Saturday, January 31, 2015

Hakaar - Chronicle 14.4 - Conversations with Silah

I pressed into the tiny room I had just rented. The Inn was just down the street from The Sea Witch. I immediately tossed my scabbard containing Silah on the bed. I had been dreading this moment since we escorted Rana and the refugees back to Hlofreden through the unceasing drizzle. Standing there alone allowed me to recall every inch of anger and pain that I had experienced over the last miserable day.

I gritted my teeth and ran my hand over forehead and through my hair. If I wasn't able to keep calm, I was liable to break something. I clenched my fists and looked at them. I was still weak, I could feel it.

When we had gotten back into town, I had begged myself off from the rest. I couldn't rest on Bromm's kindness anymore. We had split what we had found among the Orcs, which didn't amount to much, but it was enough for me to partially pay Danin back, rent my own room, and maybe get the riding cloak I had been promising myself.

There wasn't much conversation on the return trip. It was mainly work; something I could get lost in, thankfully. I hadn't touched Silah the entire trip back, waiting for a time when we could be alone. She had been a pathetic creature at the end of the battle. I couldn't bear having anyone see her like that so I put her away and kept her away.

Now I was here. The grand plan of confronting her withered away with each passing minute. I stared down at the undersized bed almost filled by Silah's greatsword form. I stood there for a very long time. My heart ached on so many levels.

I removed the sheath and tossed it to the floor. I laid a finger on the flat of the blade and thought of her in human form and quickly withdrew. She began to take shape. My throat ached, unprepared for whatever I was going to say.

Silah lay there, in her new purple dress, filth from the battlefield saturating the front, sleeves, and hem. She didn't move, staring at the ceiling, unblinking.

"I'm going out. Don't follow me and stay in this room." I growled, louder and louder with each command.

My rage was just below the surface, easily called on. It was readily available even if mixed with so many other emotions. Anger was the easiest for me to express, especially when I was unprepared to express anything else.

She turned her face toward me, still laying on the bed.

"Yes, master." She said, a mocking edge lined her voice.

The way she said it was like a punch to the gut, threatening to choke the words in my mouth before I had a chance to speak my mind. I turned and strode quickly to the door, not giving her the chance to break my fury with her will. I heard her sit up and swing her legs to the floor and there was a creak as she stood, but I didn't look back. I slammed the door behind me and made my way through the Inn.

As I stepped through the front door of the Inn, I had to steady myself as a bout of nausea came and went. I looked down and felt the ache in my side, realizing that I had pressed the range of my bond with Silah. My body was still weak from the poison, so it hit doubly hard. Anger seethed through the pain and I pressed forward, pressing past the bond.

I was feeling dangerous, casting glares and bared tusks at the passer-bys. I ducked into an alley quickly and found a nice solid timber beam supporting a neighboring structure and slammed my fist into it repeatedly, gritting my teeth. I let out a deep breath, feeling the rage subside. I waited until I felt calm enough to mingle with the outside world again. I glanced at my knuckles, calluses kept them from too much damage, but blood still ran from them. I brushed them off and moved back out into the street feeling a little more capable of containing myself.

I perused the city for hours. At first, I spent time looking for a travel cloak. The provisioner had a black oiled canvas longcoat. He had called it a duster, which I thought was ironic—since there seemed to be nothing other than wet in Hlofreden. It fit well enough, though it left my forearms partially exposed to the elements. I spent a little more time finding some decent underclothes. Now I wouldn't have to wash my own while naked. It was time to have possessions again.

I could see Silah in my head, "You're not on the front line anymore. Soldier."

I bowed my head, swallowing the heartache of the memory.

While looking at clothes, I had found that the wound in my side from bonding with her didn't exactly bleed when I was away from Silah, but it would turn pulpy and become wet and painful to the touch. It also, from recollection, seemed to be the first place that began to burn when she…

I don't want to think about it.

I dropped a few coins on the table for the clothes and moved back out into the rain wearing my new duster. It worked like a charm, water beaded up and rolled off without soaking in. It was exactly what I was looking for.

I stepped into another shop with the placard showing a crossed sword and axe. It was a low cut door, which implied it was part of the older Dwarven construction. Inside it opened up enough to stand at my full height, but I still felt the walls closing in on me. Those walls were layered with sharp and pointy instruments that were perilously close skewering me if I wasn't careful.

I asked the shopkeep about scabbards. I explained that I wanted two. I measured the two different scabbards out with my hand, knowing the length, width, and breadth by the size my hands. A warrior knew his weapon completely, after all.

Well, apparently, this warrior didn't.

The purchase ended up being a bit more gold than I anticipated. I walked out of there with two scabbards and two silvers to rub together.

I hope Bromm's hospitality extends another night. I'm going to need to eat.

The sun had crested and began to fall. I was tired of avoiding Silah. My exploration, while interesting, was interrupted often by thoughts of what I was going to say to her. These interruptions made the exploration experience generally unpleasant. I approached the Inn and stared at the front door. She'd know I'd be coming because of our bond, but it didn't matter. Prepared or not, I had to figure this out.

I moved into the Inn and nodded to the Innkeep. He seemed a little dismayed that at my presence. When I first walked in, I paid, started shouting in my room, and stormed. It was out hours ago, but I somehow doubted her had another tenant. A small, scared smile bent his lips and he nodded and I strode through. A couple beads of sweat emerged from his forehead. I thought about taking the time to attempt to put him at ease, but it seemed like a very bad idea at the time. I afforded him a curt nod and continued. Our bond had asserted itself as I moved across the threshold. It was invigorating but also deepened the pit in my stomach.

I moved up the narrow stairs deliberately and pushed my way into the room. The room was small containing the bare necessities: bed, chair, wash basin, pitcher, and a free standing wooden closet. She stood woodenly, absolutely still. I suspected that she hadn't moved during the hours I had been gone.

I bustled around the room, tossing my gear into the wooden closet loudly. Attempting to keep my thoughts clear so I could engage properly.

"Have you moved since I left?" I spoke it loudly, with forced bravado.

"Why would I? You didn't really give me much of a choice." she said, an uncharacteristic furrowed brow marred her perfect face.

I stood, looking at her sternly, feeling appropriately intimidating. But I was also completely aware that not a whit of it worked on Silah. I felt a variety of emotions brewing below the surface that attempted to betray me. I dared not reveal too much.

Her eyes were unblinking. They flicked to mine, meeting my gaze. The light that was usually there was replaced by the chasm that divided us.

"I can't trust you." I spoke low and evenly, meeting her fathomless gaze with fire.

She waited, raising an eyebrow, seeming expectant.

"And?" She said, with a perfect delivery of reproach.

It wasn't that I had lost the words, I didn't have much more to begin with. I ached, knowing I was immediately outclassed. She had ages perfecting her social prowess, that is, if she wasn't simply created with it. I braced for the onslaught, I'd at least take it standing.

"I'm glad you took the time to think about what you were going to say. Fantastic delivery, if I'd say so myself." Her voice was thick with sarcasm, "You even got your tantrum worked out, I see."

She glanced at scuffed knuckles. I absently put my hand behind me as she said acknowledged it.

"So, you can't trust me?" She sat down on the edge of the bed, crossing her legs elegantly, looking deadly and refined in her blood-crusted purple dress.

I gulped.

"That was rhetorical." She bowed her head slightly, and looked up under her brow, "You do know what that means, right?"

Silah gave the room an extended silence then smirked.

"Enough with the shaming!" I shouted, feeling jumbled, rage blurring my vision.

"All right, all right." She put out a calming hand and then, when finished with the demeaning gesture, balled it up into a fist and tucked it under her chin looking calm and demur.

"So, you're ready to talk? I can see you have something to say." Then she tilted her head, "Or do you want to boss me around a bit more before we start? You look like you could use it."

I lost control. I felt myself move forward quickly, unconsciously. I sent a fist flying toward that precious face, suddenly feeling panic as I extended, unable to pull back. My hand crumpled with the impact and the shock raced up my arm and shook my body. She was unflinching during the impact and turned her head slightly taking some of the blow.

My fist throbbed. I had an inkling that it may be like that. Her soft appearance belied the steel lining just underneath. Silah looked perturbed. But I was more shocked at my violence than she was.

"Does that make you feel any better?" She ran fingers along her flawless jawline, not a mark to be seen. "Though, honestly, I'm impressed. That actually did hurt a little."

I felt even more ashamed. My arms hung by my sides, defeated. I had been completely disarmed. She saw me deflate and a look of empathy fluttered over her face.

"Pull up a chair," she nodded to the fragile chair that probably would fall apart if I even looked at it wrong. I sat heavily, testing its capabilities, sending a creak of protest from the its simple rough-hewn fittings.

"Now," she uncrossed her legs keeping them modestly close together and leaned forward, her face was placid and uncreased.

"I have never been with someone so common before, it's true."

I shot her a hurt look. She's said it before, but with all the other injury it was more poignant.

"That isn't to say that I don't see potential. I absolutely see potential." She extended a hand and patted my leg. It was a genuine gesture even if patronizing.

"I forget, though, that you're not," she paused delicately for emphasis, "exactly there yet."

"Can we be done with this?" I said, achingly rubbing my forehead.

"No, not yet. I do want to hear what you have to say." She leaned back into almost a recline, her arms propping her up on the bed, crossing her legs again. She looked at me expectantly and waited.

"I can wait here all day," Silah said flatly after a moment of silence, "I could wait here your entire lifetime, if you wish."

I ached at the reminder. I wet my lips, preparing to speak.

"I've treated you as an equal. And, out there, you treated me like a tool." I gulped at the admission. "Isn't being a tool the something you resented from your previous...?"

It was a weak challenge, but it was genuine. She remained expectant, her features didn't betray whatever her thoughts were.

"I have fought for my entire life to not be under someone else's control. And you, who I thought of as my friend, someone I trusted, sat on my shoulder demanding blood sacrifices at my expense."

She nodded, showing she was listening.

"First, it was the spiders, then it was the Orcs. You pushed—"

"Wait. Stop there. The Orcs? Did you assume that I made you charge out there?"

I stopped to look at her, Silah's eyes had a smoulder to them.

"You took hold of my mind!" I raised my voice.

"Not when you saw your red haired friend. That was entirely your doing, you had been planning it for, however long it was since you stopped letting me in on things." Her eyes narrowed.

"Not Red, no. But you immediately pushed me further into danger!" I shouted, sitting forward.

"Well, I saw it as opportunity," she said frankly, "Not necessarily death."

"If I didn't resist, I would have been dead!" I yelled.

"You may have been dead." She corrected.

"Stop that! What do you feel inside of me? Do even you know what is going on in here?" I motioned emphatically at my chest.

She is impossible to reason with!

"If I hadn't heard Sig, I would have continued blindly forward and you'd have yet another master to push around." My voice tapered off at the thought and I looked up at her, locking eyes, "Is that what you want?"

"Don't pretend this is all me." She said evenly, her face was a mask, "I followed your lead. You are a war veteran after all?"

My heart hurt with the recollection, and I ignored the question.

"Is this how you are on the battlefield? Should I be worried you're going to attempt to control me every time I touch you?"

She pursed her lips, but remained silent.

