The Young Elf
Posted 12 October 2005 - 02:43 PM
Posted 12 October 2005 - 03:16 PM
In his mind, the unicorn allowed himself a chuckle. Humans never did seem to have the stomach for speed. Amusement faded to sorrow though, as he considered what it would be like to never dance among the stars. 'If the human wont see the beauty around him, perhaps he can feel it instead' he thought, and leapt into the air.
Amadi felt queasy as his steed executed a giant somersault, as if it were an acrobat in the circus. He forced his head up from the creature's back and stared in amazement as he saw they were in fact flying! The shock was such that he failed to notice a small piece of paper work its way out of his satchel and flutter off into the night.
Posted 13 October 2005 - 12:16 PM
"Great. My day has just gotten worse. My treasure hunt was a failure and the baron will probably skin me alive, I'm in the middle of this dark forest, jumping at my own shadow with no apparent reason, and on top of that I've got a girl on my tail who needs to go to some city or other. It's folly."
"My dear girl", Mark said seemingly distracted, "you're free to do as you please. I can't force you to follow me, nor do I intend to do so. I, myself, have pressing business in Kiz-Rah."
"Pressing business indeed." Mark thought, "I have to explain to the baron that there's no treasure, and hope not to be cut up as a liar."
Mark continued:" Besides, what city do you want to go to? Eilendi? Maera? Kon-Varan? Tis-March? Ironpass? Southlake? Longun?"
He paused and with a playful glint in his eye he added: "Also, you look like you might need an escort. If that's the case, I'm open for hire... What say you?"
Posted 13 October 2005 - 06:20 PM
Posted 14 October 2005 - 02:47 AM
"The world needs more bright people. My life would be so much easier if I didn't have to put with numbskulls day in and day out. It's a good thing. " Mark thought. "Besides, she knows something she's not telling. I'm always interested in mysteries. More often than not there's treasure at the end of each mystery."
"Well then if you're ready, so am I. You may pay me whatever you see fit at the end of the journey. My policy is to make sure my customer is happy. After all, a happy customer is better than anything. It helps business. Now ... you mentioned mister Fabron, but you don't seem to know the name of the city he lives in."
Mark paused briefly.
"I don't know any person by this name. I'd go to Ironpass City Records to find out about people I don't know if I were you. I heard their City Records hall is impressive and they have scrolls, parchments and papyri hundreds of years old gathered from all over the world. Ironpass is way north however ... through the desert... And too far away to reach by foot. Maera is closer and they have caravans trading with Ironpass. We might be able to hitch a ride with them. Trouble is, those stuck-up merchants don't trust anyone who's not a merchant. And there's a hefty fee to be paid at the Merchant's Guild in Maera to receive a trading license. In addition, we'll need some goods to trade and camels or horses to carry the goods before we're eligible for the license. Do you have any of this things? We're going nowhere otherwise. Unless..."
Mark stopped for a moment deep in thought before continuing.
"No, that's too risky. Do you have any other ideas? After all, you're my employer."
Posted 14 October 2005 - 03:54 PM
Posted 14 October 2005 - 05:02 PM
There was a mining party leaving the City today, and he wondered if he should head down to the labour exchange to try and get a place on one of the gangs. Times were hard for this old dwarf, and he could use the cash. He was the resident entertainment in the "Shove", as the pub was affectionately known to its patrons, partly as an abbreviation of its real name, and partly because of its reputation as the roughest drinking establishment this side of the lithosphere. It hadn't always been that way. Back in the day he'd have his audience so enthralled with tales of his former life on the Topside - slaying demons, bedding beardless women and of course huge piles of treasure - that no-one had time to swing an axe. That seemed like an age ago, however. People didn't have time for a little magic fantastic in their lives anymore. It was all about money, how to make it and how to spend it. The tips had pretty much dried up and he was down the last few sovereigns from his once plentiful treasure chest.
The party would be away from the City for about a month, and he'd surely lose his job at the Shove. Maybe it was time for a change though. He had to admit he'd been feeling a bit restless lately and this could be just what he needed to bring him out of the rut he was in.
'Nothing ventured, nothing gained...', he thought as he laced up his boots and headed out the door.
