Legend of the Black Blade (Closed RP)
Her Royal Highness Aliria Verana, Crown Princess of Perilon slipped out of a backdoor hidden in the scullery and ran for the woods. On one hip she carried the silver shortblade that her father had given her as an eighteenth birthday gift. A worn scroll was tucked into her belt.
When at last she reached the edge of the woods, Aliria turned to look behind her. The city of Arcteum burned. Even from here she could hear the shrieks of the dying and the cries of the victorious army. With a resolute sigh, the woman walked into the night. I will find the Black Blade, Father. I will avenge you...
((I'll tell the others, then, Go.))
Fakar Nightblade, Assassin-At-Large, jumped from rooftop to rooftop. Behind him, the shouts of pursuit faded into the distance. Target dispatched! He laughed, free and easy in his native habitat of the shadows. The fat merchant had been rather entertaining for a moment, but the real glory was in the price...
An arrow-head slammed into the brick by his side. With a nervous grin, he looked behind him to see several guards running along the roof with bows and swords. Man, talk about holding a grudge... "Hey! I was just doing my job!" He shouted to them. "I'm a guild member! You can't do this to me!"
Another arrow skittered into the air just next to his foot. "...Maybe you can." Drawing his cape around him, he stepped into the shadows and down to the ground, landing with the ease of a cat and ducking below an arch.
Above, the guards skidded to a halt. "Where did he go?"
"A demon! He was a demon!"
One of the brighter ones looked off of the roof. A three-story drop stared him in the face. "No man could have survived that fall."
When Fakar heard the guards wander off, he slowly slinked out of the shadows. I think I need to find a way to keep occupied till the heat cools down. He pulled a whistle from his pocket and blew it. "Come on, my little friend."
A raven quietly flew down from the sky onto his arm. It regarded him with cool dispassion and clawed its way to his shoulder. "Let's go, Parlo." Drawing the cape around himself, the assassin slinked outwards towards the Greedy Wyvern, to pack his bags and get out of this village on the next available stage.
Aliria arrived at the Greedy Wyvern, a tavern in the village of Kalserac. Around her people conducted their business, drinking, eating, and dancing. She wanted no part of it. Her travels had taken her this far, but she had no idea where to go now. Rumour had definitely placed the sword in Kalserac, but when she had arrived all she had found was a monument to a town hero, fallen in combat against a dark warrior from the North. She found a small table in a corner by the fire, and soon a barmaid appeared.
"I...I'll have some milk, please?"
Aliria turned bright pink. She knew that milk was not the beverage of choice among the patrons of taverns such as the Greedy Wyvern, but she had never even had so much as a taste of alcohol, and she didn't think that this was the best time to experiment.
Several minutes later the barmaid returned, giving Aliria a mug of milk and a funny look. She waited, hands on hips, for her payment, and, upon recieving it, walked off with a swish of her skirts.
Finally! thought Aliria. She reached into her belt and pulled out the bit of parchment. She unrolled it and began to read as she slowly sipped her milk.
Legend of the The Black Blade
They say that in a far off land, an evil Mage-King had once carved a mighty sword from Obsidian to maintain his powers and spirit after his death. Those who wielded it in battle would be a mighty force, able to call upon his sourcery and use the blade itself.
As sharp as steel and as cold as ice, the Black Blade, when called by its true name, could destroy an entire army. But there is a price to pay...
She looked up, suddenly, hearing voices talking about her.
The innkeeper pointed her out to two large men. She quietly stood up, making her way to the door. The armed men followed her.
"Whoah! Watch it!" Fakar toppled back against the unpaved road outside the tavern, with a beautiful woman in his arms. "A bit early in the evening for that, isn't it?" he asked, standing up and helping her to her feet while his raven circled around above his head.
With a groan he pulled his hood off, revealing tanned skin and a hawkish nose. Shaking back his dark brown hair, the assassin looked up to find a large beefy fist heading his way. "...this looks about right, though." The blow sent Fakar toppling backwards.
Aliria barely noticed him. She backed away from the two men, watching them both warily. She gripped her sword, not sure what good it would do. "Who sent you?" she demanded with false bravado.
One of the men raised a fist, brandishing a chair. The bartender and the bar patrons had scattered, there was no help coming from them. "Someone who wants you dead, pretty lady..."
His partner displayed a knife. "Doesn't mean we can't have a little fun with you, though..."
No, this isn't right. I'm not going to let them do this! With a gleaming smile, she lunged forward, drawing her sword as she did and impaling the knife-wielder in between the legs.
The first thug, acting with the callous disregard so usual for that type, slammed the chair into the back of her head. "His own fault for being greedy, right? Now stay still, this won't hurt a bit."
There was a sound a little like 'fffttt' and the thug fell down dead. Fakar wiped blood from his nose and pocketed the pistolbow. "Two dead in one night, not a bad job." His eyes crossed and he put a hand on the wall. Fascinating. I spend years perfecting the art of killing. It's been months since I was last injured, and that was one of the finest fencers in the land. And a tavern thug can break my nose. "Life just isn't fair, eh, Parlo?"
The assassin reached down to wake the girl up. "Hey! Sleeping beauty!" A thought suddenly occured to him. This girl looked like she'd have plenty of cash. And probably willing to pay a rolling contract for him to kill any of her assailants, too. Adjusting his tone, he gently shook her narrow waist. "Pardon me, ma'am. But would it be too much to request that you awaken at this moment in time?"
Orome shouldered through the crowd of onlookers. One simply couldn't stop for a bite of dinner and a cup of drink these days without finding trouble or so it seemed.
"It's going to be a while before she wakes up. That blow struck too well for otherwise" She shoved, but not in an unkindly fashion, the mans hands away and checked the unconscious lass over with knowledgable skill. She had heard but not seen much of the altercation "and rattling her about like that, with her in this condition, will do her no good"
The sigil the Sisters of the Sword, was clearly visable at her throat, the ruby and emerald set in gleaming gold. Any who knew of them would know that Orome knew where of she spoke, for the Sisters knew healing as well as they knew the arts of the blade. Many of the widespread, wandering order had magic dealing with either or both as well. Few crossed them - for more than just those reasons
"However staying is not a good option either, I think" Quickly Orome examined the two thugs, making sure that they were dead.
"Nonsense!" Fakar laughed with false frivolity. He started to gently slap Aliria's cheek. "Why, I stand against blows like that with surprising..." he noticed his nose was still bleeding heavily and gently looked up at the Sister. "She'll wake up soon, I'm sure."
Giving a nervous laugh, he pointed at his broken nose. "Anything you can do for this?"
Before the second slap had begun, Orome caught the man's hand and stopped him with a stern look
"She is not some beefy soldier type, you fool." She shook her head exasperatedly, and without warning took his nose in her left hand, firmly in the web between thumb and first finger, and with a sure tug straightened it into place. Then a wave of warmth replaced the ache and he could feel the bones knitting with impossible speed.
Before he could enjoy the warmth, searing pain shot through him. That was the downside of magical healing - you got all the pain that you would have felt over the time span of normal healing in one fell swoop. It made ones eyes water, and wrenched cries from the stongest
"And no she might not wake for days. A blow to the head is a serious thing. I am going to have the tavern keeper fetch a stretcher, and have her carried to a good inn."
Fakar grumbled and unceremoniously dropped Aliria back to the ground. "Yeah, yeah." He sighed and started to search through the pockets of the thugs. "Maybe there's something in one of these pockets that shows who sent them..."
He pulled out a purse full of coins. "Nope, nothing here." He quietly dropped it in his bag. "So..."
"Keep looking! That assassin has to be somewhere!" A loud voice came from around the corner.
Fakar's face froze. "So, you mentioned a nicer tavern? What say I carry her there?"
OOC: Sorry about this my net went down and didn't come back up till after 11 this morning- Here's the post I wrote last night.
Orome (http://www.atddm.com/Orome.htm) caught the young woman before she hit the ground, and frowned at the man's self centeredness, and lying. When he suddenly went all solicitous she snorted, and firmly set him aside, cold blue eyes glinting in the spill of light from the taverns door.
"No you are not going to carry her to a better tavern. I suggest that you leave before those guards arrive, backstabber."
Her voice was cold and her right hand had a slender throwing blade concealed in the palm as it 'fell' from it's wrist sheath.
"Now leave" Gently her left hand found the already enormous swelling on the lass's head and she concentrated once again focusing the healing energies within her, but only enough to bring her to consciousness. She would be exhausted and woozy until she had eaten and slept.
Aliria came to slowly, and with the worst headache she'd ever had. She looked up at the man and woman above her. The woman she didn't know. And the man...the man had saved her life. In the haze of her pain, she heard the woman speak.
No! she thought. I can't let this happen! I owe him my life...
Aliria groaned in pain and sat up, looking from the man to the woman and then back to the man.
"See? See?" Fakar demanded, helping Aliria to her feet. "I'm not an assassin, I'm a wandering bodyguard. My previous master was murdered most cruelly. I saw this poor young woman being assaulted and I instinctively rushed to her aid!" The assassin coughed. "Now, miss, let's get you inside to my room so we can look at your head."
He bowed, and doffed his hat. A nervous tension came over him when he heard the guards coming. With a nervous twitch he covered his face with his cloak. "Fakar Nightbla... Kalzen at your service!" He finally whispered when the guards walked by.
He knew it would was only a matter of time before events unfolded right before him, leading him to his goals. For some reason that had always been the case during his life, situations presented themselves to him and all he had to do was capitalise. It couldn't be explained yet of course there was no reason to complain.
Nero Calligula stood amongst the crowd of people within the Greedy Wyvern and watched as the young lady and her would be rescuer picked themselves up, partly thanks to the aid of a healing sister. Nero had a certain disliking of the Sisters of the Sword and upon seeing the sigil upon her neck moved slightly behind the cover of a bigger man. Past experiences with the sisters had left him resentful.
Putting that aside, Nero continued to gaze upon the young lady as she was the important one, she was the basis of his mission and the reason his master had sent him out of Arcteum in the first place, even though there was much he could do there as well, this task was much more important. The situation seemed awkward enough as it was and so Nero wouldn't get involved but merely watch and wait for the oppurtune moment to become involved.
Simple robes covered Nero from shoulders to feet, concealing his entire body and whatever items he may have beneath the layers of cloth. The robes were a neutral grey which Nero thought were good for mixing into crowds and other such places, even if they needed some aid from his craft. Over the years Nero had found most of his work was done within the dark and so he had lost all forms of tanned skin long ago, leaving only stark white flesh. Black hair covered his head and drooped down over his ears and occassionally eyes, giving him a daggy appearance.
There was no way to tell how old Nero was and he liked it like that. Nothing could be gathered of his physical shapde thanks to the robes, although he did portray the appearance of a slight hunch and limp, yet that could change depending upon the circumstances. Smiling to himself, Nero brushed the hair out of his brown eyes and took another sip of drink whilst spilling a considerable amount more upon the ground, adding to the illusion that he had drunk quite a bit more.
Content for the moment, Nero watched from the crowds just like all the other normal people around him.
"My name is Aliria." The Princess groaned as she took Fakar's hand and struggled to her feet. "And if your room has a bed in it, I would love to accompany you there."
Fakar's room was small and dingy. It contained a small stove, a bed, and a box. The box was a large wooden contraption with a substantial lock. Had Aliria been in less pain and more clearheaded, it would have intrigued her. As it was, she made her way slowly to the bed and lay down.
When Fakar came to stand over her, she opened her eyes and winced, giving a small smile.
Fakar grinned. It wasn't often that he had a beautiful woman lying on his bed. "Well. I know all sorts of tricks that might distract you, but..." He coughed, and spotted Orome. "I think I might be in trouble with the good sister."
"Although...the two of you together does open some...possibilities." The assassin blinked when they both glared at him . "I'll be downstairs if either of you needs me. Um. Keeping a watch for more thugs. Yeah."
"Why is it that every time I meet a pretty woman she's always insane or injured? And here's both of them... sheesh." Fakar took a seat on the bar by a robed drunk and sighed once more. "Still. All I need is a magic user and I could form an adventuring party..."
With a curious smile he picked up the piece of paper he had 'borrowed' from Aliria and started to read. "Legend of the Black Blade... heh, next they'll be telling me she's the Princess of Perilon and some evil sourcerer is going to jump me to help him win his way into her confidences." Nightblade slammed a fist on the bar. "More wine!"
Orome followed the still weak young woman and the assassin up to his room and gave it a barely concealed look of disgust. His room was as dingy as his story of being a bodyguard. The girl was obviously unused to the realities of the world, or her wits were wandering far worse than expected.
When the faker Fakar suggested a ménage, Orome gave him a fearsome glare. He was nothing that she desired in a man, the lass, while lovely was still too weak, and the bed and surroundings...never! 'And Rakkan would first laugh himself dizzy then hew the insolent slugs head off.' She thought as most pleasant memories of the last ménage replayed...a distinct opposite of this chill and dreary room.
Once Fakar had vanished, no doubt to get drunk, not watch for more thugs, Orome swung her heavy cloak, lined with the softest of furs from her shoulders and laid it over Aliria. She did nt want her taking a chill. She'd light a fire in the stove but it would take a while to banish the chill and dank from the room.
"Aliria, I am Orome Heartfyre, Sister of the Sword. Please don't call me 'sister' as ... Kalzen is so intent on doing. Just Orome, or if you must be formalish, Voyar Orome. Now you should sleep more and eat. You will not heal well unless you do. I'll bring up something from the kitchen, that is if they have anything edible."
Aliria's clothes while soiled and stained were of fine fabric and finely made. Her voice was not strident, and her words properly accented. She was obviously no farm girl or even a merchants daughter run away from a dreary future. And the sword she carried, too fancy by far... Orome set her questions aside for the moment while she built up the fire
With her cloak removed, her build and clothes could finally be discerned. Snugly fitted thigh boots of ebon and emerald heavy suede ran up long smoothly muscled legs to caress the tops of her thighs. They were almost met by a tiny skirt of 'fish scaled' black leather and chain that hung low on hips that swelled from a tightly trim waist, embracing them like a lover and barely falling to her thighs. Her bustier was form fitting with half cups that clasped firm silken skinned breasts and almost covered them. Decorative inlays of wrought silver and emerald cording drew ones eyes most deliberately.
Rakkan enjoyed seeing her displayed so, and she enjoyed pleasing him. He never minded if she attracted a transient lover, knowing that she was discrete and discerning. There were additional benefits - most men spent their last minutes ogling her body, not watching her sword, and dieing for their mistake.
"All right...Orome." Aliria whispered, quietly curling up on the small bed and trying to rest. "...thanks. Can...can you go and ask Fakar, when he's done drinking, to come up here and talk to me?"
I need help. He looks like he could be of use... The Princess thought as she rubbed her eyes and looked out the window for a moment. From here she could still see the statue. I wonder...who is that warrior from the North?...
"yes I will," Orome sighed and added so softly Aliria couldn't hear it as she closed the door "though I probably shouldn't."
Light as a cat on her feet Orome made her way down the stairs to the main room. She didn't worry about being accosted, for her katana hung across her back and here and there the hilts of various knives and daggers peaked out from various sheaths, some open some mostly concealed. Others were completely hidden.
Brushly she found the tavern keep and bargined hard for the finest of his available rooms for the night. Once that was done she payed well for a tray of his finest cooking to be readied. She'd take it up to the lass when it was ready. That done she sought out Fakar at the bar
"Aliria wishes to see you when you are finished drinking. I'll be bringing up a tray for her shorly and I've taken a room for the night. The tavern keep says he has another room or two." Her meaning was clear. If Fakar wished to see another day he'd best not take advantage of the lass
Nero remained silent as Fakar sat next to him, apparently talking to himself or perhaps everyone. Whilst he understood the young man was just rambling, Nero made sure to pay attention to every word, noting any details that could become particularly significant at a later date. The piece of paper wasn't Fakar's and Nero knew, he'd seen him take it from the princess. Immediately his curiosity was sparked.
Fortunately the situation unfolded itself right before him as always as Fakar read out the script, mentioning two significant words. Black Blade. Nero smiled to himself. Now he knew what the princess was after, why she had made such an effort to escape his master. He would be very interested to know such things. Fakar continued to waffle on, little did he know there was more truth to his speculation than he could ever imagine.
It was finally time to get involved. Now that he knew the general idea of what the princess was up to, Nero had to make his move. Turning to his right, he struck up conversation with the boisterous thief.
"I couldn't help but hear you young man. You say you may be in need of a magic user? Well you are in luck. I happen to be gifted with the ability to perform some useful magic here and there. If you would require such assistance, I would be happy to help out."
Nero's tone was merry yet slightly slurred, giving the impression of a slightly drunk yet nice enough man.
Now, coming just after what he had just said this type of thing should raise alarm bells. But Fakar was also a little drunk and so, not only was his response to Orome just an automatic smile, but his response to Nero was a hearty, "Good show!"
He raised his glass. "Bartender, drinks all a-eep!" A large, chainmailed fist had reached down and grabbed his shoulder. The assassin looked up. "Ah, Sir Reginald. To what do I owe this pleasure?" He smiled warily, sobering up.
"You killed my father, assassin!" The knight roared, raising Fakar up and throwing him against the wall.
"Yes, well. I mean, I was hired by the Church to dispose of him..." Fakar coughed, brushing back his hair. "So, yeah. I mean. No, you have me confused with someone else. I mean..."
