Words as Recorded
“Five brothers… three are dead, one has become something I’d rather not think about. The other one is me.” – Pinthar, Oracle of Bansu.
You fool; Arriack’s land is dead and full of memories.
You fool; Arriack’s land is full of dead memories…
This wasn’t home.
“Pox, where are we?”
Two voices, one questioning and wary, the other metallic and faint, both alien to this world. It was the metallic of the two that answered.
*at the moment unable to coordinate. tracking systems indicate that we are no longer on tensure*
‘Obviously.’ The six distinct shadows cast at his feet had alerted him to that fact already.
They weren’t supposed to be here; that much he already knew. Something had gone wrong; the brilliant yellow glow surrounding them only confirmed it. ‘If this were Tensure the sky would be deep purple, with scarlet sands rippling in blinding brilliance beneath…’
Confused, he tried once more to grasp the situation before him.
Fact of the matter was, this place didn’t reassemble anything he had ever seen before. In fact, the only example he could even think of was Terra, some 140 parsecs towards the Rim. And according to every record he had ever seen, Terra was nothing more than a charred orb orbiting a singular Class O star.
With an audible sigh his visor faded from view, causing his nictitating membranes to clamp down over his milky white eyes. He raised one hand to further shield them.
*atmospheric and environmental readings, nominal*
Reaching out he placed a hand over the six-sensor array of Pox, his environ unit. “Anything else?” he asked.
*not that I can detect*
Turning, he allowed his eyes to wander over the eight-legged metal arachnid at his side. “You do realize that our lives are rarely this simple, that if we are here and not back home…” the rest of what he wanted to say he left unfinished.
With a sound like thunder, the environ unit retreated further into stasis. In the moment that followed, a solitary figure remained on the smoldering hillside.
The land before him played out flat and featureless; a long series of boundless plains carpeted with knee high grass. In the far distance, what he judged to be the direction north, were hills leading further towards a range of mountains. Directly behind him lay sparser grass, broken shards of rock and further barren plains-
His revere was broken by a faint hiss, as his armor once more patterned itself after the world he now indwelled, dressing him in the all too familiar folds of protective tension mail and mesh. With a grin he closed his eyes, taking the time to run his fingers through his hair, tucking strands of it behind his angled and somewhat pointed ears.
‘I could learn to love a place like this,’ he began, ‘not as hot as my own world, or as crowded.’ Tensure’s three azure suns had burned his people’s skin coal black and their hair nearly colorless. Compare it to this world, where the ground actually seemed to breathe life, cool air and moisture. In the distance and all around came to him the sounds of life, chirping, clicking, and larking.
In retrospect, Tensure was a graveyard.
“If I were to muster out of the cadre, I’d do well to find a place like this. Just enough out of the way, hidden from the Extreme…”
*you may not have to wait* Pox interrupted.
With a moment’s hesitation his armor began to re-pattern once again, this time outfitting him in a short sleeved tunic and long thick pants. Beneath these he still wore the familiar, always present, tension mesh.
By his side Pox’s arachnid-form still crouched in stasis, the confluence of his presence, as well as his own confluence, distorting the jaundiced light and landscape around them.
*hostile life form indicated*
“Meaning what,” he asked? And in that moment he was someone and someplace else- with some effort he returned. Little would be gained if he were to replay his past, at the moment they appeared to be in danger. “Can you at least give me a tactical,” he inquired? With this he turned to face what could possibly be an adversary-
Only to see nothing… at least nothing he could readily identify or classify as a threat. Only more barren plains dotted with squat, evenly spaced structures on the horizon.
*unable*, Pox began before ceasing. *unable to quantify at the moment*
“That doesn’t make any sense,” he said, giving his companion a questioning stare, “To change our appearance while perceiving no imminent danger.”
Pox responded with what would have been a mental shrug- if a machine could shrug.
“And that’s it?”
“Can you at least tell me why we are here, what we are supposed to be doing?”
Resigned to the fact that, at the moment, they appeared to be stranded, and sensing no further communication between him and his machine, his lifeline to home, he decided to strike out towards the east, away from Pox’s perceived danger of earlier. Walking would give him some time to think.
Besides, at the moment he may appear to be both lost and confused, but he wasn’t stupid. Sooner or later he would figure this place out. Also, unless he could find something familiar there would be no return home trip, or anywhere for that matter, an absolute fact in jump-to-navigation.
The only real question left to ask then, was ‘why he had been brought here to begin with?’ A question he had no immediate answer to, but one that desperately needed answering.
On the Watchtower
‘A miserable life sucking hell,’ the man thought, while shading his eyes and peering over the wind blasted and worn battlement. In the distance, beyond the border, lay the blasted and lifeless wastes of the Great Expanse, an empty desert like land of cooking sands, relentless heat and hopelessness. Ribbons of heat radiated upwards from the land bringing the illusion of wetness, movement and mirage.
Giving vent to his frustration, he turned his back to this bleak scene and slowly allowed himself to slide down the wall till he was seated on his rump. Sweat seemed to roll off his brow like rain, running the furrows and lines of his sunburned and weathered face. In a haphazard fashion, he wiped the sweat from his eyes, running his hand over his stubbly chin and neck. “I swear,” he began, cursing his god, people and nation. “I spend one more year out here, one more day, and I’m going to kill somebody.”
If only there was someone else about to hear him. For the past year and a half he’d been stationed here, pretty much exiled to the ends of the earth, only to keep watch over the Great Expanse… “The same as watching nothing,” he exclaimed. “And all for what… love of duty, sense of honor?” ‘There must be worse duties,’ he thought, but at the moment he couldn’t think of any.
‘This place is like a bump on the arse of the world.’
The watchtower he commanded, one of a hundred or so, lined the last remaining boundary between what once was, and what little remained of the Great Empire. ‘Each one manned by some unlucky soul whose ill-gotten luck had landed him here as well.’
Using the toe of his right boot to draw lines in the sand, sand which pretty much covered everything around him, he closed his eyes and leaned back into the blistering heat of the rock behind him.
At the moment he was forty feet off the ground, ‘and that much closer to the heavens,’ he thought. But this distance and thought did little to bring him any relief. It had been so long since he was away from here; he could hardly remember what green and growing even looked like, much less the coolness of day. From dawns light to twilight, eternal blistering heat was the only thing the blasted lands around him seemed to give.
As a child he had dreamt of doing something grand with his life, which is why, when he was old enough, he’d volunteered for service… ‘For land, King and country,’ was the motto that had taunted him- how disillusioned was the reality of his life as an adult. He’d amounted to something all right. “As my ex-wife would say, Gerald, you’re a shit, just like the life you lead.”
