Barin spoke again, this time in a more serious manner - "You can guess that I have not called you to simply taste some alcohol"


"No you haven't, I can bloody guess that. Spit it out, if you have to say something. - was the answer

Good, outspoken as usual.

"I will be blunt. You have a problem. Talk to me about it."

The other man violently smashed his fist on the table - "I can't see how my bloody problems are any business of yours!"

"They are not. However, when my men start noticing that their comrade and superior has issues, it undermines my authority and then it becomes MY problem!" - he shouted the last part. But he was certain that no struggle or any such would follow, he knew Rin well, the old man liked to yell a bit, slam his fist now and again, but he knew his place. And indeed, the sergeant sighed and adjusted himself more comfortably in his chair and began speaking in a quieter and gentler voice.

"I am too old for this, Barin my friend. Too old. The fire of youth left my veins long ago, but you know me, I'm a stubborn bastard, I carried on." - he smiled - "But no more, no more. I've been thinking, these past few days...my reflexes are not what they used to be, any day now some bastard will bash my head in and then - a hole in the ground is all that awaits. I have a family you know, my sons are grown men by now, my daughter - she is ready to marry. How many times have these children seen their father? You do not know this...this feeling, my old friend, you have no sons and daughters of your own. I want to hold my Katrina (that was the name of his daughter), I want to drink a pint of ale with my boys, I want to spend some time with my kin before I die, dammit! Is that too much to ask?!"- by now Sergeant Rin, the cold, stone faced taskmaster, was nothing more than an old man, tired of his long life, wiping his tears.

Barin stood up, with a solemn look on his face, he walked around the table and when he reached the bent, old man, who had seen more battles than any other in the troop, who now seemed so weak and helpless. Barin placed his hand on his shoulder and grasped it firmly. The Captain understood the concerns of his sergeant, he was indeed old and it was simply a matter of time until his time came, one way or another. How he would meet his end was entirely up to him and Barin had no right to intervene.

"My friend" - he spoke - "You are not bound to me in any way. I am neither your lord, nor your brother or father. You owe me nothing. You are free to go when you please."

Rin looked up and, after a few moments of silence, slowly stood up. He spoke again, this time in his usual, stern fashion.

"It is settled then, we'll speak more of this later. For now, let us get to Fenwater, eh?" - he bowed his head and turned to leave.

"I wish you a pleasant night." - said Barin

In response, the sergeant mumbled something incomprehensible. As usual, the captain thought. He quickly extinguished the two candles illuminating his tent and headed towards his bed. He slowly removed his boots, his vest and, finally, the shirt, he took his time - after all, he was not one for long sleep and there were still many hours till the sun rose again. While doing that, he could not help but marvel at the speed at which Rin had gone from anger to sorrow and then back to his usual sour self. It was not surprising, he thought, the sergeant was a proud man and he never wanted to appear weak. No matter, it was the Captain's duty to be by the side of his men, be it on the field of battle or on the plains of life. With a sigh Barin lied down and immediately felt the strain wash away from his body. Thoughts turned into memories, memories into visions, visions into dreams. Soon after closing his eyes, the gentle embrace of sleep took him.


Sephalia > Near the source of the River Amros ~ early morning of DAY 6

Barin woke up with a grunt, he opened his eyes, spent a few more minutes lying on his bedroll and, finally, got up. The sounds of the awakening camp soon reached his ears - shouts, a curse or two, the clanking of armour, the movement of mailed feet. The Captain smiled briefly, his men were sharp as usual. Barin moved over to the table, next to the bottle containing the fiery liquid stood a small wooden bowl. He dipped his hands in its cool contents and, forming a cup, washed his face with the water. He repeated this procedure twice, as he always did. The life-giving liquid trickled down the mercenary's hardy face, but he did not mind. After standing there briefly, he dried his face with his sleeve and headed towards the armour stand. As he approached, he started removing his clothes - the shirt, the pants, the leather boots. After that, he put on different garments, far more worn than the previous ones, and began donning his armour. He started from the sabatons and worked his way upwards. It was an exercise Barin repeated daily, so it took him little time. In the mean time, the alluring scent of burning firewood crept into his abode - breakfast would be ready soon. Not long after, he was enclosed in his shell of steel. The helmet and gauntlets he left on one side of the table, while the shield was allowed to rest a while longer by the armour stand. With that finished, the Captain walked out of his tent.

Barin squinted for a moment, as the sun shone on his rugged features. His eyes were quick to adapt, however, and he wasted no time in heading towards his officers. As he neared, the men and women gathered greeted him and he did the same. He set by the fire, Rin shoved a loaf of bread and some fried ham in his hands (as always); they all focused on vanquishing their meals. It was the same around the other campfires as well - the mercenaries were eating, few words were exchanged. It was a wholly different atmosphere than the cheerful and lighthearted one of last night. But such was the way, every men and women knew that they had a journey ahead of them and that the time for idle talks was over. After finishing his breakfast, Barin stood up, looked around and then spoke in his deep voice.

"Sergeants, Seneschal - come with me, we have matters to discuss. Corporals - ensure that your troops are ready to march. We set out within the hour."

Brief and to the point - such were the orders Barin gave. And his men knew that they had to be carried out sooner rather than later, for his wrath was great. With quick strides the four men headed towards the Captain's tent. Upon approaching, Barin waved his hand dismissively at the two guards.

"Get ready to march."

They bowed their heads and headed off. The small group entered the tent and gathered around the table. Barin pointed at an unmarked location on the map, a veteran of many gatherings, of northern Sephalia,

"We are here."

He then moved his hand to the north and tapped his finger on a small, red dot.

"This is Fenwater." - a brief pause followed - "This is our destination. It is a small, but well-to-do town on the banks of the Amros. We shall restock our supplies there. We may even find a worthwhile assignment, we shall see. Any questions?" - with that he looked at the other three men in turn, stopping his gaze for the briefest of moments on each of them. They all shook their heads in silence.

"Good. Preapre to move"

The three officers turned around to leave, while Barin rolled up the map. They were all used to these short conversations. It was not the first time they traveled to Fenwater, nor was it the first time they journeyed through this forest, what more was there to it? Barin knew that his troops were familiar with their tasks, why waste time with petty familiarities? While still rolling up the map, something crossed his mind and he spoke just as the Seneschal was leaving the tent.

"Randor, a moment if you will"

The other man turned around almost instantly and approached his Captain. Barin studied his features for a moment. The Seneschal was the youngest of his officers, having seen no more than thirty-five summers. He was the son of a merchant in Mandor and as such, had inherited his father's affinity for numbers. But the young man did not desire to spend his days locked away in some shop or the other, waging battles with countless ledgers. This lead to a conflict with his father and soon, young Randor found himself on the run. More than this he would not say, but Barin did not ask. He took the boy under his wing upon meeting him in one of the coastal cities. The future Seneschal proved to be a fast learner - even though he had wielded a quill most of his life, he soon learned to use the sword to great effect. He had spent a little less than a year as a Companion, when he was promoted to Seneschal, the Captain had recognized the leader in him. Barin's trust was well-placed, for Randor was well-liked and respected by all and his skill with numbers allowed him to get the most out of any deal. After this brief pause, the Captain addressed his right-hand man:

"Will we have enough supplies for the journey ahead?"

Randor ran his hand through his raven-black hair, a pondering expression passed through his somewhat gaunt face. A moment later he replied:

"It should be sufficient, Captain. Unless...well, it should be enough to last us for two, three, at most, days."

"Very well. You may leave."

The Seneschal saluted his commander and was off. Three days...their journey would take about two, if everything went smoothly. In that case, he would ensure that things went smoothly, no doubt about that. After finishing with the map, he set about dismantling the furniture, followed by packing the bedroll. Even though their leader, Barin insisted that he would have no servants or anything of the sort. In the mornings, he would don his armour by himself, when they moved he would pack his own belongings by himself and on the march, he would carry his share, like all of them.

About an hour later, the small camp was gone, the signs of campfires and trodden grass was all that remained. "The Hawks" had begun their march, venturing deeper into the heart of the forest.


Sephalia > Northern Greenwood ~ dusk of DAY 6

Their trek through the forest had, so far, gone according to plan - Barin was pleased. Although a large force, the mercenaries had covered a lot of ground, they were halfway there. "The Hawks" owed this to the decree that each member was responsible for carrying his own supplies and equipment, that way the number of carts was brought down to a minimum. That, and their iron discipline, allowed the sellswords to march at a breakneck pace. During their journey they had mostly followed the course of the river; Barin had determined that it would be their best source of water for the night. The small force had now paused in a clearing and the four leaders - Barin, Rin, Ratibor and Randor were debating whether or not a camp should be set up.

"We should stop 'ere, sir. 'Tis as good a place as any and the men are tired." - those were the red-haired giant's thoughts.

"Stop? Why stop?! Those sodding dogs can still march for three more hours! At least!" - not surprisingly, this was Rin's answer.

Barin turned towards his youngest officer.

"And what do you think, Seneschal?"

"I agree with Sergeant Ratibor, sir. This is a good location...if we go on, we risk stumbling in the dark."

"Risk? Since when do we care 'bout risks?"

"Enough, Sergeant" - Barin raised his hand steadfastly - "We shall spend the night here, I doubt we will find a better location. Begin setting up camp." - he once more looked at Randor - "The Amros is nearby, have some men gather water from there."

The young man saluted and hurried towards the other mercenaries gathered in the vicinity. Sighs of relief could be heard from some of them, as they set their heavy backpacks aside.

"Ratibor, have your troops chop down some trees and gather kindling material, we will need to get a fire going."

The Sergeant saluted, slamming his massive fist into his breastplate, before turning around and ordering his men to prepare themselves. Armour was removed and axes were brandished and soon the small group, lead by Ratibor, headed for the treeline.

"And you Sergeant" - Barin looked at the ever sour Rin - "Make sure sentries are posted around the camp."

"I know my job, Cap'n" - came the answer and, shortly after it, a nod as the grey-haired veteran approached his troops. He began barking orders and soon, the first group of sentries began moving into their positions.

Barin approached the rest of the company and, raising his voice, cried out:

"The rest of you! Get the tents ready! No alcohol is to be consumed tonight, we need to be fresh in the morning! A Pulling awaits anyone who breaks this order! Spread the news to your comrades once they get back!"

The warning was clear, no liquor would be drunk this night. Being in the middle of a forest meant that they had to be ready to defend themselves from all sides, at all times. He could not afford to have drunk soldiers should they be ambushed. And he used the perfect trump card for that - a Pulling. "Pullings" were punishments that were loathed by all members of "The Hawks". The carts, which were typically pulled by stocky horses, changed hands - the offender had to pull it instead. Apart from a harsh punishment, it was also a test of character, the guilty could not fail, otherwise he was stripped of his rank and departed in shame. "Respect inspires loyalty, but fear ensures obedience"- this was the thought of an ancient general, mentioned in one of Barin's old tomes. Although reluctant to do so, the Captain acted by that maxim when the need arose.

With those orders given, Barin headed towards his Honourguard, who had already planted the Company's banners and were busying themselves with the Captain's tent. He moved in to help them, while sharing a few words with his most loyal of servants.

The rest of that day was uneventful.


Sephalia > Northern Greenwood ~ late night of DAY 6

Barin's eyes opened immediately. He was a light sleeper, the faintest of sounds could wake him up. When he heard the shouts and hurried steps of more than forty pairs of feet, there was no doubt in his mind that something was wrong. Thus, he was on his feet even before Randor stormed into his tent. The Seneschal was shaken, there was no doubt about that. Pesky locks covered his intelligent, black eyes and his breathing was quickened, thanks to the lit torch he held , signs of sweat could be seen on his forehead. Barin wasted no time in grabbing his sword, still in the scabbard, along with it's belt, quickly buckling it around his waist.

"What is happening, Seneschal?" - he asked quickly

"We d-do not know, sir! You better come see for yourself, it...it is difficult to explain! I am not sure I understand!"

"Very well, lead on - quickly. And steel yourself! The men will look up to you for support; be steadfast!"

There was no time to put on armour, along with his right hand man, Barin hurried out of the tent. The two guards stationed by it followed them without hesitating, they protected the Captain after all, not the tent. The Seneschal led the small group to the north-western edge of the camp, where the rest of mercenaries had gathered. Barin made his way through the crowd (for it was a crowd a part of him noted, they were not in their regular formations) - fear and uncertainty could be seen on their faces. Shields were raised, swords were firmly gripped, arrows were nocked; "The Hawks" were ready. In the center of it all, stood the two Sergeant and one of the sentries - a veteran scout by the name of Fabrin. He was pointing at a spot on the ground, at that time Barin noticed that an arrow was stuck there. As the Captain approached, all gazes were turned to him.

"What is the matter here? Randor tells me that we have a bit of a mystery on our hands." - he tilted his head towards the man by his side.

"Fabrin 'ere says he saw somethin', but...No. Let 'im explain" - came the answer from Ratibor

"Very well, Fabrin. Speak." - said Barin dryly

The sentry began explaining himself. Some time past midnight, Fabrin had heard movement or noises, he could not be certain. The veteran nocked an arrow in his bow and slowly approached in the direction he thought the sounds came from. He had taken a little more than five steps, when suddenly a dark figure appeared a few feet away from him. The veteran wasted no time - he immediately let the arrow fly and it was a direct hit (apart from a master scout, Fabrin was also one of the Company's best bowmen). However, he was amazed when the would-be hostile simply vanished in a cloud of smoke. He readied another arrow, but by that time all traces of the creature were gone. Fabrin raised the alarm and moved closer to inspect the body. Much to his dismay, however, there was no corpse, only his arrow. He explained all of this in a hurry, pointing now and again at the projectile standing but a few steps away from them.

Barin frowned and approached the place where the body should have been. He kneeled and touched the arrow. After examining it, he removed it from it's resting place and put it in his hands. There was nothing odd about it, it was neither hot, nor cold, nothing at all. It was a perfectly normal arrow. His musings were interrupted by the shouts of one of the sentries; it was coming from the eastern side of the camp. The mercenaries turned to that direction, their muscles tense. The Captain could see, no, he could feel their fear. And while he understood why, after all they had never encountered such a foe and men were afraid of the unknown, he also knew something else. Far more important. These...creatures, or whatever they were, could be killed. If it could be put down by the bow or the sword, there was no cause for concern, at least for the time being. Barin's mind quickly began assessing the situation, a few moments later, he yelled his orders:

"Fourth troop, hold this position! If any other shadows approach pull back towards the camp. The rest of you! With me! And stop standing around like frightened housewives! FORM UP!"

The ranks were quickly rebuilt and they made haste towards the other side of the camp. At the helm stood Barin, the Captain always led his troops into battle and this time it was no different. As they approached, the situation became slightly familiar. One of the sentries was standing by a tree, his gaze firmly fixed on the arrow that had penetrated the bark. Upon noticing Barin, he neared, saluted and gave his report. His story, told in the northern dialect, was almost identical to Fabrin's. Cridan (that was his name) had noticed a shadowy figure by the tree and when the arrow had found it's mark, the target simply disappeared. Again, in a cloud of dark smoke. And again, Barin frowned, approached the tree and examined the arrow. It was perfectly normal. The only difference between this and the other perfectly normal arrow was that the current one was slightly worse for wear, due to its contact with the tree.

The Captain was puzzled, this all seemed unnatural to him. And he did not like the unnatural. Give him a foe that bleeds and leaves a corpse, the mages can have these "shadows". He turned towards his men, their eyes were wide open, out of fear no doubt. It was obvious that few would find the courage to sleep tonight. Just what he needed.

"We move out. Gather your belongings and prepare to march! We leave this accursed place behind."

He had already made up his mind on this after hearing Fabrin's story. This second shadow further reinforced his intentions. It seemed the others shared his fears, for already he could see the flickering torches move towards the camp. He followed suit and as he passed by Randor, placed his hand on his shoulder.

"Seneschal, I want double the amount of scouts around the main force. See to it."

The younger man simply nodded. There order was crystal clear, there was no need for further comments. As he entered his tent, Barin quickly began donning his armour; the sooner they left this damned clearing, the better.


Sephalia > Fenwater ~ afternoon of DAY 7

Barin was a harsh taskmaster, they had marched throughout the night and the following day. There was little rest, he had allowed them to stop once and only briefly. Most of the mercenaries were spent, but it was worthwhile. Thanks to his dedication, they had reached their target. And now they could enjoy the comforts of this town, however small, at least for a night. The scouts were recalled and they now marched alongside the main group, a reward for their vigilance during the night. Despite the twists and turns of the forest, they had led the mercenaries through the best paths available. No signs of these elusive shadows were seen for the remainder of the journey.

Due to the lack of scouts however, it came as a bit of a surpise when "The Hawks" noticed a group of peasants standing guard by the bridge leading into Fenwater. They were rugged, frightened and badly armed - most were carrying simple tools like axes and pitchforks. On the other side of the bridge, Barin noticed barricades - wagons, carts, tables and even chairs were used as makeshift walls. When they neared, one of the peasants, by the looks of it their leader, at least he could boast a shirt of mail and a spear, lifted his hand in greetings. Barin, in turn, lifted his hand - both as a greeting and as a gesture for his men to stop. He took a few steps forward, the guard quickly said:

"Ho there! Are you reinforcements?"

"I am afraid not. We are a group of mercenaries, we have come here to restock and rest."

"Mercs, eh? That will do, come, the mayor will want to talk to you."

The man bade Barin to follow him, he, in turn, gestured for Randor to come. The Seneschal gave a few orders to the Sergeants (most likely, to set up camp) and he then quickly followed his commander. As the three of them passed over the bridge, the merchant's son asked:

"What has happened here?"

The guard looked at Barin and then at Randor and he sighed before speaking:

"It's a long story, it is. Lemme tell you..."


Sephalia > Fenwater ~ afternoon of DAY 7

Fenwater was a village on the bank of the river Amros, which provided one of the main sources of income. That source was not fish or some other aquatic denizen, but instead the fact that there *was* a river. And Fenwater had the only bridge in the vicinity which allowed the passage of trade caravans. The bridge had been there since ages past and was widely renowned, "The Fenwater Bridge". It was not due to some feat of architecture, but due to the simple fact that it was always open - on the hottest summer day and on the chilliest winter night. This made it a popular stop for merchants and other such traveling companies. Not only was there a fee for crossing the bridge, but the visitors brought trade, news and gold. The other thing which brought in income and for which Fenwater was also famous for were the renowned Fenwater vegetables. The rich soil, coupled with the nearby river, made the tomatoes, pickles, carrots and other such that were grown here a real treat, regardless of who tasted them. As such, most anyone who lived in this town either worked in a tavern or on the fields. A wealthy town, it could boast houses that few other villages of its scale had. The homes of the people were neatly ordered into rows, most houses had two or three floors, something unheard of in poorer towns. Most of the roads were paved, and even the secondary, less important ones were well-maintained. In normal times, the village enjoyed a fair bit of visitors every day, as such - the town square was littered with stalls of various size and purpose. The taverns were tidy, the ale cool, the meals hot and the fires roaring. These, however, were not normal times.

As they made their way through the empty streets, Barin noticed the signs of terror and panic at every corner. Carts were turned upside down, some used as makeshift barricades, other simply abandoned by their owners. Various objects could be seen amidst the cobblestones - knives, flowers, heirlooms and even a few coins were discarded here and there. The doors were barred, the shutters taken down; from the unguarded windows a frightened face could be seen on occasion. The group of three also encountered a couple of villagers a few times. The inhabitants of Fenwater moved quickly, eager to return to the safety of their homes. On certain key points, men stood guard - some were upright, with a grim determination on their face; others - bent and frightened, as if trying to hide in the air itself. Most of them were poorly armed, carrying nothing but the shirts on their back and pitchfork or axe in hand. The Captain quickly came to the conclusion that the few well-armed, grim men were the local militia. They were probably strained to the limit, for few such village "armies" were prepared to deal with such foes. From the sergeant's tale (the man who was escorting them, introduced himself as such) it was clear that the attackers were none other than those shadows who had plagued the mercenaries. This concerned Barin, it seemed that problem might be more wide-spread than he dared imagine. Was it like this in other parts of the kingdom? It was of little importance now, they had to deal with the task at hand. By the time they had reached the Town Hall, for the imposing structure left no doubt in his mind as to what it was, Barin was well-aware of what had happened.

According to the guard, late last night screams were heard. Soon after, the sentries sounded the alarm. The local militia rallied at the town square, from where they headed to the northern end of the village. The sentries told peculiar things, of shadows that moved and, indeed, a war-band of black creatures soon descended upon them. Other men rushed from their homes, using whatever they could find as weapons; as such, no order could be kept in the ranks. The sea of black engulfed the defenders and soon, the battle turned into a fight for survival. No orders could be passed on, no battle-line could be built, it was every man for himself. When the beasts of shadow were beaten back, the defenders, surprisingly, noticed that few casualties were sustained. About a dozen men were injured, regrettably amongst them was the village smith, and two were killed. The problems arose after the battle, when fear made its way into the comfy homes. Women screamed, children cried and men paced back and forth. The militia were hard pressed to keep order. Some villagers claimed that fleeing was for the best, others wanted to stay and fight and others simply gave up all hope. Throughout the following day, they had prepared as best as they could for tonight's onslaught. The militia captain, a veteran soldier, had few good men to work with. As such, the village was ill-prepared, most barricades (if they could even be called such, noted Barin) were erratically placed, weapons and armour were not properly distributed. Overall, it was a sad state of affairs.

The three men entered the local Town Hall, like most of the village it is was in a state of disarray. Papers littered the ground, some rooms were barricaded, others were stripped bare. After passing through two of the outer rooms, the guard led the leaders of "The Hawks" into what seemed to be the main room. It was well-furnished, the few chairs and tables that remained were of polished mahogany wood. The blocks of stone from which most of the building was made, were perfectly square and, like the wooden inhabitants, were masterfully polished. On either side, small, expensive-looking windows stood, offering a good view of the village below. Thick carpets were laid on the floor, each one with an intricate design. Some of were of leaves and branches, twisting and turning like the streets of a large city; others depicted historic scenes and famous battles. On the far side, a large fireplace stood, more than capable of warming the hall. The ceiling was fairly low, as the building was not too big. It seemed that even the lucky inhabitants could not afford a truly majestic building, the likes of which could be seen in the grand cities. However, it was obvious that no expense was spared in the decoration of this place. Barin was now certain that this was where Fenwater held its meetings and welcomed its honoured guests. The warmth from the fire was inviting and the ceiling above gave him a somewhat strange sense of comfort. In different times, he would feel at home. But now, things were not such. The expensive carpets had traces of mud, splinters of wood scattered about and, as the Seneschal noted, blood stains. Two of the windows were broken and in the middle, where once benches and the like no doubt stood, a pile of arms and armour had made its home.

Near the formidable pile, a long table was positioned, around it four men stood. Two seemed to be guards, or perhaps messengers, the other two were, obviously the leaders. It was obvious from the fact that they were shouting at each other, a constant companion of a village's government, the Captain was well-aware of that. The first was a clean-shaven, plump-faced and, overall, fat man; the mayor no doubt. The second was a tall, bearded, burly man clad in armour; by the looks of it he was the captain of the militia. As they neared, the sergeant asked Barin and Randor to remain where they were for a moment. After that, he headed towards the table and told the two men something. They stopped their dispute for a moment, after which the fat man made a gesture for them to approach. The sergeant turned around and headed towards the door, muttering something about returning to guarding the bridge. Barin approached, the Seneschal by his side and he nodded in greetings to the two men. The fat man looked up, for he was quite short, and for a moment examined the mercenary, he then asked:

"So you are mercenaries?"

"Indeed we are."

"Thank the Godess! We could really use the help! I-"

The other man cut his sentence short, during their brief talk his steely eyes had continually pierced Barin.

"Sellswords, eh? Discipline is bad enough as it is, your lot will just worsen matters."

Barin turned to face the leader of the militia, he spoke louder than usual, with a firm voice. Questioning the discipline of his men was not something he tolerated.

"And who are you to talk of discipline? From what I have noticed, you cannot even get this rabble of peasants to erect a proper barricade. Your leadership qualities are lacking." - he paused, letting the words sink in; the other man was about to speak again, but Barin raised his hand commandingly - "Silence!"

The former soldier was taken aback, it was obvious that nobody else in the village dared talk to him like this. But Barin was daring and ruthless, he would not be talked down by some peasant commander. Quite calmly, he turned his head towards the mayor again and spoke in his usual, calm, deep voice:

"I assure you, my men are well-trained and know how to fight. If you will have us, we will help you rally the villagers and defend the town."

"Good" - spoke the fat man - "We will need your services for this night only, we have already dispatched a runner to the baron. He will send troops to help, no doubt. With your help we should be able to distribute this equipment" - he tilted his head at the pile behind them - "After that, our own militia should be able to handle matters, until the baron's men arrive. What say you Slavin?"

Slavin, the militia captain, had regained control of his emotions and replied:

"If that be your wish. My men should be able to handle any problems, as we showed last night; but help will be..." - a brief hesitation - "...welcomed."

"Of course, our services are not freely granted."

"But, please! Do you not see the situation we are in?" - this bluff came from the mayor, who was probably a merchant, noted Barin.

"Ah, come now. You are a well-to-do town, that much is obvious. Few could afford a place such as this." - he waved around - "Naturally, we do not impose anything on you. Should you decline, we will simply defend our camp if need be."

The mayor looked at Slavin and back again at the Captain

"Fine, mercenary. Name your price."

Barin paused, stroking his beard. They were indeed wealthy, but they were still simple villagers, he could not expect to receive the same amount a noble would pay. After a brief consideration, he spoke:

"Well, my men are professionals, they do not shy away from battle and know how to hold their ground. Having that in mind, I think that..." - he turned towards Randor - "...what say you, Seneschal?"

"A hundred gold pieces."

"Yes...a hundred should be enough to pay for our services. A reasonable price, I assume?"

"What?! This is robbery!" - said the mayor - "I can scrape fifty and not a coin more."

"Fifty? Do you take us for some adventuring group? I have forty strong men and women under my command. I doubt your baron would send you more than that."

"Hmmm, what about fifty-five?"

"Seventy, that is my final offer."

"Sixty! I cannot give more than that."

"Very well. Sixty gold coins it is. Ten in advance, the rest we will receive on the morrow. Have we reached an agreement?"

The short man looked at Slavin, who noded. The captain of the militia extended his hand.

"Agreed."

Barin noded and grasped the offered hand, which he shook firmly. Slavin had a strong grip, even despite his age (there were signs of white amidst his hair) and settled life, it seemed that the veteran maintained his physical strength. The mayor took out a pouch and with the quickness of a seasoned merchant counted ten gold coins, which he offered to Barin. The Captain, in turn, nodded towards Randor, who took a step forward and pocketed the coins.

"Seneschal, tell the men to rest and prepare themselves, there is still time before night falls. In the mean time, I will help Slavin rally the militia."

Randor nodded, saluted and departed. Quick, without much formalities, just as Barin wanted it to be. He was pleased with the amount of coin received, a hundred was just a number he made up. In fact, the Seneschal made it up and his Captain simply played along. In truth, he hoped for no more than fifty. He chased those thoughts away from his mind and focused on the task at hand. Peering over a map of the village he began discussing strategy with the old soldier.



Last edited by Kalon Ordona II on Tue Sep 13, 2011 4:56 am; edited 13 times in total
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Re: Stories of Túlaman

Post by Kalon Ordona II on Mon Dec 20, 2010 7:24 pm

Sephiris: The Price of Peace

. : Barthon's Story : . PART 1


~ Sir Barthon Camlin, Knight of the Order of Gedrich
human ; age 43 ; 6'3" ; short blond hair ; bright amber eyes ; prominent scar starting at the hairline, centered over the right eye ; tall and muscular ; wears engraved, blue armor ; dual-wields arming sword and falchion ; appears commanding, intimidating, and righteous ; is popular in the Order of Gedrich ; is a prodigious knight ; possesses extensive theological knowledge ; unshakable in faith, loyal in friendship ; troubled by the loss of his parents, defending of his religion--to a fault ; overall: religious, rejecting to nonbelievers, utterly respectful to believers, thoughtful and slightly troubled.


. : Name : .
Full Name: Sir Barthon Camlin, of the Order of Gedrich
Use Name: Barthon
Other: Sir Camlin
Played by: Silvone Elestahr

. : Appearance : .
Height and Build: 6’3”, tall and muscular.
Description: Barthon has bright amber eyes, drawing him constant compliments as he grew older, and short blonde hair. His face has also garnered Barthon compliments and attention. A solid chin, with prominent cheek bones and soft set eyes, Barthon has the face of stone with eyes portraying a deep well of emotion. There is a prominent scar running deep into his hair, starting at the hairline on his forehead, centered over his right eye. A well-toned, strongly muscled body speaks of years of intense training. Several scars, large and small, that mark his arms and chest, are testimony to the battles Barthon has fought in. The mark of his Order is branded onto the skin of his right shoulder blade. The mark is a cracked dragon skull struck by three bolts of lightning, with the middle bolt, signifying Gedrich with the color of blue, more prominent than the other two, red and green, bolts. His skin is lighter than most humans, as Barthon is forbidden to remove his armor, with the exception of his helmet and gauntlets, unless resting in his own order’s barracks.
Clothing: Barthon does not wear any clothing except for small shorts and a tight wool shirt worn under his armor. Barthon’s armor, colored blue, is engraved along the edges with lines from the Sephiris religious texts. His shield depicts the same symbol as the brand on his shoulder. The helmet, with a thick visor carved in the form of dragon fangs, is topped with a blue plume. The chest plate is engraved with an important scene from their religion, the creation of the symbolic first human receiving the gift and burden of Righteousness from Sephiris, which the Order of Gedrich strives to uphold. Barthon’s gauntlets, lined with scripture, also have dragon bone inserted into the knuckle pieces, sharpened to a point for hand-to-hand combat. The bone symbolizes the defeat of the warlord Gsanarkath with the aid of his own daughter, Sakira. Each of his two swords scabbards are engraved with scripture concerning their willingness to uphold Righteousness at the cost of their own life.
Weapons: Barthon uses two swords. One is an arming sword, commonly referred to as a “knight’s sword.” Used for both cuts and thrusts in combat, the arming sword has excellent balance. The blade is two and a half feet in length, and the hilt, six inches long and making the sword three feet long in its entirety, is decorated with several symbols of the Sephiris religion.
The other sword is a falchion. Slightly less than two pounds in weight, with a blade two and a half feet in length, the falchion’s shape almost resembles a meat cleaver. But it combines the weight and power of an axe with the versatility of a sword. The hilt is carved with more holy scripture and the crossguard is gilded in gold.
Other: Barthon wears an amulet around his neck, under his armor, bearing the same mark as on his shoulder and shield. The amulet is silver, with the bolts colored accordingly and bordered by a blue circle. On the back are engraved the words “Sir Barthon Camlin of the Order of Gedrich, Righteous protector of the people of Sephiris.” Barthon also carries small pouches along his waist underneath his chest plate that contain maintenance supplies for his armor and weapons, as well as a lode stone for sharpening his blades. There is also a pouch for gold.
Impression: Barthon has a commanding presence. His armor alone is enough to show his conviction, but his stone set face and solid stare usually get him through most situations.

. : Heritage : .
Age: 43
Birthplace: Barthon Camlin was born in the city of Aram, on the south east side of the Blue Mountains, north east of the River Swift. The city was named after the prophet Aramis Sient, and has remained a prominent religious city in Mandor.
Family: Barthon was the son of a Knight of the Order of Gedrich, Aldor, and a castle maiden named Bellas. Barthon would later learn of an uncle living somewhere in Sephalia, but has yet to meet him.
Inheritance: Barthon was tutored initially by his father, and later by his father’s friend, Walter Drake, for induction into the Order of Gedrich. Barthon grew under his father’s shadow, but soon created a reputation of his own as a devote follower of their faith, and a Righteous Knight for the Order of Gredich. Barthon inherited his father’s armor, though he does not wear it. He instead keeps it in the Order barracks.
Other: Barthon has inherited his father’s popularity in the Order. There are many knights who would be willing to help him, as well as superiors, in the Order and the Church, who might aid him if they could.
Barthon had spent a significant amount of time with a woman from the lower orders of the church in Dor, though she returned there recently. He does not expect to see her again, though he thinks of her often.

. : Persona : .
Biography: Barthon’s parent's romance was kept secret for a number of years, until his mother, Bellas, became pregnant at the age of 25. His father, Aldor, nearly lost his standing in the Order, but was allowed to quickly marry Bellas before their son, Barthon, was born. Because of his high standing in the Order, their wedding ceremony was very ornate and expensive, and the bishop of Aram himself attended.
Aldor died of a sickness at the age 38 when Barthon was only seven. He had just begun his tutelage under his father for his induction into the Order. His tutelage was then passed to a friend of his fathers, Walter Drake. His mother died the following year, of what everyone told Barthon was a broken heart. Barthon would learn as an adult that his mother had committed suicide.
Barthon would continue on in his training to become a very high-standing knight of the Order, beginning his knighthood at 18. He was awarded the Amulet of the Order at the age of 39, a rare achievement for a knight so young, for his devotion to the ways of the Order and their faith. Barthon has just received orders from his superiors that they have a quest of utmost importance for him.
Motivation: Barthon is motivated by his father’s own reputation, as well as his devotion to his faith.
Skills and Talents: Barthon has trained for years as a knight of the Order of Gedrich. He has been trained in a variety of weapons and combat forms, though he prefers fighting with two swords, a falchion and an arming sword. He has had experience as a leader, though he knows when and how to follow orders. He has also had extensive education in their religion, and has read most of the scriptures and memorized the religious symbols and historical scenes and engravings.
Strengths: Barthon’s devotion to his faith and Order, and their code of upholding Righteousness, will carry him to sacrifice his own life if necessary. He is a devoted friend to anyone who upholds honor and faith, or who has displayed acts of kindness and deserves it in turn.
Weaknesses: Barthon carries an emotional burden from the deaths of his parents. He is also extremely devoted to his faith and Order. Slights against either are often enough to enrage him and cause him to act rashly. But Barthon is also known to be very sensitive at times; though he doesn’t open up to anyone he hasn’t known for a good length of time.
Personality: Barthon is a very religious man, and he has had extensive military training. He has little patience for people who don’t take him or his faith seriously. But he has utmost respect for anyone who simply takes the time out of their day to practice their devotion to their faith with the simple daily rituals practiced by the church. He carries an emotional burden from losing his parents, despite his strict military upbringing. This “softness” often earns him ridicule from his own friends of the Order.


Chapter One: Shadows from Light


Mandor > Aram > barracks of the Order of Gedrich ~ morning of DAY 1

“Sir Camlin. Lord Drake has requested your immediate presence in Court of Virtues.” Barthon Camlin nodded to the page, the young Simion Altus. Simion served Barthon as a servant in the barracks. The boy had only four more years left as a page before he graduated to a squire. Barthon thought he had done rather well with the boy so far, though he knew Simion still had a lot to learn. Simion straightened from his bow and, without making eye contact, skittered off to complete his daily chores.

Lord Walter Drake was a high-standing knight in the Order of Gedrich. He had trained Barthon personally after his father, Aldor, died of sickness. Lord Drake had done what he could to guide Barthon to success in the Order. Barthon owed Lord Drake everything, and when Drake called for him he didn’t waste time. Barthon walked through the long second-story hall of the barracks to his room. Lord Drake had requested his presence in the Court of Virtues, but to leave the barracks without adorning his armor would have him expelled from the Order, stripped of his knighthood, and left in the streets of Aram.

Barthon pushed open the heavy wooden door to his own room. The rooms of the knights in the Order were all simple and small. They had to be because of the fact that they were individual rooms rather than one shared area, like the pages and squires had. There was a bed against the wall to his left, a window looking out over the training grounds in the wall across from the entrance to his room, and two stands of armor against the wall to his right. Most knights needed only one stand for their armor. Barthon, however, had inherited his father’s armor upon his induction into the Order and his “knighting” under Lord Walter Drake. Barthon moved toward his own armor stand and began pulling down the armor, adorning it himself piece by piece. He didn’t wear his father’s armor; he likely never would. But he was comforted in having it there.

Fully armed and armored, helmet held under his left arm, Barthon marched out of the barracks to meet Lord Drake. The barracks themselves were rather large as they supported a fairly large number of knights. The Order of Gedrich was a very prominent Order in Mandor, and they held a great deal of political power in Aram. The long hall, which led off to other areas and storage alcoves, took Barthon directly to the stairway to the first floor. From there he made his way to the stables behind the barracks, exiting through a large set of heavy, wooden double doors. Barthon nodded to the squire standing at the entrance of the stables, and the squire sprinted off to retrieve his horse.

Barthon ran his finger along his favorite line of scripture, engraved along the wrist of his left gauntlet, as he waited for the squire to return with his horse. The scripture spoke of his duty to uphold Righteousness in the lands, through the use of either politics or weapons. Barthon had taken that duty to his heart, and he wouldn’t fail in that duty if it cost him his life. The squire returned with a large stallion, a destrier war horse, brown in color with a spot of white on its chest. While the knights typically preferred palfrey’s for city riding, Barthon didn’t want to waste the time. He was often sent on missions of great import, and he didn’t want to have to return to the stable to grab his destrier later.

The squire returned to his post as Barthon put on his helmet and mounted the destrier, whom he had named Aramis after the famous prophet of his own beloved city. While the prophet, perhaps, would not enjoy having his name passed onto a horse, the destrier had proven itself to be very loyal and dependable. It was the qualities, Barthon reassured himself, that were important. Barthon led Aramis out of the stable yard and into the wide streets that surrounded the barracks. The great city rose up around him, grand buildings of stone that portrayed the richness of his people not only in economy but in culture as well. Noble’s manors, bazaar’s filled with elegant shops, courtyards filled with artistic fountains and towering trees. At the center of this section of the city, surrounded by a spiraling road and buildings, stood the grand castle of Aram. Barthon’s Order was lucky to have established their barracks here, as most Orders were set up in the second district of the city, outside the walls surrounding the castle’s inner district. This was yet another sign of the importance of the Order of Gedrich in the city.

The Court of Virtues was not far from the barracks, and Barthon made haste. The road followed the curve of the wall surrounding the district, slowly spiraling inward toward the castle. The Court of Virtues was an open courtyard containing a central dais surrounded by many stone columns. The columns were carved with scenes and symbols of their religion, mostly pertaining to Zephiris herself. The dais and columns were themselves surrounded by a small river, which was itself spanned by three wooden bridges. Beyond the water, surrounding its entire circumference, were stone benches. Important leaders of the church or nobility often spoke here in the Court of Virtues, standing on the central dais, and the stone benches were often filled. But the courtyard was currently empty, except for Lord Drake.

Lord Drake was sitting on a bench facing toward the central dais. His blue armor kept him sitting upright and erect, though Barthon was sure his posture wouldn’t have changed without it. Barthon slipped off of Aramis and removed his helmet, tied the destrier to a post, and walked up to the knight.

“Lord Drake,” Barthon said as he bowed before the knight. “You requested my presence.” Barthon remained bowed until Lord Drake addressed him.

“Yes, Barthon,” he said, standing and placing a hand on Barthon’s shoulder to signal him to stand as well. “Please, dispense with the formalities. We have been friends since your father died, and while I respect your devotion to tradition, there is no one around to notice any deviance.” Barthon nodded, but he didn’t quite relax. Lord Drake was many years his senior, and it had been several years since he was forced to partake in the knights’ rigorous training schedule. The habits drilled into the knights were hard to let go of in a single day. But Barthon knew he could address him by his first name, at least.

“What is it you need, Walter?” Walter stared at Barthon for a few moments. Barthon knew he was studying him again, judging how far his training and battle experience was taking him, determining how closely he resembled his father, Aldor.

“There is a gathering in Dor. I want you there. And take Simion with you. I’m sure he can learn a great deal from this.” Barthon shook his head.

“I don’t understand. Why do you want me to go? Do you expect trouble?” Walter shook his head, smiling.

“No, I don’t expect any trouble. In fact, quite the opposite. Something is happening that has the Temple in an uproar. Rumor has it...no. You will hear all about it when you arrive.”

“What?” Barthon asked, intrigued. “I would like to know what it is you are sending me into.” Walter hesitated a few moments before finally speaking.

“It’s Zephiris, Barthon. The priests are whispering about her return. Unfortunately, no one seems to know where she is. They are organizing a hunt. Well, organizing isn’t the proper word for it. They are sending an unorganized rabble of soldiers, knights and adventurers to search the four corners of Telmar. And that is why I want you there. The Order of Gedrich is the most trusted Order in Mandor. You, in my humble opinion, are our most trusted knight. Who knows what trouble the others will cause? I trust you will do what you can for our Righteous cause, for the good of our kingdom and our people.” Barthon was stunned: Zephiris had returned? What did this mean for their religion? What would it mean for the other lands, the elves and the dragons, and their uneasy peace with them? Barthon knew in his heart that he couldn’t turn this mission down. And he wouldn’t fail.

“I will find her, Walter. On my life and my honor, I will find Zephiris before the others, and we will ensure she is able to do what is prophesied.”

”I trust you will, Barthon. In fact, I know you will. Ride immediately with Simion to Dor. The meeting is in three days. Don’t miss it. And do yourself a favor and say hello to Jeanne.” Barthon smiled, and quickly bowed again. He hadn’t heard from Jeanne in months. He wasn’t even sure she still remembered he existed. Their time together had been brief before she had to return to her duties in Dor.

Barthon took his leave of Walter, riding back to the barracks to collect Simion and what few supplies he would need for the journey. Barthon’s heart was beating intensely in his chest. He was being entrusted to search for Zephiris, above all others in the Order! That meant a great deal to him, after everything he had given the Order. This would be greatest mission ever undertaken, and Barthon would be at the heart of it.


Mandor, Aram, Gateway, Lower District ~ morning of DAY 2

Barthon rode comfortably atop his stallion, Aramis, his destrier war horse. Simion Altus, Barthon’s page boy, was riding Barthon’s palfrey, a grey horse fit for light, easy riding. Simion stayed to the left of Barthon, slightly behind his great destrier. Aramis would not have tolerated the palfrey’s presence any closer. They rode in silence down the Gateway, the great street that cut through the Lower District of Aram. The city, built slightly along the mountainside, sloped downward toward the southeast. The Lower District was nearly level with the plains beyond the outer wall. The two inner districts rose up along the mountainside, with the castle in the inner district sitting above the city with a grand view over the surrounding terrain. The city, viewed from a distance outside of the walls, was a grand sight indeed as it seemed to be a part of the mountain itself.

The Gateway led to the gate itself. The street was lined with residential buildings, small stone and wood structures that housed the many middle and lower-class families of Aram. The area was considerably nicer than most cities Barthon had visited in his life: Aram was rich enough for most of its inhabitants to live in comfort, even here in the Lower District. Unfortunately, that didn’t prevent certain shady spots from cropping up. Barthon knew of a few Orders in the city that dealt with a rising level of crime in the streets of the Lower District. Barthon himself was not afraid to lay a heavy hand on those in violation of the laws. The king did his best to provide for the people of his kingdom, and the Church provided for many people who showed even a modicum of loyalty and faith. Only the selfish could become outlaws and brigands in this society.

As the two approached the sturdy gate, Barthon looked over his shoulder at Simion and spoke in a low tone. “Remember, Simion, the importance of humility. You have been tutored in an Order of high standing. Our ways are different…in some aspects easier. You will be taunted. Do not take their words as a strike against you.”
“Yes, Sir Camlin,” came young Simion’s response. At the age of 10, Simion was beginning to develop a sense of pride, as well as a healthy degree of self-respect. In the midst of errands, he was beginning to be introduced to a certain degree of hostility, if not healthy competition and personal pride, from members of the lower Orders of knights in Aram. The boy usually responded predictably, with the fight ending in a moderate punishment for the page boy and a wink and whispered congratulations on a proper fight. But Simion trading taunts and insults with the city guard would be outside the influence of the Order. The boy would be in for more than moderate punishment.

As the two riders approached the gate, Barthon brought his right hand up to his face plate, palm of the gauntleted hand facing inward. The salute was the tradition of the city guard, rather than the Order of Gedrich, but Barthon thought it more respectful when dealing with the city guard to honor their own traditions. Barthon would expect the same respect for his Order’s own traditions. The two guards responded in kind, and the heavy wooden gate slowly began to swing outward, both doors groaning and creaking in protest as the chains struggled against the weight. The gate’s operators remained out of sight within the wall. Small square windows in the wall allowed them to observe the outside so that they would know when to open the gate.

Barthon held his breath as they passed by the guards. He watched them out of the corner of his eye, and his gut tightened as the guard on his left looked toward Simion. But as the boy passed, he received nothing more than a playful glare. Crisis averted, Barthon thought silently. He relaxed and began breathing the air as they passed beyond the walls. Barthon enjoyed the city, but it couldn’t match the beauty of the world outside of the walls. Green plains surrounded the southeastern road, and sparse forests dotted the landscape beyond. The road was surprisingly empty for this hour of the morning. The sun had not yet risen over the eastern horizon, though the sky was grey with the hint of light. The gate was usually kept open for those hoping to conduct their business early. But there was not a single merchant wagon in sight. There were no travelers hoping to complete the pilgrimage to the remains of Aramis, the prophet, deep within the Church compound in the castle. As far as Barthon could see, the road was empty.

“What is going on?” Simion asked. “Why are the roads empty?” Barthon knew the boy often had errands to run down in the Lower District of the city. Page boys enjoyed the luxury of being able to interact with the traveling merchants and other odd characters with exciting stories to tell. No doubt Simion was hoping to at least catch sight of a few of them this morning.
“I would assume it has to do with whatever is happening in Dor. Perhaps this is even bigger than Lord Drake thought.” Barthon wondered why he had assumed it wouldn’t be big. It was Zephiris they were all talking about. Anyone was free to join the search, and they would all be branded heroes whether they discovered her location or not. The only reason the streets here at Aram weren’t yet crowded with citizens heading to Dor was because word had not yet reached the masses here. By the end of the day, with the gathering only three days away, the entire city would probably know. And then Aram would be busy again, though with more people leaving than coming in.

Barthon eyed the distant Doriath Mountains. The road would cross east over the southern edge of the mountains, passing near a great fort there, before heading south again toward Dor. Near the end of the day, they would reach the mountains. A long ride with an early start would have them at the gates of Dor by nightfall the following day. They would get a good rest before the gathering on the third day. Barthon wasn’t sure what to expect, but he couldn’t continue to delude himself that it wasn’t going to be big.


Mandor > on the road just north of the city of Dor ~ noon of DAY 3

The road south to Dor was wide and lined with waist-high stone walls. Barthon was startled by the increased traffic the closer they got to the capitol city. It seemed as if every farm and small town they passed on the way to Dor was emptying out onto the road. Simion was forced to ride directly behind Barthon as they tried to weave their way through the thick pedestrian traffic. The dust cloud kicked up by the stream of feet, hooves, and cart wheels made it hard for Barthon to breathe. The sound of people talking was louder than it was in most cities. He could only guess that they were all discussing the same thing: the return of Zephiris and the gathering in Dor. Barthon couldn’t guess how many of these people actually planned on joining in the hunt or were just going to see the great gathering.

Simion closed the distance to Barthon as much as he could and spoke up loudly. “Sir Camlin, I’ve been thinking since we first left Aram.” Barthon slowed his horse and waved Simion over to ride next to him. While it wasn’t easy navigating through the stream of people, some people recognized him as a knight and gave him a little more room than they afforded others. He took advantage of that now as he squeezed his page in next to him.
“What is it, Simion?” Barthon asked as the boy moved up next to him. The boy continued looking straight ahead, his eyes unfocused and looking contemplative.
“If Zephiris does return…what does that mean for the three nations? According to the scriptures, her return is supposed to bring unity between us and the dragons and elves.” The boy stopped speaking for a moment. Barthon was about to answer his question, but as he looked at Simion’s eyes, he realized the boy wasn’t yet done. There was something forming in his mind, a question he found important enough ask about, despite the possibility of another long lecture. Sure enough, Simion looked at Barthon and continued speaking. “It seems to me that hunting for Zephiris in the hopes of being the first to find her is…counter-productive. If the elves and dragons try to find her before we do, and we do the same, then we are not working in unity. Whoever finds her first will try to play for power, will they not?”

Barthon couldn’t help but smile at the page. Simion was indeed a smart boy, except when it came to holding his tongue when it wasn’t prudent to waggle it. The fact that he could point out something so few people could see was testament to that.
“You are correct, Simion. It will cause strife between our nations. But we now have no choice. Our leaders, King Orion and the Church, acted the same as the leaders of the elven and dragon nations: we acted in our own interests. Rather than collaborating, we made it a competition, a power play as you so eloquently phrased it.” Barthon winked at Simion. “But have faith, young Simion, that our King knows what he is doing. If we can secure Zephiris location before the other nations, we can prevent them from doing harm to Zephiris or our current peace. Instead of garnering power, we will instead do what has been entrusted to us: to act in the name of Righteousness and restore Zephiris to her proper place, as the ordinate power in Telmar. Once that happens, there will be no strife between the nations other than by the will of Zephiris herself.” Simion didn’t respond to Barthon’s answer. He had returned to staring off into the distance, at the slowly growing outline of the magnificent city of Dor. If his answer had satisfied Simion’s doubt, he gave no sign of it.


