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 Post subject: VII. Nagarythe: Year One
PostPosted: Thu Apr 09, 2015 7:47 pm 
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Day One


The boy sat in the back of the wagon. There was a chill in the air and a light rain was falling, coating the wood in an uneven sheen of mottled wet and dry. He stared at the dry boards between his feet – the grains and knots and uneven sanding of the planks. Saw the whorls of the wood… pine? Dry pine. A scent of autumn in the canyons. Deer in the foliage. Pheasant upon the wing….

A drop fell and the dry plank he was staring at suddenly sported a grey spot in its center. The water beaded for a moment before the wooden board drank it thirstily. Soon it was joined by more as the rain picked up, turning the plank into a sheeny dampness. The sound of rain in the boughs, and the pitter-patter of wood being struck, filled the morning.

He looked up. The hood on his cloak covered his head and its hem drooped down and shadowed his eyes. Water rivulets gathered into tiny streams and fell before his nose. The hood’s edge was neat and trim – he could see the fine stitching of his mother’s hand. A last gift four nights before…. Before he left home, the village, the clan, and came here, to this wagon.

He looked around. Next to him was Willem, his friend. He was Romani too, sporting the shaven half scalp and long braid of a hunter of the western hills. He was a cliff-jumper though – his clan lived in the torn chasms of the lowlands of the western hills, the ravines and canyons and broken hills. A place of tangled growth and giant boulders and fast flowing rivers and raging falls.

Not skies, blue and cloud speckled…. Not like home…..

But he didn’t want to think of that. It hurt too sharp. He forced his mind from that. Forced the homesickness down into his stomach. He looked around. The others in the wagon were strangers to him. Two of them were shorter and slighter than Romani, and their hair was worn long and free, except where braids were tied at the back. Easterners he would guess. From the mountains around the ancient city of Anlec. He had never been there, but he had seen travelers before. A few at the fair. And one in the elder’s house that one time. They said among the People that Anlec was the ancient home. The first city built by the hand of Aenarion and his warriors as they came north to create the Warrior Kingdom, the Throne Kingdom, the Master Kingdom of an empire to cover the entire world…. An Eternal Empire…. The Ever Empire of the Asur. A force of light and justice in lands covered in darkness and terror.

But they did not say that among the Romani. For the Romani still told the stories around the campfires late at night, of how the Romani were first, long before the Phoenix came north, the wild clans were wanderers of the northern forests and hills, hunters of the shadowy coasts, from time immemorial. No, among the Romani it was still whispered that Aenarion and his warriors were the interlopers; and that it was the Romani that had taught them how to live in this wild land, how to tame its abundance, and read its signs. That it was this mixing of Romani and Aenarion that had forged their home….

Had forged Nagarythe.

But the other clans did not hear Romani legends. And if they did, they surely would not believe them. Certainly not Easterners like these two. They had joined the wagon last night and still had not spoken to him other than a cursory grunted greeting upon their arrival. They certainly seemed very strange to him. Almost…foreign. With their hair worn that way - almost like what the elders told him of the kingdom beyond the mountains. The wild barbarians of Chrace wore their hair that way he had been told. In long braids like that. It must be living in villages along the border somehow those clans had been influenced by that custom. Strange to think that. To think of living so close to barbarians. He had heard they did not even use fire to cook their meat. Just tore into the flesh like savage beasts….

His eyes shifted. The fifth person in the back of the wagon was even stranger. He was short and stocky, built broad across the chest, and with shoulders like an auroch. The muscles in his arms and throat looked like knotted cords, thick and writhing with every turn of his head. The head itself was clean-shaven marking him as a lowlander from the forests north of the Romani hills. It was said that those clans lived in walled forts built of the timber of their land, surrounded by palisades and trenches filled with sharpened stakes. This one had blue skin writing across one half of his face, showing a mottled whirl around the old rune for ‘iron’.

He wondered if the stories of the fortress villages were true. It was hard to imagine living like that, trapped behind walls, without a view of the horizon before oneself. Still, he had never been, so he couldn’t say. It was just strange to see this one here in this wagon with the others. Five so different; from different corners of Nagarythe. Except for their age of course. They were all young. Just into manhood…

He remembered the trials just this past spring. The hunt. And the festival afterwards when he had been declared a man by the elders of the village. And then that night, the bonfires in the village, slipping away to the oak tree with Kiren. The smell of her hair beneath the boughs. The warmth of her lips….

He had been staring straight ahead, his thoughts lost in memories, and unbeknownst to him, his eyes had remained fixed upon the lowlander in his reveries. The broad northerner had noticed and now transfixed him with an enigmatic look. Suddenly, the lowlander made a mirthless grin and blew him a kiss. His cheeks burning, the boy quickly averted his gaze and stared downwards into the bottom of the wagon, to again watch the rain fall upon wood.

A few minutes later he could hear the clucking of the driver that signaled a slowing of the wagon. They were coming down an incline and the forest here was thinning, less tangled. He could smell the salt on the breeze; the sea must be near. And then the trees ended, a flat of grey weeds backed by a line of white sand dunes lay before them. And spread across the flat, a throng of tents bustling with activity.

Willem was craning out the back of the wagon, staring at the camp. His curiosity overcame his reticence and he turned to the driver. “Is that it then?” he asked.

The driver clucked at his mules some more before answering, “Yes, that’s it.” He scowled and swatted at a gnat that landed on his neck. Pursing his lips and glaring at the marshy flats about him, he added, “The war camp of the Host.”

Willem stood up and leaned further out the side, his eyes drinking in the activity before him. Finally he slumped back into this seat and turned to the boy. “Well Tim, here we are. At last.” His face was a mixture of excitement and resignation.

The boy just nodded. This is what they wanted. What they had competed for among the clans. The final two. To catch the attention of the recruiter. To join the Host. To be warriors in the service of Nagarythe. Something more than clan hunters. More than farmers. More than even the elders. To serve the old kingdom….

And then the wagon was coming to a halt and he looked up and saw that he was among the tents now.

“This is it,” the driver said unnecessarily.

The lowlander in front of him had already shouldered his bag and was jumping out the back of the wagon. The boy quickly seized his satchel, and then with much more care and concern, took hold of the long wrapped stave that was his bow. Delicately he set it across his shoulder before clambering out the back.

Only to have a strap of his satchel catch upon the corner of the wagon, jerking him off balance and sending him careening into the mud.

All his thoughts were upon the bow in his hand. He held it up and away from his body. Which meant that when he landed, he landed face first. He could taste mud and sand in his mouth and feel its slimy graininess all across his face and throat. The others from the wagon were laughing, and he felt his cheeks burning, but his first instinct was to look to his side: the wrapped stave was still in his hand. Still lifted up and above the ground.

The laughter continued but then suddenly stopped. The boy looked up. Two strangers in grey and brown cloaks, thread bare and worn, with patch-work leather jerkins gleaming in the rain under the cloaks, were walking up towards the group. One was a youth, only maybe a decade or two older than their group. His long hair was pulled into a tail and his eyes were filled with mirth. “Look Tanith!” the youth said with a guffaw. “Fresh targets for the Druchii repeaters!”

The boy’s mud caked eyes turned to the other newcomer. His breath caught in his throat at what he saw: a crown of white hair in a tangle of long braids over a face so crisscrossed with scars as to be barely recognizable. There was a particularly grisly scar, pink and ragged, that stretched across the exposed throat. Eyes black as obsidian chips, hard and ancient, stared down at him. And the ruin of the face was twisted into a mask of disgust and anger. Without a word the figure spat upon the ground and turned and stalked off.

His companion watched him go with a rueful shake of his head, before turning back to the boys. “Alright,” he said with an amused expression. “That’s that. Get your stuff and follow me.”

He turned and started to walk away. Then stopped. He glanced back at the boys.

“Oh, and welcome to the Host of Nagarythe.”



***


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 09, 2015 10:10 pm 
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I knew you couldn't stay away!

=D>

Now that I've actually read it, I am really interested in the Year One concept for Tim, looking forward to this.

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Smiths in Nagarythe that can repair the holiest piece of armour worn by the Shadow Prince himself... 0 apparently.


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 10, 2015 9:40 am 
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Welcome back. Nice to see the Host is still pulling you back.

I think I forgot to thank you somewhere along the way for a bunch of the ideas regarding Spires and the Vortex :) He's currently in the process of trying to prevent Ulthuan from sinking... So thanks for those :)

Rod

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PostPosted: Fri Apr 10, 2015 6:59 pm 
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@ maki

Heh. Well as it turns out I've got some time before my big move. And well, Tim didn't want this story told (for some reason) so of course I had to tell it! :D


@ Rod

You aren't fooling anyone with your revisionist history.