"This is entirely my fault, then? You see no wrongdoing on your part?"

"I never said that." She said, shaking her head.

"It's what you seem to be implying!" I put up my hands in exasperation, "I'm the fool charging into battle and you're screaming for blood. This can only end one way for me."

I waited for a moment.

"It's true that it had been a while since I had tasted death. I had forgotten how much need it evoked." She said, sitting forward on the bed, "I may have been… overzealous considering your inexperience."

Inexperienced. I involuntarily sneered at the word. Did she have to keep doing that?

I let go of what was left of my anger and leaned back in the chair, feeling it shudder under my weight. I ran my hands over my face rubbing away my frustration and shame. She looked me in the eye, remaining almost perfectly still.

"You're a good man." She nodded almost imperceptibly, "Misguided, but good."

I cracked a weak half-smile at the backhanded compliment then sighed, feeling sullen.

"Will you ever consider us equals?"

She shrugged, "Perhaps someday."

"So, for now, I'm just a plaything to you?"

"Oh, no. Not at all," I was waiting for the sarcasm, but it appeared she meant it, "I said it already, I see great potential."

"Yet, I still don't know if I can trust you." I said softly.

Silah shrugged. It was almost if she let slip that she didn't seem so sure herself. I grimaced, apparently, I wasn't the only one led by passion.

What a pair we make.

I waited for a moment then stood and moved toward the closet and retrieved the two scabbards. She looked up with a quizzical expression. I reached into the closet and pulled out my beaten sword from the war and drove it home into the smaller sheath.

"Oh, come now. What's this?" She looked disgusted. "You're going to wearing that?"

"So, I'll ask again. Can I trust you?" I said with a little more edge, tossing the challenge at her.

She leaned from side to side, "I'll learn your limitations and we'll make do. But, you're seriously going to resort to this?"

She suddenly looked very dangerous.

I held up the beaten sword in its sheath, "Does this blade yell at me while I'm trying to do my job?"

She was angry and folded her arms.

"This is not your decision." I said in response.

"Maybe you should be examining your own mettle, not mine?" She challenged, clipping her words neatly.

I busied myself with strapping everything into place. I tested my mobility, twisting from side to side, getting a feel for it.

She shook her head angrily.

"You're just going to ignore me?" She seethed.

"No. I'm not ignoring you."

"It feels like it."

"Can I not just have some time to think about this?" I gave her a pleading look.

She looked away, angrily.

"I also realized that you're always at hand and, up until now, I've had an empty sheath. What is a warrior without a weapon?" I said, trying to put a positive spin on things, but it didn't seem to make her feel any better.

I looked at my reflection in the window, I had the campaigner over my right shoulder and the sheath for Silah over the left.

"If you want me to reconsider, please be honest with me. What did you mean when you said that you'd forgotten what it was like to taste death?"

She paused, considering what to say.

"I didn't realize how hungry I was—how much I missed it—." She interrupted her own though, thinking better of continuing.

I sat down again, and waited in silence. She was still angry, but it seemed that it had turned inward.

"If it's any consolation, the others don't trust me." I stooped in my chair with the admission of fault, "I charged out there thinking I would demoralize them by offing their leader, but, nope, not a whit. They sent everything at me."

I shook my head at the memory.

"If you—" I stopped, letting the blame die on my lips, and continued with another, "If it wasn't for Danin, I'd have been dead."

She nodded, looking pained.

"I guess we're a pair after all?" I smirked with the self-deprecation.

Silah smiled slightly.

"Can we get past this?" I stood from the impossibly small chair.

"You're going to need to trust me eventually," she was annoyed, "or else, what's the point of us?"

I nodded. I completely understood. I just hoped that next time I wielded her, she wasn't as abrasive. I was apprehensive, but wanted so badly for it to work.

"Oh, and never hit me again." Silah said sternly, looking deadly serious, "I pushed you intentionally to see what you could do. It made me realize you don't see me as a lady, which concerns me. I doubt you'd ever hit a woman.Just remember, regardless of what you believe me to be, I am a lady and never hit me again. Do you understand?"

"Yes, I am very sorry." I looked down at her and walked over to her, "But you have got to stop pulling my strings to see how I dance."

I held out a hand to her and, looking at me curiously, she took it. I lifted her to her feet then pulled her gently into a bearhug. She hesitated for a moment then folded into me. I closed my eyes, feeling her warmth.

"Last time you danced, you danced very well." She looked up at me revealing her beautiful pearlescent smile.

I smiled.

There she is.

"You need to change into something else." I said, looking down at the blood crusted fabric, "Do you think any of that will come out?"

She shrugged with a grin.

"Perhaps our new friend at Monty Brooks could help us with that?"

Friday, January 30, 2015

Hakaar - Chronicle 14.3 - Raid on the Ranch

There was a tap at the window. I awoke with a start, opening my eyes seeing the grainy black and white interior of the dark room. I reached up and put my hand to my greatsword. The crossguard and pommel had acted as an improvised headrest. Silah was there, now in my head.

After better understanding her nature in sword form, I realized that she could rest easily in either form. It was a little better than seeing her sit woodenly in a chair for the entire night.

We were on the second floor, using Bromm's room as a temporary landing place until I had decided I wanted a longer term residence here. Well, that, and being able to afford a longer term residence here.

I reached out to Silah in my mind. There's someone here.

"I don't sense anything malevolent." She whispered closely, she was there the whole time.

I'm going to look around.

"You have pretty interesting dreams." She seemed a little distant.

Uh, should I be worried with you poking around in my head while I'm sleeping?

She fell silent.

I stood, with Silah in my hands. Looking around cautiously.

Another tap at the window. I moved toward it and spotted Floki outside on the rain-soaked street, a dog was sitting next to him, looking uncomfortable in the rain. I moved over to a candle in the room and used a tindertwig to light it. I gently shook Bromm's foot.

"Floki is outside. I'm not sure what time it is." I stated, "I'm going to see what's happening."

Floki had come into town after Rana hadn't shown up. There had been a raid on the ranch where they they both took up time to learn their tradeskills. Many of the ranch hands had died and even the half-Orc that taught Floki and Rana's apprenticeships, Ekror, had perished right in front of him. It was a lot to take in.

"They were tracking refugees across the plains South, South-east. Rana must be with them. I've seen her arrows in more than a few Orc corpses." He recounted.

Good for her. I nodded.

I looked at the dog. Not a dog. It was a wolf. I eyed it warily. In town? Was Floki insane?

"She has got to be running out of arrows." Floki said in passing. His expression unreadable.

I wasn't sure if he was tired, but he seem to be unaffected by the situation beyond knowing his sister was in danger.

"People deal with grief differently." Silah echoed in the distance, "He may be preparing for the worst."

Bromm had joined us downstairs and listened in on part of our conversation. He groggily went back upstairs without saying a word. I followed up after him, finding my armor and putting it in place. I was able to get some of my clothes cleaned last night. It meant I had to be wrapped up in a blanket during the task. At least they looked slightly less grimy than they did before. I took Silah in my hand again after getting equipped.

"At least you're trying." I could feel Silah smirk and her presence coming more to the forefront now, "Where was I when you did all this?"

Not with me?

"Hah. Being coy. It will get you nowhere," she threatened breathlessly. A chuckle shimmered through the blade.

After getting equipped, we visited Danin and Sig, rousing them from their slumber. When we got to the gateway out of the city, the guards were starting to show. Apparently, Floki had warned them ahead of time and a larger contingent were going to attempt to secure the ranch. Floki had the wolf with him, apparently this creature was permanent. It made cautiously wide circles around everyone, but seemed to return to Floki's side readily.

There was a hum of passion coming from the greatsword. I smiled.

We're on our way to fight some Orcs and save the girl!

"I'm ecstatic!" She said with anticipation.

I had walked this road a lot now. I could almost say I was a veteran of the road from the distance between here and Kellas House, but that wasn't saying much for what little had actually happened.

The rain was miserable. It had tamped down my mood considerably. That, and the fact that I didn't know where Rana had ended up. We should have been there. She shouldn't have to face this alone.

I had my hand over my right shoulder, holding the hilt of Silah as I walked. She was in my old scabbard. A poor fit, but with a few lacings, it was adequate for now. I didn't want her walking with the rest of us. If there was anything out there, I didn't want to have to reveal her secret the the guards.

The scene at the ranch was grim. We had followed the path in with the guards leading the way. They began to take notes and the guard in charge called out orders. The bodies were ordered, identified, and put to rest. I had seen this many times before. Many, many times. It put a fiery anger in my gut.

They will pay.

My grip tightened on the hilt.

We were fervently engaged in the chase, moving rapidly to where Floki had last seen them and had to fall back.

"They were on the rocks up there. They shot Ekror with some sort of poison and he couldn't retreat. Then they filled him full of arrows." Floki knelt near the bodies.

I shuddered at the recounting. This was an organized group that came in numbers ready to wipe out the ranch. Apparently, Ekror's offenses against the Orcs had gone too far. I thought a step further and wondered about a potential assault on Kellas House. Duncan could be threatened as well. I felt the heat of rage rise in me again.

"They were led by an Orc with red hair. He seemed to be the one driving them on." Floki said.

Red hair? It was very uncharacteristic. Perhaps he used something alchemical to change it?

"He's mine. I'll make sure he pays." I seethed.

We crested the rocky slope and got a better look at what lay before us. Floki's wolf needed a little help with the climb. He went down and picked it up, and it growled at him the whole way. I raised an eyebrow, waiting for the wolf to deliver a killing blow to his throat as he set it down, but it calmed down, unruffled itself, and kept following him.

We approached a maze of dense trees in the plains. The tracks that Floki followed showed that Rana had moved through the center where two sets of Orcs came to a decision point. One set went through; the other, around.

We followed her tracks into the maze of tree roots and branches. Danin and the others didn't seem to have a problem, but I was in the thick tops of the scrub and it was slowing me down.

I heard a shout from Floki and I turned to see a large spider breaking through the roots, nearly as big as the wolf, rapidly moving toward me. I drew my blade and split it in half just as it bit my foot. I felt weak and woozy as the poison took hold.

"Yes!" Silah whispered.

There was a pause and something changed in the mood coming from the sword.

"Wait. What is it I'm feeling from you?"

The was an edge to her voice, almost accusatory. I furrowed my brow at her delivery.


"Well? Kill them!" She urged, pressing in on my mind.

I've got this, just let me work.

Another spider sprung through a trapdoor of moss next to Floki and, a stones throw behind us, I heard Danin call out. I slashed at another one roosting in a tunnel just off the path and it popped and oozed. Another assaulted me from behind bit my right calf. I swung at it weakly, almost dropping the sword.

"You're not even trying! Don't let them get close to you!" She was heated, not making this any easier.

I growled audibly, grinding my teeth through the burning sensations that coursed through me.

What's gotten into you? Back off Silah!

Unexpectedly, Sig bent over and vomited a swarm of smaller spiders that proceeded to cover the larger spider. It twitched, stepping back, but clearly writhing in pain. I was horrified.

I swatted at another two. Another was able to sneak in and clamp on my foot sending another surge of poison into me. I brought the blade down hard and it crumpled.

Even with new death dripping from the blade, Silah seemed insatiable. An exasperated sound fizzled like burning ash over my my skin and I gritted my teeth against her displeasure.