Great Highplace of Zephiris in Dor, the capital city of Mandor ~ afternoon of DAY 4

Barthon and Simion had left their horses at the Silverlight Inn, not far from the open hill that marked the Great Highplace of Zephiris in the city of Dor. The inner district of Dor was filled with sacred sites pertaining to their religion, and this was one of the largest and most used sites for ceremonies. Despite the large size of the area, the place was packed with people. The top of the open hill was covered with priests and priestesses. The high priest himself stood on a huge, stone-hewn table. Behind him on the table burned a large pile of incense, nearly eclipsed by the high priest and outlining him in a glow of flickering flames and sparks. People had long since stopped trying to cram their way into the enclosed area, and had started moving high onto the surrounding buildings to stare from rooftops or windows. Within the Great Highplace, the people were arranged by their social status: adventurous members of the nobility at the forefront, flanked by knights and soldiers, where Barthon stood with Simion. Behind them were the middle-class citizens of the cities of Mandor, all intent on doing their part in locating Zephiris, the mother of their souls. All total, there were nearly two hundred people surrounding the hill, waiting in silence for the high priest to speak and tell them of their destinies.

Barthon’s heart was racing. This was the moment he would cast a shadow over his father’s reputation. This was where Barthon would stand out in history not as the son of a great knight, but as a great knight himself who partook in the hunt for their goddess, their mother Zephiris. Barthon even entertained the fantasy of himself being the glorious knight who discovered her location and brought harmony again to the world. The glory that would bring to his Order!

The high priest raised his arms high above his head, palms facing outward toward the large group standing below him. His deep voice bellowed out from him, echoing across the hill and falling upon the hungry ears of the listeners: "Arise, ye of Mandor, you who are persuaded that our creator has returned. Zephiris, the mother of our souls, waits for us we know not where! Arise, ye of Mandor, you who will answer the call and search out the new resting place of our Goddess, the seat of her divine power! Come forward, ye willing, ye chosen; come and be marked, set apart for your purpose!"
A great cheer arose from the crowd, from those standing around the hill as well as from those watching beyond, in the buildings and the streets. The priest lowered his arms and stepped down from the table, the smell of the burning incense wafting out toward the crowd and dispelling the smells of the hundreds of dirty, sweating people. It was the smell of glory, and of hope. It lifted Barthon’s heart. The high priest was replaced by the lower priests and priestesses, who carried the materials they would use to mark the searchers: the brands and blue, liquid incense. They pulled the group forward, little by little: first the nobility, who were branded, blessed, and sent away to prepare.

Next came Barthon’s group, the knights. He removed his right gauntlet, exposing the light skin beneath. The priest wielding the brand, a tall, bald man with sharp green eyes and an almost feral grin, stepped up to him and placed a hand on Barthon’s shoulder to recite the proper scripture. Once finished, the priest grabbed Barthon’s hand and stretched it forward, palm down, and placed the brand on the skin. The smell of incense mixed with burnt skin wafted into Barthon’s nose as he clenched his jaw in an attempt not to squirm or make a sound. He looked directly at the priest, a smile etched on his face despite its own unruly attempt to open in a snarl. The priest lifted the brand away and let go of Barthon’s hand. Permanently etched onto his hand was the symbol of the Holy Knight of Zephiris, an ancient Order that no longer existed beyond legend. Barthon’s jaw dropped: he would have considered such a mark heresy had it not come from the Church itself.
“Go now, Holy Knight, with the blessings of Zephiris, our mother, Orion, our King, and of the Church.” The priest turned from Barthon and beckoned Simion forward. The boy stepped forward eagerly, though Barthon could see the fear in his eyes. To his credit, after the recitation of the scripture when the priest pressed the brand against the skin of his hand, the boy didn’t flinch. Barthon smiled proudly. Simion received the same blessing as Barthon had: while he was not yet a knight in the Order of Gedrich, he was equally a knight in the Order of Zephiris as the other knights partaking in the quest. He would be treated as an equal by the others, despite him still being under training. It was a great honor for the boy. Barthon would have to make sure it didn’t go to his head.


Mandor > Dor > the Silverlight Inn[b] ~ night of DAY 4

Barthon and Simion sat at a table near the center of the common room. Their plates were filled with sparse amounts of duck and garlic potatoes, all that could be given out due to the number of customers in the inn. Barthon would not even have been able to get a room if not for an arrangement the Order had with the owner of the Silverlight Inn, an arrangement they had with at least one inn in nearly every major city in Mandor: there was always a room available for a knight of the Order of Gedrich. Tonight, there wouldn't be a single room available anywhere in Dor. What with the branding and the beginning of the hunt, there were more people here than the city could hold. The common room in which Barthon sat with Simion was filled to the brink with a crowd of hopefull adventurers, or enthusiastic would-be-adventurers who were only here to experience the joy of the crowd before they disappeared back to their normal lives the following morning. Barthon listened to the conversations that swam around his ears.

"I'm telling you, Jasper, she's in the Blue Mountains!" The man speaking had a thick beard tied in two braids, with small beads and emblems decorating the black mess. Blue, ornate tattoos decorated the edges of his dark eyes. His mountain accent was already thick with spirits.
"And how would you know, mountain man? Have you seen her, then, eh? No? And why, of all places, would she be at the top of a bloody mountain?" This man, Jasper, was more clean shaven than the other, and his dark brown eyes still had the clear gaze of a man not yet drunk. Barthon wondered if perhaps the man was, or had been, in the military. The two were sitting at the table next Barthon's, just behind Simion. Simion tried to tilt his head to listen to the two without seeming like he was eavesdropping.

"She's a goddess, you imp! She can look over all the lands from her high throne. And when she speaks, her voice will echo through the mountains and be heard by all."
"That's rather poetic," said the clean-shaven man, Jasper. "I'd ask if you read that in a book, but I'm not sure you can read." As the heavily bearded man's mug hit the table with a loud thump, Barthon spoke up.
"And where would you look, good sir, if not in the mountains?" Barthon didn't really care where the man wanted to look, but he did hope to eat the rest of his meager dinner in peace. A fight would prevent that from happening. The two men looked over at Barthon, and then back at each other. They smiled widely before standing up and pushing their chairs over to Barthon's table. Without asking permission, they sat themselves between Barthon and Simion, on Barthon's left-hand side.

Without answering Barthon's question, Jasper asked his own. "And where would you look, knight?" Barthon looked at the man for a few long seconds. He hadn't actually thought about where he was going to look yet, but he wasn't sure he wanted to spout off his ideas in here, where anyone could hear and become inclined to follow him.
"I haven't decided yet. We might wait a few days before heading out, to let the crowd disperse."
"We?" The bearded man asked. He squinted at Barthon, and then looked over at Simion. "This little runts goin' with you, eh?" He bellowed out a laugh, and nudged Simion on his shoulder with a large fist. "Are you his servant?" Simion glared at the man without answering. Barthon glared at the boy. Now was not the time for him to try to establish dominance or try to gain respect.
"Answer the man, Simion." Simion glared back at Barthon for a moment, but before he could answer, the large man spoke loudly. "Ten Eych's the name. And this rather gangly fellow here is Jasper," he said while shoving Jasper in the shoulder. "Who might you be, knight?"
"Barthon," he answered, "of the Order of Gedrich."
"The Order of Gedrich?" exclaimed Jasper. "It doesn't surprise me to see one of you here." Jasper looked over at Simion. "You must be his page then. Simion, was it?" Simion nodded.
"Yes, Sir Jasper," Simion said, a bit more easily now that he was afforded a small bit of recognition.
"Just Jasper, please," he said with a smile. "I don't care for formalities. But, please tell me, Barthon, does the Order have no idea where they might find Zephiris?" Barthon didn't fail to recognize the layers of hidden meaning in Jasper's question. He realized instantly that this man was a bit more sly and intelligent than he might have originally thought. By assuming that the Order had an idea of where to look, and that they were an entity separate from the rest of the populace, he was stating that perhaps Barthon was here for another reason.
"No, Jasper," Barthon said. "The Order has no idea where to look. As far as I know, I'm the only one they have sent to look, though we have branches in other cities."
"That's a damn shame," said Ten Eych. "Mighty fine fighters, those Gedrich Knights. Might be usefull to have a few of 'em when heading into dragon or elven lands."
"Why would we look there?" Barthon asked. He already knew why, and he knew it was a really bad idea.
"Well, tell me this Barthon: If Zephiris were here, in Mandor, or even in Sephalia, don't you think we would already know?"
"Where is this coming from, Ten? Didn't you just say she was in the Blue Mountains?"
"Well...I did, yeah. But you've got to keep your options open, ya know?"
"I think Ten is right," Barthon offered. "I think Zephiris might very well be at the top of the Blue Mountains."
"Oh, don't give me that crap!" Jasper shouted. "If she was in the Blue Mountains, then you would know! I think Ten is actually on to something, that she isn't here in these lands at all. If we want to find her, we have to look beyond our own lands. We would know if she were here."
"Would we," Barthon asked. "How are we any better than the elves or dragons? We've all fallen since she left."
"Don't you ever get tired of hearing that bullshit?" This from a new voice, from just behind Barthon. Barthon leaned his elbow against the table and turned to see a tall man in a traveling cloak, with long brown hair tied back with a leather cord. Barthon could see the hilt of a sword penetrating the folds of his cloak. His brown eyes were staring intently at Barthon, waiting for a response. Barthon obliged.
"Who are you to question the scriptures?"
"Who am I? I am Lord Duiran, of the royal House of Omoron. And you, Gedrich Knight, carry no weight of authority with you."
"I don't recall claiming that I did. But without faith in the mother of our souls, you carry not a hint of common sense with you, Lord Duiran of the faithless House of Omoron." Barthon watched as the man's hand shot toward the hilt of his sword. Barthon stood, throwing his chair back with his legs and reaching for his own sword. Three other chairs scraped back behind him, and he could hear the sounds of other swords being drawn. Behind Lord Duiran stepped forward four more men, all heavily armed and armored.
"If you don't watch your tongue, knight, I will have it removed." Lord Duiran slowly drew his sword, lifting it up toward Barthon's face. The sea of voices that had filled the common room had lowered to a small din. Ten and Jasper moved up to stand next Barthon, and he could hear Simion clamber up onto the table. Before Barthon could offer a response, the owner came running up to the group.
"I'll not have any bledshood in here tonight, gentlemen! This is a holy day! If you can't keep your peace in here, then you can spend the night outside. I'll have your rooms ready for the next on the list!"
"No need, good sir," Lord Duiran said as he sheathed his sword, aiming instead a large grin at Barthon. "My point has been made. Show me to my room." As the group left, following the owner of the Silverlight, Barthon and his new friends sheathed their weapons.
"Pompous ass," said Ten Eych, just loud enough so that Lord Duiran might have actually heard him. The man didn't slow or turn around though. Barthon nodded and sat back down in his chair.
"Please, gentlemen, let us sit and finish our night in peace."
"No," Ten Eych said quietly. "We are leaving now, Jasper and I. You wanted to wait a few days until the crowd dies down? Well, we're leaving now before the crowd heads out. Are you with us? There is no sense in waiting around for the likes of him to get in our way," Ten Eych said, referring to Duiran Leben. Barthon thought about it for a few moments. His standing as a knight in the Order of Gedrich would draw friends as well as enemies. It would be nice to have a few friends to watch his back on the journey. He glanced at Simion, who had returned to his seat. Simion merely smiled, silently giving his opinion of wanting to have a few traveling companions. Barthon nodded.

Both Jasper and Ten Eych clasped Barthon's shoulders. "Good to have you on board!" Jasper said. "Let's get out of here then. There are a few things to do before we head out. And we need the rest of the group."
"The rest of the group?" Barthon echoed. "I thought it would just be you two?"
"Its only four more," Ten Eych said. "No worries! They are just as likeable as we are." Ten Eych beamed a smile through his heavy beared. Barthon merely shrugged, and then stood and followed the two out of the inn, waving Simion to follow behind him.


Mandor, Dor, Northwind District ~ night of DAY 4

Barthon and Simion walked a few paces behind Jasper and Ten Eych. They were walking up a broad avenue in the Northwind district, heading toward a wall of tall buildings, each one of them filled with shops selling just about everything imaginable. Simion's eyes were wide open, his jaw hanging loose.
"I've never seen so many things before! Can we go in and look around?" Simion looked up at Barthon, a look of pleading plastered across his face. Barthon shook his head.
"We have things to do, Simion. Its up to Jasper and Ten where we go right now. If they decide to head into a store, we will follow. Remember, we aren't here to sight see. We're here on a mission." Simion lost his smile and stared ahead at their two companions.
"You're right, Barthon. I apologize. What we are doing is far more important."
"Just remember that," Barthon said, "whenever you start having doubts about completing the mission. Remember how important it is, and that it must be done, no matter what." Simion continued on in silence, but Barthon knew the boy would take what he said to heart.
Barthon himself couldn't help but stare at the buildings that surrounded them. Aram was a city built by design: it had an artistic feel among its flowing streets and buildings. While Dor lacked the design, it more than made up for it in sheer size and content. Many of the buildings here were simply massive, stone and wood structures that were constantly built higher due to lack of space along the street. The lights shining through the windows, even at this time in the night, attested to how alive the city was. This wasn't Barthon's first trip to Dor, but every time he visited he was still amazed by the sights, sounds, and smells.

And the smells were particularly strong in this district. Trash, rotten food, and human waste were all left out in the streets. Those in desperate need could be seen rummaging through the mess, searching for anything that might be of use. The rest of it would sit there until the weather wore it away. The smell would always be here, though. The stench was absolutely awful, though Barthon forced himself to show no sign of it. Simion lacked that control, and his nose was continually scrunched up on his face. He constantly wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, as if hoping to keep the smells from settling on his tongue. Jasper and Ten Eych didn't seem to notice. They continued walking forward, talking and laughing and pushing or punching each other for a well-said joke. Barthon only wished they would hurry up and get where they were going.

As soon as the thought had entered his mind, Ten Eych and Jasper turned down a small alleway to their left. Barthon and Simion followed, with Simion as close Barthon as he could manage without stepping on the knight's heels. The stench in the alley was even worse than it had been on the streets. Trash lined the walkway, and dark fluids dripped down the walls beneath the windows from which they had been poured, making sticky, foul smelling puddles on the ground. Barthon did his best to avoid most of it. He knew he would still need to give his armor and thorough cleaning and polishing as soon as he had the chance. He couldn't help but smile watching Simion lift his legs high in the air and place them careful around the build up of trash. He was a boy of ten years, but he didn't always act as if he was. Barthon knew he had himself to congratulate for that.

Ten Eych and Jasper stopped at a wooden door set into the wall on his right side. Jasper rapped on the door three times, and then both he and Ten stepped back. The door almost immediately flew open, slamming aginst the wall beside the doorway. Out stepped a large man in a greasy apron that was probably at one time white. The stains that covered it made it impossible to label it any particular color. Jasper spoke quickly to the man, too quiet for Barthon to hear what he had said. The man grunted before disappearing back through the doorway. The light pouring from the open door highlighted Jasper and Ten Eych's features, and threw miniature shadows of them on the wall behind. Barthon was surprised to see a look of fear on Jasper's face, though Ten Eych showed no expression whatsoever. Barthon didn't really know what to make of it. Either Ten Eych didn't know as much as Jasper about the place, or he simply wasn't afraid of anything inside. Barthon wouldn't have been surprised if it was the latter. Ten was enormous, appropriately fitting the phrase "a bear of a man." He could likely take on any man inside...whatever the place was.

But if Barthon had so far been caught off guard, he was stunned by what he saw step out of the open doorway. It wasn't the same man as before, or even any other large, dirty, or absolutely menacing man. It was a woman.
She stepped out, looked up and down the alleyway, pausing to stare at Barthon and Simion for a few seconds, and then finally looked forward at Ten Eych and Jasper. She held her hand out, and Jasper and Ten each took turns to firmly shake it.
"Are we ready?" she asked.
Jasper nodded. Pointing at toward Barthon, he said "This is Sir Barthon Camlin, a Gedrich knight, and his page, Simion. They will be accompanying us on the search."
The woman looked at Barthon, her eyes suddenly widening.
"You brought a knight? Are you out of your damn mind, Jasper?"
"It's alright, Inen," Jasper said defensively. "We could use his help, and you know it." Teny Eych nodded sagely, agreeing with Jasper. The woman, Inen, put her hands on her hips and sighed.
"It had better be alright, Jasper. Where are the others?"
"We haven't picked them up yet," Jasper explained. "We will get Cid first, and then find Quentin and Brenard."
"Well," Inen said, waving her hand down the alleyway behind Barthon, "let's get going. We're burning moonlight!"


Mandor > Dor > Northwind District > The Fire Grotto ~ night of DAY 4

The group stopped at the Fire Grotto, a tavern notorious for its brawls and shady patrons. Barthon honestly wasn't surprised that this was their next stop, considering the location they had found Inen. He was beginning to wonder whether or not it had actually been a good idea to agree to travel with Jasper and Ten Eych and their four "friends."

The Fire Grotto was a large two-story tavern. The lower floor was concrete, and the upper floor, where the beds would be located, was made entirely of wood and dotted with rows of tall windows, all radiating the soft yellow glow of candle light. The lower level had only two windows, both large and square and located on either side of the front door. The door itself, made of wood, seemed to have been smashed and punctured on multiple occasions, and only haphazardly repaired. Shafts of light pierced the door and created patterns on the dark street in front of it.

Simion nudged Barthon as they approached the tavern. "Are you sure we want to go in there? You might attract a bit of attention..."
Barthon nodded. "You are right, my perceptive page." Barthon stepped up closer to his three companions, Jasper, Ten Eych and Inen, who were walking together side by side and telling some story between them that seemed to Barthon to be more than exaggerated.
"Simion and I will wait outside," Barthon stated. "I know the reputation of this place. My presence will be...unwanted."
"Nonesense!" Ten Eych said jovially. "Your reputation precedes you, Gedrich Knight! More than half of the men in their will be fighting over who gets to buy you a drink."
"That doesn't negate my point," Barthon said. "I will wait out here."
"Really, Barthon, that won't be necessary," argued Jasper. Barthon didn't fail to notice Inen rolling her eyes. "We will be in and out, and most of them will be on their toes in expectation, not sure what to do. We will be gone before they even register what they saw."
Barthon had his doubts, well-founded doubts in his mind, but he didn't argue any further. Without simply leaving the group, they wouldn't relent before he walked through that front door.
"Keep an eye out, Simion," Barthon whispered to his page. It was hardly a necessary instruction, but Simion nodded in acknowledgment.

Inen stepped forward to open the door, which she did with embellishment. The sounds of jeering and laughter died down momentarily as the woman stepped through the doorway. Jasper and Ten Eych followed, and the commotion from within continued, if not more loudly than before. Barthon could easily hear Ten Eych's thunderous voice above the rest. As Barthon stepped through the door way, it was as if the noise had been sucked of the room; complete silence filled the tavern common room. Barthon's hand moved toward his sword, and he had to force it to return to his side, relaxed and steady.

Ten Eych broke the silence with a large grin and wave of his hands toward Barthon. "Sir Camlin, Gedrich Knight! He is here by our request, and you'll do well to treat him as one of us!" The silence continued, but Barthon could almost feel the tension release from across the room. Conversations began to spring up again, first faint whispers, and then a dim murmur that would be all that replaced the ruckus from before.

Barthon followed his companions to a long table in a secluded corner of the common room. Several men were sitting at the table, though only one was dressed in lighter colors. The rest were all cloaked in dark colored clothing and long beards, with a red circle pierced by three red arrows marking their shoulders. The man in lighter clothing had blond hair, instead of black, and there was a spear set against the wall behind him. As the man looked up at Ten Ecyh, the color drained from his face. His mouth moved as if to form words, but he could only stammer. The other three men all turned to see the group approaching. Ten Eych moved up to the blond man, placing a heavy hand on his shoulder. Speaking to the darker men, Ten said "This man owes us several thousand in the king's weight in gold. "We've been looking for him for a week." Ten Eych stared at the stacks of coin on the table, and the dice in the blond man's hand. "From the looks of it, we'll be doing you all a favor by relieving him from your presence." Before the three men could argue, Ten hoisted the man up by the collar of his shirt until he was standing, and then guided him from the table. The man reached back for his spear as Ten pulled him away.

Barthon followed the group, thoroughly confused as to what was going on. The commotion seemed to return as soon as Barthon stepped out of the tavern, despite the splintered door shutting behind him. Ten Eych slapped the man on the shoulder as soon as they were out on the street. "I told you not to gamble, you sheep-brained idiot! If I'd let you sit there for a minute longer, they'd of come after us with swords!"
The man smiled, nudging Ten in the ribs with an elbow, and shaking a small sack tied to his waist with the other hand. "I was winning," he said.
Ten actually looked shocked. "Well, well, well....that has to be a first. I wasn't exactly lying when I told them what you owe me."
The man's eyes moved to Barthon and his page. "You got him?" Barthon's eyes widened. Jasper winced and Ten Eych seemed at a loss for words.
"You knew?" Inen asked, looking at Ten and Jasper and as surprised as the other two looked, though for obviously different reasons. "Why in the name of G'sanarkath didn't you tell me?"
"The question is," Barthon interrupted, stepping toward the group with his hand resting on the hilt of his sword, "what is going on."
"Hey now, Barthon, just take it easy." Jasper held his palms up toward Barthon. "We aren't against you, nor are we doing anything illegal here. You're honor and integrity are fine. Let us just explain what Cid here means and I'm sure you will understand."
Barthon crossed his arms and set his feet apart, a stance indicating he wasn't about to be pushed around. "Start explaining," he ordered.

Jasper looked at Ten Eych and Inen, both of whom were looking back at him expectantly. Jasper took a deep breath and launched into a lengthy explanation. "The six of us, including Quentin and Brenard, met just before the branding. We were all here for the same reason; we'd all heard the news. Everyone in Mandor has, by now. At the Great Highplace of Zephiris, we saw you, the only knight of your order. Being the most prestigious order in Mandor, we decided it might be a good idea to have you along. Most of the wandering bands won't make it far. They will be hunted as brigands by those like Lord Duiran, or they will simply give up before long. Having a knight along for the ride would be like a free pass into lands we would otherwise not have access to. Ten and I found your inn, and we managed to get your attention, as well as your help. The rest of the group have been scrounging for information, any sort of tips as to where to look first." Jasper looked at Barthon expectantly, hoping for some sort of sign of his story having been accepted.

Barthon looked down at Simion. "What do you think, boy? Is Jasper telling the truth?" Barthon had already made up his mind, but it would be a good way to test Simion's perception, and a way to throw the rest off balance.
Simion placed a hand on his chin and studied Jasper's face, and then Ten Eych's. "He's lying. Inen didn't know about us until now."
Barthon smiled as he drew his sword. The boy would be a great knight someday.
"Wait!" Jasper called, holding out his hands. "Alright, I was just trying to make it short! It was just Ten, Cid, Brenard and I. We decided; Inen and Quentin were already in the city, but they weren't with us. We decided to travel together before, but they weren't with us when we decided to include you. I swear, Barthon, we mean you no ill will!"
Barthon slammed his sword back into its scabbard. "Good enough." Barthon pointed an armored finger at Jasper and Ten. "But don't think I won't be watching you. Or the boy."

Jasper nodded gratefully, and Ten nodded, the large smile returning to his face. Inen simply crossed her arms and sighed. "Can we continue, then?" Inen asked. "We still need Quentin and Brenard, and it is getting later. If we take much longer, we can forget about that head start."

"Where is Quentin, then?" Barthon asked.
"In the Northwind Chapel of Saint Roul," Cid responded. "It isn't far from here. I'll show you."
"Then let's go," Barthon said.


Mandor > Dor > Northwind District > Chapel of Saint Raul ~ night of DAY 4

Barthon noticed Simion stumbling as they walked down the wide street toward the Chapel of Saint Raul. Barthon knew the boy was tired, but there wasn't much he could do for him at the moment. Besides, Simion was training to be a knight. He had to expect long nights and hard work. Barthon himself was tired, he had to admit, but he had enough adrenaline coursing through him in anticipation of searching for Zephiris.

Barthon no longer walked behind the group. Jasper and Inen walked behind him and Simion, and Cid and Ten Eych took the lead. Barthon knew that these people meant him no real harm, but he was done playing their games. They could have told him from the beginning what their real purpose was and he was sure he would still be here following them around in the middle of the night. Barthon wondered if either Inen or Cid had discovered anything useful. If not about the location of Zephiris, which he was sure no one had any useful information about, then perhaps about the motives and plans of other parties that would searching as well. He refrained from asking, however, because he was certain the question would be raised once everyone was together.

The streets were lined with short, stout buildings, most of the windows dark and shadowed. It was already past midnight. Most of the residents of Dor had to keep a tight schedule, which meant rising before the sun. Sacrificing sleep wasn't a luxury most people could afford. Even Barthon tried to get sleep early in the night, so he could begin his duties with the early rising sun. But tonight was an exception for him and his new friends, as it was for all the other people still milling about and drinking within the taverns. Not many people were walking the streets, which relieved Bathon. A large group tended to make people nervous, or suspicious, and the last thing they needed was trouble. Anything that might delay them setting out for their search could ruin their plans.

Far down the street Barthon could just make out the outline of the domed chapel against the backdrop of the largest moon. The second moon was just above the first, smaller and dimmer but no less majestic being so near to its giant companion. A few lights could be seen from within the building, the flames flickering through the windows and contrasting against the night surrounding it. A wall surrounded the chapel and the courtyard, standing at nearly shoulder height to the average man. The wall was simply decoration, or perhaps remnants of a fortification from times no long forgotten by most. Barthon wasn't sure how old the building was. As they neared the chapel, Barthon could make out the wooden buildings that surrounded it, hugging the outside of the walls. These buildings housed the priests and monks that tended the chapel. The buildings were small and simple, suitable to their simple lives.

Barthon had never considered becoming a priest, despite his devotion to Zephiris. He had never really had the choice: since he had been born he was destined to become a knight in the Order of Gedrich. Personally, he found it more fulfilling and interesting than the life of a priest. Obviously this Quentin felt the same way, or he wouldn't be joining them now. As they approached the entrance to the courtyard of the chapel, Cid rasped his knuckles against the heavy wooden gate. The door immediately began to move inward, pulled by someone as of yet unseen. A shaved head came around the wooden gate, followed by a pair of hands, and then slowly his torso and a leg.
"Are we ready to set out?" The man asked. Barthon knew it had to be Quentin, though he had not really expected such hesitation from him, despite him being a priest. "They think I'm still in the chapel, reading over the scripture for tomorrow's sermon. I don't know what they will say when the find me gone, but I would rather not find out what they will do if they find me trying to sneak out."
"One more stop," Ten Eych said. "We still need Brenard. He is in the Entertainment District."
The priests eyes widened. "I can't go wandering around the city! What if I'm seen?"
"Just take off the robe, Quentin," Jasper said from behind Barthon. "Without that you are just another man. Besides, all eyes will be on Sir Camlin here."
"You are right," said Quentin, immediately slipping off the gray robe, and then looking cautiously back over his shoulder. "But, please, let us hurry!"

Jasper and Inen led the way back toward the Entertainment District. Quentin matched his pace with Barthon and looked up at him with an eager grin.
"You must be of the Order of Gedrich, Sir Camlin. I greatly respect your order, and their devotion to the scriptures and the Mother of our Souls. It is an honor to have you along on the journey." Barthon nodded, returning the smile. "Perhaps," Quentin continued, "we will have an opportunity to speak of the scriptures, you and I. And we could...theorize on where Zephiris might be found, and what it will do to our fair world."
"I would be honored, Quentin," Barthon responded. "Perhaps sometime when we are on the road?"
"Yes, yes, of course!" Quentin said quickly. "There is much to do yet." The priest looked over his shoulder again. "And we don't have much time."



Last edited by Kalon Ordona II on Tue Sep 13, 2011 5:19 am; edited 11 times in total
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Kalon Ordona II
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Re: Stories of Túlaman

Post by Kalon Ordona II on Mon Dec 20, 2010 7:30 pm

. : Brenard's Story : .



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Re: Stories of Túlaman

Post by Kalon Ordona II on Mon Dec 20, 2010 7:37 pm

Sephiris: The Price of Peace

. : Ezekiel's Story : . PART 1


~ Ezekiel Scorpius, Crown Prince of Sephalia
human ; age 21 ; short, spiky black hair ; big, ???-colored eyes ; wears fine, royal clothes and armor ; appears ordinary unless in royal apparel or of serious demeanor ; wields a swordstaff expertly, and other weapons to a lesser extent ; excels at military strategy ; loves his country and his people ; calm and collected unless family is threatened ; overly cautious, puts his country first--to a fault ; overall: calm, charismatic, willing to sacrifice anything or anyone for his country.


. : Name : .
Full Name: Crown Prince Ezekiel Scorpius
Use Name: Your Highness, or simply, Ezekiel (If the person feels at ease using this form of address after knowing his true identity)
Other: Weapon Prodigy, Genius (Not given any bad nicknames, since no one really dares to challenge his authority as Crown Prince)
Played by: Zephiris (original), Kalon Ordona II (steward)

. : Appearance : .
Height and Build: 6'1" . Lean. Muscular (To a smaller extent)
Description: His face, an oval, seem so ordinary that one can barely identify him as the Crown Prince from just his face. Sporting a short, and naturally spiky black hair, he scarcely bothers to comb it, thus it may seem messy sometimes. (Though, most of the time, one can barely tell it out, thanks to his hair) His face does nothing to change his ordinariness. Thick, bushy eyebrow inherited from one of his ancestors, a sharp nose, big eyes of onyx.. He rarely tries to change how he looks, however, accepting it for what it is.
Clothing: As befits his royal status, his dressing is often elaborate. Dressed in a bright blue suit, which made him rather renowned for having a weird dress sense, he covers it up with a golden chain mail, and fitting leg guards. His favorite choice of weapon, the spear is slung over his back. The chain mail is specially designed with an extension to cover the neck area, preventing strikes to the neck. He doesn't enjoy wearing hats, or helmets, and is never seen with them. Occasionally, Ezekiel does appear in less striking colors, but that is when he decides to visit the commoners in the country. His choice of colors then, would be a dull blue, and his armor, an equally dull silver-color (Which really is, gold, layered with iron to give it its color).
Weapons: Being adept in the use of many weapons, he has an arsenal of weapon from which he can pick. However, he is often seen fighting with his favorite weapon- the spear. This spear, however, is specially designed for him once again, at his request. Completely metal, unlike some, which uses wood for the handle, his spear seems like an ordinary iron spear which the cavalry may use, but there is more than meets the eye. This spear is forged from the strongest metal in the Human lands (As well as metal imported from other regions, and races). At the sharp end, instead of the common, triangular edge, it is a blade. Imagine a normal sword, with it's handle extended to as long as a spear. Like the blade, it has a hilt, though this has been shortened to just about a few centimeters. (Which makes the hilt barely noticeable)
Other: The Royal Seal. (Which identifies himself as someone from the Royal Family. Kept within his armor, which makes it virtually impossible to steal)
Impression: Ordinary. Unless he is seen in his royal dress, no one can really tell that he is the Crown Prince. However, when serious, he exudes a fierce charisma that compels others to accede to his commands.

. : Heritage : .
Age: 21
Birthplace: Telmural Royal City
Family: King Orion XXIV and Queen Virgo
Inheritance: Being the Crown Prince, Ezekiel is taught in the areas of military warfare, politics, as well as various aesthetics. More notably, he is especially devoted to the Sephirisian Faith- though the irony is that he does not know it that well, despite proclaiming himself a devoted believer.
Other: (None at the moment. Just ask if you want to be associated with this character.)

. : Persona : .
Biography: Born in a time of relative peace, Ezekiel led a considerably pampered life, with his parents often showering him with gifts, whenever he wanted. Fortunately, he didn't develop to be a typical spoiled brat, thanks to his personality. At age 6, he developed interest to weaponry, and started learning how to use the various weaponry available. (Naturally, with his father's support)
It was then, his father noted his talent in handling weapons. During that time, Ezekiel was merely his father's favorite son, and not the Crown Prince. However, the shrewd Ezekiel, having made good use of his lessons, in military and political areas, easily displayed his superiority to the then Crown Prince, his elder brother Ophiuchus.
Then, at age 16, Ezekiel's father, King Orion XXIV, fell terribly ill. He knew the need for the Crown Prince to be prepared to handle issues of the state. Naturally, the best candidate that came to mind was Ezekiel, but still, he had already chosen Ophiuchus to the position.
Thus, a competition between the brothers was conducted. It was there, Ezekiel thrashed his brother so badly, in the presence of almost all the Ministers, as well as common folks. Sure enough, this won the respect of everyone present. His father was also pleased with the result, and appointed him Crown Prince, safe in the knowledge Ophiuchus could no longer contest this appointment.
Ezekiel continued to further his knowledge, learning about the other races. He tried to learn Magic at age 18, but realized he had no affinity with the art, and abandoned the idea. Meanwhile, the King recovers from his illness, to everyone's surprise.
Promptly, the King made the very day a day of worship to their Goddess Sephiris. However, on the other hand, Ophiuchus was rather sore about losing his position to his younger brother. Secretly, he begins hiring mercenaries, all intent on taking Ezekiel's life.
Yet this could not escape Ezekiel's notice, despite Ophiuchus' attempt to lie low, by gradually amassing an army of mercenaries, in small amounts over a period of time. Ezekiel merely feigned ignorance, but prepared for the worst.
Finally, at age 20, a coup was staged. Ophiuchus originally wanted to kill only Ezekiel, but greed got the better of him. Now, his targets includes the King himself. As previously mentioned, Ezekiel had already got wind of this news, and made preparations for this scenario.
As a result, Ophiuchus led the army to their deaths. It also displayed Ezekiel's cleverness in military affairs. First, he made sure that all the soldiers were disguised as servants, and stationed in various parts of the palace. Then, when the rebel army found its way into the throne room, the 'servants' encircled them, and slaughtered them viciously.
In a last ditch attempt, Ophiuchus rallied some of the soldiers, and escaped the Palace, but even this had been foreseen by Ezekiel, who promptly ordered the Cavalry, and eliminated the army, as well as its leader.
From then on, the Royal Family never dared to challenge Ezekiel's power. Furthermore, with his father's backing, no one could really do much to him. Then, at age 21, he decided to embark on a quest.
Motivation: The prosperity of the nation. He loves his people, just as he loves his parents. Most of his deeds all hold something that would benefit the nation, and anything that threatens it are often, promptly eradicated.
Skills and Talents: He is extremely skilled in the usage of a spear, as well as various other weapons (To a lesser extent). Also, he has an intelligent mind that does a fine job in guessing the opponent's next move (In military warfare, not in melee combat.)
Strengths: Extremely calm and collected. He doesn't get shaken emotionally that easily, unless his beloved parents gets threatened. It is only then he may be seen in a flustered state. Also, very skilled in Military Strategies.
Weaknesses: Overly cautious. He does not trust anyone that easily, and even his closest friends are carefully watched by himself. (Almost) Uncaring. So long it brings some amount of benefit (Notably, to the country), he won't bother about the amount of sacrifice that follows.
Personality: Calm and collected, he only loses this demeanor when his loved ones get threatened, notably, his parents. However, he is also extremely cautious, so much so that his closest friends are carefully watched by himself. This often leads to friends disliking him sometimes, but when he gets serious, the charisma he exudes often draw those friends back. It is also this charisma that kept those friends by his side, otherwise, his other negative point would chase them off.
That is, his almost uncaring attitude to certain scenarios. Whenever there is a sacrifice to be made, if it benefits the nation, he won't hesitate to sacrifice it, or him/her. That means that even if his closest friend has to be sacrificed to resolve a certain matter, he wouldn't temporize in sending him off, even to his death.


Chapter One: Shadows from Light

Sephalia > Telmural > Royal Palace ~ DAY 1

Sighing as he walked on, he nodded in response to a greeting by a servant that went past. Formalities, he would loved greatly to do away with it. That way, those whom he had grown up with would be closer to him. He knew that servant's name- Sera Leslie. They had been friends at one point, but thanks to his status, and hers, the friction it caused between her and her other fellow commoners forced the two to separate.

The beautiful scenes on the walls depicting a couple spending a romantic time together seemed to be stark irony now, as Ezekiel glanced over at it. He was now at the entrance to the Hall of Nobility. From here, he would be able to walk all the way in, and return to his room, the second closest to the Throne Room, which was a straight walk down the Hall of Nobility.

The Hall of Nobility was built back then by King Orion XXIII, his grandfather, apparently out of the sheer desire to flaunt his wealth to the other races. As such, the inner walls of the Hall was inlaid with gold, and other precious gems. Even it's exterior was not neglected. Built like a Temple, it had steps that led to a great door, which had to be opened by two guards standing by the side.

More notably, King Orion XXIII specially ordered several artists to paint several scenes on the walls. It had been widely speculated that the couple may actually be King Orion himself and his wife, but Ezekiel wasn't interested in this little detail. Usually, there would be several of the Nobility or those of high status in the Palace relaxing in the Hall, but seeing as it was already late into the night, Ezekiel believed he should be enjoying a relative peaceful walk.

The guards, seeing him come closer, promptly swung the doors opened. Ezekiel strolled in, and as expected, the Hall was almost empty, save for several Nobles that was there for various personal business. As always, they bowed to him upon seeing him. Ezekiel sighed, nodding once again in response.

Immediately dispensing with ceremony, they resumed their conversations as the Prince continued on his way back to his room. His eyes wandered around at the walls, layered with gold that reflected the light from the torch meant to illuminate the place. There were some intricate designs on the walls too, which were probably quotes from the Scriptures.

He wasn't exactly a religious person, but as dark eyes rested its gaze on the words inscribed on the walls, a religious man came close. Turning swiftly to face the priest, his arms folded together, as the priest bowed as a mark of respect to the Crown Prince. "Is anything the matter?" Ezekiel asked, his voice lackadaisical.

The priest kept his head low, as per tradition. "Your Highness, I have an urgent matter to report to you." He said. If it was urgent, why wouldn't he immediately spit it out? Ezekiel watched the priest doubtfully. He didn't seem at all flustered, so the news must either be something good, or something close to that.

"What is it?" Ezekiel prompted, breaking the momentary silence between the two as the priest reported his intent. Bowing ever lower, the priest spoke. "My lord. Our Great Lady, Zephiris, has awoken!"

Taken aback, Ezekiel's eyes widened as he stared back at the priest in disbelief. "Is this the truth you speak?" He questioned, suddenly distrusting of this recent news. To this, the priest only nodded, his head still bowed low. However, to Ezekiel, this was somewhat shocking news. Zephiris having awoken would no doubt shake the world.

But how would this affect the human nation? Would it be something good? Or does it spell trouble? Having grown up being taught the legends of Zephiris in his religious studies, Ezekiel knew just how powerful Zephiris was. What if the other races managed to convinced the Goddess herself that the other races were evil? Who is to say what will happen to the humans?

"I pray you are not lying, or are wrong in telling me this, and thank you. You are dismissed." Ezekiel continued, turning back in the direction of his room as he began pacing, paying no heed to the response of the priest behind him.

The Crown Prince, however, was already lost in his own thoughts. He was already planning his next moves, he was already planning ahead. It was this very habit of mind that he encompassed, that defeated his brother, Ophiuchus, to attain the title of Crown Prince. He was going to use this to the human race's benefit.

'First, a group of strong knights to seek out the Goddess. The other races must have felt Zephiris' return too. It'll be best to prepare for a clash that may strain relations so much so that a war breaks out.'

Ignoring several nobles that greeted him as he passed, the door slammed shut behind him. 'Second, I'll need to convince my father to let me lead the search.. Praise be to the Goddess for my father's swift recovery...'


Sephalia > Telmural > Royal Palace ~ morning of DAY 2

The sun shone its first rays into the room as the Prince opened his windows. This was one of the very few moments he could do this, despite its simplicity. The room smelt of his scent, which was really, his royal symbol, the Gladiolus. Dark eyes of onyx wandered over to the various armaments that adorned his room's wall- proof of his mastery over those weapons present.

It went over them over to his favored weapon of choice- the spear. Reflecting the rays of the sun off its metallic surface, Ezekiel strode over to it, and removed it from the wall. A smirk formed, as he swung it round him expertly, as if an enemy stood behind him. Ending this strange behaviors with a sharp, forceful piercing strike to his back, Ezekiel quickly regained composure.

"Looks like I may have to do this over again some time soon... I hope my skills have not turned rusty yet." He muttered to himself, ambling over to the golden chain mail and leg guards that he had the servants put on his bed while he bathed. By tradition, servants were supposed to help put on his armor, and when he was married, his Queen would. However, by Ezekiel's tradition, he denied the servants this supposed 'honor'.

Holding the relatively light armor up, he donned it. Having done this since he was given the set of armor, he didn't take long to equip it. Then, sitting down, he proceeded on to his leg guards.

Sighing as he did so, he began musing to himself again. "What will the day be like..?" He fitted the leg guards on his right leg. "A group of knights to be led for the sake of humanity. To seek out the Great Zephiris.. For what..?"

Pausing momentarily, he hunched over, his expression becoming serious as he thought an answer to his self-imposed question..

* * * * *
The sun shone on brightly, into the throne room. The throne room had been specially designed to allow for the sunlight, wherever it may be from, to illuminate the throne in a beam, providing the King an imposing aura of power and might.

Furthermore, the gold adorned walls of the throne room reflected more of these light, making the room almost blinding. Only the King would remain unaffected by this- since it was also designed to make it comfortable to his eyes, as he observes his subjects.

Ezekiel closed his eyes, bowing his head.

"And thus, Your Majesty?" He spoke. The murmuring of the other ministers gathered in the Throne Room did not cease, as they discussed amongst themselves the suggestion that their Crown Prince had just suggested. The King, his father, rested his head on his hands, propped on the arm rest of his throne.

Finally, he spoke. "Go ahead. You have my blessings, my son, Crown Prince, Ezekiel Scorpius. Go on, and seek the Goddess." He announced, standing as he did so. His voice held the strength that would make one's knees weaken.

And it did. The ministers all knelt, in acceptance of this announcement. "However, there must be no revealing of this event to the other races, nor our own people." He continued. "I thus order you all, my loyal ministers, to seal your lips, and keep this a secret."

"Commander General Ludivon Manm, you will see to it that the Crown Prince goes with an elite force of soldiers."

Stepping out from the line of ministers, a fully armored man stood out, bowed and knelt. "Yes, my Liege."

Ezekiel's expression remained cold as his head remained bowed low. "Thank you, Your Majesty." He added, his voice equally chilling. Echoing his response, the other ministers followed suit, thanking the King.


Sephalia > in the highlands northeast of the River Nalos ~ DAY 18

“Ezekiel.”

The clear, strong voice crashed like cymbals in the violet-hued currents of the realm of spirits. The golden altari hovered above the glowing aura of a young human, the heir of Sephalia. Natural energies converged upward to the east, over the shapes of the mountains they called Majestic. Farther yet east, he knew, all energies in Telmar converged at Sephiris' high place. He could reach it in two days, but the humans must tread upon the earth and so must take many days more. But he had found them in time.

The altari descended toward where the surface of the land would be, some distance from the Crown Prince and his company. As he went, he folded his essence into the shape of a human, a man of about thirty, clean-shaven, with a wide jaw and a straight nose, and a deep-set gaze as intense as molten steel. As he set his feet upon the soil of Tanuvel, he pulled himself further from the realm of spirits, until his form became as solid as the deep green trees that surrounded him. With amber eyes he looked on the world, and again as always it impressed upon him such a spectrum of blues and greens that he needed a moment to comprehend its beauty.

In this form the altari's hair was almost white with gold. He was garbed in simple clothing beneath a long white tunic, with a golden sash about his waist and leather boots upon his feet. He carried a bright spear in his hand, and silvery plates of armor covered his shoulders, chest, shins and forearms, but he also wore a blood-red mantle, and a great black sword hung heavy at his hip.

Leaves and foliage whispered lightly as he stepped through the woods, the edge of his thick mantle gliding over the irregularities of the terrain. It was about the midst of the day, the altari observed, the light bringing shadows from the west that fell against the upward slope of the hill country. Birds watched from the branches on his right side and sang their songs, but the animals kept their distance from the black sword on his left. The sword itself pulled with density and seemed to give off shadows more than just its own, shadows that wavered; sometimes it seemed to be made of candle smoke, giving off little wisps and restless shapes, if the light struck just so. Though its use was within his power and skill, the altari was not and would never be accustomed to its weight. He limped every few steps, as he walked.

Shortly he came upon the band of humans. Elite warriors, all, none were caught unaware of his approach. “Good day, stranger,” some of them said, looking him up and down as he neared their camp. He stopped when he was close enough that the outermost tensed subtly, ready lest he prove himself a threat to their prince. The young man himself stood and came to look at the newcomer. “You are like no Sephalian I've seen. You're no elf. Where do you come from?”
A murmur followed as the men got a longer look at the stranger's weapons. Look at the sword, they said. It is like the night beasts.
The prince noticed it, too. This was no common traveler. “What is that blade?” he demanded. “Are you for us, or for the night?”
“Neither,” said the stranger. “I am here as a servant of the One. I was sent by the one you seek.”
Suspicious, the prince would give nothing away. “And whom do I seek?”
“Sephiris. She would be found of you.”

At this the Crown Prince, not sensing subtle difference in pronunciation, felt only joy. He half whispered to himself, as if in relief, “Zephiris be praised.” Others in the company exclaimed, not whispered, uttering sundry outbursts of devout rejoicing, none of them any longer wary enough to discern the stranger's sudden frowning at their words. None of them heard his sigh of frustration and sorrow.

As much to put an end to their misplaced exultation as to preempt further questions, the stranger told them, “Time is short. I am to lead you eastward across the mountains.”
Over the mountains?! Suddenly incredulous, the men of war voiced many objections at once, with many an eye turning toward the east, where the Majestic Mountains rose high on the horizon. It was still springtime; the passes had not yet opened. What of the night beasts? What of supplies?
“I can bring you over the mountains,” he assured.

Where before the promise of finding the Goddess had held the men enthralled, now at the sound of these new words, doubt at last asserted itself even upon the devout. Before his men could inquire further, the prince asked first. “Why is the time short? Could not Zephiris have guided my steps? Or has she, and I have strayed from the path?”
“You were not ready to hear her call,” the man replied. “It is past the tenth day since she instead sent me to search for the heir of Sephalia. From the palace I learned your purpose and have retraced your steps to find you here. Now, the time is short.”
“How short?”
“We must reach the Mountains of Mist before another ten days pass.”

The prince had to put a hand up to keep his men in line. Ten days to cross the breadth of Sephalia.... “Why? If we are delayed or cannot cover the distance in time, what happens then?”
“Maybe nothing, maybe everything; I know not. It is the word of Sephiris.”
"Then, if you say we can do it, we will try," the prince conceded. But there was one thing more. “What of the night beasts? And why does your sword put us in mind of them, if you are servant of the Goddess?”
“You are not yet ready for that answer.”
“Really." The prince didn't seem to think that a very trustworthy reply. "When will I be ready?”
“When you have faced this blade each night until we reach the Mountains of Mist.”

The prince's elite warriors took this as a sign of hostility and formed up around Ezekiel, hands to their weapons. The prince said, “Explain yourself.”

The stranger nodded patiently. “While you are with me you are to be kept safe from the hordes of shadow. However, this does not exempt you from their test.”
“The night beasts are a test?”
“Unless you face your fears and unlearn all you know of your world,” the man went on, not heeding the interruption, “you will not be ready for what is to come. When you and your men have faced this blade each night until we come to the Mountains of Mist, then you will be ready for the answers.”

The stranger waited while the heir of Sephalia contemplated. The young man seemed to be distrustful. The altari was acutely aware of the passage of time. What he had told the prince was true; Sephiris never told him what would happen if they delayed. But whether it were a minor setback or a catastrophic turn of fate, the altari didn't want to find out. Clearly the prince was overly cautious--a great strength but also a great weakness. The altari suspected if he tried to rush Ezekiel Scorpius, more time would be wasted than saved. So he waited out the prince's hesitance and scrutiny.

The prince was shaking his head, and the look in his eyes was determined. “The priests say that the prophet Aramis sometimes had to withstand Dark Ones who came to him guised as servants of the Goddess. Zephiris might not have sent you at all. You could be trying to lead me astray and bring doom to Sephalia. I will not let that happen.”