Spires. Did. It.

:wink:

headshot

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PostPosted: Fri Apr 10, 2015 7:01 pm 
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Day One – Part Two


“You lot,” the stranger said, “go stow your stuff there and I’ll see about your orders.” He gestured to a stretch of sandy soil with a sole tent on the far side, then turned and walked into the camp.

Willem watched him go. “What? No welcoming flowers?” he grumbled aloud.

“You wanted parades, Romani,” one of the Easterners said with a smirk. “You obviously don’t know anything about the Host.” The other gave out a mirthless chuckle then grabbed his bag and started walking towards the indicated tent. His clansmen and the lowlander turned to follow.

“C’mon, Willem,” Tim gave up wiping the mud from his face and grabbed his friend’s shoulder. Willem continued to glare in the direction of the departing figure then with a snort fell in step beside the boy. They reached the tent. It was actually more of a tarp, stretched between a pair of stakes and a single short staff. There were two elves already within its shade. One lay with an arm draped across his face, apparently slumbering, the other sat next to a tiny fire pit, grunting as he glanced at cards in his fingers. Each one he would glare at while muttering to himself, before tossing it aside in a pile on a blanket there.

The lowlander didn’t hesitate: he stepped forward, satchel in hand and moved to claim a corner under the tarp. As he did so the card-playing elf muttered,

“Taken.”

The heavy lowlander’s face hardened. “What about that spot there?” he grumbled and pointed across the tent.

“That’s taken too. It’s all taken,” the card-elf answered without looking up. “Try over there, next to the latrine ditch.” He gestured with his hand in a casual waive.

The lowlander’s face darkened, but it was Willem that spoke first:

“Hey we aren’t camping next to some ditch! We are here to be Shadow Warriors! And…-“

He stopped as the card elf casually unsheathed a knife and buried it in the ground beside him, pommel up, the blade gleaming. He completed the act without taking his eyes off the card in his other hand.

“Taken,” the elf repeated.

Willem snarled. “I’m not scared of you. I…”

There was a soft clicking sound. The boys’ eyes turned and saw the other tent’s occupant, still lying upon his back with one arm draped across his face, but in the other sat a crossbow. A Druchii crossbow. Even Tim had seen one of those before. Its steel bands were stretched back and taut; the magazine box filled with short quarrels with gleaming tips; a black feathered haft sat in the firing groove before the quivering string. A finger sat atop the firing trigger, and the bolt was pointed straight at Willem’s belly.

“Get out of here, ‘Shadow Warriors’,” the elf snapped.

Willem looked like he wanted to argue more, so Tim grabbed his shoulder. “Let’s go.”

In a minute they were all seated in the rain with the stench of the latrine in their noses.

“This what you expected, Romani?” one of the Easterners baited as he pulled his cloak tighter across his shoulders.

Willem was scowling – though at the Easterner or at the world, Tim could not be certain. “This is ridiculous!” he suddenly declared and stood up and grabbed his knife and bow.

“Willem, where are you going?” Tim asked.

“To find that warrior. We deserve tents of our own. And a better welcome than this.”

The Easterners were laughing. The lowlander shook his head. “Don’t be stupid Romani. We were told to wait here. Those were our orders. We are soldiers now – we obey orders.”

“Hah! Well we are here to be Shadow Warriors!” Willem declared with that familiar light in his eyes. “And Shadow Warriors do not follow orders slavishly. They act! They show initiative! Aggression! Independence!” He stopped and surveyed the other four in their group. As no one was standing up to join him, he snorted in disgust. “C’mon Tim, lets leave this bunch to try on their maiden’s undergarments.” He turned and disappeared into the camp.

The boy hesitated for a second, not wanting to move. But Willem was his friend. He couldn’t just let him go alone. He gathered his bow and moved to follow.

The two walked among the tent village. It was like being a ghost. Everywhere there were elves at work or rest, sleeping or tying cords, polishing wood, tending to horses. Once they heard the hammers of a smithy coming from somewhere. But for all the world it was as if the pair was invisible. No one looked up; no greetings or challenges were called. The other elves seemed to be willfully ignoring them as they walked by. It was strange; very strange. He had never felt this alone in his home village. Granted that place was smaller than this – only a hundred and forty two occupants at last count. And most of those were related to him, at least by marriage if not blood. But here, he felt lost and insignificant. A piece of driftwood being carried along a valley stream.

“Hey, there he is,” Willem said. Tim could see the younger of the two greeters crossing the lane before them. The two moved to follow. But they drew to a halt as the elf before them passed into a clearing within the camp. Here a solitary tent of black and brown canvas, taller than the rest stood. And there were sentries posted before it. The sentries nodded as the stranger passed but kept their hard eyes out and sweeping over the lanes beyond the tent.

Tim stopped. “We had best go back,” he mumbled.

“What? No!” Willem said back surprised. “We can’t have come here just to sit on the ground and wait. Lets go listen at least. C’mon!”

“Willem,” the boy started, cautiously.

Willem smirked at him. “This is why you are only the second best shot among the clans, Narrin’Tim. You’ve got no nerve.” And then he was running at a crouch – a hunter’s stalk – and weaving his way through the tents and towards the back of the clearing.

Tim stood there. He should go back. Do as he was told. But what if Willem was right. His father said he had to be brave. Wasn’t it more brave to go forward than back? What was the right thing to do? Maybe he was being too cautious. Maybe that’s why he could never beat Willem at the targets. He bit his lip. Willem was already almost out of sight.

What was it his father had always said?

Narrith lessa kynn’barr.

Never leave a brother behind.

He couldn’t let Willem go alone. He dropped into a crouch and hurried.

There was another sentry at the back of the clearing. The two boys waited until he was distracted by a sound in the camp, and then moved quickly across the clearing. It was all familiar: the stealthy stalking of game in the pine forests beneath their village. The weaving between shadows and sounds to be nothing more than a whisper of motion in the undergrowth. In seconds they had slipped up to the edge of the large tent. The canvas looked heavy. But more than that. It felt…heavy. Like there was something weighty and secret being held inside. Like the darkness within had a substance of its own. A thing. But no, that was stupid. He didn’t know where that idea came from. Willem was already at the edge, on his belly and elbows lifting the edge of the tent and crawling into the black within. Tim swallowed and followed.

And it was black. Very black. There was something in front of his face. Tim delicately reached up; he felt more cloth before him. A tapestry of some sort hung before him. And over there was a draping of some furs. Heavy and thick. Maybe cave bear? Though only the mightiest of hunters went after the Nagarathi Blacks. They could grow to be a full twenty feet long and weigh more than two tons. No one in his village had downed one in three generations.

He could hear a voice now. He stopped moving and strained his ears.

“The Prince isn’t back yet I take it.” It was the elf that had greeted them, he immediately recognized.

Nothing. And then a voice, raspy and gravelly – it reminded him of an iron plow being dragged across stone – said, “No. Not yet.”

“We don’t have much time,” the first voice continued. “The last just went to Anlec. We need to get the Host in shape, and fast.”

“He knows that,” the gravelly voice snapped.

“Tanith…I know he was your friend, but….whoever he was, he’s the Prince now. He needs to lead us.”

“Stop telling me things I already know!” the gravelly voice turned even harsher. “I was cutting Druchii throats when your grandfather’s father was still milking the family goat! I…and he!... knows what needs to be done!”

“Alright then, Shadow Walker,” the first voice continued levelly, “What would you have me do with the new recruits?”

“Send them home.”

“Tanith….”

“They’re just boys!” the harsh voice roared. “Children!! Am I to lead children into battle now?!”

“Marduk recruited them to be Shadow Warriors, Tanith,” the first voice responded calmly. “He must’ve seen something in them. And we need the numbers. You know this. We took too many losses in our last battle. We still are missing a standard’s worth of archers. No sign of the Eataini marines. And the Shadows are at half strength!”

“I know that!! I…I know that. But we keep these… The lot of them will be dead before the week’s end! We’ve got no time to train them. And no time to babysit them during battle!”

A moment passed. Tim held his breath.

“So it’s true,” the younger voice continued. “They’ve returned. Battle is upon us.”

“So the Wing Brothers tell us,” the harsh voice said, though there was a note of weariness to it. “No reason to doubt them. The Ravens have already gone out. We are marshaling all forces here now. If it comes to it…. If the fleet can’t stop them. It will be up to us. As it always is.”

The silence returned, heavy and with foreboding. Tim felt his heart pounding in his chest. Finally, the younger voice said,

“So what would you have me do with the new recruits, Walker?”

Silence, followed by a sigh. “Have them…. Have them take care of the Claw.”

“As you say, Shadow Walker.”