Orome loathed the Church, its flat out arrogance and hypocracy, but she liked the stench of this 'knight' even less. However Fakar had the stupidity to bald face admit it. 'What's to do for some interference?' She thought as she looked around the tavern for some quick inspiration
She found it in the tray of food that a blousey serving wench was bringing for her approval. She could tell from a distance that it would not meet her approval. Her keen nose told her that it was swimming in far too much grease,and the meat was half rancid
Holding her breath so as not to be over come by the stink she frowned firecely at the girl and snapped "That is entirely unsuitable for swine, much less a lady. Take it away and bring out better, goddess knows I'm paying enough for it" And with the last she swung her arm wide, 'accidentally' hitting the tray, sending it flying.
Flying directly into Sir Reginald, splattering him with the entire not inconsiderable meal.
Reginald spun around, glaring at Orome. "I'll get you for that, serving wench!" He roared. "After I'm done with..." the knight fell to the ground, a large dagger protruding from the back of his skull.
"Honestly...some people just don't know when to give up." Fakar pulled his dagger out and tossed a gold coin to the barkeep. "Drinks on the house for the next hour. You. Mageboy." He pointed at Nero. "Make ready to move as soon as possible."
The assassin ran to join Orome. "I bet you that that's the exact same order our little girl will give," he said, in the careless way that men of a certain temperament use of women obviously only a year or two younger. "It's lucky for me," he went on, "that I met you."
"And not lucky for me. You have no restraint. A blow to knock him out or a sleeping toxin through a small dagger cut, and we could have left without leaving a blood feud behind us." She snapped in return as she surveyed the 'damage' "I'll get my mount and supplies, and arrange for mounts for the rest of you. Carry her down carefully oh thoughtless one, and don't you dare forget my cloak.."
The look she gave Fakar told him clearly she was used to being obeyed, and that she'd have not the slightest qualm about hurting him if he didn't obey her.
Then she was out the door, sounding a complex whistle
Nero smiled as he watched the struggle between teh knight and thief. He certainly was an amusing character, even if he appeared to be an outright moron Nero knew better than to trust appearances. Dropping his glass upon the bench, Nero got up and approached Fakar as Orome left the inn to take care of transport.
"I'm ready to go right now."
Black Fang 'whistled' back a reply, from where he stood guard over her belongings and pack mule. She had had to rent the corral from the ostler, for the Hellcorn would not endure a stall and his dinner had been living- a half grown pig, until his fangs had broken it's neck. Only long familiarity, Orome's command and the mule's own vile temper kept him from dining on the mule.
Quickly Orome struck a deal - paying far more than if she had had time to bargain with the beefy built stable man who leered at her and licked his lips near continuously. She got the three best mounts he had for sale, just better than average horses and another large suspicious eyed mule. Tack was included and he set ragged clothes stable boys to throwing it on the geldings as Orome stepped next door. She made a shopkeep happy he stayed open late by laying out more hard goild coins for quickly chosen supplies and trail rations. She had the feeling that they were not going to be spendig much time in civilations comforts.
With the shopkeep bundling the supplies she'd purchased she returned to the stables and began saddling Black Fang. He was happy to be going, he'd not like the place at all, and let her know it by mischieviously useing his lips to unsheath her katana as she groomed him. Laughing she'd grab for the blade and he kept backing away, so she was almost chasing him around the pen
"If you don't stop we're never going to get out of here"
Fakar drew his cloak back over his eyes, his face receding into a dark shadow. The assassin gave a half-turn of his arm and another dagger shot into his hand. He threw the blade into the air a minute, looking at the back of Orome's head. "Huh? Oh. Good man."
He nodded to Nero. "Wait down here, I'll go tell our employer she's our employer, eh? And if anyone asks about an...Aliria, or about our courtly friend here, feel free to kill them." He turned to go up the stairs, but then spun around and threw the dagger across the room. It slid directly into the Bull's Eye of the dartboard, shivered a little, vanished, and reappeared back in Fakar's hand.
With a spring in his step, he walkd up the stairs. 4 kills, two days. And the Church might give me a bonus for Reggie there. All in all, not a bad start to the week.
Fakar quietly closed the door behind him, and cast a brief look at Aliria. Her breasts rose and fell as she quietly slumbered on his bed. With a quick step, he walked to the box in the middle of the room. The assassin waved his hands aimlessly and pulled a large black bag free from his clothes. Laying it softly on the floor, he then made a point of unlocking his box.
Fakar dropped the two coinpurses he had acquired this day in, and nodded. I've liberated more funds from the rich oppressors of the working class people! Now, let's see... how much do I want to put in my own purse, and how much do I want to save for that glorious day when I will be an oppressor myself? After selecting two smaller purses and pouring their contents into his, he shut the door and went to watch Aliria sleep for a moment.
There was a moment of debate, and then he pulled back his hood. "Ma'am, might I suggest that you arise from your bed?" He said, quietly shaking the girl. "We have a long journey to begin." Fakar hurriedly took the piece of paper he had stolen from her and put it back in her hand.
She's definitely not a farmgirl, not with those soft hands. Probably a noblewoman or something. Which means there might be payment by a father too, for keeping his darling daughter safe. The thought excited him and it was all he could do not to do a quick little dance on the floor there. Paid twice for one job!
Corum rides into town on the Nihrain. The midnight black horse breaths fire and it's intelligent red eyes are disconcerting. He dismounts and looks around for the stable hand.
He has golden skin with a light rose hue and silver eyes. His cloak is worn and ragged, though the chain mail underneath looks well kept and fits his six foot three inch muscular frame perfectly. His sword hilt is well worn, as though from much use and the odd double compound bow looks equally worn though cared for.
He takes the reigns of the Nihrain steed and mutters something to it in an odd language, then looks toward the tavern. He turns back toward the stable, walking the strange looking horse in, it's hooves shrouded in a black haze as though the feet never touch this plane as it walks. He gets to the stable door and runs a hand through his golden hair.
"Hello?", he shouts in a deep rumbling voice.
Aliria had managed to fall asleep quickly despite her considerable pain. She slept deeply and without dreams. When Fakar called her name, she stirred briefly, but did not wake; her body preferring to stay in the serenity of sleep where there was neither pain nor fear.
Fakar sighed, looked around, and went to close the door. He stood over the sleeping Princess for a few moments, considering his options. He then leaned down and kissed her fully on the lips. It worked for Sleeping Beauty...
Aliria woke with a start when she felt Fakar's lips on hers.
She tried to sit up or pull away, but she was too weak yet. He kissed me? He KISSED me?! Why would he do such a thing? What was he thinking?
Suddenly, Aliria made an even more shocking realisation. She was kissing back. Without even thinking about it. Startled, she broke the kiss and looked up at Fakar.
"Wh-Why did you do that?"
In order to hide his own confusion, he affectedly brushed a hand through his brown hair and flashed a perfect smile. "To wake you up, of course." Fakar laughed nervously. W-wow...
"So. You going to spend the day sitting around there or are you going to get up and escape before we're attacked?" The assassin searched through his box and then pulled out a bluish-green potion. "Drink this." Fakar put it next to her, and gave a wan smile. "It'll taste foul, but it'll get you up and moving."
A thought occured. "Oh! I'm your new bodyguard, by the way. And I have a mage waiting downstairs, too."
The concoction smelled and looked absolutely foul. Aliria took a deep breath and downed it in one gulp. She made a face.
"Ugh. That is awful." She sat up. "I do feel better though. Thank you. I can't pay you now, but I assure you that at the end of my journey you will be well taken care of."
Aliria slowly got to her feet. She reached to her belt for the parchment. It was gone. She patted herself and the bed down frantically searching for it. The paper was gone. She sat back down on the bed.
Fakar's eye darted nervously to where he had put it, and then quickly leapt for the sheet. "Here you are, Aliria." The assassin said, putting it in her hand and sitting next to her. A thought flickered across his mind. "I'll accept payment in kisses right now, of course."
Fakar gently put a hand on her unresisting chin and drew her up for a brief kiss. "Inshalla," he whispered, as he leaned down and met her lips once more. This job could have its perks...
Aliria let Fakar kiss her for a moment, and then pulled back. There was something about him she couldn't quite put her finger on. A bodyguard wouldn't have been able to take the parchment without her or Orome noticing.
I really like him. And I want to trust him. But I have to know.
She looked him right in the eyes with a piercing stare.
"You're not a bodyguard, are you Fakar?"
Fakar's mouth opened and shut for a moment, then he gave a quick smile. "Um...no. As a matter of fact, I'm not." He laughed and brushed his hand across her cheek. "I'm an assassin," he answered, deciding to go for a direct approach.
The young man looked at Aliria for a moment. "And you're not an ordinary traveller, are you..." He wanted to kiss her again, just for the effect it seemed to have on her thought-processes. And how much I enjoy it, don't forget that.
Still, there were ways of doing these things. So his first response was to put his hands on her waist, sliding them onto her hips so that his thumbs could touch her bare skin. Fakar ran these in small circles, looking into her eyes. The happier she is with my service in all fields, the more profit, he thought to himself, and almost believed it.
"Please...don't." Aliria pulled away from him. "I'm not an ordinary traveller, but I cannot tell you who I am." She went back over to the bed, then turned back to look at him.
"What I can tell you is that I am in terrible danger and in great need of a bodyguard and a friend."
She pulled on her boots and picked up Orome's cloak, then turned to look at Fakar. "I'd like to trust you, Fakar. Can I trust you?"
If Fakar was displeased by the failure of his attempt at seduction, it didn't show. He affectedly brushed back his hair and held her gaze. "Point me in the right direction, Aliria, and I will do as you command." He held out his hand. "You may trust me with your life."
Then his eyes turned mischievious. "For one more kiss as a down payment, hum?" He stepped a little closer to her. "The price is fair?" He whispered, smiling in a little more than friendly fashion.
Aliria stepped close to Fakar and gave him a quick, brusque kiss.
I think I need to keep an eye on this one. His interests don't seem to be strictly honourable.
"We'd better get moving. The others are waiting for us." She started down the stairs to the bar, where Orome and a strange man were waiting. "Here's your cloak back, Orome. And thank you for healing me."
Nero nodded as Fakar disappeared up the stairs after showing off with a blade. There was no denying the man was skilled at his craft, of course sometimes even that was not enough to save oneself. Several minutes went by as Nero waited in silence, contemplating his actions over the next few days. He would have to be patient and see how things played out, but he was reasonably confident of the task.
Finally Fakar and the princess came down the stairway with all necessary gear and ready to go.
"Are we all ready now?"
"I don't know." Fakar rubbed the back of his head when he looked at Aliria for a moment. "Orome was arranging horses for us, so we should have a little time." The assassin quietly stepped forward, interposing himself protectively but not rudely between Aliria and Nero. "Oh. Aliria, this is the mage I chose for this mission..." He coughed, blushing to realize that he didn't recall the man's name. "I'll leave him to introduce himself, of course."
The assassin poked his head out into the stables. "Orome, hurry..." he saw her being addressed by a large warrior with a bow, decided discretion was the better part of valour, and put his head back in.
Nero nodded to the wily thief before turning his attention to the slightly groggy princess. Of course he couldn't let on that he knew of her true identity yet still decided to greet her in a more formal manner, involving a slight bow from the waist.
"Lady, my name is Nero. I am a humble magic user from afar and heard that my services may be of use and so here I am. I hope you will accept my aid?"
Nero presented himself with charm and courtesy that it was hard not to gain a good impression of the robed man.
"I have a mount of my own so there is no need for your friend to seek an extra horse."
Aliria scrutinized the mage. She wasn't exactly sure she trusted him. He was a little TOO friendly and eager to help. But still, he was here, and his skills would be useful.
"Please, Mister Nero, the title isn't neccessary. Call me Aliria. Thank you for your kind offer. Your skills will most definitely be of use."
OOC: Orome is out at the stables not in the bar
"The ostler is out back" Orome called from the stall where she was finishing tacking up the mule. She led the mule out of the stall, looking the newcomer and his mount over.'Rarer riding stock than even my own..and he's not human, or full human either'' she thought to herself as Black Fang's challenge cry rang out.
"Fires! They are going to be at each others throats unless we get them introduced and calmed down" She called over her shoulder to the stranger as she raced outside to deal with the Hellcorn stallion. He'd just made a standing leap over the corral's fence. Orome made a leap of her own, and despite him ducking his head, she managed to grasp the horn. Then she swung up into the saddle as he danced sidewise and started again for the strange stallion in the stables.
*Stop it! He's not here to steal your mares, you don't have any mares here for him to steal!* Orome called out mind to mind though their bond link.
Black Fang shook his head and sent back an image of her riding off on the unknown male, whom he pictured as a knockkneed floppy eared mule
Spluttering mentally, she swatted him on his muscular neck. *Thas such an insult to me! Going off on something like that! Now behave! Who am I riding? You, thats who!*
He distained to answer with words, just shaking his thick mane so that it lashed her in the face before stepping proudly into the dingy stables. He stopped beside the mule, who wisely sidestepped as far away as the central corridor of the stables allowed. He had no desire to be an after dinner snack for the big predator.
Orome sat lightly in the soft minimal saddle. One didn't ride a Hellcorm with a bridle of any sort. The inside of the jaws were not those of a herbivore but a predator, and no Hellcorn would accpt such crude 'communication' in any event. The select few they would accept as riders guided them with all but invisible cues of knees, thigh, and seat.
Black Fang looked balefully at the Nihrain, breathing out faint flickers of black balefire, and its eyes glowing as red as the other stallions. He struck out with a massive hoof and sparks flew from the impact, though there are no stones or cobbles beneath, only soft dirt.
*Behave* Orome chided...then spied new danger, as from dark sprang a ruffian, cudgel raised to strike at the stranger, and more thugs came visable.
"Behind you" The Hellcorn leapt forward and then past as her katana slid free of its scabbard.
There was no time to see if he understood her warning , as she and Black Fang closed with the other attacker. The one at the edge of the yard with a drawn arrow in his bow. Then Black Fang had her close enough and the katana was singing a deadly song as it sliced through the night's gloom.
The head left the shoulders and the body dropped, it's arrow unfired, but there are others leaping forth from the shadows.
Corum pushed the Nihrain into the stable and stepped to the side as an arrow flew through where he had been. He sauntered out, removing the bow and drew an arrow as he stepped to the side again, another arrow missing him. He let loose an arrow and it buried itself in one of the men's throats. He turned, batting aside an arrow and knocked another arrow, this one to find it's mark in the man's chest.
"Prince Irsei", came a voice from a figure with dusky skin, golden eyes and red hair, bright red hair. The Nadragh stepped forward, "Your the last", it said, "with you, your race dies."
Corum drew another arrow and took a step back as another flew where he had been. The foresight of the Vadagh race went no further into the future and a minute or two, but it was enough for most combat situations, like this one. He turned and fired, killing another man and then replaced his bow and drew his sword.
The Nagragh could mask thier actions, thereby nullifying the Vadagh foresight. He stepped forward and Corum's sword cleared it's sheath, giving off a strange aura. They closed until thier sword tips touched. As though with an unseen or unheard agreement they began thier duel, the swords flashing in swift attack, reposte, strike and counter attack.
OOC: I've tried four times now to get this posted, maybe this times the charm.
Black Fang and Orome had been in combat together for ten years. More than enough time to become a polished, unified, lethal killing machine. And they proved it yet again.
The Hellcorn launched himself into a capriole, the grand upward leap that saw the warhorse lash out with both hind hooves once he was airborn. A pair of dinner plate size hooves impacted and crushed a man's ribcage into so much splintered wreckage as Orome leant forward along his neck. Her katana flashed out and down, bisecting another's torso almost completely. Dark coils of intestines spilled to tangle about the man's feet as he screamed in pain and fear.
Then Black Fang landed as lightly as a cat, his wickedly fanged jaws siezing one of the thugs bicept, slashing throught to the bone. Her closest foes felled, Orome took a minute to look about and assess the situation
Aliria shrank back as some of the thugs turned their attention to her. She quickly drew her sword, a determined look appearing on her face.
"I already killed one of you. I will not hesitate to do it again."
The princess then turned to the assassin and said, " You can start earning your pay anytime now."
Fakar rolled his eyes. "As you command, my lady." With an affected sigh, the assassin shouted behind him, and drew his dagger and pistol-bow.
After shooting two thugs, he delivered a stinging kick to Nero's posterior. "Fell free to join in anytime you want, Mageboy."
Nero sighed as thugs seemed to pour into the bar. He had always been one to lurk in the shadows and make his mark through subtefuge and more subtle means. Of course this didn't mean he was not able to defend himself.
Diving a hand into his robes, Nero withdrew a small wooden cylinder and gave it plenty of space as the wood seemed to instantly grow until it spanned from the floor to his chin. With the ancient oak stave gripped in his hands, Nero moved calmly forward, navigating through the fray of startled patrons until he came across a brutish looking man armed with a short sword. To the unsuspecting eye Nero looked to be near defenseless and barely capable of wielding the piece of wood within his grasp.
The brute didn't hesitate and attempted to skewer Nero on the end of his blade, expecting it to be that simple. Of course Nero had been expecting such and stepped backwards so as the blade didn't have the reach. He took the guard's over extention as the perfect oppurtunity to unleash a solid smack upon the soldier's blade with his own weapon. At first the soldier looked at him in puzzlement, as if asking why he would even attempt to break his steel blade with a stick. At that point a clang filled the air as the top half of the soldier's blade crashed to the floor. Stunned beyond belief, the soldier merely stared at his blade, allowing Nero the chance to strike him in the temple, causing him to join his blade upon the floor.