The altari closed his eyes. They had no idea where the 'Dark Ones' in their traditions came from, but they were not ready to hear that either. He considered how rather to answer, then opened his eyes and said: “Ezekiel, Crown Prince of Sephalia. There was another Ezekiel--a Seer. Indeed, him it is for whom you were named, is he not?”
“Yes,” Ezekiel said slowly, not sure where the stranger was going with this.
“Then you trust in his words?”
“Yes,” Ezekiel said again.
“Then, has he not written of the messengers? I know that he has. What does he say of the servants of light?”
“That they cast no shadow....” Ezekiel and his men looked at the ground at the stranger's feet, but the shadows of the forest were too deep. “There is no great light nearby,” said the prince. “How can you show us this sign?”

The stranger slowly held out the spear and rotated it downward, then turned and planted its point in the ground. When he removed his hand, the spear began to glow. It became bright enough to disperse the shadows all around, and still it grew brighter. Then the man stood between the shaft of the spear and the beholders, Ezekiel and his men. The ground before the stranger remained bright as if he was not there. Neither had the man's face darkened in the lee of the light. Only the shape of the black sword was spread mirrored upon the earth. The stranger waited thus for a moment, then reached back and touched the spear. It dimmed, and he took it up and stood again before them.

The prince glanced at his men. They seemed to be convinced. Ezekiel appeared to think through all that had passed, and then he visibly loosened his stance and stood straighter. He caught the stranger's eyes, nodded and smiled. “I believe this sign. Let it be as you have said, then, Servant of Zephiris.” He walked forward and held out a hand toward the messenger. “We will follow you. How are you called?”
Instead of clasping Ezekiel's hand as humans do, the messenger put out his left hand, palm down, and clasped the prince's forearm. If the prince was surprised to find the touch as solid and warm as any human's, he didn't show it but kept his gaze locked with that of the messenger. “Ezekiel Scorpius, my name,” said the altari, “is Calanon.”


Sephalia > eastern Majestic Mountains, near the town of Heroes' Walk ~ night of DAY 20

Ezekiel and his men were still high enough in the tall Majestic mountains that their boots crunched wet snow, though the stuff was not very deep. Though dark had fallen, the snow reflected well the light of the moons, so that the clear, cold night was plentifully visible.

In the darkness there was a grating of black metal. “Ready?” asked their guide--Calanon, one of the messengers.
“Wait,” said Ezekiel. He was still sore from the first night and the night following, and from the hastened trek across the mountains, but that was not the reason for his impediment. “The first night, near Nalhame, when I asked you about the people there, you told us it was the sword that protected us from the night, that it would ward away the shadow beasts.”
“I did.”
The prince looked from their guide to the downward path ahead. “If we are where I think we are--on the ancient path used by Amros, Gibros and Nalos of old--then Heroes' Walk should be just ahead. May we not postpone our fight until we reach it?”
Calanon answered, “As then, you would have to take their burden upon yourself, if the hordes of shadow come."
Ezekiel nodded. “Whatever it takes.”
“Then so it shall be,” and he sheathed the black blade.

Ezekiel wrapped his cloak tighter about himself. His knees were feeling the effort of walking in or on the snow, tired from picking up his feet and tense to keep them from slipping. Behind, his men shuffled along quietly. Calanon, to Ezekiel's side and slightly ahead, gave only subtler signs that he, too, felt the cold: a quick breath now and then, a flex of his hand, a shrug of his shoulders. As they walked, Ezekiel asked him, “At Nalhame, if the shadow beasts had attacked, how would I have taken their burden?”
“Our fight would have laced more difficulty upon you. I would have held less back.”
Ezekiel considered this, then asked another question. “What would it take to protect a large city?”
“It would take greater courage than you have ever had to muster.”
“Would I survive such a fight?”
“A man with enough fortitude can face any foe. Against the shadows, this is enough.”
“What about all of Telmar?”
Calanon turned his head to look at him.
“What would it take to ward the world?”
“More courage than you could ever imagine.”
They left it at that and walked on.

The town of Heroes' Walk, they discovered, had been abandoned. This proved to be just as well for all concerned, since in addition to Ezekiel's relief, the men would have a roof over their heads tonight.

The captains stayed outside with the messenger and the prince. They started a campfire as the two prepared to fight. As before, Calanon removed his mantle and folded it around his spear, setting the blood-red bundle on the ground where it began to glow like candle-light. Ezekiel, too, removed his cloak, but his own spear he kept in his hand, ready to wield it. Again came the grating sound of the black sword as it was drawn.

Without preamble, they fought.
Ezekiel had seen light skirmishes, had had combat training and many sparring partners, but fights in his experience had always been short and to the point. These were different. The last two had drawn on for several minutes and felt like even longer.
Right away Calanon's blade struck the upheld shaft of Ezekiel's spear. Nothing should be allowed to move that fast. Calanon wielded the black sword in both hands, moving at a speed that fluctuated supposedly at will from masterful to unnatural. On top of the feeling of peril against such an opponent, the blade itself induced an irrational fear. But from what he had learned from Calanon over the past two nights, Ezekiel knew that retreat was not an option. That knowledge made it no easier to follow through, and it carried its own fear even as it dispelled others: fear of the unknown. He was afraid of what would happen, not only to him but to others, if he turned and ran.

Fear for the safety of his people kept his feet planted, but self preservation could last only so long against the resistance to retreat. Eventually it forced him to move, if not back, forward. He doubted he could ever hit his opponent, so he aimed for the blade, keeping it from being aimed at him. Making impressive use of a spear's double rotation, the prince kept the sword at bay, winning a moment to realize fear had conquered fear.
“You see,” stated Calanon, somehow knowing the bent of Ezekiel's thought. “Courage is another kind of fear. The difference is that it is a fear not for yourself, but for others. But it is also more.”
Between flurries of blows, Ezekiel asked, “What more?”
“That,” said Calanon, parrying, countering, “is a lesson for another night.”

The fight dragged on for another several furious moments until, as before, Calanon deftly disengaged from a deadlock, signaling an end to their duel.

Saying little else, they collected their things and along with Ezekiel's captains turned into the ghostly shelter of Heroes' Walk.



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Re: Stories of Túlaman

Post by Kalon Ordona II on Mon Dec 20, 2010 7:38 pm

. : Gado's Story : .



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Re: Stories of Túlaman

Post by Kalon Ordona II on Mon Dec 20, 2010 7:38 pm

. : Katerina's Story : .



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Re: Stories of Túlaman

Post by Kalon Ordona II on Mon Dec 20, 2010 7:38 pm

. : Ragner's Story : .



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Re: Stories of Túlaman

Post by Kalon Ordona II on Mon Dec 20, 2010 7:39 pm

. : Rurik's Story : .



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Re: Stories of Túlaman

Post by Kalon Ordona II on Mon Dec 20, 2010 7:39 pm

Sephiris: The Price of Peace

. : S'harahe's Story : . PART 1


~ Sehra-sithred S'harahe, a favorite to be the next ruler of Sakira-thani
dragon ; age 56 ; 7' ; white horns with a single black ring at the center of each ; white eyes ; slender ; wears black silk, and black rings on fingers and toes ; sensual and of surpassing beauty ; master magician ; status is higher than the elite of dragon society, among those worthy to rule ; speaks elvish ; benevolent, diligent, politically adept, has excellent memory ; intensely narcissistic, is jealous of and aspires to divinity ; overall: disciplined, confident, benevolent in her superiority.


. : Name : .
Full Name: Sehra-sithred S'harahe
Use Name: S'harahe to friends and family; Sehra-sithred S'harahe to members of the same caste; Sithred K'handrar to lower castes.
Other: Sithred K'handrar
Played by: Kalon_Ordona_II

. : Appearance : .
Height and Build: 7' ; slender
Description: S'harahe's skin is fair and cream-colored; she has spent much of her life indoors. Her eyes are white, and so are her horns, except for a single black ring in the center of each. With her slender female curves, coordinated physical coloring, and noble demeanor, S'harahe is considered a beauty among beauties.
Clothing: S'harahe normally wears imported silk. Her usual garments consist only of a single piece of cloth--and extensive length of black silk that wraps around her several times. One end of the cloth hangs in front of her left shoulder; the other end falls between her legs, almost to the floor. Her legs, her tail, her shoulders and arms and wings, her throat and part of her chest are all exposed. On special occasions, she will additionally wear behind her back a sheer, expansive, white, veil-like cloth attached to two onyx rings around the claw of each wing. Only the rings keep the cloth draped across her back, for ease of movement--and the light cloth is large enough even to accommodate flight while the wings are outstretched. In addition, S'harahe wears onyx rings on each of her fingers and toes, to match the natural black rings on her horns.
Weapons: S'harahe enjoys the luxury of a pampered princess--she has no training in physical combat. She has her voice, and therefore her magic, and that is all the weapon she will ever need.
Other: S'harahe almost never carries anything on her own--there are servants for that. However, if necessary, it is possible to conceal small, thin objects between the multiple wrappings of cloth that hides her nakedness, or even conceal them--rarely and only due to grave import--between the cloth and her smooth, delicate, perfect skin.
Impression: Dragons are already gracefully built and sensual by nature. S'harahe epitomizes these qualities; she is a captor and a delight to the eye (and also, in many cases, the groin) of the beholder, regardless of gender or race.

. : Heritage : .
Age: 56
Birthplace: Sakira-thani, Gandila--a large city situated in the center of Tanith-Ged Hi-Gadan (in human language: the 7,000 Stones Mts., except that "7,000" to dragons is "12,096" to humans).
Family: S'harahe is the eldest child of Higeth-makh Tenadar, age 90 and Sehra-higeth Mihsaha, age 86, both of the second-highest caste of dragon society. S'harahe herself has two siblings: Dregan-makh Thenaber, age 50, and Sehra-higeth Kirshena, age 48, who outranks her older brother Thenaber despite her younger age. The rest of S'harahe's family is virtually insignificant, since they belong to lower castes, and some are not even K'handrar, but mere K'harar--the next category down. S'harahe, belonging to the highest caste, outranks every other member of her family.
Inheritance: S'harahe's only real inheritance is the genes that allowed her to become what she is, and the teachings that inspire her to fulfill her potential.
Other: As a Sithred K'handrar, S'harahe has no need of connections or friends. S'harahe has endless admirers, but no lovers. It is commonly believed that S'harahe is destined to become the next ruler of Sakira-thani. Her highest role model, and her greatest rival, is none other than Sithred-makh Grendilkren himself.

. : Persona : .
Biography: S'harahe's vocal talent was recognized early on. Her entire childhood consisted of vocal exercises, training in magic, and instruction in politics. S'harahe was born a Sehra-dregan K'handrar; she was Higeth at age 20; by 40, she achieved Sithred status, the highest caste in dragon society. But being a Sehra-sithred was not enough for S'harahe, who throughout her life had been pushed to pursue high ambitions. Her personality complemented this discipline, since her wont was to set a new goal for herself as soon as she had accomplished the last. S'harahe put everything she was into everything she did. And so, once Sithred, S'harahe aimed higher yet. Abandoning her family, who by now were beneath her status and obsolete in their capacity for advice, moved from her home city of Gandila, straight to the capital of dragon lands: in Sakira-thani, in Sakira's Mountains, that great city named after the Dragon Queen of old: Sakira. There, S'harahe quickly rose in popularity and power. However, S'harahe is still not powerful enough to rival Sithred-makh Grendilkren, the ruler of Sakira-thani, whose powers were beyond legendary. Grendilkren has already ruled for one hundred and three years--utterly unheard of concerning any dragon, in any time. Most other rulers lasted between one and five years at most. Sakira herself, so long ago, reigned for only twenty-four years. Still, S'harahe continues to grow in skill, and, already considering future aspirations, has turned her face toward heaven, determined to conquer mortality itself.
Motivation: All dragons, it would seem, nowadays, love themselves more than they could ever love another. S'harahe is utterly absorbed in her own beauty, her own power, her own majesty. In her mind, she is already a goddess; in her mind, it is only a matter of time before the rest of the world comes to worship her divinity. She has no need to praise herself. S'harahe's all-consuming goal is to prove to the world the high destiny she already knows is hers.
Skills and Talents: S'harahe is a prodigious magician; her power is all but unrivaled throughout Telmar. S'harahe speaks very poor human, but is almost fluent in elvish. As for her native tongue, S'harahe is more than a master at wielding every dragon word in existence. Other than these, S'harahe's skills and talents are few. She is an extraordinary singer, and her knowledge of other kingdoms and political leaders even outside her own lands is extensive, but there is little else S'harahe has time for or cares about.
Strengths: benevolence, diligence, political savvy, detailed and reliable memory
Weaknesses: intense narcissism, jealousy of the divine, aspirations of divinity
Personality: disciplined, confident, benevolent in her superiority


Prologue: The Search Begins


Sakira-thani > Sakira > Palace of Sithred-makh Grendilkren ~ afternoon of DAY 1

The walls soared high in the palace of the ruler of Sakira-thani. Much of its height was open to the sky, the domed roof hardly visible where it capped the column-like arches making up the loftier portions of the circular wall. But the place was more than just a plain, cylindrical tower. It bent and curved gently inward and outward like a female's smooth form. This was one of the less-known places of Grendilkren's palace--not as grand as the throne room, not as cavernous as the festive halls. The legendary Sithred-makh K'handrar seemed almost out of place here.

"Panir send hi-gsen than desztan cen cenda hin-gsen. Tekmet tirpan gsend hi-gsen than desztan." Grendilkren's voice was perfect. He spoke in his normal voice--the higher voice--which was almost as deep as most male dragons' lower voices. Some of the dragons assembled in the meeting room knew the reason he had called them there. Some could easily guess. The reason was the sudden, subtle amplification of dragon magic. Magic, or, 'the Great Shout', had acquired more power. "Cen desztan: tansa s'hreta than Danr-K'handra teran dan. Handa dishek hin-mandra than sithra." They had to find the source. It was only a question of who to send. "S'yan tirne dishek?"

There was a moment's pause as Grendilkren's words ended. Then a fair-skinned female stepped forward. "Mandra," she said; her voice was as beautiful as her form.
"Sehra-sithred S'harahe: tirne dishek gsen?" Sithred-makh Grendilkren was a little surprised that she had answered the call. Not only answered it, but answered it first, and, it would seem, without hesitation, reservation or fear.
"Tirne dishek mandra," she repeated. Confidence, even eagerness, overflowed from her voice.
"Cen sen ten. Hi s'yan tirne dishek?" Grendilkren was pleased someone had stepped forward, regardless of his surprise that the someone had been S'harahe. But one dragon alone could not accomplish the task quickly enough. Grendilkren called for a second.
"Mandra," came a voice, a few moments later.
Grendilkren nodded. "T'hareth s'yan?"
"Mandra," answered another, more quickly.
"San s'yan?" A fourth call.
This time there was a much longer wait. Finally, one more stepped forward. "Mandra."
"Cen sen ten," acknowledged Grendilkren, again with a nod. It is good. "Hanta tenet tanis hi-gsen," he said to the rest who were present. They would return to their previous positions and duties. "San-gsen: pestra gsen mandra."

Sithred-makh Grendilkren led the four dragons to another, more secret room in his palace. There, he would detail their mission.


Chapter One: Shadows from Light


Sakira-thani > Sakira > Palace of Sehra-sithred S'harahe ~ night of DAY 1

S'harahe looked up, out a window, at the moon. It was so pure, so radiant, so worthy to shine upon her beauty. Soon she would be fully bathed in its glow, basking in its soft brilliance--tomorrow night, and for many nights after. S'harahe would likely be out of doors for quite some time.

Elsewhere in the palace, her departure was being arranged. There were so many preparations to be made, and the servants had to hustle to accomplish them before the following night. The other three dragons who had answered Sithred-makh Gredilkren's call would be making similar preparations inside their own palaces. The servants didn't know much about it, only that there was work to be done.

Oh, but what glorious work it was, serving in the palace of a Sithred K'handrar. And with Sehra-sithred S'harahe, whose clear, crystal voice often echoed throughout the inner walls, making hearers giddy with delight even as they worked. Even tonight, even now, that perfect voice resounded throughout the stone halls. It made their every movement, their every labor, feel as if it were in answer to the sublime call of destiny.

S'harahe's gentle, vocalizing melody took several minutes to end, but end it did, as all things must. S'harahe looked once more at the moon, as if in farewell, knowing how terribly she would be missed by that white face in the sky. She smiled sadly for the moon's plight--the poor moon, searching always for the dragon maiden and waiting to delight in her voice, then forced to wait all the day for the fiery sun to run its course before it could see S'harahe again. The poor moon. But S'harahe must rest, now. Rest and sleep for the coming journey.

S'harahe raised a slender arm and a soft, clawed hand toward the sweet, sad face among the stars. "Merna: ten nema." Good night, Moon.


Sakira-thani > Sakira > Palace of Sehra-sithred S'harahe ~ morning of DAY 2

S'harahe woke with the sun. Her gentle eyelids slid open as fresh sunbeams caressed them, and the she-dragon arched her back gracefully, enjoying the feel of the silk cushions and soft gold leaves sliding under her. She held this stretched pose for a few moments, taking several deep breaths of the cold morning air that came in from the windows. (Dragon windows were never paned or shuttered, even in winter.) The springtime mountain breeze washed over her lightly clothed form, making her feel full of life. Refreshed, S'harahe sat up and began to fold her splayed wings. She then stood, smoothly stepping out of the pile of cushions and onto the polished stone floor.

Four female servants and two eunuchs were ready and waiting when S'harahe allowed the sheer silk cloth to fall from around her body. Hands with dull-filed claws caught the cloth--little more than a see-through silk blanket--before it touched the floor. S'harahe's scent was heavy on the cloth; huge amounts of revenue were drawn from the selling of these to competitive bidders. The eunuchs carried it away, while the female servants stayed.

Exposed and radiant, S'harahe turned toward the sunlit window and gifted the sun with the pleasure of viewing her glory, and in return the sun caused her fair, whitish skin to shine like the morning star. Reverently, after several moments, the four other she-dragons clothed her from behind. Tenderly, delicately, they wrapped her in a long, black silk cloth of the type she favored, careful never to touch her. When they finished, S'harahe turned and, by way of reward, gently touched each of their faces, like a goddess bestowing love upon her children.

"Cen gsen theled," the Sehra-sithred almost sang, high in her lower voice, bidding them be blessed. She used the singular form of address, even though there were four she was speaking to. S'harahe was unusual in many ways, and one of them was that she employed servants of a much lower caste--and much younger age--than was customary. As a result, S'harahe's servants did, in fact, view her as if she were a goddess. The four female servants, already aroused and then to be so lavished with favor, might very nearly have fainted from the thrilled pounding of their ecstatic hearts.

S'harahe motioned for them to return to their other duties, and the servants, reluctant to leave but overjoyed to obey, filed smoothly out of the towering room. Moments later, S'harahe followed. There were many preparations still to be seen to before all would be ready for her departure.


Sakira-thani > Sakira > Palace of Sehra-sithred S'harahe ~ afternoon of DAY 2

Sehra-sithred S'harahe stood at the center of a wide floor near the main entrance of her palace. As the most powerful of the four dragons preparing to set out, S'harahe would be leading the company, and her palace was to be the starting point of their journey. The other dragons should arrive at any moment. So S'harahe waited, gazing at the bulbous spires of the city, visible through the arching entryway, gleaming in the afternoon sun. How happy they were to be observed by her very eyes, affording her a source of pleasure.

Sithred-makh Panis'hret was first to arrive, along with his entourage. S'harahe hated him; she hated that he was coming along, hated that he was first to arrive, hated that he existed in the first place. Panis'hret had a talent and a reputation for getting what he wanted--and what he wanted, S'harahe knew, was the throne. As far as S'harahe was concerned, that would be one thing he would never acquire. Panis'hret was among the few whose magical prowess could, at a stretch, be said to approach her own, but S'harahe knew how far such a stretch would have to be. She didn't even consider him--or any Sithred K'handrar--a rival. The only rival she acknowledged was the current ruler, Sithred-makh Grendilkren himself. She hated Panis'hret not because she feared his potential, but because Panis'hret so openly refused to acknowledge her superiority.

Panis'hret was young, only ten years older than S'harahe. He was tall, dark-horned, yellow-eyed and handsome, with tanned skin and corded muscles. A known lecher, Panis'hret was never shy about staring S'harahe up and down. That was another thing he would never acquire, S'harahe told herself, and his open pursuit of it was another reason to hate him. Indeed, S'harahe ached to spill his blood. Were it not against Grendilkren's laws, she would have done it years ago.

"S'harahe."
"Panis'hret."

Omitting a dragon's title is considered the height of familiarity, or the extremity of rudeness. In their case, it was both. Not another word was spoken; Panis'hret merely moved to the side to wait, as S'harahe did, for the other two dragons to arrive. Before very long, they did: Sehra-dregan Mishera--who idolized Panis'hret--came first; then there was Higeth-makh Kaladar, who S'harahe recalled as an aficionado of the elvish language. Kaladar was also tall and handsome, like Panis'hret, but he was at least fifteen years older than S'harahe, if S'harahe rememberd correctly, and he boasted none of the younger dragon's lecherous habits. Stripe-horned with eyes like the morning sky, Kaladar remained surprisingly unmarried. Still, as Kaladar was a caste below her, S'harahe would never have considered such a match, assuming the thought were to enter her mind in the first place. Goddesses didn't marry. As for Mishera--beautiful enough, with yellow eyes and black-ringed horns, a few years older than S'harahe, though a bit on the short side--S'harahe couldn't help but notice and disdain her barely restrained worship of unworthy Panis'hret.

Sehra-dregan Mishera and Higeth-makh Kaladar both exchanged greetings with S'harahe first, Panis'hret second, as proper--though Mishera obviously would have wished otherwise. That done, S'harahe called her entourage to join them, assembling at the entrance. Per Grendilkren's laws, dragons of Sakira-thani are not allowed to employ servants ranking higher than four castes beneath them. While most dragons pick servants from the highest caste they are allowed, S'harahe was indiscriminate, hiring any skilled servant regardless of caste. This earned her gratitude, loyalty and even worship, but it was also necessary to hire them in greater numbers, since a higher-caste servant because of magic alone was naturally more skilled than a lower-caste servant. Hence, on a journey such as this, S'harahe brought with her those higher-caste of her servants, if for no other reason than to keep the other three dragons and their servants in line. All told, there were sixty-six dragons present. Panis'hret's entourage consisted of sixteen dragons; Kaladar's, fourteen; Mishera's, eight; and S'harahe's, twenty-four. With all assembled, S'harahe pronounced that the time had come, and the company set forth, out of Sehra-sithred S'harahe's palace and into the warm, afternoon sun that shone over the cold, magnificent, mountaintop city of Sakira.


Sakira-thani > near Melanin, some 115 miles east of Sakira ~ morning, DAY 5

The mountains were magnificent in the pre-dawn light. That is, magnificent in their role as a background to S'harahe's radiance. Sehra-sithred S'harahe breathed deeply the thin, cold air of the high mountains. High-caste dragons had no need to fear untoward temperatures. No dragon worthy of the title K'handrar needed fear extreme heat or cold. Since higher caste dragons built their palaces at higher elevations, dragon dwellings never needed account for seasonal temperatures, for magic leveled them all.

The past two days had been extraordinarily dull for S'harahe. Or at least they would have been, had those two days not been graced by her very existence. All that had transpired was repetitive, surreptitious travel, avoiding cities by weaving through mountain trails or flying between mountain peaks. Sithred-makh Grendilkren did not want their errand questioned or known. Their road would eventually lead them toward northeastern Sakira-thani.

Grendilkren had through profound skill been able to discern the region from which the source originated--that which had caused the subtle magnification of the Great Shout. He had explained this when he detailed the mission to S'harahe and the others. Beyond knowing the general region, however, S'harahe and her company had no way of narrowing their search. Once they reached that area of dragon lands, they would have to search every uninhabited peak, every abandoned cave, every inhospitable valley. It would be a daunting task indeed.

S'harahe accepted and ate the meat which the servants had roasted. Kaladar stood nearby, talking of elvish language and new discoveries. S'harahe was hardly paying attention; her primary use for Kaladar was keeping Panis'hret away from her. Most of S'harahe's mind was focused on little else besides the mission, her surroundings, and all the ways in which the universe revolved around her. The sun, apparently sensing her impatience to be showered with golden light, obliged.


Sakira-thani > near Paresheth, almost 300 miles east of Sakira ~ night of DAY 6

S'harahe walked at the head of the company. Cold mountain air teased her skin, pleasant against the simple magical wards. S'harahe felt the short tundra grasses brush between her toes like a thick carpet. The world of night was bright in the light of the moons. Menegra the Lover, the great disc of pale light that waxed and waned twelve times in her year, and Menethra the Watcher who made her cycle but twice, who gazed from a cold distance upon the joys and sorrows of the world. These were the two queens of light, the greater and the smaller, in a realm otherwise shrouded in darkness. Both were at their full, and both were present in the sky--a powerful omen. S'harahe walked onward determinedly, certain that the others could sense it as well, if perhaps to a lesser degree. In her mind there was no doubt. There would be no sleep this night.

S'harahe halted at the crest of a low mountaintop. It was a good place to rest. “Cenda k'hiran hin-mandra,” she said, her voice clear and enchanting in the crisp air. A misty cloud of hot breath accompanied her announcement. Few words had been traded between any of the company. Even Kaladar had quieted down today. Something was on the wing; the moons tonight proved it. S'harahe didn't know what to expect, but expect it she did, every fiber of her body alert. “Z'gan k'hipan,” was the only order she gave to the company as a whole. No sleep. It was no small command; dragons need sleep at regular intervals more than humans do. Ignoring protests, Sehra-sithred S'harahe instead turned to her own servants and instructed them to arrange themselves in a circle about the hill and begin channeling the elements. Her servants obeyed whole-heartedly and without question, and within moments the night was alive with the chants of all twenty-four devoted dragons.

Mishera came close. “Tan z'gan k'hipan?” she protested. Why no sleep? S'harahe turned her head slowly, affording the presumptuous thing little more than a condescending glance from the corner of one eye. After a long and uncomfortable moment, Mishera backed away silently. Only then did S'harahe deliver the obvious answer. A shadow, a threat, approached. “Psendra he skraldis, he z'tengra. Cen hin-mandra z'gan tema.” They were not safe.

A distant, long, low howl pierced the air louder than the collective chants of S'harahe's servants. Almost immediately a second followed, and then a third, from different directions. Growls and screeches joined them. In moments the world was a perverse symphony of opposing sounds. S'harahe turned round to gauge the others' reactions. Only Panis'hret, to his credit, showed no fear. S'harahe knew she had their attention, now. The rest of the servants needed to defend those who channeled the elements. “Temtha t'hareth-gserin hin-mishlak send gadan. Dram t'hareth-gsen sengal mandra; cidrept gsen han gracen than Danr-K'handra.” The three other K'handrar were to stand with S'harahe and prepare to unleash the Great Shout.

S'harahe could feel energies gather around the hill. Prolonged use of magic, as in battle situations, required a great supply of strength and a great supply of elemental energy. The servants would supply both, leaving the weaving of complex and powerful spells to the four masters. The four stood atop the hill facing outward in all four directions. Sehra-dregan Mishera to the west, Higeth-makh Kaladar to the north, Sithred-makh Panis'hret to the south, Sehra-sithred S'harahe to the east. By the light of the moons S'harahe watched as black shapes moved across the landscape, traversing hills and valleys with frightening speed. Then, even as she formed spells in her mind, a terrifying noise dwarfed all others. It was the roar of a fire-drake, morphed and twisted into an ear-splitting screech. S'harahe's eyes naturally hunted for the source of the sound, and then she saw it, the black shape outlined in silver light, winging its way directly toward her.

S'harahe listened to the steady chant of her servants, instinctively knowing how to coordinate with them so as to strengthen rather than disrupt their spells.

CID-ram GAL-dan; HAN-da MISH-lem GSEN THAN DAN-r K'HAN-dra
CID-ram MER-dan; HAN-da MISH-lem GSEN THAN DAN-r K'HAN-dra
CID-ram HAR-dan; HAN-da MISH-lem GSEN THAN DAN-r K'HAN-dra
CID-ram KAR-dan; HAN-da MISH-lem GSEN THAN DAN-r K'HAN-dra
CID-ram GAL-dan...


S'harahe took a deep breath, stretched her high voice low, her low voice high. Timing the beginning of her spell to coincide with the chant, she opened her mouth and sang the resonant words of power. She wove her chant in layers, vocalizing a haunting undertone, using as she must a single breath and unceasing sound, and finally dictating at the end from whence the spell would draw what power it required.
“Cid-ram Kar-dan; han-da mish-lem gsen... mar-in Dan-r K'han-dra! Cid-ram Kar-dan; dish-ek gsen than kar-kas thar-din man-dra! Kran-da Kar-dan kar-kas dhrend han kar-ba! Han-da mish-lem Kar-dan mar-in k'han-dra; gyar-ath gsen dan nan... Kabated, Dalaran, Pashelet, Maralen; CEN!!”

S'harahe had indicated four of her servants by name, and each of those four experienced a slight decrease in physical strength. In the same instant, the fire-drake shrieked as its blood caught fire from the inside. A fire-drake's blood should not catch fire. It was the simplest way to slay them. The creature exploded in a ball of bright flame. But then its fragmented body disintegrated, becoming trailing streams of black vapor. Unnatural. Unsettling. Creatures of darkness, creatures of shadow. What could cause such devilry?

Panis'hret's servants drew their weapons and stood guard in front of the still-chanting dragons. The dark monsters raged up the hill like a black, roiling tide. Wolf-shapes, boars, bears, and beasts unknown, unimagined, uncounted. Fierce dragons held them at bay while the all-important chanting continued.

S'harahe and the others fell to complicated weaving of spells. They combined their strengths, inter-weaving their spells with one another. Where one was unleashed another was began. Their endless song was punctuated by the effects of the spells. From mass death to drowning waves, from acid rain to scythes of wind, from hurled stones of fire to sinking pits of hungry earth, the power of high K'handrar was demonstrated in a dreadful onslaught of brutality. Everywhere the bursts of black, smoky vapor filled the air more quickly than it could dissipate, forming a dark, undulating fog in a wide circle below the mountaintop.

When the last creature had been slain and the last of the black vapor faded away, all that could be seen as evidence of the battle was the charred and gashed sides of the wounded mountain.

Alive but utterly spent, each dragon fell straight to the ground as slumber overwhelmed their senses.


Sakira-thani > near Paresheth, almost 300 miles east of Sakira ~ early morning of DAY 7

S'harahe awoke to the feeling of feathers against her cheek. As her consciousness came to life, so to did a myriad of sensations. Her body was sweating and yet cold, chilled by the mountain air; her throat was sore; her tail and her left wing tingled from her sleeping on them. Her teeth hurt; she closed her mouth. Groaning, S'harahe stretched out her neck, turned her head toward the shadow above her, and opened her eyes. It was a gryphon. A being of less poise might have started. S'harahe only smiled—as best she could through her discomfort—and heaved herself up onto her side. The tingling in her wing and tail increased momentarily as blood began to flow into them.

The gryphon rearranged its wings on its back and studied S'harahe with large, amber eyes. It was a female with a cream colored coat and brown feathers. The larger feathers on the end of its tail and along the edges of its wings were tipped with blue. S'harahe, still propping herself up with one arm, gently extended her free hand toward the beautiful creature. She would have called to it, but her voice had not yet returned, so instead she gestured.

Trustingly, as if somehow bewitched, the gryphon ducked its head and advanced toward the dragon. S'harahe smiled softly, petting the gryphon's fur and smoothing the feathers in its neck. Where was its mate? she thought. Gryphons mated early, and for life, never leaving the other's side. S'harahe glanced about. There, just a bit further down the slope of the hill, was a dark colored male. Kaladar stood next to it with his forearm on its back.

S'harahe shivered in the cold. So far, it seemed, she and Kaladar were the only ones awake. S'harahe could feel her throat starting to get better, but it was not yet well enough to cast any sort of spell. She would have to wait a bit longer to feel a comfortable temperature again. Meanwhile, all things considered, this day had started off better than S'harahe would have anticipated. Memories were coming back steadily of the previous night and the creatures of shadow. S'harahe allowed them to enter but payed them little heed just then. For now, S'harahe clambered to her feet and slowly drew nearer to the gryphon, feeding off its warmth while petting it tenderly. S'harahe soon felt her confidence returning. Whatever the coming days had in store, in the end nothing would stand in her way.


Sakira-thani > near the Camalen River, east of Paresheth ~ DAY 7

S'harahe stood alone on the top of a small rise, surrounded by devoted dragons and myriad trees. The party had descended the mountains, where the temperature was warm and the air was alive with healing. Few of the dragons had been in good shape after the previous night's battle. Under the circumstances, S'harahe had led them down into the Camalen Mirmer valley. Many things needed to be discussed and planned.

Everyone agreed that they should plan for the worst—plan for another attack similar to the one they had just endured. If they were to face a second assault, and possibly more thereafter, they needed to recover fully each day. If they could not even maintain such simple spells as regulating their temperature, then the top of a mountain was no place to fight continuous battles. They would all freeze to death. The river valley would provide an environment that would sustain them. The mountaintop was and would have been a better place for a battle—good vantage point, height advantage, easily defensible—but its loss could not be helped.

To work magic, one's voice had to be in pristine condition. Wits had to be sharp; it is no easy task manipulating both voices to sound the same tone, at the same time chanting loudly and with unfailing precision. Last night the dragons had been unprepared, and the extended battle had left them drained and sore, mentally and physically. S'harahe and the others had gathered around this small, sunlit hill to drink from the land's life, to hasten their healing. It was a quiet spot, seemingly tailor-made for their purpose. Insects buzzed, chirped and droned, and there was the distant rushing of the Camalen, but all was muted by the circle of trees and the combined presence of the dragons. S'harahe took a final deep breath, then gestured with one clawed finger. A soft chanting filled the air, low in volume to keep from significantly harming the surrounding plant-life. They needed to harvest and receive, not pillage and loot. The repetitive chant was slow, rhythmic, and gentle.

”Ge-dan, Mir-mer, Ta-dan, K'hith-rin: Rets'-ne Man-dra Gse-rin Dan.
“Ge-dan, Mir-mer, Ta-dan, K'hith-rin: Rets'-ne Man-dra Gse-rin Dan.
“Ge-dan, Mir-mer, Ta-dan, K'hith-rin...”


It was the same spell repeated over and over, gently leeching energy from the surrounding woodland. After the fourth repetition, S'harahe joined her voice to their rhythm, drawing out the notes of her song with an impressive capacity for long spells. Weaving melody in a rare and remarkable display of high-caste magical prowess, her sweet, clear voice mightily augmented the dragons' collective spell.

”Gyaaarath thaanii-Maaandra Gaaldaan Taand Marin Dhreengaal: Ceeeeeen....”

This she sang twice, taking the same amout of time as four repetitions of the chant. She waited another four and then repeated the process. When the rest of the dragons began an additional four spells, S'harahe joined in with them on the final chant. ”Gedan, Mirmer, Tadan, K'hithrin: Rets'ne Mandra Gserin Dan.” And with that, the ritual ended.

S'harahe looked at the sixty-five dragons around her, and she felt a pang of sympathy. The times ahead might require them to wake during the night and sleep during the day. It is against a dragon's physical nature to do so. A magically induced sleep would do little good; the sleeping dragon would eventually awake, his body sensing that the sun was still in the sky. Similarly, it becomes a strain for a dragon to remain awake during the night. Need and fear had kept them awake last night, but at a cost. They could not afford to fall unconscious, unprotected, at the end of every battle. A solution would need to be found before long, whether it be shelter or a night watch or something else. But not today. Today, they must all get what rest they could, even if sleep was beyond their grasp.

Each dragon retreated into his own consciousness, trying to perform the functions of sleep. They meditated on past events; they recalled over and over their movements during the previous night's battle; they allowed their minds to wander into makeshift dreams. This, they reasoned, might make it easier to face the darkness when the sun departed. Later on, a group of servants acquired and prepared venison for food to share, and different groups did so in their turn throughout the day, so that they all were allowed some measure of rest. This time, the dragons would be prepared for the creatures of shadow.


Sakira-thani > near the Camalen River, east of Paresheth ~ night of DAY 7

During the hours before sunset, S'harahe, Panis'hret, Kaladar and Mishera discussed possible tactics. The river would provide an advantage. The real trouble came from unknowns: whether more shadow creatures would appear in the first place, from which direction they might come, how long the battle might last. It was determined that the group would stay near the riverbank, and wherever the creatures appeared thickest, the dragons would fly across to the opposite side of the river. This would strain their physical stamina, but it would save their voices and allow them time to adapt to the situation, whatever it turned out to be. This and other plans were related to the servants.

Night fell. The moons rose. Yet even as the gentle breeze, the rustling woods and the babbling river seemingly proclaimed that all was at peace, S'harahe could feel darkness descending. Sure enough: amid the chirping sounds of insects, the moon-lit landscape and the smell of spring, there came the curdled roaring of a hundred terrible beasts. It came from the west, on their side of the river.

“G'kharthrad!” Fly! S'harahe called. Now! Go! “Tenet! Gendra!”

S'harahe watched them, as first Maralen's group and then the others took wing in a flurry of movement. The servants were used to carrying supplies over short bursts of flight, but Panis'hret's warriors struggled under the weight of their armor and weapons. Sparing no more time, S'harahe herself took to the air. With a few wingbeats, her light frame easily lifted itself off the ground. Instead of hurrying to span the breadth of the river, like the others, S'harahe was able to take her time and cross more slowly. She wanted to observe as much as possible.

Hovering more than flying, S'harahe turned her body to face different directions, her long neck twisting around as she searched for any sign of movement. The river rushed on below her feet as she gazed downward. Something caught her eye; it might have been a dark shape in the water. S'harahe squinted at the spot in the river, trying to see. Just then a screeching sound made her whirl about toward the east. Unladen servants were around her before she knew what was going on. Then she saw it, a group of black shapes against the sky, just like last night. S'harahe hurried to catch up to the others, who were hurrying to reach the shore before the shadows engaged them in the air.

Too late: drake-shapes descended, diving like falcons upon the flying dragons. Some of the dragons dodged skillfully in midair, but others were tackled down toward the river. One of the warriors had the presence of mind to slash at one of the dark shapes as it fell past him. The thing burst into smoke as it died. Another dragon wrestled with a drake as they fell. Whereas most of the shadow-drakes pulled out of their dive before hitting the river, one was dragged by the dragon together into the water. The water turned black as the drake melted into the river, and the surface of the water gave off an inky black steam. The dragon managed to swim to safety.

S'harahe watched as Kaladar, thinking quickly, beat his wings vigorously to gain altitude. What was he doing? S'harahe heard his voice calling loudly from above where the drakes were flying. ”CEN MER!!!” she heard him shout. Water appeared in a wide sphere all around Kaladar, where it immediately began to fall like rain over the aerial skirmish. Kaladar, too, fell from the sky, soaked with water and barely conscious. S'harahe saw him pull into a glide an head for the shore, and then her eyes were drawn downward. Nearly all the drake shapes were roaring in pain, beginning to fall as their bodies were riddled with holes. Many were half melted already, and they burst into smoke in midair. The others fell to the river.

The few remaining in the air were now a much more manageable threat. By this time, S'harahe and her escort of servants had caught up with their fellow dragons. Kaladar had displayed skill, performing a spell in mid-flight—even if the spell had been short. The spell was simple enough for the servants to follow his example. Within moments, the skies were clear again.

The dragons landed safely on the far shore. They had survived another night.


Sakira-thani > near the Camalen River, east of Paresheth ~ morning of DAY 8

Following the previous night's battle, the dragons had again fallen immediately into slumber, until the rising sun brought them to wakefulness. Yet wakefulness did not cure weariness or wounds.

S'harahe paced perfectly along the riverbank, sunlight and shadows playing across her pale skin, the fresh air full of cool moisture. S'harahe was cold, but not from the morning breeze. In her heart, she despaired of the feelings inside her. She raged silently at everything inside, everything around. How dare the stars order her fate thus! How dare those monsters attack, night after night, while the cold moons merely watch! How dare her servants suffer wounds! How dare Kaladar not be awake! Curse the drop of sweat running down her back, making her shiver and appear weak! Curse Panis'hret for standing there, watching her with anything less than awed reverence! Curse the world and its distractions muddling her thoughts, depriving her of the answers she knew she must know! She was above this.

A low flapping of wings signaled Panis'hret's approach. He touched down behind S'harahe and stalked close, his heavy footfalls muted upon the grass. She could feel his leering gaze crawling over her smooth back, her tapered wings, her shapely tail.

“Panis'hret: dezsan s'hartir gsen?” What do you want, S'harahe spat.
Panis'hret snorted a haughty laugh. “Z'gan panir gsen?” You don't know?
She chose not to take the bait. “Dezsan tenet s'hartir gsen?” she asked more specifically.
“Tenet...?” At the moment...? “S'hegad mandra gsen.”
S'harahe turned red with outrage and disgust. How dare he be so forward! “Handa t'egn gendra, g'sarkath!!”
Panis'hret recoiled from the force of the insult, as if he'd been clawed in the face. Finally, snarling, he stopped trying to agitate her and expressed the real reason he was there. “Dezsan t'egn ced tekel-hin-mandra?” What will all sixty-six of us do now?
S'harahe waited till she was calm before answering. “Hetnan cidram Kaladar, tirme g'kharthrad tekel-hin-mandra.” When Kaladar wakes, we will fly.
“Gande?” Where?
Toward next water. “Hanen telest mer. Han K'hi-Taren Mirmer.” To K'hi-Taren River. She nodded, finally facing the inevitable. “Nan Camalen han K'hi-Taren termid seka tiral.” From Camalen to K'hi-Taren within one day.
Panis'hret humphed in his throat. “Z'gan tirshcen hin-mandra K'hi-Taren.” We won't succeed. We won't survive Whisper Forest.
S'harahe's jaw set. “Handa.” We must. ...Yes. “...D'shana. Hetnan cidram Kaladar. Handa.”


Sakira-thani > near the eastern shore of the Camalen River ~ late morning of DAY 8

The reverent fawning of S'harahe's vassals eased some of her tension, but none of her worry. Kaladar would wake when he would wake; there was no rushing a dragon's rest. In the meantime, they needed to prepare for the necessary flight as quickly as possible, to be ready at any moment. Every hour spent waiting would make this all the more difficult--and perilous. S'harahe already had most of her servants preparing almost all of what remained of the party's food supply. They would not be able to carry it, and they would need the energy. Panis'hret's warriors, meanwhile, were busy setting aside their heavy armor. They would keep their weapons--they would need those--but armor and flight did not mix, and certainly not over any distance. The distance they needed to cover now, in less than a day... S'harahe shook her head. This was no time for doubt.

The grassy slopes were bustling with dragons actively hastening preparations, yet few spoke a word. Partly because there was little to say, partly because they were still feeling the effects of last night, partly because they were saving their voices out of simple pragmatism. It would not do to be unable to properly wield magic if they were set upon again tonight by those shadow creatures.

S'harahe gently shrugged out of the careful ministrations of two of her servants, who had been massaging the muscles and tendons which connected her wing shoulders to her neck. Acknowledging them, she took a few paces to stand apart. Then she steadily unfolded and stretched her wings, the unfolded skin translucent in the sunlight. She gestured slightly with one hand for the servants to join the others in the work. A breeze traced through the grass, cooling the same skin that the sun warmed. S'harahe flapped twice, slowly, flexing and stretching the wings as she moved them through their ranges. She folded them, unfolded them, then folded them again. A deep breath brought the wet scent of river flora from nearby, and another caught the faint beginnings of the food preparation. S'harahe breathed out, looked over to the cluster of three dragons keeping watch over Kaladar. Exasperation reared, yet S'harahe found a way to ignore it. After all, the powers that set the dictates of rest would be unjust to feel impatience as those dictates were followed.

Contingency. Zengtir. S'harahe thought of the word as a necessary evil, one which must not be conquered but may be circumvented. As she intended to do.

Just then--and in the back of her mind S'harahe could admit she had expected this--Kaladar awoke, rising to his feet at the same time as all dragons will when their slumber is complete. Awakening and rising were synonymous--indeed, were the same act--to dragons. By the way Kaladar's head suddenly swiveled toward the east and north, one of his servants near him must have related the morning's events. S'harahe kept her eyes on him until his gaze found her, then she nodded in confirmation and turned to go direct the next phase.


Sakira-thani > the skies northeast of the Camalen River ~ DAY 8

With S'harahe and her retinue in the lead, sixty-six dragons steadily beat the air high above the ground, forcing the sky behind them on their way northeast. Sixteen of them carried long blades. The rest carried small sacks of supplies or food, or else nothing. All were clad only in light garments, their bodies chilled by the moving air yet already hot with exertion. Almost laying through the air, they ducked and soared their way onward like an airborne school of winged dolphins. This was the manner for long distance flight, except this group was straining for speed. A gryphon could have gone faster, and a drake faster still, but dragons were not so sparingly built. Remaining airborne was a struggle, not an art.

Before starting out, the group had hastily eaten most of their food, or at least as much as they could eat without hampering their ability to fly. A little of what remained they could carry with them, but the rest they had to leave behind, along with most of the supplies and all of the warriors' armor. Ordinarily such a large meal might have sustained them for a whole day of airborne travel, but not now, not at this pace. They would need to stop somewhere to rest and eat at least once.

The hours crawled by along with the terrain, as midday passed and the day warmed. The sun heated the ground below, causing updrafts and turbulence. More-skilled fliers could anticipate and use the shifting air to advantage; those less-skilled were in constant recovery from the whims of the wind. The high caste dragons in the group knew the sky well enough to get by. The warriors were more suited to the ground, but they were quick learners. The rest varied in skill according to their individual experiences, but many of them were city dwellers unused to travel. Even those who had traveled still had few experiences of long distance flight. Out of all the group, perhaps three or four had ever been pressed into such urgency of travel before--due to such things as family matters or critical messages. A flight as desperate as this was more or less unheard-of.

In the approaching distance loomed B'kraldin Hi-Gadan, the Black Mountains. S'harahe angled the group through the long, forested valley along the roots of the mountains. Along they flew, avoiding civilization and keeping especially far away from large populations, for their errand was still secret. They continued northeast, parallel to the Sakira-thani/Sephalia border, as the heat of the day began to pass in its turn. About forty miles north of the nearest city, S'harahe banked toward a small, lonely peak set apart from the foothills of the Black Mountains. As they neared it, the dragons slowed and dropped to a more upright position, beating fiercely in a strained, heavy, yet smooth, landing. Most of them crumpled onto to the dark stone, panting.

S'harahe's chest heaved in-out, in-out. The skin of her wings itched, and her wing muscles twitched and felt odd now that they had ceased their constant rhythm. Her body was flush and sweating. Without the wind to free it, the black silk she wore clung damply to her breasts and torso. In-out, in-out the air went through her lungs and nostrils. She tried to fold her wings, but the flesh was swollen as blood coursed through the veins. The best she could manage was a deflated, half-angle contraction of her flying limbs. Nevertheless, despite it all, she remained standing and erect, surveying the scene.

They had landed on a rounded peak of dark-colored stone that only just rose above the line of trees all around. To the northeast, S'harahe could see the pass through the last arm of the Black Mountains. She knew the Khi-Taren River lay about the same distance again beyond that pass. They were more than half of the way there. Only a few hours of real daylight remained, but they still had a half day's journey to go. Yet they had flown nearly a day's journey already in little more than half a day. They couldn't possibly keep up this pace, but if they held out as much as they could, for just a little longer, they would make it before true night fell.

Panis'hret wasted no time directing his servants to hunt what they could within a half hour and bring it back. This they did, but the dragons had to resort to mundane fire to cook the meat they brought: two deer from a nearby meadow. Combined with the food they had carried this far, it was enough to feed everyone's hunger. They ate in haste. No one took the time to speak. All were intensely focused on recuperating as much energy as they could before they set off again. When the time came, as tired as they were, they had to run on all fours to build enough speed to gain flight. An hour after they had landed, once more the dragons took to the sky.


Sakira-thani > Khi-Taren River, near the borders of Khi-Taren ~ twilight of DAY 8

There, there was the river! S'harahe's pulse throbbed beneath her throat, and she fought a wave of dizziness as she led the group into a shallow dive. The sun was already below the horizon, and the sky was a cloudless, burnt orange. The Khi-Taren River snaked out of the thick forest ahead. Now that they were free of the mountains, the dragons could coast the rest of the way on the speed of their descent. Which was fortunate, because S'harahe didn't think she could manage another wing-beat. She had felt that way for most of the past two hours, and she knew by the sudden dips of others behind her that some were faring even worse.

The skin of S'harahe's wings rippled tightly as she gained speed. Her sinuous spine was idle long enough to start protesting at the amount of use it had sustained. But it wasn't over yet. All at once, they were as low as the tops of trees. Fir and pine presented dark pillars as obstacles to their careening descent. S'harahe found herself banking right and left to dodge them, leveling out to avoid going lower but unable to muster strength enough to regain altitude. Behind her, S'harahe heard a series of grunts and cries, but then all of a sudden the trees ended over the coursing waters of the river. S'harahe pulled up and flared her wings, but when she dropped her legs, she found she could not flap to keep herself in the air. Over the riverbank, S'harahe fell.