Tim felt a hand on his arm. He almost gasped before he realized it was Willem pulling him back towards the tent flap. Then they were out in the clearing, waiting for the sentry to pass by, before they were dashing down lanes of tents.

“Did you hear?!” Willem called out to him as they ran. “Battle! We are going to war!” The boy sounded ecstatic.

Claw? What was a claw?! Was all that Tim could think though.

***

“Alright you lot,” the young warrior was saying as he gestured to the pile of wood and metal before him. “You five need to get this up there,” he pointed to the top of the dune behind the camp. “Assemble it and get it up and pointed out to the sea.”

The five recruits stared down at the pile of timber and metal bands. The whole thing looked like it weighed hundreds of pounds! The main beam with its metal bandings looked to weigh a near quarter of a ton by its lonesome! And the dune the warrior was indicating seemed all loose sand, only held in place by a few scraggly weeds, and towered over the encampment by some hundred feet or more.

With a frown one of Easterners said, “Will you be giving us a horse? Or at least a mule?”

The warrior’s smile broadened. “I’m giving you something better than that! Five strong backs and ten willing hands!” He looked from face to face, his own filled with bemusement. “Well, what are you waiting for?”

Groaning the recruits knelt down and started to rummage amongst the pile. Tim found himself at one end of the main beam. He frowned and furrowed his brow. This was something new to him. And yet he had seen the schematics of an Eagle Claw before on a parchment in the Elder’s house. (One of the old elf’s most prized possessions. A depiction of the third siege of Anlec.) Had studied it in detail as a young boy. He could not read well, but he liked to look at the pictures. And he had an eye for things. He could remember what he saw better than most. And this beam was missing parts. He looked around among the pile, but could not find the absent pieces. He hesitated a moment, and then, in a voice with a bit of sheepishness to it, said,

“Uh….my lord,” he wasn’t sure how to address the veteran, and he spoke with a blush on my cheek.

“I’m no lord,” the warrior quickly responded. “There’s only one of those in the Host. And you better never forget it,” the mirth dropped from his face with the last pronouncement, though quickly returned as he added, “I’m merely a Shadow Warrior, like you lot will be. Khaine preserve us! You can call me Warrior Caleb.”

“Ummmm, Warrior,” Tim quickly corrected himself. “There are missing pieces to the Eagle Claw. The trigger mechanism isn’t here. It won’t loose without it!”

“Noticed that did you?” Caleb said with an appraising eye. “Well, truth be told we are still waiting for the smith to replace the parts. And it wouldn’t matter if we did have it, since we’ve still got no bolts for it to loose in the first place.” He finished with a chuckle.

The two Easterners were sharing a look. “So what are we supposed to do with it?” one asked.

“Just as I said,” Caleb replied. “Take it to the top of the dune, put it together, and point it out to the sea.”

“But…it won’t work. And its got no ammunition you said.”

Caleb’s smile stretched even wider. He winked at them. “Right you are. But the Druchii don’t need to know that.”

Then he pointed to the top of the dune. “Now, get it done.”


***


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PostPosted: Sun Apr 12, 2015 7:34 am 
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Headshot wrote:
@ Rod

You aren't fooling anyone with your revisionist history.

Spires. Did. It.

:wink:

headshot

Of course he did. Someone had to. If it was up to all those other princes then nothing would get done at all. All they would be doing is sitting in meetings discussing things... ;)

Rod

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Please try to remember that, no matter how 'official' the source seems, rumours are basically just a dictionary combined with a random number generator

For Nagarythe: Come to the dark side.
PS: Bring cookies!

Check out my plog
Painting progress, done/in progress/in box: 167/33/91


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 14, 2015 6:34 pm 
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Day One – Part Three


Narrin’Tim threw himself down on the sand. His muscles ached, his back was throbbing, and his shoulders felt like they were on fire. He stared down at his hands: there were fresh calluses on the palms and little black slivers, oozing blood. He plucked one out feeling the sharp prick and pain that went with it. But then was too tired to do more; he let his head collapse on the top of the dune and just lay there. Out of the corner of his eye he could see the others were similarly sprawled about.

But it was done – the Eagle Claw was up and assembled. Or at least it was put together in the best facsimile they could manage with the parts they had. And now he just wanted to lie there….

Sometime during the lugging the rain had stopped (which was a gift from Loec! The beam had been hard enough to handle!), but now that they were at the top of the dune the wind was coming in raw off the sea carrying its own icy moisture. So he lay there in a conflict of feelings – hot, sweat soaked, exhausted; and yet the wind brought a freezing chill to his bones. He moaned and rolled over, sat up and pulled his cloak up and over his frame.

Soon everyone was seated in a rough circle next to the Eagle Claw, too tired to move, and too unsure of what to do anyways. Tim could see the activity still going on back in the camp, but he had no place, no responsibilities. It was strange. His entire life he had been a part of a village, with elders everywhere, always ready to yell at him and tell him what he was doing wrong. That was when his father wasn’t taking him on a hunting trip…and telling him what he was doing wrong. Or his mother wasn’t grabbing his ear and making him redo the work in the garden. He had always hated the constant feeling of surveillance. All those hooded gazes watching and quick to criticize. But now that it was gone, he felt oddly directionless. Surely someone would be along shortly to tell him what to do….

“Enough with the drudgery already! Bring on the battle!” Willem said with a chuckle and a cough, he alone continued to lay on his back. He rolled onto his side. “And while you lot were sitting on your duffs that’s what we heard. We are off to battle.”

None of the others seemed to share his enthusiasm. The Easterners just sat and stared while the Lowlander just shrugged. “I suppose it was inevitable,” he said.

Tim eyed him again. If it wasn’t for the Lowlander’s great strength they might still be trying to move the thrower up the hill. And he had a hammer! The most amazing thing. When the time came to assemble the wooden frame, metal into grooves, posts into holes, they had first used their hands and knife butts to try to get the recalcitrant pieces in place. But the Lowlander had produced a hammer from his satchel and set about pounding things into position. Now the Eagle Claw was whole – mostly – and sat at the top of this dune, facing the vast greyness of the northern ocean.

Tim turned and looked at the camp once more. Then he turned the other way towards the ocean; below them at the wet sandy beach, devoid of any life except stringy garlands of seaweed and a pair of sand pipers that skittered in the waves passing. “This is a strange place for a battle,” he said at last. “There is nothing but marsh and sand and forest behind it. No villages for miles and miles. At least from what we passed.”

The Easterners chuckled. The smaller of the two shook his head and said, “There is nothing here Romani. Nothing for leagues until the Great Divide in the east and the fractured lands about Anlec. This place has been marched and fought over by so many armies that anyone who bothered to put spade to earth would soon be exhuming corpses. Plows would catch on broken blades and sundered shields.” He rubbed the back of his neck. “Our father owns land here and he has been unable to sell it for over a century.” Another shake of the head. “No one will buy it.”

“Your father?” Willem asked and eyed the Easterner curiously.

“Yes. I am Quill,” he said. Then he gestured to the taller Easterner lying on his side nearby. “My brother Quinn. Of House Talyn. Our father’s estate is in the Easterling, near the border, but still he has titles to some old holdings here in the north.”

Titles? Holdings? Estate? Tim felt uncomfortable and sent a look to Willem. But the other Romani already had an amused expression on his face. “I am Kol’Willem. And he’s my cousin Narrin’Tim.”

There were some nods. Tim sent a glance to the Lowlander, but the figure just sat there, clamp jawed.

“It is said,” Quill continued, “That the Druchii built a war camp here during the last invasion. They held it for some years. And then when they were finally driven out, the witches of their covens poisoned the earth so that none would be able to claim the land again.”

“Bastards,” Willem commented and lay back. Tim was still frowning.

“Then why are we camped here?” the boy finally asked, perplexed.

The other Easterner, Quinn, spoke up in a soft voice. “Well while you two were off running about this morning, we were listening to some talk and heard that we are waiting for a ship to come and take us…to wherever.”

A ship? Tim thought. It was a strange feeling. All his life he had longed to go to sea, to sail the breadth and might of the ocean the same way his clansmen sailed the breeze…. But it was something he hadn’t even considered. When he joined the army he had imagined that he would be fighting for Nagarythe. In Nagarythe. In the woods and hills of his homeland. He hadn’t considered that he would ever need to go to sea. But then…perhaps that was what would happen? Perhaps war had come to some distant part of the Ulthuan. Maybe Chrace? Or even Cothique? So far away as to be almost legendary. But perhaps they had sent out the call for aid and Nagarythe was responding? Of course Nagarythe would respond. They would honor Aenarion’s pact no matter what.

“Do you know where we are going?” Tim asked, seeming the most pressing question of the hundreds that percolated through his thoughts.