Problem was, for the last year and half, he would have had to agree with the bitch.
When the sound first came to him, it began so subtle, so soft, as to almost lull him into believing that what he was hearing never truly existed to begin with. That the heat had fried his brain and his senses-
But the noise grew. With each passing moment, the see-saw raucousness of cicadas continued to grow, working its way through his brain like fingernails being drawn across a wall of slate. It began to set his teeth, what few remained anyway, on edge.
“What the hell is that,” he asked, while peering over the upper battlement of the watchtower. He’d left the lower battlement earlier, which had been stationed halfway up the height of the tower, for the very top, another twenty or so feet further up from where he had been. “At least there’s a breeze up here,” he murmured.
Once again peering over the sandy rock wall, he lifted the veil covering his face, and used his hand to shield his eyes.
There. Right there was blight upon the expanse, what appeared to be a shadow wavering and dancing its way through the folds of radiant heat, seemingly making its way, ever so slowly, towards his position.
“What in hell would be coming from the Expanse,” he questioned of no one. A year lost in solitary and you would be talking to yourself as well.
He continued to keep his eyes peeled, mesmerized as the darkened blotch continued to meander its way across the blistering sands before him, with each passing moment growing ever closer. In fact, it wasn’t until the blight took on a recognizable shape and the see-saw cicada sound following it grown, that he reacted at all, and by then it was too late-
A man-sized darkness had materialized from within the wasteland and was upon him. No explanation forthcoming that he could see. All he could do now was hunker down behind the protective wall of the tower, his hands clamped over his eyes and ears, and hope the nightmare walking below him would pass on by- instead, the sound grew and grew, to the point where it became a living breathing thing, eating away at his brain like maggots eating into dead flesh, gnawing at his mind and leaving little trails of madness behind.
Porous holes leaking sanity, like sweat, pouring from his mind and brow.
The sound then ceased.
Tears, like sweat, dripped from his nose. He refused to open his eyes or unclamp his ears for fear that the shadowed shape had somehow gained entrance to his tower, climbed the series of steps leading up from the ground below, and had somehow spiraled its way here, to the towers peak, to stand before him, and was even now, looming before him, demanding to make its presence known.
Words were forming in his mind, in the madness swirling there, pushing past all his defenses and exposing him, leaving him naked and defenseless before this new presence.
“I have not come to bring you harm,” the voice seemed to say, before clarifying and withdrawing completely from his mind. The next he heard was with his ears. “I am lost and seeking direction, that is all.”
Whimpering, he wiped at the string of snot leaking from his nose with the back of his hand. In his fear he has soiled himself. He is ashamed. With no other recourse but to throw himself over the side and escape, he managed enough courage to at least open his eyes. What he sees before him causes him pause to consider the madness of this place.
“What do you want from me?” He weeps. He is unable to keep his eyes fixed on the figure wavering before him, it’s as the very air surrounding it seems unstable, like it could break up at any moment and fall away.
“I seek direction. Where am I?” It is that same still voice.
At least the deafening roar of cicadas is gone. The stillness following is almost as bad, however.
“I’m sorry. I can’t help you,” he replies, his eyes leaking tears. The whisper of a bitter breeze reminds him again, that his bowels have let go. Once again, he is ashamed.
“Do not be afraid,” the voice repeats. “I come in peace. Lower your hands… let me look upon you and you me.”
It is a request he cannot deny.
As he removes his hands from across his eyes, the darkened blight which he spotted earlier is indeed here, has indeed climbed the stairs of the watchtower, and even now stands before him- and the blight isn’t alone. Suspended in the air beside him is a lesser blight the size of a small pony, a monstrous darkened beast that refuses to take identifiable shape, or reflect any but the brightest of lights. The two are enshrouded, inscrolled, in swirling vapors of darkest night that seem to dance and wither.
“Who are you,” Gerald inquires. “Are you a god?”
“I may appear to be,” the vaporous shadow replies, “But I am not.” A slight pause, “neither am I like you, however,” The shape adds. “In all truth I am a stranger to this world, and am in need of information.”
“I have nothing to offer that you need,” Gerald manages to stammer, while raising his hands in piety. “Can you not see that I am without worth?”
If he is expecting an answer from the shape wavering before him, he is sadly mistaken.
A longer moment passes.
When Gerald finally manages to open his eyes again, sometime later, it is to find that the blight has gone; the watchtower is all but deserted except for him.
Pitching his weapons over the side, Gerald pauses for only a moment at the lip of the battlement- before joining them. The last thing he cares to remember, before striking the stacked rock some sixty feet below, is how the darkness from the Expanse had touched him. It had burned him clear to the bone.
What was there to say, exactly, other than madness seemed to fill this place like a plague.
Some time ago he had left the solitary structure and its crazed occupant behind. It was obvious that little hope or guidance could be gained from either one. In fact, no sooner had he done this, left the structure, then the life that had been there had ended, its thread ceasing almost as quickly as it had begun.
“It is obvious, even to me,” he began aloud, if only for the benefit of his companion, “that the man couldn’t fly on his own. And yet, that did not persuade him from leaping over the side of the structure to his death.
*I fear that our appearance was the cause of his distress* the unit responded.
“Did I not reduce our stasis,” he asked, still confused by the actions of the unstable man. After all, he was well aware of the noise their combined stasis fields created when fully deployed. “This isn’t the first time we’ve had dealings with other races and species.”
*I am aware. however, this may have been his first encounter with our particular culture. You are aware of the perception between technology and primitive perceived magic. often they are mistaken, one for the other*
‘Of this I am only too aware,’ he thought. “Have you had an opportunity to place our location yet? Are we still as ‘miss-placed’ as we seem?”
*having cross-referenced our location against all known and mapped quasar/pulsar combinations, i have yet to determine our exact location*
And why didn’t this surprise him?
It was obvious his first run in with the local’s had been a disaster. Still, it could have been worse-
Only he couldn’t quite think of how exactly. After all, dead was dead.
Twice he’d sent Pox into stasis, only to have the unit return figuratively empty handed. They still had no clue as to their location, or any probable mission. Granted, at first he assumed they had been sent here on purpose. But what purpose? This place held little strategic value, at least none that he could determine. Some sort of training exercise then…?
And yet he didn’t think so.
“Something is definitely there,” he said, “Something alive.”
Pox remained quiet.
