Footsteps of the Fallen

10 Years Past

10 Years Past

The wind came in again, biting and hard. The boy huddled in the wolf-skin clothes he’d been given. Father said his mother’s people did not wear clothing made from men, only beasts slain would shield them from the elements. He walked behind the man, placing his feet in the snow-prints he left, feeling small and cold. “Not much further,” he heard the wind carry his father’s voice back to him.

Suddenly, as quickly as the wind came, they were there. All he saw was black rock, from east to west across the horizon, reaching up towards the sky. Words had not done it justice, as he strained his neck upwards and could not see the top above the snow flurry. Being a boy, he could not comprehend how such a structure could be built, whole mountains would have to be leveled just to construct a part of it, and he knew from his lessons that it stretched almost entirely across Talin’Tyr, guarding their border from the barbarians to the north. No army in no country to hope to assault, and yet the wild men of the north had done their best for thousands of years. What sort of stuff must those men be made of to throw themselves at that bloody wall, with no hope of victory?

They reached the foot of the wall, and there were grayish, taciturn looking buildings surrounding a center holding. It was one of many of the keeps of the Black Watch. Men in solid black dressings rode out to meet them, and guide them back to the keep. The Black Watch was not held to the laws of the country, being separate but equal, but it was well known that they respected them. The men themselves were quiet and somber, and the boy wondered in all their lives in the cold had made them as hard as ice. Men nodded to his father as he passed, and looked quizzically at him as he walked the hard road. It made him miss his sister.

“I’ll not have you and your sister up in the North at once, should something happen. And I would hardly place you both in the old bastards care, he might just decide to refresh old wounds and take you captive, and I’m not interesting in carrying spears over the wall again.”

They passed many men on their way through the keep to the rigging on the other side. He was surprised to see a fat man walking along, and nod knowingly to his father. Such men did not last within the Black Watch, it was said, as either the north or the brothers would get a weak one. Still, as he waddled past he seemed at home. Many of the men training seemed young, and though some smiled, most scowled or ignored them. Criminals, he knew, were drafted into the brothers if they did not have to stomach for death. It was ironic that some of the worst kind of men, rapists and murderers, were the ones guarding their countryman’s safety.

Suddenly a huge man, a mountain of flesh surrounded by black brothers, came upon them. “I heard you were here Kel’Thane,” his low and gravelly voice boomed. “But I didn’t think you’d sneak through. My feelings are hurt.”

His father laughed, a rare sound, “The day you have a feeling is the day the wall comes crashing down, Sargent.” He seemed to notice something on the man’s outfit and corrected himself, “Captain, it seems. You’ve come a long way since I was causing trouble around here.”
Stone’s face twisted up bitterly as he spoke, “Not my doing. You can blame General Tiberius. Says he needs men he can trust running the keeps. I keep telling him he’s wasting his time on this; I’m better training those boys down there.” He looked down, so far down, at the boy and squints, “They keep getting worse every year, I swear by Arakxx. Is this pup yours?” When his father nods solemnly he chuckles, “too scrawny for a brother. You should consider the Maesters.”

They laugh and speak for a few minutes of things long past that they seem to miss, even as sad as things seem when they speak of a friend who they say is gone. After a bit Stone moves on, saying he has business to attend to, and they continue. “Stone is a good man, and a good friend, even if he was a son of a bitch. The friends you make while in your early years aren’t like any others, remember that there is a value to the time you’ve known a man, and don’t make the mistake of breaking bonds for little cause.”

They came to the wall, and had to ride a system of pulleys to the top. There were few gates on the wall, and difficult even for the brothers to open, to dissuade their enemies from considering them a weaker point. Because of this the brothers must travel over the top if they wished to travel beyond into the north, a rare prospect.

When they finally reached the top the clouds seemed to part, and everything for many miles was clear as day. It was beautiful in a way, how a tool of war provided such insight into the world itself. The boy imagined seeing home from here, in Talin’Tarathia, and seeing his sister gazing out towards the wall. He regretted that she was upset with him; she had wanted to go with him to the North. There was nothing to be done, though; Father was not a man to be cajoled into getting one’s way. He wondered idly if she was looking out at him as he was to her. He felt like she was.

