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Thread: The Archer

  1. #11

    Default In the hills, the Raven readies to fly

    "Hah! Jokes on them ain' it"

    Tetak-Annon hoots as he reads the increasingly filthy scrap of parchment.

    "Why in Sets rancid balls should we care about some pampered house pet that the Prince calls a slave. Not that she ain't a looker. Fine ass. Seen her reg'lar like ridin' them racers the Prince breeds. Shame she'll not be sittin' riding any more stallions, a man could dream seeing bouncin' like that."

    Thut spits to the side of the fire, "Like as not the fop is tired of 'er. I was glad being sent to the mines. Ya die faster at the Black Castle. Figures it looks good that even his own private stock kin be staked." He laughs. "Me, I'll die with a sword in my gut before that."

    He makes a grab for the parchment, the corner tearing.

    "Gimme that. That boy archer give me a five tin when I got him the last bit o' parchment. Little prick can write. He wouldn't be put'in on airs if ole Hep could catch his lily white ass. Quick monkey."

    He wipes a grimy hand across his nose, stands, and limps out of the warmth of the campfire toward the rocky edges of the pass.


    The drone of a fly pulls her out of her stupor and she drags into a seated position with a muted grunt. Her leg was on fire, flies clustered around the oozing pus, the arrow hadn't come out cleanly. Another grunt. This job had gone from bad to worse. Her face twists in pain as she carefully cleans the wound, letting it bleed as much as she dared before bandaging it. She had to find a healer. Another grunt as she stands, testing the strength of the leg.

    A pause, she wipes the sweat from her brow and slowly finishes tucking away the last of her materials. The last of her food is eaten, water skin drained, final arrows slide into her belt quiver. Everything else gets rolled and tied tightly, looped around her body. She slides down from her aerie the last time, almost passing out when her leg hits an outcropping, her attention on the ship pulling in to the makeshift dock far below.

    "Caught an arrow didja?"

    The rough voice jolts her and she grunts, instantly alert. Relief follows. Thut wasn't one of the bad ones. She nods then shrugs as if it were of little consequence.

    "Got another scrap so yer can scribble more" The archer nods at him, digging a grubby hand in to her belt purse and counting out a few scant tin for the exchange. With a nod of satisfaction Thut turns and starts back to the main walls.

    Raven waits until he passes around a corner, then smooths out the parchment, rubbing the face with sand to pull as much of the blood and sweat out of it as she can. Then she freezes, eyes finally taking in the partial message. Something about it wasn't quite right, but it didn't really matter. Her shoulders slump.

    This changed everything.
    Last edited by VenaRavenhair; 14th July 2015 at 14:12. Reason: (spelling and grammar)

  2. #12


    Jiahuo spoke to the rooftop in the shadow between two mud huts. His neck hurt from looking up at people all night.

    "What do you need it for? Planning on sending this town to the moon? This cost me a small fortune to obtain from my order."

    From atop the roof, a silhouette crouched, only slightly darker than the night sky behind it. It peered at the wide brim of Jiahuo's hat, and spoke back in a mirthful whisper.

    "You can take it out of my pay. I need it for a minor distraction, it's going for a good cause, I assure you."

    Jiahuo raised an eyebrow.

    "A....minor distraction?"

    The figure on the rooftop laughed quietly.

    "Alright, perhaps not so minor. Just give it to me."

    Jiahuo grumbled and turned away from the shadow.

    "It's with the rest of the goods. Three large bags, black, white, and yellow. You can read the labels yourself. I keep the ingredients separate since I'm not such an idiot as to transport them all together. Take what you need. And do tell me how it goes."

    And like that, the rooftop was empty.

  3. #13


    The Apprentice quietened the horse and stepped down. He was close, she could feel it, the incessant gnawing wrongness that pervaded the area just reeked of him. She would have been able to find him even without the trail of bodies he had left in his wake.

    She had brought a desert hitch, a length of wood that the reins could be wrapped around and then wedged between two rocks. That would have to do for now. It was unlikely that the horse would wonder off unless something spooked it.