About an hour’s travel past the first tower, the ground began to ‘green up’. Not so much prairie, but more like sparse tundra. In the distance he could see a broken column of red stone. Circling the column was a singular dark mass. Occasionally the mass would stall, veer towards the column, only to pull away before resuming its elegant, yet lazy spiraling flight once again.
“Any idea what that is,” he asked?
*an indeterminate lifeform*
At that moment, during a particularly long spiral their direction, the mass broke free of its circling and began to head in their direction.
‘Great,’ he thought. ‘I go from really lost, to completely lost and about to be found.’ He wondered what the mass might be- what sort of creature? Was it intelligent? Was it friendly?
Would it try to eat him?
He didn’t have to wait for long. In no time at all the creature had begun to take on identifiable shape, and that shape at the moment seemed to be large and avian. A set of pale, almost luminous green eyes, seemed to glare his direction.
Before he could inquire of Pox-
*possible antiquitarian. unable to clarify. shall I continue* Pox’s warning seemed to blare across his senses like a flare shot against a blackened night.
To say he was surprised would have been an understatement of epic proportions. “Do whatever it is you need to, just don’t leave me ignorant of our situation.” Normally the darkness of their shared stasis was enough to cloak them from most prying eyes. Obviously not this time, however.
Unconsciously he stretched out his stasis field until the very air around him wavered on the brink of instability and collapse.
*initial analysis: reptilian, possibly ballistic. heavily armored*
*at the moment, no. check that*
“A creature of Terran myth… have we inadvertently arrived in the Sol system?”
*sol has been classified off-limits. it has also been silent for more than a millennia*
‘So that’s a big no!’ “At least arm me,” He said. His words were followed by distortion- Pox now resembled a long slender blade with a corded metal hilt.
“Seriously, you see something like that ‘thing’ headed our way and the best you can do is become a sword? Do you realize how close we’ll have to be before you become effective?”
By now the large brown shape had taken on identifiable form, just as Pox reported, reptilian, winged, trailing two iridescent tendrils of pale blue flesh like a split tail.
It was at least twenty meters in length and probably weighed a couple of tons-
*according to directive* Pox began.
“To hell with the directive, all I know is that trying to use a weapon like this on a thing like that is akin to whacking a Volgan with a yo-yo stick.” In his mind’s eye he could picture the Volgan’s twelve massive legs, each punching out 1500 kilogram pockets of earth as it charged towards him head on-
A yo-yo stick was a child’s toy, a padded stick about a meter or so in length and used mainly in practice and self-defense.
*the blade will suffice. i have adjusted your cortex reaction time accordingly*
“Unless you’ve underestimated its abilities-” It had happened before. Exasperated he let the matter drop. Pox knew exactly what incident he was referring to.
Shifting his center of balance, he allowed the aerial predator to glide a little bit closer- carefully bidding his time.
When to attack is all about sizing up your enemy, before you even swing.
His first run-in with a life form here had ended badly; the man had ended his own life. It appeared this time; the creature in question left no doubt as to its true intentions. It was about to become a moment of kill or be killed.
In those last few moments before combat; the giant creature suddenly broke skyward, all the while bellowing a deafening shriek- loud enough to crack the world.
In that moment the world beneath him seemed to waver and shift, as if it were suddenly a mirage, then-
*warning* came Pox’s cry, but by then it was too late, as everything around him turned into an ever expanding ball of intense heat. With something akin to a metallic shriek, Pox contorted once, before vanishing entirely from view, possibly back into stasis-
End result, he was suddenly and completely weaponless.
As his armor began to re-pattern and change, he managed to bring his hands up to cover his eyes in an effort to protect them- even as the all consuming flames continued to expand around him. The resulting aftershock of the creature’s (?) attack threw him almost twenty feet to the south, where he lay sprawled across the earth, gasping for breath, his armor and mesh steaming and popping from the intense heat. Beneath him the ground had been charred a deep smoldering black.
‘Now is not the time for Pox to pull a vanishing act. Minus the unit’s capabilities, I am pretty much defenseless.’ He thought.
From where he lay he could no longer see the beast, but he could feel it, struggling in the air above him. At the moment it seemed to be held in place, as if trapped. The entire time concussion waves continued to rattle their way down the hillside, breaking large stones into pea-sized gravel and dust. The aftershocks of the creature’s attack seemed to roll on forever.
With absolutely no clue as to what to do next, he managed to make it to his hands and knees, frantically rubbing at his eyes, anything to try and clear them- in that same instant there came an ear shattering blast, a sound reminiscent of the sodium storms back on Tensure- In the midst of this second wave he is slapped to the earth by what he later describes as; ‘a giant’s hand.’ After this darkness falls so quickly he has no time at all to react, not even for surprise.
The first thing I hear- “It lives, I see.”
As I came to- the comforting buzz of my stasis seated firmly behind my eyes, its energy dulling the aches and pains I surely knew to exist, I struggled to set up. This I managed, even though my arms were bound securely behind my back.
Before me burned a small fire, a handful of wood stacked knee high beside it. The fire offered heat and/or light into a world gone pitch black, so black in fact that there were no stars in the sky overhead.
Across from me set a man, an old man complete with long straggly red hair and a pinched face. His skin was a fine even brown, the color of burnished bronze. He was watching me, the slightest hint of a smile pulling at his lips.
“Who are you?” I asked. “And what the hell did you do to me back there?” The idea that on this primitive ball- at least I assumed this place to be a primitive ball –that someone or something had been capable of damaging my armor or even me, was enough to cause me stress.
In answer to my question the old man got up, brushed a twig from his clothes, and approached me. Kneeling before me, he reeked so deeply of freshly turned earth that I almost gagged.
“What is this that you wear,” he asks, drawing his thumbnail down across the front of my tension mesh. He is pressing down so hard that his thumbnail actually leaves an indent. I can feel the weight of his touch on my chest- it causes me incredible pain.
Another pause for concern, nothing here should have been capable of hurting me, much less touching me.
After he did this, and before I could answer, he withdrew. It was as though he intended for us to remain separated by fire forever.
“Before I say anything, I want answers,” I said. This, even as the first real stirrings of fear entered my soul. “Where is the beast that attacked me earlier? And who are you?”
In answer he smiled. “For the sake of argument, let us just assume that the ‘creature’ you are referring to has withdrawn for the moment.” His eyes reflecting firelight, “Why do you ask?”
“Why do you care,” I snapped back. But who was I kidding? Something had definitely attacked me, an antiquitarian from what Pox had indicated. But the last known antiquitarian had been eradicated some years back, a couple hundred at least if memory served me right. So there should have been no possible way- In fact, the only reason I even knew about them was because of Pox, and that had only been in passing, vague rumors, hinted at references… legends mainly. Supposedly they had all come from Sol sector, weapons of an earlier war now abandoned.