The Talyn brothers shook their heads. “Well,” Willem chimed in. “I hope wherever we are going it is a glorious battle. I hope against the Druchii bastards. Many will fall to my arrows, you wait and see,” he finished with a wink.

Quill snorted. “Is that why you joined, Romani? For glory?”

“Of course. And to serve Nagarythe. But to be a Shadow Warrior in the Host! Not some common archer. But a Shadow Warrior! Is there more glorious a calling?” He rolled over and looked at the Easterner. “Why? Why did you Talyns join?”

Quinn shook his head and said nothing, but Quill’s face simply went hard. “The recruiter wanted our older brother,” he explained. “But he is to be married in the spring. And is due to inherit the land and titles of our house. So our father made a deal,” he said, an unpleasant smile crossed his face. “Two for the price of one.”

Tim frowned and then looked from brother to brother. Two for the price of one? They couldn’t mean….

“You didn’t compete for the position?” he blurted out. Among the Romani clans there were tournaments. Contests. It took over a fortnight! The winners were awarded positions within the Host!

The unpleasant expression on Quill’s face continued. It looked like he had been sucking on something sour. “Yes, of course you Romani would be like that. You are a simple people. Among the Great Houses of Anlec…it is just a quota to be filled.”

Tim’s mind was reeling at those words. Just a quota? But…to serve…!!!

Willem was still watching them with cool eyes. “The Great Houses of Anlec,” he said in a slow languid voice. “You mean, the ones that didn’t go North.”

The two Easterners reacted as if they had been struck across the face. Both sat up with their hands on the pommels of their knives. “Why you Romani….” Quill started with a hiss.

But just then the Lowlander spoke up, his deep voice cutting through the tension. “Oi….look at that,” he commented as if nothing untoward was happening among the others, and pointed down the beach.

The conflict momentarily forgotten all eyes turned to follow the lowered index finger. Tim squinted. He saw the curve of the beach as it stretched out to form a wave-break; just a jut of rocks protruding like a finger out into the rough waters of the northern ocean, and beyond that only mist and more turgid sea. No wait. His eyes were sharp, counted the best among the Romani, but this Lowlander must see as well or better than even he! For there, out there among the rocks, among the shadows and tossing waves, he saw a figure. A solitary elf stood at the end of the jut, stripped to the waste; the figure just stood upon its precarious perch, naked feet to stone, facing the roaring waters of the ocean.

“What is he doing?” Willem muttered.

“He’s got something,” the Lowlander muttered.

Tim squinted. “A sword? No, a staff.”

“No,” Willem corrected, “It’s a boat oar!” he muttered the last as if scarce believing the words.

Tim could now see that he was correct – he could see the pole in the figure’s hand fatten and broaden out at its end. A heavy ship’s oar, twice as tall as any elf, and meant to be pulled by two or more sailors. The figure was holding it upright upon the rocks as the waves rolled in cresting over his perch, battering his half clothed body.

“What’s he doing?” Willem repeated.

The oar went up and over the figure’s head, held up by the tiny hands so that it towered like a tree above him, and then….down and about in a whirling swing that whipped the air so fast that they could hear the crack of wood from even this distance! Down and about again and again, and then up with a slash that roared across the waves carrying water in a rippling crest! The figure spun about and the oar, all twelve feet of it extended from the tips of its fingers, came up and about and slashed through the oncoming wave!

“Whatever he’s doing, he’s a nutter,” the Lowlander muttered. “This time of the year, that water is cold as ice. It’ll freeze an elf to the bone.”

Tim could see the waves come up and roll over the stony perch time and time again. The rock would disappear and the heights of the waves would smash into the torso of the near naked elf, and sweep past him in a geyser of mist and spray. He saw the figure stagger under the ocean’s blows, time and time again, knocked down, sprawling on the edge of the rock, he would stand again and take up his oar. And swing it back and around and around again. Until, smashed once more he disappeared beneath the wave. When the water receded Tim could see the figure, completely drenched and plastered now, forced on all fours, clinging to the rock with fingers and toes. It got to its knees, took up the oar again, faced the ocean, and screamed. A long drifting cry of anger and anguish, it echoed from the roaring ocean waves and carried across the shore, faint and enmeshed within the sounds of the sea’s motions.

“Nutter,” the Lowlander repeated with a shake of his head.

“Wonder what he’s doing out here in the wasteland,” Quill said curiously.

“Another mad elf,” his brother commented, “wouldn’t be the first in Nagarythe.”

The figure was leaving the rocks now, and coming back to the shore. Even from here Tim could see the smears of blood upon his hands and bare feet, a gash upon one shoulder. He was beginning to be inclined to agree with the Lowlander: the injuries self-inflicted - this elf must be mad! The figure walked gingerly across the sand, leaving a trail of bloody footprints in its wake, until it came to a small pile of clothing lain atop the dry beach. Tim watched as the figure took up an old tattered cloak and used it to wipe the blood off its feet and hands, then towel dry its torso. It pulled on a pair of worn leather boots, and a heavy belt across its waist. And then….

“No,” Willem sat up.

The figure was pulling up a shirt of chain and iron bands. An ancient armor jerkin, so weathered and battered as to be scarcely recognizable. But Tim could see from here…the black lacquer on the chains, the golden thread and watermarks mixed into the bands.

“The Shadow Lord!” Willem said in disbelief.

“Yeah,” Quill said. “That’s him. He’d be the third in as many years. The last two passed the Shadow Door beneath the ruins of Anlec.” His eyes probed the figure and his mouth was a hard gash. “The Elder Council doesn’t tolerate failure,” he finished grimly.

“Now we’ve got this one,” the Lowlander said stonily. “A nutter.”

“Oh horse dung!” Quinn called out in a girlish voice marking his youth. “That Islander is back!”

Tim turned and could see the scarred elf in the accompaniment Caleb come striding up the landward side of the dune.

“C’mon, look busy,” Quill said and stood up.

“Why bother,” Willem said from his back. “We did what they asked.”

The two Easterners were standing uneasily on their feet. Soon the Lowlander stood to join them, so with a beseeching look to his cousin, Tim got up as well. Willem stayed in his repose.

Tim tried to ignore him. “Why did you say he’s an Islander?” he whispered to Talyn’Quinn.

“Can’t you tell? The braids in the hair,” the Easterner whispered back. “He’s one of them lot that lives north of Nagarythe. Sea rovers and scavengers.”

“Crazy the lot of them,” Quill commented in a low voice. “Poor as dirt and beggars to boot.”

But the two elves were almost upon them and so conversation died out. The scarred Islander’s eyes swept across them, saw the Romani upon the ground, and said, “Get up. Or stay down… permanently.”

Willem, an expression of annoyance on his face slowly got to his feet. “We did what you wanted. The bolt thrower is all set up. For what good it will do in a battle,” he finished grouchily.

“Good, pats on the head for the lot of you,” the Islander said with a sarcastic grunt. “Onto the next task.” He turned and pointed to the east side of the camp, where the marsh stretched out and climbed up towards a forested hill. “We need a line of dead traps and trenches over there. So you lot get to grab some picks and spades and make ‘em.”

Tim’s arms still felt leaden from the last task. He could barely suppress the groan. Some of the others weren’t as lucky, and could hear the moans around him.

“But we heard we were shipping out soon? Why dig fortifications now?” Willem protested.

The Islander raised one tattered eyebrow at that. “Oi Caleb,” he turned to the youth next to him. “Why are we digging fortifications over there?”

With a slight smile on his face the Shadow Warrior stepped forward. “Why in case a force of Druchii cavalry slip past the pickets and come over that rise there, Walker.”

“And what happens if we don’t have the trenches in place?” the hideous Shadow Walker continued with a grim smile in place.

Caleb answered, “Why custom is that we take the newest recruits and give them some cuts with the knife across their arms and bellies… and send them running naked towards the Druchii lines.”

Tim’s eyes went wide. He was sure the others were just as shocked judging from the stiff postures around him.

“And why do we do that?” the Islander pressed, his eyes gleeful.

“Cause the smell of blood might confuse the Druchii war beasts, Walker. Send em into a feeding frenzy that will break up their lines…and give us time to form ours,” Caleb answered, face as calm and expressionless as if he was discussing the weather.

“Now who are the newest recruits in the Host?” the scarred figure said, black eyes now as hard as ice.

“Why, that would be this lot standing before us, Shadow Walker.”

Turning to Willem, the Islander said, “There’s your explanation, Romani.” He scowled at the lot of them. “Now go grab your damn picks.”

***


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 14, 2015 10:53 pm 
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Talk about an inventive use of chaff! =D>

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PostPosted: Fri Apr 17, 2015 1:18 pm 
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Well played Sir
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How was I not informed of this!? It's cool to jump back and learn some history.