Water splashed around her, and a second later S'harahe felt a miry thud as she hit the murky sand below. She pulled herself by her claws up the shallow slope of wet ground, until the water cascaded away and she could draw a grateful breath. As she staggered onto shore, she winced from a pain in her lower back as well as from the general ache throughout her entire body. Even now, though, S'harahe had the wherewithal to keep her dignity: she refused to simply collapse into the mud. She had just managed to fully stand--at least her legs still held--when splashes from behind brought her head around to see others falling into the river. Panis'hret staggered out from the trees, followed by several others far more bruised than he. A few managed a relatively smooth landing on the shore. More fell straight to the sand and crumpled when their feet hit the ground. S'harahe shivered. It was, suddenly, very cold.

Too exhausted now to speak even if they were free to do so, the dragons waded into the river and stayed there, waiting. At least the water was fresh and could quench their thirst. They would have to wait until tomorrow to worry about food again. Unasked was the question: would the water truly keep them safe if the shadow creatures attacked? As exhaustion and darkness threatened to force them to sleep, the dragons waited and watched. Tension ate at them all. The next hours would put all their effort to the test.


Sakira-thani > Khi-Taren River, west of Kraldemir ~ night of DAY 14

The river was cold at night. S'harahe was held back from slumber only out of reflex, a self preservation instinct that jolted her awake whenever she felt herself tipping over in the water. Nevertheless, she knew she was close to giving in, sensing that enough time had passed. The growls in the blackness and the distant howls of night were growing thin. Her servants could not help; splashes were heard every few moments, whenever one of them took longer than normal to regain wakefulness. They couldn't keep this up.

The past few days had been slow going. Yes, they had discovered a way to escape the nightly shadows, but it was taxing their bodies to dangerous levels. S'harahe knew it was quickly coming to a head. They ate fish from the river and they slept as well as they could during the early morning hours, trudging along the riverbank during the day, but every night was a struggle not to faint from exhaustion. Every night, the shadows came. The few flying ones were easily defeated, but the rest remained, haunting them from the river's edge, glowering at them with yellow eyes. And their numbers were growing. What would happen when the dragons had no more strength left to wait out the nights? The questions circled over and over in S'harahe's harried mind, spiraling into the dark, tumbling into blackness, into...

A fiery pain in her left wing brouoght the world rushing back. Her wing socket above her shoulder was pulled taut, and it too hurt, for all her weight was imbalanced, suspended above the moving river with her face an arm's length from the water. She uttered an audible, shuddering cry at the sudden pain, wakefulness, and alarm. She stretched her tail and put a leg out to steady herself on the river floor, her movements twice as slow where the water rushed around her limbs. When at last she had regained her balance, she looked over at what was making her wing throb with every heartbeat. In the moonlit darkness the whitish skin of her wing was streaming rivulets of hot, red blood, punctured by the firm grasp of a dragon's three-fingered claw.
"S'harahe!" a desperate voice called, "cidram! Cen gsen tenma?" It was the claw's voice, urging her to wake, asking whether she was alright.
Other voices called out as well, "Sehra-kerthed, Sehra-kerthed!" Beloved mistress.
S'harahe tried to focus through the heart-pounding fog of conflicting tiredness and pain. It was Kaladar. He had grabbed ahold of her wing to stop her from falling, unconscious, into the river. "Kaladar?" she said, the sound of the name interrupted by a pained, involuntary shudder as her wing began to twitch. "Hadhel..." She began to feel rage. "Hadhel cersed gsen!?" How dare you!?
Only then did Kaladar realize that by grabbing the only thing within reach, her wing, he had rent bleeding holes into the stretched skin. Hurriedly he let go and stepped back through the watercourse, bowing his neck and shoulders. "S'heleg mandra nan gsen he tircen, Sehra-sithred."
"Gendram!!" she shouted in reply to his plea. Her two voices were nearing resonance, an indication of deadly ire. Begone!! S'harahe followed his movements with a glare of fury until he had positioned himself well downstream of her.

Precious few were the instances in S'harahe's life where her body had been damaged--the scrape of a claw in childhood, a bruise from the one time she fell when learning to fly, an accidental prick from curiously handling the point of a human's bejeweled dagger. Never before had she suffered a true wound. Never before had her beauty been marred by the shedding of blood. Her blood. Her tremoring wing as she held it under the moonlight, the throbbing stream of blood running warm down her skin, was confusing, horrifying, enraging, fascinating.

"Sehra-kerthed! Sehra-kerthed!"
A number of S'harahe's servants had finally reached her, wading upstream through the water. Reverently they began to minister to her wing. S'harahe contained a wince as they gently washed the wound, barely touching her. One of the servants produced a sort of paste and applied it to the punctured skin. A spike in pain was followed by numbness as the spot was completely covered, to allow the skin to grow back together. Dragons were quick to heal, but their wings were more delicate. But because they were able to tend it quickly, they said, there would most likely be no scar. S'harahe stiffened briefly in outrage at the mere suggestion, causing them to flinch away. After a tense moment, S'harahe nodded in acknowledgment and dismissal.

A short time later, the remaining shadow beasts dispersed. The sky would soon begin to lighten. But the dragons would not be awake to see it. Haggard and faint, the group waded to shore and crumpled to the ground.


Sakira-thani > Khi-Taren River, west of Kraldemir ~ evening of DAY 15

When S’harahe woke to an amber sky, her first thought was that she had slept--truly slept--during the day. Her second thought, realizing it was sunset, was that they had slept the whole day through. Lying back on the grassy riverbank, she shook her head in wonder at the thought, that a dragon should miss the face of the sun for its entire day. What did that say about how mercilessly they had pushed themselves?

Feeling a constraint somewhere past the claw of her left wing, S’harahe rolled her head to the side and lifted her limb from the ground. A patch of gray was there--the paste for the skin of her wing. S’harahe’s mood fell as it all came back into her head. Suddenly irritated, suddenly determined, she decided she had had enough. She stood up and looked around. There was time to have the servants perpare a meal before night fell. And then, they would fight.

The other sixty-five dragons lay sprawled in different positions all along the riverbank, their feet barely free of its quietly rushing waters. S’harahe carefully flexed her wing one more time. She would have to avoid flying or completely folding it for a while. Well, so be it. It changed nothing. She raised her voice to the slumbering dragons: “Cidram tekel-teget-gsen.” Arise, each of you.

Panis’hret’s warriors were the first to respond. Since Panis’hret himself slumbered on, S’harahe had them begin gathering food from the river. She noticed that Kaladar, when he woke with his retinue, silently made a point of deferring to her. Gradually each of the dragons was roused and set to work. Some of the servants gathered food from the forest while others prepared cookfires and set up a clean work surface. As dusk fell, everyone raced to have finished and eaten before dark. When their meal was over and night drew near, S’harahe addressed the group.

“Tekel-hin-g’karadd,” she began, including herself in the number, “handa z’gan tegn cidret hin-mandra cadram than nema. Tircen cidret kadram than skraldis hin-beldrast hin-mandra, gath shengra dan zera draman.” They must no longer resist the night. The shadow beasts would continue to oppose them, either by strength or patience. By now it was plain that they could not escape the beasts by avoiding a confrontation. Whether they fought or whether they fled, they consumed the same amount of energy. Taking refuge in the river gained them nothing but long hours of discomfort and fear. It was time to end this. “Send nema,” this night, “san-d’shana tircen gkyarath tekel-hin-mandra thad hin-skraldis than Danr K’handra.

The dragons roared into the falling night. For the first time in days, they would unleash upon the shadows the fury of the Great Shout.



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Re: Stories of Túlaman

Post by Kalon Ordona II on Mon Dec 20, 2010 7:39 pm

. : Silahyie's Story : .



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Re: Stories of Túlaman

Post by Kalon Ordona II on Mon Dec 20, 2010 7:39 pm

. : Tuuli and Tuula's Story : .



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Re: Stories of Túlaman

Post by Kalon Ordona II on Mon Dec 20, 2010 7:39 pm

. : Z'anginthel's Story : .



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Re: Stories of Túlaman

Post by Kalon Ordona II on Mon Dec 20, 2010 8:36 pm

Sephiris: The Price of Peace

. : Áirhath's Story : . PART 2


~ Áirhath Aeryän, Commander of the Ssandári Mercenaries
elf ; age 182 ; 5'7" ; brown hair tied back in three places ; green eyes ; lithe and athletic ; wears a dhiláthra of slate blue, silver, and yellow ; swordsman ; wields the dilssan ; red tattoo of a fire-drake over his left shoulder & upper arm ; appears fierce, focused and commanding ; has connections among the White Council ; speaks human language ; chivalrous, focused, tenacious ; racist, show-off, romantically ignorant ; overall: kind-hearted, calculating, adventurous.


. : Name : .
Full Name: Áirhath Aeryän, Leader of the Ssandári Mercenaries
Use Name: Áirhath
Other: Commander Áirhath, or sometimes simply Commander
Played by: Kalon Ordona II

. : Appearance : .
Height and Build: 5'7" ; lithe and athletic
Description: Áirhath has dark brown hair and green-gray eyes. The set of his eyes is wide and deep; his forehead sweeps back, continuing the straight line of his nose. His dark hair is usually tied back in three places, one on top of another along the back of his head; the hairstyle complements the way his pointed ears lay close to the sides of his head. As old as he is, and leading the lifestyle he has, Áirhath is physically stronger than most elves, though his musculature is as lean and graceful as any elf's.
Clothing: Whether dressed in linen or silk, Áirhath always wears over all an elaborate cloth that covers his left side, shoulder and arm. This squared cloth, with two corners fastened front and back at the belt, two sides fastened front and back at chest height, and the rest draped over one arm and typically coming lower than the knee, is known as the dhiláthra--or, kin's-cloth. The dhiláthra is an almost universal elvish garment that displays the family colors. Áirhath's dhiláthra, of the Aeryän family, is slate blue with a thick silver border and flowery yellow patterns. Áirhath's usual garments, aside from the dhiláthra, consist of a sleeveless black linen tunic and breeches--the lower parts near his feet being decorated with yellow patterns to match his dhiláthra. Around his waist is a wide, blue silk sash beneath a dark leather belt. His feet are wrapped in comfortable strips of uncolored cloth, and are shod with sandals of typical elvish fashion. The hand beneath the dhiláthra is gloved, to protect against the poisoned blade of his knife should he need to use it. The other hand is wrapped in comfortable strips of uncolored cloth, up to the elbow, with the fingers and thumb left bare. His bare right arm and shoulder display a blood-red tattoo in the shape and likeness of a winged fire-drake.
Weapons: Áirhath wields the dilssan. A common elvish weapon, the dilssan consists of a one-hand grip with no crossguard and a single-edged blade; the quarter-inch-thick bar of steel is half an inch from spine to blade and is typically two and a half feet in length. The dilssan is extremely light, meant for elf versus elf combat--against other races, larger, more substantial weapons are the norm. Áirhath's dilssan is kept in a slender sheath strapped behind his right shoulder. Another common elvish weapon--the throwing star--Áirhath carries in abundance inside special, thin pouches distributed across his midsection, lower back, and thighs. Finally, in a sheath strapped behind his left shoulder, Áirhath carries a knife with a poisonous, pinkish, crystal blade.
Other: There is a small form-leather pouch attached to Áirhath's belt, useful for storing small herbs, vials, and other odds and ends that might be difficult to obtain on short notice.
Impression: Áirhath's appearance is fierce, focused and commanding.

. : Heritage : .
Age: 182
Birthplace: Ardin, Hern--a village situated at the source of the Saerun.
Family: Of the twenty-six elf Families in Telmar, Áirhath belongs to Aeryän. Áirhath is the only child of Alandel and Aiya, since Aiya, like so many elf mothers of less than normal vitality, died from childbirth, at the age of 246, having led a full life. Alandel lived until his 302nd year, raising Áirhath before he too--as the elves of Telmar believe--passed into the void. All elves of Aeryän, all those who wear the Aeryän dhiláthra--no matter where they live in Telmar--would be considered Áirhath's immediate family.
Inheritance: Áirhath's mother, Aiya, was a weaver. The dhiláthra he wears had been made for him by her, in anticipation of her own death. Áirhath's dilssan belonged to Alandel, his father, who was a famous swordmaster in his own right.
Other: Áirhath has several connections in high places, especially among the White Council, but he has few role models. His true friends are the fellow swordmasters that make up his mercenary group. Áirhath has not yet married.

. : Persona : .
Biography: Áirhath remembers his mother's face, the moment when Aiya named him. As most elves remember such first moments, Áirhath can still see her, his mother, Aiya, when he turns his mind toward the past. Her hair, almost completely black with age, framing an expression of such love and joy, to have brought a child into the world even at the cost of her own life, knowing her legacy would live on. She and Alandel had been married for many, many years; they were deeply in love and wanted children as much as any elf, but Aiya was too fragile, even for her kind, and it was rightly guessed that giving birth would be her final act in life. And so, late in Aiya's years, when she felt she had lived to the fullest and while she was still fertile, she and Alandel coupled often for the purpose of conception, and soon Aiya did conceive. Through her term she prepared as much as she could in anticipation of her probable death, wanting to give as much as possible to the child she could but bring into being. An Aeryän dhiláthra of unsurpassable quality, journals and writings she had written and saved to pass on, all this and more. Then, when her child was born, and she held Áirhath at last in her arms, she died at peace, full of joy, with Alandel at her side.
Áirhath's childhood was happy. Though he only had one parent, there was no shortage of uncles, aunts and cousins at gatherings. Life was not difficult in the village of Hern. The springs of Saerun Anara provided pure water, and its streams carried fish aplenty. The surrounding forest was full of herbs and fruits, and gardens and animals were kept by all. Áirhath and his father lived together close to the mountains, where Alandel taught his son all about the world, how to read and write, how to tally, even how to speak human. As Áirhath grew, he learned more and more about his mother, and read everything she had written for him, and cherished everything she had left for his keeping. At gatherings Áirhath learned to leap and climb and fight, and when he was older Alandel taught him the way of the blade, and Áirhath learned of his father's history, and the deeds that he had done, and he marveled and wished to do such deeds and greater. And his father taught him to think deeply on every matter, and to be strength to those in need, and to remember always the greatness and the glory of the elves above all other forms of life. And then, over the course of time, Alandel's days came to an end, just before the beginning of Áirhath's fiftieth year.
Áirhath became a wanderer in search of great deeds, and great deeds indeed were waiting to be done. Áirhath quickly learned the true nature of the world, and for the whole of his life has done all in his power to make the world a better place, walking the path of the blade. Áirhath established the Ssandári Mercenaries when he was ninety years old, since a number of like-minded swordmasters had steadily joined him over the years.
The Ssandári Mercenaries have earned recognition throughout elvenlands, and have even been to parts of the human land Sephalia several times. So Áirhath Aeryän grew wise and strong, great in knowledge and rich in friends. Now, he is about to face an adventure greater than any he has ever experienced.
Motivation: Áirhath carries in his heart his mother's love and his father's teachings. He has also come to care for each of his fellow swordmasters as if they were the brothers and sisters he never had. Áirhath has never tired of adventure and the doing of great deeds, and he never will.
Skills and Talents: Hereditary talent, excellent instruction, and constant practice has made Áirhath an exceptional master of the blade. In addition, Áirhath's mind is naturally attuned to nature; knowledge of nature is both an elven racial trait and a heavy childhood course of study, for Áirhath as much as any elf. Áirhath can also speak fairly good Human as well as his native tongue.
Strengths: chivalry, tenacity, focus
Weaknesses: racist, show off, ignorant in regard to romance
Personality: kind-hearted, calculating, adventurous


Chapter One: Shadows from Light ~ CONTINUED


Sephalia > Oliphey ~ early evening of DAY 8

“Lisanelle,” I see you, the young elf began in greeting. “Aeris nin lle san lle.”
Áirhath waited for her to continue.
“Lli aer...” she struggled, “lli aeren Ellidartha Surärrhë. Lli... saha lle.” I... know you. Áirhath said nothing, puzzled. She stepped closer. “Ethilhae? Seledh, lli hathil lle ilisen?” She paused, then continued when Áirhath did not turn her away. “Haeí lli telärdëi ich dan undérach ethin lle.”
So, she wanted a moment of his time to speak with him about the shadow beasts. Áirhath was doubly curious, now. An estranged kin of the Surärrhë--one who claims to know him--wandering alone in a human city, and wanting to help deal with the shadows. “Anndra haeí, deth dhanath,” he said. Surely yes, of course.
She smiled softly. “Ethin lle chyearnan? Haeí lli dhanë nin rienan dene telärdë anath?”
Áirhath nodded congenially. “Haeí, san dene undánë atara.” An inn would indeed be the best place to talk further, and to flee the rain.

Áirhath brought her with him to the inn where he and his company were staying. Inside the warm common room, there were eleven of his mercenaries. Áirhath noted that Titanya was conspicuously absent. Though perhaps that was for the best, at the moment, with this new development. Áirhath nodded as his company acknowledged him, but then he saw their eyes shifting toward his guest.
Ellidartha said, “Naeí innil aeril san irriel silda edhän lle.” Her voice betrayed no nervousness, but she did seem self-conscious about her lack of a kin's-cloth. As well she might; some of the elves reacted to her presence with a sort of empathetic distaste, a brief tensing of the eyebrows that might have indicated puzzlement or concern. Áirhath led her to a more remote table where they might be afforded better privacy without raising needless suspicions. Once seated, Áirhath ordered a couple of mild drinks for them, just something that would drive away the chill.

When the drinks were delivered, Ellidartha began quietly. “Líredan, lli shah lle rát erethendra dan haínannde rrállia dan undérach.”
Áirhath nodded; he had helped defend the city against the shadow beasts.
Ellidartha didn't seem to notice his confirmation. Instead, she went on, "Lli deth ha selethári dhunar ethin ha thien re, san lli hena aeren rrusád edhän dhanath. Lli hrruch hin ári eriëll." I belong to a merchant caravan with a fine leader, and we too were attacked along the path. We lost a few good people.
The elf maiden paused to fortify herself with a sip of her warmed ale. Áirhath did the same, feeling sorry for her loss but waiting to express his condolences, since it was plain she was in the midst of her tale.
"Lli re hathi chindra. Nalla dhaena unnethë chindra nin hiéna." Our leader had dreams. She tries to hide these dreams from everyone. "Dun lli inasë chindra chandánë nalla äya." But we see that it haunts her mind. In this moment she is at a church of Zephiris. "Hath dantë isilen nalla aerl nna ha silnannde deth Dehiris." She lowered her head, as if in thought. "Lli hail aeállénnd dene së irrärda. Lli hathi shaeínan hath haína." I once trained for to use dragon magic. I had education in many things. "Lli äyádë undérach san chindra chandánël lli daren aer ichen." I believe the shadow beasts and the dreams haunting my captain are related.

As Áirhath pondered this, Ellidartha leaned back in her seat, drawing to a conclusion. "I know we will go in search of the meaning behind the attacks." She spoke well the human speech. "I know my captain will not rest until her people are avenged.” For the first time, she lifted her eyes to meet Áirhath’s fully, earnestly requesting him to come with her to meet her captain. "Lli shárnë... ura. Lli chárë, seledh leláli dene hahän lli daren. Dene chyärda hána nalla telärdëi san ihaei hahanath dene hetha dan héä deth dantë érach."

Ordinarily Áirhath would have been more than happy to go along with her. It seemed to be just the sort of mission he and his men loved to do. But he had his task from the White Council. Investigating the increase of life superseded any other paths. The only lead he had was Telmural. He needed to go there, but he also wanted to help put an end to these mysterious beasts. Áirhath didn't need long to decide. The least he could do was hear the words of this caravan leader and see whether their paths might be aligned. "Haeí," he consented, a smile growing on his face, putting a glint in his eye. "Lilále. I go with you."


Sephalia > Oliphey > Church of Zephiris on Dove Street ~ early evening of DAY 8

The rain had kept up its rhythm as Áirhath followed Ellidartha back through the streets of Oliphey. It soon became apparent that they were headed to the very church Áirhath had investigated earlier that morning. They reached the church and hurriedly ducked in out of the light rain. Inside, Áirhath immediately looked for the priest that had been there earlier. No one was there. A few people were scattered about in prayer, but there wasn't anyone near the far wall. Odd.
"She is here?" he asked in human speech, his voice hushed against the echoing space.
"Hae-- er, yes."
"Maybe she leaves?"
"If she left, we would have passed her."
"We can wait."

Áirhath led the way to a vacant area of pews, and sat down. Night was drawing on, so he didn't think they'd have to wait long for the merchant caravan leader to appear.


Sephalia > Oliphey ~ early evening of DAY 8

Plans having been decided upon, Katerina offered her hand to Gado and Semric and with a smile, she hugged Scarlet before leaving the small church for the rain-slicked street beyond the warm interior. Jamming her hat on her head decisively, Kate strode down the narrow street toward the spot where she’d left Mualane to set the caravan up for trade. The rain soon soaked her flamboyant feathers and dribbled off its brim, bust she barely noted it. She had much to plan and more to do.

She was much relieved that there were other dreamers, but the fact that the Shadow creatures were so wide-spread gave her pause. Would the caravan even be welcome in Telmural? Surely, it would be overflowing with refugees by now? It didn’t matter. Semric advised her to go to the High Temple and that was just what she intended to do. She made special note that she would outfit the caravan with weapons, food stuffs and medicinal supplies. She sighed. She was preparing her company to relieve a siege and it did not sit well with her.

Kate was a little surprised when she saw the caravan had long since been organized and opened for trade. Had she been so long with the priest and old Warder? She saw the smith had been set up and he was tending to the horses, always the most labor-intensive of all the duties of the caravan. Townspeople were filtering in in dribs and drabs, but without the high enthusiasm that usually greeted them whenever they arrived. The faces all told the same story; sunken eyes and drawn faces indicated all were sleeping fitfully. The merchant in her lamented the lack of coin to be had, the Captain in her made plans to ensure the safety of her people and how best to utilize the fortifications the City offered and the Dreamer of Zephiris in her set her along the plans for replenishing their supplies and the routes they would need to take to get to Telmural as soon as they could manage.

Approaching the enormous Mualane, Katerina saw a question come up in his eyes, though he didn’t ask it outright. She smiled, “Answers and more questions, Mualane. There are others also plagued with dreams. The priest, Semric, thinks I should go to the High Temple in Telmural to see if they have more information.” Kate’s eyes naturally travelled around the neat camp site and open market area of the caravan to ensure all was to her exacting standards.

Mualane nodded, his thick arms crossed over his big chest. “Very well.” He agreed without further questioning. “We can alter our route easily enough.” His own dark eyes followed Kate’s as she examined the caravan, “How soon? He asked practically.

“As soon as we can resupply.” She sighed gently, “Assume we will arrive at a besieged city. Food, arms and medicinal supplies, I should think. This trip will garner no coin and we may lose a few more of our number along the way. Prepare the others. I will speak with them around the cook fires tonight. The passengers should be given the choice to remain behind.”

The big, bald-pated second-in-command jerked his chin downward in acknowledgement, and then turned to carry out her orders when Kate called him back, “Wait. Where is Darta? She wished to speak to me of something personal.” At Mualane’s negative headshake, Katerina nods, “Very well, go ahead. I’ll try to find her. She was some disturbed.” Katerina spent the next half hour striding through the light rain, checking on her people while inquiring about the Elven Singer’s whereabouts. Her smiles and jokes were reassuring and the mood of those in the caravan was lightened and relieved to be within the walls of the city and its imagined safety. Katerina did not discourage that feeling for now.

Finally, as Katerina rounded the wagons at the head of the caravan’s encampment, she spied her missing Singer in the company of a slender Elf she had to assume was one of the Elven Mercenaries she’d heard were in the city. Darta no longer looked as spooked as she had earlier, in fact, she looked quite eager to lead the tall warrior toward her. So, she paused under the canvas overhang of her own wagon to wait for the pair to reach her, removing her sodden hat and tossing it to a wooden table set up there. She examined the Elf’s kinscloth, and could interpret a small portion of its meanings. A Ssandári Mercenary Captain? So far out of the Elven lands?

Darta smiled shyly and made rather formal introductions, “I see you. Life to you and yours. Captain Katerina Forbes.” She turned toward the pale-haired Elf beside her, “I wish to make known to you Áirhath Aeryän, Commander of the Ssandári Mercenaries. If you have time, would you speak with him regarding your dreams and perhaps we might join forces?” It was clear that Darta was nervous and worried about taking things into her own hands by contacting Áirhath on her own.

Katerina, knew the value the Elves put on respect for those of higher rank, so she made sure to show of displeasure toward Darta. “It was not your place, Ellidartha Surärrhë.” Her pronunciation was deliberately only passable. She’d found the value of not appearing to understand the language of another to be invaluable. Turning her eyes to Áirhath. “Life to you and yours, Áirhath Aeryän. She greeted the commander in his own language. Her eyes swung back to Darta, “You will remain and interpret, please.” She ordered the slim girl before inviting the slim and dangerous warrior to join her to sit at the makeshift table set up next to her wagon. “Commander, What brings you so far from your lands? Are the Elves also plagued by the Shadow Beasts or disturbing dreams?”


Sephalia > Oliphey ~ evening of DAY 8

Áirhath waited with Ellidartha for a few minutes. The caravan captain never appeared, but the priest which Áirhath had talked to before came out from a back room. From him they learned that the captain had returned to her camp. Ellidartha knew where that was, and so the two went back out into the streets. It was still raining lightly, and the sky was growing dim. Thoughts of shadow beasts hastened their steps. It would be an hour or two before night fell, but Áirhath had mercenaries to collect and preparations to attend. If he was to meet the merchant caravan leader today, they needed to hurry.

It took only a few minutes to reach one of the city courtyards. Ellidartha headed straight toward one end of it, where several wagons were set up with overhangs to shelter from the rain. Áirhath followed her in as she wended her way through the caravan, searching for the captain. They found her outside under one of the overhangs, and Ellidartha led the way and introduced everyone. "Lisanelle," she said to the woman, "Life to you and yours, Captain Katerian Forbes. I wish to make known to you Áirhath Aeryän, Commander of the Ssandári Mercenaries." Her formal tone then changed to a more conversational one. "If you have time, would you speak with him regarding your dreams and perhaps we might join forces?" She sounded nervous and, Áirhath thought, was not quite explaining things properly.

Áirhath studied the merchant leader, Katerina. Her hair was about the same color as his, dark brown like wet soil. Her garb was wealthy and diverse, and she bore an air of confidence. He noted her brief glances at his dhiláthra and the tattoo on his right arm. She seemed to be doing the same mental assessments of him as he was of her.

Katerina reprimanded Ellidartha in a formal tone for acting autonomously, though she mispronounced her name as Elladartha Surarhei, using the human 'u' with the lips rounded. She turned to him, then, and said in greeting, "Eris nin lei san lei, Arhath Eryan." To Ellidartha she said, "You will remain and interpret, please." Inviting Áirhath to join her at a nearby table, still outside beneath the overhang, she sat down near a wet, stylish hat--presumably hers. Áirhath sat opposite her, facing the wagon.

"Commander," Katerina began, seeming interested, "what brings you so far from you lands?"
"Llíredan, hána tílenn lle endína arash heth lle hiénannde?" Ellidartha interpreted.
"Are the elves also plagued by the shadow beasts or disturbing dreams?"
"Aer dan thendári risa chandánëlld undérach sullan chárra chindra?"
Áirhath understood most of the human words, but he was still happy to have an interpreter. He spoke with the woman for several minutes while they each tried to feel out what the other was capable of, how much they could trust one another. There was a constant, subtle wordplay that indicated they understood one another more than they let on, not only in language but in experience. Áirhath decided he liked this merchant captain. As Áirhath hinted at his mission and Katerina hinted at her dreams, more and more it became apparent that there had already been a gradual, wordless agreement and that at this point they were merely enjoying the interaction. At length it was agreed, more or less explicitly, that their two groups wold journey together to Telmural. They would set out tomorrow morning.
"Sëlthien," excellent, said Katerina in elvish, flashing a grin.
The two stood up together and clasped palms across the table.
"I talk more with you soon," Áirhath returned in kind.


Sephalia > Shadewater River, 125 miles south of Oliphey ~ DAY 15

The caravan was five days into Shadewood Forest. True to her word, Katerina's caravan was able to travel quickly. They were well supplied from their preparations in Oliphey, so they avoided towns along the way, hugging the western bank of the Shadewater River, and concentrated solely on efficient travel. They met no one on the road; few traveled on this side of the river anyway, and hardly anyone traveled at all with shadow beasts haunting their nights. By day the humans drove their wagons along the worn road, kept clear by some of the elven mercenaries. By night they slept, able to sleep as much as they needed as the watch was stood by the elves. Shadows had attacked only once so far, three nights ago, enabling them to cover much ground. Already the large group of elves and humans neared the southernmost reaches of the Majestic Mountains. This was their last day they would travel by the river; tomorrow they would strike out as the raven flies, straight for Telmural.

Áirhath was quite enjoying himself. This "Shadewood" forest was gorgeously beautiful, largely untouched by humans in their own land. It reminded him of the dense and sprawling forests of his homeland, Ardin, though there were many different kinds of trees here. It had not rained since the day they had arranged for this journey, but Áirhath suspected rain would have done them little harm beneath the thick arch of wide leaves over the road. The sun in Shadewood was an elusive thing, peeping through holes in the canopy, creating stark rays to highlight some unassuming spot of ground, or painting intricate patterns of sunlight on clothes or beasts or the covers of wagons all around. Some of Áirhath's elves had begged leave to hunt in these woods, and their exploits supplemented their stores and nightly meals. As Áirhath walked along, up near the head of the caravan, he thought of the few times he had been in Sephalia over the years. The forests on the other side of the Majestic Mountains had seemed well enough then, but it was a pity so many human towns and cities were out along that coast instead of here, for otherwise he might have discovered this place sooner.

The mercenary captain had spent little time with the merchant leader since they departed. The humans seemed to be focused on speed. This would have been less of a loss to Áirhath had Titanya spoken a word to him since that day a week ago. She had not. At least, not more than was necessary to convey instructions or interpret. Áirhath could only guess her silence had something to do with his stumbling upon her song at the lake, but he couldn't puzzle out what it might be. He thought something in the song might give him an inkling, but he hadn't heard them all and didn't remember the rest exactly, only the feeling with which he'd heard them sung. He could ask her about it, he knew, but it never seemed the right time. When they were in Telmural, he decided, he might be able to find someplace private and sort all this out.

The day wore on, and Áirhath kept most of his attention on the forest and the river, knowing the caravan would be leaving them tomorrow. He had the nagging feeling that they should have had an attack of the shadow beasts again by now, but he hoped they would stay away tonight. They wouldn't see the river again until they needed to cross it, the humans said, a short way outside of Telmural. Since they were about halfway to that destination, it seemed a pity. It was such a mighty river that someday, he thought, he would have to walk its entire length.

"A little faster now," one of the caravan leaders called out. "Let's make the final bend before nightfall!"

Áirhath directed a few more of his elves to make the road even better suited to a caravan's passing, smoothing dips in the road as well as removing fallen branches and stray stones. There had been enough rest time over the past nights that, even if the shadows did attack tonight, the mercenaries had enough energy to spend on both tasks, the caravan's passage as well as its defense. He nodded to himself as the rhythmic sounds of the wagon weels increased their tempo. They were in a good state. "Sëltha," he said in admiration. "Sëlthien." Excellent.



Last edited by Kalon Ordona II on Tue Sep 13, 2011 4:57 am; edited 7 times in total
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Kalon Ordona II
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Re: Stories of Túlaman

Post by Kalon Ordona II on Mon Dec 20, 2010 8:43 pm

Sephiris: The Price of Peace

. : Barin's Story : . PART 2


~ Lord Barin Mirland, mercenary leader of The Hawks
human ; age 52 ; 6'2" ; auburn brown hair and full, well-trimmed beard ; deep brown eyes ; athletic and muscular ; indigo tattoo on her lower back: a triangle with a horizontal line through it ; wears simple clothes, leathers, chainmail and much flexible plate armor, plus a T-visor helmet ; wields sword, shield engraved with Hawks emblem, and dagger ; also wears a plain silver hawk hangs from a necklace, under the armor ; appears commanding and somewhat grim, noble and yet rugged ; used to be a noble ; skilled with sword, shield, and halberd ; practical fighter ; somewhat knowledgeable of different places, cultures, and history ; good bargain hunter ; willful, determined, loyal, level headed, man of his word ; stubborn at times, short temper, somewhat perfectionist ; overall: sociable, respect-worthy, close with his men, savage-seeming toward strangers, honorable, diligent


. : Name : .
Full Name: Lord Barin Mirland
Use Name: Captain or Barin (depending on who addresses him)
Other: Sir, Lord (very rarely)
Played by: Blackrock

. : Appearance : .
Height and Build: 6'2, athletic and muscular
Description: Looking at Barin one would notice his auburn brown hair, kept short but somewhat messy. Further down, his forehead lies, a few wrinkles etched on it, the signs of a troubled mind. A short, slightly hooked nose rests between his deep brown eyes. His round, somewhat elongated face, is covered by a full, well-trimmed beard. Time has begun leaving its mark on his features, as a few gray hairs can be seen here and there.
Clothing: Barin usually dresses in simple garments. A sturdy pair of leather boots, black pants, held firmly by an elegant belt. A white short-sleeved shirt, revealing his muscular arms, and a black vest worn over it. When in battle or on the march, however, he fields much heavier equipment. His torso is protected by a burnished, but otherwise unadorned and plain to the eye, cuirass, composed of two plates - a breast and a back one, a tasset hangs from it, protecting his thighs. Chainmail leggings provide further protection, defending his knees - a pair of bending plates, his feet are covered in a pair of sabatons (though they are not elongated like a noble's). Barin's broad shoulders are protected by a pair of compact pauldrons, made of overlapping plates. Chainmail extends to the elbow, where plates of similar make to the pauldrons protect it. His hands are gloved in flexible gauntlets, to allow unrestricted use of the sword. Finally, he uses a T-shaped barbute as protection for the head. A round, steel shield, roughly 20 inches in diameter is hung across his back, the Company's symbol, a hawk, is engraved on it.
Weapons: An elegant, black scabbard hangs from his left hip, true to his style it is of fine make, but bears no decorations. Inside it a longsword lies, well-forged, the blade carries the family's symbols on it. The grip is covered in a soft leather, allowing it to slip in comfortably in the hand. It seems to be a veteran of many battles, but the quality of its make shines even after all those years. On his right hip, a dagger rests, should the need arise.
Other: Like all members of his troop, a plain silver hawk hangs from a necklace, worn under the armour.
Impression: Barin has a commanding and somewhat grim presence, he looks quite rugged, his noble demeanor washed away by his years as a mercenary.

. : Heritage : .
Age: 52
Birthplace: Sephalia, Brookstone - a town situated at the foot of the Mountains of Smoke.
Family: The only sibling, his parents have now passed away. Barin knows that he has some relatives in both Mandor and Sephalia, but has found neither the desire nor the time to contact them.
Inheritance: What he inherited from his mother and father, in terms of coin and land he has used to build up his small army. The only thing he has kept is the family's sword, passed down since the time of his great-grandfather. Being of noble birth, however, he received an above-average education.
Other: Barin has yet to marry, but that is because of his lifestyle, when and if he retires, he would think about a family. Having carried out tasks for certain high-placed people, he could call in a favour or two. His noble blood would probably connect him to someone in power, but he has yet to explore that part of his heritage.

. : Persona : .
Biography: Barin was born in the family of Ilina and Hamlar, minor nobles, of a once proud and mighty line. Hamlar was the lord of the town of Brookstone and was a noble only in name. Indeed, he went to the feasts of the grand barons and dukes, people bowed and referred to him as "My Lord" and other such titles, but everyone knew, including him, that he had little actual power. The Mirlands were an old family, tracing back their lineage to the days before the Sixteen Years War and were once one of the most powerful families in the South of Sephalia. In time, however, their lands and riches, their nobility and power, dwindled and were lost forever. Barin's kin continued their steady decline, until, one Aldemar, his great-grandfather came to power. He used his political prowess to restore some of the family's lost splendour. Aldemar formed alliances, recruited soldiers and defeated enemies, no matter what the cost. Some regarded him as a hero, others - as a tyrant, no one could deny however, that by the end of his reign, the Mirlands had become a local power once again. It was he, Aldemar Mirland, who had the family sword forged, declaring that while his heirs wielded this weapon, their kin would live on. His son, Aldric, Barin's grandfather, was not like his father. He squandered the accumulated wealth, indulging in hedonistic pleasures, spending his time in taverns and brothels, while his lands fell into misuse. He died young, before he even reached his hundredth year, but not before fathering a son, Hamlar. Hamlar was a just and kind man, he did what he could to preserve what little his father had left him, but Aldemar's fire did not burn in his veins. He was content to remain where he was and made no moves to regain what was lost. In time, he and had a son, to whom he diverted most of his attention and he led a peaceful life.

Barin, however, was of a different stock. He yearned to live in the times gone by, when he could be commander of his own army, when people would fear and respect him. Being a noble's son, he received an education that most common folk would not even dream of. He learned how to read and write, he was versed in geography and history, in music and poetry. And of course, masters of the sword (though not the best, as Hamlar could not afford them) came to teach the young noble and he eagerly learned all that they would offer. The boy seized every chance to spend time in the estate's library, which still had quite a few books to offer, reading books of warfare, studying the strategies and tactics of ancient generals. In time, Barin grew to be a strong, young man and many claimed that he would be like his great-grandfather. He was ambitious, he was daring and charismatic, those who had daughters set their eyes on him. Hamlar and Ilina had married late and were by that time already growing old, it was not long after that they passed away. First, Ilina, the caring mother and then, two years later, Hamlar, the loving father. They both died with a smile on their face, knowing that their son would continue the family legacy. And so, Lord Barin Mirland came to power and the neighbouring nobles watched in anticipation, awaiting to see how this young man would forge his destiny.

Barin, however, was not content. He knew that the only battles he would ever see would be in ballroom halls and in dining rooms, the only army he would ever lead - those who would hide behind him. And he pitied himself, even though well-liked, he knew that no one, especially in times of peace, would give him a place in the military. That was reserved for the pampered sons of dukes and barons. He could join the army as a common soldier but who would allow him? The last of the Mirlands, Lord Barin, serving along with shepherds and pig-tenders? However, he would not give up so easily. Over the last decade, the villagers had complained, first to his father and now to him that bandits and other scum were getting bolder and bolder, raiding caravans and farmholds. Barin organized a militia, gathering those who would defend their homes and began training them. During the next few years, he lead his men in the surrounding woods and hills and steadily eradicated the brigands. The peasants hailed him as a hero. Barin was pleased, for a while, but knew that this was the most he could hope for. And then, one day, after secret negotiations and much planning, came news that shook the nobility.

Lord Barin was gone. His lands, property, estate - sold to a local, well-to-do merchant. For himself, he had only kept his title (which, for some reason, to this day has not been stripped off him). It was later learned that he had gathered those lads in his village who did not wish to spend their lives with a hoe in hand and had formed a mercenary company. The nobles, were of course, dismayed - one of their own, reduced to a sellsword! Many doors were thus barred to him, but Barin cared not. And so "The Hawks" came to be. Barin led his group throughout the kingdom, recruiting here and there, using the wealth he had acquired to form his small army. His men called him Captain and carried out his orders, he finally had what he had desired since a child. Twenty years later, he still leads the Company.

Motivation: Barin always dreamed of one thing, to be in command of an army, to lead his brothers and sisters in arms to victory. He also strives to maintain the Company's name spotless, being known to never break their word.
Skills and Talents: Years of fighting have honed his battle skills with both sword, shield and halberd. Barin is a practical fighter, focusing on winning rather than showing style and grace. Thanks to his education, he has knowledge of different places and cultures and possesses some knowledge of past events - although, most of it is strictly related to warfare. He never found the desire to learn other languages and as such, has only a basic understanding of Dragon and Elvish. He is quite cunning, always on the lookout for the best deal.
Strengths: Barin is willful and determined, once he sets eyes on his goal - he does all that he can to reach it. He respects those who fight besides him and does his best to protect them. He keeps a level head even in difficult situations, always trying to find the best outcome. Those who have worked with him know that he is a man of his word.
Weaknesses: Thanks to his determination and will, he can be quite stubborn at times, refusing to back down, even if he is wrong. He has a short temper, especially when his orders are not carried out. Barin is somewhat of a perfectionist, claiming that "If you do something, do it right or do not start at all", which can put him at odds with his troops and other people.
Personality: A sociable person, his men respect him because he drinks and laughs, mourns and cries, fights and bleeds alongside them. Strangers, especially more polite ones, can see him as a bit of a savage. He is, nonetheless, a honourable man and carries out his duties diligently.


Chapter One: Shadows from Light ~ CONTINUED


Sephalia > Outskirts of Fenwater ~ afternoon of DAY 7

Seneschal Randor had just issued the orders to the two Segreants. The men were given a couple of hours to sleep and recover from the harsh journey. With that done, he had to return to report to the Captain. Supplies for the troops would also need to be bought. The mercenaries' camp was set up just outside of Fenwater, a few strides away from the bridge. It would act as the first line of defense, should the enemy come from the forest. Defenses were yet to be set up, but he assumed that would be the role of the militia. As he strode past the guards at the bridge, he nodded at the sergeant and continued on his way. His black eyes darted back and forth across the landscape. Broken cart - three gold coins, not to mention the goods that were probably lost in the chaos; broken window - twenty silver if lower quality, forty for higher, a gold coin for the best; wooden cupboard used as barricade, the cups inside broken - fifty for the closet, two silver for each cup, on average fifty to eighty inside, a gold coin or a gold and sixty silvers, without regarding quality, five for better decoration, ten for more durability....Lost in such quick, but numerous thoughts, Randor almost failed to notice that he was in front of the Town Hall.

Just as he was entering, a movement to his right caught his attention. He turned around quickly, his hand reaching for his sword - despite Barin's schooling, the young man was still jumpy when faced with the unknown. There was no cause for concern, however, as only an ordinary-looking man stood there. He was dressed in plain, but well-made clothes, mostly of earthen colour, but there was also orange to be seen here and there. Randor swiftly recovered his calm demeanor, in the mean time, the man had approached to a respectable distance. It was obvious that he had something to say. The Seneschal decided to take the initiative.

"Greetings, friend, may I do something for you?"

The other man nodded in greetings and spoke in a quick, measured tone, direct and to the point.

"Greetings. I notice from your symbol" - he gestured, not crudely as a peasant would, but with an unmistakable noble's politeness, at the hawk hanging from Randor's neck - "...that you are part of "The Hawks, is that so?"

"Aye, you assume correctly. Are you in need of our services?"

"No, not me personally..."- he paused, Randor had already guessed what the man was - "I am merely a messenger, of one much higher than I. I was also instructed to speak directly to Captain Barin Mirland. And, no offence good sir, but I was told that we would be somewhat...older"

Randor smiled. "Very well, the Captain is in this very building, come with me and I shall introduce you."

"I appreciate the offer, but I would rather wait out here. It is a..." - for the second time he hesitated - "a rather delicate matter."

Randor nodded, most matters that were given to them were. This was nothing unexpected.

"I will inform him. Fare you well."

The messenger smiled and nodded, again, calm and measured. Randor assumed that such a well-mannered and, obviously intelligent man, had a powerful and wealthy patron. Profit was to be had here, much more than this village could pay, no doubt about that. Without wasting much time he made his way deeper into the Town Hall and soon reached the Captain. By the looks of it, the three men had finished their planning. Barin turned around, his eyes pierced the young man, or so he always thought. There was no lying to those sets of drills, or at least - no such thought could cross one's mind. It was as if they saw everything, knew everything and every time Randor looked at them, it was as if they were drilling to the very depths of his soul. Brushing those thoughts aside, the Seneschal spoke:

"Captain, everything regarding the men has been taken care of."

"Good."

"There is another matter, though..."

"And that is?"

"A man wants to speak with you, personally and, I would wager, privately. He awaits you outside."

The Captain stood silent for a while, after which, he nodded. "So be it. I was just about to leave."

He turned his head towards the table, where the mayor and Slavin were still discussing something.

"All is settled then? In that case, I will be back within the hour. Slavin, I assume you will have your men gathered by then."

The militia-commander nodded, there was now no trace of his independent, commanding presence. He was yet another soldier under Barin's command. The Captain turned his attention back to Randor.

"You head over to the bridge and tell the men there to gather in front of the Town Hall. I will speak with this man in the mean time."

"Yes, Captain."

There could be no doubt about that. One could not say "no" to Barin's orders, it was as if one was compelled to follow them. Randor had witnessed the Captain's wrath once, long ago when he was still a Companion, and since that moment strove to never disappoint. Respect was mixed with fear, but at the same time - he could not help but admire the man. He knew how to keep his troops together, that much was certain. Without further ado, he departed from the small gathering and headed back towards the bridge, his mind once again busy with the amount of damage done in coins...

Barin walked out of the Town Hall, after a quick survey of the surroundings he noticed the man in question. He was dressed as a messenger, sturdy boots, thick cloak and the orange was probably part of his patron's coat of arms. After a uniform, polite nod in his direction, there could be no doubt about that. The Captain approached and asked quite bluntly:

"What can me and my men do for you?"

"I bring this message sire, I have been instructed to hand it personally to the Captain of "The Hawks"."

"Here I am."

Another forced smile, another uniform nod. The man reached for one of his pockets and took out a sealed letter. He presented it to the Captain, the look on his face urging him to read it. Barin looked at the seal and at that moment, something very rare happened: his eye flinched. He forced his eyes away from the fateful symbol and, quite unceremoniously, ripped the envelope open. The first lines confused him, angered him, but he forced himself to read on. This is what was written:


Captain Barin Mirland,

A man of my means has certain rivals amongst his peers. A man of my means must have protection from said rivals. I have been building up my fleet so as to ensure my power on the sea, but I will have need of boots on the ground to be sure of my protection.

You need not worry about your men, for any bloodshed is highly unlikely. Not to mention frowned upon. The name of your company should be enough to keep me safe, as we both know there is no better disciplined company of men in Sephalia.

However, if you accept my offer, you will need to meet with two of my under-lieutenants. They are magi, fire-haired twins by the name of Tuula and Tuuli Brendersen. Meet with them near Lake Baracoula, and incorporate them into your company. Magi of their talents will prove invaluable to your cause.

They will have further information if you meet with them. Please, consider this message thoroughly, as well as our families' long history. Upon your acceptance, my runner will give you a portion of your pay. The Brendersens will carry the rest.

Regards,
D’Armitage


So many questions arose, so many doubts...memories, but he had to appear resolute in front of the courier, as he would no doubt report to the baron. And besides, they only had a temporary assignment, on the morrow they would depart from Fenwater. He had no idea how long this new job would take, but his original intentions were traveling further inwards, towards the heart of Sephalia. The two seemed to blend in quite nicely. In addition, working for such an ambitious man would, without a doubt, be a profitable venture.

"I accept" - he said somewhat dryly.

"My lord will be pleased to hear of this." - he reached for another pocket, this time taking out a small, but heavy-looking pouch - "I assume that you have yet to finish your business here?"

"No, we will stay for the night. On the morning we will begin our journey."

"Very well. On behalf on my lord, please accept this."

With that he handed the pouch to Barin. He accepted it, weighing it slightly in his hand, it was good enough for now. He would count the coins later. With his assignment complete, the runner muttered a quick "Farewell" and was off. The Captain watched on as the figure swiftly made its way through the cobbled streets of the town and, before long, was completely out of sight. Yet another pawn in the eternal game, the eternal struggle called politics. A game Barin had forsaken long ago. A struggle he seldom took part in. And now he had willingly, without giving it much thought, become a pawn in this dirty game. A well-paid one, but a pawn nonetheless. And yet, he could not help but smile - the old baron had proven to be a practical man. When Barin had left behind land and name, many nobles had forever barred him from entering their halls. Some, the ones who put things into perspective, payed for his services gladly. It seems D'Armitage was part of this group. It did not come as a surprise to him, for he had understood what the baron was from an early age. Ever since he had spent an year in that estate...

Enough of that, he thought. Memories could be recalled later, there was a task that needed doing. He looked up, the golden disk in the sky had already completed more than half its journey. Night would be upon them soon enough and there were many preparations to be done. Barricades needed to be set up, weapons passed out, the morale of the men had to be lifted. He smiled. Just like rallying the Brookstone militia when he was still a lad. Barin was going to enjoy these last, untainted by politics, moments to their fullest. Another smile crossed his face as he proceeded towards the northern entrance of the town.


Sephalia > Fenwater ~ midnight of DAY 8

The night was pitch-black, no moon or star could be seen. The darkness was so thick that one could cut it with a knife. Amidst this endless sea of black, small bright dots could be seen - some scattered here and there, others gathered in groups. Around these dots, these torches, men were gathered, hoping for the light to offer protection. But there was none to be had. For tonight, these workers of the land, these shopkeepers and bartenders had to make their own stand. They had to set aside petty differences, great attachments and even greater fears. They all looked up to one particular group, hoping that they, like a bright star leading a stray traveler, would help them make their way through the dark.