Then again, supposedly they were all dead as well.
The question remained; something had definitely attacked me, something powerful enough to send Pox running back into stasis.
Trouble had found me- as usual.
The old man before me acted like he was still waiting for me to answer, I saw no real reason to lie, so….
“It’s carbonite armor,” I said, “sort of like steel, but a hundred times stronger. It’s as natural to me as skin is to you.” ‘And it’s alive,’ I wanted to add, but thought differently about. After all, it’s not like he would gain any advantage from having the exact composition of my tension mesh. Carbon was carbon. Good luck in destroying that.
At my answer he dropped his eyes, “The names Regadev,” he said, surprising me.
“Rastus,” I replied.
“You’re not from around here.” It wasn’t a question.
“Neither are you,” I stated. I didn’t know this for a fact, like him I was only guessing. As I said before, magic is the presumed appearance of technology to the untrained… “Care to unbind me,” I asked, turning my body sideways to show him my bonds.
He no more than gestured then I was free.
“Thanks,” I said, “How did you do that?”
In response he smiled, a smile which caused me to involuntarily shiver, as if I were suddenly cold.
“What now,” I asked?
“That’s pretty much up to you,” he replied. “It’s not like you’re a prisoner or anything. Feel free to go at any time.” The entire time he spoke he kept his eyes focused on my feet.
After a moment or two, and seeing me going nowhere- after all, where was I going to go, he looked up.
I still had no clue as to where I was.
He continued, “I know how you feel,” he said, “believe me. It’s not fun being the one on the outside looking in?” I feel he was obviously referring to my being here, while at the same time, at a loss to explain my presence here. “Still,” he continued, “In time you may even begin to comprehend what has taken place. Until then, I would ask that you keep an open mind about you.” It was a command.
“I’m already surprised,” I said. “Are you sure you can’t tell me anything more about where and why I am here-?”
I waited for him to shrug before I attacked-
Leaping across the flame I grabbed for him. I was hoping to catch him off guard, take him to the ground before he could defend himself-
But I didn’t. Faster than I could imagine he dodged my attack, only to reach out and grab me by the throat, spinning me around and pinning me against the side of a tree.
I was back to nowhere, and now barely able to breathe.
He leaned in until our noses almost touched.
“The last thing you want to do is mess with me, boy. You may be a badass where you come from… but you have no idea what a badass can truly be until you’ve meet me.” In that instant an image came to mind, of an immense creature of legend, leathery wings spanning meters to either side, leather-like scales for skin and eyes radiating a time before I was born. The image quickly faded. “I may be the last of my kind,” he continued, “but let that serve as a warning to you as well- I am the last of my kind for a reason.” With this he let me go.
I slide down the side of the tree and set on my rump, rubbing at my throat.
“You may be wondering why I have spared your life, when I have taken so many before.” Brushing his hands against his robe as if trying to wipe off the feel of me, he continued. “Most of us are born spending the better part of our lives searching and seeking, striving to answer the questions of our being here. I am here to remind you of yours, at the moment you serve me. You were called by me to be in this place at this exact time and in this exact moment for a purpose. Yours is simply to watch and learn, and when the moment is right, I will reveal myself fully to you. Until that time, be content in the knowledge that you play your part.”
Riddles and games. “And what if I don’t,” I began, “What if I chose not to be content merely to serve? What then?” After all, Tensurian’s serve no one.
A look of extreme sadness fell across the old man’s face. I could tell he was putting on a show. “Well then,” he began, “you’d simply cease to be of any real value. In fact, you’d become more of a burden than an asset, and burdens simply need to be gotten rid of.” With this he got up and began to move into the night.
“That doesn’t make any sense,” I began.
“And therein lies the mystery,” came his reply. “For all you know, I may be just a figment of your imagination, drawn here by the extent of your injuries. Then again, maybe not.”
I set for what seemed an eternity, questioning my sanity, questioning my mind. For all intents and purposes the old man was gone. I was sure of it.
I tried to stand-
“You are to remain where you are seated,” came the old man’s voice. And even though I could no longer see him he was obviously still here watching over me.
In that next instant I felt like I was being crushed, again. And this time there was no recovery, no quick dream. This time true darkness settled in, it seemed to erase everything, including my world.
Roman and Kiera
Roman hawked and spit, even as his mount crested the long hill, the one looking out over the Great Expanse, “As well as the one signifying the last remaining vestiges of humanity,” he remarked. Beside him, likewise mounted, likewise attired, and likewise minded, was Kiera, his riding mate.
Shadow to light, brother to sister, Kiera was everything he was not. Where he was heavily muscled, she was lean. Where he was pale and crowned with a shock of long blond hair, she was dark, brown as the earth, with masses of darkest umber falling from her head to her shoulders.
Occasionally she would stop to brush the tangles from in front of her face. He didn’t have that problem, preferring to wear his hair pulled back tightly, and bound by a heavy iron clasp… a clasp that their late mother had given him just before she passed.
He reached up to touch it briefly, remembering.
The land before them was a nightmare of cracked earth and fallowed ground. Only the hardiest and most foolish of plants seemed to flourish here. Great clusters of pine green shoots, meters high, their leaves pointed and serrated along the edges. Here and there, the occasional burst of white bell shaped flowers swinging from a toughened reeds and withered stem.
“Hell of a place to call home,” he began, clearing his throat and spitting again. Beside him, mute as the day’s light is long; Kiera nodded in agreement. Then again, in this period she was both blind and mute. What could she really say or see?
“And yet you continue to point us in this direction,” he adds, continuing their talk of earlier. For some god-forsaken reason she’d convinced him to travel twelve days hence from their home, only to wind up in this place. Had she brought him here only to kill them both from exposure?
He hoped not.
In his mind he could feel her words, even as she answered him, assuring him that this indeed, was the place, that in her mind’s eye she had not only seen fire fall from the heavens, just as the Oracle had predicted, but that the fire had indeed, landed in the very expanse and wasteland they now seemed to be treading.
‘I do hope you know what you are doing little sister,’ he added silently. And yet, these thoughts did little to ease his troubled mind.
In the distance he could just make out the wavering totems of watch towers dotting the vast border between the Greater Plains and the Great Expanse. ‘And to think, some poor slob has the honor, if you can call it that, of guarding this place. But from what? What could possibly be out here that they would need guarding from?’ In all his thirty-seven years he still didn’t have a clue.