With one soldier down, Nero glided past the corpse and continued weaving through the chaos.
The Nadragh glared about him as the diversion he had joined began breaking apart around him. He knew that soon he would be to focus and was disappointed that he hadn't been able to kill Corum as quickly as he might have. The Vadagh was an excellent swordsman, something the Nadragh would have to remember. He stepped back and away from the melee. Corum made to follow but the Nadragh bowed, half way, in recognition of Corum's skill and acknowledgement that, for now, the fight was over. Corum returned the half bow and stood up. "By right of acknowledgement of equals I would know your name."
"Tharazinar", the Nadragh replied and then simply walked off.
Orome watched the impromptu duel end as quickly as it stated, the one who initiated it just leaving. That raised an eyebrow, but she had no time for more as the last three thugs in the killing ground decided that rushing her and the Hellcorn was a good idea
Balefire jetted from Black Fang's nostrils setting two men alight. Their screams drew all eyes as they writhed in torment, falling to the dank cobbelstones wreathed in the ebon flames. Orome's near decapitation of the last cleared the courtyard of the tavern of opposition.
There were cries coming from within the tavern, but from the way various ill kemp thugs were pouring out of the building, they had found whay lay within not to their liking. And to run from the danger there, to the sight of two of their compatriots burning to death... their taste for a fight fled and so did they.
At Oromes urging, Black Fang turned from his victims, though reluctantly. The fight had given him an appetite, and the crispied beings at his feet were 'at hoof' so to speak, but he obeyed. Almost daintily he minced over to where the large warrior stood watching his foe fade into the night's embrace
"I am Orome Heartfyre" She introduced herself as she cleaned her blade and homed it in the sheath across her back.
He said nothing for a moment, only watching his enemy fade into the night. He took another moment to see that no attack was coming in the next minute or two before looking up at the woman. Another long moment passed before he nodded, as though accepting what she said as true, and heading toward the stables again.
Curled up in a seemingly empty stall was a kid of perhaps fifteen or sixteen. Of course, he wasn't visible, which is why it was still seemingly empty; he'd buried himself under some hay to keep himself invisible.
The kid's name, as he was known on the street, was Hood. His job? A go-between. It was his job to take the stuff thieves sold and manage to sell it to 'respectable' merchants. The pay? Not so great. The danger? Anywhere from low to very high. Tonight it was 'very high', as a guard'd recognized what he was trying to hock to a reputable merchant. And he'd had to run for it.
Soon enough he'd be able to get out of here. The guards had already searched the stable, found nothing. But he needed to wait till they forgot about it. And until then, he was stuck in the stiflingly hot hay, itchy and uncomfortable.
Fakar tore away from the melee, grabbing Aliria by the hand as he did so. When she blinked, he coughed. "Time to start earning my pay, right? That's what you said?" The assassin started to blur at the edges, and literally jumped from where he was standing to a position in the stables.
With barely a nod to Orome and the new man, Fakar unceremoniously dropped Aliria in a randomly chosen stall. "Stay. Good girl." Then, intending to go in there and 'protect mage-boy', or at the least take any valuables from Nero's person if he's too late, he started to stride towards the door to the bar.
Only to be met by the ugliest thug imaginable. A twisted scar that revealed itself to be a mouth opened and said, "Where is she, worm?!"
"Excuse me, I'd like to get in there to kill your men now." Fakar politely answered, drawing his pistol-bow and pointing it at the hideous thug's nose. "So, you'll have to die." He fired it, and wasn't really surprised when it stuck into the man's forehead. "Inshalla!"
Then a massive fist reached back and slammed into Fakar's stomach. "Well, that's great." When the assassin had doubled up in pain, another blow landed on his nose, sending him flying back into the stall where he had put Aliria. "Hi, don't worry! Everything is okay."
Then the thug pulled the arrow from his head. The wound healed, and the man smiled evilly, baring a set of fangs that would make a shark jealous.
"Oh. They sent a half-troll. This...this is good."
Corum calmly walked over to the Nihrain. Now that the Nadragh had taken the opportunity in the confusion to make his attack and fail, Corum no longer considered this his battle. He pulled himself up and turned toward the door that the troll was presently occupying. "My argument isn't with you. I'll go now", he said and began moving toward the open door.
"Ooof!" Hood couldn't hide his surprise that a girl had just sort of fallen into his lap. Other than that, though, he stayed perfectly still, other than to hiss something into the girl's ear. "If you tell anyone I'm here, I'm going to hurt you very badly. I'm sorry I have to say this," he added, "but I NEED to not be seen or heard."
"Oh just ever so perfect" Orome snapped as she saw Fakar go flying, a blow from the massive half trolls fist breaking his freshly healed nose.
"I damn well didn't heal him just to have you break him again!"
She leapt lightly down from Black Fang, signalling him to move right, as she moved left in a pincers movement. His bale fire breath would be deadly weapon against the massive thug.
Brushing past the Nihrain's rider "I'd suggest you go have dinner at the tavern unless you are up for a rather interesting fight. That one is not going to die easy, or quickly, unless Black Fang can get in a good breath on him"
Aliria glared at the boy. She was in no mood to play games with a child. In a flash, she had turned and leveled the point of her sword at his throat.
"Do not underestimate me, boy. If you do not tell me who you are and what you are doing here this instant, it is I who will be hurting you very badly."
"The Nadragh know where I am. They'll come. I don't have time to stop for dinner, I wish I had", he said still ignoring the troll. "As for him", he said nodding toward the troll as he drew his sword, "Ignafama", he uttered and the swords blade seemed to erupt in flames, "That's why I carry this."
He hesitated a moment then sighed and slid off the Nihrain. The woman had helped him, he owed her a debt. He moved forward, holding the blade in a two handed grip at an angle in front of his body. He allowed his mind to float somewhere between now and the near future, letting him see the trolls actions and moving before the troll even began to.
Fakar grimaced. He could feel his nose being broken again, and that wasn't conducive to him being particularly happy. So with a shake of his head, the assassin reached down, grabbed the young thief by the ear, and twisted as hard as he could. "Put your knife down, boy, or I'll cleave it from your wrist!"
The troll clumsily brought its great fist to bear, blocking the way of Corum. "You not going anywhere, person!" Its other fist twisted around to try to punch Orome, but it still kept its eye on Corum, its simple mind not letting it view a female as a threat.
"Don't worry I haven't had dinner either." Orome muttered as she took the big mans off side. She wasn't fond of flaming swords, but they definitely had their uses.
The thug was concentrating the man with the sword, she knew he saw her as no threat, and this punch in her direction wasn't even half hearted. She disabused him of the notion that while she didn't have anything on that could be considered armour on, didn't much on that could be considered clothes either, and was female - she took his forearm off just below the elbow.
"How about I cook you dinner a couple of hours from now in a nice secluded glade a few miles out side this mudhole."
Corum stepped to one side just a couple of seconds before the thug turned in that direction and swept the sword in a horizontal arc. The blade bit deep into the trolls neck, almost decapitating it before it stopped. He yanked the blade out, but instead of back pedaling he ducked and moved forward. He spun, gaining all the momenting he could and cut into the other side of the trolls neck, completing the beheading. Then he stepped back. Looking around he grabbed an oil lamp, sheathed his sword and drug the body outside, then retrieved the head and put it on the body. He smashed the lamp on the corpse and let it burn. His nose wrinkled at the dreadful smell of burning troll as he walked back inside. Approaching the Nihrain he noticed the girl and two men and eyed them as he mounted.
After surprising several more brutes by breaking their treasured blades, Nero decided it was best to leave the tavern and join the others before they either died or left without him. Nero wasn't quite sure who had sent these men but by all apperances they didn't seem to be related to his master so he could only assume that there were several parties interested in the princess.
Leaving the fray behind, Nero spun around to move through the door but found his path blocked by the backside of a large brute. He was obviously occupied with others outside the tavern yet he was still proving to be a problem for Nero. Knowing that such people were not prone to cooperating, Nero took the more direct approach.
Raising one end of his stave, Nero levelled an end at the base of the beast's neck and rammed home. A might thump resounded, followed a dim flash as energy surged through the stave and into the half troll, causing his nerves to react in a manner that dropped the half troll to his hands and kness.
Stepping past the downed man, Nero spotted the princess and assassin in a stall.
"Perhaps we should be leaving?"
Fakar kept his free hand on his nose, groaning in pain. "My bloody nose!" he snapped, standing up, still holding the little boy in one hand. "Orome, a little help?!" The assassin was plainly unhappy with this chain of events.
Corum almost got onto the Nihrain but it pulled away, feeling a bit indignant after having been dismounted and remounted so many times recently. It gave Corum a baleful glare and stared back. "We're leaving this time, Mranlikaa. We can't stay anyway, you know that. They'll come."
The huge Nihrain seemed to nod and then stood still as Corum pulled himself up and turned for the door again. "You should get that looked at", he threw over his shoulder to Fakar, having noticed the broken nose.
"It really shouldn't matter who I am," he said with a grimace. He had a sword pointed at his throat now? That was just... wonderful. He was still in a pile of hay, though, and he'd use that to his advantage -- kicking up said pile of hay into her eyes. Hopefully she was blinded enough by that that he could make a run for it...
Orome grabbed the half trolls severed forearm before it could scuttle off and gingerly carried it out to the blazing pile that was the rest of it. She noted that the warrior had once again mounted his Nihrain steed and appeared ready to leave.
"Going to take me up on that dinner I offered? And you still haven't told my your name." She called as she headed over to Fakar. Once again he needed his nose healed. Big noses like his were just liabilities.
"It really shouldn't matter who I am," he said with a grimace. He had a sword pointed at his throat now? That was just... wonderful. He was still in a pile of hay, though, and he'd use that to his advantage -- kicking up said pile of hay into her eyes. Hopefully she was blinded enough by that that he could make a run for it...
Half blinded by pain and raw, mindboggling fury that he was, the assassin could still take this kid out. With a sudden movement he had the pistol-bow in hand and was pointing it at the Hood, his hand weaving a little. "I may have a broken nose, but I will hit you, boy. The only question is where. Sit down, and the next time you attack my meal-ticket I will rend you limb from limb. We'll deal with you later."
Corum was about to ride off. He intended to in fact and Mranlikaa was ready to go. The order to gently knee the Nihrain just didn't seem to find it's way from his brain and he sat for a moment, wondering why the steed hadn't moved when he realized that he hadn't prodded it to do so. Besides, there was something about the woman ... but he quickly steered clear of that thought as he had ever since his wife had fallen to the Nadragh along with the rest of his people. How long had it had been since he had something other than trail rations? She did say cook. A warm meal, even if a bad one, as he didn't know her cooking skill, was better than the salty, cold meals that had filled his belly for what? Four now? Five months? He wasn't even sure anymore.
Pain, and not from any injury, flickered across his face and then indecision. He wanted to take her up on the meal, but didn't want anyone endangered. He wanted company but knew it was better for everyone else were he to remain alone. In the end, torn by indecision, he simply sat on the steed.
"Oh stop threatening people and let me fix your nose, or is pointing your weapon at some ragamuffin more important"
Orome strode up and took the pistol crossbow from Fakar's wavering hand as she spoke. Then she gently turned his face full on to her. She looked him over well and her eyes were sympathetic.
"This is going to hurt. Alot. He got you just about perfect so to speak."
Setting the pistol bow aside, she used both hands with the lightest touches possible to reshape his nose, then the warmth flares, as did the power with in her and the pain came. Fakar screamed - it hurt BAD, then the pain was gone
Half blinded by pain and raw, mindboggling fury that he was, the assassin could still take this kid out. With a sudden movement he had the pistol-bow in hand and was pointing it at the Hood, his hand weaving a little. "I may have a broken nose, but I will hit you, boy. The only question is where. Sit down, and the next time you attack my meal-ticket I will rend you limb from limb. We'll deal with you later."
"Your 'meal-ticket', as you put it, fell into me," Hood said with a snarl as he sat down. Oh, if they were the cause of him getting busted, there'd be hell to pay. Hell, indeed. He might be young, but he knew who he could talk to that would solve his problems for him.
But the workings behind his eyes weren't so clear. All anyone could see now was submission. He'd been defeated this time.
Corum finally sighed and looked back. "He's obviously hiding, why not just call the authorities and be done with it." He turned the huge black horse around. "Lady?", he said, looking at Orome, "If you meant what you said, I would be honored to dine with you. Though here wouldn't be good, there's too much attention already."
"I dis like turning people over to the authorities..." Orome said meditatively "Unless I know said authorities, and these here I don't. But the Church has too great a hold." She gave Fakar a narrow eyed glance "For my taste."
She swept the town with a disgusted gaze "No here is not suitable at all. Out of town, in a forest glade, away from the road. A chuckling brook, the sleepy songs of the nightengale, the fiddle scratch of crickets, the pleasant scent of an apple wood and oak fire, steaks sputtering, and vegtables baking in their skins?"
"My Lady, the very description might carry me for weeks. I would be most appreciative."
Mranlikaa looked back at Corum and pawed at the ground, though it's hoof never left a mark.
"What?" Corum asked the Nihrain, "We move from here and then you get to rest, I should think you would be content with that."
The steed snorted and looked back toward the others as though eager for them to start moving and angry they weren't.
Corum kneed the Nihrain around and rode out of the building. He stopped just outside, his gaze sweeping the area. His foresight didn't reveal anything in the next couple of minutes so he looked back. "It's clear", he told them, "I'll take point."
Fakar stood up and walked alongside Orome's horse. "So, you're going, are you?" He asked, shooting a 'don't you dare move' look at Hood. The assassin smiled his thin little smile. "And what if I knew something? Something that might just change your mind?"
OOC: Ro, Gorg - I'd suggest deleting each of your previous -to -this- post and this post be the reply to CW's actions:
Corum kneed the Nihrain around and rode out of the building. He stopped just outside, his gaze sweeping the area. His foresight didn't reveal anything in the next couple of minutes so he looked back. "It's clear", he told them, "I'll take point."
Orome came to stand by the Nihrain's side, keeping her voice low. She did not want anyone to knew where they were headed
"West road, two hours outside town, deer track going off to the north, follow it about half a mile and you'll come to the clearing I described. We'll will meet you there. The Sisters keep that clearing clean, and stocked with firewood, since they don't have a chapterhouse here. If you'll get that fire going I will cook, and I am a good one."
Then she was moving abck to the stables calling for the oster to bring the horses she had purchased around, and to bring the mage's gelding as well.
"Aliria, Fakar, we need to get moving. Let the boy go and get mounted up. Some one will need to lead the pack mule, and the spare mount." She watched as the ostler brought out the three saddle horses and the well laden mule, the disappeared back into the depth of the stable to fetch the mages mount.
Once he had she lowered her voice to a whisper that carried to just the two "Follow my lead on leaving town. We don't want others knowing where we're going. I trust you do have a destination Aliria? We'll wait to discusss that till we stop for the night."
She gathered up her mules lead rope and swung up onto the Hellcorns back, sitting lightly, waiting for the others got mount
"West road, two hours outside town, deer track going off to the north, follow it about half a mile and you'll come to the clearing I described. We'll will meet you there. The Sisters keep that clearing clean, and stocked with firewood, since they don't have a chapterhouse here. If you'll get that fire going I will cook, and I am a good one."
Corum nodded and kneed the Nihrain forward, taking up a steady trot. He kept his eyes open for any danger or possible ambush as he rode, something he was long accustomed too with so many years of experiance, both in military service and riding alone. After a couple of hours he begin to keep an eye out for the deer track and, finding it, headed off northward. Soon he came to the clearing and moved off to the left hand side from the entry point, where he dismounted.
He gathered firewood and kindling and started a fire, then took a position to the left, rather than the far side of the fire, and removed his bow, keeping watch on the opening from the shadow of the trees as the Nihrain returned to it's own plane to rest.
Fakar cast a look at Aliria, Nero, and the Hood. "Well, onward to death and glory!" He announced, whistling into the air. His raven flew down and onto his arm. Then there was a hard pause where the assassin looked at the boy. "Hum..." There was a moment of decision, and then Fakar pulled a gold coin out of his pocket and tossed it to the Hood. "I hope that will buy your silence?"
The street rat took off running. Fakar shook his head. "Proc, let's go."
OOC: Just a head's up to everyone: Nueronia is backing out of this RP for personal reasons. I think if Roania edits his last post it'll be okay.
Death and glory? Aliria thought. Well, that's...interesting. If we die, there won't be much glory . With a practised ease, she leapt into the saddle of the brown mare the ostler had brought. She looked down at Fakar and Nero.
Orome looked at Fakar with an expression of vast disamusement
"Death and Glory...oh you are an idiot...Let us leave this town before any more trouble lands on us"
Black Fang snorted a long whisp of bale fire. He was getting impatient. The mule moved to the end of the lead line, and brayed nervously
With all the thugs either dead or gone, Nero took a moment to lean against a stable support and take in the mess. These men weren't familiar to him at all so he assumed they were not sent by his master, even though he was careful never to make any definite assumptions when it came to the man. Surveying the stable one more time, Nero whislted and began strolling outside to join the others.
"Any idea who's friends they were?"
Before he could get an answer, Nero's jet black mount arrived at the heels of the stable boy. Whilst the horse appeared to be intimidating, it was really quite calm and generally friendly. Nero had chosen it for its good speed, endurance and companionship. On lonely journeys he believed one's horse could become their best friend.
Happy to be with his companion again, the horse nudge Nero, urging him to climb atop so they could ride out. Not wanting to frustrate the horse, Nero took the reigns and jumped atop the horse, waiting for an answer from anyone.