This group were "The Hawks". Unlike the majority of the defenders, they were ordered in tightly-packed, neat lines. A steely determination on their faces. At their head stood Barin's grim figure, the Captain was making a final examination. The events of the day were long and arduous, but the veteran mercenary remained unmoved. Despite the lack of sleep, the long hours of shouts and orders, despite the letter connecting future and past. He remained steadfast. He had to be. The organizing of the defenders was easier than he first assumed. As promised, Slavin had gathered the men willing to defend their homes. Barin gave a morale-rousing speech and they began working. The unwilling ones were forced to take up arms and help in the defense. Those who lacked equipment were armed, as much as the village's armoury would allow. The randomly placed carts, broken doors and crates, were set up as proper barricades. Stakes were sharpened and placed along the edges of the defenses. Simply put, in a matter of hours, the vulnerable town had turned into a fortress of steel and wood. Only two points were open to direct assault from the shadows. The northern entrance was the most probable one and, as such, the most heavily defended. The militia, armed peasants and three troops of mercenaries were here. The other was the bridge. Where Fourth Troop, along with Sergeant Ratibor and a small force of the Fenwater militia were tasked with guarding the rear.

Orders were issued, posts were assumed, tasks were carried out. There was nothing more to be done but wait. And wait they did. Barin, now fully armed and armoured, helmet held under his arm, paced back and forth. Much to his displeasure, he noticed fear and, in some, outright terror. Most tried to hide it, but their eyes spoke much more than a simple shout or scream every could. Further worsening matters, he noticed the same state of morale in the eyes of his men. Only a few, such as the ever-sour Rin, remained calm. He did not like this, for the worst enemy of any army, apart from hunger was fear. Many a battle were lost before they even started due to this constant, grim companion. It was understandable, for these peasants had to rely on their own strength of arms; and what of his men? They were faced with an unknown foe, that much was certain, but why this fear? It was contagious, that is why. If fear gripped the heart of one man, his fellow soldier would notice and in turn, become afraid himself. And so on, until all in the ranks wavered.

The hardened commander knew that the next few minutes would decide the outcome of the battle. Either they would break and run or remain resolute in the face of the foe. It was up to him to ensure that the first would not come to pass. All of a sudden a horn blast was heard and soon, a running figure came into view. This was none other than Fabrin, Barin recognized him from the way he ran. The skilled scout had experience in dealing with these creatures, so he was appointed to watch over the road. He quickly crossed the small distance separating them and, before even catching his breath, cried out:

"They are coming!"

Gasps, squeals and even screams were heard. The already shaky lines of militiamen and peasants became even more unstable. Some men began moving backwards, pushing their way through in attempt to flee. Barin had foreseen that this would be the case, so he had ordered a small group of his troops to stand at the back. Disallowing any such attempts. Still, they could not push back the whole village and, it seemed that soon enough this would be the case. On the horizon black shapes could be seen, slowly creeping forward, some were manlike, walking upright, others were more bestial in nature. They came from the road, from the hills, it was as if they came from the very darkness of the sky itself. A chill ran through Barin's spine, he could understand why those of lesser resolve were afraid. Now was the critical moment, the efforts of the last few hours came down to this. He quickly ran to the front, with his free hand he took the horn from Fabrin. Leaping on one of the carts that made up the barricade, he took a look around. His already considerable stature was further increased by his high point. Gathering all his strength he blew into the horn, the mighty sound echoed across the empty streets. One by one the hushed whispers, the shouts "They are coming, run!" ceased. All stood still and looked at the Captain.

"Men of Fenwater!" - he cried - "My friends! I know you are afraid!"

He paused, his gaze passing through the desperate-looking men.

"But hear this! You are not fighting for the sake of some high-born lord, or the glittering shine of gold!" - a pause, "how ironic" a part of him though - "Nay! You fight for you homes, for your sons and daughters. If you waver now, you do not fail yourselves. Nay! You fail them! Is that not inspiration enough?!"

Some nodded, others muttered "yes" or "aye". Smiles made their way across the faces of the defenders. Terror and panic fled. Weapon hilts were firmly gripped, shields were raised. The ranks reformed. This mood grew and soon the crowd, no, the army cried out "AYE!"

"I do not promise that all of us will survive! I do not promise that we will win! But I promise you this: We will not falter! And should we die, our deeds will live on. And bards will sing of this night. And it will be known as the night during which the men of Fenwater DID NOT FALTER!" - with that he blew the horn again, it's song echoing throughout the town and its surroundings.

Hope was rekindled in the hearts of the defenders, the lines were rebuilt, each man assuming his position in the greater whole. They were still afraid, no doubt about that, but now there was a feint glimmer in their eye. Of hope, of courage, or maybe simply insanity. And Barin knew that they would fight this night, that they would hold their ground. He hung the horn from his hip, put on his helmet and reached for his sword, crying out as he did so:

"Now, men of Fenwater - my friends, my brothers! Draw your weapons, with me, and together we shall drive back this darkness!" - he let out a fearsome war-cry as he drew his sword, lifting it high above his head. A sound of more than a hundred unsheathed weapons was heard, as each defender in the line pulled out his weapon. Some had swords, others axes, maces and other tools of war. And with a triumphant "Huzzah!" the men set their sites on the approaching shadows.

Barin jumped off from the cart and assumed his place in the first line of defenders, where the majority of "The Hawks" were positioned. He unstrapped the shield from his back, lifting it in front of him in a defensive stance. His brown eyes surveyed the soon-to-be battlefield: the enemy was in range. He cried out:

"Archers! Ready!"

Bowstrings were pulled and arrows nocked. There were some thirty archers, some mercenaries, other locals - most of them hunters, other simple peasants. In an almost perfect unison they readied their arrows.

"Wait for it!" - Barin counted the distance in his mind, as the shadows crept ever forward, now was the time.

"LET FLY!"

And again, in almost perfect unison more than thirty arrows made their way through the night sky. The first row of attackers was cut down before they even reached the lines of the defenders. Barin smiled, this shadows did not appear to be too aware of tactics or formations. Joyous cries were heard throughout the ranks as the men noticed how vulnerable these shadows really were. The battle was won. He realized that even now, they would not break.

"FIRE AT WILL!"

And again, at first as one and later in groups of two or three arrows were let loose to seek their targets. The shadows were relentless, however and despite their initial heavy losses, continued the assault. Not too long after, they were mere feet away from the first line of defenders. Barin knew that now was the time to sally forth, the initial shock would further increase their chances of a swift victory.

"Come, men of Fenwater! With me, let us drive back these beasts. CHARGE!"

War-cries pierced the night as the ranks sallied forth to meet the foe. Barin was at the head of the charge and was the fist to fell an opponent with a melee weapon. He slashed and thrust, parried and blocked - but overall, he found that these creatures of shadow were not too skilled in combat. After the charge and, with it, the momentum, was over, "The Hawks", skilled combatants, rallied around Barin; but the peasants were not so quick.

"To me, to me! Reform the ranks!" - the Captain barked out.

Slowly but steadily, the lines were redrawn. With shields held up, the defenders managed to whittle away the attackers. Victory was close at hand, that could be felt by all present. Another charge was called for, to crush the remaining foes. With Rin by his side, Barin rushed into a group of shadows. Two, manlike in stature, tried to claw at him, but he rebuked the first with his shield. The second he impaled on his sword. Another came for him from behind, but he quickly turned around and cut off, what could pass as a head. The first attacker again tried to attack him, but Barin delivered a wide slash cutting the shadow from head to toe. He looked at Rin, the old man still had it in him. He was surrounded by six shadows, but their number was fast decreasing. Barin ran towards him, surprising a shadow from the back, another he bashed with his shield and delivered a quick thrust in the stomach (or at least, what was a stomach in a normal being). Before long, the two remained alone, just as some of the defenders caught up with them. Amongst them, was the sergeant tasked with guarding the bridge, the guide who had led them through the village earlier. He was not supposed to be here, but all of a sudden it dawned on the Captain.

"How many?" - he simply asked

"Not too much, sire. But we can't hold on 'em on our own."

Barin nodded, after which he gestured at the nearby Randor to approach.

"Seneschal, I leave First Troop to you. Hold here along with the rest of the villagers, you should have little trouble."

The young man saluted and ran towards First Troop, rallying them behind him. He would take care of matters here, Barin was certain of that.

"Rin, with me. Let's drive those bastards away from the bridge" - a pause, after which he raised his voice considerably - "Second, Third Troop! WITH ME!"

With that, he began a dash towards the bridge, the veteran Sergeant was falling behind slightly, but that was to be expected. He would at least urge the others to hurry up from his position, thought Barin with a smile. He continued with his sprint, as much as his equipment would allow, hearing the hurried footsteps of twenty men behind him. Before long, the bridge came into view and what a sight it was to behold.

The defenders were on the village side of the crossing, armed with bows they peltered the approaching shadows. The bridge itself was held by one man - Sergeant Ratibor. His magnificent figure stood high and mighty, dominating its surroundings. With his two-handed sword and massive build, he needed to only take one or two beasts at a time. Again, Barin could not help but smile, he had foreseen that should the bridge be attacked, a bulkier fighter would have a great advantage there. He let out another war-cry as he reached the bridge defenders and cried out:

"Enough arrows! Draw swords! We push them back now!" - as he stepped on the bridge proper he yelled at his Sergeant - "Forwards, Ratibor! Drive them back!"

The giant let out a mighty roar and began pushing, quite literally, forward. The clumsy-looking shadows fell before his mighty, well-placed blows. And those that he missed were ran down by his colossal body. Soon, the mercenaries poured forth from the bridge, creating a wide enough battle-line, where they held their ground. The creatures of darkness kept attacking and every time they were driven further back. Ratibor's wide sweeps fell multiple foes, a group of archers, standing safely behind the front lines, continued mauling down the enemy forces at the back. Barin used a minimal amount of effort to kill his foes, using swift thrusts and shield bashes, coupled with quick impales.

Not long after, the battle was won. As triumphant horns were heard from both sides of the town. The enemy had sustained heavy losses, they were cut down to the last. The death-tow for the defenders was non-existent, thanks to their organization few men had suffered much harm. There were almost no severe injures, save for some cases of broken ribs, severed arteries and other such. The mercenaries had sustained even less - only few cuts and bruises here and there, the biggest injury being a twisted elbow. On the whole, the victory had been complete. And morale was high, the defenders would be able to rely on themselves for the time being, until the baron's troops came.

Barin was in a pleasant mood, as he watched the dawning of the sun, from the shadows of his tent. He was weary from the harsh march, the constant yells and shouts during the last day and, of course, from the battle. But he was pleased. And yet, there was something tugging him at the back of his mind, something, which try as he might, remained an open wound. Who where these creatures? Where did they come from? How many where they? This night, Man had victory, but what would happen if these beasts came again and again...?


Sephalia > Fenwater ~ early morning of DAY 8

He had not slept properly for two days now and it was taking its toil on both mind and body. But he was content. Content with the victory they had achieved, content with the new opportunity that had presented itself. Barin was toying with the cup in his hand, studying its amber contents. But it was not the fiery liquid that his eyes saw, no, they were turned inward, to the past. The Baron was an old acquaintance of him. Their fathers had been friends for long years, but the old D'Armitage was senior by far. Barin was little more than a child when the old man passed away and his son, a man grown, had assumed his father's place. Since his early days the young Baron had proven to be a cunning politician, he forged new alliances, joined new lands to his holdings and strengthened his army and fleet. He also appeared to be viewing matters in the long-term, for he kept the Mirlands close for some reason. Why such a powerful and successful lord had need of his impoverished father, Barin never knew. But that was that and it had led to some changes in his life.

As a result of his father's friendship with the young D'Armitage, Barin had ended up as his ward and had spent more than a year in his company. He trained with his master-at-arms, studied history and letters with his learned men and gained from the Baron's own wisdom. The man was brutal and effective, with little regards for morals, but he had opened the young boy's eyes. As a Mirland, Barin had always been proud, but D'Armitage made him see for what he was. The heir of a ruined house, the last remnant of a once mighty line. It was devastating at first, but he soon had taken it to heart and had never forgotten that simple fact. And when the year was done, an offer was made. He could become the Baron's squire and, in time, become one of his knights and rule a castle in his name. A better chance than that he would never have, he knew that now, but at the time he was young and optimistic. Life had not thrown its refuse at him yet. The offer was turned down and he returned to his father's manor at Brookstone. How different would life be now he wondered. If only he had accepted. Men would call him "Lord" but not in jest, he would have lands and a keep and sworn swords of his own, but he would still have to bend the knee to those above him. Those who were once his family's vassals.

No. There was no point on dwelling on the past, that road was barred to him now. And his knees had grown stiff, for he had not bent them in many a year. And still, was it not ironic that he would sell himself to the very same man who was the first to try and buy him? Barin was a man of his craft however and he placed the Company before his personal concerns. There was profit to be had here, aye and more if they did their part well. Was some grudge, almost forty years old, an entire generation, going to hinder them? No. The Captain was a more calculating man than that. He had to be, if he wanted to stay in this line of work.

Suddenly, he found himself back in his tent, amongst the living and the present. The cup was still in his hand, as it had been for a time he did not care to remember. He brought it closer to his mouth and downed it in one go. He stood up, balancing himself on his weary legs and walked out. The camp sounds flooded his ears before he had even set the tent's flap aside. The Honourguard by the entrance saluted him, as always. The other members of The Hawks were busy preparing themselves for another long march. Barin had heard the men referring to him as the Iron Captain at times, this was one such occasion. They were tired from their journey and forced march through the forest, in addition to last night's battle. But they had to push on if they were to reach Lake Baracoula any time soon. He would have wanted nothing more than to let his men enjoy the mead and women of Fenwater, along with the rest of the defenders, but now was not the time. He hoped that the others would understand.

Sitting by one of the campfires he noticed some of his officers, along with older members of the Company. They were busy talking with a pair of young boys, from the village no doubt. When he approached them, his men greeted him joyously, praising his worth as a captain of men. Randor noticed him and beckoned his Captain closer.

"How can I help you, Seneschal?" - Barin asked

"Sir, I was about to go look for you. These two here. Lads from Fenwater, they were part of the militia. Now they want to join us."

Barin studied the two carefully. They were both young men, green as summer grass, but there was fire in their eyes. One of them was broad of chest and shoulder, with sandy hair and pale green eyes. A close-cropped beard covered his face, but his cheeks were still smooth and teeth still white and strong. He could not be more than twenty. He wore a plain tunic and breeches, both brown and ragged. A longsword hung from his waist. The other was leaner and stood a good head taller than his companion. He had black curly hair, black eyes and a long, somber face. His cheeks were freshly-shaved and there was a certain keenness in his eyes, the mark of an archer. True to his notion, Barin noticed a quiver and an arrow slung across his shoulder. Like the other, he was young and fresh and was no more than twenty. Both of them bowed their heads in greetings and awaited the Captain to address them. And address them he did.

"You seek to join us? We do not simply take anyone who comes our way, have you a witness who can vouch for you skill?"

"I can" - said a burly mercenary. Barin knew him for Tiron Halfinger, a loyal man and a solid soldier, despite him missing half of his middle finger. - "The fair-haired lad, Geren, he fell many a beast during the battle. His moves are clumsy, it cannot be denied, but he has promise."

Barin nodded. "What of the other?" - with that he turned to pierce the dark-haired youth with his gaze.

"Begging your pardon, m'lord. Not bragging or anything" - surprisingly, the lad spoke for himself - "but I be the best bloody bow 'round these parts. Ask anyone in the village. Only One-Eyed Timman was better, but he ain't no more. Not since he lost his remaining eye in the battle."

Barin turned towards Geren with a curious expression on his face.

"Is true Cap'n, Silan 'ere, he always spent more time with that bow o' his than anyone else."

Another nod, this time when his eyes found the swordsman again, they lingered there, as they had for the archer.

"Tell me, boy, have you ever killed a man before?"

"Of course, sir...I killed many o' them beasts last night."

"I asked if you had killed a man before, not a beast. A human being like you and me, who breathes and thinks and cries. Have you seen how the fire is extinguished from his eyes, with your sword stuck in his gut? Have you?"

"N-no."

"And you, archer" - he turned towards Silan - "what of you? Have you slain a man before? Have you looked on as the arrow you loosed pierces his throat and he chokes on his own blood?"

"Nay, m'lord."

"I am not your lord." - he waved dismissively - "You are green, but we will make something out of you. That said, will your Commander begrudge you to me? I do not want to steal some of his best men."

"We've already up 'n' left, sir." - informed him Silan

"That is bold of you. What will you do if I turn you down? Go back to your militia with your tails between your legs?"

"We've decided to go for a bit o' adventure, as it were, Cap'n" - said Geren, this time - "If you were to turn us down, 'course."

The Captain gave them another nod and turned towards the dwindling fire, hands folded behind the small of his back, his eyes studying the fiery tongues. When he spoke a few moments later, his voice was quieter and grimmer than usual.

"You leave behind home and kin, a loved one too perhaps. You are healthy boys, skilled with sword and bow. You village is prosperous, you will live a bountiful and peaceful life and have the means to defend it, if need be. And you will set all that aside...for this?" - he waved his hand around in no particular direction. Letting there eyes wander around the camp. The small fires, the bare tents, the cumbersome backpacks. The weary and bruised faces, the muscled and scarred hands, the heavy, dented armour that chafed at one's shoulders.

"If you would have us, aye." - said Geren

Barin turned towards them again and this time pointed a finger at the boy, somewhat accusingly.

"You say so now, but what of tomorrow? It will be a different day, a different time. You see us as heroes now, but we are not. We are not the knights from the tales, we are not the King's men who would protect the weak and defenseless. No. We fight for this." - with that, he took his pouch and emptied it on the ground, letting copper and silver and gold fall.

"Coin is the dirtiest thing in the world. It is touched from lowliest beggar to highest lord. You would throw your honour, your lives, yourselves for this?"

They looked both taken aback for a moment, but only that. They replied at the same time, a soft aye.

"You would throw yourselves, but what of others you hold dear? We are the heroes now, the proud defenders, but what if we were to return tomorrow as the conquerors? We hold no allegiance but to that." - he pointed at the pile of coins - "Can you burn down the house where you were born? Can you slay the man you played games with as a child? Can you?"

"If we must." - said Silan

"If needed." - echoed Geren

So they were determined to go on with this. There was no way to turn these children away from the bloody path which they had begun to tread. Better he take them, than some band of outlaws. He would need good men too in the following months, if these shadows were any sign of things to come.

"We shall see." - a pause followed, before he spoke again - "You have convinced me. I will take you. Kneel. Kneel so that you can swear your oath."

The boys were quick to do so, they were eager indeed. And when their knees bent, a road of laughter was heard throughout the camp. Man and woman, everyone who was gathered around the scene laughed. Barin loudest of all.

"Rise. You are mercenaries, not some bloody knights." - he said with a smile on his face, before he returned to his usual strict self - "You will say no vow, nor sign any contract, you are free to go when you please. But" - he looked at each in turn - "if you think to shame me by running or deserting, I swear on my father's name I will have your heads. "

The two lads were confused, they both went for a smile at first, thinking it to be another jape. But the stone-face before them and the utter lack of sound from the mercenaries around the fire made it all to be one very unpleasant truth.

"We do not abide cravens. We do not abide marauders. We do not abide thieves. We do not abide murderers. The penalty for each is death. Remember that."

His harsh words had taken some of the enthusiasm from them, that was good. The last thing he needed was some over-eager recruit getting himself killed due to his arrogance. The Captain unsheathed the sword hanging from his waist and with a casual motion pointed it at Geren.

"Now let us see if you are as good as you say. Attack me, lad."

"B-b-bu-"

Barin frowned. He lashed out with his left hand and gave the youth a backhanded slap, luckily for him, the Captain's hand was not mailed. Barin was a strong man, however, and the hit sent the boy to the ground. Blood was beginning to cover Geren's face.

"Obedience. You will do as your at told." - he said in a cool voice - "No man or woman here questions my word." - it was not a boast, merely a fact.

"At me. Again."

He watched as the boy, dismayed, rose to his feet. He grasped his sword more firmly this time and hesitated again. But only for a moment. Geren leapt forward and delivered a powerful overhead blow, putting all his weight behind it. His muscles rippled beneath his thin tunic.

Barin parried it as if it was a mere tap. He did not give the boy time to regain his footing, but instead launched an attack of his own. A swift blow, single-handed. The other blade clumsily moved in to parry, but the Captain's arm was strong as steel. He sent the boy to the ground again, kicking his sword away in the process. When that was done, he sheathed his sword and nodded approvingly. He then offered a hand to Geren and pulled him to his feet.

"Companionship. Every man or woman you see here is your brother or sister, as long as you march with me. When you fall, they will pull you up. The same is expected of you."

He walked away from them, stopping briefly by the fire to issue his last commands.

"Ratibor will tell you what you need to know." - he turned to his Seneschal after that - "We leave within the hour."


Sephalia > Northern Greenwood ~ morning of DAY 9

"You take care of yourself, you bloody bastard, eh?"

Those where Rin's parting words. He was a stern and gruff man and had never been exposed to the thing called "manners". But Barin knew that what he said came from the heart, it was the old man's way of expressing his affinity for the Captain. He could not hope for any better than that. The Sergeant had made it clear that he no longer wished to continue with this vocation, the only thing he had known in his life. Despite his earlier fears he had braved the Battle of Fenwater just fine escaping without even a scratch. Not due to cowardice, it must be said. The old man still had in him, that was the truth. And yet, everyone was free to go as they please, provided they had the Captain's leave. And for this man, he gave it gladly. This man who was there to help the young lord out of Brookstone become the leader of men that he was today. This man who had created this Company with his own two hands, providing training and knowledge and discipline. Barin could not ask more of him.

"I will, you be certain of that. It is you who should be weary, the way is long and the roads are dangerous" - he gave him a mocking smile.

Rin lived in one of the northern coastal towns, a humble place for a humble man. He had been born and raised there. Although he had spent most of his life away from it, in the company of his fellow mercenaries. Still, his wife and children were located there, so that was as good a home as any. And now the time had come for him to leave, for the path they followed forked. One led northwards, to the northern-most reaches of the Greenwood and the coast-lands below, to Rin's hometown. The other would take The Hawks further eastwards, towards the heartlands and Lake Barocula.

"Hah. Let 'em try." - Rin laughed, he was not very experienced in doing so - "The young nowadays? Bunch of weaklings, some soft-handed bandit can't trouble me. In fact, I urge 'em to try. Can't allow her to go all rusty now, can I?" - he patted his longsword

"Regardless, I wish you an uneventful journey. And do not try to go off on some adventure, you have a wife and sons and a daughter waiting for you. Surely they are anxious to see your ugly mug again."

The other gave him a nod. "You know me, Cap'n. I...I'm not good with long speeches. Not like you, probably why I never lead a bunch o' me own."

Barin was close to being startled. Such a mood in the Sergeant he had never seen. And as they were standing there, beneath the trees, wrapped in their cloaks to ward off the morning chill, he saw him for what he was. An old, done man, with snow in his hair and uncertainty in his voice. The only answer he had for that was silence, it was oft more useful than words.

"I'm not good with the whole farewell thing, I say things as I see 'em. You know that" - he continued - "It's been good knowing you Barin Mirland, you are a man worthy o' respect and fear. It's been an honour. Come visit sometime, eh?"

"I will. You have my word."

"Aye, aye. That word o' yours, better than gold some have said." - Rin gave him a grin - "Well, I best be off. Got a long way t' go and I'm already freezing my arse off standing here."

The Sergeant extended his hand to Barin, which he grasped firmly. As they made contact, the Captain could not help but notice the strength in the other's fingers. Old he may be, but years of training and fighting had made his grasp iron. Barin did not doubt that if the "old man" gave him a hard enough squeeze, he would break his fingers. And as they stood there, holding each other, he looked at him dead in the eye.

"Thank you, Rin. You were a good mentor and a true friend."

"Aye. So were you." - he smiled as he nodded. And quick as that, he turned around and started walking. Barin's eyes followed. Soon, Rin was out of sight, out of the forest and out of his life.

As Barin made his way back to the camp, for the Sergeant had already bid his farewells with the others and was escorted for a time by the Captain, thoughts flooded his mind. The former Sergeant was one of those men who were born in a hovel. They had hard childhoods, most died before they had to shave. Those that lived on would work the earth or spend their hours in some workshop. When the call to war came, either by lord or coin, they would march and kill, pillage and rape. And when all was said and done, they would sheath their swords, gather what belongings they had and go back home. They would either marry the neighbour's daughter or return to the wife they already had. And that was all. Death followed and their sons would have a similar tale to tell. Was life so pointless? And was he, Barin Mirland, so different? He thought himself free. He who had been born a lord, bound by a rigid hierarchy of blood. And yet, what was his escape? He had fled from one, only to be bound in another. A hierarchy of death and coin. Life was cruel, he thought, and it always forced you into a loop, visible or not. He sighed as he mused over his powerlessness.

As he neared the camp, however, his mind focused on more immediate concerns. The Hawks were disciplined but the lack of a second Sergeant to keep watch over the men would be felt soon enough. And yet one could not be chosen without a Mustering, such was the custom. This, however, was neither the place or time for such an event. No, they would have to wait until they reached the lake. That seemed as good a place as any, D'Armitage's men would no doubt provide him with information on what was to follow. And they would have a moment's respite, he hoped. That would provide enough material around which a Mustering could be held. Yes, it would work perfectly.


Sephalia > Northern Greenwood ~ early hours of DAY 12

He was getting used to this.

The moment he heard the footsteps outside his tent, Barin reached for his sword, positioned a short distance away from his bedroll. By the time the Seneschal entered, the Captain was already up, blade in hand. He immediately noticed that young Randor was wet, as well as frightened. This could not be good.

"That...would not be needed, Captain." - he pointed towards the sword.

Indeed, matters were bad, Barin understood. Swords and shields were one thing, a strong hand and a stout heart could easily ensure the day. But for this...whatever it was, no...he could tell something was wrong. With a soft sigh, he set the sword aside and went for his cloak, based on the man's appearance it was raining outside.

"What is it?" - he asked, as he fastened the cloak around his shoulders

"Treachery, milord. Treachery" - he paused for a while, searching for words - "It...one of the younger lads. His name is-"

"Spare me your silver-tongue, Seneschal. You are not a merchant's son any longer. I want to know what happened. Tell me. Now." - his mood was growing sourer by the minute

"S-stealing, sir. He stole from a fellow mercenary."

"Take me to them."

It was raining lightly outside, the tiny drops set upon the two men when they left the Captain's tent a few moments later. As always, the men of the Honourguard nodded as their liege passed by. He could not see their faces in the dark, but he could sense that they were grim. They moved swiftly, Randor with his energetic stride, his armour clanking; Barin deliberately, his leather boots sinking in the soft mud. He wore black breeches and a dark shirt, under his dark green cloak. Grim colours, for a grim occasion. Before long they came upon the gathering of men. It was dark and he could not see their faces, but silence, fear and hate hung heavily about the place. As any good captain would, Barin could sense the mood of his men. They made way for him. In the middle of the circle, there were two men, both unarmed, one of them was with bound hands.

Barin looked around disapprovingly, how could he weigh the guilt or innocence of a man if he could not even see his face?

"Get a fire going! Why are you standing around? Are you bewitched?!" - he barked out

Soon, two big fires illuminated the surroundings, casting a fiery glow to man and object alike. With his arms folded behind the small of his back, Barin listened to what had transpired. Adel, a Companion, had awoken to the sound of someone rummaging through his belongings. He had drawn his dagger, shoved it under the other's chin and turned him around for a better look. By that time, some of the others had gathered. To the surprise of all, it had turned out be another of their Company. A young lad by the name of Bragor, who had been a mercenary proper for some two years. The Seneschal called out witnesses one by one, while the Captain listened with an impassive expression. When all were heard, it was time to question the accused. He was not allowed to speak before that.

Barin was not quite certain why the boy had behaved thus. He was a Companion, silver hawk and all. He knew what awaited those who would raise their hand to steal from or strike a fellow. And yet, he had attempted theft and chosen a poor target. Adel was one of the better scouts they had. What could drive a young man to throw away his life like this? He must be desperate, the only question was: why?

"Bragor" - he began, in an even voice, showing no hint of emotion - "You are a Companion. You may demand a trial by combat or confess to your guilt. Either way, the time to talk is now."

Throughout the hearing, Bragor had remained with his eyes downcast. He had made no attempt to speak or move. Now he raised his head and his black eyes found the Captain's. They flinched, but he found the strength of will to look upon Barin again.

"I-I am guilty. I admit."

He was born in one of the southern cities and had received a better education than most lowborn could hope for. And yet, life had driven him to a mercenary's vocation. And now, with these words, it had led him to his grave.

"Why? You know well-enough what awaits those who would steal from a brother at arms."

"It...it...because of my sister, my lord. She's sick and cannot afford the medicine. What I did, it was out of love for my little sister. I beg pardon for what I did. I swear on my father's name I will do no such thing again."

There were some sympathetic murmurs coming from the crow around them. Adel appeared convinced as well, even Randor.

"Aye...family, blood bonds. It is a hard thing t' undo, m'lord. I forgive him for the crime." - said the scout

"While the offense is a fact, sir, the man's reasons are just." - echoed the Seneschal

"No." - Barin said firmly.

A silence settled over the camp once more, as the Captain slowly eyed his men with an annoyed expression. He began pacing around the offender.

"When I take you into my service" - he began, in a weary voice - "I ask for no oath. No spoken words. And yet, as any lord would, I offer you protection from your foes. Support in times of need. Advice in hours of doubt."

He paused and soon after stopped in front of Bragor. He could feel the warmth of his frightened breath, see the sweat gathered on his brow. The horror in his eye. For a moment he took pity on the man, but only for a moment.

"And now...this" - he waved his hand in no particular direction - "this is HOW YOU REPAY ME?!"

The last words echoed about the surroundings, the power of his voice penetrating the silence of the night. Barin drew his sword with one fluid motion.

"No...p-please mercy!" - the other squeaked.

This gave the Captain pause. He lowered the sword and looked about, then turned his attention to the traitor again.

"Untie him." - he said

Randor produced a dagger and with deft hands quickly cut the bonds that held the man in place. Bragor looked left and right uncertainly.

"I will give you mercy. The mercy of a man's death." - spoke the Captain

The other shivered and began sobbing, pleading for mercy. He knealt before Barin, continuing his ramblings.

"Stand up you bastard! Stand up! Have the decency to die like a man and not a dog!"

When that did not help, Barin simply took a step forwards, yanked the coward to his feet and drove his sword into his chest. He twisted, his own eyes never leaving those of the man he had killed. Bragor was dead before he fell face-down on the ground. When the deed was done, the Captain wiped his sword into his cloak. He returned it to its scabbard after that.

The camp could well be deserted, he thought. No man dared to move or even breathe. Everyone stood silent and still, waiting for the words to come. He would not disappoint them.

"He could have come to me. Asked me." - his voice was quiet, tired - "I would not have refused. You know I would not! Instead he spat in my face! You all do!"

He raised his voice, the anger in him bursting out.

"Discipline is what holds you bastards together! DISCIPLINE! Not loyalty to one another, not ideals, not me! It is fear! Aye, that as well as discipline! I cannot be lax in matters such as this! Today it is a theft, tomorrow you may begin murdering each other in your sleep!" - he stopped briefly, to further reinforce his point - "Forgiveness is for lords and priests to grant, we are soldiers and discipline is what we give."

By now his voice had returned to normal, measured and deep. He took a pouch from his belt and threw it at Randor, who grasped it nimbly.

"Make certain that this is delivered to his sister. Let her know that her brother died for her."

"Must she know the manner of his death?"

Barin glanced at the corpse at his feet, a dark pool had formed around it.

"No." - he looked up- "The rest of you. Burn the body and return to your sleep, we still have a long journey ahead of us."



Last edited by Kalon Ordona II on Tue Sep 13, 2011 4:57 am; edited 10 times in total
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Re: Stories of Túlaman

Post by Kalon Ordona II on Mon Dec 20, 2010 8:44 pm

Sephiris: The Price of Peace

. : Barin's Story : . PART 3


~ Lord Barin Mirland, mercenary leader of The Hawks
human ; age 52 ; 6'2" ; auburn brown hair and full, well-trimmed beard ; deep brown eyes ; athletic and muscular ; indigo tattoo on her lower back: a triangle with a horizontal line through it ; wears simple clothes, leathers, chainmail and much flexible plate armor, plus a T-visor helmet ; wields sword, shield engraved with Hawks emblem, and dagger ; also wears a plain silver hawk hangs from a necklace, under the armor ; appears commanding and somewhat grim, noble and yet rugged ; used to be a noble ; skilled with sword, shield, and halberd ; practical fighter ; somewhat knowledgeable of different places, cultures, and history ; good bargain hunter ; willful, determined, loyal, level headed, man of his word ; stubborn at times, short temper, somewhat perfectionist ; overall: sociable, respect-worthy, close with his men, savage-seeming toward strangers, honorable, diligent


. : Name : .
Full Name: Lord Barin Mirland
Use Name: Captain or Barin (depending on who addresses him)
Other: Sir, Lord (very rarely)
Played by: Blackrock

. : Appearance : .
Height and Build: 6'2, athletic and muscular
Description: Looking at Barin one would notice his auburn brown hair, kept short but somewhat messy. Further down, his forehead lies, a few wrinkles etched on it, the signs of a troubled mind. A short, slightly hooked nose rests between his deep brown eyes. His round, somewhat elongated face, is covered by a full, well-trimmed beard. Time has begun leaving its mark on his features, as a few gray hairs can be seen here and there.
Clothing: Barin usually dresses in simple garments. A sturdy pair of leather boots, black pants, held firmly by an elegant belt. A white short-sleeved shirt, revealing his muscular arms, and a black vest worn over it. When in battle or on the march, however, he fields much heavier equipment. His torso is protected by a burnished, but otherwise unadorned and plain to the eye, cuirass, composed of two plates - a breast and a back one, a tasset hangs from it, protecting his thighs. Chainmail leggings provide further protection, defending his knees - a pair of bending plates, his feet are covered in a pair of sabatons (though they are not elongated like a noble's). Barin's broad shoulders are protected by a pair of compact pauldrons, made of overlapping plates. Chainmail extends to the elbow, where plates of similar make to the pauldrons protect it. His hands are gloved in flexible gauntlets, to allow unrestricted use of the sword. Finally, he uses a T-shaped barbute as protection for the head. A round, steel shield, roughly 20 inches in diameter is hung across his back, the Company's symbol, a hawk, is engraved on it.
Weapons: An elegant, black scabbard hangs from his left hip, true to his style it is of fine make, but bears no decorations. Inside it a longsword lies, well-forged, the blade carries the family's symbols on it. The grip is covered in a soft leather, allowing it to slip in comfortably in the hand. It seems to be a veteran of many battles, but the quality of its make shines even after all those years. On his right hip, a dagger rests, should the need arise.
Other: Like all members of his troop, a plain silver hawk hangs from a necklace, worn under the armour.
Impression: Barin has a commanding and somewhat grim presence, he looks quite rugged, his noble demeanor washed away by his years as a mercenary.

. : Heritage : .
Age: 52
Birthplace: Sephalia, Brookstone - a town situated at the foot of the Mountains of Smoke.
Family: The only sibling, his parents have now passed away. Barin knows that he has some relatives in both Mandor and Sephalia, but has found neither the desire nor the time to contact them.
Inheritance: What he inherited from his mother and father, in terms of coin and land he has used to build up his small army. The only thing he has kept is the family's sword, passed down since the time of his great-grandfather. Being of noble birth, however, he received an above-average education.
Other: Barin has yet to marry, but that is because of his lifestyle, when and if he retires, he would think about a family. Having carried out tasks for certain high-placed people, he could call in a favour or two. His noble blood would probably connect him to someone in power, but he has yet to explore that part of his heritage.

. : Persona : .
Biography: Barin was born in the family of Ilina and Hamlar, minor nobles, of a once proud and mighty line. Hamlar was the lord of the town of Brookstone and was a noble only in name. Indeed, he went to the feasts of the grand barons and dukes, people bowed and referred to him as "My Lord" and other such titles, but everyone knew, including him, that he had little actual power. The Mirlands were an old family, tracing back their lineage to the days before the Sixteen Years War and were once one of the most powerful families in the South of Sephalia. In time, however, their lands and riches, their nobility and power, dwindled and were lost forever. Barin's kin continued their steady decline, until, one Aldemar, his great-grandfather came to power. He used his political prowess to restore some of the family's lost splendour. Aldemar formed alliances, recruited soldiers and defeated enemies, no matter what the cost. Some regarded him as a hero, others - as a tyrant, no one could deny however, that by the end of his reign, the Mirlands had become a local power once again. It was he, Aldemar Mirland, who had the family sword forged, declaring that while his heirs wielded this weapon, their kin would live on. His son, Aldric, Barin's grandfather, was not like his father. He squandered the accumulated wealth, indulging in hedonistic pleasures, spending his time in taverns and brothels, while his lands fell into misuse. He died young, before he even reached his hundredth year, but not before fathering a son, Hamlar. Hamlar was a just and kind man, he did what he could to preserve what little his father had left him, but Aldemar's fire did not burn in his veins. He was content to remain where he was and made no moves to regain what was lost. In time, he and had a son, to whom he diverted most of his attention and he led a peaceful life.

Barin, however, was of a different stock. He yearned to live in the times gone by, when he could be commander of his own army, when people would fear and respect him. Being a noble's son, he received an education that most common folk would not even dream of. He learned how to read and write, he was versed in geography and history, in music and poetry. And of course, masters of the sword (though not the best, as Hamlar could not afford them) came to teach the young noble and he eagerly learned all that they would offer. The boy seized every chance to spend time in the estate's library, which still had quite a few books to offer, reading books of warfare, studying the strategies and tactics of ancient generals. In time, Barin grew to be a strong, young man and many claimed that he would be like his great-grandfather. He was ambitious, he was daring and charismatic, those who had daughters set their eyes on him. Hamlar and Ilina had married late and were by that time already growing old, it was not long after that they passed away. First, Ilina, the caring mother and then, two years later, Hamlar, the loving father. They both died with a smile on their face, knowing that their son would continue the family legacy. And so, Lord Barin Mirland came to power and the neighbouring nobles watched in anticipation, awaiting to see how this young man would forge his destiny.

Barin, however, was not content. He knew that the only battles he would ever see would be in ballroom halls and in dining rooms, the only army he would ever lead - those who would hide behind him. And he pitied himself, even though well-liked, he knew that no one, especially in times of peace, would give him a place in the military. That was reserved for the pampered sons of dukes and barons. He could join the army as a common soldier but who would allow him? The last of the Mirlands, Lord Barin, serving along with shepherds and pig-tenders? However, he would not give up so easily. Over the last decade, the villagers had complained, first to his father and now to him that bandits and other scum were getting bolder and bolder, raiding caravans and farmholds. Barin organized a militia, gathering those who would defend their homes and began training them. During the next few years, he lead his men in the surrounding woods and hills and steadily eradicated the brigands. The peasants hailed him as a hero. Barin was pleased, for a while, but knew that this was the most he could hope for. And then, one day, after secret negotiations and much planning, came news that shook the nobility.

Lord Barin was gone. His lands, property, estate - sold to a local, well-to-do merchant. For himself, he had only kept his title (which, for some reason, to this day has not been stripped off him). It was later learned that he had gathered those lads in his village who did not wish to spend their lives with a hoe in hand and had formed a mercenary company. The nobles, were of course, dismayed - one of their own, reduced to a sellsword! Many doors were thus barred to him, but Barin cared not. And so "The Hawks" came to be. Barin led his group throughout the kingdom, recruiting here and there, using the wealth he had acquired to form his small army. His men called him Captain and carried out his orders, he finally had what he had desired since a child. Twenty years later, he still leads the Company.

Motivation: Barin always dreamed of one thing, to be in command of an army, to lead his brothers and sisters in arms to victory. He also strives to maintain the Company's name spotless, being known to never break their word.
Skills and Talents: Years of fighting have honed his battle skills with both sword, shield and halberd. Barin is a practical fighter, focusing on winning rather than showing style and grace. Thanks to his education, he has knowledge of different places and cultures and possesses some knowledge of past events - although, most of it is strictly related to warfare. He never found the desire to learn other languages and as such, has only a basic understanding of Dragon and Elvish. He is quite cunning, always on the lookout for the best deal.
Strengths: Barin is willful and determined, once he sets eyes on his goal - he does all that he can to reach it. He respects those who fight besides him and does his best to protect them. He keeps a level head even in difficult situations, always trying to find the best outcome. Those who have worked with him know that he is a man of his word.
Weaknesses: Thanks to his determination and will, he can be quite stubborn at times, refusing to back down, even if he is wrong. He has a short temper, especially when his orders are not carried out. Barin is somewhat of a perfectionist, claiming that "If you do something, do it right or do not start at all", which can put him at odds with his troops and other people.
Personality: A sociable person, his men respect him because he drinks and laughs, mourns and cries, fights and bleeds alongside them. Strangers, especially more polite ones, can see him as a bit of a savage. He is, nonetheless, a honourable man and carries out his duties diligently.


Chapter One: Shadows from Light ~ CONTINUED


Sephalia > Near Ashwood ~ morning of DAY 15

Barin was enjoying a fried sausage and a mug of cool ale (thanks to the nearby cold stream), along with the other mercenaries. The camp was livelier than normal, all where pleased that their journey was at an end. The shores of the great lake where visible from here, on their small rise on the edge of the Greenwood. The topics discussed amongst the mercenaries where various. Some where wondering if they would visit one of the cities situated around the lake. This would mean a chance to buy new gear, to sleep in a warm bed and, for the more lustful ones, to enjoy the company of the many wenches. Others were more interested in when the Mustering was going to be held, Barin had told them that there would be one soon, but the date had not yet been set. There were speculations of who the next Sergeant would be. Everyone was so accustomed to old Rin, in a sense, along with the Captain, he was the Company. He had always been there, from the days all of them had been mere recruits, cursing them, beating them, teaching them. They missed him, needless to say. These types of conversations, however, were uttered in silence, as the Captain did not like guess-work when it came to such matters.

The happy atmosphere was a stark contrast to what had been a few days before, after the night Barin had issued justice. Betrayal, along with hunger and fear, was always a great enemy to any army. A man with whom you fought and bled just yesterday suddenly shows his true colours. It was not something that could be easily overcome. And despite their happy exterior, Barin suspected that many of his men harboured darker thoughts deep down. He was distracted from his brooding by the laughter coming to his right. One of his men had been a bard once, and he was still quite a master of the lute. His bawdy songs were much enjoyed by his companions. Another mercenary was questioning the Seneschal about his past, was it true he was the son of a merchant in Aram? Did he have a loved one waiting for him there? Randor merely smiled and waved such notions away, the man who had lived in Mandor was no more.

Barin was busy with other thoughts however. As well as the lake, the prosperous city of Ashwood was also visible on the horizon. It was a mere few hours away, they would reach it before the sun had set. The town was full with the usual - merchants, street paddlers and other less honourable figures looking for a profit. They would enjoy it, he thought with a smile. His men were still unaware of the fact that they would spend at least a few days there, it would come as a welcome surprise. He would allow them to disperse and spend their hard-earned coin on whatever they saw fit. He had to remind a few not to question the guards' heritage though, last time he had to pull them out of prison. Barin could not afford to be harsh though, not in such times. The men were tired from their long journey and the nightly attacks they had to deal with.

The beasts of shadow were not much a threat, after the mercenaries had overcome their initial fear. But the Captain liked this not at all. Every night the assaults grew fiercer and while there were only a few minor injuries, he was not certain that matters would be such in other parts of the land. Was this limited only to the lands of men he wondered? Did the Elves or Dragons had to contend with such foes? Or was is something regarding only Sephalia? Did the men of Mandor have such troubles? Were their keeps and cities safe? He had to no way of knowing that. Hopefully, the abundant gossip in the trade-cities like Ashwood would provide him with some sort of insight.

Again, his thoughts turned to more immediate concerns - to his men. Indeed, he could not force them to act as saints once they passed the city walls. It would not be just. They had passed through mud and rain, blood and death, a short respite if only for a few days would do wonders to their morale. If it meant having to deal with the consequences of their drunken actions, so be it. A good commander took care of his men. But another topic would surely be brought up, maybe not vocally, yet it would remain at the back of their minds. The Mustering. Following the paths of logic, one would certainly assume that one would be held this very night or tomorrow at the latest. Encircled by walls and having a roof over their heads - it would make the men more at ease and allow them to speak their mind. But was it wise to do so at this point?

The memory of his soon-to-be companions came to Barin's made. These two mages in the service of the Baron would be welcomed with suspicion. He did not need to be a magic user himself to guess that. Not the least of all, he was suspicious of them himself. Men who fought with sword and shield were easy, a sword could be parried and a shield could be broken. But when it came to the wizards' words of power, he was met with a wall of unknown. And while he fancied himself to be an intelligent man, some things were beyond him. That is why he had decided to hold off the Mustering for now. When the mages joined them, he would gather the Company and discuss their next course of action. This served two purposes. He would give his men the chance to see who these people were. And it would allow D'Armitage's men understand how the Company worked. There would also be a hidden message behind it all. If these twins reported to the Baron, something which he did not doubt, it would show him that while The Hawks may be working for him, they were not his men.

Having considered all that (and finished his meal), Barin was ready to act. A fairly unpleasant task awaited him. The mages would need guidance, lest they risk scouring every mile of the lake for the Company. That is why someone would have to be left behind to watch for them. Someone who would not be able to enjoy the comforts of the city. It was not pleasant, but it had to be done. The Captain turned his head and called for Randor, who was quick to answer.

"Your orders, Captain?"

"Seneschal, I think we have rested long enough for now. Get the men up, I want to set off in less than half an hour."

"Anything else, sir?"

"No. You may go."

Barin watched on as his right-hand man went about his duties. With kicks and shouts he began readying the men for the last leg of their journey. In truth, there was something else, but he had a different person in mind for that. The newest recruits were sitting nearby. After a week with the mercenaries, some of their enthusiasm had disappeared. It was not surprising for Barin, they were not the first, nor the last. But they would make good Companions one day, if these treacherous times did not claim them. He was of a mind to not allow them to wander freely in the city. Despite their short stay in the wilderness they were still young and foolish and could easily get into trouble. He would have to keep a close eye on them. For now though, he merely wished to see them sweat.

"Geren!" - he called out

The lad jumped to his feet and approached his Captain, saluting as he did so.

"S-sir."

They were not so calm before Barin as they were before, that was good. A leader needed the respect of his men, but their fear was invaluable too.

"Go and find Fabrin for me, he should be around the fires."

"It will be done Captain!"

With that he hurried off to find Barin's chief scout. It was not a long wait, if truth be told, but for the Captain it seemed to be taking ages. He was master of his emotions in most cases, but whenever he had to disappoint his men, his heart skipped a beat. He had no sons of his own, nobody of his own blood to care for. These people, from all parts of the world, from all walks of life, peasants and thieves and soldiers and cheats they were his family. And he cared for them.

"Captain?"

Fabrin's calm, slightly quiet voice brought him back to the world around him. Barin raised his head upward and saw Fabrin and Geren looking down on him. If he were not seated, they would both have to crane their necks to look him in the eye. And yet, even now, they did not really "look down" on him, they did not meet his eyes. The Captain valued that.

"Geren, you may go." - he waved his hand dismissively -"Fabrin, gather the scouts. All of them."

"Even the ones on guard?"

Barin frowned, was he not clear enough?

"All of them I told you. Should I write it on a piece of paper? Although I doubt it would do much good, considering how much you fear written words. One would think they were written in blood, not ink." - he replied curtly

"At once, Captain!" - he turned on his heels and left.

In truth, Barin valued Fabrin a lot. But he could not abide his uncertain nature. He had a tendency to over-analyze each situation, which, despite sounding nice, was more of a hindrance. Ratibor would do that sometimes, even Randor...they had a mind of their own, that much could not be denied. And even though they trusted their Captain fully, a small part of them, buried deep within their minds, it was not always on even terms with him. He did not like that. Rin, on the other hand, he never questioned an order, not with words, not with thoughts. He was an old soldier and he merely carried out his tasks. A smile crossed Barin's rugged face, who would have thought that he would miss that old grim man so much?

True to his word, Fabrin gathered the scouts swiftly. In a few minutes, all of them, a small group, was standing in front of Barin. Now, at last, he got to his feet. The next words would not be pleasant and he could not utter them while seated. He was no king to have that luxury.

"Listen..." - he began, raising his voice - "Within a few hours we will be at Ashwood and are going to enjoy a warm meal, a soft bed and the company of other people."

As he said those words, there was cheering about him. He had raised his voice on purpose, so that others could hear him. Even the scouts were happy for a moment, but then they saw his face. It did not betray any hints of happiness.