He caught a look of irritation flirt across his sister’s face. Only then did he realize that she’d been facing him for quite some time, her blank face revealing nothing until now.
“What is it,” he asked? “Is everything okay?” He would be glad when this season passed, and her voice returned, until that time however-
She seemed to indicate that they should continue, deeper into the Great Expanse if need be. He half-heartedly agreed.
“This master of yours can be as vague as the morning fog,” he began. It was at this point that Kiera dismounted, handed him the reins to her mount, and began to run her fingers gingerly along the ground, as if searching for something. But what exactly was she searching for? The hilltop they had just crested was nothing more than a windblown pile of rock, sand, and a few scrubs of bitter weed.
His unspoken question was answered when she suddenly straightened, producing a few strands of crushed green grass in her hand. “So he has been through here,” he exclaimed. In response she held the twisted grass under his horse’s nose, long enough for his mount to pick up the bitter sweetness and gobble them up. Her mount managed to twist its head back long enough to appear jealous, before dropping its own head and feeding as well.
With everything going on, this much he knew- they were after a man. In fact, this man was the entire reason for them being out here to start with, that and the Oracle’s insistence. According to Kiera, the falling fire in her vision and the man they were seeking were one in the same- whatever that meant, such ideas were her gift, not his. His gift was with the bow and sometimes the blade. Put something needing killed in front of him and he’d kill it for sure. If more than this was involved… well, that is what his sister was for.
It was warm for spring, much too warm for this early in the year by far. But for the two small figures perched on the edge of the woods, one in brown patched jerkin, the other in woven wool and shawl, the unusually warm day simply meant earlier out to play.
The boy stopped just as sudden as he had started, his breath coming in ragged pants as he crouched amidst the tall waving grass of the boundless plains, the heat of the day causing sweat to trickle itchly down his nose, leaving his heart alone to pound in his ears. Running ahead of him was Ravin, his only companion since he could remember, a girl similar in age, but different altogether, her night to his day. The drifting lilt of her laughter continued to wave back towards him, carried on the pirouetting tips of prairie grass.
For a moment he was adrift in a slow moving sea of green, the wind spelling out hidden, and probably cryptic, messages in the tall-uncrossed plains.
To the north lay the beckoning coolness of tree shade, that and the moist mossy dampness under leaf and bough. However, this is not where his quarry lay, that would be before him, emblazoned in the midday heat. For even now, as he rested, she continued to flee further and further from his grasp.
“Fly if you must,” he roared. “But you cannot escape me forever wench.” On purpose, he clipped his words with precise abruptness. In doing so he seemed more aged than his youthful eleven years. Gripping his ever-faithful staff, a knotted and beaten branch of aged oak, he slowly rose up from his partial hiding place to once more gain sight of his ever-dwindling foe. Distantly he could pick out her flaring ebony hair, dark as a raven’s wings, and appropriate to her namesake. In less than a heartbeat, it simply vanished from sight.
Only her laughter remained.
“Laugh at me if you will,” he said, “but no one has ever escaped the grasp of the world’s greatest warrior. Why I myself have bested the best of the best in single combat, and I shan’t lose to the likes of you- a girl at that.” With a warrior’s cry still lingering on his lips he leapt forward, his staff flailing about. As he ran towards his dark haired foe, he imagined how heroically he must have appeared to anyone watching, his weapon of choice in hand; long-flowing coppery curls now matted with sweat, his body outlined against the mid-afternoon sky. He felt about ten feet tall, like he owned the world. No. By all the oaths he couldn’t really utter less Nam, his guardian, wail his legs- this women, as willful as she might be at times, was testing his patience. She would not be getting the best of him today.
“I’m still coming Rav, just you wait and see.” With laughter bubbling from his lips, he once again raced through the wavering walls of grass, darting first to the left, and then to the right, before, in a headlong rush, he broke free at last upon the well beaten path leading back into his village walls. He found himself on road. Ravin was nowhere to be seen.
“Now where in the world has that stupid girl gotten herself into?” Quickly becoming annoyed, he took a swipe at a passing fly. “She can’t have gotten too far ahead of me, surely,” he exclaimed to no one in particular. Pausing a moment more, and scuffing up a cloud of dust with his feet, he hurriedly scampered along the perimeter of the path, searching dolefully for any sign- some ‘mashing’ of the prairie grass, scuffed trail, where she could have possibly broken through from the grass. Try as he might, however, he just couldn’t find her. He couldn’t even hear her laughter any longer- it was as if the earth had simply opened up and swallowed her whole-
What he heard next, caused his staff to fly from his quickly numbing fingers. It clattered to a rest some three feet from him, right up against where the dusty brown path met the wavering sea of green grass.
Had that been a scream? Short and quickly muffled, but a scream nonetheless?
Suddenly his stomach didn’t feel so good, like he’d spent too much time out in the heat without a drink. “Rav,” he shouted, his voice breaking fearfully. And just like that, he was all of his eleven years
And he really wasn’t even eleven, but ten and a half’sy.
“Rav, this isn’t funny anymore.” She’d better hope something had happened to her, he was saying, otherwise-
As he rounded the slight bend in the path ahead, a path that continued on for some distance to what had seemed so harmless and inviting only moments before, the shade-drenched woods lying just to the north of their Ville, now seemed terribly daunting. Fearfully dark and forbidding, the woods now resembled, at least in his mind’s eye, a gaping toothy maw threatening to swallow him whole, if only he were unwary enough to enter them.
“Come on,” he muttered, his hands locking into fists by his side. Stooping he peered as best he could into the darkened lane beyond the plains, but could see nothing out of the ordinary.
“I’m going home now- and get Nam,” he threatened. Still he couldn’t keep the shakiness from his voice. “Boy, will he be angry when he hears you’ve gone and entered the woods,” he said, swallowing thickly. Step by step he slowly approached the end of the path, the spot where prairie met tree, till the boundary separating grassy brown earth from sky, had all but been swallowed up by leafy bough and knotted trunk.
Was that his imagination, or was that a goose-bumpily breeze wafting from the yawning chasm of dim darkness now rearing up before him.
At this point his heart was hammering painfully in his chest. Despite this fact, his feet continued to approach the woodland boundary, as if the dare to enter far outweighed the logic of turning and running home.
Crouched on its perch, a large black crow continued to watch the boy, even as the boy began to scream before turning and running home. Unbeknownst to even the crow, the darkness, that had dwelt just moments before within the confines of the woods, had withdrawn. What the darkness left behind, however, still wearing the shape of a little girl, would have been far kinder if it just kept her.