    Cautiously the Apprentice started to climb up the sandstone buff towards the top of the hill. She looked around warily. This was the highest point for miles, the perfect place for bandits or militiamen to post a lookout. She shivered. She was still dressed in her town clothes and in no condition to fight. There was a path of sorts, more prominent than a game trail but something less than a well traveled footpath. That seemed to confirm that others came this way regularly. Possibly many others.

    She found the first body a third of the way to the summit. The man was young, his armor pieced together from an ill-fitting assortment of parts that had originally been made for larger men. It was hard to say what killed him --well she knew what had killed him-- but the manner of his death remained a mystery. There wasn't a mark on the body and only the over wide eyes and the ghastly rigor-smile gave any clue to what had happened.

    Laylia sighed. He was being inventive again. Still there was no further need for caution, if this man had any friends they were certainly dead.

    The second body she found was burnt to a crisp, the third was a desiccated husk and the fourth had been frozen to death in a desert. Each body seemed slightly older and better equipped than the last. It was a hierarchy being murdered from the bottom up.

    When she reached the crest of the rise she could see a collection of lean-to's and tents on the top of the hill; a well established campsite for perhaps a dozen men. As she drew nearer she could see that the camp was in disarray. Food, clothes, even weapons lay jumbled together on the ground, evidence of a panicked call to arms.

    She found more bodies grouped together, mostly men at arms but also the body of the occasional camp follower or child. They had tried to defend the camp and they had all perished. It had been a futile and deadly act of defiance.

    She passed the larger of the tents, probably that of the leader of the bandits. From it came the sweet smell of blood and the persistent buzz of flies. Laylia swallowed then walked by.

    "It isn't like you to avoid the sight of bloodshed," he shouted.

    "I don't need to look to know what's inside," she said, stepping past the tent in the direction of his voice.

    He stood on the top of the rise looking out into the distance. He was tall and dressed in fine robes, those of a vizier or nobleman of some rank. Unlike a Stygian noble his skin was dark like carved ebony, though his features were more angular than was common for men from the Black Kingdoms.

    "I had expected her," he said.

    "Because she is the obedient one?"

    He smiled and turned towards her. "Because she understands. She sees the joke."

    He beckoned.

    Shivering she stepped closer. Some instinct coded deep in the human hind-brain screamed at her to run, to get as far from this abomination as she could. At the same time her other senses, those more finely tuned to the real world recognized the dark man as family. Knew that this aspect of him was more curious than vindictive. Knew that she was his daughter.

    He placed a hand on her shoulder and gestured out over the sands. "Tell me what you see?"

    Laylia took a deep breath, strained her eyes. There were dots in the distance, the suggestion of a wall, perhaps a scaffold. "A building site?" she offered.

    "I said look.."

    She sighed, stepped into overspace and reached out. There were impressions here, hope and fear and blood and death.

    "A battle."

    He gave a dry laugh. "Yes! A wondrous thing, a game of life and loss and joy and sorrow. Do you feel them Yidhra? Do you feel their futile strivings?"

    She didn't answer.

    "She would know," he said, "she understands them in ways you can not."

    "You speak as if that was important."

    "You speak as if it isn't." His eyes panned back to the distant hill. "Their time is short, a day, two at most. You should return to your pampered princeling. I have no need of you here."

    She looked back at the camp and the charnel house of corpses.

    "He has land near here, slaves and properties, a castle."

    "You fear I would break his toys?"

    "I fear you wouldn't notice if you did break them."

    His dark eyes turned to her. "How small you have become that when life and death are paraded before you, all you see are trinkets."

    A knot of bitterness churned within her. "I suppose she would not."

    "She has modest needs. Now be gone. Fear not for your purple fool. I have no interest in him."

    She turned and took a deep breath then steeling herself she marched resolutely away. The battle looked to be near the old mine a few leagues from Caravanserai. Not strictly her Master's territory but certainly close to his holdings. A battle there meant either that the mine was being raided or that the slaves were rebelling. In either case that was information that a shrewd man could use to turn a profit.

    She winced.

    If only Neverlin were a shrewd man.
    Last edited by Dreamsmith; 15th July 2015 at 19:24.