"Not for you, my eyes and ears. I have another task for you. I will not bore you with the details just yet. I leave that to Fabrin, he knows who you are looking for. Needless to say, these people are carrying a fat pouch of gold for us. And their employer is a wealthy and powerful man. They are not to be harmed and must reach us safely, we shall talk more of this during the Mustering. Do this and the rewards for all of us shall be great indeed."

The scouts muttered words of acknowledgment. But it is not their words, but their eyes Barin payed attention to. And their eyes told much, betraying their thoughts. He saw disappointment and regret, but also envy in those mirrors of the soul, as some called them. For truly, one could guess much by looking at another's eyes. They were not hard to read, not for Barin. That was the gift fate had given him, he could understand Man, what he thought and what he feared. A gift or a curse? He could never be quite certain.

"I know you are not pleased" - he began again - "You are tired and weary, I understand. But such is life, while some of us rest behind the safety of the walls, others must sleep under a tree in the forest. It must be accepted. But you know me!" - he let the words sink in - "I will not forget this, it will be rewarded. Now go, the sooner you bring them to us, the sooner that reward will be ours."

With slightly more enthusiasm than before, the scouts went off to pack. Only Fabrin remained behind. Truth be told, Fabrin knew nothing of his decision, but he was wise enough not to question the Captain in front of his men. Barin knew that and was not pleased. Such matters he usually planned beforehand, but this was something he had decided mere moments ago.

"Fabrin" - he began, as he took out the Baron's letter from a pocket, it was neatly folded -"This is the letter sent to me from our future employer. You are allowed to read it. It is short and to the point, but it describes the two mages you are looking for. From what you will read, you will see that they are not easily mistaken. In addition, the letter will prove that you are my man. Once you find them, bring them to Ashwood immediately."

"Yes, Captain. It shall be as you command."

"I leave the details to you, organise your men as you see fit. But be weary, the wilds are dangerous, as we have seen. You are a small force and will not draw much attention, hopefully, but do not grow lax. I want you to return with the mages and my men, all of them. Am I clear?"

He looked straight into Fabrin's eyes, with that look of his. That look, which demanded from you nothing but the truth, in its simplest form. It asked: "will you bring them alive or not?", not how, not when, only if. And knowing that look, you could not lie, you either could or you could not, but failure was not an option.

"Yes" - answered Fabrin after a pause.

"All is settled then, prepare yourselves."

After a salute, the scout walked off. Barin's eyes followed him for a time, before turning to the dwindling fire before him. Before the day was over, he would be starring at another fire again. This time it would be in an inn, under a roof, seated on a cushioned chair, instead of the cold, wet earth. It would be a welcome respite for most of the Hawks. Apart from those who would have to watch and wait. Was it because he and the others were better than them? No. It was simply the fact that such was their vocation. This was how it went, Barin mused again, life did not ask who you were, what you were. It did not care for your qualities, for your strengths or weaknesses. It was not fair or unfair, just or unjust, kind or cruel, it was life and nothing more could be said. Was it right that Barin sat here, in the mud with the rest of them? A man who had the abilities to lead armies much greater than this? And was it right that some lord's son, spoiled and foolish, called himself "leader"? Perhaps. But the question was.

Who cared?


Sephalia > Ashwood ~ afternoon of DAY 15

Barin raised his hand to stop the column of men behind him. They were in sight of the city walls, but far enough to not be overheard.

"We have arrived." - he said plainly, stating the obvious - "While you are within the walls remember these things. Firstly, as promised, you will be free to do what you will."

His next words were drowned out by the cheers, but he rose his hand quietly and silence returned.

"Sleep, drink and eat where you will. What I ask is that you inform your hosts who you are, that way you will be easier to find. As usual, you can buy whatever you deem fit. This is Ashwood, after all, a city of merchants and craftsmen. And because I am pleased, our march was quick and you remained focused on the task at hand...despite some happenings, the Seneschal will offer every man and woman here a hefty pouch. You have earned it." - he added with a smile

The cheers were once again heard, but this time he made no attempt to stop them. Instead, he allowed Randor to move through the ranks, rewarding the Hawks for their service. Barin did not doubt that most of that would go into some tavern or a brothel. But who was he to judge? They had earned their bonus, let them spend it as they saw fit. When the Seneschal returned to his original position, on the right side of the front row of the formation, Barin rose his hand for silence again. His face was serious once more.

"Secondly, do not forget that whatever dangers plagued us in the wilderness are still very much real. They will assault the city even tonight, I am certain." - the threat of the shadows had been forgotten for a moment, Barin thought he did the right thing to remind them - "That said, I have promised you rest and rest you shall have. The defenders of Ashwood will manage on their own. If any of you wish to help in the defense, as volunteers or swords for hire, so be it. You have my permission."

"Thirdly, do not settle down overmuch. We will leave after our scouts return. Why and where to will be decided once they rejoin us. Be ready to depart at any moment." - a small pause followed, after which he continued - "And last, I will say this. Duke Terin, the lord of Ashwood, is a fair, but harsh ruler. It is the only way to keep a trading town such as this in check. If you must make a name for yourselves, so be it. But do not draw too much attention."

With that, he turned on his heels. Barin was a man of his word, in all aspects. He said "last" and that was that. It meant he had said all that he would for the time being. The Captain continued with his march and the mercenaries followed. He was ahead of the column, walking alone. A sign of his authority and the loneliness that accompanied such positions of power. Behind, the Hawks came in a neatly ordered formation. The small procession was ordered in three columns, with the the supplies at the back. Looking at them, one could assume they were a military detachment. But they flew no banners and carried no colours of their liege.

As they neared the gate, a guard greeted them wearily. The man was leaning on a spear, his face was haggard and his speech was slow, tired. Barin stood aside as his men marched through the gate, waiting for all of them to pass. He glanced at the spearman who was, not surprisingly, watching the armed men with interest. Another individual seemed to have been interested. Better dressed and wider around the chest and shoulders. The tabard over his breastplate marked him as the Captain of the Gate. He was old, probably as old as Rin, his short hair was completely white. His trimmed beard ran along his wide jaw. All that, plus his overall demeanor, gave Barin the impression that he was a man who would not sit idly by while the younger generation moved on. He would not feel worthless.

"Mercenaries, eh?"

"How did you know?" - asked Barin, he was indeed surprised, not many people guessed that outright

The other man grinned. "When you've been watching a gate for more than half a century, you tend to notice things others don't. You don't have no banners, no lord's insignia. Plus none of the fanfare, no mounted officers in shiny cloaks. That's why they still keep me around, I know where to stick my nose."

Barin nodded.

"How long have you been out there?" - asked the gate warden

"For about a week."

"An entire week amidst those shadows! Where do you come from?"

"From Fenwater, after we helped them fend off an attack."

"Zephiris have mercy! All the way there? Then it's as bad as I feared." - he paused for a second - "A lot of folk here thought that these attacks were something local. Something to do with the Lake. The restless souls of our forefathers, displeased with our offerings. But when you live as long as I have, you don't just assume such things. A few ghost problems don't stop travelers from coming, a few restless spirits don't stifle trade in an entire region."

"Zephiris help us!" -he exclaimed again

"Invoking gods will not help you, Captain. No mercy or salvation will come from up there" - he looked up at the sky - "A cool head and a steady hand will decide the matter here. We traveled through the wilds, aye, and were attack every night. But we managed, no man or woman in my company was slain by a shadow. These things...whatever they are, let some mage or priest decide, feed on doubt, on fear, panic. Show them no such and they fall easily."

"Aye, what you say rings true. Good words, good for putting an old man in his place." - he paused briefly, then turned to the matter at hand - "Our Duke's seen to that. He doubled the guard, while his men are out in the countryside, patrolling the villages."

Barin nodded in agreement, the words confirmed his observations. He had already counted two dozen men about the gate, something which was never needed in other times. Especially not at the end of the day.

"There's a curfew, I should warn you" - continued the grey-haired man - "No resident or guest of the city is to be outside once night falls. Not that such a measure was needed, mind you. People are reluctant to leave their homes in broad daylight, let alone during the night."

"How are you dealing with the attacks?"

"They have been getting bolder during the last few days. At first, few of them managed to reach our walls. Now they have some...new breed, I can't say. Flying shadows, they pass over our walls and harass our archers. We now have to place guards between their ranks, men that could be of better use holding the gate."

"I see, but the city is safe?"

"Aye, nothing out of the ordinary. Though now with the curfew and all, some suspicious types have been lurking about. We have our rotten apples here and there, they're just trying to make a profit from all this."

"Thank you for the information, I should leave you to your duties."

"Not much duty until the night falls, but aye. You're probably tired from your journey. Let me warn you though, folk here, they're used to strangers, they brought trade and news. Not anymore, what strangers bring is another throat to feed, another horrid tale to tell, I'm afraid you won't find much of a welcome."

"We seldom do. Be well, Captain."

The other nodded at him and returned to the gatehouse, the spearman resumed his previous post, by the gate. Barin went on and soon found himself on the streets of Ashwood. The city was....much livelier than Fenwater had been. There were people moving about, at the least. But it was nothing like the place the Captain remembered. He began walking on the cobbled street, which lead to the market. After some ten minutes, Barin was at the location of the once grand marketplace of Ashwood. The city was known throughout the region and the kingdom as a whole for its trade. Barin noted how he used past tense to refer to it.

For, indeed, this was nothing like the old Ashwood. The stalls were there, along with a performer or two, there were merchants and petty vendors, trying to find buyers for their wares. Some would blame the time, the sun was already setting. But Barin had been here before, he knew that business seldom stopped and carried on until much later. There were no peasants to be seen, with produce from their villagers. No foreign merchants, they all wore clothes typical to the local area, no laughs and curses. It was almost quiet. Whatever it was, be it shadows or something else, unseen at this point, the people felt it. It was not just the lack of trade or the shadows, no, it was...he could not find a word for it. He had not seen it before, for he had spent the last few weeks in the company of his men, mostly. The Hawks had stayed out of the big cities, with their maze-like streets and crowds of people. Barin had oft heard that in these places, one could feel the pulse of the country, the nation. If Ashwood was any indication, the heart had almost stopped beating.

For some reason Barin remembered that he had one or two men in his service who were born here. How would they deal with the changes? It must be a blow to them, to see their hometown like this. And how would the locals deal with it? From their unfriendly faces and weary eyes, he guessed the answer. Whatever was happening, it was felt. Not on an individual level, but when the sum of all lives was made, there was a sense of foreboding that seeped into one's soul. Barin felt it too, now that he was amongst others.

The Hawks would be easy to find, he only had to make his way to the nearest inn. Not surprisingly, he was already aware of the situation that many were closed. And indeed, why keep one open when there was nobody to use it? People stayed in their homes, visitors would not come, why waste the time and resources to keep it running? It was not just one or two, Barin noticed many familiar names, at which he had drank and slept before, closed, empty, cold. He passed through the emptying market square and moved into one of the smaller streets, which led to the center of the city, where the priests and lords dwelt.

He walked for half an hour or more, during which he met few people. Mostly guards, some stray shopkeeper eager to return home. Nothing else. Only now did he realise that it was just like Fenwater, only on a much bigger scale. It could not be noticed in a small, rural town. Even one as prestigious as Fenwater, it could never have the same amount of people a place like Ashwood would have. It was empty in its own way, as was Ashwood. Only it was much harder to miss here, it had been a busy place and to see it devoid of life...it was tragic.

Finally, he came upon an inn. He was not the only one who had found it, by the sounds of it. Many of the voices coming from inside were familiar. Upon entering, he found at least a score of his men, waiting for their meals. There were few patrons to speak of, save for one or two locals, who were already busy prying tales from the newcomers. It might seem strange at first, one would think that these men would have grown tired of their own company. That they would want to spend at least a night with strangers. Regardless of what they thought, such was the case. There were almost no strangers about, save for them. Not to mention that most of the inns and taverns were closed. And besides, with the sour mood of the locals, it was to be expected that men would stick to friends they knew.

Barin nodded at the turned faces and moved towards the bar. A fat, middle-aged, man was standing behind it. He looked up when the Captain approached.

"Do you have rooms?" - Barin asked

"Of course I've got bloody rooms. Haven't you been outside? Did you just come out from under a rock?"

"You should be more courteous to your guests."

"Who do you think you are? It's my damned inn, if you don't like it leave."

"Oh, I will leave all right. And order my men" - he paused, pointing at most of the patrons - "to come with me. We can take our business elsewhere."

"Now, now, no need to be so displeased about it, m'lord. Times are hard, is all."

Barin almost sighed, people never see reason. Or, at least, not until you shove it in their faces. It was the same with this one, only now did he change his tone.

"What about that room I asked?"

"Aye, there's free ones, could house two score of people here, even more. Your men are not near enough to fill all of it, I'm afraid."

"Be pleased we are this much, it could have been worse."

"I'll have my daughter prepare a room for you. It's nothing fancy, bed, a table and a chair. No lord's place, that's for sure."

"I never asked for more. How much will it be?"

"Three silvers per night."

"I'll also have something to drink and food, of course."

"Naturally. The wife's making a stew now, vegetables mostly, we ain't got much in the way of meat right now. What will you drink? I'm warning you, not much of a choice here either. Wine or ale."

"Wine it is. What do you have?"

The innkeeper shrugged. "Haven't checked the stores, no idea what's left."

"Whatever it is, just bring it faster."

Barin sat by an empty table, preferring to leave his men on their own. No matter how much they loved and respected him, there was always that invisible barrier. It could never be overcome. Despite all that he had done for them, he was the Captain and they would never be at ease in his presence. Barin did not mind however, it was to be expected. A leader could and, frankly, had to be friendly with his men, but he could never be their friend. This was what his father had told him once, long ago. This is what he told himself when he formed this company. Close, but never too close.

After a bit, a pretty young girl shyly told him that his room was ready. He went upstairs and found his room on the third floor, at the end of the corridor. Why this far? There were plenty of empty rooms nearer to the staircase. Perhaps the innkeeper valued his privacy, or perhaps it was a cheap way of repaying Barin's threat. It made no matter. He entered the room, set aside his pack and removed his armour. After all, there was no point in carrying the additional weight, clanking with each step. Eating his meal, in an inn, on a chair while wearing all that seemed absurd to him. Instead, he settled for his "city clothes" as he called them. Black breeches and boots and a dark red shirt. A black hooded cloak completed his appearance, clasped by a small brooch in the shape of a hawk. The only thing he took from his battle gear, was the swordbelt, along with the dagger and sword hanging from it. He would not be armoured, but that did not mean he would be defenseless.

When he returned downstairs, his meal was waiting for him, along with the wine. What he did not expect was the innkeeper, standing by the table. Barin took a seat, but did not offer one to his host, he was not in the mood for a long talk.

"Did you meet my daughter, m'lord?" - the innkeeper asked, somewhat hesitantly

"I caught a glimpse of her, when she told me about my room. Why?"

"Thing is...you did notice how..." - he was at a loss for words for a moment - "attractive she was?"

Barin already knew what the question meant. Yes, the innkeeper's daughter was comely, very much so for one who had spent months in the wild. He did not like the stutter in the other man's voice. Why was it so hard to ask him, Barin, straight in the face: will your men rape my daughter? Let him sweat then, he only nodded quietly.

"Yes, well, your men..."

"Listen, innkeeper, I do not know what patrons frequent your inn, but you are mistaken. No man here will lay a hand on your daughter. They will not allow it."

"They?"

"Take a good look, my host, do you not inspect your guests?"

And indeed, if the innkeeper had payed more attention, he would have noticed that there were five other women in the room. Mercenaries like the others.

"Neither will I. You have my word." - the Captain added, after he understood that the innkeeper had seen what was suggested

"Thank you, m'lord, it's just that I th-"

"I am known for many things, things that could be considered both good and evil. But no man or woman can deny that my word is not golden. Speak no more of this while we remain your guests."

The host bowed and quickly returned to his bar, leaving Barin to his meal. The wine was not the best of vintages, but it would do. The stew was good enough, it was warm, that much could not be denied. Overall, it was a good meal, hastily prepared as it was, with whatever supplies could be found. There was nothing to be displeased about.

The night went on and as the tension slowly left the mind and bodies of both hosts and patrons, things started getting more...bearable. And of course, the almighty liquid that filled the cups helped move things along. There was laughter, jokes, tales...everything one might expect in a normal inn, in normal times. Whether intrigued or frightened by the noises, a few other people, no - patrons, soon appeared. A guard or two even peeked in, wondering what was happening. Slowly, but steadily things began to liven up. By the time the first signs of drinking more than needed were noticed, the number of patrons had doubled.

Barin was both happy and annoyed by that. For one, it really did seem that the lifeblood of any community was what came from beyond, no matter if beyond was the next village, the next town or the next city. These strange men and women that had arrived at an unexpected time, brought back a tiny glimmer of life to the otherwise dying city. On the other hand, Barin was not one to forget quickly. Even now, the defenders were manning the walls, waiting for or fighting the shadows. Even now, Fabrin and his men were out there in the woods, in the damp and cold, while here he was enjoying his wine. Life was cruel and unfair, indeed.

He had chosen his table for a reason. Not only was it far from the others, it was placed by one of the windows. This allowed him to have a good look of the street outside. For the most part, there was no movement. Only the swift footsteps of shadowed silhouettes now and again. The only thing that stood out was a force of armed men, bearing the livery of the city. No doubt sent to the walls, he thought. His eyes were then drawn to three people leaving the inn. One was a woman, with a full bosom and charming smile, he had noticed her when she came in. The other two were...he grinned as he saw them, Silan and Geren. The comforts of city life, indeed.

It was to be expected - they were young and eager, in more ways than one. In a village such as Fenwater, no matter how many travelers passed through, news of such...happenings would spread soon. Someone, somewhere would have seen something. That would bring shame on both the lass and the lad. Here, however, in these cities, the pleasures of the flesh were turned into a business, just like anything else. It could be bought, in its simplest, purest form or with additional decorations. Like a vase, for example. He waited for them, knowing that they would pass by the window. After all, before entering the inn, he had noticed the red lantern in one of the alleys. However, when after a few minutes he saw no sign of them, he knew that they must have went the other way. Geren and Silan had drank more than enough, he remembered. The woman could have chosen someone richer, more experienced, but no - she settled for these two. Inexperienced boys, not only in bed. It did not take him much time to realise what was afoot.

He stood up and briskly headed for the door, his head was clear - he had not drank much. As he passed one of the tables he leaned in and whispered something to one of the corporals.

"Lina, pay attention to the window, look at what is happening outside. If I do not come back in...say, twenty minutes, come and find me. Not alone, I should add."

The black-haired woman quietly nodded to him, her dark eyes darting to the window as soon as he departed. In the mean time, Barin had already left the building. He took a deep breath, the chilly air filling his lungs. He pulled his cloak about him and quickly followed their presumed direction. It was mostly quiet, save for far-off shouts, no doubt from the walls. He moved quickly and, his suspicions were correct, heard laughter coming from one of the alleys. One of the alleys that was in the completely opposite direction of the brothel. The woman did not work there, that much was certain and the ruler was too strict for any...freelancers to be roaming about. No, this was a plain robbery attempt, cheating two peasant boys, a quick way to make some coin.

He caught up to them just as they were about to turn in a shabby looking alleyway. The buildings, like the street that passed by them, were in a bad shape. No matter how prosperous a city was, there was always that part of town, that spot on the white canvas, which ruined the idyllic scene. It seemed that this was one such part. The city watch no doubt avoided it, especially now when they had to contend with the beasts outside the gates. A perfect place for scum to hide. He had moved quickly, but silently enough so when he approached they did not turn to look. The could have heard him, but they probably did not care. As for the woman...she was expecting her friends to come along.

Barin gripped each of his new recruits by the shoulder, a firm grip which rooted them in place. They turned around, their faces twisted by alcohol and anger. But it was only for a moment, they recognised the Captain and smiled nervously at him.

"Well, well...satisfying your needs, I see?"

"Y-yes, sir." - Geren replied

"Perhaps you would like to join in m'lord, there's more than enough of me..." - she said, with deft fingers she began revealing more of herself.

The bitch is getting desperate, Barin thought. Not surprisingly, the boys looked at her in amazement. Doing that...right there on the street! It was normal for their age of course. Barin, however, was not impressed.

"Get out of my sight whore, before I break your teeth!" - he growled

"But m'lor-"

"Did you not hear me the first time?!" - he gave her the back of his hand, sending her to the ground. After that he forcefully turned the two overeager Hawks in the other direction.

"Come, you fools. It seems that one of the many things I will have to teach you is how to discern a proper prostitute from a bait."

The two might as well have been dead, they made no sound. The only noise which filled the air were the sobs of the whore. Not only had Barin used all his strength in that slap, she would also receive a beating for failing her task. The Captain, of course, did not care. The moment of anger was gone, it had never been there in the first place, only a slight hint of it. If she had said one more word, however....he waved that thought away. They traveled back to the inn, during the way Barin released the two lads, knowing that they had no where else to go. When they set foot on the bigger street, however, fate played another joke on them.

Five men were coming from the other direction. They were neither guards, nor soldiers that much was obvious. They would not be hooded otherwise. Barin paid them no heed, neither group was supposed to be out at this hour. Neither group had interest in the other's dealings. But one of the men bumped into Silan, nearly knocking him to the ground. As if that was not enough, he punched him in the face, the otherwise agile youth was too drunk to respond adequately. More trouble than they are worth, thought Barin with a sigh.

"Touch the boy again and I will rip out your throat, you bastard" - he said icily

"What's that old man?!" - spoke the hooded thug - "You want a beating, eh?"

"Take it easy, no need to bother these poor bastards" - spoke a calmer voice, who was at the center of the group, their leader it seemed. - "Keep your sons in check, someone less patient than me could make your life a lot worse."

From the way he spoke, the way he held himself, Barin assumed he was a noble. The typical arrogance showed him he was a young one at that.

"Do not lecture me, lordling." - he pushed the shocked Silan aside, taking a step closer - "And do not even think of threatening me."

The guard, for he was a guard - it was now obvious, who had attacked Silan attempted the same with Barin. A big mistake. This time, his fist was caught mid air and his wrist was twisted in such a way that it broke. Blades were drawn. Barin pushed the man aside and drew his own sword. Four against one, Geren and Silan were too shocked to be of any real help, it was to be expected. He could probably take this sorry lot, the lordling would be the most trouble he assumed, arrogant as they were, they were almost always good duelists. He did not want to risk it, a foolish risk, without any real gains. The other leader was of like mind it seemed, the advantage in numbers was growing slim. The sword-arm of one of his men was useless, that gave him pause. He obviously had another task to attend to, why else would he be out and about at this hour? Youth, however, was not rational and rather than ending the matter there, his ego got the better of him.

"You are a bigger fool than I thought. Do you know who I am?"

"Should I care?"

"I will make your life miserable, I swear it!"

"A thug who swears oaths? Now that is something you do not see every day!"

"A thug? A lowborn peasant like you has no right to judge the likes of me!"

"Then why do you not attack, boy? Are your numbers not enough?"

"I can bring to bear more numbers than you can count, you filthy bastard. I can...I-"

Upon hearing a door nearby opening, Barin smiled.

"What good is the force that you could muster, if you had the time, when I have already mustered mine?"

And indeed, from the inn came his men. Lina was a woman, but that did not mean she could not get that drunken lot on their feet in no time. She had no doubt watched through the window and Barin was merely buying her time to get them going. Upon noticing the grim, annoyed men, with weapons drawn, the hooded leader lost his confidence. He was now outnumbered four to one.

"Well my lord, where is your courage now?"

Silence was the only answer. He does not flee at the first sign of danger, at least, Barin gave him that.

"Leave now and I will count the matter settled. If I see you on the street tomorrow I will not even recognise you, nor you me." - he left the words linger for a moment and noted how everyone was waiting for him to continue, both friends and foes - "As for that worm who dared strike one of my men in front of me, bring him here."

There was a yelp as two of the hooded men brought their own companion before the Captain. When they let him go, he staggered to the ground, begging for his life. Pathetic. Barin merely stooped and grabbed him by the collar, lifting him until their faces were even.

"Right, so that is how your ugly mug looks like. I do not forget, keep that in mind. The next time I see you, I swear to whatever god you may believe in, I will kill you."

He let go of him and turned to his men, gesturing for them to return to their merriment. After a minute, both groups had left that part of the street. As Barin and the two lads entered the inn, he gripped them by the shoulders again.

"You can be thankful that I had someone to hit today, otherwise those blows would have been yours to take. Go sleep, there will be no rest for you. From tomorrow, until we remain here, you will go where I tell you to go, do what I tell you to do. You did not originally deserve this rest, for you have not endured what these men and women have. Now that rest is completely forfeit."

He left them there and headed for his own room, wanting to put the matter behind him. He undressed and placed his head on the soft pillow, getting a feel for his bed. Truth be told, it was not that comfortable, but after having spent months sleeping on a straw mat, it felt as good as the king's. Soon, he was fast asleep.



Last edited by Kalon Ordona II on Tue Sep 13, 2011 4:57 am; edited 10 times in total
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Re: Stories of Túlaman

Post by Kalon Ordona II on Mon Dec 20, 2010 8:44 pm

Sephiris: The Price of Peace

. : Barin's Story : . PART 4


~ Lord Barin Mirland, mercenary leader of The Hawks
human ; age 52 ; 6'2" ; auburn brown hair and full, well-trimmed beard ; deep brown eyes ; athletic and muscular ; indigo tattoo on her lower back: a triangle with a horizontal line through it ; wears simple clothes, leathers, chainmail and much flexible plate armor, plus a T-visor helmet ; wields sword, shield engraved with Hawks emblem, and dagger ; also wears a plain silver hawk hangs from a necklace, under the armor ; appears commanding and somewhat grim, noble and yet rugged ; used to be a noble ; skilled with sword, shield, and halberd ; practical fighter ; somewhat knowledgeable of different places, cultures, and history ; good bargain hunter ; willful, determined, loyal, level headed, man of his word ; stubborn at times, short temper, somewhat perfectionist ; overall: sociable, respect-worthy, close with his men, savage-seeming toward strangers, honorable, diligent


Chapter One: Shadows from Light ~ CONTINUED


Sephalia > Ashwood ~ early morning of DAY 16

Barin woke up, put on his clothes and left the inn. It was still early, nobody apart from him had awoken yet. Whether it was the heavy drinking from last night or the overall fatigue of their journeys, his men were yet to rise. It was good, he thought, let them rest. He knew not how long they would have that luxury. The morning air was chilly and misty, the sun was low in the horizon, the day had not yet begun. And yet, for some reason, Barin felt fully rested. He began walking in no particular direction, enjoying the empty, quiet streets of Ashwood. He would often take a turn here or there, passing by this alley or that. At times, he would stop to trade japes or gossip with the old, curious women who were already up and about at this hour. What he learned from them was no news at all, people were afraid, moods were sour, scum prowled the streets at night. There were also rumours that the priests had gone mad and had begun performing strange rituals. He did not know what to make of that, even those who uttered the words claimed that there was no truth to them. But Barin knew better. Behind every lie, beneath every rumour, there was a glimmer of truth.

The day carried on and Barin continued wandering its streets. He would oft do that, when he had a chance to stay in a bigger city. It was one of the weaknesses he possessed, one of the anchors to the past. Growing up in his father's estate meant he saw little of the outside world. Even when he had a chance to visit the nearby Brookstone, there was not much to see. It could barely be called a town. That is why, unknown to all his men, he took great pleasure in exploring the great cities. He passed through all neighbourhoods, not fearing anything. For what could frighten him when he had nothing to lose? It was also a way for him to clear his mind, order his thoughts. All negative emotions from the night before were washed away. He could not blame the two young men, they were, after all, inexperienced and such...accidents were to be expected. And yet, he would not balk from his decision. They might as well learn a thing or two about the world while they had the chance.

As the sun rose ever higher, the number of people on the streets increased. It was not as bad as he had judged yesterday, he understood. The people were afraid, aye, but that did not mean they could put a halt on their day to day affairs. They went to work, opened their shops, visited the market and filled the streets. Only after the sun would begin its descent would they retreat to the safety of their homes, Barin supposed. And yet, the fear was there. On their faces, in their conversations, there was always that unavoidable reminder that tonight, they would come again.

The curfew did not really have an effect, he also noticed. Either it was not enforced or there were simply little men to spare for patrols. Already he heard a few people talking about some strangers who had settled in an inn and caused some sort of trouble. He smiled slightly, at least the arrival of the Hawks had given them something new to talk about. Something that did not revolve around the shadows. Perhaps the innkeeper would have even more patrons tonight? All because of his men...yes, he would have to remind the man that. After all, an opportunity was an opportunity, Barin was always on the lookout for one.

By the time he returned to the inn, it was already noon and he had passed through most of the city. He had even passed by the Duke's palace. If he had not already accepted D'Armitage's contract, he would gladly have worked something out with the lord. No doubt he would have some use for a company of experienced swords. Then again, if not for that letter, he would probably not be here in the first place. Such was life, a series of choices and then a multitude of buts and ifs. As he neared the already familiar building, an ordinary looking man barred his way.

"A moment of your time, m'lord."

"I am no lord." - Barin replied calmly

"My mistake then, sir." - he grinned - "I bring a message for you."

"Very well. Where is it?"

The man tapped his head.

"Too important to be written on a piece o' paper. Can't nobody read my mind if...something were to happen."

Barin nodded quietly.

"My master wishes to see you, he has a business preposition."

"Tell your master that we have already been hired. We do not take on two jobs at once."

"Yes, yes. He already knows of that. It's just for you, he said. You won't even need to travel."

Barin was intrigued. Haggling with the innkeeper for some trivial sum of coin was one thing. Working, or the very least, meeting such a well-informed man was always interesting. And rewarding in a number of ways. If he could line his pockets while waiting, why not?

"Very well. I will meet your "master", but I do not promise that I will accept."

"Naturally, he'd have it none other way. He's waiting for you in that house over 'ere."

He inclined his head at a building nearby. Like the messenger, it was not something that would catch the eye. After noticing Barin's nod, he headed in that direction, walking a few steps ahead of the Captain. Upon arriving before the door, he knocked. A bearded man opened it and bade them to enter. The messenger hesitated for a moment, turning his head to Barin and then went in.

"M'lord is upstairs." - said the bearded one in a thick voice

Barin understood that the he would have to walk the rest of the way by himself. He left the messenger and the tall door-guard and moved up the stairs. The Captain took his time, trying to figure out who this person could be. He knew where he was staying, that much was certain, why else would he be waiting for Barin here? The building itself revealed little, it was as normal as any other. Since he owned the whole of it, he could pass on as a well-to-do merchant, most folks could not afford it. That was all. Lost in such thoughts, he arrived before another door. Barin was not one for courtesy, so he entered without knocking.

Inside was a young, blond-haired man. He smiled and stood up to greet him, offering his hand.

"A pleasure to meet you."

"I do not shake hands with a stranger."

"I heard as much, take a seat."

There were only two chairs in the room, Barin set on the one nearest to the door.

"Would you like something to eat or drink perhaps, Captain?"

"Save your warm welcomes. You claim to know of me, then you already know that I am not one for false greetings. Say what you have to say and I will tell you what I think."

"So be it. Are you aware of the current situation in Ashwood?" - he stood up and headed for the window, looking out.

Barin rested his chin on his fist.

"The locals are afraid, trade has stopped, the villages are not bringing in produce. I assume that you will now reveal something more to me." - it was not a question, but a statement.

"You assume correct, Captain." - he paused a little, turned around to face Barin and spoke again - "There is currently a war brewing, not one on the field, but one in the shadows."

"So, that is why your city seems to be teeming with miscreants at night."

"You catch on pretty quick, Captain. It seems we were right about you."

"We?"

"Before our current troubles started" - the man continued, ignoring Barin's words - "we had our fair share of louts here and there. Every bigger community has them, thieves' guilds, muggers, smugglers, the occasional assassin. However, only recently have...certain parties began to rally them."

"What better way to wage this shadow war of yours, if not with those who stick to the shadows?"

"Indeed, Captain. They are men of little importance, with no ideas and no goals in life. Give them enough coin and they will fight for your cause. Worthless individuals, a waste of space, but at the same time useful. Any good craftsmen needs tools after all."

"In short, men like me."

"Yes, like you. Although you are a step above most of them."

"You are good at stating the obvious, I see."

Barin liked this youth, he was arrogant, but he did not flinch when someone stood up to him. Lesser men would have assured Barin of his worth, this one only said that which was a fact.

"As you no doubt know, to have a war, there must be two or more sides with opposite views." - he stopped for a moment - "I represent one of these sides. You will be a useful tool to us, a well-paid, useful tool."

"I do not blindly accept tasks. First tell me what the job entails, what I will be up against, then I will tell you how much it will cost you. I may be a tool with no morals, but I value information."

"Yes, my master said as much."

Barin quirked an eyebrow.

"You did not think I was in charge here, did you? I'm far too young for that." - he chuckled, after which he became serious again - "Come now, did you expect such an important figure would meet you here? Especially when there is a spy amongst us."

"I would be surprised if there was a lack of one, information is vital in any war."

"You misunderstand, Captain. He is here, in this building."

"The messenger."

Another laugh. "How did you guess?"

"He did not expect the other man, the tall one, to be here."

Indeed, the momentary hesitation made sense now.

"No, I guess not. It is of no matter now, he is dead already."

"Continue."

"I have said all that I could. As of now, our enemies still do not know that we have contacted you. You can walk away now and we shall never see each other again. Or, you can accept to meet one more person, my master, tonight."

"Where will this meeting take place?"

"My master trusts your hospitality, so he will join you on your table. The one you used yesterday. He will arrive one hour after the curfew is in effect. Try not to go beating up whores this time."

"For such an arrogant, self-centered bastard, you know an awful lot about me."

"Information, as you said, is key in any endeavor. Have a good day, Captain,"

Barin stood up and left the room. There was no point in thinking about any of that at the moment, he would know the full story in due time. Only after that could he start making sense out of it. It was not the first time such parties had turned to him, but it had certainly been a while. With a slight smile, he realised that he was going to accept. He had not carried out a personal contract in quite some time. It would be good to feel independent, if only for a few days. As he reached the ground floor, he nodded at the tall, bearded man. After that he left the building and headed to the inn.

Oh, the lordling was true to his word. The body of the messenger had been neatly bundled in the corner.


Sephalia > Ashwood ~ night of DAY 16

Whoever the "master" was, he was certainly precise. He arrived exactly one hour after the horn announcing the curfew had sounded. Barin was certain of that due to the handy hourglass located on his table. It was a gift, received a long time ago, but it had its uses. No sooner had the last grain of sand trickled, that the door of the inn opened. Barin had a feeling that he would like this man.

The stranger walked in and headed for the Captain's table. As usual, only one of the seats was occupied. He did not draw much attention from the other patrons either, as Barin had foreseen, the inn was full. It was mostly people from the neighbourhood, who had quietly sneaked out to enjoy a pint. Or a story, it made no matter. The man pulled down his hood and revealed a pleasant, older face. There was snow in his, short-cropped, blond hair and time had etched a few lines across his face. But he was still strong, both physically and mentally. His brown eyes possessed both wisdom and a deep cunning, age might have dulled his features, but not his mind.

"Captain, it is a pleasure to meet you."

He extended his hand. This time, Barin shook it firmly.

"I am Vanik Devan, a merchant."

"Not an ordinary merchant, I assume."

"On the contrary, Captain, I am the simplest of merchants. Profit is what I have in mind. Profit is what I see in every opportunity that presents itself. As do you."

"The difference being that I have to get my hands dirty."

"A tool for every job and a job for every tool. It is simple."

"It is" - Barin nodded.

"On to matters at hand." - he waved at the innkeeper and ordered himself an ale - "The boy has already told you the basics. We are at war and as with all wars, this one is waged with profit in mind."

He paused when the innkeeper served him his drink, when he departed Vanik continued:

"The enemy is a lord, Serek Terin, the Duke's younger brother."

"A powerful enemy."

"Not quite. He is not on good terms with his older brother, he will get no support from him. Do not be mistaken, we are not going against our ruler here. Duke Terin is an asset to this city and only a fool will disrupt his plans."

"But his brother..."

"But his brother is too power hungry. As are all second born and third born children and so on."

"Always in the shadow of their older sibling."

"Aye. Instead, he is trying to gain the support of the merchants, the peddlers...the people, in short."

"Why is that a problem to you?"

"Because he is interfering with my operations, of course." - he took a sip of his drink - "As you know, the guards have their hands full dealing with these shadows that plague us even as we speak. They cannot enforce the curfew, let alone watch all passages leading in and out of the city."

"Smuggling?"

"Correct. I have men in the countryside, they buy from the peasants and deliver it here. Of course, coin is better than no coin, so the villagers agree with the lower prices we offer them" - he smiled - "While the merchants here have no qualms about buying these goods at higher ones."

"What goods are these?"

"Mundane ones, Captain. Fruit, vegetables, meat, milk, cheese, all the commodities that cannot be made in a city such as ours. Not in sufficient quantities at least." - he paused, taking another sip - "People are like a herd of sheep, it takes only a few dogs to frighten them. I have heard reports of these beasts that roam the lands. They are otherworldly, frightening, but they fall. You know better than I certainly."

"Indeed. They are not foes I would face, they unnerve even the stoutest of hearts. But, in truth, they are not that dangerous."

"Aye. You are a veteran, Captain, your men as well. Where others bend or break, you stand strong. It only takes a few such men to help the masses get back on their feet. And such men, while not common, exist." - another sip - "Few caravans travel now, people hide at nights, the peasants are afraid to set a foot outside their hovels...but it will not last. Soon, necessity will force itself on them. Do you think it will go on like this?"

"Not for long, no. Life cannot grind to a halt because of a few beasts in the woods."

"Exactly. In the mean time, men like me will do what they can to turn the situation into a profit."

"Buy cheap, sell high. A basic trading principle."

Vanik nodded. "Unfortunately, I am not the only one in this city who has an eye for profit."

"That makes two of us" - Barin laughed

"Three" - he smiled - "Young lord Terin too."

"He is smuggling goods as well?"

"No. If he were, that would be fair competition. Something I seek to crush, but appreciate nonetheless. He has his men stealing my goods."

"A moment, Vanik. Enlighten me. Why are you smuggling them? You could just bring them through the gates, if you have the resources to support such an operation, then surely you can hire guards for your caravans?"

"Two reasons, Captain. Firstly, the Duke has issued a decree according to which, one tenth of all produce to pass through the gates is taken as a tax. To offset the merchants' complaints, he has allowed them to sell at whatever price they deem fit. A harsh choice, but the long term gains are there. Should food ever stop flowing, completely, into our city, the Duke's granary will provide." - he turned to the window for a moment, inspecting something outside - "The other one is much simpler. If caravans started arriving once more, the people's fear would disappear or, at least, withdraw enough for trade to resume."

"Something that will not benefit you."

"Yes. I neither wish to pay a tax, for after all - I set my own prices, regardless of the Duke's will. Nor do I wish the current...let us call it crisis to end so quickly."

"I see. Go on."

"Terin has his men, not the soldiers of his house I should add, raiding my shipments. It was bearable at first, but now they make away with as much as half the goods."

"And what does he do with them?"

"A good question. He does not sell them. He gives them away, freely."

"A noble choice. Why should I interfere in the doings of such a kind-hearted man?" - asked Barin with a smile

"Do not be foolish, Captain. He has his own motives. This is a way for him to secure the support of the people, both against their will and otherwise. He has approached persons of power, of sway in our city, they offer their allegiance in exchange for the ill-gotten wares. Some for their own personal stores, others to sell them. Regardless, the food is widely accessible to the common man."

"And yours is not?"

"No, it is more expensive. Not everyone can afford it, but the situation is not that serious, yet. It is unlikely that anyone would die of hunger."

"I see. What would you have me do?"

"I will be frank, Captain. This matter cannot be decided entirely in a few days. Removing Terin is out of the question, of course. Blood is blood, after all, the Duke will not forgive his killer. While dealing with his men is something any hired blade can do. I can buy an army of them, if I wished. You may be good, Barin, but it is not a task which requires much in the way of skill. These are thieves and cheats, after all, not trained fighters."

Barin nodded, awaiting for him to continue.

"I need you, because you are a...special kind of tool. You have a way with people, ways of breaking them, if you so wished. My son was quite impressed with what you did last night, it was thanks to him that I took interest in you."

"Your son?"

Vanik smiled. "You ran into his small group last night. The man you broke physically, as well as mentally was one of our fiercest. And yet, you snapped him like a twig."

"Fierce does not mean strong, most often - it is a mask behind which a coward hides."

"See? You know people better than most, better than me perhaps. And I can assure you, Captain, I know a lot about people." - he took a longer sip this time - "A man, no matter how strong, is a fragile thing. Some can be broken, others will bend, all will die in time. But an idea...now that is a pest. It cannot die, it cannot be destroyed, it lives on in the hearts and minds of people. Terin himself may not realise it yet, but he is on the path of creating a new...order, a new system. A system where prices are determined by the people, not by us."

"I do not see how that can happen."

"I doubt anyone apart from me can. But it is there and it will happen. Already he is giving away where it is needed most, in order for him to receive the most praise. People are not aware of it yet, but they will soon know that they can control the market. What they want, how they want it, when they want it. And instead of us, the merchants, having power over them, they will have power over us."

"Even now they have power over you, how can you sell where there is no one to buy?"

"That is true, yes. But it is not conscious. They will wear what we provide, eat what we bring....but what if things suddenly went about? We will have no choice but to comply" - he drank some more and laughed - "Truth be told, I am surprised the masses have not thought of it yet. We rely on them, as much as they rely on us. One day, all of this will happen, but I want to keep that day as far away as possible. Are you with me?"

"Protect the old, prevent the new from being ushered in."

"I am no prophet, Captain, but I know one thing. If Terin gets the power he wants and he will be there soon. If the people raise up against the merchant caste. Then things will spiral out of control. For how long I cannot say, but keep in mind that the enemy is out there." - he pointed out of the window - "Even now men die on the walls, while we plot on this table. We, as a community, are on the verge of breaking. One push from Terin and his lot and this city may cease to exist, whether they will it or no."

He looked at Barin straight in the eye, this time, holding his gaze.

"I offer stability, Terin offers chaos. Make your choice."

"Stability, aye...and lining your pockets along the way."

"Naturally. Do you not do the same?"

Barin merely offered his hand to this strange man, this Vanik Daven. The other knew at once that he had agreed and smiled as they shook once more.

"I knew you would see reason" - Vanik said with a smile - "The reward will be substantial, you have my word."

"One more thing before we seal this pact" - Barin was, in his own way, a merchant as well, he would get something more out of him - "My Seneschal will be looking for provisions, we do not intend to stay here for long."

"Say no more, Captain" - he raised his hand - "The goods will be delivered wherever your Seneschal sees fit."

"You misunderstand, Vanik. I am not a beggar. I do not wish you to give me anything, I wish fair prices, that is all." - he paused for a moment - "And be certain that my Seneschal knows a fair price when he sees one. We are each merchants, in a way. I deal in allegiance, he deals in...more earthly goods."

"It is settled then. Tell your man to visit the house where you met my aide, Weldin, today. Weldin himself will deal with your Seneschal."

"Now, then. What does your job entail?"

"First of all, as you know already, it is not for a large group of people. As I told you, if I wanted to hire an army, I would have done so. At a much cheaper price, I should add."

"Not in the long-term, Vanik. I may cost more than a mob of swords for hire, but your reasoning behind this is that I will finish this task of yours quickly and efficiently. Hence, it will be cheaper. Do not take me for a fool." - he drank some of his own ale - "Now on with it."

"As cunning, as I expected. That is good. This is not something I would entrust to a bruiser." - he reached for a pocket and drew forth a rolled-up parchment, he gently placed it before him - "I have learned that the harder you oppose a man, the more difficult is for you to defeat him. It is then logical, to deprive that man of his purpose. To make him not want to do something. Whatever is said of the younger Terin, he is a strong man, firmly set in his views. It will take a great deal of time and effort to sap the will of such a man."

"Then we must search for a weaker link."

"Indeed. Although you need not search. Unlike me, he relies overmuch on the allies he has gained during this short time. These are scum, Captain. Gutter-rats, muggers, pickpockets, street urchins, these are not strong men. Break a few and the rest will bow their heads."

"I know little of the Duke and less of his brother, but they do not strike me as the type of men who would lead such a lot."

"No, they are not. Terin only has the leader of the band in his pocket. But that will wait, first you must weaken their positions."

"The best way to kill a snake is to chop off its head."

"I agree, but everything must be done with consequences in mind. Killing a man oft turns him into a martyr. Maybe not for all, but someone, somewhere will identify with him. And if you kill the leader of that sorry lot, do you think they will not identify themselves with him? See a part of their own wretched self in him?" - he lifted the mug and finished what was left of his ale - "No Captain. First you must spread some terror. Not only will you weaken his positions, you will also make it known that those who oppose me, be it footpad or ringleader, are in a very dangerous situation." - he smiled

Barin had seen many smiles in his life, but this was the only one he could truly claim was devilish.

"Do not draw too much attention to yourself. Massacres are always a bad thing, that is why I have not hired your entire company. We do not want the Duke interfering, after all, he has a heavy hand."

"Very well, I will take only two others with me."

"The lads from last night? I would have settled for someone with more hair on their cheeks."

"They might as well learn a trick or two."

"As you wish." - he shrugged - "I have done all that I could by converting you to my cause. My son will meet you tomorrow night and tell you the details. I cannot be bothered with such trivialities" - he smiled once more

"He does not bear a grudge?"

"No, not at all" - Vanik said as he stood up, then he added - "Like his father, he is a good businessman."

Barin stood in silence after the man had departed. The parchment had been left where it was. Only now did he reach for it and read it. It contained directions, the location of tomorrow's meeting, nothing more. He then crumbled it and threw it in the nearby fireplace. There was no point in anyone else reading it. He was still not certain if he had made the right choice. Progress, he knew, could not be stopped, nor turned. It followed only one direction: forward. If this idea of a...looser world, where the merchants did not oppress the common man was plausible, then surely it would come to pass. One day. For now, he was an enemy of progress, he sought to prevent, no, slow it down. Would he be condemned or praised for his actions? He would never know. We men are fools, he thought. We think we know so much, we call ourselves wise, we think that we can foresee the consequences of our actions. In truth, our lives are not long enough for such a thing. What we see while we still draw breath is merely the first of the many ripples our actions have sent through the pond that is life. Whatever his choice was, right or wrong, it would be decided after his time.

"Geren!" - he called out

The youth was quick to come, he and his companion were sitting on a nearby table, waiting.

"Yes, sir."

"Go find Randor, tell him, no wait..." - he took a piece of parchment that was on the table, as well as a quill, and quickly scribbled a note for the Seneschal, after which he offered it to Geren - "...give him this note."

"At this hour, sir?"

"Do not tell me that this so-called "curfew" is a problem for you?" - he raised an eyebrow - "If simple townsfolk can disregard it, so can you. Now go."

Geren bowed his head and went out. As far as Barin knew, his right-hand man was in an inn on the other side of the city, where he kept watch over the other part of the Hawks. Unlike this group, they had mostly scattered here and there, but at least most of the officers were there with them. For this one, the stern Captain and the dutiful Lina were more than enough.


Sephalia > Ashwood ~ night of DAY 17

"Ah Captain, I was expecting you."

This is how the arrogant noble from the night before greeted him. A pleasant voice and yet familiar.

"So I supposed. Your father strikes me as the kind of man who expects most everything, I suspect the same is true for his son."

A laughter came from the hooded figure, whose face was fully concealed by the darkness.

"I trust you are adequately outfitted?" - he asked in a different voice, more serious than before - "You will have to get your hands dirty."

"Do not worry, I am certain I have gotten my hands dirtier more times than you have washed yours."

He had expected that battle would be unavoidable, as such, he had come prepared. Of course, he could not walk about in his plate armour without drawing attention, so he had settled for something different. A dark brigandine protected his torso, partially obscured by the black cloak. His legs and arms would be protected by his sword, he was a master of parrying, if it came to that. Geren and Silan, who he had brought along, were wearing shirts of mail. They were almost geared for a real fight, but then again, he did not want them to get killed by a wayward arrow.

"Here is the situation." - he did not pay attention to the Captain's rebuke, or at last it did not show - "In that house across the street, the local leaders of Serek's rabble are holding a council. They have been in charge of the scum raiding our shipments." - he paused, he could have smiled, but the night made it hard to see - "Tonight their topic is what to do with the huge cargo they wrestled from us yesterday. For, you see, they want a small part for themselves it would seem. The fools failed to notice how conveniently little guards there were. My father gathered them here, for you."

A slight chuckle followed.

"It is clear then, unless you have something else to add?"

"We know of six men, they are Serek's enforcers. Lieutenants, if you can apply such a term to this mob. They have one or two guards, but it is nothing you cannot deal with."

"Eight or so men, at the same time, why not come with us "m'lord"?"