Orome saw the horses liking for it's master, the mage Nero as he'd been introduced. She considered his question and had to admit
"Thye might have been directed at me. There's a reason there is on Chancery or Chapter house here. The locals don't like 'uppity' women, much less ones with swords. Or it might have been directed at me from another angle. My House is prominately displayed on my cloak. The two kingdoms have less than ...cordial relations."
She shrugged, as she waited for Fakar to mount. The problem had been dealth with, and would be again if it reoccured.
"Or," Fakar interjected, "they could be after the same thing we're after. Our little lady over there probably has powerful competition. I mean, a half-troll?" He studied his horse for a moment. "Now, you play straight with me and Proc won't tear your eyes out for afters, got it?" The assassin leapt onto the horse, which then bolted and started to run around the yard. I hate horses.
Orome led the way out of town quickly, urging them to silence as well. The less attention they attracted the better. Once they were past the south gates, and well out of sight of the city walls, she had them turn, heading cross country, moving at a brisk trot and avoiding any farm houses. Soon they had swung around and were on the west road, well over three miles out side the city walls.
Once they were on the west road, she let them slow to walk to rest their mounts some. To her observations Aliria seemed to be the best rider, but Fakar despite his whining and poor horsemanship was the most observant. Orome had him take the lead "Follow the road till you get to the lightning blasted oak, and halt there if I've not caught up with you." She dropped back and hid by the side of the road for some time, waiting to see if any had followed them. At last satisfied that they had not been trailed she took the big Hellcorn into a canter and caught up with the others.
They had not been waiting long and followed her to where the deer trail broke off of the main road. The going was slower here and they had to lean over their mounts necks many times to avoid low hanging branches. Soon however they were at the well-hidden campsite. A brook flowed past less than a hundred feet from the large glade, surrounded by tall trees and lit by the fire that Corum had prepared.
"Ho the camp" Orome called softly as they approached and Corum faded in from the shadows where he'd been standing guard. Efficiently Orome set about dividing the various chores, sparing no one from them. Soon dinner was cooking and tents - three of them- had been set up.
Dinner was venison steaks, pulled from a 'cold cloth' -a specially woven and magic cloth that kept food cold and fresh- grilled over the fires embers- potatoes and apples baked in the embers. Rounding it out were cheese, pickles and bread. Kaffe and sweet crums were dessert.
Once everyone had finished eating, Orome looked at Aliria and spoke bluntly
“Okay what are we after?”
Aliria didn't eat much dinner. She was too nervous too be hungry. When everyone seemed to be done eating, she looked around at her companions.
"First of all, I want to thank you all. You've come all the way out here with a girl you don't know, without even knowing why you're here. Second of all, I'm not who you think I am. I'm not just Aliria. I am Aliria Ellestrea Verana, the Princess of Perilon."
Fakar blinked and raised his hand. "Um...pardon me, Aliria, is that the Perilon? The Perilon which was conquered by an evil sorcerer?" He swallowed. "Um...I take it I'm not going to be paid guild rates for this job..."
Pain flickered across Aliria's face at Fakar's words. She had lost so much. Her family...her home...
I WILL make him pay. she thought, an expression of determination and hatred replacing the pain in her features.
"Yes, Fakar. That's the one. And that's why I'm here. I am going find the Black Blade and use it to defeat the sorcerer Zeikros and take back my father's Kingdom! But...I can't do it alone."
She looked around at each of her companions. "Will you help me?"
"Yes, but... I will get paid, right? If I help you?" He smiled broadly. "I accept most major forms of currency, land grants, titles, and kisses." The assassin looked Aliria over for a second and smiled. "Kisses will do nicely."
Nero wasn't surprised at all when the princess revealed her true identity to the group. He'd picked her out straight away from the moment his eyes had run across her. Keeping a blank expression, he allowed her to continue to assure himself that he had guessed correctly at what her task was.
And so it was finally all out in the open. Aliria intended to find the black blade and banish his master. Being the naive young girl that she was, she assumed it would that simple to defeat him just because she had the blade. Knowing better himself, Nero continued to remain silent as he thought over things. It would be best if he continued with this task, perhaps even aquired the blade himself.
"I shall aid you lady. My services are devoted to his quest."
"Oh by the gods girl, couldn't you have chosen something easy to do? Zeikros has conquered more than half a dozen countries. My uncle started making treaty marriages sixty five years ago to create a buffer zone between his ambitions and Neuvo Nihongo."
Orome fell silent for a moment, weighing various factors, and after many minutes slowly nodded her head.
"I'm in but what I know of the legend of the Black Blade is little, but I have sources that may know more. I'll ask them later. Defeating Zeikros will gain me the rewards I want from my uncle and ...interested others." She spoke no more on that, it wasn't their business. She looked at Aliria gravely, fingering the Sister's sigil, and continued
"From you -help in rebuilding the chapter houses in Perilon. Zeikros hates the Sisters of the Sword with a bloody passion. The last news I had relayed to me was that they had all been destroyed and Sisters slaughtered."
Corum nodded to Orome as she rode in and waited until everyone arrived. Once they were all in the area he headed back toward the road, just off the trail and took a position in the trees where the trail came off the road and waited for about half an hour to make sure no one unwanted had decided to invite themselves. He then returned to the camp for the promised dinner.
Corum entered the camp, replacing the bow and then helped to finish setting up. His stomach rumbled periodically, betraying his stoic features as to his anticipation of the meal. He waited until the ladies had taken thier fill before helping himself to anything. Corum ate slowly, with a refined manner that betrayed his appearance. Once finished he washed the plate and utensils.
"I'll take watch", he said as he headed back out of the camp, leaving them to themselves. He made his way back down the path to the road junction, climbed a tree and removed his bow, making sure his quiver was easily accessable. Then he leaned back, knocked an arrow and watched the road. He figured it was the least he could do for the wonderful meal and would see to it to thank her in the morning. For now he figured they could use the rest.
"We can always use another skilled sword" Orome looked thoughtfully toward where Corum had vanished. "Let me go see what would be his price. He is well born, and now down on his fortunes."
Lithely she rose and nodded toward the tents. "The red is mine, Aliria take the green and the blue you men can share."
Gracefully, on silent feet she headed back down the trail, seeking the guard spot Corum has chosen
"Black Fang will not let any one not already here approach without great commotion. Come rest, my crimson hued tent has room for two easily, as do my furs. The night grows chill."
She spoke when she knew he could hear her
Corum looked down at her, silent for a long moment, almost long enough to make one think they had the wrong spot, but then he spoke from the tree above her, "Your meal was a banquet, Lady, and most palatable. I thank you for it. The least I can do is watch over you and yours this night. It's required of me to give in kind what I'm given." It was completely true, though not the whole truth. As gazed at the beautiful woman before he spoke he decided that he wouldn't trust himself to spend a night in her tent without doing something desperate and stupid. He also wasn't sure he would survive it, so for both thier sakes he was better off where he was.
"Sometimes men are either denser than lead or noble beyond suffering." Orome commented softly.
"Corum, I would not make the offer without all possibilities being thought out. One does not survive and prosper with out doing such. I included mention of my furs very deliberately. I do not make such offers lightly or casually - but my reasons and my choices are my own."
She spent a moment looking up at the clearing night sky as chill winds blew what small clouds there were away to the south.
"And, on a seperate matter - if you are in need of honourable hire. We are embarked upon a mission of no small dangers, and among those here none are truly skilled with a blade other than myself. I can pay you well in gold under mercinaries oath - I need a partner to share a warriors responsibilities."
Corum eyed her from his perch suspiciously. A good meal, a woman's arms and pay all in one night? These things just didn't happen to him. Then again if it was a true then would he pass it up? That would be foolish. He unknocked his arrow, put it in the quiver and stood up, now a shadow above seperating from the other shadows. Once his bow was back in place on his back he stepped off the branch.
Corum stepped off the branch and fell to the ground. He didn't seem to fall nor hit the ground as fast or as hard as someone his size should and he kept his feet easily. "I could use more coin", he replied, "but what is the task of this honorable hire?" he asked as he stood before her.
Fakar sat back on the tree branch he had chosen for his perch and looked out on the horizon. Somewhere to the north was darkness, somewhere beneath him was Aliria, and somewhere above him was his raven. Or crow. He wasn't sure. Could be a jackdaw, actually.
The assassin blinked when he heard the branch begin to snap. ...damn it. With a quick leap, he was sitting on another branch. One that afforded him a clear view of Aliria. With a chuckle, Fakar slid back into the shadows and watched.
With all he needed to say already done and said, Nero finished his dinner and crawled into his tent. Alone with the privacy of his own thoughts, Nero contemplated his actions in the near future. He wasn't sure exactly what it was that he should do, it depended upon what his master wanted.
Realising it had been some time since he had communicated with his master, Nero lay down and closed his eyes, soon plunging into a light trance as he allowed his mind to partially escape his body, heading back towards Perilon. Finally he found his master and opened his mind.
"Master Zeikros. I have made contact with the princess and have some interesting news..."
"We go after a hell forged blade and use it to restore a kingdom to it's rightful ruler who lost it to a black wizzard of great power." Orome gave him a wry look "I did ask her if she couldn't have chosen an easier quest, but she is set on that."
"I'm going to go take a bath in the stream. I hate going to bed combat and trail dirty. If you care to join me, I have sandalwood scented soap."
Not waiting for an answer she turned and headed to her tent. Moments later she emerged, wrapped only in her cloak, soap and towels in her hands.
Aliria yawned and looked outside. Orome and that...mercenary had wandered off, Nero had gone to his tent, and Fakar was standing watch. It had been a very confusing and very busy day. The young woman had never expected this much help. I...I think we can actually do this... She thought as she closed the tent's door and changed into her silk shift. The young princess then curled up in her furs and drifted to sleep.
When she woke up, she was in a cold, stony room. Pictoglyphs shone on the walls in the light of a row of torches that had somehow sprung to life. And in the middle of the room a sarcophagus stood, its painted sides glinting with a red that seemed oddly reminiscent of blood. "This is an unusual dream..."
"And it is to become stranger..." The voice was speaking a language she couldn't understand, but the words appeared in her head as clear and simple as if she herself had thought them.. A bony hand, tied up in wrappings and the remnants of flesh, reached from behind her and landed on her shoulder. Before her terrified eyes, the hand renewed itself until it was a rich and vibrant, golden coloured, living appendage.
Aliria pulled back. "Who are you?!"
"Oh, no." The man was tall, his head shaven bald so that it glinted in the torchlight. He was dressed in long, flowing robes of various hues. "The question is, who are you?"
"This...this is my dream, I ask the questions!" The Princess stepped even further back when his hand brushed along her face, the touch still cold.
"You're a brave little girl, I'll grant you that, Princess Aliria of Perilon." The man grinned a bony smile. "You'll need it if you wish to take my property from its current wielder."
"How did you...your property...who are you?"
"I was Pharaoh Badnu Wos'Set of the land of..." the words in her head and the words he was speaking became the exact same language for a moment there. "And you seek my sword."
"You...you crafted the Black Blade?" Aliria whispered, staring at him, entranced by him. "What do you want of me?"
"I just want to cheer you on! To wish you good luck..." Badnu leaned forward and pushed her against the wall, kissing her. Even as their lips met, his voice sounded in her head. "You'll need it…." and then, still kissing her, his flesh started to rot and fall to the ground. “ Go north, Aliria. The blade will come to you.” Aliria started to tremble, her body shivering as she tried to push him away.
The shudders became even worse until suddenly everything went black. Aliria screamed.
Outside Aliria’s tent, Fakar paced, his raven on his shoulder. He could hear the Princess tossing and turning inside. Maybe I should…no. I’ll leave her in peace.
Suddenly she screamed. That’s it…. Fakar ran into her tent, sending Proc flying into the air. The assassin sat down and gently pushed and pulled at her, trying to wake her up.
"Augh!" Aliria sat up, sending Fakar flying from where he was shaking her. "No..." she whispered. Then her eyes slowly adjusted to the waking reality. "Um...what were you doing?" She took a couple of deep, calming breaths.
The assassin rolled back to his feet, and grinned. "My job, Princess." Fakar laughed a little. "You were shaking and talking in your sleep. I thought I should wake you up..." he slid back over to her side and smiled caringly. "Are you okay?"
"I...I think so." Aliria sat up and crossed her legs. "I had the strangest dream. I dreamt that the creator of the Black Blade came to me as a skeleton. He spoke to me."
Aliria gave a small smile. "Would you believe he actually wished me luck? He told me that the blade is guarded and that if I keep heading north, it will find me..." Suddenly, she noticed Fakar staring at her.
"What are you looking at?"
"Your choice of night wear, Aliria... I mean, Princess," Fakar said, his eyes very carefully examining every corner of her body, "is inappropriate for the situation you are in." The assassin reached out, slid her hand away, and pulled at the silk a little so that more of her body was concealed beneath it. "You are a beautiful woman, and it is unsafe to advertise that fact."
As his hand pulled back, he softly caressed her face. "Any more than is possible..."
Corum followed Orome. "She goes to get a blade to regain a kingdom? I should think that she would need more than that. Who's forces control this kingdom? The wizards? We'd need an army, and they don't come cheap, especially not good ones."
Aliria coloured. "Don't you think," she said softly, "that it would be better if you called me Aliria? Is it really safe to flaunt my title?"
Shyly, she looked down. "I mean...you are here to ensure my safety, aren't you?"
Fakar grinned back at her for a moment. "You are of course correct, Aliria..." he whispered, brushing his hand back across her face. Her attention was drawn to a very large leather guard over his nose. "I am concerned that using such a beautiful name might also bring their attention to your...beautiful body."
There was a mischievous flicker on his face. "I'd like to keep that view for myself, if I may..."
"Of course." Suddenly Aliria frowned. "What is that silly-looking contraption on your nose? You certainly don't need it in here."
She gently reached out and removed the nose guard. "There. That's much better."
"It is a noseguard!" Fakar grinned. "An invention of mine to protect my delicate nose!" The man coloured a little. "Everything else seems to be after it..."
His hand brushed through her hair a little.
Orome did not answer Corum as she moved silently through the woods heading upstream to the sand bottomed bathing pool. Black Fangs red eyes appeared from off in the forest as the stallion check on just who was moving about. Black flamed bale fire gusted from his nostrils as he turned back to finishing dining on the goat that had been unwary enought to let the Hellcorn close.
When she reached the bank, thick with cress and clover, she let the heavy cloak drop, moon light and starshine bringing a glow to her silken skin. The towels followed and she waded into the lazy watered brook with shiver that swept up her body and drew goose bumps.
" Zeikros swept though an unprepared Perilon just over a month ago. Their army has been a farce for many years. In their yearning for peace they forgot to prepare for war. This makes kingdom number eight that he's conquered." She started to work the sandalwood soap into a lather and began to make sure every bit of her skin ws clean of grime.
"Are you going to join me?" It was no question. Orome was fastidious and particular.
Corum removed his clothing, his oddly hued skin reflecting in the moonlight. His back and upper back of his legs and buttocks were laced with whip scars. He stepped into the water, shivering slightly and accepted the soap when she was done.
"So he a has a force that spans eight kingdoms? What exactly does my contract call for? Assuming I accept. Just attainment of the blade? The destruction of the wizard? or up to and including the retaking of the Kingdom? And what is she paying?"
"Poor Fakar..." Aliria said, smiling slightly as she placed her hand gently over his.
She shivered from the cold and snuggled closer to him, laying her head on his shoulder.
The assassin blinked in surprise, but didn't object to her affections. "Poor Fakar?" He asked, quietly. "I'm quite wealthy, Aliria, and I aim to be wealthier after this day's work is done." Fakar slid his arm around the young woman and smiled. "Protecting you looks to be quite profitable..."
"It may span eight kingdoms, but he has not yet subdued the last two, and for now they are troublesome enough that if we hurry we could strike before they are tamed to the hand."
She took the soap back from him and worked it into a lather. She moved behind him and with firm hands began lathering his back, noting but saying nothing of the countless scars than covered his back.
"Let us just say that for now your contract just covers the retrieving the blade. We can negotiate the retaking of the kindgom later. I will be the one paying you."
She shook her head, as she pushed down gently on his shoulders, dunking him in the cool waters, rinsing his back, then as he rose, turning him to face her.
"Corum, the child has not a penny to her name, but she has a universe of determination. You tell me what your hire is worth."
She looked deeply into his eyes. "And if you ever feel you are up to losing those scars, and living without the pain they most likely give you, I can remove them."
She dove into the deepest part of the pool one last time, then waded up the bank, water sleeting from her body like a silver veil.
Aliria jerked up. "Um...Fakar? My country has just been through war. Assuming we win, the Royal Treasury is...well...empty. I can't pay you. I...I'll understand if you want to leave."
She looked away to hide the tears in her eyes. Silly girl. You KNEW it would come to this. You shouldn't have let yourself become attatched...
Corum watched her for a moment as the moon reflected from the water on her body, giving her an ethereal appearance that was breathtaking. Finally he followed, just standing and letting the water run off of him. He stood for a long moment, just looking at the beautiful woman then gathered his clothes and began washing them out in the water.
"Too young for such hardships", he uttered, though one couldn't be sure if he meant himself when his hard life started or the girl. "You render your assistance willingly." He looked over at her. "I'll take a trade instead of money. Lend me your blade when the time comes for me to avenge my people and I'll lend you mind now. A mercenary's contract."