Posted 14 October 2005 - 06:16 PM
The landscape had changed quite dramatically now. Instead the lush forest they'd left behind, they were now surrounded by craggy, snow-capped mountains and barren boulder fields. Although the sun was well on its way to being up it was still rather dark at ground level, and there was a heavy mist in the air from the nearby mountain lakes. Amadi couldn't really see where they were heading, but he was comforted by the unicorn's swift progress as it began to climb a path up one of the peaks. Soon they would enter the caves that lead to the vast network of underground tunnels that eventually lead to the City.
The vast entrance to the tunnels looked much like any other cave, but after about a mile of walking the walls became smoother and were almost perfectly vertical - not formed by subterranean rivers, but by dwarven mining teams. This was after all the primary trade route to the largest settlement of dwarves known to exist, and its inhabitants were keen make the journey as hassle free as possible. The City was frequently visited by nomadic merchants who bartered food and clothes for metal ores and precious stones, and it got it's rather unglamorous moniker from the inability of most of the traders to pronounce its dwarven name, long since forgotten. Since the tunnels were designed for trade wagons they were quite spacious and the gradient was shallow, but since the City was a good distance below the surface they did go on for miles, gradually winding their way deeper and deeper underground. There was still a long way to go.
Posted 16 October 2005 - 12:57 AM
"Well then, I guess I'll see where this leads. I'm in no particular hurry to get anywhere, and I've been waiting for a good excuse to go to Ironpass for quite some time now. Just didn't figure a few books and scrolls were a good reason... until now."
Mark got his backpack adjusted and said cheerfuly.
"Well then, off to Maera we go. It's a good 2 days of walking from here, or less if we're lucky to meet any trader that goes that way and lets us hitch a ride in his cart."
The sun was getting high on the sky as the two adventurers reached the less dense part of the forest. There were no further incidents during the morning, save the fact that Mark lost his footing on a slippery stream rock and took a unscheduled bath. Elleith laughed as Mark impaled her with a venomous scowl, not at all happy that he will have to walk wet the rest of the day. Good thing it was a warm day. But now, as noon aproached, they were out of the dark forest, and into a pleasant glade so much different from the heavy woods. Even Mark lightened up a little, even though he still felt some icy barbs tingling his spine, but dismissed them on the account of wetnees. As they were looking for someplace to camp for lunch, they suddenly stopped as they caught sight of an strange event unfolding before their eyes.
Posted 16 October 2005 - 07:43 PM
A small wagon loaded with various rolls of fabric stood at an odd angle among the trees with a short, bearded man beside it. Apparently the wagon axis was bumped on a particularly nasty rock during the travel and one of the wheels became lose. The sturdy man with a huff lowered the wagon into the right position muttering.
Posted 18 October 2005 - 10:51 AM
"Damnation. I should have thought of that before. Although it might work to our advantage..."
"'ello mate. Pete's th' name. Me an' my sister 'ere were going to Maera. Could we hithch a ride wif you? We come from Longun, on th' other side of this damnable forest and we're dead tired. We've been walking fer 10 days, y'know." Mark said trying to mime the accent of a swarthy Longun seaman. He wasn't sure if he succeded, but the dwarf was too old or tired or bored to care and motioned them to hop into the cart.
Not waiting any second invitation both adventurers hopped in the cart as the dwarf muttered something about some donkey skin belts. Giving a crack from the whip, the dwarf put the cart into motion.
"Not a very talkative fellow. But most dwarves aren't... unless drunk.". Mark smiled as he remembered the one time Grahdur, his companion man(dwarf)-at-arms, got drunk and tried to haggle his way into bed with two barwenches. Needless to say, he was chasen all over Chateau-Blanc by angry women, until he lost them by falling into a ditch and instantly passing out. No one could find him until morning when he stumbled into the barracks half dressed, dirty and smelling of alcohol. Of course, it took a whole barrel of the strongest ale to make Grahdur drunk in the first place, since dwarves are especially resistant to alcohol. "Ah those were the days. I almost miss being a knight..."
Mark snapped out of his daydreaming as the trees started to get more sparse and the dirty forest trails converged into well-used dirt roads. The soil became visibly more sandy as they were aproaching the Great Northern Desert. It was still a long way to go to Maera, but assuming there would be no more troubles, they would be in Maera by noon tommorow. They had all the time in the world.