"You could have taken them all. What were you waiting for?" Her anger was sharp and completely out of character for the sweet girl she had been for the past few days. After the first stroke, I could feel a bloodlust rising in her that threatened to engulf me. I swallowed hard, doing my best to ignore the throbbing coming from the blade.

Things calmed down as the last spider was felled. The spider's poison still coursed through me and I winced with each heartbeat. I waited for a minute, while the nauseousness passed. I took a step and stumbled briefly. I was incredibly weak.

I gripped one of the trees and breathed deeply. I turned to Sig.

"That, Sig, was the creepiest thing I've ever seen." Attempting to lighten my mood, but still, it really had been the creepiest thing I'd seen.

A half-smile flickered across Sig's face. At least he was on our side.

"Are you well?" Floki was looking at me. The rest of the group gathered.

"I feel weak, is all. Hopefully it wears off soon," I lied. I didn't expect it to wear off soon. The poison was still in there. If we got in a fight—well, I didn't know what I would do. I wasn't feeling very confident. Danin laid a hand on me that glowed briefly and I saw the bite wounds seal up from their angry red, but the healing went only so deep. I sighed.

"Thank you." I nodded gratefully to Danin.

"You didn't have to let them get to you," Silah seethed, and, in my mind's eye, I swear I could see glowing embers for her eyes.

Fed up, I sheathed her, giving myself some space. She had changed dramatically on the battlefield. An entirely different personality had taken hold. I hadn't expected this, not at all, but I was more angry than worried at the moment. Although, worry wasn't far behind.

We emerged from the tangled scrub forest and saw the tracks of two Orc groups converge. I had seen it from a distance, but what was on the horizon was increasingly obvious. A large set of stone pillars running in a half circle in front of us then just shy of a ridge-line.

"Tracks go that way." Floki said, then stopped. "As well as that way."

He was looking in two different directions. I could see what he was looking at, but couldn't tell what it meant. He pointed South.

"It looks like about a dozen of them split off before moving into the stones."

He looked up at the stones and pondered them.

"The ones that went South probably wanted nothing to do with those," he nodded toward the monoliths piercing the horizon.

As we approached the stone monoliths, it was immediately obvious that they were impossible creations. Whole stone pillars cut from a single source without any fractures of blemishes and dropped in a line. It was truly a magnificent sight. That is, if it also hadn't made me feel small and insignificant as well. That, and the fact that the air was rife with a smell of charged magic.

I had felt something like this during the battle of the titans. I saw the beast made of lightning blast the wooden hulk into burning chunks. That lightning seemed to hover in the air here. I swore that I could even see it dancing over my hand and between my fingers.

"This way." Floki beckoned.

The sensation between the stones wasn't much different than all around them. In a way, though, it made me feel more alive; more energized. Even with the poison and strangeness with Silah, I felt good. The stones themselves were carved with runes. Sig said that the stones weren't magic, but the runes were. Somehow, those runes had made the stones stretch that magic skyward. It was like a fence, like those at any pasture, but armed with lightning as crossbeams. I was wary while passing through it, but there seemed to be no smoking husks left over from those who passed through before us.

As we crested the hill, the lay of the land unfolded. There was a keep precariously clinging to a cliffside with a chasm dropping quickly out of sight. The cliff reminded me of the open quarry at the Poulterhaud mine. I couldn't tell from here, but it was likely far deeper.

Across a short valley running North along the cliffside from the keep was a dense cluster of trees that could almost be called a small forest.

"That paths diverge here." He pointed toward the keep, "Rana must be in there and the Orcs went into that forest. I'm going to try and sneak up to the keep and get Rana some arrows. If we can get out without being seen, we'll get back and make a plan for the Orcs."

Everyone nodded in agreement.

"If you hear them attack. Come running!" He kept low and darted off toward the keep, it was mere moments before I couldn't see him anymore as he blended into the surroundings.

We had hunkered down, waiting for what was to come next. It was quiet, though. Floki, hopefully, had reached the keep. And, hopefully, Rana was alive and well, even if a bit rattled. Seeing the work she had done on the Orcs that had followed her, I was impressed with how far she'd come. Rana was much more than simply Floki's sister. Standing on her own, putting her neck out to save others; exemplary. I had seen far less honor rewarded greatly on the battlefield. I was going to be sure to tell her that.

Holding this position made my whole frame ache, reminding me of my condition. I looked at my hand and flexed it. I felt weak and I was angry about it. Silah had turned into a relentless demon. I was angry at her, too. Maybe we could work this out? Maybe. The others likely had no idea what had happened to this point.

I decided to step away from the rest of them and draw her out, but only to bring her to human form. The handle smouldered to the touch. I drew her out and immediately thought of her returning her human form giving the blade an indelicate toss in the process.

"Do you have something to say to me?" I hissed, holding a wide stance against her.

She completed her change. Her diminutive form was rigid, eyes locked to mine; wide and angry.

"Perhaps this bond wasn't right after all." She folded her arms and shot me a withering look, her face dangerously clouded.

"Then you shouldn't have given me the choice." I growled low.

This would send lesser men scrambling, but it rolled right off her thick skin. I swatted away the thought to reach out and throttle her.

We sat in a smoldering silence, facing off against each other. I was unsure where things were going but I waited for her acknowledgement. One that never came.

"Let's get through this," I said, through clenched teeth, "Then we'll find you a new master."

I rolled it off my tongue exactly as I hoped, a threat and an insult. I meant every inch of it. She was out of control and it was bleeding into me. I quaked with rage.

She put dropped arms to her sides and leaned at me, her hands balled them up into tight fists, and stomped her foot angrily. The ground trembled, far more than you'd expect such a small figure. I knew that her form belied her strength and I was in no position to test it. She stepped toward me in defiance, but she didn't say a word.

I turned my back on her and walked to the group hoping to calm myself before they could read my mood. I knew I wouldn't get any questions, though, as they already knew I wasn't feeling particularly chipper with this poison running through me.

The sun sank a little lower in the sky as we waited. Silah had tempered herself to mingle with the group, but I kept my distance. Whatever was coming next, I wanted to have a clear mind to engage.

Floki seemed to appear at the edge of our circle with a weathered Rana right behind him. I smiled, feeling reassured. She looked haggard and hungry, but not beaten. I stood and brought myself into the circle of conversation. Silah's dark mood was tempered by the company. She didn't stand close, as I had gotten used to, but still remained at the length of my arm's reach.

"Thank the gods you showed up when you did. It took you long enough! I was out of arrows and they seemed to be gearing up for another assault on the keep."

She looked back at the stone building and then again to us with a wide-eyed, haunted expression.

"There's something down there. Down in that chasm. I don't know what it is. It's kept me awake at night. I am now more afraid of it than I'm afraid of them. We have got to get out of here."

She shook herself and continued.

"There are some survivors still in the keep. But we can't get them with the Orcs in sight. We'll need to ambush them and take them out."

She looked down and took a moment to catch her breath, she looked exhausted. Running on the rush of fear and danger for so long, her exhaustion was clear.

"There are twelve of them," she continued, "And that red haired bastard is leading them."

The others nodded, but something in me clicked and Floki and Rana's voices dimmed. They continued to make plans. Sig and Floki scratching out a strategy in a bare patch of soil while Bromm, Danin, and Rana watched. I was only half there, feeling my pulse rising. All of this anger and frustration would be carved on my half-brothers and ... Red would be the first to fall.

He was mine.

"And, who is that?" Rana motioned toward Silah, bringing me back, looking slightly offended that there was another woman with her boys.

"Just someone we picked up along the way," Floki answered with a chuckle, "That's what happens when you go off on your own like that."

"We'll do introductions later," I asserted, perhaps a little too curtly.

I avoided Silah's gaze, though I knew she was still within arms reach beside me. I couldn't count on her, but she was all I had. We'd go our separate ways after this, me with a perpetual hole in my gut from my sacrifice to her as painful lesson. And she'd lose me—the only one, it seemed, that considered her an equal; not just a prize.

They led us to the forest's edge. We moved into the trees without being spotted and hunkered down. Floki and Rana took up positions at the mouth of the camp, where the trees had thinned allowing for visibility to the keep. Both of them had put their backs trees covering this exit. These trees were far different than the scrub that we had traversed earlier. They were taller and thicker providing more cover.

I stooped to the ground, peering across the field. Silah was behind me. Still in arms reach. I would have take her into battle, doing my best to ignore her stomping and scraping around in my head. I still felt weak, but I wasn't going to let that stop me.

Such a shame. I ground my teeth and spat. Disgusted with myself for being lured into caring for her. Frustrated that I took the chance bonding with her in the first place.

There was a thud and a grunt as arrows lanced through the air, burying themselves into a few of the Orcs with bows. There was a shout from the camp and a clatter of arms as they hurriedly prepared for the ambush.

Another round of arrows whispered through the air, and arrows began to return from the Orc nest. I heard Rana cry out. There was movement as they gained their bearings and bent to attack. I saw him, the red haired Orc, it was pulled into a topknot and was far from natural, as I suspected. He was leading the charge with the melee forces.

Sig raised his hands and a burst of light struck a group of Orcs right behind Red, leaving them rubbing at their eyes. More arrows sped through the air and I watched Red cast a menacing eye toward the Floki and Rana.

"Hakaar! What are you doing?" Sig shouted after me.

I was already running across the field. Focused, enraged. Silah was in my hand, already a sword as I sped across the battlefield. I brought the tip of my sword down hard across the front of him, cleaving through armor and skin. He flayed open, nicking ribs and nearly exposing his gut. I watched his wide eyes with a grim satisfaction as panic rippled across his face. He clutched at his stomach, attempting to keep everything in place.

I was about to attempt a second blow, when a shot rang out and Red's face and left shoulder burst into a red mist. I roared; angry that I didn't get to finish him off.

He was mine!

"Yes!" Silah smouldered gleefully, "But there are others!"

I began to turn to the next target, when three arrow plumes lanced into me. One had even penetrated my breastplate. I struggled to breathe. My awareness was no longer distant and the pain was very, very real.

"Get them!" Silah roared, her presence poured like lava through my head and coursed down my arms.

Sig's voice rose above the din, sounding both cross and concerned, "Come back! Danin can help!"

The lava poured on hotter as Silah pressed her influence on me.

"No, Silah," I said under my breath through gritted teeth, "You don't rule me."

I pressed back with my mind and the lava cooled, loosing the grip she had on me. I hobbled back to the forest edge where the rest of the group waited met with an incredulous Sig who immediately berated me.

"What happened to the plan?" He shouted.

The others looked at me.

"What plan?" I blurted without thinking.

He turned back to the battlefield, scowling, speaking quietly and making signs sending an Orc tumbling with his words..

Danin put his hands on me, and I felt a surge of energy, much more potent than before. The arrows dropped from me harmlessly, but the wounds hadn't entirely closed.

Then I had a strange realization. Silah was quiet and inert.

Peace and quiet for once. I gritted my teeth through a smile.

I moved to Sig's side, feeling a little fatigue from my initial rush, as Orcs descended on us. Shots rang out from Bromm's pistols interspersed with the whispers of arrows. Floki and Rana were bloodied, but still engaged. Floki had been fighting in close quarters, but he and his sister dispatched the foes who had assaulted them.