As they approached the way down he put his mind to the task. The rigging was relatively safe but one slip or misstep and it would be hundreds of feet down, a sure death for any man. They rode in silence, his father seeming lost in thought from their meetings in the keep. At the landing, the black brothers departed, leaving them alone in the wilderness of the north.
They traveled for a half day, not stopping for rest, eating on the way. This journey was the first time he had not trained in war in four years. He would need what strength he had if they were attacked, father had said, and there were lawless men such as Skylar’s Mercenary Band. He knew, through hearing servants speak of it, that his father was held in irons once at the mercy of Skylar, and that he bragged of the fact to this day; but his father did not speak of it.

Finally they came to a clearing, where fifty wild men stood in silence. The one in front was a greybeard, tall and of noble bearing. His eyes, though, were hard as ice as they approached. “Where is the girl?” he asked in a harsh tone.

“Far north, beyond your reach. You shall have her in two years when I come for my son, and not sooner. If he is dead, you shall not have her. If he is hostile to me, you shall not have her. If he is marked, you shall not have her. Know and remember these words, old man, or you will come to rue them.”

The barbarian scowled, “You take my right to my granddaughter as surely as you took my daughter. The day I rue is the day I released you, cursed boy, and may the gods punish my foolishness for letting you take her into your wretched land.”

His father stood tall and imperious, “Curse me all you wish, Father, but I have told you I had no hand in her death before all of your gods and mine, but you will not listen. I do not care to listen to your insults and baseless accusations today any more than I did when I marched the Black Watch to your door and demanded you cease them years past. You will have the girl as well as the boy, for two years each, just not together.”

His father leaned down and turned him to look into his face, speaking deliberately. “You will go with your grandfather now, and for two years forward. It will be difficult to live as they do, among the trees and the wolves, but you are made of sufficient strength for this. Know your people and your father and your sister think of you daily, and that you will return home one day stronger for the experience. Show these men, these savages, what it means to be a man of Talin’Tyr, and take from them the strength they do have, for it is great. Go now, boy, and remember that I will come for you.”

With that he pushed the boy forward, and he began the long walk to these strange and foreign men. They stood like wild gods, the way the pictures showed them against the black wall. He did not look back to his father, knowing that would be a weakness, and did not seem him again for two years. But as his father and sister thought of him every day, so did he of them.

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This is Nuts

Dungeons and dragons cartoon by kevinbolk
“This is Nuts” Geko mumbled to himself as he studied the huge bronze doors carved with demonic faces and radiating palpable evil. Never before had he been so close to death so many times. And the gods damned Archer had the audacity to call him a coward. If he were’that’ kind of man he will kill the sniveling bastard in his sleep. But he wasn’t that kind of man. In fact he was a fool in his own mind.

These people, telling him that the magical loot they were pulling off these demons and cultist was worth the risk. Worth the risk. What good is loot if your dead?

The group spread out behind him looting the bodies of the fallen demons. The knight on the horse with the yellow cape was introducing himself. Geko grumbled. Yet another mighty warrior to add to the group. He was in the wrong group. All these noble heroes. All he had done was nearly get killed by trap after trap in this place. An invisible cultist stronghold, were they are constructing giants made of the flesh of dead people. What in the name of the Nine Hells was he doing here?!

The freed slaves filed out, heading up the stairs. The centaur Lady that had healed him was making her way through crowd helping and healing. She was the only person that had showed him any kindness for as long as he could remember. He looked at his group. Certainly these people were just going to get him killed and treat him like gutter trash the whole time he was risking his life.

Geko was seriously considering just abandoning these psychotic self important snobs to there “quest”, but if he could just stay alive long enough to get the dragonman to his revenge he could make enough gold to never have to work a lockpick again….

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14 Years Past

14 Years Past
His arm popped as he slammed into the ground rolling. He grasped wildly at the ground, trying to slow his movement towards the ledge, but his hands were sweaty and soft; the stone hard and unforgiving. At the last moment he caught hold of a crack, stopping only a few feet before the drop, one leg dangling before he snatched it from the precipice. He breathed heavily and held firm, not looking up.