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PostPosted: Fri Apr 17, 2015 8:38 pm 
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Meeting the old friends (or young friends?) feels good. After all recent gloom even this sounds cheerful. :shock:

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PostPosted: Sun Apr 19, 2015 5:16 pm 
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@aicanor

Yeah, I thought everyone could use a breather from the doom and gloom.

Besides if anyone can see us through armageddon its Palin'Tanith! :D


@Tiralya

You know T, you always say that. Apparently someone is supposed to PM you every time there is a new story.

Hmmmm I'm pretty sure its Rod's fault. Lazy slacker... :?

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 20, 2015 8:09 am 
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Well, I do confess I didn't PM anyone you had started a new story again. So if I was supposed to, then yes, I am to blame... ;) I'll just claim I'm busy with my own story. I'm not seeing anything outside that. Sounds like a good enough excuse to me. Though of course, the writing is done (up there soon). So I'll have to find something else to blame.

Now you just get back to writing. Chop chop. Too many days without an update. ;)

Rod

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 20, 2015 5:16 pm 
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Prince of Spires wrote:
Too many days without an update.


Yes, my dark master.....

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(Though I work much faster with a fuchsia name.... rotten lore masters.... *grumble* )

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 20, 2015 5:18 pm 
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Day Two


Tim was surrounded by a black void sprinkled with the burning light of stars, blue, yellow, fire red, and ephemeral green. He was alone, drifting in the black; but no, he was plummeting! Plummeting through space with a speed and ferocity that was only witnessed by the slow motion of the stars behind him, and the trembling in his gut. There was a blade in his hand: a foreign longsword, straight and with a flanged cross guard. He did not know the blade. Or the type. But he held it loosely, familiarly. And he stared at it. Stared at the etchings within the blade; the watermark that caressed the line of the razor’s edge. He felt it respond to him. Felt the sword vibrate. Saw the light of the stars drift down and into it….

And before him. Down. Down to where he plummeted. A wall of iron, fashioned in plate sheets taller than man or elf. A wall to stop a colossus. And he was falling towards it at a falcon’s dive!

The fear was there. The anxiety. A pure unadulterated terror. But there was something else: a grim determination. It had to be done. So he looked to the blade, and he watched as it wavered, its outline shimmering. A bright blue light took hold of his hand and passed into the sword. And there…there first so small as to only be a mote in the eye, he saw a molten glow. But then the glow spread out in a bright golden viscosity that passed through the blade from hilt to tip. He could see it burning like a furnace now. No flame in this dark empty space of stars, but the metal itself was searing with light!

He held the blade before him. Felt a battle cry stir in his chest. And the iron wall was leaping up towards him. Now gigantic, it filled his scope of vision. He was tiny; just a gnat falling into a collision that would splatter him across the iron surface…

The blade in front of his face, he cried out. And struck the wall!!

And felt cold water splash over his body.


***

He spluttered and gasped and blinked into the morning light. He found himself in the lean-to tent they had discovered prepared for them when they had returned to camp late last night after finishing digging the ditches to the scar-faced Sea Rover’s specifications. He could feel the muscle pains throughout his body; the new calluses on his hands and arms. And he was drenching wet. He blinked at that confused. Why?

“Well, well! Look at what we have here!” he heard the cold mocking voice of the Islander coming from somewhere. The boy squinted and could see the scarred elf warrior standing outside the tent with a bucket in hand. The others of his little troupe were likewise soaked and grumbling in the early morning light.

“If my eyes don’t deceive me!” the Islander continued. “Why I think we’ve got a group of Yvressi maidens, just in from their morning baths in the enchanted hot springs!!”

“Sure looks that way, Walker,” echoed Caleb, a smile on his face.

“Mhmmmm! I can feel my manhood stirring just looking at them!” the Islander said with a guffaw. “Well princesses, if I’d been Druchii you’d all be breathing through a nice slit in your throats right now. Maybe watching as some Nagaronder takes a leak in the skull of your bunk mate!” He said with a snarl. “Now why the hell did you let me sneak up on you?! Aren’t you – Khaine preserve us!! – supposed to be Shadow Warriors!!?”

No one said anything. The lowlander was squeezing out the water in his shirt and glaring at the ground. The two Easterners just stared blankly at the veteran. Willem had a face that was as sour as a month old lemon.

“If you were a Druchii,” Willem said, “You would never have gotten past the pickets.”

The Islander turned to him. “That so, Romani? Maybe they are dead as well? You ever think of that?” he snarled again. “Or maybe, maybe that lot of veterans don’t give a rat’s fart about what happens to a snotty pack of new recruits,” he said coldly, his eyes now narrow slits. “Maybe they’ve seen so many come, and die, that they just don’t give a damn anymore.” He spat on the ground and his hand came to rest on a heavy knife at his belt, curved but with a blunt, club-like pommel on its end. “Why would you trust those pickets?” he pressed. “Do they even know your names? Why would they take care of you? Do you know their names??”

His ancient black eyes went from face to face. “Listen hard you little idiots. This is the most important lesson you are gonna learn from me.” He paused and glowered. “Trust only your brothers. And your brothers are the ones that know your name. They care if your bunk is empty or if you miss the morning mess.” He said with a shake of his head. “Nobody knows who the hell you are except those sitting right in here this tent. You lot should’ve worked out a rotation for a sentry among yourselves last night. That’s what Shadow Warriors would do. Trust only your brothers!”

“But the pickets…!” Willem continued to protest.

“Don’t know you! And you don’t know them!” the Islander cut him off with a chop of his hand. “You want to rely on the pickets, you damn well better know them better then just ‘the pickets’….Shadow Warriors! What if you are in a combined army and those pickets out there are a bunch of Saphery rangers, sharing their grass pipes and staring up at the stars! You think that’s gonna stop a bunch of hardened Druchii killers!!?”

He shook his head and Tim was surprised to see the old elf was trembling with rage. “Get up. All of you. On your feet.” He turned and looked around as the group of young recruits – in varying states of grudge – got to their feet. “There. See that pole. You got til the shadow hits that stone to go out and find all the pickets outside the camp, and bring me their names.”

Tim stared at the pole. And the overturned rock just a little ways away. Already the sun was rising over the eastern hills stretching the pole’s shadow out. It would only be a few minutes until shadow and stone met!

Quill realized that as well. “But there is no time!”

The Islander turned and started to walk away. “You want to eat? Better start running.”

***

Tim felt as if his lungs were gonna burst through his chest. His heart was pounding so hard it was like a bird clasped in the hands. He fell to his knees in the dirt, gasping like a stranded fish.

“Well,” the Islander asked. He sat on a log not far from their tent, a platter in hand with steam rising off some hash and a sausage link on top it. With the tip of his knife he speared the sausage and took a bite off one end. Then he picked up a pitcher and drank from the end. Suddenly Tim was famished and thirsty beyond thought; there had been cold bread in their tent last night which they all had devoured before collapsing into sleep. But that had been precious little.

The others were catching their breath. Finally, Willem started rambling off the names of the pickets they had encountered. That itself had been a task – the sentries had been well hidden under foliage, high in tree, or garbed in cloaks woven with leaves and brambles that made them indiscernible to the countryside around them. Once they hadn’t realized they were upon an armed elf until a hand had snaked out from under a log and seized Tim’s ankle….

When Willem faltered with the names, Quinn and Quill added a few more, and finally the still nameless Lowlander added two to the list. The Islander nodded sagely, then returned to his sausage. “You missed three,” he said bluntly. “Do better next time.”

Willem moaned while Tim gasped and nodded…and stared at the savory sausage. His stomach seemed to be doing somersaults within him. The Sea Rover seemed to notice his gaze. “Oh no, this isn’t for you,” he said gibingly. “You all are Shadow Warriors now, aren’t you? Well Shadow Warriors are supposed to exist on nothing more than dewdrops, moonlight, and the joy of killing Druchii!” His eyes drifted over them. “We will work on that.” Then he tossed the pitcher out; fortunately Willem managed to catch it and began guzzling at the water within. He wiped his mouth and passed it on to Quill next to him.

“But you,” Willem protested and pointed at the platter before the older elf.

“Nah, I’m a Shadow WALKER. Big difference. We eat sausage.” He finished the morsel then shoveled the hash down his throat while the recruits watched. When he finished he belched and stood up. “Alright, you lot are both late and didn’t even get all the picket’s names. You had better do better next time if you want to eat tonight. Now follow me.”

He turned and led the weary group out the side of the camp to an empty field on the edges. The Shadow Warrior Caleb was waiting there with a bundle of tools in his hands. The Islander took one.