Others had descended on our position in the forest. Danin stood between us and let loose a call to his god that brought a wave of warmth over me and, it appeared, everyone else.

Feeling renewed, I stepped up to do the job I was meant to do. My military training came to bear, placing an even stance on both defense and offense. Stand with the others. Work as a team. Each blow I took, I dealt twice the damage in return. Two Orcs were felled at my feet in short order and I moved to an archer who shot me point blank, with little effect, as Danin and I closed in and decimated him.

Floki and Rana put down the remaining archers and, within moments, all fell quiet.

That is, with the exception of Sig, a spear point positioned at the neck of a prone enemy. The Orc seemed to be sleeping. We all watched and waited.

The others began to walk slowly to the scene. There was a tremor in my blade, perhaps Silah was waking up? I thought of her as a human and let her drop from my hand, indifferent. She took human form and almost raced over to his side.

"What are you waiting for?" Silah was manic, eyes wide from the kill, "Kill him!"

"I've never killed before," Sig said aloud.

I knew this feeling. I watched how it changed others. I had nothing to say that wasn't already going through his head, but I nodded with understanding.

The prone figure began to stir.

Making his decision, Sig pressed the point into the Orc's throat and leaned on it. The Orc thrashed and gurgled fervently until life ebbed from him. I watched, feeling every moment up until now. Wondering what war had done to me. How it made me think that death dealing was a common and good thing. I bowed my head with the weight of the thought.

Silah dropped to her knees near the body, soiling her new purple gown in the blood and dirt of the scene. She pined at the loss, getting nothing from the Orcs demise.

"You could have taken him," She sounded pathetic, turning to face me, almost on the verge of tears, "You could have taken him for me."

My anger was replaced by a tenuous pity. I touched her shoulder and thought of her in sword form then sheathed her immediately.

There was a series of awkward looks that ran through the party.

"I can't even begin to explain." I said with a sigh.

Sig turned to me, his face flushed. I could tell he was about to let loose on me, but I put up a hand.

"I know. It was an ignorant and risky thing I did." My shoulders slumped with the admission, "Can we talk about this back in town. I want nothing more than to get out of here."

He saw my contrition and let his hand drop.

"Tonight, we'll talk." Sig said sternly.

"Yes. I understand." I closed my eyes as I spoke.

Rana and looked at Floki with a wide expression that said everything, but kept silent.

"I guess we'll get the others?" Rana probed breaking the awkward silence.

Floki and her parted from the group to retrieve the others and Sig bent down over his first kill and harvested a knuckle. Was it a trophy or a reminder? I wasn't in the place to venture a guess.

I sat against one of the trees while the others checked what the Orcs had left behind. A warm bed and good weather, that's all I wanted now. I needed to understand my role in this new world. I wanted to fret about it right now, but decided I needed to let my mind be quiet. It had been a while since I was actually alone.

Oh, Silah, what am I going to do with you.

I sighed heavily and leaned my head backwards on the tree.

(Get to know Akeron.)

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Hakaar - Chronicle 14.2 - The Rains in Hlofreden - Part 2

The next morning came and went the same as yesterday. Dull and gray with a constant drizzle punctuated by achingly intense boredom. In the warmer part of the cold day, I took Silah aside.

"We should practice," feeling awkward with the phrasing.

She raised an eyebrow, then gave a wicked look.

"Oh yeah?" She purred.

I blushed uncontrollably—likely turning an awkward mottled red-green, I was sure.

"I have no idea how we will work together in a fight." I stammered, breaking eye contact.

"I knew exactly what you meant." She smiled and stood, "Where to?"

Silah extended her hand, leaving it hanging in the air. I stood and took her hand leading her out back, opening the door for her.

We stepped out into the overcast. The rain had turned to a dense mist. It was better than the constant drizzle, but only slightly. I looked around the delivery path and small outbuilding. We were alone. I hadn't revealed her true nature to anyone outside of our small group. It would happen eventually, I was sure, but I felt that I would meet challengers with her revealed nature. Even with a short portion of a tour under my belt, I felt completely unprepared what would happen next when that did happen.

"So, how do we do this?"

I still hadn't held her as a weapon since we initially bonded. The whole idea of her magical nature was unnerving to me. Perhaps, it was what I didn't want to acknowledge? I let her wander around and engage at will, seeing her human nature, but always knowing she was much more than that.

"Let's start with the basics. Grab my arm and think of me as a weapon."

She stood still, looking me in the eye as I reached and held her arm. It was what I had done in the Poulterhaud mine. With the thought, she seemed to melt in a flash forming into the glittering greatsword. It took literally no time for the transition, yet watching her transition was unsettling.

Her satisfied sigh echoed in my head. She felt so … different. I recognized the feeling from earlier. Sig was right about her. She seemed to settle easily into either form. I shouldn't feel I was doing her a disservice.

"So, you understand?" she echoed. I could feel her gently nudging up against my thoughts pressing her influence in, like she was looking over my shoulder as I held her in my hands. She was a warm presence, but I could feel that she could exert her influence quite readily. This was going to be interesting.

I think I do. I thought. It's going to take some getting used to.

"It'll be second nature soon enough." She settled into my thoughts easily, "Now, bring me back."

I turned the blade toward the ground and thought of her returning to her human self. It took a moment longer, a couple of seconds as her womanly frame formed out of the blade, the etched scrollwork formed into tattoos and elongated with the length of her body, her purple dress was in place, but there was a moment where her form shown every line and every curve as it truly was.

I let go as she stood. Rubbing my sweating hands on my undershirt. I don't think I was going to get used to this very quickly, for a variety of reasons. I breathed deeply.

She smirked.

"You don't have to point me toward the ground. I know where the ground is."

"Like a … cat?" I mused, "You don't want me to drop you, do you?"

"Yes, it takes me little longer, but I can still land on my feet," she seemed a little exasperated, "Just trust me. I may seem delicate, but I'm pretty resilient."

I nodded.

"Let's try this," she moved a few paces away, "I'll run to you. Grab my hand and think of me as a sword and use my momentum for your backswing."

I nodded appreciatively and readied myself. She sped toward me and I reached for her hand, the transition was instantaneous, and I continued the motion smoothly into an upward strike. I was shocked at how smooth each stroke felt. I could feel her smiling as I practiced a few improvised forms.

I hadn't used a greatsword before. Yes, I've used my hand-and-a-half with great effectiveness. But this was different. I was used to working in tandem with a shield with a series of other soldiers. Tactics were very different in a battle. I'd be the only one on the frontline now and I felt unprepared.

"You've got a lot of doubts running around in here." She said, concerned.

Experience will fix that. This is a far less restrained approach to what I'm used to.

I continued my thought, So, could you adjust the balance between the blade and pommel? A little more weight toward the blade, perhaps?

"You chose me to be this way!" She echoed, incredulous, "Am I not to your liking?"

I felt her glowing warmth turn more fiery and press in causing my head to ache. Her anger was palpable and … painful.

I'm just exploring how this works. I'm used to a little more weight in the blade, is all.

"Weight in the blade? Wait. Are you comparing me to your old war sword?" There was a shimmering sensation as she outright laughed, "I should be offended, but you really have no idea what quality is."

I suppose I don't. You do feel wonderful. By far the best blade I've ever handled, even if that isn't saying much.

"It isn't saying much, but thank you."

The familiar warm feeling returned as well as that familiar warm embrace that I had experienced just days ago. I closed my eyes, enjoying the closeness.

I have a lot to learn.

"It's good to hear you say that. I don't think I've ever heard any of my previous owners even hint at being teachable."

You don't recall a lot about them.

"I suppose I don't." She mused absently.

I'd thought about it before, but this reminded me. I was another blip in her timeline that would slowly fade. I pushed the thought aside. Knowing it was something I'd have confront later, alone. I had never given much to the thought of surviving long enough to grow old, but now I wanted to. Unfortunately, being old or being dead; either was incompatible with Silah's purpose. Either way, it pained me to think I'd eventually be among her forgotten.

I became aware of her tracing up and down my arms gently.

"We have time, yet," She whispered closely, "I wouldn't worry yourself with such things."

"It's this damn weather," I said out loud, shaking off the gloom, "We need to get out of here. Where is Floki anyway?"

I felt Silah shrug and I smiled. Such a strange sensation, yet it felt perfectly natural. I swung the blade a few more times. There were a few things I knew about wielding a greatsword, but it still felt out of place to completely abandon defense.

"I wonder if the others would want to go and check in on him? Perhaps he's in trouble?" I mused, "It'd get us out of here. Plus, there are Orcs out there. There's bound to be something to fight."

A feeling coursed through the blade that could only be considered glee.

"I bet Bramm would do it!" She chimed in.

"Bromm. Yes, Bromm would go for it."

"And Dan! And Ziggy."

"Danin? Yes. Ziggy? Wait, are you serious?"

"What?" I swear I could see her, hands on hips, looking up at me stretching to her full height, challenging me.

"You haven't gotten a single one of their names right." I said through a smirk.

"What do you mean?" She pinched her eyebrows.

"Exactly what I said, not-a-one." I emphasized.

"I'm sure I said them right!" She was vehement.

"Oh yeah? What's my name?" I tossed it out there, bracing for the worst.

"Hacker?" She ventured a guess.

"Hah! You're likely going to offend someone."

It did hurt a little, yet I couldn't help but grin at this newly discovered artifact. Perfection had a price, afterall.

"What's in a name, anyway?"

"Well," I mock pondered, "A lot?"

"Maybe you could invite Brimm's, er, Bromm's mom, too? She looks feisty."

I nearly doubled over laughing, nearly losing grip mid-swing.

Never, ever say that to Robyn. She would hate you endlessly if she knew you'd said that.

"She's beautiful for a mom. I'm not sure why she would take offense?" She seemed confused.

She's not his mom, for one, and I'm not exactly sure that you two would get along. She's … unpredictable. I thought these words, making sure they would never touch the air. Hell, I have no idea what I'd do if you two got together.

"A challenge, then." She conspired quietly.

"Oh hell. Really? You're going to do this to me?" I bowed and shook my head.

I held out the sword and thought of her in human form, being a little less cautious, I let go before she finished, and she landed on her feet perfectly.

"Absolutely," She got on her tip toes and pulled my head down to give me a peck on the cheek, "Someone's got to. Why don't you ask your friends about finding … that other guy. The one near the Orcs?"

"Sure." I opened the back door to The Sea Witch and held the door for her. She pulled her lips into a subtle smile and bowed slightly as she passed.

Once inside, she moved right to the stool next to Robyn and I rubbed my forehead, feeling a headache coming on.

Sig and Danin were there. Bromm seemed to have been sent off to run an errand. The Sea Witch was starting to fill up for the evening. It had been at reasonable pace since the rains started. Fishermen hadn't gone out because of the chop, they had said. The town had largely shut down during this weather, so there was a constant crowd at The Sea Witch. And, as evening approached, many more showed up to unwind. Many of these faces were becoming familiar even if they had kept their distance from the beefy half-Orc who's smile looked like a toothy threat.