“You are a weak boy,” his father said with authority. “Your sister has more knack for the blade and the spear, and she is the younger of your womb-bond.” The man was tall, so tall; and fair of color while the boys own hair was so dark. His lean muscled arm, holding a spear, shot the butt end out and lifted the boy’s head to meet his gaze. “Stand now; your people are too proud to kneel to anyone, regardless of what old men in the senate might say. We’ve learned not to trust them, and paid the lesson in blood. Our blood.”

The child struggled to rise, lifting himself on the offered spear. “I have allowed you to spend too much time among women and politicians, and though the women of our land are stronger than the men of any other, there is no presence like that of a Talin’Tarathian man. Know your strength, of both us and your wild mother’s people.” He lifted his jaw and stared, for once, fiercely at his father’s face, anger dancing round his irises. He knew of the blood that had been spilt, what cost was paid by the Kel’Thanes last Winter’s eve.

“Finally, I meet my son.” His father looked on him proudly, for the first time perhaps, and then slapped him hard in the face. “I will craft of you a thing that the world shall know as a man, the greatest of men that dwell here in our country. It will be hard and painful, but I am confident that you are a creature that will survive it. You and your sister shall walk the world and take of it what is yours and I shall know the satisfaction of a father, as I was robbed that of a husband.”

The young child saw a move then, and jumped forward grasping at the loose spear. He rolled by his father’s leg and spun in a circle, bringing the tip of the spear swinging around and up towards his father’s chest. Suddenly the huge man’s hand was on the mid-haft, and pulling it down and around. The boy lost balance, and began to fall before being lightly kicked and sent sprawling across the ground. He spit blood upon the hard stone, tanned in such liquid endlessly, and stood. Looking up and the smiling man, Andraxx Kel’Thane, a man who no one for a thousand miles took lightly, he gazed fiercely once more. “I am your son.”

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Sleep

Adora stares at the fire as the wood crackles and burns. They have left Kriesk and have begun their adventure up north to help Kensen avenge his sisters death. Things have changed since her and Flynn formed this group some time ago. They bagan their adventures in hopes of preventing the Imperium ensuing more chaos. Now however, they have taken to running off on any mission that pays. I suppose money isn’t a bad thing. She had never really needed money before now since the Runeguard provided her with everything she needed. She turns her back toward the fire and stares out into the trees.

Before the attack at the Inn, she had a brief glimpse of hope regarding a possible return to the Runeguard. Renea had brought news that herself and some of the other women had felt what Yosanna had done was unfair and unjust and were woring to get her reinstated…if she wanted to return that is. She had told Renea that she wanted to return to fight along side her sisters for the good of Alluvia but that she would have to be assured that something like what had happened would not happen again. She didn’t want to follow someone who used their power against the people, even if they thought it was for good. Still, the thought of some of her sisters wanting her back felt good and for the first time in months, she closed her eyes, and slept.

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How The Imperium Made a Lifelong Enemy of Flynn Stanwick Sinclair Swift
or: I'll Likely Have a Pounding Headache in the Morning

“Lord Swift?” Flynn was lost in thought and taken a bit by surprise when the messenger greeted him outside the door to his room. Looking the messenger over, he could tell that he was no threat, the messanger had clearly been dispatched from Aeroglyph. The boy offered Flynn a sealed letter, Flynn quickly flipped the lad a few coins for his trouble. The seal on the letter bore the noble seal of House Swift. Flynn couldn’t ever remember getting a letter from his father before. Flynn slipped into his room and intently read the letter written in his father’s own hand.

Upon finishing the letter, Flynn sets the letter on the nightstand and takes a moment to think. Before he realized what was happening a razor thin wire slips over Flynn’s head and clenches around his throat. Flynn’s mind begins racing, clearly the Imperium wasn’t pleased with the answer he provided them. Before the assailant had a chance to fully constrict the garrote, Flynn leans back and uses his thumbs to create enough slack to slip free of the lethal device. Taking advantage of the surprise escape, he leaps off the bed to face the assassin. Flynn is surprised to see a woman in dark leather wearing a black Imperium sash, the first that Flynn had ever seen, but if he should survive the night, it would likely not be the last.