I can remember waking up to the sound of voices, one male the other female, both heavily accented and speaking in a language unlike any I’ve ever heard before. And this wasn’t one of your standard run of the mill wake up calls either, this one hurt- and it shouldn’t have. My pattern should have taken care of whatever injuries I might have sustained in the old man’s attack.
Obviously it had tried.
During the initial attack I can remember being forced to my hands and knees, after that, pretty much nothing until waking up and facing the old man… Regadev, I think he said his name was?
When I woke up this second time, after the old man had threatened me with my life, I found myself on my back; my head propped up. Surprisingly my confluence had been extinguished as well.
Do you realize how much power that would have taken? I would hate to even hazard a guess, and in this place, of all places, no less.
As before, no more than four meters away, blazed a small fire similar to the one the old man had set; only this one was spent, used up, only ashes remained.
Beyond the flame set two beings. Willing my pattern to continue its healing, I did my best to get a good look at them, without appearing so.
The male, whose voice was a deep rumbling baritone, seemed to be inquiring of the female, as to my condition.
“How should I know,” she said, “I’ve never seen anything like him before. As far as I can tell, he might be dead.”
“It was your vision that brought us here. We are now a full three days journey beyond the Expanse, and still you do not remember the reason for bringing us here?”
At first she seemed hesitant to continue, then- “We do what we must. We bring him to Bansu. We get some answers, other than that-.”
A long pause… during that time the male seemed to be considering. “Do you still believe he fell from the sky?”
“Aye, how else do you explain the looks of him,” she replied. “He burned my hand when I first touched him, remember. He wears strange armor unlike anything we have ever seen before, and his appearance is beyond description…”
Further lines of silence- only this time they run deeper.
“Despite how he arrived here, no one should have survived that attack, and yet, here he is.”
“Had not been for our timely arrival,” she began.
“If you hadn’t returned to me before the battle,” he replied. “Thank god whatever it was that held him fled of its own volition?”
“Yes, thank god… it couldn’t have been our attacking it, driving it back. No, it must have been some ‘god’ that helped.”
“You know what I mean,” the male continued. “I’m just glad it fled, that’s all.”
Riddles and more riddles, their language and this situation I found myself in.
In the end they quit discussing me any further, intent upon eating their meal and readying their camp for the night. I decided to cut them some slack and remain motionless, allowing the comforting numbness of my healing to continue unabated.
From the sounds of it, I would be needing my strength in the coming days.
With as little motion as possible I began to earnestly test my bonds, only to find that my hands and feet were still free- just as Regadev had left them -they’d just become numbed by my laying on them. Seeing that I had nothing left to lose I decided to drop the sleep act and set up… rather clumsily I might add, but still I managed.
For the moment I kept my static confluence as withdrawn as possible.
Talk about being surprised-
I’ll admit; I rather enjoyed their startled looks. However, much to my chagrin, they quickly recovered their composures, a little too quickly if you ask me.
The male, dressed in some sort of patchy tan jerkin, his long blond hair pulled back in a beaten iron clasp, immediately reached for what I took to be a weapon, a long curved bow of wood that had been bent into an arc and strung. The female on the other hand, clad in chain similar in design to mine, and darkened leather, just as quickly hefted a shimmering blade of steel from where she had been sitting.
“We seem to have reached a situation,” I began, keeping my voice as neutral as possible. Not that I was all that worried, after all, I’m pretty sure my armor could stop any of their primitive weapons. Then again, I’d been proven wrong before. Just recently in fact. The groove in my armor attested to that.
“I’m not seeing your point,” replied Roman nonchalantly. “Explain to me this ‘situation’.
“I’ll just take my leave and thank you for the company,” I continued, ignoring the man’s bravado. “Just point me to where I you found me, and I’ll be out of here.”
They both set perfectly still.
“Perhaps I’m not making myself clear,” I began, my stasis field flaring. Ripples of darkness began to swirl in eddies around me- the distant see-saw of cicadas behind me gearing up. From the pained expressions on both their faces I could tell they could hear me.
It was the female who finally broke the silence.
“We’re not deaf and we’re not dumb,” she began. “In other words we can hear you just fine. And you can drop the theatrics, we’re not afraid of your noisy darkness. Now, as for you going somewhere, as in leaving here, I’d highly advise against that.”
“Or what…?” I asked, amazed at how quickly they had assimilated by confluence field.
“Or this….” And with these words the female rose and advanced with her blade in hand. She stopped just as the tip of it rested on the armor beneath my chin.
I managed to remain still, as black flares of confluence began to worm their along her blade towards her hand.
She never even batted an eye.
“Like I said before, it seems we’ve reached a stalemate,” I began.
“A stalemate only occurs when both parties, each similarly armed, feel compelled to wait the other out because there is nothing to be gained from mutual annihilation.”
“Not exactly- that’s my point. You’re not armed, we are. For all intents and purposes we have the advantage, so it’s really not a stalemate… more of a checkmate.”
The females added response confused me, “So what do you propose,” I asked.
“We wait,” added Roman.
And wait we did, with neither of us adding to or subtracting from the issue at hand, mainly how to manage me. After all, being handled once by these primitive peoples was enough.
It was Roman who made the first gesture that he wanted peace, by slowly laying his weapon back down.
“It does seem we have reached an impasse,” derided Kiera. “What say I skewer him now and save us this trip altogether.” All this and she never even batted an eye. She never even turned around to face her partner; she just kept her eyes locked on mine, as if she were trying to read my mind.
“That we could do, Kiera, we really could- or we could hold off for now.” With a gesture he indicated that she should withdrawal. “We might as well let him have his say, though. I suppose you can always ‘skewer’ him later if you like.” From the expression on his face he acted like he’d faced this dilemma many times before.
“But think of the time it will save us if I cut him up now,” she said. “No long explanations, no bothersome or awkward questions like why and how come….” At this point she paused, her blade tip never wavering, “No one will ever need to find out, especially if we bury the body deep.”
I’d heard enough. “Now hold on a minute,” I said, hands out, “I’m unarmed here.”
“Then you should have armed yourself,” she said, as serious as death. At this point Roman was beside her, his hand forcing her blade to one side.
“I said, let him have his say, Kiera. We’ve got a long road ahead of us, and you and I both know we need to deliver him to the Oracle in Bansu… in one piece, mind you.” At this point he was looking her in the eye. Her response, was to huff mightily and turn away, reseating herself on the opposite side of the fire.
At least for now I had some working room, if only I had some leverage as well.