“Behold the offspring of Nagarathi genius!” he said as he held up the tool. “The Nagarathi spade!” Grinning he swept the tool before him. Tim could see a shovel’s scoop head on one end of a short stick….and not much more. The Islander must’ve seen the look in his eyes because he added, “Don’t let its humble appearance fool you! This tool is the secret weapon of the Host. See you’ve got the shovel head here, great for making pit-traps and latrines alike. And there on the side, one edge is sharpened, so it can double as an axe.” He raised it over his head and brought it down chopping into a pile of logs laying in the grass. The metal head hit with a satisfying thunk. He withdrew the spade with a grunt. “Incidentally, its also good for hacking up Dark Elves. Which is always good. Now see here? The other end has an iron cover, perfectly weighted for hammer blows. You can use that to assemble, disassemble, serve as a tent stake, or crush a Druchii skull. All in one beautiful small package!” He was grinning ear from ear. “What I’m saying is that if we ever have to leave camp in a hurry, the first thing you grab is your bow and quiver. The second thing is your spade. Everything else is secondary.”

At a nod from the Walker, Caleb stepped forward and began passing out the tools to the line of boys.

“What are we going to do with these…uh Walker?” the Lowlander asked.

“Well fancy that you should ask.” Another grin. “We’ve got the cavalry coming this evening. Do you lot know what that means?”

Everyone stood there and stared. Some shifting from foot to foot. As the silence lengthened Tim felt his nerves turn to splinters. He frowned and tried to think.

“Ummmm….we are saved?” he asked hesitantly.

Caleb had to fight down a laugh with a snort and some coughing. The Islander’s cool gaze shifted over to him as if seeing him for the first time. And it was not pleased.

“Well it looks like we have a comedian here. Is that so, Romani? You a funny Romani? Thought those all died young.”

Tim was flushing now. “Umm…no sir. I mean, Walker, sir.”

“Or are you just stupid? Some sort of Romani dirt farmer.” He stepped forward and took the spade from out of his hands. “What the cavalry coming means that someone has got to build the corral, the feeding troughs, and the pit for all that horse dung. And believe me, those big blacks make a lot of dung. I know what I’m talking about! I come from a long line of dung shovelers….my grandpappy shoveled horse dung for Aenarion himself! And now you lot are going to carry on in that glorious tradition.” He gestured to the wood pile on the ground. “Build the corral here. Put the waste pits there. Make space for a water trough there. And the only tool you need for that is the trusty Nagarathi spade.” He turned back to Tim. “Except for the dirt farmer here. He’s so funny, he gets to use his hands.”

Tim felt the color drain from his face. The Islander and Caleb were already walking back towards the camp. “You got til nightfall….”


***


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 20, 2015 11:24 pm 
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Love the small references to your earlier work in bits and pieces of text, it's really interesting to see this weave everything into a whole piece for Tim and sort of build his whole mythos from the ground. Looking forward to more.

Someone give the man his fuchsia name and speed him up! :lol:

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PostPosted: Fri Apr 24, 2015 4:14 pm 
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Well played Sir
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I'm not saying I have to be notified, maybe I should stop being a slacker and check in more often.
I haven't got anything elvish for my plog, but I've done a crap load of hobby since I last updated it.

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These may be the last days of the Asur, but if we are to leave this world let us do it as the heroes of old, sword raised against evil!


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PostPosted: Sat Apr 25, 2015 3:43 pm 
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What if you are in a combined army and those pickets out there are a bunch of Saphery rangers, sharing their grass pipes and staring up at the stars! You think that’s gonna stop a bunch of hardened Druchii killers!!?”
Aicanor tells me there was never an end to this nonsense. :lol:

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PostPosted: Sat Apr 25, 2015 3:52 pm 
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Well played Sir
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They are hit and miss, Miss =(

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PostPosted: Sun Apr 26, 2015 6:43 pm 
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Day Two – Part Two


“How’s that Romani? Army life glamorous enough for you?” Talyn’Quill called tauntingly to Willem. The Romani was standing knee deep in the fresh latrine pit. The rain was coming down in a cold wet drizzle that felt like they were standing under an open spigot, and the pit had filled up, turning into greyish green slime and sucking ooze. Willem glared back with a downward tic of the corner of his mouth.

“Oh the Host of Nagarythe she be a mighty Host indeed!” Quill said in a sing-song voice. “The Thousand Stars of her Banners wave! The earth trembles and the daemons quail!!”

It was the words to the old ballad. Old as Nagarythe. Even Tim knew those words. The song from a time when the Legions of Nagarythe marched across the world, from sea to shining sea, casting down the cults of the corrupted Old Gods, and building monuments to Asuryan throughout the realms. It was a time when Nagarythe and her armies built the Ever Empire, the Jewel of the World, behind the unstoppable arm of the First King, Aenarion.

“Oh the Host of Nagarythe she be a mighty Host indeed!!” Quinn joined in from where he was using his spade’s blade edge to shape the end of a beam. “The Greenskins rout at the sign of our banners! The Daawi cower within their mountains!”

“And though our shields be splintered, our spears be broken, hold the line we shall!!!” Quill finished. The two then broke into some bitter chuckling.

Without a tool Tim had been forced to share Willem’s. But now he was using his bare hands to drag more wood over for Quinn to work with. He lowered the beam and wiped at the sweat and sea rain on his brow. “Don’t,” he said softly. “Don’t,” he said again a little louder. “Please don’t mock that song.”

Quill sent him a jaundiced look. “You a believer, Romani? Of course you are.”

Tim flushed. “I thought… I thought we are all Nagarathi here. All of us…together. In the Host. Fighting for Nagarythe. And the Empire.”

“Some fighting we are doing,” Quinn grunted. And to Tim’s surprise, Willem snorted in agreement. The young Romani climbed out of the slime pit and shook himself off like a dog.

“This is ridiculous,” he said. “I came for battle. Not drudge work! I am the best marksman among the Romani clans!”

“And now you dig holes,” Quill laughed. “Welcome to the Host!”

A look of disgust flashed across the Easterners and the one Romani face. Tim turned away, feeling cold and conflicted inside. He picked up the end of the log and continued to drag it towards the pile. As he staggered with his back towards the others, eyes filled with rainwater, only able to see the heavy wooden beam before him, he suddenly heard a soft baritone voice call out behind him:

“It’s raining in Nagarythe….”

“The skies fall hard from the mountains to the sea…. The forests are black and the night wind howls….”

He stopped. Another old song. One from the campfires. And the voice, the deep brassy voice, was beautiful, talented, filled with regret and longing that the words demanded.

“Yet somewhere beneath the snowy peaks, my love waits for me….”

He turned and saw the hunched over figure of the Lowlander shoveling dirt piles, and without looking up from his work, he sang. He sang slowly but with a strong voice, his face blank, and yet the sound…. The sound so full of remorse and regret. Of longing and weakness. Of determination and endurance.

The other three had stopped their talking and turned to listen. Suddenly, Willem joined in:

“It’s raining in Nagarythe…. The storm crows fly and the eagles dare…. The red fires of war burn far away…. And we march at dawn to victory or our brothers shields….”

The old song. Tim thought. Yes this ballad his mother had sung that one summer festival. The shields he had heard as a little boy, not understanding. What did the shields mean? He had asked. And his mother had said something that he hadn’t understood until he was much older: “The warriors of the Host of Nagarythe are victorious. Or they come home born on the shields of their brothers….”

“It’s raining in Nagarythe….” Quinn’s voice joined in. “Anlec calls and we go. The Phoenix flies and we are the fire of his wings…. The world waits and we must away….”

“The Dark wind blows from North and East….” Quill sang. “The Damned stand forth and darkness falls…..”

Tim grabbed the log once more and raised his voice.

“But it’s raining in Nagarythe….!! And somewhere my true love waits for me!!!”

***

Hours had passed and the afternoon was drawing onward. The light though stayed grey and wet through the heavy clouds overhead. Gradually the corral was beginning to take shape. The camp was still abustle with activity. And there was more work to do. Willem was telling the story of one of his hunts, when Quill called out:

“Shhhh, look!!”

Tim turned. He saw quickly what the Easterner was referring to. A pair of figures were crossing the marsh field nearby. They were making for the camp and their trajectory was bringing them ever closer to where the five worked. One figure he recognized immediately by the shock of white braids – the Shadow Walker. The other though…. A swirl of black hair and tattered grey cloaks. Then…a flash of gold.

“Is that…?” he started.

“Shhhhh!!!”

They could hear voices now. The two were speaking.

“What??! What about the fleet?” the Islander was saying voice filled with anger. “Aren’t they supposed to stop this sort of thing before it gets close?! Isn’t that why I send my two bags of silver to Lothern every Spring?!”

Then a voice, cold remote, almost lifeless.