The assassin composes herself and leaps at Flynn drawing a short sword in one graceful swipe, slashing Flynn across the chest. Flynn composes himself and reaches for his rapier, leaning next to the bed. With a flash of brilliant steel he draws the lithe blade and assumes a duelist stance, with a swift flick of his wrist he flings the short sword from the assassin’s grip sending it tumbling to her feet. He continues the movement into a quick slash across the assassin’s stomach, blood drips from the fresh wound onto her black leather armor. The assassin makes a quick assessment of the situation and scoops up her fallen sword. Flynn takes the opening and makes a deep thrust with his rapier, causing blackish blood to come seeping out of the wound, likely punturing a vital organ.

The assassin brings up her sword in a feeble attempt to strike back, Flynn expertly parries her blade with a flourish. All at once, Flynn feels weaker, poison! The assassin’s blade must have been poisoned. Without missing a beat the assassin returns with another slash, once again Flynn calls upon his training as a fencer and deflects the blow. The assassin quickly reaches inside her cloak and draws out a potion, yellow liquid swirls within the vial. Flynn makes another quick thrust with his rapier and lands a solid strike on the assassin. The assissin looks feverishly around the room for some space, finding none, she decides to keep her enemy close, she tries to dart past Flynn. Taking the opportunity, Flynn stabs her deeply in her side as she flies past him. The impact of the rapier causes her to drop the vial of yellow liquit which clinks to the floor and begins rolling across the room. “Shit!”, the assassin exclaims as she dives for the potion, landing squarely on top of it.

The assassin pops the cork from the vial and quickly consumes the potion vanishing into thin air. Flynn can hear the assassin moving about the room, but can’t clearly make out her location, he takes a few quick swings at where her body had been, hearing nothing but the dull thud of steel against wood. Glancing about the room, Flynn realizes that the window is open and presents quite a viable exit for the phantom assailant. He moves swiftly toward the window, keeping a keen eye on the door in the event that she tries to slip out. As Flynn neared the open window he bellowed as loud as he could “ASSASSIN!” while swinging his rapier in wide arcs, hoping to be lucky enough to snag her on the way. Flynn’s eyes sweep across the room as he waits for any sign of life.

Before Flynn has time to react he hears the pattering of feet as the assassin charges toward him and tackles him in a full run and knocks them both out of the window, plummeting two stories to the ground below. With no time to think, Flynn manages to spear the assassin with his rapier as she tackles him. The assassin grunts as the rapier sinks deep into her gut, the two spin in the air as they fall to the earth below. With a loud THUMP and CRACK the two crash to the ground Flynn’s head slamming hard into the packed dirt. Just before Flynn blacks out he catches a glimpse of the assassin, now fully visible and slumped over next to him, her neck broken from the fall. A faint smirk forms on Flynn’s lips before his eyes close, the last thing to pass through his mind before everything goes dark, “at least now I’ll get some rest…”.

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Good Night for a Deal..a steal..and a Meal

Well, well. Things are finally lookin up for o’l Geko. Got me some friends in some high places. Got me some friends in some low places. Got me a fat purse and none the wiser. Now I just need me some vits and a couple whores.

Geko skipped down the street whistling a tune he couldn’t remember the name of, thinking he was the most skilled and talented thief in the business. The thought came to mind that someone might recognize the money pouch he just acquired so he snatch another off a passerby dumped out it contents on the cobblestone (just coppers poor peasant bastard) and dumped the gold from the fine pouch into it. Then with a flick of his wrist stuffed that same fine pouch into the belt of another sorry sap that got too close.
He continued on down the lane flirting with the ladies lining the streets. Stopping for a moment with the prettier ones to test the water and their level of overseer (damn pimps). Till finally he came to the “Broken Shield” the pub he had been hearing about all over the “Footpad” district. the seediest bar in town. Home sweet home. And after a month and a half on the road with a bunch of clanks and one very luscious runeguard. It was going to be nice to have some scoundrel time, a bath and a tale or two.
Geko opened the door and stepped into the bar with a broad smile on his face. “Bartender! A Round for the house! On me!” As the door shut behind him he was consumed by pipe smoke, rancorous conversation and darkness. Home sweet home.