"We need to get out of here." I said to Sig and Danin as I sat heavily on a stool which groaned in protest, "Another day indoors and I might lose my mind."

The others nodded in agreement. Sig had put away the books, apparently whatever his grandfather had given him was complete. Something I hadn't really noticed before, a scorpion clung to his shoulder. He seemed to be aware of it or I'd have done something untoward.

"You've got a little something..." I looked at Sig and, a bit too emphatically, pointed at his shoulder.

"My little friend?" He smiled secretively.

"A pet scorpion?" A scrunched my face thinking of a million other pets I'd rather have, "Well, that's nice."

I let a few moments pass.

"We should go find Floki." I said, trying hard to smoothly introduce the idea.

From the sidelong look Sig gave me, it had failed.

"He said he'd meet us here tomorrow morning," he said plainly.

"But what if he's in trouble?" I pressed.

"I guess we'll find out tomorrow morning?" He pushed it aside artfully.

I sighed.

"In fact, I have some business at the city offices."

Sig pushed himself from the stool and I watched the scorpion secret itself in an inner pocket in his cloak.

"Danin? Would you like to join me?"

Danin obliged and stood creakily from the table.

Sig turned to me.

"We shouldn't be long," he looked around The Sea Witch, "Not like there's anything to do anyway."

I shrugged. They turned and walked out the door and I sat down at the bar again. I heard a fuss across the room. I turned and saw Robyn and Silah roaring with laughter. Heads back, slapping the table. I leaned against the bar, rubbing my forehead again. I could just imagine how much pain this was going to cause me.

"Barkeep? I think I'm going to need a couple and then a couple more."

I was going to have to eventually pay Bromm back; and Danin. I just didn't know how or when.

(Get the know Akeron.)

Hakaar - Chronicle 14.1 - The Rains in Hlofreden - Part 1

It felt like ages since we had gotten back to Hlofreden. It also felt like ages since I had seen the sky. The weather had been fits of unceasing drizzles and downpours. The plains down South had hearty cloudbursts every so often. Nothing like this, though. This slow demoralizing soaking that made you sigh at the window every time you even thought of leaving.

And we hadn't left The Sea Witch, not unless we absolutely had to.

Rana had left for the Ranch right before we had gotten into town. Floki followed after her, following the guards out on their next run to Kellas House. The rest of us sat and waited.

And sat. And waited. I was uneasy indoors. I was lucky enough to have a constant tap flowing. But I wasn't sure how long the generosity would last and my hands itched for action.

Silah was a constant companion, untiring in her very tiring way. I, myself, wondered what it would take to turn myself into an enchanted ... whatever she was.

Her shimmering self flitted from one conversation to another until she had settled into a pose similar to my moodily stooping over yet another empty tankard. I wasn't sure if she was just mimicking me, as she was wont to do, but I didn't doubt that she was itching for action, too.

"This is very good!" She nodded to the barkeep with her bright smile. He nodded back.

"And it's still free, right?" I said as I turned to Bromm.

He glanced at the barkeep, his brother Macaulay, and nodded.

"For our friends, yes." he said, with mild trepidation.

"Da' is gonna love the bill for this." Macaulay filled another round.

They had the Shatterhammer Brewery and Still under their belts now, after all. It hadn't quite gotten its first batches together from some incident some had talked about just earlier. I hadn't been fully briefed, but I had a feeling our boys had gotten themselves into trouble. I'd only seen a little of it first hand.

We had been here for at least two days now. The rain kept us penned in, but I had the sudden urge the escape. Anything was better than here.

Even this—

"Did you want to get some different clothes?" I broached the topic to Silah.

Her eyes widened with the thought, "Oh yes!"

"And maybe we can hock that golden scale of yours to pay for it." I slipped in, taking another sip.

Silah looked a little put off and she definitely had something to say about it.

Our little engagements seemed to be the only entertainment to be had, so everyone looked our direction even the brooding Robyn, further down the bar, twisted in her chair and leaned back to see how this next episode would play out.

I enjoyed it, too. I couldn't help it. She was adorable. That is, until she stopped being adorable. Then she was just plain pushy. I was starting to find how much I could take before I had to break off. She, being tireless, could engage indefinitely.

"One has to come before the other. You think I draw attention now?" She stood her tallest, chin raised accenting her perfect form.

She is so dangerous. Nations will rise and fall and yet she'll remain perfect.

I smirked.

"Sure, but—you see—I'm between jobs at the moment. I only have so much I can spend. Maybe a riding cloak? Keep you out of the rain?"

She looked incredulous.

"Do you want to hide me? Do you think I'll rust?"

"No. I—" I paused to think and wet my lips, "I'm not trying to hide you, but it'll help tone that glittering down until we can get you some real clothes."

She glared at me for a moment, then her face softened.

"Am I not worthy to be adored? To be presented as a lady of status?" She gestured at her neck and thumbed ears.

"Sure! When I can afford it." I said, heartily.

"You have no means whatsoever?"

"You and I? We've got to work, ya know."

"I swear. I've never been so ... common before."

"Get used to it." I gestured to myself, presenting my common-ness.

"Yes," she mused, "We have to fix that."

I snorted.

"Fix ... me?"

"Yes, all of that."

Silah waggled her fingers toward my well beaten breastplate and leather strapping holding it in place with the stained undershirt and breeches. She rested her chin on her fist, striking a delicate pose, studying and composing in her head. Honestly, I wondered what potential she saw in me.

"It's all very ... rustic," she said with some distaste, chewing through the last word: rustic.

"I could help." Danin nodded deliberately.

"You could?" I said.

"Her, not you." Danin said flatly and looked at me sideways.

"You could?" I said, again.

A chuckle came from somewhere in the room. I forgot that we still had an audience.

"You know a place that sells finery befitting a lady of my status?"

Did she flutter her eyelashes when she said that?

"Yes, I do." He said with a self-assured smile.

Damn, she's good.

"I'll pay you back, I promise." I leaned in and spoke softly to Danin, feeling more than a little pathetic.

"It's settled," she strode a few steps to the door then turned around gracefully.

"Shall we?" She beamed at Danin and I.

We made our way onto the street. I had briefly forgotten the terrible weather. But not anymore.

I walked behind Danin and Silah. She was chatting him up about the place we were ascending to. In an area tucked into the corner of Hlofreden's near vertical harbor was a place called The Crow's Nest. It was old money and, considering the Dwarven origins, old was more like ancient.

As we ascended, I felt particularly out of place. Each passing step gave me that same disconcerted feeling of being completely out of place. Yet, I was welcomed. Perhaps it was a friendly sort of tolerance? Hlofreden was home to all sorts, so, perhaps it was a sort of mutual respect for the station? It was very different down South.

And if it wasn't for this damnable weather, I'd be enjoying it a lot more than I was.

I looked at Silah, she was entirely unphased by the rain. She didn't flinch or even attempt to cover herself in the downpour. Myself and, I suspect, Danin were already soaked through, but I was the only one grumbling about it.

I couldn't help but smile as Silah lit up at the different sights Danin pointed out during their conversation. Perhaps I'd gotten used to how she divided her attention?

Sig had mentioned something about that earlier at The Sea Witch. She could be in sword form, yet I let her wander. She had even overheard the conversation. She put her hand on my shoulder and agreed that she would be perfectly happy either way. To me it felt like caging an animal, but it was readily apparent that I didn't understand her nature. She had listened in on my thoughts, and assured me that I was right, that I didn't understand her nature.

I shrugged at the thought. All I knew was that she brought a light to the room that wasn't there before. Perhaps that was all the reason I needed? I smiled to myself in spite of the pouring rain.

We halted under a beautiful store shingle painted blue and inlaid with gold leaf. I gulped at the sight of the expense. The windows emitted a perpetual glow lighting providing what seemed like natural light inside at all times. Danin pushed his way into the building triggering a small chime mounted above the door on a spring. Once the door closed, it was a perfect temperature in the shop, but there was no fireplace.

“Hello m’lady, my name is Denton. Welcome to Mont Brooks,” he bowed with considerable flourish. I watched as Silah's eyes widened as they took in the room. The shop walls were lined with elaborately crafted garments hanging on forming wood braces to make them appear fuller. She let out a barrage of questions that Denton assaulted expertly. One of those questions was about the source of the perfect climate and he pointed out innocuous little cylinders that appeared to be a magical potbelly stove. These little contraptions were placed throughout the shop.

She was led to a dressing room to slip into a more flexible piece which allowed her to move a little more freely than the gold-plated scale mail she wore. There was a chink and sloosh as her armor hit the floor. I flushed a little at the sound, suddenly feeling sheepish. When she emerged, I saw traces of a tattoo running up the back of either side of her neck. I recognized it as the pattern I had seen on the blade when I first held her as a weapon. I was mesmerized.

I felt out of place. I should literally be the last being sitting in a room with such finery. After she had emerged with this slip of the dress, the proprietor started to do his magic. He walked Silah through a variety of outfits as Danin and I stood and waited patiently. Danin looked relaxed, but I tensed with every customer that pushed through the front door, feeling like an intruder.

"This purple dress sets off your..." he struggled to choose a feature combing his eyes over her her entire figure, "Your eyes!"

I was glad to see I wasn't the only one who got tongue twisted. She beamed at the proprietor.

"This comes with a travel cloak, see the gold embroidery lacing the edges of the seams here. And the wide sleeve lets you move freely. The hem rides a little higher as not to get caked in the rain and mud you get around here, if you know what I mean." He said the last part with an awkward chuckle and gave her a knowing look. She sparkled with laughter. He grinned, too, his cheeks turned slightly red.

Measuring her waist, he gave a somewhat surprised look, he called his assistant over.

"She's very petite. We will have to take this in. By a few inches." He looked back at Silah and marvelled at her hourglass figure as she slung the cloak over her shoulders and looked in a mirror.

The seamstress moved off to perform the alterations. The shopkeep returned to Silah's side after the business with his assistant was done. He watched Silah in the reflection of the mirror, admiring her while she admired herself.

"The shoes that come with this outfit are only so-so," he started laying the groundwork for a bigger purchase and I rolled my eyes. It was going to take a lot of effort to pay this back already. I wasn't really on Bromm's payroll anymore. We had been taking equal shares of whatever we found. Well, I suspected that I had gotten the lion's share with the last adventure with Silah joining us and yet I only had a handful of gold in my pocket. The thought made me bow my head and rub my forehead in consternation.

I am not sure I'm going to be able to keep up with this.

There were new shoes being presented to her. I had to step in somewhere.

"Are those shoes going to travel well? We'll be doing a lot of traveling."

"Oh yes, these are personally guaranteed by me and the Mont Brooks establishment. If the shoe begins to wear thin, bring them back and I will personally take care of them." Denton seemed a little spooked that I approached. He glanced between us.

"Are you?" He seemed puzzled, unsure of our connection. Hell, he wasn't alone.

"I'm her bodyguard," I volunteered. Filling any tenuous leaps he was about to make. I was trying to keep my tone even as to not unintentionally intimidate the poor man.

Denton nodded, looking me up and down. He did a good job not revealing any distaste at what I was wearing. Although, I have already had plenty of that from Silah.

The seamstress brought the fitted dress back and, just before, Silah disappeared into the dressing room I caught the number on the price tag.