The male was right. At the moment I was completely at a loss as to where I was or what I needed to do. My armor may be more than enough protection against their weapons, but I was still pretty much defenseless without Pox And even if I managed to somehow escape, I’d still be just as lost.
Besides that, it was dark.
What was it the antiquitarian had said, ‘listen and learn…?’
I’d always been such a lousy student.
Leaning back I willed myself to close my eyes and take a deep breath. The last thing I needed was to go off half cocked and ready to rumble. We needed- no, let me rephrase that- I needed to take a step back and regroup. We were at a crucial point in negotiations; and at the moment, I needed all friends I could spare.
Overhead, only starless pitch could I see.
As before, the unique ‘alien-ness’ of this world astounded me, and that’s saying a lot, because I’ve been to a lot of strange places and worlds- if only to kill what lived there. Still, if I were anywhere even close to being on a normal run of the mill planet, there should have at least been stars blazing overhead.
Here there were no stars.
“Aren’t you the least bit scared,” I asked them on a whim?
“Scared of what,” Kiera responded. Beside her Roman merely shrugged.
“Usually, the first time people see me…”
“We are not your average people,” Kiera shot back. “And you’re certainly not the first freak we’ve ever seen. Let’s move beyond that point, shall we?”
At least I managed to swallow nervously before answering in the affirmative. For some strange reason, these people made me feel uncomfortable and nervous. Then again, nervous and uncomfortable is easy when your alone, stranded in the middle of somewhere- who knows where –and completely defenseless with no known way home…
Her reply as to seeing ‘freaks like me’ did peak my interest though. To what and whom was she referring?
“So you have seen others like me?”
Totally blank and unreadable, their expressions, which only confused me more. “In that case,” I continued, “then at least allow me the privilege of introducing myself.” And this I did, though at the time I wondered just how much of the truth I should reveal to them. “Let’s just say, for the sake of argument, that I’m from a very far and very distant land,” I told them. As I did so I gestured generally off to my side.
Which was a mistake… it was obvious, by the look of disbelief on their faces, that what I had done out of reflex, gesturing, they took literally. Because of this misunderstanding, maybe my generally coming from the direction I had gestured wasn’t the best of places to be from.
Maybe what they hated and feared most lived there…
It was at that moment I realized that I could have used a guide book of some sort, that or subtitles… subtitles would have been nice.
“I’m sure,” chuckled Roman, leaning back to stare overhead. “In my time I’ve heard of many strange things coming from the West,” (must be the direction I had gestured.) “However… and I must profess, however, never a man of your- shall we say -looks and bearing. And yet, now is not the time for such discussions, the Oracle of Bansu is more than capable of clearing this all up.” It was at this point that the big man seemed to grow sober. “Only Stram’s and the Thrane exist beyond the Great Expanse my friend. And if you be of either…” he left the rest of what he wanted to say go unsaid. “Let’s just say this,” he finished. “Coming from either place would not be a good thing.”
Looking down I noticed I was still attired in tension mesh, the thumbnail mark of the antiquitarian obvious and glaring on my chest. “May I ask one more question?” I inquired.
Roman shook his head, “Of course,” he said.
“How many times have you moved me since you, shall we say, discovered me?”
“Are you in league with the antiquitarian?” I asked.
Still no answer, though they did inquire of each other at my asking. Perhaps they had some other name for such a creature here. I had no real way of knowing. “Then may I ask one more question…?”
It was obvious that my continued interruptions only served to raise the males’ curiosity; Kiera however, had pretty much written me off. Ignoring me completely she had busied herself with cleaning up what remained of their dinner.
“I was wondering if either of you have seen, or possibly heard anything about an odd metal creature wandering about?” I wasn’t sure how to describe my giant arachnid-like friend to them. Instead, I managed to sketch out an approximation of what he might have looked like in the dirt beside me.
Needless to say, they both shook their heads no. They did seem intrigued at my ability to draw though. I don’t think they even knew what to say. “Why… is this, ‘thing of metal’ important?” Roman asked.
“More than you’ll ever know,” I replied. “Can you at least tell me where you found me…?”
Still, answers were not forthcoming. In fact, the two of them looked at me, then each other, like everything I was saying was crazy.
“Perhaps you wish me to wait?”
“Perhaps,” Kiera replied.
Sometime after our discussion, and after I’d managed to choke down some of their awful food, (cast iron gut) I finally managed to fall into a fitful sleep-
‘Most of my dreams are stupid and make little sense, and those are the ones that I remember. As for the others… the ones I can’t remember, who cares.’
I am standing on a cliff overlooking the rocky banks of an unfamiliar body of water. It isn’t just ‘any’ body of water either, but a lake, a big blue lake being fed by two large rivers, both crawling in from the north. A third river, joining from the south, seems to be leaving. All of this, the rivers, the lake and the cliffs seem to be encompassed by a rolling rail of rock-crested hills and tree-lined mounts-
It is fall. The trees have long since passed from green to red and gold.
I am not alone-
Beside me stands a man small in stature, and pale, with long copper colored hair. I cannot see his face but I don’t have to, there is something about him that seems familiar to me, like I should have known him already.
We stand like this, beside each other on the cliff, for what seems an eternity. Everything around us is silent, with only a slight breeze left to tug at our clothing. When suddenly, over distant hilltops, breaks a brilliant beam of radiant silver light, its glare blinding me, causing me to turn away. When my sight returns I am looking down, realizing for the first time that the figure standing beside me has cast a shadow; it resembles a sword.
All I can do is stand there and marvel at this strange apparition. ‘What does this all mean, this shade, this shape?’
Without a word the man turns toward me, his hand/blade reaching out and grasping mine… bringing sudden and lingering pain. Looking down I realize that between his fine-boned fingers and mine there is blood.
But whose blood is it, mine or his?
His voice begins as a whisper, rises to a shout, “You have to let me go; but at the same time you cannot leave me here like this all alone either-”
Needless to say, after this I am wide awake.
Rubbing furiously at my eyes, I struggled to set up, while at the same time, saying goodbye to the night, goodbye to that stupid dream as well.
I notice that the fire of last night has fallen into ash and ember. Using this as a rough guide, I’d say I’ve been out of it for six, maybe seven good hours. It is still dark around me, but getting progressively brighter minute by minute, breath by breath… absolute darkness giving way to formless gray haze. As for Roman and Kiera, they are already up and about, packing and placing, folding and storing, tying and strapping, readying their equipment and provisions for what appears to be a rather long journey ahead. This got me to thinking, ‘Did these two ever sleep?’ and if so, ‘When exactly?’