Fakar swallowed. "Not...not a pence?" He asked, quietly? This...this is troublesome... When she nodded, a little sobbing sound coming from her, he drew himself up. "Well, that...that...that's..." There was another sobbing sound, and the assassin released the rage.
He sighed and slowly slid up to her, putting his hand on her chin to gently draw her back. "Hey." When Aliria turned to face him, Fakar smiled. "I promised I'd protect you, Aliria. Fakar Nightblade doesn't break his word lightly..." A thought slowly came to him. "I have some...alternative forms of payment you might be interested in..."
"In addition to most major forms of currency, I accept lands, titles..." His heart started to beat faster, "kisses..."
"Accepted, Corum." Orome went to her knees next to him, holding out her sword hand.
"I am a Sister of the Sword. I live by the blade, and I expect I shall die that way as well. If I fall before our bargain is complete the other Sisters shall carry it on for me, as I would for any one of them...but Corum, do not think me better than I am. I have asked for payment in the rebuilding of the Sister's chapter houses in Perilon. And my uncle, Emperor of Nuevo Nihongo- He fears the ambitions of Zeikros. If I help bring about his downfall, I shall be well rewarded."
She held out her hand for his, and when he took it she tuggged him to his feet. Then she was pressed against him, molding her body to his as she went up on tiptoe to kiss him deeply.
He returned her kiss with passion, forgetting the tent and holding her in a tight embrace. In a second his world became the depth of her eyes, the softness of her lips and the warmth of her body. He realized, only in that moment, how desperately lonely he had been, only hiding in his quest the need for companionship. It was surprising revelation, having so well hidden the truth from his own mind.
Nero waited patiently for his master to think over the information the dark sorcerer was relaying mentally. Finally the image of Zeikros appeared within Nero's mind, the sinister looking man relaying his own orders.
"Good. I want you to continue with this party. Aid them if you must, just don't give them too much help. Allow her to get the blade and return, then take it from her. With the Black Blade I would be unstoppable. There will be ample reward for you Nero... if you don't fail me."
Nero was left with a strong sense of threat, yet of course he wasn't going to fail and so the feeling soon left the mage and allowed him to plunge into slumber.
Orome had no idea how much time had passed while they were locked in the burning kiss. Time didn't matter. The depth of her reaction to this near stranger disturbed her but she wasn't going to let some one who aroused her so pass by.
Eventually she stepped away from him. Her cloak went about his shoulders, as one of the large towels made an excellent wrap for her. Unspeaking, hand in hand Orome and Corum headed for the tent and the warmth of the waiting furs.
Eventually they slept, exhausted, wrapped in each others arms and the thick furs.
As the passionite kiss ended Corum found that he couldn't quite remember where he was, or why he was there, nor did he care. As Orome wrapped the blanket around him and the towel around herself and then took his hand he followed without hesitation or question. Time past quickly before sleep finally took them, though the moments were lost in pleasure and passion. Soon after he slipped from pleasurable reality to pleasant dreams, his arms wrapped around her both protectively and with the need to hold her burning within him.
"R-really? I...I think I could manage that. The kisses at least..." Alrira turned bright pink at this. Without thinking, she tilted her chin up to him, openly inviting him to kiss her.
Fakar took her in his arms and met her lips with his, holding her close to him. When she threw her arms around his neck, he smiled. "I'm not going to let anyone hurt you, Aliria." The assassin whispered, cuddling her closely. "I promise."
Aliria relaxed in Fakar's arms. It had been so long since she had felt this good. "I can't believe this is happening. I never imagined..."
That was as far as she got. Her voice trailed off as her eyes closed and her head dropped onto Fakar's shoulder. Safe, warm, contented, the princess fell fast asleep in the arms of her protector.
Dawn came all to soon, and Orome refused to heed its arrival. There was no need, she felt, to be up that early. The groats she has set to soaking in the embers of last nights fire would be fine even an hour or so later. She rolled over so that she and Corum were spooned together, drifting back off to sleep.
Two hours later she woke again, as Black Fang pawed at the tent. He wanted his morning treat of cheese and if he didn't get it would be in a foul mood all day. Quietly she slithered out of Corum's embrace, planning to let him sleep.
Quickly she dressed and eased from the tent. From the food packs she brought farmers cheese and fed the massive Hellcorn a largish lump. Brushing her hair and tieing it back in a top knot, she fanned the embers and set more Kaffe to steeping. The groats were sweetened with honey and dried fruit.
"Every one rise and come eat" She called out as she pulled out Black Fangs curry brushes and set to grooming his ebony hide into polished perfection. She could tell he had played in the stream the night before, his under belly was still damp
"Let me guess of ever hungry one, you had a late night snack of trout didn't you?" She teased him as she threw his tack on and cincehed the girth loosely. She'd wait till just before they were ready to leave to tighten it. The two mules got a strong grooming, Orome heaving the packsaddles on and cinched them up completely -the mules couldn't be trusted not to dump them. She laid out measures of grain for the other horses, but she did not groom them. People would have to care for their own. mounts
Fakar yawned and ran a spotcheck. Arms, all here...nose, unbroken...legs...1, 2...still one head...no major injuries...beautiful girl...beautiful girl?! The assassin blinked and snapped to full awakeness. There was indeed a soft, happily slumbering girl sleeping in his arms. Memory eventually reached him and he nodded. "Hey, Aliria..." Fakar whispered, brushing a hand through her hair.
Outside there was a caw as Proc woke up and flew from his perch to the ground, searching for worms.
Nero had been awake ever since the sun emerged and had taken the oppurtunity to bathe in the nearby spring as the sun rose, bathing him in light and water. Feeling much more relaxed, he had seen to his horse and gear, assuring himself all was in order before they broke camp for the morning.
After meditating within the cover of some upper tree branches, Nero broke out of his trance upon hearing Orome's call for food. He could do with another breakfast and so dropped himself from the tree, using his arcane abilities to cushion his landing upon the forest floor.
With almost no sound, Nero appeared beside Orome.
Corum awoke when Orome got up and he lay for some time before he got up himself and put on his now dry clothes and checked then donned his chainmail. He stepped outside and drew his sword, checking the edge for nicks and honing then oiling it before he began checking his bow and string and each arrow to make sure that none were warped. By the time he was done she had called for breakfast. His face was impassive again as the others began to come to eat and he waited for the ladies to eat thier fill before helping himself. Once done he jogged out to the road, checking the trail and then the road for presence or evidence of passage as he bent down to check for any signs. He had been trained since childhood to read tracks and trail signs and had surpassed even his teacher at a young age.
"Good morr'o to you Master Nero." Orome looked up from what she was doing, and gave him a perfunctory smile.
"There is no milk for the groats but there's rose honey and dried apples."
Part of her wanted to sneeze, the smell of magic twined about him and made her nose itch. She turned to Aliria's tent and called again.
"Daylight's burning. Rise and shine Aliria"
Nero gazed upon Orome with a neutral expression, not threatening but not particularly caring either. He didn't like her at all given that she was a Sister yet decided he was not going to allow his personal dislike of the woman ruin his mission regarding the blade an princess.
Nero sat down on a nearby log and helped himself to a dried apple.
Aliria stirred in Fakar's arms and smiled up at him. "Hey. It's morning isn't it?" She turned and kissed Fakar lightly, then slowly stood and stretched. When he stood, she put her arms around his waist and hugged him.
"Thank you for staying with me last night. I...it was nice not to be alone." Before he could reply, she pulled away and grinned. "Now. Go outside so I can get dressed."
With a barely concealed grin, Fakar pulled his hood over his eyes, casting his face into a dark pool of shadow. "As you command, Aliria..." The assassin bowed and stepped from the tent.
"Proc!" He called, looking around. "Where are you, you useless carrion bird?" Fakar tapped his foot on the ground until his raven finally reappeared, chewing on something slurpy. "...is that an eyeball?"
The bird shrugged, indicating with that simple gesture that whatever it might have been before, it was now breakfast. Fakar grimaced. "Human?"
The raven emphatically shook its head. The assassin sighed. "Inshallah. Well, finish it up." He stretched. "I feel like a million dollars today, and I intend to take it."
Orome's eyebrows went up when she saw Fakar exiting Aliria's tent. Shaking her head, 'but the she is a woman grown- at least in years.' she thought. Going over to her packs she brought out a heavy thick glass bottle.
With it in hand she went over to Aliria's tent, and tapped on the support pole. Not waiting she held the bottle inside, and spoke bruskly.
"Aliria, take a hefty sip of this every morning, unless you want complications, that you really don't need right now"
Aliria stepped out of the tent, now fully dressed, and accepted the bottle from Orome. She regarded it with a puzzled expression. It didn't look very good, and for the life of her, Aliria couldn't understand what Orome was talking about.
"What do you mean...complications?"
Oromes eyebrows soared heavenward.
"Pregnancy' Succinct and blunt
Aliria's eyes went wide. "Oh. Oh I see. Yes...yes that would be inconvenient. Thank you, Orome." She put the bottle in her pack.
She thinks that Fakar and I... The Princess could hardly believe it. Well...I suppose it's not impossible...I mean...I really like Fakar...
Aliria sighed and moved to the fire, taking a mug of Kaffe and sipping it slowly. As she savoured the hot beverage, she watched Fakar and his raven with a small smile on her face.
Whilst Nero appeared to be occupied with his breakfast, he was paying close attention to everyone. He noted the fact that Fakar emerged from the princess's tent and also watched the way she gazed upon him. Obviously there was something going on between them, which didn't bother Nero at all. In fact, he was happy that this was the case, it oppened up possibilites in the future when the time to act arrived.
Finishing his dried apple, Nero approached his mount and patted it upon the nose, causing it to rub against his shoulder.
"Are we ready to leave yet?"
"If Aliria and Fakar will get their horses saddled while I take down the tents, we can go."
Orome set about killing the fire and taking down the tents,which was but the work of a few minutes. She loaded it on the mules.
"Just to let every one know, we ALL work on setting up and breaking down camp from now on, or we hire a dogsbody to do it"
Aliria picked up her saddle and went over to her horse. She heaved it onto the animal's back and then proceeded to stare confusedly at the straps. "Um..."
Aliria picked up her saddle and went over to her horse. She heaved it onto the animal's back and then proceeded to stare confusedly at the straps. "Um..."
Fakar silently strode over to her, munching happily on a fresh apple he had magically produced. "Need a hand, Princess?" He asked, smiling thinly. Brushing a hand through his hair, he took the saddle from her and gently put it the right way around, then strapped it on carefully. "There we are, all set."
Orome shook her head at Aliria's lack of skill and knew she'd need to teach her to fend for herself. She finished breaking camp, and doused the fire thoroughly. Moving to Black Fang she tightened the cinch and mounted.
"Corum, we're ready." She called as she grabbed the mules lead ropes. The morning sky promised a fair day, but most likely a chilly night ahead if the sky remained clear. The breeze was out of the north.
"We'll go west the ten miles or so to the Norrim road, and take it north. There's an inn at about the end of a days travel, but it will be pushing it a bit"
Fakar rode along the path, whistling happily as he did so. Beneath him, his mount hissed a little in annoyance at having an incompetent rider beneath him. "Proc, wouldn't it be easier if we didn't have to ride?" The assassin asked his raven, bored. "I mean, if we had a carriage or a coach or something..."
Proc beat its wings and suddenly took off, without a caw in explanation. Fakar frowned, but then a smile came to his face when the raven flew back. "Really? That's convenient." He slowed his horse. "All the rest of you, meet me at the next pass!" The assassin shouted, turning and taking another route.
Corum nodded and made a summoning gesture. The air shimmered nearby and Mranlikaa appeared from it's plane. He mounted and turned westward, riding several yards ahead of the group, keeping out a watchful eye. He hadn't made any expression to when Fakar exited Aliria's tent and nodded when Orome made her statement about setting up camp. He rode ahead, alone, looking for ambushes, prints, fresh scratches on rocks, newly bent or broken branches and grass, anything to indicate that someone had moved ahead of them.
He ignored Fakar and his request, following the path that had been chosen. He hated dealing with amateurs and figured they would be lucky if the idiot got killed. He shook his head and continued scrutinizing the surrounding area.
"Next pass?" Orome muttered under her breath. The mountains were many days ride to the north, and if he was going to be gone that long...they might never see him aain. Which wouldn't bother her overly much.
"We'll wait an hour at the cross roads. If you miss us there, the Goodwell Inn tonight. Don't bring danger with you."
Aliria bit her lip and tried not to look alarmed that Fakar was leaving. In truth, her mind was racing a mile per minute. Why is he leaving? Did I do something wrong? I don't understand...
The princess shook her head to clear it. There was no time for such childishness now. Either he would be back or he wouldn't. Either way she had to go on. Kicking her horse she moved up to ride beside Orome.
As it turned out, Fakar was waiting for them at the inn. He jumped down from a carriage and smiled. "Welcome to the Goodwell Inn, ladies and gentlemen!" The assassin bowed low at the waist. "Please place all your belongings inside our new mode of transportation."
The carriage had obviously used to belong to gypsies. It was brightly coloured, and quite evidently had seen a lot of travelling. But it had one major advantage over the horses. You could sit in it and on it. "I've also taken the liberty of speaking to the innkeeper. He says that we're fools to want to go north but he'll gladly put us up for the night. They haven't had many customers around here lately."
"Fakar!" Aliria was so happy to see him, that she didn't care how silly she looked. She jumped down from her horse and ran to give him a hug, snuggling herself into his arms.
Happily she looked the carriage over. "Wherever did you find this, Fakar? It's unusual looking..."
Corum looked at the carriage. "That's a bad idea. One it will attract attention. Two it can get bogged down should we run into rain, and three it will be a liability and slow us down when we hit the mountains. I would recommend against it."
He dismounted and removed his gear then whispered into the Nihrain's ear. The horse walked into the stable and chose a stall for itself, then Corum turned and, carrying his gear, headed into the Inn. He found a table in a shadowy area of the common room and sat down so he could see all the exits and entrances, including windows and the fireplace, then removed his scabbard and laid it across his lap.
Orome looked it over with a scowl that slowly faded.
"It's a gypsy caravaneer. Well made, and good for off road travelling...and Aliria, better for you to sleep in at night, safer if we get attacked. It's a two horse hitch, it will move faster and less likely to mud out."
She nodded grudgingly. She could also get Aliria to ride within, and that would hide her from prying eyes too. There were additional benefits. More supplies could be carried.
She looked over the sturdy black and white darft horses, noting the large well formed hooves with their lush feathering. They had been well cared for and showed no nervousness about being around strangers, though they were unhappy at the Hellcorn's presence.
She also had a feeling that she should not ask Fakar about how he had aquired it. He'd just lie. She'd kill him when she had to, till then she'd use him.
Fakar shrugged. "There were some poor, lost travelling folk off the road just a couple of miles back." He sighed. "They looked to be in dire straits, so I helped them out with a map and some food, and Proc showed them to a spring. They should be doing okay." The assassin stretched. "I thought I got the better end of the deal, really."
He barely noticed Corum, considering the mercenary to be beneath any consideration. But his gaze was focussed on Orome as he wrapped his arms around Aliria. I wonder what the Church would pay for a sister...
Nero had remained silent throughout the entire journey and not bothered to draw any attention to himself. It's not that he was doing anything suspicious, he just wished to remain with his own thoughts as he contemplated the future. He seemed to plan quite a lot these days, always thinking about what could happen, what could go wrong and having a backup course of action.
Finally the party arrived at the inn as the sun plunged into the horizon, allowing the man made lanterns to take over the responsibility of providing light. The mage was slightly surprised to see Fakar alive again yet there was a part of him that expected it. He realised the young thief was more than he seemed and underestimating him would be a dire mistake.
Gazing upon the carriage, Nero raised an eyebrow as he took in the bright colours. It's source was questionable of course, yet Nero didn't really care.
"I'm sure it will be a nice target for those with bows."
Without another word, Nero led his horse into the stables and began tending to its needs.
Orome just shrugged one last time, and went to make the special arangement that the Hellcorn needed. The horses the ostlers could take care of. That done she headed for the inn to arrange for a bath. That led to other thoughts and she stopped back where Aliria and Fakar stood talking as they inspected the wagon further.
"Aliria I'll be arranging for a bath for you tonight. I have some dye, and you neeed to use it to change the color of your hair."
Aliria reached up and touched a lock of her fiery-red hair. Dye my hair?! She can't be serious! But looking at Orome's expression, Aliria realised she was serious.
"Will it wash out?" she asked meekly.
Orome chuckled at Aliria's expression
"Yes it will and it is even good for the hair. It is simply very strong tea and certain herbs. Come to my room after dinner and I will have it ready for you."
Briskly she strode into the inn. She was hungry and intended to eat heartily.
"Might I dine with thee, Corum?" She asked of the stoic mercenary
Fakar smiled at her and gently grabbed her hand. "Come on, let's eat." The assassin kissed her cheek, then drew back to bow. As he did, there was a sound a lot like SPOING, and a dagger flew from behind his neck into the air, impaling a passing wren. "Damn it, riding that stupid animal put all my springs out of..."
There was a sound a lot like the ticking of a clock, and Fakar's eyes widened. He started to pat himself down. "I hate horses, I hate horses, I HATE horses..." with a sigh of relief he picked up a little prickly object and threw it across the yard, where it smacked into a tree, splashing the tree in liquid. "...meh, a tree's a tree."
Then, with resounding finality, the tree collapsed and a branch flew out and smacked him in the nose. "..." With a groan more of resignation than any internal pain, he checked his potion flasks. "...I still have one healing potion, good..."