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Animal Companion

Adora sits on the edge of her bed. A few moments Ortan had slammed his door shut after his conversation with the man in the street. Though her body wanted sleep, her mind raced. She stood and paced quietly back and forth a bit. She sensed something was amiss but wasn’t sure what to do about it. She walks over to the window and peers out to the moon. Pulling a small bench over she kneels and peers up at the giant glowing orb in the sky. Softly she carresses the symbol of Storgg ebroidered on her shirt and begins to pray in druidic:

“Oh my beloved God. God of earth and sky, water and fire. Things have changed since I was a child, running naked in your woods. Please grant me the wisdom to make the right decisions, the same wisdom you give cunning serpant. Please grant me the strength, like that of the mighty tiger, to overcome my enemies and those who would harm those I care for, and continue give me the keen senses, like that of an eagle, to know when danger is coming. I thank you for these gifts and for continuing to watch over my friends and I as we travel.”

Adora returns to the bed and scratches Torques fur softly. “I am truely grasteful Storgg put us together,” she says smiling as he purrs loudly. “Okay,” she says, “now onto business.” Concentrating and moving her hands in a soft circle in the air, she peers down at Torgue.

“So tell me my beloved companion, what is your sense of the man whom Ortan was speaking with?”

Torque peers up at her. It has been awhile since she has spoken to him in his language. “What do you mean by sense Adora,” he says. “Did he give you an uneasy feeling, did he seem odd or strange or dangerous?” she replies. “Well, I could sense that the short one, the one you call Ortan, seemed tense while they spoke to each other.” “The other man, spoke very calmly, but I did get an uneasy feeling from him.” Concern flashes across Adora’s face. “Hmm, me too Torque, me too…” she says and scratches his head.

“Tonight we do not sleep deeply my friend,” he growls and turns a few times on the floor, laying down on his side facing the door, ear perked.

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Dwarves and their ale

Adora and Ortan sit quietly at a table in their usual tavern in Kreisk. She notices Ortan looking intently at the mug of ale in front of him. He appears to be debating with himself whether or not he is going to drink it. She has noticed him doing this a few times, ever since their return from cleansing the temple.

“So, " she says to Ortan as he finally grips the mug tightly and takes a swig, “I noticed your drinking has picked a little more since our last conversation regarding Ellena and your love of ale.” She pauses and takes a sip of her hot tea.He grunts softly and says “Well, that ale we had earlier was the finest ale of Brundicore…” his voice trails off. “yes well,” she says “What about the ale in your hand? Was it not you who told me Ellena herself spoke to you about your alcohol consumption.” Ortan replies, “She didn’t say to stop, she merely said I should, uh, cut back a little.” He takes another swig of ale. “I see,” she says.

They continue to talk for a awhile about Ellena, his family, and his love of ale. Though she may seem overly concerned with his drinking, she really isn’t. Growing up, she never drank because her mother was very much a naturalist and until a month ago, Adora had never tasted ale. She was merely curious as to what feuled his desire to drink and wished to know more about his culture. While in the Runeguard, Adora knew very few dwarves and now that she has a chance to really get to know new people without just guarding or escorting them, she is taking it.

Having his fill of ale, and her fill of tea, Ortan and Adora head out of the tavern, towards the Inn they and their companions are staying at. As they walk out of the doors, a man dressed in dark clothes, with bright blue eyes approaches them. He addresses Ortan and tells him he must speak with him regarding a matter of his family. He asks to speak to Ortan alone. Adora raises her brow and carefully looks over the man. Something doesn’t seem right. “Anything you have to say, you can say in front of me,” she says firmly. The man assures Adora that no harm will come to her friend. Adora turns to Ortan and he assures her he will be fine speaking to the man alone. She doesn’t like the situation and an uneasy feeling brews in the pit of her stomach but he is a grown man and grants him his wish…after asking Torque to stay behind and defend Ortan if necessary. The man looks at Adora and asks her to wait across the street.