Seventy-five gold. Twice a man's pay for a month of service putting our necks on the line on the front.

I ran my hand over my face. Danin had also taken note and had seen my distress. He caught my eye and nodded confidently.

She whirled through the door in a dazzling display. It caught my breath and I stood there in stunned silence, likely agape and staring. She smiled at us.

"This is fantastic!" She exclaimed like a child. There was no debating it. She looked amazing.

The proprietor approached. Moving in for the kill.

"I hope that is satisfactory?" Denton smiled keenly.

Then Danin stepped in for negotiations.

"These on the rack; they are at a discount, yes?" He raised an eyebrow. The Dwarven magic was coming through loud and clear.

The shopkeep cleared his voice.

"Uh, yes! Yes. They are." He seemed nervous. The challenge took him off guard. He expected an easy, uncontested sale. "But the shoes will add a bit to the price as well."

"We'll pay forty-five for all of it." Danin stated simply. The shopkeep glanced between us. I flexed a bicep from my crossed arms. He gulped and nodded.

"It would be my pleasure to see her wearing our finery." He bowed with the statement.

It was decided. I'm taking Danin to any sort of negotiation.

I pitched in my measly five gold and Danin fronted the rest.

"There is interest, you know." He said as we moved toward the exit.

"I wouldn't expect anything less." I said with a smile.

"Those shoes will wear better if I carry you." I said, alluding to her weapon form.

"Oh yes?" She hopped into my arms. "That sounds like an excellent plan."

I sighed holding her in my arms. The shopkeep looked stunned as he watched us walk out into the rain.

"Thank you! Have a good day!" Denton called after and quickly shut the door.

I stood there in the rain with Silah in my arms. Danin hunkered down into his armor against the rain. We had just gotten dry and now I was soaked again.

I took a few steps.

"This is just silly." I said, mostly to myself, as I put her down.

"But I thought you were going to carry me?" She pouted.

"This is just going to get your new clothes more wet." I said, being as matter of fact as I could, "That traveling cloak will only work when you're standing, anyway."

She was entirely unphased by the weather, but she was concerned about these new clothes so she nodded in compliance.

We walked back to The Sea Witch. It was cold. I should have bought something for myself. Perhaps an oil soaked tarp or somesuch. This weather was miserable.

Stepping into the warmth of The Sea Witch was a welcome change from the outdoors. It had nice homey feel that I've grown used to. Silah had moved in and shed her traveler's cloak, hanging it on the edge of one of the chairs. She curtsied to the Bromm and Sig who nodded and complimented her on the new outfit.

"We should celebrate!" she beamed, she walked up to me looking me in the eyes, "Do you know how to dance?"

"No. I really don't." I hesitated.

"You should learn," she smiled.

"I don't think I could afford lessons." After all, I was feeling very vulnerable at the pocket book.

"You could teach me," I pondered, "I don't think I would hurt you too badly by stepping on your feet."

She crinkled her nose at me. But then she held her hand out.

"Come on. Let's try," she beckoned, "Unfortunately, all the dances know were very fashionable about fifty years ago."

"It's probably right in line with Hlofreden, then." I grinned slightly, but was a little anxious putting myself out there like this.

I loosed my breastplate and leaned it against the stool then strode up to her. She positioned me and explained the dance steps.

"Now, stay right there." She pushed a finger my direction and I froze in place.

She leaned over to Faolan go Brách, Bromm's brother, who was manning a stringed instrument he was strumming for a light musical background. He had been watching this scene unfold with a smile. Silah whispered something in his ear that made him widen his eyes and he nodded with a strange sort of satisfaction. He strummed a few different chords and began plucking at the instrument expertly.

She folded back into place in my arms and gave me a little tug as she pushed us into motion. It was dizzying and heady. After a moment of getting the basics steps down, she pushed for a little variety. I felt my military training coming out in the movements, bowing here, leaning there. It seemed that this fell in line with a series of forms I had practiced over and over again. She looked up and smiled broadly, showing her sparkling teeth.

"Very, very good. Soldier." She nodded with the movement.

She was right, this was incredible! I didn't step on her foot once and seemed to flow with the music without too much effort. Who knew that the forms practiced on the battlefield would be so useful in a more social setting?

Other joined us, but fell back after a few minutes tiring quickly from the pace of the music.

Then, soon after, my legs began to ache as well, but she persisted. It was warm in The Sea Witch and I needed a break. Her tirelessness was wearing me down, yet again. I glanced at Faolan and made a gentle motion to wrap things up. He executed perfectly and I backed away and bowed deeply as she reflected a curtsy. Applause erupted from various tables and I moved toward the bar, mopping my brow.

Silah wasn't finished. She moved through the group, offering her hand. Danin took her up on the offer and the began moving in time on the open floor. I grinned watching the two of them glide through, with only a slight hitch at the start.

Yeah, I did better.

I spotted Robyn and she nodded proudly from across the room. She was no worse for wear from an earlier incident where she took more than a few shots from a pistol in a duel … what, was it? A week or two ago? I had carried her bloodied form into Bromm's room while she vehemently protested. I attempted some field dressing, but ended up just helping to keep the bleeding at bay while the others went to the healers. The man she had faced off with was clearly dead. It was one of my first experiences after joining Bromm as a bodyguard.

As I moved toward the bar, Robyn patted the stool next to her.

"Who's the girl?" She nodded toward Silah.

"Just someone we picked up along the way."

She cocked her head at me.

"Is that how you're playing it?" She grimaced, "There's clearly much more going on there."

She eyeballed me. Robyn was a different sort of intimidating—if I compared her to Silah. Unpredictable, sure, but also vulnerable. She was older, but her fiery nature, reflected in her brilliant red hair, was undimmed by time.

"I can help," she nodded toward Silah, "You're unsure, it's clear, but knowing how to treat a woman makes a difference. And, clearly, you're well out of your league."

"Don't I know it," I let it slip and tried to backpedal, "I mean. So, you can help me—?"

"Be a gentleman? Yes. You pulled off the dance well, but one can only be lucky so many times." She grinned, "You are doing an admirable job for a complete buffoon."

"Watch your tongue," I grinned back, "I'll take you up on the offer. Hopefully soon. That outfit she's wearing tapped me up for at least another handful of weeks pay."

She clucked her tongue shaking her head.

"It's an expensive price, but you have a jewel in your hands. Keep her well."

Silah approached the conversation and I saw Danin looking at bit winded moving back to his seat.

"Robyn, Silah. Silah, Robyn." I introduced the two. Silah beamed and Robyn dropped a nod in her understated way.

"Nice to meet you," Silah said, then she leaned into me, "I'm going to see if someone else will dance. Brimm's brother is fantastic."

"Bromm." I corrected.

"Who?" She looked puzzled.


Brimm. Classic.

Silah moved off to press someone else into service. I chuckled to myself and caught Robyn's puzzled look on her face.

"I have no idea. I'm just the help." I stated with a deadpan expression.

It was our second night and it wore on with no sign of Floki or Rana. Sig had mentioned that his grandpa had given him a lot of studying to do, so he had spent most of the day engaged in his books.

(Get to know Akeron.)

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Hakaar - Chronicle 13.2 - Conversations with Silah

Walking into town with a new member of the crew was interesting for the whole party. There were plenty of eyes tossed our way while this stately young woman glided through the streets in shimmering gold chainmail.

Members of the party split off as we walked on to various destinations. I expected Bromm to continue on to The Sea Witch with us, but he seemed to want to check in on other business before reaching there.

Before long, it was just Silah and I moving through the streets together.

"We have got to get you into something a little less obvious." I shook my head.

There weren't many people on the road at the time, but the eyes of everyone on the street were unmistakably on her. She locked eyes easily with the passers by and smiled winsomely. I wondered how much of this was learned or embedded in the magic itself. She seemed to be really enjoying herself.

"You don't like the attention?" Silah looked at me sidelong with a smirk.

"No, I'm not one for attention." I ducked my head slightly under a low slung sign, but my head stayed low as we continued. I was trying to hide without making it obvious to her and it seemed to fuel her enjoyment. Hiding was a futile effort for me, who was nearly three heads higher than anyone else on the street.

"Are you jealous?" She prodded, the smirk widened into a sparkling smile. Her eyes regarded the trickle of human traffic on the street, nearly all of them looking at her.

I sighed, straightening up and rubbing my forehead.

She was designed by the gods to torture me. I just know it.

"What is this place?" She mused, mostly to herself, while taking in the shallow bay and the city perched precariously around it.

"Hlofreden. I didn't even know it existed until about a month ago." I said, matter of fact.

Silah raised her perfect chin in a childlike way and nodded with a sort of vague recollection.

"We need to talk, you and I." I said, perhaps a mite too seriously.

She grimaced. It was a patronizing pout that had come to infuriate me over the briefest time we'd traveling. After seeing her expression, I gritted my teeth and stared straight ahead. I lengthened my stride, pushing on more quickly toward The Sea Witch.

"You're young, yet." She called ahead, "There is plenty of time. Why take the fun out of this?"

My mind boggled. I hadn't held her as a weapon since before we broke camp from the mines where we found her. Where I bonded with her. It had been a wearying trip on foot. It wasn't the fatigue of the effort, though. It was her. Her attention seemed on everyone but me. It was maddening. I needed to trust her. I needed to know where I stood with her!

I'm sure this partnership would be unequivocal when our goals aligned, but right now? I sighed loudly. I couldn't help but roll my eyes. She was so infuriatingly inconsistent!

The wound in my side started to throb as she fell behind. I swore I could feel a trickle of blood spring from it. I ached and felt sickly, nauseous with the effort of even walking. I pressed through it as was my way. Pain was pain. Pain could be ignored; Silah? Not so much.

So, that's what this bond felt like.

I heard the jingle of her chainmail and felt a rush of energy from within as she caught up to me. I breathed deeply, the naseousness subsided and the rush of revitalization invigorated me.

"You're in your head a lot today. What's going on in there?" She sidled up beside me and grasped my hand playfully.

"Hey. Hands off." I tried to shake her hold, but she tenaciously clung to my pinky and ring finger on my right hand.

"You shouldn't be so worried." She whispered closely from inside my head while looking up at me, "All will be said in due time. I promise."

I tilted my eyes down to her, giving her a somber look. She gave me a wide smile, still clinging to my hand.

"And you have got to control that temper," she said out loud as she teetered to and fro like an excited child.

I closed my eyes and bowed my head walking blindly forward.

Yes, I do.

I slowed my pace and Silah matched me. She looked down at herself.

"You are correct about my clothing. It no longer feels appropriate." She mused, looking herself over, suddenly discontent with the violently glittering golden chainmail.

"Perhaps we can find something we can both live with." She looked up again at me with those fathomless eyes, "And, maybe, we could have a look at your wardrobe while we are at it. You are no longer on the front lines, soldier."

She nudged ahead, letting go of my fingers and walked backwards for a moment.

"You are dressing for two now, after all." A coy smile curled one side of her lips. She turned forward and continued moving toward The Sea Witch sign that was now clearly visible.

Her look lit my heart on fire and I felt my face flush with the attention. I bowed my head hoping to cast a shadow over my face in light of the overcast sky, smiling in spite of myself.