The assassin grimaced and drank the fluid down.
Nero merely shook his head as he witnessed the foolishness of the young thief. At times he wondered just how Fakar had survived to the age that he was being as wreckless as he was. With his horse taken care of, Nero moved out of the stables and as he passed, slowed down to speak to the princess.
"Lady. At some point may I have a word with you?"
Corum stood as Orome approached the table and at her request moved around to pull out a seat. Once she was seated he sat down himself and looked around for someone to place an order with. Corum waved a hand at the waitress when she asked about his order, indicating that he wanted nothing. He gestured towards Orome, "Just the Lady's order", he told the woman.
Orome raised an eyebrow. "Corum, meals here are included in the room. It's not wise to go without eating."
She listened to the serving girls recital of the evenings menu options and made her choices. Once that was done she waited for Corum to make his.
Corum had long grown accustomed to eating light but ordered the same as Orome had ordered. That he would have three good meals in two days was a rarity and he figured he would enjoy it while he could. Along with the order he requested a bottle of light wine and two glasses. He looked back at Orome once the waitress had left and lowered his voice, "I'm concerned, Lady, about this group", and glanced up as they began to enter, not inviting them to the table he shared with Orome.
((Gorgamin is ill right now, and will be unable to post today. She hopes to be ready to resume posting tomorrow.))
"I'm concerned, Lady, about this group",
"And so am I Corum, but please speak of your concerns, so I can see if they interscet with mine."
She ceased speaking as the serving girl brought the wine he had ordered and left again.
"This is hardly an ideal group for what we will be attempting, and I can not find it within me to set doubts aside with any ease"
"Barring that. I don't trust the magi, not that I ever trusted them. But the Princess concerns me most. She's out for revenge. There's no telling how her passions might run at a critical moment."
He took the wine and sipped it as his eyes scanned the room.
"The assassin doesn't concern me beyond the fact that he's likely to side with the Princess if her passions take a dark turn. He's certainly taken with her."
"Are you all right?" Aliria asked Fakar as he tended to his injuries. "You really ought to stop having your nose broken, you know," she teased with a smile.
Suddenly, she realised that Nero had been speaking to her. "Of course you may have a word. I'll be with you shortly." She turned back to Fakar.
"Shall we go in? I'm absolutely starving."
Fakar sighed. "I'm afraid that...I'm not going to be able to go to dinner as I had planned, Aliria..." The assassin drew her in and kissed her softly. "I...will have to take some time putting my compartments back in order." He looked sad for a moment, but then looked up. "Will I be able to see you later?"
Aliria gave a little disappointed smile. "Of...of course you can see me later. Right after..." she groaned, "Right after Orome helps me dye my hair. I'll come to your room."
Without giving the assassin a chance to reply, Aliria kissed him lightly on the lips and went into the dining room. She saw Orome and Corum, but her distrust of the mercenary dissuaded her from attempting to sit with them. She instead joined Nero, remembering that the mage had wanted to speak with her.
Aliria smiled as she took a seat across from Nero. "You wanted a word, Master Nero?"
Orome shook her head as she watched the others enter the inn.
"Recovering your kindgom is not revenge. I am not worried about the Princess, save for her extreme naieviety."
She watched the Princess go and sit with the mage.
"I do wonder why he has come along. It's not that he is a mage that makes me specifically distrust him, but it does add to the equation. I have to help dye the princess's hair tonight. If you are interested...you're welcome in my bed this night."
The serving wench brough their meals and Orome turned to eating, falling silent as she did so.
He was on a similar quest himself. But there were no other of his kind, therefore it was revenge he was after. He knew what it sounded like and the girls words earlier reflected it. He caught the girls look as she entered. She either didn't like hiim, didn't trust him, or both. It didn't matter to him. His job was to see her alive to the end and he would do that to the best of his ability.
"Are your quarters close to hers?", he asked as he began eating.
Nero gave the princess a warm smile as she sat down. His manner seemed to be quite casual, even if he insisted on refering to Aliria in a slightly formal manner.
"I understand the seriousness of this situation and the importance of this quest, but there is still the question of why I am here, helping you. As a mage, income is not easily come by unless one is in the employment of perhaps a King, one that could use my talents. I realise the treasuries will be depleted from dealing with the current war, and so I offer an alternative form of payment for my services."
Nero paused a moment as he took a sip of his ale, savouring the taste. He couldn't say it was particularly good, yet he had experienced worse before.
"If we are to succeed in our task, I would like permission to browse the kingdom's great archives, searching the books and tomes of arcane nature that may interest me. What I ask is the oppurtunity to further my knowledge in my craft. I hope this is a reasonable request?"
The books... Aliria's smile turned sad at the mage's words. The Royal Library had been her sanctuary as a child. She liked nothing better than to hide herself among the books to get away from her duties and lessons and the general tedium of being a Princess. She looked down at the table.
"I...I would be happy to honour such a request, Master Nero, and it is my deepest wish to be able to do so, but I fear that much of the palace in Perilon was destroyed by Zeikros' attack. I...I can offer you full access to whatever is left of Perilon's libraries, but I fear that is not enough of a payment."
Nero nodded in understanding, half expecting that to be the case. Nevertheless, he wasn't deterred.
"I realise that Aliria, but I also realise that Zerikros is no fool and I believe he would have made an attempt to save books of particular magical note. I'm sure we can work out the finer details once we dispose of him and regain control of your kingdom."
"My quarters are across from hers." Orome replied as she finished the last bit of chicken and gravy. She intended to be close at hand if any trouble tried to visit the Princess. Though she was certain that Fakar and Aliria would spend the night together again. She sighed inwardly. She didn't consider the assassin an appropriate lover for the young woman. She was certain that he would hurt hear hear and bady. Probably sooner than later. And she didn't want to see that happen.
She was beginning to believe that love was little more than a fairy tale. Her parents had turned a treaty marriage into one filled with love but it was an incredibly rare thing, particularly between their respective races. Her magical enslavement to Rakkan was far more the norm, and she hated it with as much of her being as possible, the part that could and did fight the addiction.
"Please excuse me Corum, I must see to the preperations."
Blotting her lips with the heavy napkin, she stood and headed up the stairs to her room.
Aliria noticed Orome leave out of the corner of her eye. "If you'll excuse me, Master Nero," she said as she stood, "I believe I have an appointment to dye my hair." She grimaced at the thought, then grinned at the mage and headed for the stairs.
The Princess passed by Corum, now alone at his table, and she did not meet his eyes. What does Orome see in him anyway? He's so...cold. She suppressed a shudder. Still...if he's willing to help me, I suppose I should be civil. She nodded politely to the mercenary as she headed up the stairs.
With some sort of motivation now known behind Nero's actions, he could rest easy for a while. He realised it would be suspicious if the mage were to simply help out for no reason and so the books provided a suitable excuse.
Happy to get that out of the way, Nero ordered a hot meal and remained at the table.
Corum raised his head as the Princess passed, his eyes dead and cold. He made no gesture to her as she passed, only passed a glance over her in a critical evaluation before returning to his meal.
The black tea had been steeping for nearly an hour and was thicker than honey, redolent with various herbs. Orome cut it slightly with wine, cooling it till it would not burn Aliria's scalp. The mixture would actually benefit her hair, making it thicker and very lusturous. It was one of the secrets of her mothers people, who prided themselves on their spectacular hair.
Knocking on Aliria's door, across the hall from hers
"Aliria, it's ready."
Slowly, the door to Aliria's room opened. The Princess poked her head out, and seeing it was Orome, the rest of her quickly followed. She had unbound her hair and it fell in thick coppery waves to her waist. She gave Orome a half-smile.
Part of her wanted to run back into the room, slam the door, and refuse to let anyone mess with her hair. Dammit, she LIKED her hair. The more rational part of her mind, however, realised the logic in dyeing her hair. It did tend to stand out. She let out a sigh of resignation.
"Well. Let's get this over with."
Orome gave Aliria a wider smile in return, she could easily see the younger womans reluctance. Leading Aliria into her room, firmly shutting the door behind them she set the princess on a stool and wrapped a sheet about her.
Working quickly she used a comb to work the herbal mixture throughly into the thick mass of hair. THen she used a tiny brush to coat Aliria's eyebrows as well.
"There, now we just have to let it sit for a bit, then you'll climb into that nice hot bath over there" She noded to where the vast copper tub could be seen in it's curtained nitch, steam rising off the water with in. More large buckets, two hot and two cool waited, for rinsing.
Orome had traded their extra mount for the luxury, and more hot water would be available throughout the night for any who wanted hot baths. The men's would be in the spare room she had arranged for, the tub there nearly as large as this one
As they sat waiting, Orome turned the conversation towards subjects she felt needed touching on.
"Aliria, don't loose your heart to Fakar. He's not necessarily the best man out there for you. And if you do win back your kingdom, you need to consider the posibility, or necessity of, a dynastic marriage. If your heart is tied to a man who is little more than a common asssassin, it could make a necessary marriage something unbearable. I'm not trying to denegrate Fakar, there are many reasons one becomes an assassin, but..." She sighed heavily, letting her words trail off. Aliria would understand or not.
Corum finished his meal and then stood up and walked outside. He stood, just looking at the stars, his face showing nothing at all, searching his own mind and trying to find that core inside him. The dead core that didn't care about anyone or anything. It was a place he normally lived in but recently that had changed. He had feelings for Orome and that could be dangerous for people like him. He couldn't afford an emotional attachment.
He was close to his goal. He only needed a few thousand more gold and then he could hire Zoltan and his mercenary force. Zoltan was known as the best stratagist in the lands and he had never lost in a war. He was also known to honor his contracts and could easily raise forces upwards of 10,000 men.
'Now is not the time', he thought. He knew that. Now he just needed to get his heart to follow his mind.
(I'm going on vacation from 7/2 to 7/10 and probably won't be able to post again until the 11th)
Aliria shifted uncomfortably on her stool. "Orome...I've been a Princess my whole life. I know what is required of me. The best I ever hoped for was that the man my father chose for me would be young and kind, and that we would be friends. I never imagined that I would marry for love. I still don't. Whatever I may or may not feel for Fakar will NOT stop me from doing what I must do."
The girl was silent fo a moment, staring out into space. At last she sighed. "I...I never dreamed that I would ever experience anything like what I've shared with Fakar. All I know is that, even if I have to give him up, I want to be with him now. For as long as I can be."
Orome patted Aliria's shoulder, her eyes sympathetic.
"You have a good head on your shoulders. And 'for the now' is all we have. And if you find some one young and kind and can be friends, you will have done better than most."
She fell silent a moment, thinking about her own less than happy position.
"Well I thinking it's sat long enough. Climb into the bath, with I call down for more rinse water. As long and thick as your hair is, I think we are going to need it. Also with us travelling this dye will actually protect your hair. Red hair gets so brittle in the sun, and this will keep that from happening."
Orome shooed Aliria towards the curtained nook.
After Orome had helped her rinse the dye out of her hair, Aliria dried it with a towel and plaited it into a long braid. She looked at the results in her small mirror and grimaced, then forced a small smile.
"Thanks for your help, Orome. I'll see you tomorrow. Goodnight." She slipped out the door and down the hall to Fakar's room. She stood in front of the door for a moment, raising one hand to lightly touch her hair.
I hope Fakar doesn't hate it. It's so...different.
Taking a deep breath, she knocked on the door.
Once Aliria had left Orome dranied the tub and had more hot water brought up and the tub refilled with water as hot as she could stand. She slipped into the steaming water, letting the heat soak her tension away. And while she soaked she went over various contengency plans.
She hoped that Corum would join her tonight, she'd liked laying in his arms the previous night. And he was a considerate lover.
Fakar slid open the door just as her hand reached the wood. His chest was bare, and steam billowed out from behind him. The assassin's skin dripped with condensed moisture as he looked her up and down, then blinked. "Aliria?" He whispered, softly taking her hand and pulling her into the room. "That's... a new look for you, Princess."
Smiling, he kissed her, a hand brushing through her newly coloured hair.
Aliria coloured and reached a hand up to her hair. "Do you hate it?" She looked down at the ground.
Fakar took her in his arms and held her. "Of course not. It doesn't suit you as well as the red, but you still look beautiful."
The Princess smiled up at him. "Thank you, Fakar." She leaned up and kissed him lightly on the lips.
Fakar held the young woman close to him, drawing strength from her presence. "It will be okay..." He whispered, quietly shaking Aliria.
They stood like that for what felt like an hour, and then she pulled away reluctantly. "It's getting late..." Aliria whispered, her eyes closed slightly. She finished, "I should go."
Fakar blinked in confusion. "Why...why do you have to?" He asked, stepping a little closer to her and reaching out to enclose Aliria in his tanned arms.
She resisted for all of a second, then relaxed against his muscular frame, burying her head in his chest. "Not if you don't want me to..."
All the other party members had long disappeared into their own rooms or run off to do their own things. Of course Nero wasn't very concerned about that, he prefered time alone to watch and think. According to others within the tavern, it appeared as if Nero had drunk about six large glasses of ale and practically out of his senses, not bothering anyone. Of course this was far from the truth. Nero saw everything.
Over in the corner a group of men sat around a table laughing and gambling, the local whores keeping them company. They were of no real concern as they were merely indulging themselves. Opposite the mage a pair of men sat huddled around a smaller table, discussing something of great importance to them. It seemed they wished to keep it secret yet Nero's abilities denied them that privelge. These two men were planning to murder one of the men at the gambling table. Nero didn't care.
Evidently there was nothing of particular significance going on and so the mage decided he would spend the rest of the night sleeping. Pushing himself to his feet, Nero made a purposeful stagger towards the stairs before leaning against the wall for a moment. After giving the appearance of gathering his wits, the mage made his way upstairs and into his room.
The sleeping mat wasn't exactly great yet it would be enough. Without any dramas, the mage lay down and covered himself up, soon to fall into sleep.
The next morning, Aliria woke up with Fakar's arms wrapped snugly around her. As warm and comfortable as she was, she was also starving. She smiled and kissed him on the cheek, then quietly slipped out of bed without waking him up. She dressed and silently headed out of the room to find breakfast
She reached the stairs at exactly the same time as Orome was coming out of her room, and she smiled at her companion.
Corum finally went up the stairs and bathed. Once he was done he went to Orome's door and knocked lightly. He stood, nervous, as though it was not something that would be pleasurable but rather an impending combat. He wondered about that a moment, came to a conclusion as to why and tossed it aside. His personal feelings could not come into play here, no matter how hard they tried. Yet he had never had feelings this strong either.
Orome had welcomed Corum with a smile, drawing him into the candle lit room, her hair still slightly damp from her own bath. The door closed behind them, keeping the world at bay for at least one more night
She woke early as was her habit, but snuggled back into the strength and warmth of Corums arms just as she had done the morning before. Simple pleasures like this were far to rare. Eventually the rumblings of her stomach threatened to become all to noisey. Kissing Corum on the forehead as he slept on she rose and dressed.
Her good morning to Aliria came almost in chorus with the princess's and brought a smile to her lips. It looked as if both of them had shared a pleasant night.
Corum awoke, but lay in the bed until breakfast was done. He then gathered his things and donned his armor and weapons. Once finished he headed downstairs, nodding to those assembled with a cold, impassive face and made his way outside to greet the day.
Once outside and alone his face crumbled. He wanted nothing more than to take Orome back upstairs and make love to her and lie in her arms. Such was not the fate of those like she and he, however, and he spent the next few minutes gathering himself.
Breakfast over, Orome returned to the room to finish packing her kit. She'd seen Corum pass by, headed for the stable no doubt. She sat down on the edge of the bed for a minute reviewing her life. Going home meant vanishing behind the walls of Rakkan's keep forever, a fate she devoutely did not wish for, even if the fire he ignited in her drove her towards that. She fought it every step. Orome's bondage to him, a treaty obligation that her family dare shirk, was built on magic created chains, not truly free will.
A small sigh at what seems all but impossible to change and Orome was up grabbing up the last of her belongings and trotting down the stairs.
Having gone to bed rather early and recieved ample sleep, Nero had been the first to rise in the morning. When the princess, Orome and Corum came downstairs he was just finishing his own meal of warm poridge and some freshly baked bread. There was nothing special about the food yet it would deliver the necessary energy the mage required for another day of travel.
The mage gave all members of the party a brief nod of acknowledgement as they passed him, yet he wasn't about to start up a chirpy conversation with them. Nero hated mornings, there was something terribly full of life and joy about them that irritated him. That and he preferred to do most of his work during the night and sleep through the entire morning.
Eventually everyone finished breakfast, yet Fakar still hadn't appeared. Obviously wanting to leave, Nero went outside and checked upon his horse, assuring himself its shoes were clean and in good condition. The animal also seemed eager to get out on the road after a good night of rest. Returning to the tavern, Nero approached Orome and the princess.
"Perhaps it would be best if we woke the assassin and departed?"
Fakar slid quite easily down the banister and off it, still floating in the air for a couple of minutes before he decided to cancel whatever magic he was using and let gravity take an effect. "Good morning, all of you. Did you have a good night? I'm sure you did." He sniffed the air. "Well. What's that I smell? Did the innkeeper make some of his delicious bread?"
Quite happily, he walked into the kitchen and returned with a large loaf and some butter. "Haven't had butter in months," He responded cheerfully as he walked out to the wagon. A thought crossed his mind, and then he peeked his head back in. "By the way, Proc said we can expect to be ambushed a little ways up the road." The information seemed to delight him and probably went some way towards explaining his bright mood. "I recommend we all be on our guard."