“The Fleet is much diminished in these parts. The warships have been drawn north to support the Caledorian’s wars….”

“Khaine’s curse and blood and vile upon that lot!!!” the Islander cried out exasperated. “We should just geld that entire kingdom like they do their flocks! They bring us nothing but trouble!! And this one!! This one!! I know he was your friend before but we should’ve let him die on the walls of Anlec! He’s the stupidest of the lot!!!”

Nothing and then: “We obey the will of the Phoenix.”

Another curse and a hissing intake of breath. “Yes, we do. Still, mark my words. Those bloody Caledorians are gonna be the death of us some day. Bunch of poncy play warriors!!” Tim could hear him spit to punctuate the words. “So now its up to us. Again.”

“Yes. The ship will be here soon.”

“Khaine’s teeth….”

The voices stopped and the figures drifted away towards the camp below. Tim watched them recede, his eyes drawn to the tall figure in grey and black. Under the wisps of black hair, he had seen eyes even darker. Hard and sharp like rough edges of obsidian chips. The eyes of the ancient Shadow Walker were bad enough, so filled with age and cunning were they. But these….these were alien. Like looking into the eyes of a shark swimming in the depths of a cold northern eddy. He could not even imagine the thoughts that lurked behind those black vessels.

“Who is he?” he mumbled out loud.

Quill went back to his work. “The Shadow Lord? Ummmm I heard a little.”

“Well,” Willem sent him a probing look. “Don’t stop there, elf! Tell us.”

“I heard he is a foreigner,” the Lowlander joined in in his soft deep voice. “That they found him in some colony in the distant east.”

“A foreign Asur? Leading the Host of Nagarythe? Impossible,” Willem scoffed, and Tim nodded in agreement. There was no way they would follow an elf from the Soft South. Even less a foreigner – someone not from Ulthuan! The very idea was like saying the sun rose in the west. Inconceivable!

“No, no. Not foreign. Just gone,” Quill answered. “I heard he is Nagarathi. Just that he’s been….gone…for a very long time.”

“Hmmm,” Tim said and thought.

“I heard he was Easterling, like us,” the younger Quinn chimed in. “That’s what father said. That he was from a dead family of Anlec. The last of his kind. But I don’t know where they found him. Or why….”

Why? Yes why. Why this elf? Who was he? Why did the Elder council choose him to lead the Host? It was all a confusion. But…a Shadow Prince. The War Leader of Nagarythe…. The highest command of the army. He had to be respected.

Hadn’t he?

***


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 28, 2015 8:41 am 
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 29, 2015 11:37 am 
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When it comes to the Shadow Prince? Both. Definitely both.

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Besides, the battle of Finuval Plain was more a minor skirmish anyway. A good enough summary would have been "Teclis and Malekith ran into each other. Teclis cast The Dwellers Below on Malekith with IF, and Malekith failed his Strength test." Not much more to it then that really.


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 30, 2015 8:46 am 
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It's all a clever plot; if his allies think he's mad, just think what his enemies will think of him!

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 30, 2015 6:00 pm 
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Day Two – Part Three


“What do you think this meat is?” Quill asked.

They were seated under their lean-to tent. Each exhausted from the long day of manual labor that had lasted until the sun began to slip behind the western hills. However, when they finally managed to stagger back into camp and their tent, they had found five plates of steaming hash waiting for them, with five mugs of warm cider. Quill right then was using his short knife to prod at one of the grey clumps of meat in the ash.

“Maybe its venison,” the Lowlander said with a grunt. Tim looked at him once more. Two days he had labored alongside the bulky northerner and yet he still didn’t know anything about the elf. Not even his name. He was strange and withdrawn to say the least. But then again, Tim felt awkward to press the issue.

“It’s too gamey to be venison,” Willem answered as he shoveled some more of the hash into his mouth. He swallowed after only a couple of tentative chomps. “I’d say rabbit.”

Well at least the cavalry had arrived, Tim thought to himself. He looked up and back to the corral and makeshift stables they had spent so much of the day building. There were dozen coal-black destriers standing within its confines now, just visible in the fast fading light. And armored knights had accompanied them. The Penitent, Quill had said in a hushed voice. The Black Dragoons. “Easterners like us. They come from a fortress in the mountains south of Anlec. Each has sworn an oath to die in the service of Nagarythe,” he had explained. Then added with a whisper, “All of them from old families. Old noble houses. That went North….”

That needed no explanation. The Romani were unique among the Nagarathi in that few of them had followed the rebellion led by Malek’Kith all those eons ago. But not so the other peoples and households of Nagarythe. Many went en masse, and of those that didn’t, houses were divided, often with brother fighting brother, or even mother fighting son. It had been a terrible moment in history. And one that lingered even unto this day. There were stories of Nagarathi seeing distant cousins or long lost uncles across the battlefields when facing the hordes of the Dark Elves. It was something that Tim could scarce imagine. And it was something that explained why these few remaining noble houses of the East felt they had so much to atone for.

The sins of the family…. What a terrible burden to carry.

“Hey! Look lively. Someone approaches.” It was Quinn. It was his turn to keep watch, and he called from his post outside the lean-to. Tim looked up as he hurried to finish the hash on his plate. He could see the Islander striding up to them.

“Its muskrat,” the voice of the Shadow Walker called. “All the meat a growing boy needs.”

Tim stopped mid bite and looked with a horrified eye at the grey clump on his spoon. Had he really just been eating swamp rat? The little filthy squeaky rodents? He felt nauseous.

“C’mon, you lot. Grab your bows,” the Islander was saying and now Tim could see he was not alone; with him stood Caleb and a trio of what must be other Shadow Warriors. “Marduk said you were worth my time. Well now’s your chance to prove it.”

***

The Shadow Warriors led them outside the camp and into a clearing in the forest. A single tall stave was set up at the edge of the clearing, from which hung a sputtering torch. Other then the moonlight that occasionally peeked out from behind the clouds above, that was the only light available.

At least it had stopped raining, Tim thought.

“Alright. See that cloth down yonder,” the Islander called and indicated another upright stave just on the edges of the circle of light caused by the torch. There was a white rag fixed to the top of the stave. “There’s your target. Each of you is gonna show me how good a shot you are by hitting that. From here.”

It was a hundred paces, in near night dark. And the white rag was just a fluttering pocket kerchief. It was a near impossible shot. Tim felt himself grounding the backs of his molars as he stared at that floating spot. It seemed more a trick of his vision then an actual target. How could he….?!

With a nod from the Islander, Caleb and the other Shadow Warriors disappeared in the dark towards the target. The old elf then turned back to them.

“Alright stop standing there like a bunch of Chracian turnips! String your bows. Lets see what you can do!”

Tim nodded. Ok, this he could manage. The bow had been with him since childhood. The tree. His father’s hand guiding the plane as he shaved down the rough protrusions of the stave. He knew this piece of wood better than he knew his own house, or bed. It was his constant companion. And with a practiced hand he unwrapped the stave from its waxcloth bindings (to protect the wood from the elements) and then proceeded to uncoil the string wrapped in a long whorl about its length.

“We’ll let the comedian go first,” the Islander added with a nasty grin looking at him. Tim swallowed.

He focused on the bow. Checking the string. Making sure it wasn’t torn nor frayed. Then came the familiar and yet still strength-testing task of fixing it to the stave. One end went in a loop around the protrusion at the end of the bow stave. The other had another loop but of course it wasn’t long enough. The stave had to be bent. He braced the looped end against his foot and pulled. It was a familiar burn to his shoulders and back and down into his thighs. He was surprised at the heat and the intensity of it though; he hadn’t realized how sore and tired his muscles were from two days of labor already. He grunted with the effort, felt his hands be slick upon the wood. Then through clenched eyes, saw the stave begin to slowly bend down towards his waiting hand. Only a few more inches…. But his back was screaming with the effort. Only a few more…. And there, the loop was in place! With a sigh he eased the tension off the stave and saw it nestle into the string-loop – the coil now taught and hard as iron under the many stones pressure the stave exuded.

He knelt down, one more time to make sure the string was in its correct place and to check to make sure there were no frayings. Taking a piece of torn fiber from his cloak, he tied that about the center string to create a tighter fit for the arrow’s notches. At last satisfied, he stood up.

“Ready, dirt farmer?” the Islander asked smugly. “C’mon the night is getting old and I’m getting cold. Stop making love to your bow and hit the damn target down there!”

Flushing Tim stepped forward to the indicated spot as the Islander stepped aside. He looked. Saw the bit of rag fluttering just slightly in the breeze. The wind was from the north, and the sea. It was heavy with damp. Salt too. He needed to take that into calculations….

“Waiting here, Romani,” the Islander snarled.