  4. #14

    Default Kebab Trees

    Along the roads from Hep-Kab to Caravanserai and to Bubshur, sprouted trees. One day there was nothing, the next, there stood mature but sparse, pole-like trees laden with strange fruit. They lined the road, perfectly spaced, as if some unseen god of arithmetic and topiary had placed them for the enjoyment of mortals walking the desert roads. A few trees leaned at odd angles, as if the god had neglected to make the tree roots deep enough to keep the thin trunks perfectly upright. But what mortal can begrudge a god’s imperfection when that god plants so many grown trees in such a short time and purely for the enjoyment of mortals?

    An ancient historian once claimed that, generally, after a great battles great rains will fall. But no rains fell on the desert after Hep-Kab had been laid low. It was, after all not a great battle. It would not be remembered save in the lifetimes of those who fought in it. It would not be studied or dissected in any of the war colleges of the western kingdoms. It was not so much a battle as it was a slaughter.

    Perhaps that is why it did not rain after the battle and why some of the strange human fruit moaned for water and relief from the desert sun as they slid lowly down the sharpened poles, trees in the likeness of human kebabs.

  5. #15


    The days passed. The stench of Hep-Kab fading from all but memory.

    A step, a turn, a thrust. Spin and dodge, controlled leap against the wall to the top of the shelf and back again lightly to the floor. The weapons forms run through like a deadly dance. Eventually she reaches the end and looks around the rooms that had become her gilded cage, not barred by locks or bars, but by her word.

    He had given leave to other areas of the Inn, but she had no desire to. The women who frequented the low tables, sat on cushions, chattering. They spoke of family, lust and sometimes what they viewed as love, but little else. The rough camaraderie of the soldiers who jostled in late in the evening made her wary. Their loud voices and boisterous clamoring for the courtesans and serving girls held no place for her. None of them could speak with their hands except that one strange girl who called herself Mouse. She wasn't sure any could even read in a language that she could chalk out on her slate. Or read at all. And even if she brought herself to sit with them, they would offer food and drink. She would not eat in front of others. It was too awkward, too difficult.

    A scratch at the door and a serving girl comes with soup and a bit of meat. Raven looks at the girl and is rewarded with a small eating knife which she uses to dice the meat up very small. The girl stands silently in the corner, waiting until the knife is returned, hilt first, then scurries away. No amount of drawing or hand speaking had gotten any of them to leave her a knife. Raven sighs and slowly, methodically eats. The weight lost during the long days in the field beginning to fill out her muscles.

    The archer looks around again as she drinks the last bit of soup. All of his armor had been cleaned; the leather oiled and worked until it was supple and almost glowed, the clothing repaired and sewn in a fine hand. There was now enough thread, teased and spun from the fabric he had bought, to be coiled in neat bundles alongside a handful of bowstrings. She stretches, limbering up and automatically starts again from the beginning.

    A step, a turn, a thrust ...

  6. #16


    It was too much. Too many people, too many questions in their eyes. She knew she shouldn't have stopped, but the lure of a familiar face, former and dear friend proved too strong. The immediate acceptance not just by her, but the entire group was devastating. She fled.

    The rooftop of the Inn soothed her with its now familiar rhythms. She throws herself into the patterns and forms, a lithe figure flowing across the rooftop in a deadly dance. Below the revelers drank and bragged of their prowess in battle and in love. The smoke from lotus rooms drifted up, mixing with the ever present pall of the sacrificial fires. Laughter, real and forced, occasionally broke the mostly silent evening. It wasn't much of a refuge, but it was one.

    Eventually, her panic subsides and she drops exhausted down to the balcony of the suite. The chevalier was not yet back from his normal evening of heavy drinking. She wondered if he would be in the Carp or down below. Not that it mattered. If and when he returned, he would collapse on his pallet with a grunt. She hoped. His mercurial changes kept her off balance. One moment he was everything that she had been raised to expect a chevalier to be, the next cold and harsh, irrational in his demands and terrifying her with dire threats. Except they seemed more promises than threats.

    What would she do when the ship from Zingara made landfall. When he spoke of her tallying and balancing the books for livestock, she hadn't realized that he meant slaves. That's all they were to him. Not people, but livestock. She curls up on the balcony, gazing off over the rooftops. It would be easy to run. She was not a chevalier bound by codes of honor. But she had given her word.

    Exhausted and locked in her silence, she drifts off to sleep, the sounds below muting as the night wears on.

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