Orome rolled her eyes and went out to saddle up the hellcorn. Once that was done she went to Corum, and drew him aside to speak with him privately.
"It seems that Fakar's raven has spotted an ambush up the road. I don't know exactly where, so we need to ride sharp. You take the right side and I'll take the left."
She gave him a wry smile, then mumbled something under her breath. Then she was kissing him hard.
"Do NOT get yourself killed."
For a moment Corum's demeanor broke. In his eyes was the deep feelings he had for Orome. He raised his hand to cup her cheek gently before his hand drop and his face went impassive again.
"I die if it's called for, but not in futility or dishonor."
He turned then, summoned the Nihrain from it's place in it's home plane and mounted as soon as it arrived.
Orome swung up on to the Hellcorns broad back and waited for the rest of the group to be ready.
"Aliria, until the ambush is past it would be safest if you ride in the wagon. Those sturdy wooden walls will stop arrow or bolt."
She looked over at the mage "Nero if you want to ride within that might be a good idea as well."
Nero considered this a moment as he led his own mount out of the stables and prepared to mount the loyal creature. He could certainly protect the princess inside the carriage but he didn't exactly like the idea of not being able to see what would be going on outside. Afterall, Fark, Orome and Corum couldn't fight off large numbers against them without some sort of supernatural help. Whilst he realised Orome possessed magic of her own, he didn't trust hers.
"Perhaps, but you may need my assistance with the ambush as well. I'll start off within the carriage but if I deem my assistance necessary, don't be surprised if I start plying my trade."
It was more of a statement than a request. Nero was informing the others of what he would do so there would be no surprises. Of course the safety of the princess was perhaps the most significant thing for the moment and so he would keep that task in mind.
"Anway, I'm ready to depart."
"I certainly hope you would come to our aid, Master Nero. My thinking was that you can see perfectly well out of the windows the wagon has, that tight stretched cloth isn't that thick, more to keep flies out while letting air in. And your magic would certainly be a surprise to them, you'd be able to cast it without having to worry about what your mount is doing."
Orome explained as she swung the big Helcorn in beside the gypsy cavaraneer. Yes she definitely like the fact that the rig was for two horses. The heavy, well made rolling home moved out smartly. The inn was left behind at a brisk roadwalk, the two big black and white Irish horses making the pull look easy.
The fact that the wagon sat very high off the ground and had exceptionally wide wheels would aid them if they ever had to go cross country and the built in stove would heep Aliria warm at night. Her impressions of the evening before were accurate she decided. A valuable that some one would not have let go of just because Fakar asked. No she needed to remember just what he was.
She looked forward where Corum was taking point. Little would get past his experienced and observant gaze. Discretely she checked to make sure her sword was loose in its scabbard, and her bracers were comfortable
Aliria looked at Orome. "I don't want to ride in the carriage. I want to ride on top with Fakar. If it gets bad, I'll climb inside." She crossed her arms and looked at Fakar.
"Tell her it's all right for me to ride next to you."
Nero nodded at Orome's comments. He may not like her kind but he had to respect the woman's practical intelligence. She knew what would work well for the group and wouldn't let anything get in the way of such. Unfortunately she seemed to be the only female that realised such.
Nero rolled his eyes as Aliria attempted to crush common sense and follow her infatuation with the thief. Times like this really showed how immature and outright ignorant the princess was. There was no saving her kingdom if she died from a bolt wound, all because she wanted to ride beside her lover.
"That would be unwise princess. You could be struck down before he even knew what was happening and all this would be for nothing. You cannot allow such trivial desires as sitting next to Fakar put your life at risk. I suggest you stay inside the carriage or we might as well give up now."
Whilst Nero's words may have been harsh, they were full of common sense and practicallity. Hopefully the princess would realise such.
Orome looked at Aliria, her expression as flat and unyielding as her voice
"I suggest you heed Master Nero's words. Your supreme obligation through all of this is to stay alive. If you die everything is for naught."
"Do not be selfish."
Aliria glared at Orome, Nero, and especially at Fakar for not backing her up. Without a word she picked up her bag and stalked off to the carriage to sulk.
I am NOT a baby! I am perfectly capable of taking care of myself! she fumed. She heard Nero climb into the carriage opposite her, and felt the carriage start to move, but she neither moved nor made a sound to acknowldge either.
As the carriage began to slowly pick up speed, Aliria continued to pointedly ignore Master Nero. She stared out the window, furious. Why doesn't any of them trust me to take care of myself?! Everyone always treats me like a child!
Suddenly tears stung her eyes as a memory pierced sharply through her internal rant. Her father, sitting on his throne, listening to her yell and cry about whatever injustice had been committed upon her. Usually these rants consisted of various forms of "It's so unfair! I'm not a child!" To which her father would gently reply. "No you're not, Aliria. But you're certainly acting like one."
Tears started to run down Aliria's cheeks. Papa... She wiped her eyes fiercely with the back of her hand before anyone could see. He's right. I AM acting like a child. They're trying to do what's best for me, to help me succeed, and all I can do is selfishly complain because I want to ride with Fakar.
The Princess turned from the window to give Nero a small smile as she fixed her hair and sat up straighter, raising her chin as she had been taught. She was the Princess of Perilon. She was going to find the Black Blade and save her kingdom, and no one would stand in her way.
'Should I ever have children, they shall NEVER be that spoiled.' Orome though behind a blank face as she watched Aliria climb into the gypsy wagon (http://www.atddm.com/gypsywagon.htm). The lass really wasn't thinking. she could open the window behind the drivers seat and talk to Fakar though the window. The tight stretched cloth would keep her from being seen, allow more air in and yet let her see out.
However, Orome was not going to be the one to mention it to Aliria. Either she could think of it herself, or not. Aliria was not the one exposing herself to ambush on behalf of a naive and immature Princess.
Corum took a moment to ride back and open the carriage door. He looked at the Princess, his face a mask of non-emotion, but his words were unaccustomly warm and heartfelt.
"Princess, I remember youth. The world seems against you, even those trying to help. It's hard to set aside your impetuousness. That is the definition of youth it seems. But for the sake of your people, and your families memory, you must see beyond rashness to wisdom."
He then closed the door and rode point, looking more relaxed than he really was. He was allowing his natural power to take the lead. He would be warned shortly in advance of an ambush with his power of precognition. It would be only enough to brace and yell, but it would be better than complete surprise.
Fakar glanced back into the carriage, and then over at Orome. "You know, we could have just thrown her back in at the first sign of trouble," the assassin snapped, annoyed at how long it was taking for them to get moving. With a snort, he put two fingers to his mouth and blew.
Proc dived down from the sky and landed on Fakar's shoulder, then pointed its beak into his ear. A hissing sound echoed out, and then Fakar nodded. "Proc says that there's no choice but to ride the ambuschade out. Mercenary," he pointed at Corum, "they'll probably leap from behind, so I want you with your bow to ride at the head of the group." His eyes traced to the sister. "Orome, stay behind the wagon. Mage?"
Fakar glanced at Nero for a moment, his mouth working soundlessly as he tried to work out what to use the man for. "Just... kill everything not human that you see. Except Proc, of course."
Nero remained impassive as the princess went through her little tantrum. He had no tolerance for such things and wasn't about to give her any sympathy, especially if she were to act like this. Fortunately it didn't last long as the what maturity existed in the young woman made itself known and she composed herself.
The stern mage gave Aliria a brief nod as she smiled to him. He wasn't about to offer advice or give her kind words, his job was to protect her for now, not be her friend. At that point the thief began delivering orders like he knew what he was doing, which Nero doubted but he would let Orome take care of that.
"Just... kill everything not human that you see."
That suited Nero fine.
Orome gave Fakar a look that told him she didn't appreciate him giving orders at all. Corum and she knew what they were doing, and would do it without interferance from him. And she damn well didn't know who'd made him the leader of this little expidition, but as far as she was concerned he wasn't. Not in the least.
"Fakar, the first sign of trouble in an ambush is a flight of arrow and bolts coming in, and you know we wouldn't have had time to 'throw her back in" so don't talk stupid"
She would do her job and let him yammer all he wanted. If he yammered too much she'd leave.
After about five minutes of sitting properly and behaving like a Princess, Aliria got bored. She turned on her seat and poked her head up through the curtain. If she turned her neck just so, she could see Fakar. She slid her arm around her head and tugged on whatever bit of his clothing he could reach to get his attention.
"I'm bored. Talk to me?"
Fakar shrugged. "Do as you will. But I've planned enough ambushes in my time to know how an intelligent person would do one." He decided to dismiss them from his memory, especially the Bounty Hunter, and deal with Aliria. "Would you like to hold Proc Parlo?" He asked, scooting the raven down his arm while he geed up the horses.
Corum completely ignored Fakar as he rode to the head. He would know the attack was coming shortly before it did and based on his visions he would act accordingly. He knew Orome was right, ambushes were typically led by a volley of arrows or bolts. He wouldn't use his bow like that fool suggested. The trick with archers was to close the distance quickly and force them to close combat or flee and reposition. Shooting at group of a archers while in the open was a death sentance. Not that he hadn't considered that, but survival was, unfortunetly to engrained.
Orome, ignored Fakar's foul mood. She didn't know the cause of it, and didn't really care. While he may have planned many ambushes, she'd been surviving them. 'Maybe I need to get all of us together for a long talk about this little journey. Fakar may be a well trained assassin, but he's not a warrior. I certainly can't pick a lock, or a pocket. My magics are very limited, Nero is the master there. We need to all understand that each has their own area of expertise, and that we all need to work together.' She thought as she stretched her more than human senses out. 'That talk had better happen tonight' Orome decided as the stench of habitually unwashed bodies carried on the faint breeze as they entered a slight defile a moron would consider a proper place for an ambuscade. And from the smell, humaniods, and they had.
Big, dumb, and not that easy to kill...unless...she deflected a bolt off her bracer as the Hellcorm whirled with an angry scream. Corum up front was already acting...
The first flight of bolts was followed by several ogres crashing down the very minimal slope of the by a stretch of the imagination it might be considered a hill side...
The assassin glanced behind him at Aliria, and snapped, "Stay still!" He pushed Proc inside the wagon, a death glance showing what he thought of the raven not mentioning the 7' tall, 3' wide, clubwielding humanoids. Ducking and rolling away from the bolts, he gasped in shock. "Archers. Ogres don't use bows..." The bolt stuck into his buckler, and Fakar snapped a look at it. "Oh, good. Crossbows."
Fakar ducked behind a tree and coated his sword in a deadly poison that steamed as it touched the folded steel. "Okay, let's get down to business." Then a hammerlike fist reached around and gripped his nose. "Oh Allah, why?!" One quick movement, and the hand had fallen to the ground, turning green and shrivelling up.
Nero cursed loudly as several bolts thudded against the hard wood of their carriage. As Orome had said, most ambushes began with a volley of projectiles and this case held true. Lunging forward, Nero grabbed the princess and with a strength surprising for his meek appearance yanked Aliria backwards and onto the seat he'd just been occupying.
"Stay there and keep your head low. Peak out a window and you're likely to take a bolt in the eye."
The cabin seemed to grow darker as Nero summoned his power for ready use. He needed to analyse the situation before he knew what he could do. There were many creatures in the world that had resistances to certain magiks and sometimes it took a real creative streak to get passed such barriers.
From his vantage Nero had spotted several of the brutish creatures charging towards Orome and her companion whilst another volley of bolts flew towards them. He needed to do something about the crossbows.
With his power at the ready, Nero plunged his awareness into mage sight, allowing him to look at things in a far different manner. Instead of viewing the basic colours and textures of objects, Nero now saw everything in its pure state of life, watching the unique energies of every organic thing flow. Narrowing his view window, Nero weaved passed the other energies of earth and vegetation until he found the specific signature he wanted. Wood. The wood composing those crossbows.
Nero watched the fine energies of the wood flow through its physical structure, the hidden energy only finely held within the matter. Of course one had to possess the knowledge of such things to understand the task of unbinding these barriers or it would be a futile effort. Smirking to himself, Nero reached out an ethereal hand and drew several sigils and runes upon the wood, doing the same for each crossbow. Within what seemed like a few minutes to his altered senses, Nero completed his task and gave it a quick scan. All was in order.
With the word of activation muttered, the sigils flared to life, causing the many crossbow bearing ogres to glare down at their projectile weapons in surprise as odd sigils flared to life upon the wooden frame of their weapons. Before they could realise the danger of such things, the energy bindings of the wood released and the wood split apart. Violently. Several small explosions of air and splintered wood occured as the organic engergy of the wood escape in every possible direction. Unfortunately for the ogres this meant splinters flying at high speeds embedded themselves within the brutish creatures.
Screams of pain emerged from the ogres that hadn't died as they whined of wounded faces and other various body parts. Many were blinded or dead, whilst all were now lacking a crossbow and too injured to operate one anyway.
Falling back out of mage sight, Nero nodded as he called out to the others.
"No more crossbows to worry about."
Corum had begun moving before the first volley began. He charged up the hill, threw a leg over the Nihrain and dropped to the ground, rolling, as a volley of bolts flew where he would have been. Coming to his feet he ran toward the nearest charging ogre. He dodged toward the club wielding arm, moving under the swing and spun, hamstringing the ogre. Continuing his spin he cut the other hamstring and then moved toward the next ogre. Down was good enough for now, death would come at his leasure. The second went down like the first, to stupid to a pattern.
'To easy', Corum thought to himself, 'they're just to dumb to live.'
Orome had taken the other hillside, oposite Corum. Those ogres were just as big and dumb, but very skilled with their clubs. While the Hellcorn made his mid day meal of one's arm she leaned over his off side and cursing, slew one of the three trying to reach her. The ogre's head, tumbling about the remaining pairs feet, tripped one up one up and sent him flat on his face.
Her next blow went wide as one of the last bolts launched seared through her upper arm. She managed to retain her grip on her sword, but she could feel every movement tearing at the muscle. She would have to stwitch hands.
She yelled at Black Fang to keep him from eating more of the ogre, the damn unwashed humaoids always gave the big carnivore gas. Displeased he screamed and lashed out a steel shod hind hoof at the one attempting to creep up from behind. Mass and momentum won and the body flew limply to land a dozen feet away.
Orome tucked the wounded arm tightly into her weapons baldrick and stabbed out with the katana now in her right hand. Almost impaleing one in the throat, the action backed the green skinned hulk off while she settled herself deeper into the saddle's seat.
Aliria crouched in the carriage listening to the sounds of her companions doing battle.
I am so useless! she berated herself. My friends are out there risking their lives fighting ogres, and what am I doing? Crouching in a carriage like a scared child.
When she heard Fakar cry out, it was only through sheer force of will that she managed to stop herself jumping out of the carriage and running to his aid.
Her seat stable once again, Orome lashed out and her sword struck deep into the side of the one she'd nicked in the throat earlier. The ogre bellowed in pain and swung with his club.
The timing was particularly unfortunate, as BlackFang had just snaked his head low and begun an off side spin. Orome's already damaged arm took the brunt of the blow and the force swayed her in the saddle, as the bone cracked sickeningly. The centrifical motion of the Hellcorn's spin was the only thing keeping her in the saddle as dark spots danced before her eyes, and a scream was wrenched from her.
Black Fangs ears pinned agains his head as he felt his bonded go momentairly unconscious and he rammed his horn into the chest of the nearest ogre, then lifting the writing humanoid to toss him away
Corom finished with the last ogre on his side and turned to head toward the other hill. Already the dark horse had finished off the last Orome's opponents, but he could tell that her injuries were severe. He ran down, past the carriage and up the other hill, trying to reach her lest she fall.
I can't take it anymore. I can't just sit here. I have to do SOMETHING. Quickly, before Nero could stop her, Aliria slipped out of the carriage and drew her shortsword, plunging it into the back of the nearest ogre. The creature fell, and Aliria grinned, proud of herself.
The grin melted off of the Princess's face as she turned and saw two more ogres slowly advancing on her. She tried to pull her sword out of the fallen ogre, but it was stuck. "Oh No!" she wailed and frantically pulled harder. Nothing. The beasts came closer, and still her sword would not budge. In desperation, she cried out for help. "Fakar! Help me!"
Nero swore loudly as the princess ignored all common sense and stepped out of the carriage, taking an ogre by surprise. The mage was really starting to build up a disliking for the young woman, she was far too head strong and impulsive and would most likely die if she didn't keep herself under control.
Sighing at the irony that he may end up killing her and yet he was about to save her, Nero leaned out of the carriage and eyed two ogres charging towards Aliria with malicious intent. He took a moment to simply watch as the beasts grew closer whilst she attempted to regain her blade.
Of course she called for Fakar, yet in his state Nero doubted the bloodied thief could do much, let alone take on two ogres. Accepting he would have to do something, Nero aimed a thin finger at the beast closer to the princess and muttered a soft incantation.
The world around Nero and Aliria seemed to shake as a bold of purple lightning was discharged from Nero's finger, causing many to go momentarily blind as the bold passed straight through the heart of the ogre, dropping it dead. With that done, Nero decided to give either the princess or the thief a chance at doing something.
There was the sound of a bolt firing through the air, and a narrow missile lodged itself in the surviving ogre's neck. It reached up to brush it away, and then its eyes widened. "Huh?" Was all the beast managed to say before it toppled down to the ground, dead.
Fakar took a deep and shuddering breath, then dropped his pistolbow and collapsed against the tree. "...I'll charge that to your account, Aliria..."