So, that's what this bond felt like.

(Get the know Akeron.)

Hakaar - Chronicle 13.1 - Poulterhaud Mining Company

The places I find myself. It’s been mere weeks since I signed on with Bròmm as his bodyguard. There’s something to say about that, these men know how to handle themselves, but they seem to prod for more trouble than one might rightly say would be worthwhile.

That being said, it’s trouble I’m glad to participate in and I'm loving every minute of it. Fiery sorts, these gentlemen, and well connected. I find myself sitting back and watching as they spar among each other like the old friends they are. Danin seems to do the same as I: sit and observe, but with calm intensity—a very Dwarven thing to do.

Sig wanted to go back to the place when I had originally joined the party, the stinking Dwarven mine. Literally, it stunk like rotten eggs to the point where you had to wear these masks with alchemical filters to keep the stench at bay. Sig had explained that this was Sulfur, an essential component to gunpowder. I had shrugged, I guess it was good information. There were two problems with these masks: first, were built for the Dwarves and, second, they were decades old. It wasn't always a guaranteed seal, so you just had to get used to it.

The mining pit was enormous. It was a good hundred paces per side and deep enough to make one queasy when looking over the edge. The Dwarven construction still stood and stood firm. To my dismay, though, everything was Dwarf sized, meaning I spent most of my time hunched over traversing the stairways and outbuildings. This couldn't be healthy. Danin seemed to have a somewhat pleased expression on his face. He was in a place built by his people and it fit him perfectly.

The statue, one we had seen before, was leaning against the wall holding something in the cliffside. The statue itself was a marvel. I couldn't imagine why the Dwarves would spend so much time creating a statue to seal something in. Seems like far more effort than any reasonable being would take, even many motivated Dwarves.

I climbed across the brow of the large statue and found the hole being covered. I set a rope with pitons and the others followed me past the roosting seabirds and into the cliffside. The floor edge of the tunnel was lined with ceramic tubes piping the yellow exhaust from deeper. As we went deeper, the smell changed from rotten eggs to just plain rotten. The smell of sulfur hadn’t completely abated, but blended with the sticky sweet smell of rotting flesh. At the edge of my vision there was a sight I couldn't explain. A fleshy husk covered in scales and—wait, were those wings? The shimmering scales glistened a thousand lights back at us as Sig and Danin picked up stones and made them glow. Sig touched a arrow from Floki’s quiver to light up the fletchings so they stood over his shoulder.

Ah, the plight of humanity. Nightblind and vulnerable. I swear I could feel my Orcish ancestry grinning at me from the great beyond and I nodded respectfully. It’s a wonder they ever survived.

We fanned out into the cave. The long dead dragon seemed to only recently be exposed to the air to start the rotting process anew. I was glad to see the one time I encounter a mythical beast like this that it was quite dead. It lay on it’s stomach, skin peeled back around the ribs showing large clusters of fungus growing in the hollow. We were all wary, the cave was warm and seemed to press in on us. The walls and floor were deeply scored with claw marks raking holes on any available surface. Mine carts and mining tools were tossed around like giant broken toys. Floki let out a small strangled noise and tossed his bow on the floor out in front of him and said, “A snake! My bow turned into a snake!”

I was incredulous, I went to where I heard his bow clatter to the ground.

“Hakaar, behind you!” Danin called out. There was a brutal ripping sound as the rump of the dragon rose up, tearing itself away from the rest. It seemed to lean away then rocked into me. I had braced when I saw it move, but it still knocked the breath from me. I felt a cloud of dust settle on me and start to sting my skin. Danin rounded on my side and put a glowing hand on me. I still wasn't exactly used to it, but I trusted him. He drew his axe and prepared to face off.

My anger took over, I was focused on the mushroom behemoth ahead of me with the skeletal remains of the dragon dangling off of it. It landed blow after crushing blow against me. The boiling in my blood made everything seem so far away. In that distance I could hear gunshots from Bròmm, panic from Sig and Floki, and saw Danin take a lethally large chunk from the monstrosity. I did my fair share of carving, but it was Floki that had recovered his bow and sunk the fatal arrow. The hulk buckled and slumped back into place. Still enraged, I continued to chop at the inert mound, scattering the minced pieces then crushing them. I calmed, taking a deep breath. I grinned through the pain, I hadn’t felt that way in a very long time. I wouldn't be surprised if I had a cracked rib. I could definitely taste blood in my mouth.

Danin laid a glowing hand on me again and I felt considerably better. I had seen the clerics work on the battlefield or in the camps, but I hadn't personally and directly benefit from it like this. I thanked him and he nodded in is cool and assured way.

Things quieted down and the effects from the spores subsided. We looked at the cavern we were in, to make sure all threats were taken care of. Everyone seemed no worse for the wear. Bròmm spent some time fixing his rifles and Floki picked up his axe, looking it over carefully.

“Look over there,” Sig nodded toward bobbing his head toward another body nearly covered by the dragon’s carcass. A backpack, a shield and well worn armor with several teeth-sized holes in it.

“He’s got some magic on him.” Sig bent down and removed the surprisingly intact backpack from the unsurprisingly brittle remains of what looked like a very unfortunate knight. Sig also nodded toward the shield. “That's also magic.”

He put his hand into the bag, “Nice.” He turned to Bròmm, “This is like your pocket.” Bròmm, Floki and Danin all nodded approvingly together at the statement. I couldn't help but glance around at them with a bewildered expression. He started emptying the bag, considering each item and placing it on the ground. A leather wrapped book, that looked something like a journal was of special note.

Sig read parts of it aloud. Phrases like “we rode our castle” and “large sums of money” were tossed out.

“Rode … what?” I gurgled.

“That's what it said,” Sig said. I looked back at the entrance.

“Wait. Did you check the statue?” I mused.

Suddenly, it made sense why there was a finely crafted statue blocking the entrance. Hell, I've seen Titans clash, the possibility of it wasn't inescapable and, unabashedly, one of the most amazing thing I've ever heard.

Sig walked to the mouth of the hallway and started nodding.

“Oh yes, yes. That’s ... yep.” He had the beginnings of a huge grin on his face. ”The magic imbued in It seems to blink out randomly. Maybe there’s something we can do about that. That’s definitely what he was talking about.”

Sig put everything back and I hefted the shield.

“I could use this. It might have helped against that,“ I pointed to the mass of minced fungus, ”Whatever it was.”

“That seems appropriate.” Danin said frankly.

Sig tossed me a sconce he pulled form the bag. It attached to the front of the shield to hold a light source. I shrugged, I put it in place, but I couldn't imagine why I'd need it.

Floki pointed at the doorway with the top of bow , “We still haven’t gone in there.”

We filed up to the door, it was a heavy banded metal door with large bolts locking the layers together. Floki and Danin looked in and described it to the rest of us. Low hanging banners hung from the ceiling at the perfect height for a Dwarf. This was a Dwarven mine, after all. Both of them noticed sprung traps leading deeper into a hallway.

I was able to peek through the door, trying to look past the low hanging banners. Among portraits of Dwarven lords lining the walls and their banners, there was a smallish kneeling statue facing away from us at the end of the hallway near the back wall. The form’s armor sparkled like gold.

Floki looked for any indicators showing how the traps were sprung. He looked up and looked closer at the banners and saw thin metal rods connected to the hinges on the roof. He made sure he was well clear of the potential trap and touched the banner, it sprung out forcefully narrowly missing him. His eyes widened with how close it had come.

“You should probably do that from back here, “ Sig scooted back a bit to give him room, “I can spark them so you can get to the next ones.”

Floki commenced tossing rocks, triggering the traps, then Sig would burn the next banner. Bladed traps swept out at foot and leg level.

“It wouldn't have been a problem for me,” Danin seemed a little upset about defacing the hall. I glowered at the top of his head. I understood it, though. The surface world wasn't really built for either of us.

I took the lead, gripping my shield and my own campaigner’s sword while advancing. The form came into full view. That wasn't a statue, but no one could have survived this long. From the diminutive form, curled forward there was a deep breath and a stretch that rippled through her golden chainmail. The young woman leaned back, still on her knees, eyes closed, face pointed toward the ceiling. A pale gem around her neck glowed and her pale skin began to flush as if she was waking from a sort of hibernation.

Sig announced that he sensed magic when he looked at her and pointed emphatically, “Not just her armor. Her.

My teeth were utterly on edge with anticipation. I didn’t know if I should strike before I let this go on much longer.

“Ma’am? If you don’t mind. Are you friend or foe?” I said cautiously. My training taught me to be inexplicably nice when talking to nobility. It was a nervous habit, but it seemed especially appropriate right now.

I’m wasting time if I want an advantage…

“Is it dead?” She spoke, groggily.
“Is what dead?” I pressed, brow furrowed.
“The dragon.”

She turned her head smoothly and looked right in my eyes without hesitation. She had an uncanny beauty, but, by the gods, her calm eyes showed inexpressible depth with no fear or uncertainty. It was hard to feel settled with something so self-assured.

“It’s long since dead. It’s probably been dead for decades. Wait, how are you alive?

“What of my master?” She asked calmly.

“The man riddled with teeth marks? Also very, very dead. Can you answer my questions?”

“Hmmm. My master sent me in here, but he didn’t call to me.” She turned inward and mused for a moment.

I sat, frustrated. Not a single answer. It was hard to read what she was thinking. She seemed human but her demeanor was very proper almost submissive when talking about her “master”.

“Who are you? What did you do for your master?” Floki approached. The group had been moving closer as she slowly stood, now completely recovered from her hibernation.

“My name is Silah. I am a weapon.” She stated.

I glanced at Floki and saw his expression sharing the same feeling, bewilderment. An answer, but what does that even mean?

“To my master, I was a hand-and-a-half sword.” She continued.

The pit in my stomach stretched to a chasm. I heard the words echo in my head from Duncan as we were training just early today. “You need to retire that sword.” He looked at my notched and beaten campaigner’s bastard sword. “Find yourself something you won’t be ashamed to carry with you.” I had nothing but pride in this sword, one of my prized possessions from the 10 Years War, but he was right. Find a wall to put it on … eventually.

I gulped. my mouth suddenly dry with anticipation.

She was standing facing the party now. She had this sort of expectant look but we simply glanced from one to another.

There were so many things I wanted to say like, “Can we escort you to safety?” or “What in the great hells were doing here?” or “How did you survive?” I should probably also ask the now obvious questions like “Are you human?” and “Are you going to try and kill us?” She seemed to be answering honestly enough, but apparently she was fine with answering everyone but me.


“It appears I am no longer bonded.” She looked at each of us. The glances around the room were met with silence.

“What,” I licked my lips trying to urge moisture back into them, “does that mean?”

“I am a weapon. I am to be wielded.” If she hadn’t stated it so calmly and we weren’t hip deep in a long dead cavern, I’d have chuckled at how provocative that phrase sounded.

“What does it mean to bond? How do you bond with someone?” Sig asked.

“I will be your weapon. I am meant to be used in battle, I was my master’s sword and he wielded me against many foes.” She continued, “To bond, you must offer me part of your lifeforce. As long as I am near you, we will share this lifeforce. If you decide to break the bond, I will take it from you.”

“That sounds harsh,” I said.