Beyond our immediate camp stamped three long faced creatures. It was to their backs that many of the camps provisions were being tied to.
‘Must be pack animals of some sort.’
All this action and circumstance left me feeling pretty much helpless, the proverbial third wheel, in that everyone seemed to have a job except me… Oh, that’s right; my job was playing ‘prisoner’ at the moment, now I remember.
Rubbing my hands together, I flashed a wayward glance towards Kiera, my ‘none too friendly’ hostess. From her expression, I’d say she didn’t appreciate the look or the noise I was making… I turned away. Finding it much easier this second time around to ignore the woman and her pinched and sour face, I turned to find Roman, who at the very least, ‘appeared’ to tolerate my existence.
The giant archer was little more than an inky blotch against a lighter gray pallet, his face, at the moment, turned away from the encampment, his attention drawn elsewhere. As if he was waiting for something unexpected-
Confused, I turned back towards Kiera, who, much to my surprise, was doing the exact same thing, looking towards the exact same spot, the distant horizon. My curiosity tipped, I couldn’t help but follow their lead, half-expecting… I don’t know- something ‘big’ to happen.
“Days dawning has found us,” breathed the archer.
In retrospect, his words seemed entirely too inadequate to cover what occurred next. Far to the north the tiniest of glows flared into life. At first it seemed to flicker then dance, in its brilliance illuminating distant mountaintops. Then, with a rumble reminiscent of rolling thunder, an iridescent glow began to pour forth from that tiny flame, as if some ancient being had toppled forth a great caldron of liquid brass. Beneath the lights advance the very land itself seemed to murmur and stretch, yawning, as if welcoming the new day, while high overhead, the line separating darkness from light, raced by like a carpet being rolled up and put away.
Needless to say, all I could do was stand there, completely dumbfounded, the light of day breaking nothing short of majestic. An awe-inspiring grandeur far surpassing anything I’d ever seen on any other world. Within minutes the entire sky was filled to the brim with a brilliant, yet cool, yellow glow. Riding on the heels of this event, a low rolling rumble, as the racing light seemed to crash against the southern horizon in an explosion of cascading color.
And then it was done.
Kiera was the first to notice my open mouth and awe struck demeanor, “What’s the matter Rastus; you look like you’ve never seen the light of days dawning before.”
As I turned her direction she flashed me a brief and rare smile, before turning back towards Roman, and with a slight gesture, continued packing.
I turned to find Roman staring back at me, the most curious of expressions on his face, hovering somewhere between sadness and empathy. “I see my earlier assumption to be correct, in as much as concerning where you claim to have come from my friend. You must have indeed, fallen from the sky.” With a chuckle he continued, “Fear not, all your questions will soon be answered.” Stepping forward, he held his hand out, gesturing for my blanket, which I reluctantly handed over. As his hands began to go through the ritual of folding it, he continued, “Before we go much further let me continue with what I was saying last night— if I may?”
At my nod he expounded.
Of all the places I had ever been, the color of my skin never seemed to be in question or a problem. In this place however, it seemed to be an obvious point of wonder and question. “My friend,” he began, “it is obvious that you are a stranger among us.” He seemed just as curious to my features as I was of his. Where I was jet black, he was pale, where my hair was white, almost colorless; his was a light golden brown. Height wise we were pretty much the same. We both had two arms, two legs and all that… after all, humanoid was humanoid. And yet, despite our similarities, subtle differences remained. As a whole, he seemed overly fascinated with my eyes, possibly the nictitating membranes that clouded them, as well as the shape and function of my armor.
“You are indeed, very strange,” he said, not in an unkind way. As he spoke he laid his hand atop mine, wary of touching my armor. He obviously remembered how it had burned Kiera’s hand the first time. “And yet,” he continued, “you fear nothing.”
For the sake of their sanity, I’d withdrawn my stasis field completely. Talk about freaking someone out. After all, I’m pretty sure it’s not every day these people run into a race that can completely surround itself in a field of relative energy, shrouding one in darkness- that or wearing living armor. Then again, how many other races had been born and reared on a planet trapped between triple suns? And who, when their planet ventured between these same stars every five thousand years, would hibernate in underground cities for a thousand years or more?
“I know you have your questions,” he continued, “and we have ours as well. I can assure you though, our mission, the entire reason for us being here, is to deliver you safely to the one place in all the land, that can truly answer your questions.”
He was obviously referring to this ‘Bansu’ place again. They had briefly mentioned it last night; it’s where this Oracle person was supposed to be, a man beyond all time and measure- a man of knowledge, and an under stander of everything known.
I decided to keep an open mind.
“My friend,” he continued. “I do not profess to know why you are here, and from your expression, I’d have to say that you are as unaware as we. So I will ask this one small favor if I may.” At this point Kiera slid us another one of her incredulous looks. She’d obviously passed her own judgment on me already. “I would ask that you neither attempt an escape or do us harm.”
“That’s asking a lot,” I said. “As you mentioned before, I’m not from around here. Perhaps I would like to go home.”
At this he smiled.
How do I answer that?
“I realize we are strangers,” he said, “and no soldier worth his salt would gladly or eagerly cast himself into bonds without at least some fight, however, we do not consider you a prisoner, and by no means have you been captured.” Here he slid a sidelong glance towards Kiera, “despite the words from my companion stating otherwise… What we wish to accomplish here is important. You yourself are important, and the outcome of our future meeting with the Oracle even more so. So I would ask you again,” he paused, “No, I beg your patience and trust in us… trust that we have your best interests in mind as we complete our mission and deliver you freely, upon the steps of Bansu.”
At his slant towards Kiera, the young woman rolled her eyes and walked away from us, to finish packing on the furthest outskirts of our camp.
“I guess what I’m trying to say,” He continued, barely suppressing a grin, “Is that your word as a fellow warrior would set well with me, to us,” he gestured towards Kiera, “Can you at least agree to this,” he asked?
‘Did I really have a choice?’
Reaching out I laid my hand on the man’s bow, “Upon my honor, I swear to neither plan nor attempt any action which may in any way endanger our lives.” After we reach the keep of course, or once something looked familiar, this might change, but I didn’t want this to sway his response, so I didn’t add it.
As I finished, Roman began to smile. This time his words were lighter. “I believe your oath to be true Rastus. Now come and join us in a bit of breakfast before Kiera packs it all away. She has a tendency to be very thorough and knowing her as well as I do, she’d sooner hear our bellies grumble then feed us a second time.”
And like that, I guess you could say… we were friends.
Trusting little souls aren’t they.