Posted 18 October 2005 - 12:46 PM
Her brooding stopped when the cart made it out of the boundareis of the forest. There was now a securily identified village road but cart tracks and hove prints in the dirt. Few settlements and huts surrounded the road. The air felt different, more dusty and less rich and free much unlike in the forest. They were riding all day long until the road ahead began to darknen as night crept in. When dim lights showed ahead of them the cart turned into that direction moving off the road.
"I'm stopping at the Brewing Inn." The dwarf finally spoke to them. "Ever since our old governor, devil won't take his soul for even in hell he would not be tolerated, installed his so called guard, the roads at night at full of bandits. The honest folk can only travel by day." He was apparently still upset over the delay and perhaps something else that happened earlier in his day. "Keep in mind. I rise early so if you aren't beside my cart tomorrow I'm leaving withou you." He warned them.
Posted 25 October 2005 - 07:56 AM
Minutes gave way to hours as one by one the line got shorter - well, it was shorter from Fabron's perspective, but it continued to grow behind him. Some of the candidates were being taken inside the labour exchange building - no doubt to fill out an endless pile of insurance forms, others were sent on their way as they were either too inexperienced or had no mining license. The Miner's Union had so much red tape these days it was almost impossible for someone new to enter the industry.
After several hours, the monotony of waiting was broken slightly as a pair of buxom young ladies streaked past the queue, closely persued by a member of the city watch. Of course the lawman wasn't trying too hard to apprehend them - this was a ritual that took place every time a mining party was being assembled, and the last person to arrest a streaker found himself spending the night in the city jail! The miners whooped and cheered at the girls as they jogged past, blowing kisses at their audience, then the policeman recieved some light-hearted boo's as he rather comically tried to keep his distance from the girls whilst pretending to catch them up. All too soon however, the pantomime was over and it was back to waiting.
Finally Fabron found himself next in line for interview, but just as he was retrieving his rather ancient paperwork from a deep trouser pocket, the union representative closed the doors of the exchange and announced that all positions had been filled.
'Bloody hell, you just rejected that last fella!' Fabron challenged. 'I'm sorry sir, but there's no use arguing. We have our full quota for the expedition.' came the reply. The young dwarf - too young for a position as union rep, Fabron thought - used polite enough words, but the sneer on his face suggested he was taking far too much pleasure in this. No use trying to press the point though. Folk like these usually got their jobs by being related to a councillor and were as untouchable as an ogre's topknot. Heaving a heavy sigh, Fabron contemplated his next move.
Posted 25 October 2005 - 08:11 AM
Carefully approaching the cart, he unravelled one of the rolls of material and placed a small pouch of money inside before putting it back exactly as before. He then embedded an arrow in the cloth, not so deep as to ruin the stock, but enough to hold it in place until morning. He knew the dwarf would check his goods before departing in a place as crime-ridden as this, and he hoped the message would get through - take them to the city and be rewarded with gold, or the next arrow would find a less inanimate target.
Posted 25 October 2005 - 02:52 PM
The inn's tavern was dirty and full of smoke. Wooden walls were almost black with age and the tables were as rickety as they looked to have suffered numerous clashed with several blunt objects. Mark had little doubt that those were, in fact, human skulls, but the thought of that just made him smile. The inn had a strict no-weapon-allowed policy just for this reason and he felt a little naked, should any of his drinking neighbours start a fight. His jeweled greatsword was very well hidden in the merchant's cart though, and even if someone found it, they would find themselves in a very "shocking" position, should they attempt to wield it. He was more concerned with local rumors, and the news passed back and forth.
The tavern was fiiled with disgruntled merchants, weird looking travellers, and questionable characters, even more questionable than the usual tavern riff-raff. Looking around he noticed a couple of individuals who were playing "Dag Knives" at a handing Dag board. He smiled, recognising the mark of the Maera Thieves' Guild, since all its 'active' members had to be skilled in the throwing of daggers. He knew that on occasion, one of their members would play assasin for a well-paying customer. Most of the time, the targets would be found dead with a thrown dagger piercing their throat.