With both ogres dead, Nero didn't hesitate in grabbing the princess and dragging her back into the carriage, calling out to Fakar as he jumped inside.
"I suggest you get in here as well."
With that said, Nero turned to Aliria with a scowl upon his face.
"What the hell do you think you were doing? We don't need you getting killed and last time I checked you weren't exactly a master fencer, especially considering your blade is still out there lodged in the back of a dead beast. Be more careful for once."
Fakar jumped into the carriage, holding his broken nose and yet still managing to look smug.
"You may as well watch her, at least she'll stay in here then."
Nothing more to say, Nero jumped out the door once again and slammed it shut, freeing Aliria's blade and tossing it through the single carriage window handle first.
Attention now focused upon the battle around him, Nero called forth his power once again and raised a slight shield around himself. It would prevent any projectiles from striking him and also drastically slow the blow of a melee weapon.
Orome's scream acted as a beacon, causing Nero to break into a sprint towards her location. Despite her being a Sister of the Sword, Nero liked her the most as she seemed to be the most level headed character aside from himself. Within seconds the mage arrived, moments after Corum came to Orome's side.
With her in sturdy hands for the moment, Nero took to defending the pair, unleasing a compressed blast of air sharp enough to cut through flesh and bone.
Aliria moved over to Fakar. She was furious with Nero for treating her as a child, but that could wait until she was sure the thief wasn't too badly injured.
"Are you all right?" she asked, her face grave and concerned.
Orome felt herself slumping in the saddle, but the dark mists that rose around her took the whole of her being. She never felt the broad hands that caught her as she slid bonelessly from Black Fangs back.
The big Hellcorn whistled shrilly as a lock of his long tail was caught in the blast of Nero's casting and sheered off. Red eyes glared at the mage for a moment, then the predator was whirling to charge at the last two of the ogres.
Bleeding already from earlier wounds and now the deep rents from Neros deadly stream of air, the two turned and fled clumsily through the undergrowth, the Hellcorn hard on their heels.
Corum caught Orome as she fell and laid her, with a gentleness that belied his size, upon the ground. He whistled and the Nihrain came over quickly. Once it reached him he removed a healing kit from the saddle bag and set her wounds as best he could, stitching cuts with an expertise that spoke of many field surgeries. Once done he placed splints and clean bandages on the wounds and then simply sat by her side, not willing to move without her, even though the black steed nudged him periodically.
Fakar sighed and leaned back in his seat, his arm wrapping around her while he tried to sniff the blood up. "You bowe I bove you, wight?" The assassin sniffed, before smiling weakly. "Well, at beast you're thafe. That'th the important thing."
He sighed once more and looked up at the sky. "Why doeth everything here hate my poor nothe tho?"
Nero watched as Orome's steed took care of the Ogre's, despite the slight scrape he'd given the beast. For a moment he had been concerned it would turn upon him and after seeing what the animal could do, Nero didn't want to be in that situation.
Directing his attention back to Orome, Nero gazed over her injuries as Corum quickly applied his vast warrior's experience, patching up what he could quite effectively.
"I think it best we move her into the carriage."
Corum looked up at Nero and nodded. He stood up, gently lifting Orome and cradling her to him. As easy as possible he moved over to the Carriage, for the first time glad that they had gotten it. Once he got her inside he laid her out on a bench. His lips softly touched her, a whisper against her own, and then he sat back, only looking at her for a moment. His eyes, normally hard, were soft, reflecting his feelings for her. After a few moments his eyes, and expression, became hard again.
"We better get moving, no telling what might be attracted by the comotion and blood."
He stepped out of the carriage and mounted the large black steed. The Hellcorn, he knew, would follow the carriage and Orome. He moved to a postion up front and then waited for the others to ready themselves.
The Hellcorn caught up with the slower moving Ogres and reduced them to so much fleshly waste, but something caught the attention of his sensitive senses. Black Fang worked a pouch free and with an equine's mobile lips scooped it up and brought it to Nero, tossing it down before him. Disturbingly intelligent crimon eyes gave the mage a look that needed no interpertation.
Orome came to consciouness as gypsy wagon tilted slightly when Corum stepped off. She laid still, muzzy headed for a moment.
"I loathe ogres...Who all is injured besides me ?" She whispered without trying to raise herself up. She knew she'd only regret it if she did.
Aliria stared at Fakar. Did...did he just tell me he loves me? He...he loves me?
She had barely opened her mouth to respond, when the carriage doors were flung open and Orome was put inside, wounded, asking who else was injured.
"Fakar's nose is broken again." The Princess offered. "I...I don't know much about medicine, but if you tell me what to do, I will try and help."
Nero watched the animal before him for several moments after it dropped a pouch before him. They're eyes locked, as if having a conversation without words. It was obvious the creature was more intelligent than Nero had given it credit for, he wouldn't make that mistake again. Finally Nero broke the gaze with a nod and kneeled to retrieve the pouch, quickly placing it within his robes.
Curiosity ran through the mage as he strode back towards the carriage, knowing that Orome was his priority at the moment. As he passed Corum, Nero spoke his intentions.
"Allow me to examine the others, I may be able to do a little healing."
Without waiting for an answer, Nero flung open the carriage door and sat down next to the injured Orome, only giving the others a brief gaze.
"Perhaps I can help?"
Corum nodded at Nero's words and once mounted ranged the perimiter while Nero aided the others. He doubted that there were any ogres in hiding, they weren't that smart, but if they were using crossbows they might have other aid. He focused on looking for tracks other than the ogres tracks, both hoping to and not to find any, as finding them would mean he was right.
"Aliria, get a rag and cool water. Wash the blood off Fakar's face so I can see the extent of the damage. That's the first step. He probably can't breathe well right now, but we don't want to start another nose bleed by cleaning out his nose." Orome turned her head just a little to try and see the pair, and her vision swam
"Perhaps I can help?"
Orome could see that some one had done a good job of basic tending on her injuries, she suspected that the tidy work had been Corum's efforts, but Nero's offer was greatly appreciated. Her head was still reeling and the pain was considerable.
"I would greatly welcome it Master Nero. I may have healing skills, but it is very hard to work on ones self"
Healing did need a clear head and that she really wasn't at the moment.
Nero flashed Orome a brief smile before calling upon his power once again. He didn't know a lot about healing as most of his knowledge in the arcane revolved around destroying and causing pain, yet there were some fundamental practices that could be applied for any purpose.
"I'm not much of a healer, but I should be able to ease your pain and prevent infection."
With that, Nero closed his eyes and placed one hand upon Orome's head and the other upon her stomach. He could sense the pain throbbing through her nerves, overwhelming her mind and generally causing her body discomfort.
"This may be painful..."
A quick flash of power and a jolt of energy rushed through Orome's body, specifically travelling through the nerves around her wounds, slowing the signals of pain that would normally inform her brain of the injury. This way she would be able to feel the pain yet it would be much duller and merely distributed over a longer period of time.
The energy surge also happened to kill any bacteria or foreign substances such as poisions that may have entered her body through the wounds. Nero opened his eyes once again.
"I could attempt to heal your tissue, yet I cannot claim competency in this field and I would not attempt such without you knowing this. The choice is yours."
The breath left Orome in an explosive whoosh, as pain streaked through her. However it was less painful than her Healing, but no where near as complete. Her light headedness cleared almost instantly with the dulling of the pain. Now she would be able to Heal Farkar and finish her own.
"Thank you Master Nero, but I think I can finish my own now. The pain is almost gone. I would offer to teach you my Healing but I don't know if such is possible, as it seems to be a gift of my heritage rather than a learnable skill, though I am willing to try"
She made the offer to Nero willingly. She was begining to have considerable respect for the mage, and hoped her cordial feelings toward him weren't misplaced.
She moved to sit up, so that he'd have more room to sit himself.
Nero nodded and moved over to allow Orome the space to situp. Obviously the little that he had done was enough to provide Orome with the clear mind to manage herself from here on.
"If we could find the time, I would appreciate some pointers perhaps. Even if you can't teach me your ways of healing, sometimes the knowledge alone can be very useful."
Despite having a thirst for expanding his knowledge, Nero figured it would be useful to gain a better understanding of how Orome's power worked, especially if he were to combat her later on.
Finally! Something I CAN do!
Aliria practically ran to get a cloth and a bowl of cool water from the party's supplies. She climbed back into the carriage and gently placed Fakar's head in her lap, setting the bowl beside her.
Gently, the Princess began dipping the cloth into the water and carefully cleaning the blood from Fakar's face.
Orome watched Aliria gently clean Fakars face. Once that was done She stretched out her uninjured arm and carefully cupped the eagles beak. Looking over at Nero she nodded for him to put his hand over hears, so he could feel the flow of energies.
"I visualize what his nose should look like, healed. I've studied many corpses that have been preserved and taken apart, to see what the body looks like inside, layer by layer."
She explained then let her power flow forth. Fakar yelled as all the pain of healing washed over him in one swift wave, then warmth replaced it, erasing the pain, his nose whole again. The power that allowed her to heal retreated, coiling back again in her center. It waited, still strong, barely tapped. Orome would wait to Heal herself in private, for her the Healing would be far more painfull than Fakars had been, part of the price she paid.
She settled back in the comfortable seat, resting "I'll Heal myself later, in case we need what I have for injuries gained before we make camp."
She watched Fakar climb into the drivers seat and the wagon started with but a slight lurch. She hoped that there would be no more incidents.
Nero remained silent as Orome explained the process of her healing powers. He shuddered slightly as he felt the power surge through her hand and pass into Fakar's body, correcting bones and knitting tissue back together. It was an odd sensation, he couldn't say he'd ever felt such energy before.
And with a short scream from the thief, his nose was back in order and all was well once again. Nero could understand why she wished to heal herself in private, it most likely wouldn't be a pleasant experience.
"That is certainly interesting. I may not possess the natural gift for healing, but perhaps similar methods can be applied to a learned power."
With Fakar now at the head of the carriage, they began moving once again. Nero decided he would remain inside the carriage and continue to watch over the princess and injured Orome. There could always be another ambush at any point ahead.
Orome braced herself in the corner and let herself half drift away in the numbness that Neros magic had given her. She hoped that Rakkan was in the midst of one of his bouts of foregting about her. She didn't want his attentions or questions right now.
The Hellcorn was aware of her return to consciousness and gently - for him- let her know that he had watched Corums treatment of her wounds and they had been skillfull. The big carnivore also let her know that he ahd smelt magic on things carried by the ogres and that he had gotten a pouch to the mage. Orome nodded mentally, and let their worldless conversation end
She fell into a light doze, one that she could come out of instantly, but would let the time pass without pressing
Fakar snapped the horses into a gallop, looking around. "Our little friends had to have a campsite somewhere..." He said to no one in particular as they drove up the trail. "...ah."
Turning the wagon, he waved the horses to follow him, and they slowly pulled into a clearing where a variety of tents stood and the remains of a fire smoked in the air. "Perfect! With a little luck, they cleared the area of anything overly hostile. Perfect spot, if I do say so myself."
"What in the Hells?" Orome gasped as the jolting gallop nearly threw her off of the bench and on to the floor of the gypsy wagon. One didn't gallop a wagon with out damn good reason, like being pursued.
She peered out of the nearest window, favoring her splinted arm, taking in the scene.
"Fakar are you mad?! This has got to be the ogres camp, the smell is unmistakable. And we've travelled barely two miles, maybe six over all, it's not even afternoon yet."
Orome was of the opinion that this was the worst place that they could camp. Ogres were not in the least bit cleanly and most likely would have fouled any near by water supply.
When she felt the carriage start to slow down, Aliria peeked out the window to see where they were. The clearing LOOKED fine. But the smell was terrible. She pulled a handkerchief out of her sleeve and held it delicately to her nose as she poked her head farther out and craned her neck to look up at Fakar.
"You're not seriously thinking about staying here?! It smells HORRIBLE."
Suddenly she realised exactly where they were. "This is where the ogres camped, isn't it? Well I refuse to spend the night in an ogres' camp. Especially one as foul-smelling as this."
Nero didn't consider the Ogre camp the best place to setup for the night, especially if there were more ogres about that may be attracted by the stench of their own kind or know the location of the camp. He was about to voice such when the princess began complaining about the smell.
Out of all the problems involved with camping here, all she could think about was the smell. Nero could only sigh and shake his head. He wasn't about to get into an argument with her again as it would merely end in another tantrum.
"Fakar. Would you like to stay awake all night and make sure any stray ogres don't return to their camp and murder us in our sleep?"
Fakar snorted, and threw the reins of the horse aside. "Fine." He stood up and cast around again. "Fine." Making a clicking sound with his teeth, the assassin held up his arm. "Proc Parlo, where are you?! Wretched little animal." He said to Aliria, by way of conversation.
Then the bird landed on his head and cawed at him. Fakar sniffed. "These fine ladies and gentlemen decline to rest in the spot I have chosen. Therefore, it has fallen to you to lead us on to a better and safer spot." Fakar pointed back in the direction of the road. "Lead on!"
With an exasperated croak, Proc flew off the assassin's head and took off for the north. Fakar snatched back up the reins and sat down. "Please keep arms, legs, heads and assorted other bodyparts within the confines of the wagon at all times. Ready? And here. We. Go!" He forced the horses back into action and drove back to the main carriage road, following his bird north.
The Princess was bored. Amazingly bored. Quietly she judged the size of the carriage window. It LOOKS big enough. she sighed Oh well. I suppose I'll never know unless I try.
Aliria opened the window as far as she could. Without looking at Nero, she took a deep breath and pulled herself through the window, swinging her legs around to land on the driver's seat beside Fakar. The look he gave her was both surprised and bemused. She smiled back at him.
"It's awfully boring back there, you know."
Orome had just shaken her head when Fakar had turned the wagon back on to the road. The talk she wanted to have tonight would come soon enough. And as she half droused she could tell that Aliria was bored. Boredom was a fact of life that the Princess hadn't encountered, obviously, and just as obviously hadn't been taught to cope with. She'd end up learning the hard way. Orome just hoped that it didn't mean that she'd get hurt in the learning.
She noted that Fakar kept the horses to a much more sensible road trot now, instead of acting like they were part of a coaching line, with fresh horses waiting every three hours.
Orome let herself drift again, only to wake as the horses stopped once again. The shadow were long and the sun was low in the west. She sat up straighter, looking out the window to see where they were.
Fakar almost fell off the wagon. Spluttering, the assassin turned to Aliria and hissed, "Are you insane?!" Fakar quickly did a spotcheck of her seat, his eyes looking around to ensure she was safe. "That was completely uncalled for!"
With a backwards glance to make sure no one else was doing anything stupid, Fakar put his arm around her and kissed her cheek. "And what do you want from me? I'm watching the birdie."
As he held her, he quickly snapped the horses into a slower pace. "It's a good thing I didn't see you do whatever you did, or I'd have to yell at you." Fakar kissed her cheek again, and maintained his grip around her waist. Slowly, his hand came up and he brushed his knuckles against the underside of her round breasts, before retracting it back to holding her stomach. "As it is..." Proc turned around and suddenly bolted over the forest. "... you stupid bird, we can't fly!" He shouted up at the crow.
OOC: Hey guys! Sorry it's been going so slowly. I've been uber-busy. Check here tomorrow (9-10pm EST or later) if you can. I'm going to try to kickstart this thing.
Aliria turned pink at Fakar's touch, and her eyes went wide.
"FAKAR!" she hissed, "Not in front of everyone!"
Secretly, though, the Princess was pleased with his attentions. She leaned her head on his shoulder and closed her eyes, only to be jolted into alertness when the carriage lurched after Proc. When the carriage finally settled back into a steady pace, she leaned against Fakar once more, and fell asleep.
Three hours later, she woke slowly and stretched. "Shouldn't we be setting up camp soon, Fakar?" she asked sleepily, blinking slowly at the assassin.
"Well, whoever set this up certainly wanted to keep people out," Fakar remarked idly as he studied the massive stone door. The assassin flicked out a lockpick and began to move around it. "I can't figure out why all the locks and bolts are on the outside, though. Anyone with half a brain could pick them. And for whatever reason I'm pretty sure this door hinges inwards, meaning if you're strong enough you could break it down." He began flipping through the ends of his lockpick, trying to choose the one he thought most suitable. "I mean, really. It's saddening, how little effort people go to sometimes."
It was a few weeks later, and the party had finally reached the last known location of the Black Blade. The local townspeople had, of course, been strangely unhelpful, but Fakar had been quick to dismiss this as insularity. "Not surprising they weren't willing to tell us where this barrow was. Probably embarassed at the shoddy job they did, really."
Strangely, there had been no attacks recently by any minions of the Dark Sorcerer. Or random monsters. The party had initially considered this a good thing, but an old adventuring hand had put them straight soon enough by pointing out that no one knew what had killed them all.
More frighteningly, the person who stood watch when they were camping would sometimes report back that there had been strange noises in the bush, though Fakar personally dismissed these reports as typical mage/bounty hunter/mercenary/princess nervousness. He hadn't heard anything when he stood watch. And not just because he generally spent most of the night asleep, leaving the actual work to his crow.
The barrow itself, when looked at, seemed uninspiring. Scuffed footprints and signs of dragging stood in the blasted area around it, but none of them had been recent, according to Corum. Fakar was already calculating the possibility of any wealth remaining that the obvious culprit (looters) hadn't removed. Though, he thought to himself, considering security here the odds aren't in my favour. Finally the first lock fell to his feet. "One down, three more to go."