"Sadly, you are not the only tool I have to take care of tonight. One of these men is a traitor, we managed to put him in our pocket. There are two groups, one is on the first floor, the other - on the second. Soon, they will meet to discuss their next course of action. Unknown to either group, the door leading upstairs is closed, from the outside." - what followed must have been a grin - "You will be undisturbed while you deal with the first group. But spare the man with the green shirt, that was part of the bargain."

"Very well. I will do your butcher's work, you have made it simple enough."

He gestured for his two companions to follow, passing by the hooded man.

"Oh" - Vanik's son added - "What is found on the morrow must be unnerving."

Barin made no effort to reply, his task was clear. He had not done something like this in years, be he would not flinch. His sense of decency and compassion had been dulled long ago, he was only afraid that the lads would have to see this. It might be too much for their first assignment. He would know soon enough. They walked in silence. Soon, they reached the door. There were voices coming from inside, some were thick with drink. It would be easy, Barin thought.

"Break the door, Geren"

The stout young man hesitated for a moment, he had a feeling of what was to follow. But it could not be said that Barin had not warned them. A little more than a week ago, he told them that they would never be heroes. That Fenwater was, for the most part, an exception. Now they would realise it.

"Break the door, Geren"

The words were the same, but the intonation, the voice, the emotion was different. It was that quiet state his voice assumed at times, it brooked no argument. A kick followed, the force of it was enough to deal with the weak door. It was almost torn off its hinges. Barin's blade was already out and he moved past Geren, who would no doubt waste too much time and deprive them of the element of surprise.

Silently, he brought his sword in a downward arc which killed the door guard on the spot. The table where the four men were gathered was near. The one nearest to him attempted to stand up. Apparently, he was the one with the thick voice, for his movements were slow. Barin drove his blade right through the man's gut, who sank back in the chair. The other were already on their feet, however. The one to his right quickly launched into a series of attacks. Barin took a step back and went on the defensive, he had to protect both his sides. After a few moments of passiveness, he seized an opening. The one on the left had more powerful strikes, but they were slower. Barin acted on that and redirected one such strike, causing his opponent to lose balance. A quick jab with the elbow followed, straight in the man's mouth. He was out for a few moments, giving the Captain time to focus on the other.

Once more he gripped his blade with both hands and now moved on the offensive. The other's quick attacks were more dangerous, but he did not have the physical strength his compatriot or Barin possessed. As such, when their swords met, Barin used his body's weight. In the mean time, he heard the sound of fighting from behind. So Geren and Silan had caught up. Knowing that his back was safe, for now, he went for a cunning feint. On purpose, he left his guard down, after delivering a blow. It was for the slightest of time, as it would be in truth, but his foe saw it. A glancing blow at Barin's shoulder followed, but it did not even reach the flesh. The enemy, however, had left himself wide open. The Captain's knee shot forward, into the man's stomach. He gasped for air, but it was too late. Barin's blade found his throat.

He quickly turned around to see Geren and Silan driving the last enemy into the wall. Wasting no time, Barin vaulted over the table and came from the back. Some would say it was cowardly or not honourable, the Captain thought it was a damn good way to win a fight. He slashed at the man's knees, hamstringing him. It was a precise cut and the man fell to the ground. But Barin did not finish, not yet. His thoughts were interrupted by the crash that signaled the "opening" of the other door. And indeed, four other men came down the stairs.

"Pick off any stragglers" - Barin quietly told the two recruits.

The first enemy that neared was a beast of a man, as big as Ratibor. He swung his sword with great might, Barin parried, but barely. He had to use all of his strength to withstand that attack. He then recoiled and jumped on the table, buying himself time. One of the others approached him, but Barin gave him a quick kick in the face. The leader, who was not surprisingly the huge man, barked out some orders and the other two headed for Geren and Silan. He then attempted another attack on Barin, who rolled out of the way this time. The Captain cursed himself for wearing the damned armour, it was not making things easy for him.

After dodging, he found himself on the floor, having the table between him and the giant. He quickly jumped to his feet and delivered a heavy blow to the man he had kicked. The other raised his blade to parry, but Barin was not saving his strength as he had before. The enemy's sword was knocked out of his hand and the Captain finished it with a stab to the heart. Years of bloody work had taught him exactly where to strike, the other fell dead or dying on the floor. Barin moved just in time to avoid the table that crashed against the wall. The brute was coming for him. Barin had to fend off a series of viscous attacks, which took their toll on him. But his attacker was human as well and he tired quicker. Already, his attacks were growing slow. After a minute of exchanging blows, Barin had a good idea of his enemy's style. He relied on his strength and height, but his attacks were slow and clumsy.

That proved to be his undoing. Barin parried yet another attack, but this time he pushed the other blade aside. He then took a risk by ramming his shoulder in the other's chest. His enemy had shifted his weight forward, for a more devastating attack. Now Barin simply turned his momentum against him. The other staggered and Barin wasted no time. His sword went into the man's ribs, but it did not kill him. Instead his next attack was parried, with great effort, but parried. The injured giant lunged forward in a desperate attack, instead of attempting to parry Barin moved out of the way. However, he was quick to take advantage of the other's lost balance. With the deft use of his foot, he tripped the bigger man. He had just enough time to turn on his back to see Barin's sword passing through his chest. Once the sword was plunged, Barin twisted, shredding everything his blade touched. It was done.

He pried his sword free and moved on. Silan seemed to be in more trouble, he was an archer after all, so that is where he headed. The foe was quick to turn on his heels, after knocking Silan away, but Barin was faster. He drove his sword through the man's shoulder, causing him to drop his sword. The man stooped forward, but the Captain sent him the other way with a backhanded slap. The bandit's head slammed against the wall and he slumped to the floor. Barin then swiftly closed the remaining distance, falling upon Geren's attacker. This time, the enemy did not even have the time to turn, Barin simply severed his spine, killing him on the spot. Only then did the veteran of many battles stop to take a deeper breath. They had won.

Geren was already sheathing his sword, but Barin gripped him by the hand, stopping him. The blood-letting was not yet over. The room itself was a mess. The first man to fall, the door guard, was still groaning by his post. From the second, still on his ill-fated chair, came a horrid stench, his bowels were loosening. It was the same with the others, their bodies were where they fell. The most amazing site was by the broken table, it's legs rolling slightly on the floor. It's destroyer, the big man, was nearby. Like some monster from the tales, he lay there with unblinking, unseeing eyes. Dead.

The ones, like the last one, who had died on the spot were lucky. Barin was not done with the others yet. He moved towards the healthiest man, the one with the injured shoulder, he was making an attempt to reach for his sword, which was nearby. Barin watched him with, seemingly, pity. He allowed the injured man to touch the hilt of his former sword. Only then did he break his fingers. The man screamed as Barin's boot did its work, his last hope of survival no more.

"Silan, come hold this one, although I doubt he will be going anywhere" - Barin spoke calmly, as if talking about a dog

Reluctantly, the bowman came and placed his hand on the man's shoulder, the left, uninjured one. It was enough to keep him in place, but not enough for the Captain.

"A man is best held firm, when both shoulders are gripped."

"But his other one is-"

Barin's gaze told him all the details. Silan gripped firmly, causing the man to scream in agony. He then moved towards the hamstrung man, who was trying to crawl away. As luck would have it, his hair was tied in a ponytail, so Barin did not have to look for what to hold on to. He yanked his head up, forcing him to stand on his knees.

"Geren. Kill him." - he spoke in the same calm voice

The youth was at a loss. He was speechless. Such cruelty, he no doubt thought. But this was Barin's test. He would either pass it or...he would have no place amongst them. The Captain had learned that his trade was a dirty one, it stained not only the hands, but the heart and soul as well. Only those with a firm will and with shaky morals were for this line of work. This was his way of finding out which type Geren was.

"I...I-"

"I asked you a simple question a week ago. "Are you prepared to kill a man, who breathes and thinks, like you?". What was your answer?"

"But..I-"

"A man is only as good as his word. You gave me yours. Now act on it."

Only then did he remember something. He turned back to where the table had once been, there on the far end of the room was a chair. In that chair, was a man with a green shirt. Throughout the fight, he had not moved from his place. Barin had noted his presence, but had paid him no heed, he despised his kind. But he did not want such...such, it was hard to find a word, such trash to watch on as the Captain bent this handsome young man to his will.

"Are you still here?" - he asked in a much harsher tone

"I-I was waiting for your ap-approval m'l-"

"Be gone. Before I change my mind."

Without another word he stood up and, almost running, left that horrible house. With that annoyance out of the way, he turned to Geren again. The man he held firm had not made any attempt to move. Likewise, the youth had made no move to kill his immobile foe.

"Geren, this man would kill you without a second though, were you in his place. Is that not so, dog?"

"D-d-don't do it, m-m-m'lord." - he whimpered

"See? He whimpers like the cur he is. Kill him now, it would be a mercy to rid the world of such a wretched hound."

"It...I...it's not right!"

"Geren" - Barin said in a quiet voice - "I do not know what my men have told you of me in the short time that you have known them, but I will tell you this. I do not like it when my orders are disobeyed. I gave you an order."

Geren stood there, quiet and unflinching as a statue.

"I have already repeated myself more than enough. This is the last time that I tell you. I order you to kill him. Do it now or, if you lack the stomach, do not appear before my eyes again."

Tears began to run down Geren's cheeks, those cheeks that only had a hint of the beard they would one they bear. Two wet lines marred that otherwise handsome and innocent face. For a moment, Barin thought that it was done. The boy was too strong to commit such a brutal act. But only for a moment. Geren lifted his sword and, with one powerful blow, brought his blade into the man's neck. He was still inexperienced, however, so he did not sever the head. When he withdrew his blade, Barin spoke again.

"When you begin a job, finish it completely." - then he added - "The longer you tarry, the longer this dog remains in pain."

After hearing that, Geren struck again and again. Blood splattered his face, blood mixed with sweat and tears. But Barin saw that every strike was firmer than the one before. And when the head rolled off, it was done.

"Sheathe your sword, Geren, you will have no further need of it tonight."

After issuing his last order to the young, broken man, the Captain moved closer to the last surviving prisoner.

"Let him go Silan."

When the grip was loosened, the prisoner went to his feet begging for his life. I am making it a habit of mine, Barin thought, was this the third or the fourth person who had done so in the last couple of weeks?

"Silence, you spineless worm, you will not die by my sword."

This gave the man hope, while still on his knees, he lifted his head up at Barin, looking at his eyes.

"Tha-"

"Silence. I have a use for you, that is all. You saw what happened here tonight. You saw how I snapped the will of that handsome lad over there. You saw how I deal with those who oppose Vanik Devan. The old man is not up to the task anymore, so he found me. And I am up to the task, as you saw. Go. Tell your compatriots what fate awaits them. And you can be certain, there is no avoiding that. Not if you continue this petty war of yours. I will find you, all of you, and you will all suffer slow, painful deaths."

"It will be d-"

Barin kicked him in the mouth, no doubt breaking a tooth or two.

"I do not wish to hear your voice or see your face ever again. Go and be glad that I needed a messenger."

Having learned his lesson, the man simply bowed, blood dripping from his face and ran out of the house. Barin regarded this place one last time. The puddles of blood were already forming and seeping into the wooden floor. The bodies of some were growing stiff, while the anguish of those still alive was growing. The smell of death was already in the air, the stench of decay would follow soon. When they came, and he knew they would, his foes would find a gruesome site. Just as his employers wanted. He had done his part.

The Captain nodded at the door, the two young men left without a word. However, when they stepped over the dying guard, he mumbled something. The blood in his throat made it hard to understand him. Not that Barin cared, but he knew the question which would follow before it was asked.

"Should we...not end his misery? It would be a mercy." - asked Silan, Geren had not uttered a word since Barin's warning.

"A mercy he does not deserve. When you kill a righteous men, show mercy. When you kill a pest, do not waste second thoughts on him." - he urged Silan on by pushing him - "The gash is deep, but not deadly, it will fester. He will writhe in fever and pain for many hours. If we are lucky, he will still be alive when his companions arrive. Let them show mercy to the man they knew."

There was no objection. How could there be? Barin was pleased. After the two lads had left, he followed suit, closing the door behind him.

Barin quickly examined his surroundings, on the roof of one building was an archer. Clearly, these men had a habit of placing too little guards. By the one who had spoken, were two others, but the Captain knew it was the marksman that mattered.

"Silan" - he said quietly - "can you hit the archer's wrist?"

The lad looked up, the bowman was near, near enough for a precise shot. But he would need time, Barin thought. The Captain took a few more steps before the guards drew their weapons.

"Bugger off or I'll peel off yer face!"

This was ample reason for Geren to unsheathe his sword, while Silan drew his bow, nocking an arrow in the process.

"Don't be a bloody fool, we got the numbers and the height!"

Barin knew he meant the archer looming above them. Well, not for long.

"You do?" - he asked calmly, then looked at Silan to his left.

Before the archer above had any chance to react, the young man had already loosed his arrow. It was not a perfect hit, not in the wrist anyway. It struck the other's forearm, but it did what Barin had intended it to do. The bow was dropped.

"Stand out of my way." - he told them

Two of the men moved aside, but the leader remained in place.

"Worms! But I will not move!" - he said defiantly

"Then come with me to this council of yours. Or die. The choice is yours." - only now did Barin draw his blade, flourishing it as he did so.

It was a cheap tactic, something young boys would do in mock battles, intimidating their rival. The man barring the way, it seemed, had not dealt with such situations as a child. As such, he merely sheathed his sword and stood aside. Barin smiled, life always had a surprise for you, even if you thought you knew it. When he moved forward, something he had, this time, expected happened. One of the men spun and dashed in the opposite direction, no doubt wanting to bring news to his superiors. Even if most of them would meet the Captain soon enough.

"Silan" - again, he spoke quietly - "bring him down quick!"

Hesitation.

"Do it, damn you! He will ruin everything for us if you do not stop him!"

The boy quickly nocked an arrow and aimed, but he did not shoot. His hands were trembling.

"For the last time Do it now, do not make me do it. I am in an awful mood after I have had to chase somebody."

The arrow flew straight and swift, it hit the man in the back. One scream later and he was on the ground, the arrow must have pressed into the heart. It was on the correct side, at least. It mattered not, he had achieved his two goals.

"I said that you can come with me, not leave." - he spoke to the two remaining men

Oh, Vanik probably had his men prowling nearby. He was far too careful to allow anything to chance. That was good, for Barin did not know how many he could stop, if they chose to flee. He told the former guards to move forward and followed after them. Soon, they had reached the end of the alley. It opened up into a small square, one of those where children gather to play and old women would share gossip. But not today. As far as the eye could see - unruly men, with harsh words and bearded faces. The stench of sweat, alcohol and smoke was thick in the air, but Barin quickly got used to it. In truth, it was not that much different from the smell that accompanied most encampments.

There was only one other street, narrow as the one they had used, leading out. The Captain quickly looked about, there were a few high buildings providing shadow here and there. If the routes were blocked and archers were positioned on those rooftops, the square would turn into a slaughterhouse. On a slightly elevated position, what looked like to have one been a fountain once, a man stood. His voice was powerful and echoed throughout the square. From what Barin heard, he knew that this was some sort of rousing speech. As if this rabble could be roused with words. No. But they could be crushed by them.

He made his way through the crowd. At times, gently pushing this person or that, most often however, he had to be...firmer. Roughness is what these men knew, roughness is what moved them. Silan and Geren were close behind. They were peasant boys, mannerism was not something they cared for. As such, they could keep up. At least something they could do right, Barin thought. But then he remembered that, once, he had been as green as summer grass. Not unlike them. Everyone was inexperienced, what mattered is how fast one learned. A few moments later, he was already standing quite close to the self-made orator.

As he attempted to make his way to the podium, however, a rough hand grabbed him by the shoulder. He turn around to see the ugly mug of some bruiser, no doubt a guard to the man who was speaking.

"Dran ain't done yet. Where you think yer goin'?"

"I care not either for your or Dran. I will speak, regardless."

The man laughed, men turned towards them.

"Look at this one boys! Some lord or somethin'. What's with th' speech, eh?"

"Bet his worth quite the coin!" - said another, laughter followed and even more men looked at Barin, greed in their eyes.

Fools, thought Barin. Words would definitely not work with this cretin and breaking a part of him was not enough. In truth, it would suffice. But Barin was now angry, the man had drawn too much attention to him. Let them watch then, he thought, watch and see what happens to those who stand in my way. Without a word, his left hand went for the dagger on the right side of his hip. The sound around him made it quite easy on him, the scrape of steel on wood was not heard. As such, when he lifted his hand, sharp dagger firmly gripped, the man could do nothing to avoid the inevitable. Barin could have just as easily killed him by a stab in the gut or the chest, but he wanted as many as possible to notice. Instead, he went for the eye. When the blade was in, a high-pitched scream filled the square. Whether it was some sort of spasm or the will of the man, Barin felt him move away. His right hand gripped the now limp arm, which was holding him a short while ago. When that was settled, he continued twisting further, until there were no screams or life left in the ill-fated guard.

He left the corpse fall to the ground, knelt, wiped the blood in the dead's clothes and stood up once more. During this time, no one moved or said a thing. Even the one giving a speech had fallen silent. Sheathing the dagger, a smug smile on his face, Barin went for the makeshift podium. He felt the other man there becoming tense, but he was also weak with fear, almost trembling. As Barin suspected, the rough words had melted away when blood was drawn. With a single push, he moved him out the way. Only then did he turn to address those who had gathered. Years of bellowing out commands in the thick of battle made the current situation seem like a normal chat to his voice.

"I do not waste my words on scum such as you. Most of the ones I would say are far too complicated for your pathetic minds, anyway."

A laugh or two was heard, faint and far-off.

"You value action and I have given you action. Simply ask the fool I just killed."

A filthy, hungry-looking man stepped forward and shouted in a terrified voice.

"Oi! I know 'im! 'Tis the assassin that did our boys in!"

Swearing was heard, filthy and horrid words. Then a stone was thrown, but Barin moved out of the way.

"The one who threw the stone! Are you man enough to throw it when I can look upon you?!" - the Captain cried out.

A minute of silence and hushed murmurs followed. Nobody stepped forward.

"There. You have shown not only me, but yourselves something. All of you fear me. You pathetic bastards dread me. Curse and swear all you want, throw stones, I can only laugh! Because every man here knows - I can rip you to pieces!"

Silence followed, but he noticed movement in the crowd. Someone was making his way to him.

"Is there anyone here who disputes my claims? Anyone with the guts to spit in my face?!" - he left them to ponder that for a moment - "If not, then listen to my words! And perhaps no one else will die this day."

As he expected, there was nobody bold enough to step forward. But then, just when he had left the matter aside, one proved brave enough. Another corpse, he thought. Only then did he notice it was a woman. She was tall and muscled, with fiery hair and a scarred face. He smiled to himself, "no man" he had said. And there, she was. The Captain was a man without prejudice, all his mercenaries knew that. This lot, however, did not.

"It is pathetic!" - he cried out - "That a woman must step up to guard your honour! Truly, you are dogs, not men."

The woman did not say anything, instead she drew her mace and lunged at him. He could not draw his sword in time, so instead he moved out of the way. He went low to dodge another blow, then rolled away. While still on the ground, he filled his hand with dirt and rubble, of which the square had much. When the next attack came, he threw it in her face. While she recoiled and cursed, he drew his sword and fell upon her. She managed to barely block his first blow, with the head of her mace. The counter-attack was brutal however, which forced Barin on the defensive. He took a moment to study her, because he knew fights were won with one's mind, not one's hand.

He had two advantages. First, she was a woman and as such, was physically weaker than him. No matter how strong she was for her gender. Secondly, while her arms were swift and precise, her footwork was sloppy, the bane of any fighter. Oh and, of course, he had more reach with his sword. A plan now formed in his mind, one which he did not waste time in setting to motion.

When her next attack came, he deftly parried and lunched an attack of his own. He went low, going for her feet. She had to pull back, but it was not a perfect retreat, as he had suspected. The next blow was the opposite - straight for her neck. She shifted her weight to her left foot, to better counter the strength of his blow. This is where her footwork betrayed her, the left leg she had placed before her, near Barin. Never leave your dominant leg so open, it was a lesson the Captain had learned long ago. He kicked her in the shin, causing her to stumble. His sword went for her thigh next, she was powerless to stop him. Barin had won. She knew that much at least and left her mace fall. Oh, he had defeated her, but his victory was yet to come.

He sheathed his sword and picked up the mace. Without a word, he brought it down on her skull. Bone was shattered, brains and blood splattered his clothes and armour. The limp body fell on the ground, but Barin delivered a few more blows. Only after all that was left of her head was a bloody mess did he stop. He tossed the mace aside and lifted the corpse.

"This is what happens to those who oppose my employer, Vanik. This is how I bring death."

He flung the body aside, not needing it any longer. He would have their ear now, he knew.

"Why do you insist on dying for this man? What has Serek Terin ever done for you?"

"Food! He gives us food!" - someone answered.

"Food?" - Barin laughed - "Are you cheap whores? To sell yourselves for such a pathetic reward? Serek reaps the real gains here - coin, power...and you settle for a tomato!"

There were cries in agreement, he was beginning to sway them.

"You risk your lives daily, you face chancing upon the likes of me and yet, you do this for such a meager thing! You are fools as well as cravens!" - he left his words float in the air for a time - "It is a shame this woman here died for you!"

"What would you have us do? Starve to death?"

It was easier than he thought it would be. These men were weak, pathetic and desperate. Whether it was a sign of the times, the otherworldly troubles plaguing them or base cowardice, these men were easy to sway. He could feel the power at his finger tips now. And he knew that not words brought him this power. Not the deaths he had dealt either, but how he had dealt them. Now they only needed a few more words and they would be his.

"Take that which is yours, you foolish curs! Hindrin's and Serek's stores are bursting with goods and you settle for the scraps! For what is thrown your way!"

In truth, he could not say if it was indeed so. But did they care? This was not a gathering anymore, but a mob. And the mob was blind and foolish, listening to the loudest voice. And his was the loudest here. Although Vanik had other plans, Barin decided to add his personal touch to this matter.

"Why do you wait?! Even now those goods are ripe for the taking! Guarded by you and others like you! What is there to fear? Are you so spineless that you cannot take that which belongs to you?"

A roar of cheers filled the square, drowning out all other sounds. But just when Barin thought he had them, a voice interrupted. It was the voice of the man from before, who had given his speech when Barin interrupted.

"You aren't from this town! You don't know what Hindrin will do t' ye!"

"Hindrin?" - another mocking laugh from the Captain - "Your Hindrin will be dead before the sun rises again!"

There were cries, but not from all.

"Do you doubt that I can do it?!"

"Death to Hindrin! Bugger that stuck-up Serek! Let's take what's ours boys!" - came a cry

This was all that it took. Not all were ready to betray their master, but they did not think with their heads now. Once you became part of the mob, your feelings and motives were not your own. Instead, the blood boiled and the wits were clouded. Hidden desires surfaced and mistakes were made. Mistakes which were beneficial to the Captain. Without waiting for further directions from Barin, they began flooding the alleyways. Within minutes, the square was empty. Save for Barin, Silan, Geren and the two corpses. The only memory of the crowd was the trampled earth and the cries coming from the streets. Barin smiled, he was pleased with the result. He looked at the lads.

"I hope your have learned your lesson today. A crowd only listens to the one who shouts the loudest. That is what happens when discipline is lacking. That is what can be the bane of any army, lack of discipline. That is what separates man from dog. Discipline."

He casually moved towards one of the alleys, eager to return to the inn. On his way, however, he came upon Weldin. He was quite winded.

"Captain, captain" - he began, taking a deep breath - "...you are far too dangerous to be left roaming the streets, you could incite a revolt against the Duke himself!" - he grinned, a grin which reminded Barin of Vanik.

"Our plans have shifted, thanks to you." - the youth carried on - "We were going to strike at Hindrin tomorrow night or the day after. But now you have cleared a path for us. This mob you sent on a rampage, they will attract attention aye, but the guards are already headed for the walls. Hindrin's lot, however, they will have to respond to the threat." - another grin

"Where does this Hindrin live?" - asked Barin

"Oh, quite close. He has barricaded himself around an old tavern, took up residence there a few years ago. But first" - he reached for his pocket and threw a key, Barin caught it - "the house with the white door. Turn left when you leave this street, it will be easy to find. Food and drink has been arranged, gather your strength, while I gather Vanik's forces."

With that he turned around and sprinted off. For someone who passed as a merchant, a clerk in fact, he had quite a good running technique. This Vanik and his men were strange people, mysterious through and through. As if he was in some cheap tale, Barin thought with a smile.



Last edited by Kalon Ordona II on Tue Sep 13, 2011 4:58 am; edited 6 times in total
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Re: Stories of Túlaman

Post by Kalon Ordona II on Mon Dec 20, 2010 8:45 pm

Sephiris: The Price of Peace

. : Barin's Story : . PART 5


~ Lord Barin Mirland, mercenary leader of The Hawks
human ; age 52 ; 6'2" ; auburn brown hair and full, well-trimmed beard ; deep brown eyes ; athletic and muscular ; indigo tattoo on her lower back: a triangle with a horizontal line through it ; wears simple clothes, leathers, chainmail and much flexible plate armor, plus a T-visor helmet ; wields sword, shield engraved with Hawks emblem, and dagger ; also wears a plain silver hawk hangs from a necklace, under the armor ; appears commanding and somewhat grim, noble and yet rugged ; used to be a noble ; skilled with sword, shield, and halberd ; practical fighter ; somewhat knowledgeable of different places, cultures, and history ; good bargain hunter ; willful, determined, loyal, level headed, man of his word ; stubborn at times, short temper, somewhat perfectionist ; overall: sociable, respect-worthy, close with his men, savage-seeming toward strangers, honorable, diligent


. : Name : .
Full Name: Lord Barin Mirland
Use Name: Captain or Barin (depending on who addresses him)
Other: Sir, Lord (very rarely)
Played by: Blackrock

. : Appearance : .
Height and Build: 6'2, athletic and muscular
Description: Looking at Barin one would notice his auburn brown hair, kept short but somewhat messy. Further down, his forehead lies, a few wrinkles etched on it, the signs of a troubled mind. A short, slightly hooked nose rests between his deep brown eyes. His round, somewhat elongated face, is covered by a full, well-trimmed beard. Time has begun leaving its mark on his features, as a few gray hairs can be seen here and there.
Clothing: Barin usually dresses in simple garments. A sturdy pair of leather boots, black pants, held firmly by an elegant belt. A white short-sleeved shirt, revealing his muscular arms, and a black vest worn over it. When in battle or on the march, however, he fields much heavier equipment. His torso is protected by a burnished, but otherwise unadorned and plain to the eye, cuirass, composed of two plates - a breast and a back one, a tasset hangs from it, protecting his thighs. Chainmail leggings provide further protection, defending his knees - a pair of bending plates, his feet are covered in a pair of sabatons (though they are not elongated like a noble's). Barin's broad shoulders are protected by a pair of compact pauldrons, made of overlapping plates. Chainmail extends to the elbow, where plates of similar make to the pauldrons protect it. His hands are gloved in flexible gauntlets, to allow unrestricted use of the sword. Finally, he uses a T-shaped barbute as protection for the head. A round, steel shield, roughly 20 inches in diameter is hung across his back, the Company's symbol, a hawk, is engraved on it.
Weapons: An elegant, black scabbard hangs from his left hip, true to his style it is of fine make, but bears no decorations. Inside it a longsword lies, well-forged, the blade carries the family's symbols on it. The grip is covered in a soft leather, allowing it to slip in comfortably in the hand. It seems to be a veteran of many battles, but the quality of its make shines even after all those years. On his right hip, a dagger rests, should the need arise.
Other: Like all members of his troop, a plain silver hawk hangs from a necklace, worn under the armour.
Impression: Barin has a commanding and somewhat grim presence, he looks quite rugged, his noble demeanor washed away by his years as a mercenary.

. : Heritage : .
Age: 52
Birthplace: Sephalia, Brookstone - a town situated at the foot of the Mountains of Smoke.
Family: The only sibling, his parents have now passed away. Barin knows that he has some relatives in both Mandor and Sephalia, but has found neither the desire nor the time to contact them.
Inheritance: What he inherited from his mother and father, in terms of coin and land he has used to build up his small army. The only thing he has kept is the family's sword, passed down since the time of his great-grandfather. Being of noble birth, however, he received an above-average education.
Other: Barin has yet to marry, but that is because of his lifestyle, when and if he retires, he would think about a family. Having carried out tasks for certain high-placed people, he could call in a favour or two. His noble blood would probably connect him to someone in power, but he has yet to explore that part of his heritage.

. : Persona : .
Biography: Barin was born in the family of Ilina and Hamlar, minor nobles, of a once proud and mighty line. Hamlar was the lord of the town of Brookstone and was a noble only in name. Indeed, he went to the feasts of the grand barons and dukes, people bowed and referred to him as "My Lord" and other such titles, but everyone knew, including him, that he had little actual power. The Mirlands were an old family, tracing back their lineage to the days before the Sixteen Years War and were once one of the most powerful families in the South of Sephalia. In time, however, their lands and riches, their nobility and power, dwindled and were lost forever. Barin's kin continued their steady decline, until, one Aldemar, his great-grandfather came to power. He used his political prowess to restore some of the family's lost splendour. Aldemar formed alliances, recruited soldiers and defeated enemies, no matter what the cost. Some regarded him as a hero, others - as a tyrant, no one could deny however, that by the end of his reign, the Mirlands had become a local power once again. It was he, Aldemar Mirland, who had the family sword forged, declaring that while his heirs wielded this weapon, their kin would live on. His son, Aldric, Barin's grandfather, was not like his father. He squandered the accumulated wealth, indulging in hedonistic pleasures, spending his time in taverns and brothels, while his lands fell into misuse. He died young, before he even reached his hundredth year, but not before fathering a son, Hamlar. Hamlar was a just and kind man, he did what he could to preserve what little his father had left him, but Aldemar's fire did not burn in his veins. He was content to remain where he was and made no moves to regain what was lost. In time, he and had a son, to whom he diverted most of his attention and he led a peaceful life.

Barin, however, was of a different stock. He yearned to live in the times gone by, when he could be commander of his own army, when people would fear and respect him. Being a noble's son, he received an education that most common folk would not even dream of. He learned how to read and write, he was versed in geography and history, in music and poetry. And of course, masters of the sword (though not the best, as Hamlar could not afford them) came to teach the young noble and he eagerly learned all that they would offer. The boy seized every chance to spend time in the estate's library, which still had quite a few books to offer, reading books of warfare, studying the strategies and tactics of ancient generals. In time, Barin grew to be a strong, young man and many claimed that he would be like his great-grandfather. He was ambitious, he was daring and charismatic, those who had daughters set their eyes on him. Hamlar and Ilina had married late and were by that time already growing old, it was not long after that they passed away. First, Ilina, the caring mother and then, two years later, Hamlar, the loving father. They both died with a smile on their face, knowing that their son would continue the family legacy. And so, Lord Barin Mirland came to power and the neighbouring nobles watched in anticipation, awaiting to see how this young man would forge his destiny.

Barin, however, was not content. He knew that the only battles he would ever see would be in ballroom halls and in dining rooms, the only army he would ever lead - those who would hide behind him. And he pitied himself, even though well-liked, he knew that no one, especially in times of peace, would give him a place in the military. That was reserved for the pampered sons of dukes and barons. He could join the army as a common soldier but who would allow him? The last of the Mirlands, Lord Barin, serving along with shepherds and pig-tenders? However, he would not give up so easily. Over the last decade, the villagers had complained, first to his father and now to him that bandits and other scum were getting bolder and bolder, raiding caravans and farmholds. Barin organized a militia, gathering those who would defend their homes and began training them. During the next few years, he lead his men in the surrounding woods and hills and steadily eradicated the brigands. The peasants hailed him as a hero. Barin was pleased, for a while, but knew that this was the most he could hope for. And then, one day, after secret negotiations and much planning, came news that shook the nobility.

Lord Barin was gone. His lands, property, estate - sold to a local, well-to-do merchant. For himself, he had only kept his title (which, for some reason, to this day has not been stripped off him). It was later learned that he had gathered those lads in his village who did not wish to spend their lives with a hoe in hand and had formed a mercenary company. The nobles, were of course, dismayed - one of their own, reduced to a sellsword! Many doors were thus barred to him, but Barin cared not. And so "The Hawks" came to be. Barin led his group throughout the kingdom, recruiting here and there, using the wealth he had acquired to form his small army. His men called him Captain and carried out his orders, he finally had what he had desired since a child. Twenty years later, he still leads the Company.

Motivation: Barin always dreamed of one thing, to be in command of an army, to lead his brothers and sisters in arms to victory. He also strives to maintain the Company's name spotless, being known to never break their word.
Skills and Talents: Years of fighting have honed his battle skills with both sword, shield and halberd. Barin is a practical fighter, focusing on winning rather than showing style and grace. Thanks to his education, he has knowledge of different places and cultures and possesses some knowledge of past events - although, most of it is strictly related to warfare. He never found the desire to learn other languages and as such, has only a basic understanding of Dragon and Elvish. He is quite cunning, always on the lookout for the best deal.
Strengths: Barin is willful and determined, once he sets eyes on his goal - he does all that he can to reach it. He respects those who fight besides him and does his best to protect them. He keeps a level head even in difficult situations, always trying to find the best outcome. Those who have worked with him know that he is a man of his word.
Weaknesses: Thanks to his determination and will, he can be quite stubborn at times, refusing to back down, even if he is wrong. He has a short temper, especially when his orders are not carried out. Barin is somewhat of a perfectionist, claiming that "If you do something, do it right or do not start at all", which can put him at odds with his troops and other people.
Personality: A sociable person, his men respect him because he drinks and laughs, mourns and cries, fights and bleeds alongside them. Strangers, especially more polite ones, can see him as a bit of a savage. He is, nonetheless, a honourable man and carries out his duties diligently.


Chapter One: Shadows from Light ~ CONTINUED


Sephalia > Ashwood ~ night of DAY 18

When they left the building, it was Vanik's son that led them, not Weldin. The cocky lord was hooded as usual, but this time he was talking more hotly than before. Everything was prepared, he assured them. The mob Barin had roused were already causing trouble for Hindrin and his men. Of course, it was not a complete assault, as they had dispersed this way and that. All the better, he told them, a battle was not something they needed. Matters ranged from simple fistfights, to bloodshed. The most important thing was, that it was happening all over the neighbourhood, it was impossible for Hindrin to send his forces in any one place. He had to split them.

Barin saw the effects of his action easily enough. Despite the curfew, the night was teeming with life. Not only were the not-so-distant cries of men on the walls heard, as they repelled another attack, but the screams from the nearby streets echoed as well. The plan was simple enough. Vanik's son was going to take the majority of his father's men and distract the defenders. In the mean time, Barin and a small force were going to slip in from the side. A good commander was not going to be drawn by such an obvious feint, Barin knew. Luckily however, these men made poor soldiers, let alone leaders.

They reached Hendrin's...it was difficult to call a base, fortress or camp. Barin had a low opinion of it, so he settled for "den". There was a makeshift stockade encircling the former tavern, as well as a few storehouses, but it was not properly done. It was irregular at places, the height was not even throughout, there were structural weaknesses...in short, it was something prepared by laymen. The night concealed them and they stopped across the street, obscured by a house. Although he could not see their faces, Barin noticed at last a score of men. There was an air of...confidence about them, patience, calmness. These were not the rabble found on the streets, he knew. Vanik was not a man to stake such an important task on a bunch of scum, besides - Barin had an eye for people.

"Everything is clear, I assume?" - asked Vanik's son

"It is." - came the answer from Barin

"Very well, I leave to you Wolf, Dirk and Arnrik. The rest of you, on me!"

There was shuffling in the dark, the sound of footsteps, the noise of blades being drawn. Barin saw men coming forth from another building as well. A large enough force had been gathered in a short time. Whatever they may say, Vanik had been preparing for this. He then turned at the three figures left to him.

"Interesting names."

"Both of 'em earned, sir." - came a thick, familiar voice - "Dirk is good with what his name implies and me...well it's a long story."

"We have met before, have we not?"

"Aye sir."

Then it was that door guard who killed the messenger a few days ago. He had not thought much of the man when they first met, but he had not really paid much attention either. Barin liked his calm voice, his confidence, good men had been given to him.

"Very well. Be ready, we will move out when their forces have been lured away."

He took a few steps towards the street, leaving the cover of the house. As he suspected, nobody paid attention to him. He was just a hooded figure in the night, like the five others standing besides him. He watched and watched, waiting for the right moment. After some time, the first sounds of battle, this time from nearby, were heard. There was a loud curse and the men guarding this side entrance rushed to the main gate. A tall figure, Wolf he guessed, approached him.

"Why do we not attack, sir?"

Barin turned to face him, if there was light, he would see the terrible glint in his eye.

"Do you question my decision, Wolf?"

There was hesitation. "N-no, sir."

"Good. We wait."

And they did wait for a few more minutes. Six more figures came out from somewhere, they too rushed to defend the stockade. Now was the right time, after their reserves had been drawn. Their way would be clear now.

"On me, now!"

He drew his sword and ran down the street, the others were close behind. In a few moments, they were already standing by the defenses. As Barin had suspected, there were no guards, so they must be that desperate then. He passed through the open gate, if it could be called such and entered the yard. The seat of Hindrin's power stood before them, a rather shabby looking building. Still, the man was not to be underestimated. He had led most of these ragtag bands for a couple of years now. Long before he was approached by Serek, this man had real power. Not everyone could achieve what he had. And yet, he had to be defeated, no - destroyed.

A quick glance to the left revealed the other entrance, it was not a lord's castle to have much of a yard. The group manning the "gate" was in plain sight and so were Barin and his men. Nobody turned around, however, for in that moment the gate was broken. A good leader would join his men now, if he had not done so already. Morale had to be be kept steady. And, indeed, from the door of the former tavern burst three men. A tall man, flanked by two younger ones. He was headed for the gate, but then he saw the smaller group that moved in to block his path.

"Encircle them" - ordered Barin

Quickly, Hindrin was cut off, but he drew his weapon nonetheless. The men besides him followed suit. The one to his right dashed towards Barin, an act of panic perhaps. The Captain remained in his place, while the other charged him. Only a few moments before their blades would meet did he side-step out of the way. His sword, however, remained. The attacker had literally impaled himself upon it. Barin drew the blade from the man's chest, the body fell to the ground.

"Let us not be fools." - the Captain advised.

"What do you want?" - Hindrin asked calmly

"Call off your men, this slaughter is meaningless."

The leader of the bandits regarded him for a moment, then nodded at the man to his left. A horn pierced the din of battle. For a moment, Barin was afraid that the bandits may be cut down by Vanik's men, which would ignite the conflict again. But Vanik's boy had them under control. The fighting stopped. Two more circles formed around Barin's smaller one. In the middle where the bandits, in the outer one were Vanik's forces. It was quiet, as much as possible, at least.

In the center of it all, of course, were Barin and Hindrin.

"The assassin reveals himself at last." - the bandit spoke mockingly, from his speech, Barin guessed that he was not a simple cutpurse

"I have never hid. Never surrounded myself with walls of men."

"They protect me, I protect them. We each do our own part."

"Your protect them?" - Barin cried out - "Like you protected your ringleaders? Like your protected the ones that now rampage through this place?"

Barin noticed that two figures approached one of the storehouses nearby, he paid them no heed for the moment.

"I do not have to answer to you!" - came a defiant answer

"Not to me, but to them! Your men!" - Barin pointed at the bandits about him

"They do my bidding, they cannot hold me accountable? Is that not so?!" - he cried out

To Hindrin's surprise, there was only silence.

"Every leader must answer to his men, he is responsible for them, after all."

"If any man here dares to defy me, to question my judgment, let him come!"

For all his proper speech and air of education about him, Hindrin did not stray too far from the bandit mentality. Threats were how a leader secured his place, threats and force. Charisma, skill, intellect - they played little part. This is why Barin took no joy in breaking such groups, it was too easy, He only needed to remove the fear in men's hearts, the fear of their overlord. The rest was easy.

"I do" - said Barin

"What?" - came a quiet question

"Is it not obvious, you fool?"

There was enough silence about for their words to be heard, at least by the men nearest to them. Slowly, they whispered to each other, until the whole gathering knew. Men began crying out "Hindrin! Hindrin!", "Show him who's boss!" and "Show us you still got it, old man!". He would have no choice, Barin thought. He had to try at least. Hindrin drew his sword.

"Step aside" - Barin told his men

They did as they were told to, even Hindrin's man departed his master's side. Now amidst the circle, only two men remained. This would be more challenging Barin thought. The cover of darkness made it no easier. There were no torches nearby, save for the ones on the building. The moon and stars were hidden by clouds, making it hard to see. It was daunting, but the other would fare no better.

Barin began by assuming a position most swordsmen referred to as the Fool's Guard. Blade pointed downward, the tip almost touching the ground, leaving his upper body exposed. The fool in this case, was not the one assuming this guard, but the one being lured by it. And Hindrin proved himself to be a fool. He went high, going for the Captain's neck. Barin moved out of the way, dodging the blow. His sword cut at Hindrin's undefended feet. Another attack followed, this time Barin parried. Pushing his opponent's blade aside, he made an attack of his own, forcing Hindrin to reposition himself. The leader of the bandits' was quick to respond. Barin parried that blow and seized the opening in Hindrin's defense. A quick kick followed, straight in the stomach, depriving his opponent of breath. Barin brought his sword down on him, using height to his advantage. With a grunt Hindrin managed to parry, but just barely, he staggered backward.

The Captain took a quick breath, filling himself with a renewed surge of power. He then attempted a slash at Hindrin, aimed for the stomach. His opponent managed to parry the blow and launched into a counter-attack. Barin parried that, allowing the enemy's blade to be quite close to his cheek. He was not prepared for Hindrin's next action. Instead of withdrawing his sword, the bandit leader twisted it slightly in his hands. He then hit Barin with the sword's pommel. The Captain had to take a step backward, his cheek was burning. Truly, Hindrin was a stronger foe than he had imagined. But victory was drawing ever nearer, his opponent was bleeding, the longer the fight carried on, the weaker his leg would be.

They exchanged a few blows, Barin both withdrew and advanced, forcing his opponent to be on the move at all times. He could already feel the weariness in the other's movements. Barin had injured his leading, right foot - unfortunate for any fighter. Barin launched an attack, he went high for the enemy's head. The blow was parried, but Barin quickly withdrew his sword and slashed horizontally at Hindrin's stomach. The other took a step back, but Barin could almost feel the wince as his foe shifted his entire weight on the injured leg. Barin then thrust forward, going for his enemy's right shoulder. It was a gamble, for he had left himself open. But Hindrin had grown desperate and fell for the trick. Instead of attacking the Captain's open side, he parried the blow aimed for his shoulder. Then he preformed a riposte, thrusting at Barin. The Captain moved slightly to the side, allowing the blade to pass by his head. Then he shot his left hand and gripped the blade, thankful for his thick gloves. A powerful kick followed, once again at the stomach, this sent Hindrin off-balance. No longer could his weakened leg support him and he fell to the ground. He was on his back and disarmed. A victory for Barin.

Barin sheathed his sword, while plunging Hindrin's in the ground before him. There was silence all about them, save for those quite near, the outcome was not yet clear. The night made it hard to discern features.

"Your leader, Hindrin, has fallen." - Barin declared

There was an outrage amongst the circle, curses, shouts, screams. But the veil of fear was torn, no longer would people dread the bandit leader's name.

"How is failure rewarded? How has Hindrin punished you?"

"Death!" - they cried out

Barin took Hindrin's sword and moved in for the kill. But a voice, weak, almost a whisper stopped him.

"Mercy..." - Hindrin pleaded

Barin made no effort to show that he had heard him. He drew closer and placed the tip of the sword on Hindrin's chest, in the area where his lungs were. Only a slight push from Barin and it would be done. But he had another thing in mind, so he was pleased when he heard the pleading again.

"Mercy, don't kill me. No one will see in the darkness."

"No."

"Mercy!" - he said again, this time louder

"Pathetic. Are you so afraid of death?"

"Yes, yes, yes, yes...I am afraid!"

"You will not die by my hand, if you say that loud enough for all to hear."

Hindrin was, in the end, pathetic. There was no other word to describe him. For one who believed himself to be so high and mighty, he bore the fear all bandits had. Fear of death. These were people without dignity, without honour, without value. They cared not for their family, their friends, their duty. Only for themselves. And this is why they could be defeated so easily.

"Mercy! Spare me!" - Hindrin cried out

"Louder."

"Mercy! I do not wish to die!" - he shouted even louder

"Louder."

"MERCY! DO NOT KILL ME!" - he bellowed, at the top of his lungs

Only now did everyone hear him. Only now did they understood how weak and powerless their former leader was. And in their cold hearts, came a feeling they had not felt in quite a while. Shame. They were ashamed to have bowed to such a frail man. And then anger. Anger and revenge.

"Now you see that it is folly to stand by Serek!" - Barin told them - "If the strongest of you can be so easily broken...what hope do you have? Leave this foolishness, go back to your homes. And prepare yourselves for even now the shadows draw closer."

With that, he tossed the sword aside and walked away. As he anticipated, like a pack of dogs, they fell upon their fallen leader.

"You promised!" - came Hindrin's fell cry

"You did not die by my hand, dog. You are murdered by your own."

The Captain along with Silan and Geren, as well as Vanik's men left the grisly site. Screams were heard, the smell of smoke was in the air. Everything that had been Hindrin's, everything that was Hindrin would be no more come dawn. This war was won, the Duke's brother would be powerless now that his chief lieutenant was no more. Vanik's son gave a few commands and the men dispersed, Wolf shook the Captain's hand and disappeared into the winding streets. Only the four of them were left. Barin and his men, as well the arrogant son.

"Captain, you are a mage if I ever saw one."

Barin laughed. Despite the terrible deeds he had committed, he could still laugh. It was a habit he had picked up long ago. If he had to shed a tear for every act of cruelness he had done, his eyes would have dried out by now.

"Mages use words do they not? Their power lies in there. But you would be wrong to think that power lies only in those words. Everything is power, as long as you know how to use it."

"Thank you for the lecture. Now, my father awaits. I will bring you to his estate."

"Very well."

They walked the rest of the way in silence. Neither Geren or Silan were feeling talkative. And the Captain did not want to waste empty words with Vanik's boy. His cheek and jaw were sore enough without moving them. If only he had worn his helmet, he would have avoided that unpleasant part of the duel. At least he had his gloves, without which his display of skill would have been impossible. Did it matter, though? Hindrin would have faltered soon enough, he had lost the fight even as he made his first attack. This task was not overly hard, he had to use simple methods to best all his foes. Then he wondered if he was not becoming too haughty. For he knew that, somewhere out there, a better swordsman than him awaited. Not only one. Many better fighters, with more talent, skill and experience went about their lives, just as he did. What would happen if they met one day?

This was a good reminder of his own mortality. For while he was a god amongst the rabble, he still had much to learn. Was it not so? What else was there to do, save learning during the years remaining to him? He could die tomorrow, or after another century had passed. And he would continue learning. That is what accompanied man during his life. The desire to grow and learn. And when that desire stopped, when the growing was no more, then he was as good as dead.

They arrived sooner than he had expected. A guard by the door greeted them and ushered them inside. Vanik's son told them that he would join them shortly and headed for a room down the hallway. A guide appeared a moment later and beckoned the group to follow. As they walked, Barin studied the room. On the outside, it was a grand building. With high walls, large yard and rich gardens. On the inside, it was no less bigger, but the decoration was sparser than one would imagine. It was sternly furnished, each room having no more than it needed to fulfill its purpose. Everything was of high quality, but it was never too much. Vanik was a man of great resources, but he did not squander them needlessly. That is what message the rooms sent.

They arrived before a door of polished, mahogany wood. The guide, surprisingly, did not knock, but merely opened the door and allowed them to enter. Then Barin, rightfully, guessed that no knocking was needed. Vanik already knew who had arrived and that they were coming. He was a master of information and this was his home. The three of them entered, the door closed behind them.

Vanik was sitting behind his desk, studying a map of the city it seemed. Before the desk were arranged four chairs, polished to a shine and comfy-looking. Their host regarded them with a smile and with a fluid motion of his wrist bade them seat. Barin sat one of the chairs, the two lads took seats to his right. Much to his delight, the chairs were, indeed, comfortable.

"Masterfully done, Captain."

"I did what was asked of me."

"And more quickly than anticipated too."

"Let us not kid ourselves Vanik. You won this war. In less than three days, you broke the back of this organisation." - Barin smiled - "Merchant or not, I would not want to meet you on the field of battle."

"Organisation?" - Vanik laughed - "I have an organisation. Serek had a rabble, a mob. They have one common purpose, but that is all. That does not make an organisation."

Vanik stood up and began pacing through the room.

"Captain, looks can be deceiving. You look at me and see a merchant, a businessman. But I am no less a commander than you are. Remember that." - he paused, both speech and movement, for a second looking at Barin - "I have broken rival cartels, before you were born. Destroyed enemy guilds, while you were learning how to handle a sword. Torn to shreds intricate spy webs that would make your head spin. Did you think some lordling could oppose me?"