Reluctantly she steps across the street, but keeps an eye on the men as they speak. At first it seems as if it a normal conversation. However, within a few minutes she notices Ortans face furrow and contort. He begins to poke the man in the chest several times and at the end of the conversation he looks frustrated and walks towards the middle of the street. Adora meets up with him and they walk towards the Inn.

“What happened? Is everything okay?” she asks, concerned something has happened to his family. “Lets just say I am going to kill every one of those damn Imperium bastards!” he says angrily as they reach their rooms at the Inn. “Is there anything I can do?” she asks. “I just need to be alone,” he says and slams his room door shut.

She sighs and opens her room and locks it behind her. She knows something isn’t right.

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Friendship

She watches intently as the cleric brings her fallen companions back to life one by one. It had only been a few days since they were slain, but she waited anxiously to have them back. Since being cast out of the Runeguard, she realized how much she needed friends in her life right now.

Upon awakening from his death, Flynn asks to be alone for awhile. Adora senses she knows why but gives him his space and awaits until the next day to speak with him.

She knows what he is going to say, before he says it, as they stand outside next to the Tavern, the sun brightly shining. He begins by telling her he is returning home and that he doesn’t believe that this is what his father would want him to do. He explains that none of the other members respect him, are making deals with criminals while he is dead, and that we are no longer a mercenary group. Adora listens. She tries to convince Flynn to stay and that the mission at hand to help the half-dragon is for a just cause. She understand his frustrations. Though she doesn’t agree with his methods of trying to lead the group, she knows how important it is to him to become a leader and impress his father. She knows certain individuals in their group think Flynn is nothing but a complete asshole but she also knows him far better than they do and knows his reasons for his behavior…even though he doesn’t go about it in the most respectful ways.

They argue for a bit about the dynamics of the group, politics, and Adora begins to become frustrated. It seems as every time they speak Flynn has nothing to say but “me me me.” Upset and emotional, she lets loose her feelings on Flynn.

“Did you ever stop to think about me if you left the group?” she asks. She appears upset and her voice waivers just a bit. She isn’t used to showing him such emotion. “Flynn, I just lost a part of my life, a part of my identity. I haven’t slept, I barely eat, and my only friend just died and was brought back to life. Did you even notice? Did you even sense my hurt, my pain?” She wipes a tear from her cheek. “Flynn you are my only friend right now,” Torque growls and nudges her hand. “Well, yes of course, besides you Torque.” She turns back to Flynn. “Did it ever occur to you that I may be upset about being banished from the Runeguard?” “And that now, my friend who I have known since I was young wants to abandon me because he doesn’t always get what he wants?” “And did it occur to you that nmaybe your father wants you to learn a different lesson, something deeper than just bossing people around.”

Flynn doesn’t speak as Adora lays out her emotions. He has never seen her like this. She has always been very calm and strong since he has known her.

When she is finished spilling her feelings to Flynn, Adora wipes away her tears and tries to pull herself together. She tells him that if he still wants to leave, she cannot stop him…but in her heart she desperately hopes he will stay. Flynn puts his arm on her shoulder and gently squeezes but says nothing. She smiles and breaths a soft sigh of relief. With that, they walk back into the tavern….Adora with her two closest friends at her sides.

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Broken

Adora lays on her side in bed, her arm hanging over the edge stroking Torques fur softly as he slumbers peacefully on the ground beside her. Even though their latest mission went well and the Inn where they are staying is quite comfortable, she has barely been able to sleep since she was cast out of the Runeguard. Her insides still ache and long to feel whole once again. A part of her is gone and though she doesn’t regret her decision she still misses the life she once had.

Though she has her companions beside her, she feels miles apart from them…lonely and invisible. She has considered speaking to Flynn about this but after his numerous negative comments about her banishment from the guard, it seems pointless to reach out to him now. Is it sad her only friend thinks less of her? Tears begin to well up and she begins to weep softly. She is broken inside…

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