"These fools are playing with fire. If the Assasin's Guild deems them a threat to their 'business' they could end up ... "
Mark shuddered. While he was aware of the political implication of the involvement of the Thieves' Guild in the affairs of the kingdom, he was not so foolish to underestimate the Assassin's Guild. Even the corrupt law could not stop an mass assassination of influential Thieves' Guild members, should a Guild War begin. The only thing that stopped this from happening was the unwillingness of the Assasin's Guild to start a potentially costly war, as the Thieves Guild controlled most of the trade in the southern kingdom.
"I should pay the Thieves' Guild a visit when I'm free. I think I might 'liberate' some forgeries. We'll need all the help we can get. Also, I might obtain some funds to help our little trip. Besides, it wouldn't hurt giving the law some dirty laundry to deal with either."
Mark smiled. The Thieves' Guild grew too large and mostly lost its purpose. Their members were now nothing more than a rag-tag team of con-artists, counterfeiters, embezzlers, fences, solicitors and other assorted pencil-pushers in addition to some thugs, brigands, highwaymen and assasins. There were too few good thieves in it now. Entering and exiting their office shouldn't be too much of a problem, provided he wouldn't attact too much attention to himself while in Maera. He was known as an freelance thief, and, therefore, not well seen.
Suddenly, a nearby patron standed up and arms flailing violently he tried to smash another person's skull. Apparently they were arguing about a lady's doubtful morality, but Mark payed no attention to it, thinking that love affairs were below his level of interest. Until now... The fight quickly started to spread, the alcohol with which many of the patrons were imbued with helping fuel the rage.
"I'm too old for this[i]" Mark thought, dodging an chair while sprinting towards the door. He jumped over several tumbled bodies and broken tables while avoiding makeshift weapons. Crashing into the door with his shoulder he tumbled outside, rolling over several times before stopping into a solid oak tree.
"[i]Yes, definetly too old." he thought as he stood up shaking, bruised and battered.
Rubbing his bruises he limped towards the merchant's cart they came with, hoping to get a little rest on the cloth while the hotheads in the tavern calmed down. As he aproached, he suddenly felt something was not right, but the feeling quickly went away. However, there was an arrow in a roll of cloth, too carefully placed to have been fired from a bow. Curious, he pulled out the arrow. Precise craftmanship, slender lines and ellegant decorations hinted at the fact that its maker, if not elven himself, knew elven fletching quite well. Puzzled, he reached to remove his greatsword from underneath the rolls of cloth when a jingle caught his ear. A bag of gold tumbled from inside a roll of fabric. The same roll in which the arrow was placed. Not realising what all this meant, but suspecting foul play on the part of the dwarf, Mark strapped his sword to his back, tossed the arrow and the bag of coins into his backpack and not caring about personal safety, rushed into the tavern. Avoiding the fighters who seemed to have calmed down a little after some cracked skulls and bloodied noses, he rushed up the stairs and barged into the girl's room without knocking.
"Get ready. We're leaving. NOW."
Posted 25 October 2005 - 07:44 PM
Posted 26 October 2005 - 03:36 AM
Yet, a sense of guilt began to overwhelm him . Maybe it was nothing. Maybe it had nothing to do with them. Maybe it was a personal message delivered to the dwarf. But for every rational possibility, his gut screamed against it. It had everything to do with them. Maybe it wasn't urgent or life threatening, but it sure was dangerous. He would be feeling safe only when in Maera or the desert. He always felt at home when in cities or in the open wilderness. He hated forests, swamps, jungles, caves and dungeons, especially when in unfamiliar territory. It was a base military tactic: "When fighting an unknown enemy, pick your fight in a familiar landscape, or at the very least where he can't take cover.". He remembered his tactical maneouvers instructions at the academy.
As Elleith started to say something, Mark suddenly paused. There was a bat flying his way? Or ...? Trying to pierce the midnight darkness he extended a hand and caught ...
A piece of paper.