"It was obvious from the start that it was not so."

"Yes. And I needed you to be over with this business quickly. I could have destroyed this pathetic lot within a week or two. But you were a stray sword, without purpose. Nobody knew you, you did not draw attention and you head a head on your shoulders. Why not use such a handy tool?"

"What is a sword, if it lacks the hand to swing it?" - Barin said with a smile, he summed up his life with those words

"Indeed, Captain. I am saddened that a promising man like you wishes to remain a sword for the rest of his life. But it is not my place to judge."

"No, it is not."

The door opened and closed again, this time Weldin entered the room. A grin on his face.

"Ah, I see you have started without me."

"Take a seat, Weldin."

Weldin sat on Barin's left.

"What do you plan to do now, Captain?" - asked Vanik

"I am not for hire, if that is what you mean. Although, I suppose you already know that"

"I do."

"Me and my men will remain here until my scouts return. Then we will continue with our task, should we decide to carry it out."

"Should?"

"What the old man wants to say" - added Weldin - "are you not famous for never breaking a pact?"

"Silence, boy. Keep your mouth shut when your betters are speaking."

Weldin chuckled. Not something an aide would do, Barin mused. He was acting too arrogantly with his master.

"I have never accepted. The terms of the contract have not yet been made clear. When my prospective employer's men arrive, I will discuss the details with them."

"If it is not to your liking, then I could always find a use for you and your men." - said Vanik with a smile

"Oh father, you aren't going soft on the Captain here, are you?"

"Father?" - Barin was mildly surprised, he had his suspicions, but still...

"Ah, yes...my father is too ashamed of me to even tell you who I am" - the boy chuckled again.

"I knew he had a son, but an aide as well. Weldin."

"Is that not what a son should be, Captain?" - asked Vanik - "He is my aide and my blood. Plus a thorn in my side since he learned how to walk. If it was not for his mother's memory, I would have beaten him bloody at least thrice by now."

"I doubt you still could, father." - Weldin said with a grin

"Enough." - Vanik raised his hand, he became serious again and so did his son - "Captain, you have done what I asked of you. Here is your reward."

He went behind his desk and took out a fat pouch of coin. He placed it on the far side of his desk, so it was right in front of Barin. The Captain stood up, took the pouch and placed it in a pocket. Vanik then came closer and shook hands with him.

"You are a splendid business partner, as well as worthy investment" - he said with that typical smile of his, then added - "Of course, I know that you had help in your tasks."

He moved towards Geren and Silan and shook hands with them in turn. The lads beamed as they received attention from such a man, Barin noticed.

"You are still young and inexperienced, so you had no part in this conversation. At least you understand that, unlike my son here" - he nodded at Weldin - "The Captain tells me you have potential. If he ever runs you out, my door is always open to men with skills such as yours."

It was both a joke and a serious statement. Vanik was a master of that, Barin had learned. He could tell you something that seemed absurd and unreasonable, but after hearing it, you began wondering. Maybe that is what his strength was, feeding on men's doubts and ambitions.

"It is time we left you, Vanik. I wish you well."

"As do I, Captain. I hope we cross paths again."

"Don't get killed Captain, I'd like to do it myself one day. I still consider our first meeting a slight on my honour." - Weldin chuckled.

After they left the mansion and began their journey back towards the inn, Barin began counting the coin. As promised, it was a considerable sum, especially for a task as easy as this one had proven. Deftly, he split the coin in three parts. The biggest one for himself, of course, and two smaller ones for Geren and Silan. He had a few extra pouches for situations such as this and when he filled them, Barin offered them to the boys.

"Congratulations on your first payment, boys. Most do not receive it until much later."

"This is blood money." - these were the first words Geren had said since that night.

"No, Geren. This is money. The dirtiest object in the world, as I told you not so long ago."

"It just don't seem fair, sir." - added Silan

"Why is it not fair? This is money, earned with honest work. You did not steal them, you earned them with sweat and blood."

"Aye, but-"

"No buts." - he threw them each a pouch - "I told you that it was no easy life we lead. Now I showed you. Do not be ashamed of anything you have done, I am not. Like a woodcutter breaks his back each day, like a craftsman who toils in his workshop, so do we do our bloody work. They deal in wood and cloth and paper, we deal in steel and death. It it a job like any other. And, like it or not, you have already taken your first steps towards its mastery."

Sephalia > Ashwood ~ afternoon of DAY 25

Fabrin, the mages and the rest of the scouts finally were in sight of Ashwood's walls. Their trip was not as long as they feared it would be. The fact that they had spent so much time in the wilds was due to them not having met. Now that they had joined forces and knew their destination, the way ahead was clear. Deftly, Fabrin led them through the twisting paths of the forests. Their encounters with the shadows had been few, even when they traveled at night. They were oft hounded by animal-like beasts, that moved on all fours and made use of the foliage surrounding them. Their arrows were useless in the forest, especially during the night. However, thanks to the skills of the Twins and the expertise of some scouts with the blade, they had emerged mostly unscathed.

With hope in their hearts and rest in their minds, they approached the gates. A quick glance about showed Fabrin the signs that accompanied a battlefield. Arrows, beyond recovery, strewn here and there, a dropped sword or fallen helmet. There were also other signs, he had only recently come to expect. Claw marks on the gates and walls, pieces of stone from the towers that loomed above them. It was not readily visible, but he could see the grim scene. Fabrin imagined the shadows swarming the fields around the walls, their bodies if they had any. Even the ones they had seen flying at night had descended upon the defenders. Truly, the problem was widespread.

What was not already obvious, was made so when one looked at the faces of the guards. Weary and battered, a sign of their nightly struggles. As they passed through the gates, the gate-captain came out to greet them.

"You look to have been out in the wilds for a time."

"More than we'd have liked, Captain." - replied Fabrin

"What brings you to our lovely town?" - he asked with mocking sarcasm

"Not your hospitality, that's for sure." - came the retort

"Pardons, we are all on edge. And I'm the friendly and welcoming one!" - he laughed weakly - "You are from the Hawks, I wager?"

"How did you know?"

"Well, your Captain and the rest of your troop passed through this very gate not so long ago. In the mean time, they have been making a name for themselves."

"Nothing bad, I hope?" - Fabrin had a few bad memories that surfaced

"On the contrary, they have breathed a little life in our city."

"Can you direct me to them?"

"Well, the Captain at least, I know where he's at. Even had a talk with him, when I was off-duty. An interesting man." - he paused for a second - "Follow the main road until you reach the market, or what's left of it anyway. Then head right, following the smaller street. You'll come upon the inn soon enough. Not hard to miss, it's one of the few still working in that part of the city."

"Thank you. I must be on my way, now."

"No doubt, fare well."

Fabrin nodded at the man and with a brisk pace caught up to the rest of the group. They moved silently through the equally silent streets. The few townsfolk that passed by eyed them wearily. But Fabrin had no time to be daunted. He passed through the market, noting how quiet it seemed, compared to other years. Although it was a touch livelier than when Barin had arrived. They moved down the street, which cost them little effort. After days of traversing the treacherous forest paths, where roots could easily snap the ankle of the unwary, walking on the paved street was a welcome respite. Soon, they came upon the inn in question. There could be no other, thought Fabrin. They had passed by a few, all of them closed. Or at least appeared so at a glance. This one, on the other hand, was definitely lively enough.

He opened the door and came upon a familiar sight. Partly because he was used to inns and, after a while, there were a few things which were common throughout them. Partly because it was, mostly, full of familiar faces. He had arrived at that time when the Hawks and a few louts were all the patrons. The majority of the people arrived later, after closing their shops, to share tales with these strangers. Cheers came from the tables, when the men saw their friends and companions enter through the doors. As was to be expected, Fabrin located Barin sitting on a table in the far end of the room, away from his men.

He approached and noticed that the Captain had rested his head on his fist, a mug besides him. For a moment, Fabrin was afraid that he might be drunk. But as soon as they drew near, Barin lifted his head and his eyes were clear. Fabrin cursed himself for thinking thus of his leader. How could he allow himself the luxury of drinking, even for one night, when he knew they could arrive at any moment? And indeed, as he approached, his keen eyes noticed that it was water, not alcohol in that mug.

"Captain, we have arrived."

"Stating the obvious, as usual, I see." - answered the familiar voice

"All of us, I'd add." - said Fabrin, slightly bolder than usual.

The Captain must have liked that, for a shadow of a smile passed through his face.

"Good. You have done as was asked, Fabrin. You as well." - he regarded the scouts that had gathered besides him. - "I will have the Seneschal reward you for your efforts tomorrow. In the mean time, you are dismissed. Stay here or go wherever you will, you are free. For now."

"On behalf of the men, I thank you, Captain." - said Fabrin. The scouts echoed his statement.

"You can thank me by getting out of those travel-worn clothes and washing the mud off your faces." - he then turned towards the silent Twins - "As for you, take a seat. We have matters to discuss."


Sephalia > Ashwood ~ afternoon of DAY 25

Once the scouts fell into their ranks and headed out, Tuuli and Tuula fell in with them. As they jog-trotted to keep up, they were grateful that they’d had two days ashore to acclimatize themselves to being on solid ground once more. They were both determined not to fall behind or to slow the scouts in any way, despite being unaccustomed to running long distances as the scouts were.

Fabrin only rested along the way briefly, but never more than was strictly necessary, it seemed. While the Twins approved of the strategy, both suffered in silence from the punishing pace. They used their gifts of breath control whenever they’d stopped to try to replenish their energies before being pushed onward once more.

When darkness fell and the shadow-beasts came was when the Twins proved themselves, at least to the scouts. Their song-spells lifted and daggers of harsh, iced air lashed out, shredding the beasts like so much tissue. But never were there any remains. As soon as the shadow creatures were hit, it seemed as though they evaporated. Tuula even lay about him with his ax when the scout and his sister’s bows proved unusable within the density of the trees. Each night they were attacked and each day they moved. Between the scouts’ skill and the Twins spells only minor injuries were suffered which the scouts could manage without assistance from Tuuli.

In the one or two brief moments of respite along the journey, the Twins spoke quietly together. If the scouts of this Army they were sent to join were this disciplined, it gave them greater confidence in aligning themselves with its Captain. Even if Lord D’Armitage gave Barin Mirland his endorsement, they needed to grow to trust him in their own time. Their lives depended on it, D’Armitage’s did not. Also in their minds was the ultimate mission; that of finding the goddess herself. The very thought simply boggled the mind. And then to offer her their aid? This part of it all still worried the Twins the most. They were strong believers in the goddess Zephiris, but to them she was but a distant icon. To think of her as a real entity one might physically interact with was disturbing.

They had no further time to discuss this, however as Fabrin had them up and moving once more. When finally the walled city of Ashwood appeared, the mood of the entire group lifted, despite their weariness. Fabrin went a little ahead to exchange words with the Captain of the Gate before they were permitted inside. Even to the Twins, the city seemed darkened and subdued. It was obvious that they had suffered attacks from the Shadow-Beasts as well. Tuuli and Tuula shared a look, clearly wondering just how the beasts fit in with their mission. They were led through the winding, narrow streets to an Inn that looked like any other.

Following Fabrin inside, they got their first look at the man they were to swear fealty to. He had the look of hard-won experience. A few battle scars and lines of time graced his face. The space and respect given the man spoke volumes to the observant Twins. Fabrin shared a word or two with his Captain while the Twins hung back slightly out of respect until they were called forward to share Barin’s table. Tuuli sat with a soft smile. Tuula hesitated, the confines of the town and the inn made him slightly uncomfortable. But, eventually he joined his sister at the table as well.

The gruff-looking Captain examined his guests for a time, eyeing both of them with interest. His gaze lingered long enough to show the Twins that he was inspecting them, but not long enough to cause irritation. When he was done with that, he took a sip from his water-filled mug and after that spoke slowly.

"So, you are the Baron's men? How can I be certain?"

The Twins took the inspection quite calmly, while conducting one of their own. Tuula noted battle scars, calloused hands and armor that were fine, but not ornate. Tuuli, on the other hand, noted the steady look. The Captain was not impressed by the mere fact that they were Mages. He also got directly to the point. He was not a man to waste his or anyone else’s time.

It was Tuuli that spoke for the pair as usual. First, she introduced them in her soft tone and then, as Fabrin had done for her, she produced a letter of introduction for Barin. This one was still sealed as it was not meant for their eyes, but Barin’s alone. She presumed it spoke to him of their proofs and Lord D’Armitage’s assurances of their good character. But it was only a guess. With D’Armitage, one never truly knew his motives.

With a firm hand, Barin accepted the letter. He toyed with it for a few moments, before proceeding with opening it. He broke the seal and took out a parchment covered in neat handwriting from within. The Captain's eyes quickly darted through the parchment; it was obvious that the mercenary was no stranger to reading. He continued holding the letter in his hand for a time, longer than required for finishing it. Either he took his time debating with himself, or mayhaps he was simply rereading it. When he was done, he folded the paper once more and placed it in one of the pockets of his brigandine.

He looked at Tuuli and spoke without averting his eyes.

"Your master has kind words for you." - He paused, finishing with that topic - "Now, about the assignment..." - here he stopped, urging the mages to continue.

Tuuli, smiled gently once again and inclined her head toward Barin. “As he did for you, Sir.” When Barin mentioned their mission so quickly, the Twins share a look. Tuula nodded subtly to his sister before she turned her attention back to their new Captain. She lowered her voice and pitched it perfectly so that no one not directly before her and less than three feet distant would hear her words.

“Our mission is somewhat difficult to comprehend, Sir.” The red-gold haired Mage pauses momentarily before continuing, “We have been sent to you to aid in finding Zephiris herself. Rumors have surfaced that she wakes in the lands.” Tuuli’s brows furrow as she still has difficulty believing what she’s saying. “We are to find her, Sir and protect her.” Tuuli pauses and both Twins turn their attention to the Captain to see how he reacts to such potentially explosive news.

For a long time Barin stood silent, his eyes cast downwards. Without a word he lifted his mug and drank what water remained inside. Then, he looked at Tuuli again.

"I sense that you use the word "Sir" in the sense that I am your superior. You are wrong" - he stated flatly - "I do not yet count you amongst my own, so you need not address me in any particular way. But we shall discuss that later, now..." - he paused - "Now you tell me Zephiris...the Creator of All is to be found?"

Without giving them a chance to answer he stood up and neared one of the walls where a small statute of the Goddess had been hung. He took it in his hand and returned to his seat. After sitting down, the mercenary quite unceremoniously threw it on the table.

"You mean to tell me that we should search for this?"

The silence stretched for some time. It was obvious that the Captain was taking his own time to comprehend just what they’d been asked to do. The motives, the feasibility and the madness of it. Tuuli and Tuula had had weeks to go through it already.

But then Barin’s rebuke of how Tuuli addressed him made Tuula squeeze out his words through his clenched teeth. “We address you as such out of respect. Not because of your station. Do not prove us wrong.” In this instance, Tuuli did not try to temper her brother’s hot words. He was right, even if not very diplomatic.

And then Barin suddenly stood to retrieve an icon of the goddess hung on the wall. Upon sitting once more, he threw the thing onto the table top causing some nearby conversations to cease in curiosity. Tuuli merely nodded at the Captain. “That is exactly what we are going to do, Captain.”

Barin nodded and threw a glance at the other tables. His voice was harsh when he spoke, quite loudly at some of the turned heads.

"Have you no respect for the privacy of a conversation? Do not interfere in that which is not for your ears!"

It seemed the Captain commanded much respect, for everyone who had shown curiosity returned to their own business, regardless if he was one of the mercenaries or a local.

"So..." - he began, turning back to Tuuli - "While this task sounds absurd, I have heard of stranger things. Besides, if the pay is good we shall turn down no task. Now, explain to me further what it is that we need to do. Only after you provide sufficient information will you hear my price and my approval...or refusal."

A small lift in a pale eyebrow was the only reaction Tuuli gave to Barin’s snarling orders to the crowd to mind their own affairs. Since his orders were obeyed instantly. She did not bother to look that way, but kept her attention on the volatile Captain. “We needs find her, Captain. We are to place ourselves at her disposal and protect her in the name of Lord D’Armitage. That is all I know of this mission.” She shook her head from side to side very slightly, “What my Lord’s motives might be in this, he has not shared with us.” Tuuli paused once more, and then offered what little information they had gleaned thus far. “The rumors evidently began in Mandor and there is some talk of the Elves also seeking her. That is not confirmed, however.”

Tuula shifted uncomfortably in the hard wooden chair he’d taken at the beginning of the conversation and it creaked threateningly under his weight. He disliked inaction, but he disliked enclosed, stale places even more. “Tell him your thoughts, Sister. Though no more than an intuition, your idea has merit, I believe.”

Tuuli looked toward her brother questioningly. It was not her way to make unsubstantiated guess. Chewing her lip in indecision momentarily, Tuuli finally added one last bit of information. I believe that if she emerges, it will be where the lands of the three races meet. For she created all of us with no favor over one race, her resting place would not be in one land over another.”

Another nod came from Barin as he heard the end of the mage's tale. He rubbed his bearded cheek, a ponderous expression on his face. In his fashion, he took his time in replying, but finally spoke:

"So be it. I see now that you two are in a similar position to mine. Pawns in a greater plan. Powerful pawns, but pawns nonetheless." - He smiled - "That has never kept me from accepting a job, however."

After a short pause he continued.

"Before we dabble in the realms of the spiritual...we have specific matters to discuss. Firstly, you are going to become a part of this Company, should I accept. Are you willing to swear fealty to me?" - He asked, a playful glint in his eye

The Twins looked at one another when Barin asked his question. To swear an Oath was a life changing act and certainly not one to be taken lightly. By the way Barin worded his question also meant they were giving up Lord D’Armitage’s patronage. No man could serve two masters. It seemed the Captain knew this very well and was testing their resolve.

Some silent communication appeared to be occurring between the Twins. But, when the decision was made, surprisingly it was Tuula who spoke for them. His smooth baritone answered the Captain confidently, “We will join your Army and swear fealty to you if you would have us. We have seen enough fools and good stout men to know the difference.”

Upon hearing the reply, Barin laughed. When he stopped, he spoke immediately.

"This is a damned mercenary company, mages, remember that. I take no oaths from those who serve me. I am no liege lord like your Baron, I demand no fealty." - He paused for a moment - "I am also aware that you serve a different master, I will not take you from him. I have no such wish. That said, I thank you for the trust you have shown me."

"I will also mention..." - he said after another pause - "I do not tolerate traitors. Cross me and I shall make certain you both perish in the worst possible manner. You may slay me; you may destroy my entire Company if your power is great enough. But I have friends and I have earned more than a few favors over the years. Am I clear?"

Not used to being laughed at, the Twins took it in stoic silence. But, both showed a touch of pink in their cheeks. Tuula from anger, Tuuli from embarrassment. Tuula’s jaw clenched tightly as Barin further explained his position and his threat. Tuuli, on the other hand became calmer when she understood what Barin had been doing. Dipping her chin slightly in acknowledgement, she spoke softly, “We did not wish to leave our Lord. However, if it truly is the goddess returned to the World, we would have done so as you saw.

Barin’s directness about traitors did not go unnoticed, either. “In that regard we are in total agreement. We have learned the value of trust in our life hunting Pirates. A traitor will kill you with a word. That is never to be tolerated. You need not fear we will betray you.”

"Very well, we have come to an agreement. I accept this task." - A smile crossed his weary face - "Of course, my opinion is just one of many in this Company. You too will have a voice in certain matters, should you join us."

He brought his hands together, placing one palm above the other and gave them both a ponderous look.

"Before we proceed, you must know that this future course of ours must be discussed with the rest of my men. Were the contract different I would accept, based on my own intuition. But the Goddess herself...grand politics...these are matters that all here must be made aware of." - He inclined his head at the Twins - "Not to mention, we have to discuss your own joining. Some are not as open to mages as I am..." - he trailed off, not finishing his thought, or leaving it open on purpose.

"All this calls for a Mustering, a gathering of the Hawks. I delay my answer until it is held."

Not for the first time since their conversation started, the Twins were surprised by the man before them. A vote of all the members? They had believed that only happened aboard ship where if the Captain failed in his task, he could be voted out and another voted in his place by the crew. Tuuli had expected some of the Hawks to distrust them simply because they were Mages and some because they were new. But to be voted on was unusual for Landies in her limited experience. They all seemed fixated by birthrights and ancient titles.

The vote didn’t particularly worry Tuuli, but another thought did, so she spoke her mind. “If I may ask, Captain? Have you other Mages within your company? If you do, we would like the opportunity to meet with them.” She paused and both Brendersens smiled, “Mages can be jealous of their place. We…” She glanced toward Tuula and her smile grew slightly wider as if they shared some private joke. “We have been forced to ease some ill-will before.”

After Tuuli asked her question, Tuula had one of his own, “What is this mustering you speak of? Is it a place we must travel to?”

Barin looked at Tuuli and gave her a smile before replying.

"It seems my Company is full of mages...I reward them richly and yet, their coin vanishes quickly enough." - After that his face became serious - "A company of wandering mercenaries is not where one would look for a wizard, am I not right? The closest thing I have to a magic user is my field surgeon, Narik; he has performed a few feats that have been called magical. But you need not fear for your place."

His eyes then found Tuula.

"The Mustering can take place anywhere and at any time, provided that all members are present. During this event each of my fighting men can voice their thoughts. Those who contribute in other ways can only talk about matters that concern them. And there are some...personally bound to me, who have no voice. You shall learn of this soon enough, for I plan to hold the Mustering tomorrow."

At the joke and smile from Barin, Tuuli relaxed more fully. She hadn’t realized that her brother’s tension had leached into her as well until she consciously let her shoulders slacken a bit. She turned her red-gold head to glance toward the revelers in the main room of the inn with a sparkle in her eye. “My crew-mates were of the same stripe Captain. Some even managed to fall asleep in their chairs without spilling a drop of their precious ale.”

With the main conversation handled, Tuuli reached up to undo her messy knee-length braid and proceeded to braid it up once more while Barin explained about the mustering to Tuula. It sounded as if the Hawks held court amongst themselves on occasion. It would be an interesting sight to behold and give them the opportunity to see the company in its entirety. They knew the scouts and now Barin. But the Twins were both curious about just whose hands they’d be putting their lives into.

Barin let out a sigh and visibly relaxed, again whether it was something natural or intended, remained uncertain. His eyes wandered over the room, before falling upon the Twins again.

"I have nothing further to say. You look tired from your journey, Fabrin has a long gait...you have noticed." - He added half-seriously - "The inn has rooms, you saw what is outside - visitors are few, so make yourselves at home. Tell the innkeeper that the Captain sent you; we have an agreement with him. Half price, in exchange for the interest we draw."

He then turned his face towards one of the tables and called out a name, a young sandy-haired youth appeared.

"Geren" - the Captain began - "Go and find the Seneschal. Tell him to gather the rest of the Company. He is to bring them here by tomorrow night, no later."

He patted the lad on the shoulder and sent him away. When he turned towards the Twins again, it was obvious that he had nothing else to say.

The Twins knew a dismissal when they heard one and were grateful for this one. As the Captain had noted Fabrin did indeed have a long gait and they were exhausted and dirty. The only thing they’d tended to was their weapons the rest could wait. Approaching the inn keeper, Tuuli secured a room and a bath for each of them. Then the pair made the ascent to the upper floors in silence. They took turns bathing and changing out of their travel-stained clothes. It was not until they were enjoying a light meal of bread, cheese and ale before sleep that they finally took time to discuss the events of the last few hours.

Tuuli brushed out her long hair in preparation of braiding it once more. “Well? What do you think?”

Tuula didn’t have to ask who she was referring to. It was obvious. He finished shaving, feeling his chin for any whiskers he might have missed. “I don’t like him.” He stated bluntly. “But I probably will.”

Tuuli laughed softly. It was high praise indeed for her stoic brother. “La-La, you dislike everyone.”

Her childhood nickname for him made his face soften just a shade. “Perhaps. And I am usually right.”



Last edited by Kalon Ordona II on Tue Sep 13, 2011 4:58 am; edited 5 times in total
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Kalon Ordona II
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Re: Stories of Túlaman

Post by Kalon Ordona II on Mon Dec 20, 2010 8:45 pm

Sephiris: The Price of Peace

. : S'harahe's Story : . PART 2


~ Sehra-sithred S'harahe, a favorite to be the next ruler of Sakira-thani
dragon ; age 56 ; 7' ; white horns with a single black ring at the center of each ; white eyes ; slender ; wears black silk, and black rings on fingers and toes ; sensual and of surpassing beauty ; master magician ; status is higher than the elite of dragon society, among those worthy to rule ; speaks elvish ; benevolent, diligent, politically adept, has excellent memory ; intensely narcissistic, is jealous of and aspires to divinity ; overall: disciplined, confident, benevolent in her superiority.


. : Name : .
Full Name: Sehra-sithred S'harahe
Use Name: S'harahe to friends and family; Sehra-sithred S'harahe to members of the same caste; Sithred K'handrar to lower castes.
Other: Sithred K'handrar
Played by: Kalon_Ordona_II

. : Appearance : .
Height and Build: 7' ; slender
Description: S'harahe's skin is fair and cream-colored; she has spent much of her life indoors. Her eyes are white, and so are her horns, except for a single black ring in the center of each. With her slender female curves, coordinated physical coloring, and noble demeanor, S'harahe is considered a beauty among beauties.
Clothing: S'harahe normally wears imported silk. Her usual garments consist only of a single piece of cloth--and extensive length of black silk that wraps around her several times. One end of the cloth hangs in front of her left shoulder; the other end falls between her legs, almost to the floor. Her legs, her tail, her shoulders and arms and wings, her throat and part of her chest are all exposed. On special occasions, she will additionally wear behind her back a sheer, expansive, white, veil-like cloth attached to two onyx rings around the claw of each wing. Only the rings keep the cloth draped across her back, for ease of movement--and the light cloth is large enough even to accommodate flight while the wings are outstretched. In addition, S'harahe wears onyx rings on each of her fingers and toes, to match the natural black rings on her horns.
Weapons: S'harahe enjoys the luxury of a pampered princess--she has no training in physical combat. She has her voice, and therefore her magic, and that is all the weapon she will ever need.
Other: S'harahe almost never carries anything on her own--there are servants for that. However, if necessary, it is possible to conceal small, thin objects between the multiple wrappings of cloth that hides her nakedness, or even conceal them--rarely and only due to grave import--between the cloth and her smooth, delicate, perfect skin.
Impression: Dragons are already gracefully built and sensual by nature. S'harahe epitomizes these qualities; she is a captor and a delight to the eye (and also, in many cases, the groin) of the beholder, regardless of gender or race.

. : Heritage : .
Age: 56
Birthplace: Sakira-thani, Gandila--a large city situated in the center of Tanith-Ged Hi-Gadan (in human language: the 7,000 Stones Mts., except that "7,000" to dragons is "12,096" to humans).
Family: S'harahe is the eldest child of Higeth-makh Tenadar, age 90 and Sehra-higeth Mihsaha, age 86, both of the second-highest caste of dragon society. S'harahe herself has two siblings: Dregan-makh Thenaber, age 50, and Sehra-higeth Kirshena, age 48, who outranks her older brother Thenaber despite her younger age. The rest of S'harahe's family is virtually insignificant, since they belong to lower castes, and some are not even K'handrar, but mere K'harar--the next category down. S'harahe, belonging to the highest caste, outranks every other member of her family.
Inheritance: S'harahe's only real inheritance is the genes that allowed her to become what she is, and the teachings that inspire her to fulfill her potential.
Other: As a Sithred K'handrar, S'harahe has no need of connections or friends. S'harahe has endless admirers, but no lovers. It is commonly believed that S'harahe is destined to become the next ruler of Sakira-thani. Her highest role model, and her greatest rival, is none other than Sithred-makh Grendilkren himself.

. : Persona : .
Biography: S'harahe's vocal talent was recognized early on. Her entire childhood consisted of vocal exercises, training in magic, and instruction in politics. S'harahe was born a Sehra-dregan K'handrar; she was Higeth at age 20; by 40, she achieved Sithred status, the highest caste in dragon society. But being a Sehra-sithred was not enough for S'harahe, who throughout her life had been pushed to pursue high ambitions. Her personality complemented this discipline, since her wont was to set a new goal for herself as soon as she had accomplished the last. S'harahe put everything she was into everything she did. And so, once Sithred, S'harahe aimed higher yet. Abandoning her family, who by now were beneath her status and obsolete in their capacity for advice, moved from her home city of Gandila, straight to the capital of dragon lands: in Sakira-thani, in Sakira's Mountains, that great city named after the Dragon Queen of old: Sakira. There, S'harahe quickly rose in popularity and power. However, S'harahe is still not powerful enough to rival Sithred-makh Grendilkren, the ruler of Sakira-thani, whose powers were beyond legendary. Grendilkren has already ruled for one hundred and three years--utterly unheard of concerning any dragon, in any time. Most other rulers lasted between one and five years at most. Sakira herself, so long ago, reigned for only twenty-four years. Still, S'harahe continues to grow in skill, and, already considering future aspirations, has turned her face toward heaven, determined to conquer mortality itself.
Motivation: All dragons, it would seem, nowadays, love themselves more than they could ever love another. S'harahe is utterly absorbed in her own beauty, her own power, her own majesty. In her mind, she is already a goddess; in her mind, it is only a matter of time before the rest of the world comes to worship her divinity. She has no need to praise herself. S'harahe's all-consuming goal is to prove to the world the high destiny she already knows is hers.
Skills and Talents: S'harahe is a prodigious magician; her power is all but unrivaled throughout Telmar. S'harahe speaks very poor human, but is almost fluent in elvish. As for her native tongue, S'harahe is more than a master at wielding every dragon word in existence. Other than these, S'harahe's skills and talents are few. She is an extraordinary singer, and her knowledge of other kingdoms and political leaders even outside her own lands is extensive, but there is little else S'harahe has time for or cares about.
Strengths: benevolence, diligence, political savvy, detailed and reliable memory
Weaknesses: intense narcissism, jealousy of the divine, aspirations of divinity
Personality: disciplined, confident, benevolent in her superiority


Chapter One: Shadows from Light ~ CONTINUED


Sakira-thani > near the Khi-Taren River ~ DAY 19

The battle three nights previous had been fierce, a daunting display of dragon might and magic set against the pent-up frenzy of shadows lusting to kill. In the end, the dragons’ heightened mental fortitude saw them through. Though many suffered wounds, no dragon’s life was lost. Afterward, thanks to their recent stands through the night, they were able to tend their hurts before giving in to slumber. They woke at dawn the next day tired and raw, but morale was higher than ever.

The shadow beasts came again the night following, and the next, but though those battles too were perilous, the dragons were beginning to settle into a workable routine. Fight, heal, sleep, travel, gain strength, repeat. The shadows were beginning to hold less fear.

Then, on the third night, to everyone’s puzzlement, no shadows appeared. They had tried to remain awake, but without danger close at hand, slumber overcame them. After they woke, the controversy had lasted through the morning. This was the first night since the shadows appeared that the beasts did not attack their group. After several hours, wild speculation had gotten them nowhere, and S'harahe called an end to their talk before their doubts came to hurt their morale. They walked along the banks of the Khi-Taren river until, by the middle of the day, they reached the place where just upstream the river split into several tributaries, channels running together from springs up in the mountains. Here they paused so that the servants could spread snares in the river for fish.

S'harahe looked up at the overcast sky. In the open, the fresh breeze carried the scent of rain, blew coolly on the skin of her folded wings. In the same moment that it soothed her senses, it reminded her of cold places void of life. Her wound had healed without a scar, but however much she tried, she could not shake the feeling of vincibility that had plagued her these past four days. At the same time the shadow beasts were becoming little more than a routine challenge, her own self confidence was being called into question. What was magic when you could be slain by claw or dart, same as any beast? Changing one's own attributes was too complex to put into words, let alone have the energy to support. Similarly, any kind of sustained shield would be a constant drain, and the risk of not being able to dispel it in time was too great. If there had been words to nullify all hurts, it would long since have been discovered, and there would be no need for armor. Just as there was no word in their language for life or death, no devised combination of words had ever been able to heal instantly or prevent physical harm. The words were just not there.

S'harahe sat apart on the riverbank, trying to sort out the mess her mind was in. With nothing to do, no one to command, she was alone with these thoughts. Mishera was intimidated by her. Panis'hret had learned to keep his distance. Kaladar avoided her. The servants all thought of her with too much reverence. Slowly S'harahe drew her knees up to her throat, laid her long neck in the valley between her shins, rested her chin on her ankles. Her tail curved around over her feet, and her eyes closed. It wasn't supposed to be like this. She was sufficient in herself. She always had been.

Hetnan cendram mandra theldran, S'harahe told herself, teran tirme khazadd zera krag gen-seka mandra.
When I am divine, no one will ever harm or hinder me again.

With that thought to comfort her, that hope, that reminder of her decision that one day she would achieve divinity, she delved no deeper into her doubts. If any saw her they let her be, thinking perhaps that she was puzzling out the question of the shadows; and in any case she was still one of the most powerful dragons in Telmar. But there, alone, curled into herself, S'harahe never noticed her servants quietly form a circle for her privacy, never knew the passage of time, never felt the droplets of a precipitous drizzle wet on her wings and back. Only after all the other dragons had dined, and still S'harahe had not stirred, did some of her servants have the courage to intrude upon her thoughts, urging her to eat. The shape S'harahe unfolded from to stand seemed very small.

After eating with her servants, S'harahe gauged the time of day with no apparent concern. There were still a few hours before dark. She determined the group would travel until then.

She led them as before. While she commanded she was benevolent and thoughtful according to her own ideas about their welfare. And yet today she led them so imperiously, as if all the time she gazed down at them from a high tower, that even Panis'hret was uncharacteristically subdued. And all the while, somewhere deep inside, hidden and covered and out of sight, all S'harahe's doubts filtered down and congealed into a knot, a single certainty: she could lead her people, she could fight their battles, she could hold their loyalty, but no matter how high she climbed, no matter how powerful she became, no matter how much she achieved, she would never be truly loved. She would always be alone.

That night, rain fell.



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Re: Stories of Túlaman

Post by Kalon Ordona II on Mon Dec 20, 2010 8:46 pm

Sephiris: The Price of Peace

. : Barthon's Story : . PART 2


~ Sir Barthon Camlin, Knight of the Order of Gedrich
human ; age 43 ; 6'3" ; short blond hair ; bright amber eyes ; prominent scar starting at the hairline, centered over the right eye ; tall and muscular ; wears engraved, blue armor ; dual-wields arming sword and falchion ; appears commanding, intimidating, and righteous ; is popular in the Order of Gedrich ; is a prodigious knight ; possesses extensive theological knowledge ; unshakable in faith, loyal in friendship ; troubled by the loss of his parents, defending of his religion--to a fault ; overall: religious, rejecting to nonbelievers, utterly respectful to believers, thoughtful and slightly troubled.


. : Name : .
Full Name: Sir Barthon Camlin, of the Order of Gedrich
Use Name: Barthon
Other: Sir Camlin
Played by: Silvone Elestahr

. : Appearance : .
Height and Build: 6’3”, tall and muscular.
Description: Barthon has bright amber eyes, drawing him constant compliments as he grew older, and short blonde hair. His face has also garnered Barthon compliments and attention. A solid chin, with prominent cheek bones and soft set eyes, Barthon has the face of stone with eyes portraying a deep well of emotion. There is a prominent scar running deep into his hair, starting at the hairline on his forehead, centered over his right eye. A well-toned, strongly muscled body speaks of years of intense training. Several scars, large and small, that mark his arms and chest, are testimony to the battles Barthon has fought in. The mark of his Order is branded onto the skin of his right shoulder blade. The mark is a cracked dragon skull struck by three bolts of lightning, with the middle bolt, signifying Gedrich with the color of blue, more prominent than the other two, red and green, bolts. His skin is lighter than most humans, as Barthon is forbidden to remove his armor, with the exception of his helmet and gauntlets, unless resting in his own order’s barracks.
Clothing: Barthon does not wear any clothing except for small shorts and a tight wool shirt worn under his armor. Barthon’s armor, colored blue, is engraved along the edges with lines from the Sephiris religious texts. His shield depicts the same symbol as the brand on his shoulder. The helmet, with a thick visor carved in the form of dragon fangs, is topped with a blue plume. The chest plate is engraved with an important scene from their religion, the creation of the symbolic first human receiving the gift and burden of Righteousness from Sephiris, which the Order of Gedrich strives to uphold. Barthon’s gauntlets, lined with scripture, also have dragon bone inserted into the knuckle pieces, sharpened to a point for hand-to-hand combat. The bone symbolizes the defeat of the warlord Gsanarkath with the aid of his own daughter, Sakira. Each of his two swords scabbards are engraved with scripture concerning their willingness to uphold Righteousness at the cost of their own life.
Weapons: Barthon uses two swords. One is an arming sword, commonly referred to as a “knight’s sword.” Used for both cuts and thrusts in combat, the arming sword has excellent balance. The blade is two and a half feet in length, and the hilt, six inches long and making the sword three feet long in its entirety, is decorated with several symbols of the Sephiris religion.
The other sword is a falchion. Slightly less than two pounds in weight, with a blade two and a half feet in length, the falchion’s shape almost resembles a meat cleaver. But it combines the weight and power of an axe with the versatility of a sword. The hilt is carved with more holy scripture and the crossguard is gilded in gold.
Other: Barthon wears an amulet around his neck, under his armor, bearing the same mark as on his shoulder and shield. The amulet is silver, with the bolts colored accordingly and bordered by a blue circle. On the back are engraved the words “Sir Barthon Camlin of the Order of Gedrich, Righteous protector of the people of Sephiris.” Barthon also carries small pouches along his waist underneath his chest plate that contain maintenance supplies for his armor and weapons, as well as a lode stone for sharpening his blades. There is also a pouch for gold.
Impression: Barthon has a commanding presence. His armor alone is enough to show his conviction, but his stone set face and solid stare usually get him through most situations.

. : Heritage : .
Age: 43
Birthplace: Barthon Camlin was born in the city of Aram, on the south east side of the Blue Mountains, north east of the River Swift. The city was named after the prophet Aramis Sient, and has remained a prominent religious city in Mandor.
Family: Barthon was the son of a Knight of the Order of Gedrich, Aldor, and a castle maiden named Bellas. Barthon would later learn of an uncle living somewhere in Sephalia, but has yet to meet him.
Inheritance: Barthon was tutored initially by his father, and later by his father’s friend, Walter Drake, for induction into the Order of Gedrich. Barthon grew under his father’s shadow, but soon created a reputation of his own as a devote follower of their faith, and a Righteous Knight for the Order of Gredich. Barthon inherited his father’s armor, though he does not wear it. He instead keeps it in the Order barracks.
Other: Barthon has inherited his father’s popularity in the Order. There are many knights who would be willing to help him, as well as superiors, in the Order and the Church, who might aid him if they could.
Barthon had spent a significant amount of time with a woman from the lower orders of the church in Dor, though she returned there recently. He does not expect to see her again, though he thinks of her often.

. : Persona : .
Biography: Barthon’s parent's romance was kept secret for a number of years, until his mother, Bellas, became pregnant at the age of 25. His father, Aldor, nearly lost his standing in the Order, but was allowed to quickly marry Bellas before their son, Barthon, was born. Because of his high standing in the Order, their wedding ceremony was very ornate and expensive, and the bishop of Aram himself attended.
Aldor died of a sickness at the age 38 when Barthon was only seven. He had just begun his tutelage under his father for his induction into the Order. His tutelage was then passed to a friend of his fathers, Walter Drake. His mother died the following year, of what everyone told Barthon was a broken heart. Barthon would learn as an adult that his mother had committed suicide.
Barthon would continue on in his training to become a very high-standing knight of the Order, beginning his knighthood at 18. He was awarded the Amulet of the Order at the age of 39, a rare achievement for a knight so young, for his devotion to the ways of the Order and their faith. Barthon has just received orders from his superiors that they have a quest of utmost importance for him.
Motivation: Barthon is motivated by his father’s own reputation, as well as his devotion to his faith.
Skills and Talents: Barthon has trained for years as a knight of the Order of Gedrich. He has been trained in a variety of weapons and combat forms, though he prefers fighting with two swords, a falchion and an arming sword. He has had experience as a leader, though he knows when and how to follow orders. He has also had extensive education in their religion, and has read most of the scriptures and memorized the religious symbols and historical scenes and engravings.
Strengths: Barthon’s devotion to his faith and Order, and their code of upholding Righteousness, will carry him to sacrifice his own life if necessary. He is a devoted friend to anyone who upholds honor and faith, or who has displayed acts of kindness and deserves it in turn.
Weaknesses: Barthon carries an emotional burden from the deaths of his parents. He is also extremely devoted to his faith and Order. Slights against either are often enough to enrage him and cause him to act rashly. But Barthon is also known to be very sensitive at times; though he doesn’t open up to anyone he hasn’t known for a good length of time.
Personality: Barthon is a very religious man, and he has had extensive military training. He has little patience for people who don’t take him or his faith seriously. But he has utmost respect for anyone who simply takes the time out of their day to practice their devotion to their faith with the simple daily rituals practiced by the church. He carries an emotional burden from losing his parents, despite his strict military upbringing. This “softness” often earns him ridicule from his own friends of the Order.


Chapter One: Shadows from Light ~ CONTINUED


Mandor > Dor > Entertainment District > The Three Pigs ~ night of DAY 4

The Entertainment District was quite different when seen at night than when seen during the light of day. It was emptier, for one thing. Barthon had grown used to the bustle and the noise that filled the district every time he had visited it. It was something new, and perhaps unsettling, to find the place so quiet. Yet, as it was in the Northwind District, the taverns were filled with late-night drinkers and conspirators.

One of the taverns in particular, with a sign of three pigs holding mugs dripping with ale, was filled with patrons loudly talking and jostling each other. That was where Ten Eych led them. Barthon sighed, inwardly chiding himself for having such faith in his new party of friends. For being supposedly honest people, they tended to enjoy the most raucous crowds. He wasn't particularly sure he wasn't breaking any codes he had sworn to honor by being here, following this group rather than leading them to the nearest guard house. But this was what was required of him to find Zephiris. It wasn't a job he could do on his own. They each had skills he could utilize on the quest, and if it came down to fighting, the more arms he had holding weapons the better.

Ten Eych led them into the tavern, somehow maneuvering his large bulk between the crowds of people that lined the entrance. They moved away less easily for Barthon than they did for Ten Eych, but he restrained himself from getting angry. These people knew they were taunting an upholder of the law, and they knew by his company that he wasn't here to do anything about it.
Inside, the tavern was just as crowded. Ten Eych stopped for a moment and looked around. His gazed stopped on a table near the center of the room. Only one man was sitting there, a large plate piled high with food in front him. When Barthon got a good look of his face, he understood why he was sitting alone. His face was marked by deep scars, more like pits than anything else. The man was seriously ugly. Barthon didn't normally judge people by their looks, but he could understand why this man would be avoided by others.

Having spotted the man, Ten Eych moved straight toward him. Barthon did his best to follow through the crowd, with the rest of the group just behind.
"Brenard san Deccour, the last of our entourage," Ten said. "If you have finished eating, we should be heading out."

Barthon looked around at his companions, almost shaking his head at the strangeness of it. He would be traveling with a burly man of the mountains, a man with previous military experience and a currently unknown occupation, a woman of very shady intentions who he would normally not associate himself with, a gambler, a priest, and now this scarred man. Barthon was sure it would prove to be an interesting journey.


Mandor > Dor > Entertainment District > The Three Pigs ~ pre-dawn of DAY 5

Barthon spoke up before any of the others could answer. He was tired of playing by their games. If they wanted his help on this hunt, they could follow him and his orders. He was, after all, an upholder of the laws of Mandor, as well as its moral guidelines.
"We'll be heading straight for the Blue Mountains. It was Ten's idea, but I happen to agree with him." For once, Barthon noticed, relieved, Jasper didn't offer up an argument against him. Perhaps he was realizing Barthon's intent not to be lead around by the nose any longer. "We should leave immediately."
“The Blue Mountains?” Brenard shrugged. “As good a start as any, I suppose.” A slight breeze twisted the rim of his wide-brimmed hat. “It smells of rain on the morrow.”
"Let's hope not. That will hamper our progress." Barthon stared up at the sky as he spoke, but the twin moonlight all but washed out the stars anyway. If there were any rain clouds out, he would know by morning. "Simion and I must head back to the Silverlight Inn to get our horses. We will all meet outside the north gate within the hour."
"Who died and put you in charge?" Inen asked as she crossed her arms, spreading her feet apart in a stance that said she wasn't moving.
"Not now, Inen!" Jasper said harshly. "I apologize, Barthon. But she isn't used to taking orders. I know you are used to giving them, but we work together under the assumption that no one is technically in charge of any of us."
"You are outlaws, then."
"Now listen here...!" Ten Eych exclaimed, pointing a finger at Barthon.
“Outlaws?" Brenard asked, more calmly than Ten Eych. "No. We do what needs to be done. No more, no less.”

Barthon smiled. These were men who considered themselves above the common law. They considered it their right to do what was in the best interest of them and theirs. Barthon knew he would have a problem with that, under normal circumstances, but he was certain he would be following those same principles before the hunt was over. "Fair enough," he said simply. "Then, if you wouldn't mind," he said as he bowed toward Inen, "I think it would be prudent that we meet outside the north gates within the hour. The sun will soon be rising, and with it all of Zephiris' 'chosen'."
Inen actually smiled at Barthon, though he wasn't sure if it was forced. "That's better."

Mandor > on the road just north of Dor ~ dawn of DAY 5

The group traveled north in near silence, following the wide road as the sun's first rays slowly began to shine over the far eastern horizon. Simion was laying over the neck of his palfrey, fast asleep. Barthon held the small horses reins in his right hand, and his own destrier's in his left. Jasper, Ten Eych, and Inen rode ahead of Barthon and Simion, while Brenard, Cid, and Quentin followed behind. The two groups chattered among themselves quietly, though Brenard was happy to be left out of it. He was never one for unnecessary conversation, and he preferred to watch the three ahead of him, to learn of them indirectly through reliable, simple observation.

Suddenly Simion reared up from his palfrey, falling off behind it. Barthon yanked on the reins of the horses to stop them, and quickly dismounted. He ran toward Simion's still form on the ground. The boy's eyes were open, but he seemed stunned. Likely the fall had knocked the air out of him.
"Are you alright, boy?" Barthon asked while lifting him up to a sitting position. "What's gotten into you? You had more sense in your head when we left Aram."
"It was a dream, Barthon," Simion whispered, still trying to catch his breath. "I had a strange dream."
"Well, it's over now. Get back on your horse." Barthon helped Simion get back to his palfrey and remount. The others were not far away, all of them staring silently. Barthon remounted without another word.
"It wasn't just a dream," Simion said, looking intently at Barthon. "It was different."
"You know, Simion, you haven't addressed me properly since the branding yesterday."
"We are all equal here. We are all Chosen."
"Semantics, Simion," Barthon said. "If you want to consider yourself equal among us, then sleep when we sleep, and ride when we ride. There is no need to fall off your horse to sleep on the side of the road."
"You aren't listening to me, Barthon!" The tone in Simion's voice when he said the knight's name made Barthon want to hit him. "I...sensed her. In my dream. I don't think she is here."
"'Here' where? Where else would she be?" Barthon didn't know what to make of the boy's supposed dream. Dreams were just dreams, but Zephiris was powerful, and who could say what her intentions were.
"I sensed something, or some place, bigger than here. Bigger than what we are. There were others involved."
"Bigger, eh?" Ten Eych had slowed enough to have heard their conversation. "The Blue Mountains are pretty big, young knight, very tall. I wouldn't count it out just yet."
Simion just glared at the man, but he didn't respond. "We aren't going beyond our borders, Simion. If she isn't here, it is beyond our jurisdiction to find her."
"But it is not beyond your faith, or your devotion. You are traveling with 'outlaws' for a reason." Jasper looked back over his shoulder as he spoke, slowing down to close the distance. "I know that you would do anything to find Zephiris. I know that you will. You will find her."
"And how would you know that, Jasper?" Barthon asked, thoroughly disgusted with the man's constant word games. "Did you have dreams too?" Barthon couldn't keep the sarcasm out of his voice, and the hurt look on Simion's face told him that he had lost a bit of respect in the boy's eyes.
"No," Jasper responded. "No dreams for me. But I know the type of person you are. That is enough." Jasper waved a hand toward Simion. "Come, young knight, and tell me of your dream."
Despite Barthon's anger, he let the boy go. Would he take it upon himself to risk causing a war in the name of Zephiris? Did he want that honor that badly? They would cross that bridge when they came to it, he decided. They were heading to the Blue Mountains first. And they would search those mountains very thoroughly.



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Re: Stories of Túlaman

Post by Kalon Ordona II on Mon Dec 20, 2010 8:46 pm

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