“What would you rather, warrior?” Silah said it flatly, but when she turned her eyes on me there was a glint of a challenge in those deep wells.

I looked away. Damn my training with nobility. I brought my eyes back and locked on to hers. There was an ever so subtle tug at the corner of her mouth and her eyes twinkled.

I looked down at the notched and hastily forged campaigner blade in my hand, but as I looked around, I saw the same expressions dance across everyone else’s face.

Floki spoke up, “Could you act as a bow?”

“Can a bow taste blood?” Silah responded, almost curtly. Floki nodded with a grimace. Bròmm and Sig seemed to have also gotten their answer.

I turned to Danin, the only other who wielded a grand weapon in toe to toe battle.

“I would wield her,” I glanced uncomfortably over at the little girl standing a pace away. Her. I cleared my throat, ”but I’m only a hired hand. You are a longtime friend to these men. You should choose if you would want to take her into battle.”

He looked down for a time, falling into deep thought. He looked up after a minute or two, “I’m more of a healer than a warrior. You should wield her.” I could see the turbulence flutter across his unflappable exterior.

“Thank you,” I handed him the knight’s shield with the attached sconce that I had picked up just earlier. I turned to the rest of the party nodding to them in turn, “Each of you. Thank you.”

It was true, since joining this crew, I had been treated with utmost respect. It had been a very long time since I could say that. From guarding the wealthy and nobility, there wasn’t much respect to be had. Now, an unfathomable treasure was committed to my care and I could do nothing more than express my boundless gratitude. It was almost enough to get me a bit misty, but I held form. Last thing anyone wants to see is a weepy frontline-man.

Silah was looking on at this whole exchange impassively. She had stood impossibly still the whole time, taking in the scene only with her eyes. Were they really eyes? It’s impossible to know what she was actually made from. Disconcerting thoughts, once again, danced in my head.

Do I really know what I’m getting myself into?

“I will bond with you.” I said firmly.

“You mean that I will bond with you.” She corrected.

“Yes, whatever. That.” I ground my teeth at the challenge.

“So, it is decided?” She looked expectantly, almost urgingly, at the other members of the group to speak up.

“It seems so. Do you have a problem with this?” I said somewhat aggressively, looking sidelong at her.

She looked up at me impassively again, “No. I have no problem.”

“So, now what do I do?” I asked. Thinking there was likely lightning, fire, and lots of pain involved.

“Take my hand” She reached toward me.

I took her soft, warm hand in mine. She had to be human. There’s no other explanation. I held her hand daintily to avoid crushing her assuredly delicate form, but she immediately diminished and the warmth spread in my hand into a solid grip.

Within moments, a dagger of exceptional craftsmanship was in my hand. The balance was exquisite and the edge was incredible. Inlaid gold traced along the ornate core. The grip and slight pommel were intricately traced fitting my large hands as if it were made for me.

Could I feel her smiling?

“In order to complete the bonding ritual. I must take your blood as a sacrifice.” She was speaking in my head. A close, personal whisper that sent chills up my spine. I looked at the others they stood looking at me expectantly, unaware of our communication.

I took the dagger and considered where I would make this sacrifice. I look at my hand and considered it, but it seemed superficial. A bond like this remains close, personal.

I pressed the tip against the meaty portion of my abdomen and pressed the blade in against the clenched muscle making sure not to hit any vitals. I bit back the pain as I pressed in. I winced again as I pulled the blade back out. I let loose an audible sigh with the effort.

“Coat the blade in blood.” There was a rising timber to her voice. I cupped my hand below the wound, capturing the stream. I flattened my now bloodied left hand and carefully pulled the blade through it. I began to feel ill from the wound.

She’s sure enjoying this.

“Remember that I can hear you. And yes, I am. I am a weapon, after all. Weapons desire battle and spilling blood." She paused attempting to regain control, her voice impassioned with a restrained ecstasy, "I see we are alike.”

My eyes widened, but I kept silent. I could feel her tremble.

“Now, it’s for you to choose. What should my form be? Should I remain human or should I take on the form of your mixed blood?” She stated in her normally impassive tone.


“Do not take offense where no offense is meant.”

You can remain human. I don't mind you the way you are.

“Quaint. But the sentiment is appreciated.” I could feel her nod approvingly.

“What form of weapon do you want me to take?” She seemed unusually expectant about my answer.

I turned to the group.

“I have a decision to make,” I stated, “I have been trained to fight on the frontline with defense being more important than offense. Now I'm finding that my shield is in the way. All the defense I could muster still couldn't stand against that … thing out there.

“I am considering wielding her as a greatsword.”

A shiver rolled down my spine as I said that. Actually, no, a shiver rolled down her spine. I was feeling the excitement.

Did you just … purr?

Sig spoke first, ”I agree. That seems very appropriate.”

This didn't surprised me, he had made a comment earlier that I often dropped my shield in fights. On the battlefield, I would have broken the lines, and been whipped heartily if I had ever broke rank. Now that I was out here, it was up to me and it seemed natural to be more aggressive.

I nodded at the recommendation.

“A Greatsword, then.” I spoke aloud.

“Done.” She whispered breathlessly. I couldn't help but grin. I hadn't pleased a woman like this. Ever.

The warmth in my hands spread further, the grip widened and the handle lengthened as the dagger blade unfurled to nearly four feet. The grip and pommel extending nearly a foot in length ending in a solid round pommel weighted in perfect balance to the blade. The wide, elegant cross guard was where the sword pivoted gracefully.

The blade itself was immaculate and incredibly well crafted. The gold inlay and etchings mimicked the same scrollwork on the dagger, but broader with more elaborate and precise etchings. There seemed to be writing on the blade whatever markings there were, it was indistinguishable from the ornate trappings. Residual blood from my offering slightly glazing the blade.

The warmth in my hands seemed unnatural. It was the sensation, but my hands were not actually warmer for it. It almost seemed like our connection, for lack of a better word, was the presence of that warmth. I held her with both hands swaying the tip of the blade back and forth.

“We are bonded, you and I.” She echoed thoughtfully, again, giving the feeling of a slight smile.

How can I have you join us? I dare not put you down.

“... I feel the same way.” Her words were close and wistful. Warmth spread down my arms across my back and chest. It was a phantom embrace. I closed my eyes against it, enjoying the moment.

Another moment passed.

“Just think it and I will take my human form.” She seemed to shake herself aware.

I rotated the Greatsword with the pommel up and warmth again stretched the grip of my fingers and I found myself holding her chain-mailed arm. She was human again just as she was when we found her. She was nearly the same size as the Greatsword.

Silah looked around and then her eyes paused on me, facing away from the group, there was a trickle of blood coming from the corner of her mouth.

“You have a little …” I motioned to the blood tracing from the corner of her mouth.

“I know.” She smiled at me slightly, her perfect teeth lined with red. My blood. She caught the stream with her finger and sucked it clean.

“Thank you.” She nodded, genuinely grateful.

“Sure, anytime?” I was only a little horrified. The ache in my side from the dagger wound throbbed, but looking at it, there was only a pale spot where I had stabbed myself with the dagger.

“That was a nice touch, too.” She looked at the pale spot thoughtfully, “The sentimentality wasn't lost on me.”

She turned away and began talking to the group. She introduced herself to the others and answered the flurry of questions coming from the rest of them.

Am I in over my head?

I watched Silah cautiously. Only when I was wielding her could she be in my head. I was going to need some time to contemplate what just happened.

We made our way down the stairway to a tunnel that made its way out to the sea. It was not a difficult traverse. Sig explained that, with a little work, a flatboat could come in during high tide to collect any shipments. He mentioned that Beidrick, an old friend of theirs that I had only recently met, was going to get that bigger boat, after all.

We settled on the shore near the second location that they had marked for Richter Holdings. Before moving into the cave to collect, both Floki and Danin pulled out fishing gear and began tossing the their lines out into the stormy waters. It was supposed to rain for days, according to Floki. A lovely coastal drizzle that was very different from down South.

It wasn't long before Danin pulled up a silvery fish that he called a salmon. He commenced gutting and cleaning it. He set up a fire in a small shelter from the elements and expertly layered seaweed and fillets. The smell was glorious.

Danin handed out portions to the party.

“Can I have some?” Silah asked.

“You don't need my permission.” I nodded to her to take some of the fish.

“Will you give some to me?” She added with a steeled look.

I locked gaze with her and then glanced around at the others. Then it dawned on me.

“Sure, yes. Here.” I quickly gave her my makeshift plate.

In a much more conversational tone she added, “I don't need to eat. But I enjoy it.” She said this while looking around at the rest of the party.

“Do you eat the skin, too? Is it good?” She asked with a smile.

The others looked at her with a touch of incredulousness.

“Wait, you don't know …” I blurted, but the words died on my lips. She was pretending. She was trying to fit in. But, hell, so was I. And me calling it out seemed admittedly silly.

I fell silent, looking inward for a bit. Listening to the conversation evolve around me. I asked Sig if he wanted to go harvest some of the guano. I might have been less subtle and said, “bat shit”. It appeared that my civilized filters were off, for the moment, and I wasn't even drunk.

We were a few strides into the cave and the harvesting was plentiful. We didn't want to disturb the bats or else they wouldn't present their magical feces. One animals crap is another man's treasure, as they say.

Did they say that?

“I’m not sure if this is a good idea.” Sig said frankly.

“I understand. I do.” I nodded but fell quiet. Perhaps he saw the same misgivings.

“She could have you charging into battle.”

I looked at him, curious.

“Am I supposed to do anything different?” I asked.

“Just… don't let her convince you to do something that will get you killed. We have already lost one of us.” Sig seemed genuinely concerned.

“I think we're a good matchup. There won't be any conflicts.”

He nodded.

Liar. Yeah, I'm a liar.

We came back to the fire and settled down. The sun hung low, a ghostly disc on the horizon cutting through the gloom of the drizzle. Along with it the conversation had wound down. Everyone was mesmerized by the fire crumbling down to embers.

“We should set up watch,” I glanced around the fire at the 5 sets of eyes now looking at me, “Who goes first?”

A moment passed and something dawned on me.

“Wait, Silah? You don't get tired, do you?” I asked, feeling smart.

She raised an eyebrow as she looked at me. Those eyes.

“Can you tell when people approach?” I asked.

“I can tell if I consider them evil or if they have malevolent intent toward you.” She stated.

“Could you watch for the night?”

“Yes, I can.”

I started second guessing my decision.

“Well, perhaps I should stay up, too.” I said, with only a slightly awkward backpedaling.

There was a moment of tense silence.

“You don't trust me?” She challenged, her eyes piercing right through me.

“I, no, it's not that I don't trust you.” I explained, “I just don't know what your capabilities are.”

“Then why would you ask?” She said, incredulous, “Why did you bond with me if you didn't think you could trust me?”

“Fine! Could you watch?” Rage filled my head, but I did my best to suppress it.

“Could I?” She retorted sharply. My knuckles whitened.

“Yes. Could you... please?” I chewed through the words, blood pounding in my ears.

“Yes, I will.” She said coolly.

She immediately turned to Danin, “Thank you, Danin, that fish was very good.”

I stood briskly and moved away from fire.

What in the hell have I done.

(Get to know Akeron.)