Posted 26 October 2005 - 09:53 AM
A note! Rubbing her eyes Elleith walked around him to take a look and nearly gasped. She recognised the same rumpled paper, same handwriting, same formulas and words inacurately scattered over it. She looked upwards almost hoping to find the unicorn gliding through the sky but nothing was there. Nevertheless the find was encouraging. It meant the man she was trying to catch up with passed in this direction. Mark however didn't seem to share the enthusiasm glaring around like there were enemies under every rock and bush ready to spring at them. "What do you make of it?" Elleith asked still uncertain whether she should tell him.
Posted 27 October 2005 - 01:55 PM
"Well", Mark said borrowing the face of a learned scholar, "I'd say it's a piece of paper." He could barely hold himself from bursting into laughter. However, his smile quickly melted as he ran his eyes over the words and formulae written there. Despite the midnight darkness, he could make out rows upon rows of strange symbols many of which resembled elongated 'S'. There was something peculiar about the paper too. It was exceptionally high quality, and not something he'd seen in all his years of adventuring. All that and the girl's interest in it made him think that it bore a certain importance to the mystery he was a part of.
"Let's make camp." Mark said pointing with his head towards a nearby rocky hill. "We'll make camp up there. No one will be able to sneak up on us. There's brigands out here." The proximity of the desert made trees and bushes sparse, and Mark was confident that there wouldn't be anything sneaking up on them if they kept their eyes open. "I'll take the first watch. I'll wake you up in 4 hours to exchange me. We'll talk about this in the morning." Mark said while tucking the piece of paper in the backpack, next to the other scrolls and maps.
While Elleith was making arrangements to sleep upon the otherwise hard sandy ground, Mark took his role seriously and started to patrol around the campsite.
"It's going to be a very long night."
Posted 27 October 2005 - 06:11 PM
Posted 30 October 2005 - 07:15 AM
By and by he came to the bridge, the same one he crossed almost every day. Strange noises were coming from underneath the bridge. They sounded like .. rocks, being knocked together. Intrigued, and a little bit bleary eyed, he climbed down the bank. That is, he tried to, at least. His footing gave way, and he fell into the streamlet at the bottom with a resounding splash. Great, he thought. In trouble again. Then something happened to make him forget about his wet clothes. A troll, obviously the source of the recent sounds which a distant part of his brain registered as having stopped, stepped out from under the bridge. It sort of lumbered out. Great, he thought. Trolls eat people. My troubles are over. He wondered if he would be eaten all at once, or a bit at a time. Strangely, it didn't seem to matter.
Posted 03 November 2005 - 09:32 AM
As the stars started to wane announcing the aproaching dawn, he went to awaken Elleith. Despite his tiredness he instructed the girl in what to watch out for, how to keep awake, and to wake him should something urgent happen. After that he crumbled to the ground and no sooner he put his head down on his trusty backpack he fell asleep in a dreamless void.
Posted 03 November 2005 - 01:14 PM
Posted 04 November 2005 - 05:31 AM
Posted 06 December 2005 - 07:00 AM
"This is the story of dual boot horseless, the bandit," he said. The troll nodded solemnly.
I like it in the hills
The sheriff wants me dead
But soon I'll slay his pretty wife
When they are in their bed.
I'm mean, and lean, and never have enough.
I'm dual boot horseless, and i'm tough."
He's a dirty stinkin thievin man
he'll take yer boots and kill ya if he can
He didn't have a father, he didn't have a mother
He's dual boot horseless, and he's tough."
"workin' is for mugs ai say
You make their gold and they take it away.
Those are the people that I like best
With me sword through their chest.
I work alone
and steal what I can
If I like yer boots
then yer halfway dead already.
Noticing a funny wheezing sound, Jesq refocused his attention. The troll's eyes were half crinkled up, and his chest was heaving, a fascinating sight. It took him a moment to realise the troll was laughing. The grating voice issued from the maw that was the troll's mouth; a glint of teeth showed, huge, able to chew up small boys... he stopped thinking with an effort, and drew himself back to what the troll was saying.
"Good ... good ...", the words issued slowly, haltingly. Well, at least he wasn't dead. The troll beckoned him. Under the bridge ? Sure, that's a great idea, he thought. Into the spider's web, no worries. The troll's huge, platelike feet had no trouble gaining a grip on the mossy bank; they made their own traction, sinking into the soily, sandy loam. He followed carefully.