Tim reached into his quiver and carefully placed an arrow upon the string, tilting the longbow down and out as he did so, allowing the other end of the arrow to rest in the crook of his opposite hand between thumb and forefinger, where his grip set softly about the bow. Don’t squeeze the bow, his father had said. You want the wood to be free. Free to move. To breath. The strength is in the arms and the shoulders. The hands and wrists should be soft and malleable. Let the wood speak to you….

He raised the stave, bringing the arrow-head up slowly in a straight line towards the white cloth in the distance. As he did so the familiar strain of the back and shoulder as nine stones of weight on the string were pulled back into his arms. He felt the feathered butt of the arrow come back and lightly kiss his cheeks. ‘Parallel to the mouth. Just to the ear.’ He heard his father whisper.

His eye went down the string. Keep both open. Don’t close one. Don’t flinch. No matter how much power is in that bent wood, you can’t fear it. Keep your eyes wide….

He could see the white bit of cloth. It was all he saw now. It was growing large in his vision. Just a wisp of motion in the darkness. But he could see it there, right in front of him. The path between the arrow and the mark so clear. He could see the shot. He just needed to empty the air from his lungs then….

There was a whistling shriek! And something leapt out of the night and shot past his brow. Tim spluttered and leapt back and saw the arrow flop from his own string. He heard the sound of metal biting wood somewhere behind him!

“What was that?!” he and maybe Willem called out at the same time.

“Reality,” the Islander answered, arms folded across his chest.

He looked at the boys haughtily. “Oh, I’m sorry. Did I startle your poor nerves?” he asked with a snigger. “I’m sorry, did you think the Druchii would just throw down their weapons and politely stand there waiting for you to shoot them? What, you lot think you are a bunch of Reavers? That the thunderous sound of your hooves will unman them foul Dark Elves causing them to toss aside their weapons and flee from you in terror? Giving you all the opportunity you could want to shoot them in the back as you gallop by looking all tall and lordly on your ponies?” The old elf finished and spat on the ground. “Hells no. You are Shadow Warriors! Not some actors in an Ellyrion morality play!! The Druchii aren’t gonna just stand there overwhelmed by the righteousness of your cause. And you aren’t going to go off to war thinking that all you have to do is send them a stern look and a bellowing challenge and that’s that.”

He shook his head, face filled with disgust. “No. You are Shadow Warriors now. War is not a game. It’s not a tourney. It doesn’t have rules. And there are no troubadours following you around waiting to sing of your exploits. You are Shadow Warriors! All you do, all that war is, is find the enemy. Then kill him. That’s it,” he said cold as ice, his eyes sweeping over the group of boys in front of him. “Everything else is just details about how to get it done. Or is nonsense for Sapheri scholars to put into books to wank over. You don’t give a damn about anything else then finding the enemy, and sending him to Khaine right quick.”

He gestured down to the target. “Those Druchii are going to be trying their hardest to send you to Khaine first. You don’t want that. You want those bastards dead. You want em dead now. You are gonna be smarter. You are gonna be meaner. And you are damn gonna make sure that you kill all those Druchii bastards that you can. Now, comedian, pick up your damn bow and kill that gods-damned Druchii down there!!”

Tim, still shaken, bent over and picked up the stave. He took a moment to inspect the string. Musn’t let mud….

“KILL THAT GODS-DAMNED DRUCHII!!!!” the Islander screamed.

He hurriedly picked up the bow and drew on the string. There was another shriek, followed by another. This time he saw a streak in the darkness. And then he felt his cloak torn from his shoulder. And then a buzzing heat on his face. He cried out, and reached up. In horror he pulled his hand away from his cheek: he saw crimson on his fingers. Blood. His blood.

The arrow. It must’ve passed…. He felt dizzy thinking how close he had just come to death or maiming. He could barely hold the bow. The ground seemed unstable.

“You’re being too hard!” Willem was yelling somewhere behind him. “You’re asking the impossible. How are we supposed to shoot like this!? Its ridiculous!!”

“Impossible is it?” the Islander snarled. “Out of the way Romani.” He stepped forward and shoved Tim aside, snatching the long bow out of his hands as he did so. The boy staggered back, shocked. His bow….

But it was already up in the hands of the Islander, and an arrow on the string. A shrieking whistle came out of the dark. He could see the arrow speeding like a black viper through the shadows!

The Islander’s head darted to one side. The arrow sped past and thudded into a tree some five paces behind…perfectly in the line where the old elves head would have been.

But the longbow in the Shadow Walker’s hand had already sung. An arrow of black and silver had leapt into the night and in the far distance, Tim could see the white rag flutter as a new hole appeared in its hem.

Then the Islander was running to one side. Two times more they heard the shriek-whistle of longbows release death to the night. Two times more arrows shot through the space the Islander had been just seconds before. And then he was up, foot braced upon a tree. Another shot: and an arrow embedded into the tree just where he was standing. But he was not there! He had kicked back and was falling through the air. Hand went to string, and twice more the bow sang. Twice more the white cloth shuddered under a blow. And then it fluttered to the ground, torn by the ferocity of the arrow that passed through it.

The Islander tossed the bow back to Tim. The boy clutched it, and looked at it now like a stranger. He hadn’t ever seen it used like that! Hadn’t imagined it possible.

“How…?” he mumbled.

“You lot,” the Islander said, eyes burning. “Always with you what cannot be done! That is not the way of the Shadow Warrior!! Not the way of Nagarythe!!! The way of Nagarythe is….TO FIND A GODS-DAMNED WAY!!! You get the damn job done!! Understood?! We do the impossible every day before breakfast, and no one thanks us for it. That’s the life. Better get used to it.”

He looked at them his eyes hard and filled with fire. “Now, shows over! You lot of little wankers, go find all the pickets hidden in these woods, and bring me their names. If you can do that, you might even get to see your bedrolls tonight.” He snarled and spat. “Now get it done.”

He could hear the others already starting off. Tim turned to join them.

“And don’t keep me waiting!!” the Islander called out after them. Tim broke into a run.

***


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PostPosted: Fri May 01, 2015 4:56 am 
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Changing habits is never easy.

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PostPosted: Fri May 01, 2015 11:52 am 
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Those Nagarathi have been teaching you some of the finer points of archery I see good chronicler.

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PostPosted: Mon May 04, 2015 9:02 pm 
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Day Three


The next morning it was more of the same. After a night sleeping like a stone, Tim was shaken awake by the Lowlander’s hand, a quick rise, a splash of water on his face and neck, and then the five were back at the clearing, bows in hand.

This time it was the Shadow Warrior Caleb overseeing things. There was less screaming but more wry remarks and broad smirks. Tim knew what was to happen this time; saw the pair of veteran Shadow Warriors disappear into the treeline. And yet when it was his turn to loose at the distant target, he found his body quivering, his hands unsteady, his focus scattered. The shots flew and passed so close! And being an archer himself didn’t help: he knew how little it would take to adjust the stave and cause a near miss to hit dead center of his forehead. Just a release when taking an intake of breath instead of an exhale could move the stave enough at this distance! It was a nightmare. And he missed every single shot he took.

Willem however did not. His cousin always had a talent for the bow, and more than that, he had an unshakeable bravado and self-confidence. The shots flew past him and at first Tim could see their effect upon him. But by the third time up, the old familiar mocking grin was in place, and his own arrows were flying fast and true. He hit the distant cloth twice.

How he overcame his fear, Tim couldn’t imagine.

“You are overthinking it,” Caleb had said to him. “You miss the target because you are shooting in your mind. Going through a list of steps and checking them off one at a time. That is not how a Shadow Warrior shoots.”

It was true, but he didn’t know what to say to that. Caleb continued, “You, all of you are young, but I can tell that you’ve grown up with bows in your hands. And so I’d gather that for nigh on a hundred years you’ve been releasing arrows at targets. Am I right?” Tim hesitated, then nodded in reply. “So there that bow is a part of you. Your body knows the motions. You don’t need your head anymore. Just let the bow do its work.” The older Shadow Warrior laughed. “Save your head for more important things! Like where to get your next meal. Or what to do with your silver on leave. You don’t need it for this. It just gets in the way.”

“I don’t understand,” Tim had said, more than once that morning.

“Look at it this way,” Caleb had answered as he watched the Lowlander step up to the line. “Do you think about beating your own heart? About taking your next breath? About digesting your last meal? Even about picking up your knife handle, or an acorn from the ground? No? All of those things are just as complicated as wielding a bow. Hell I’ve heard tell of Saphery mystics that can control their own heartbeats, or reverse their digestion. Though Asuryan only knows why an elf would want to learn to do that!” More laughter. “But you don’t think about those things because you trust your body to do them. It must be the same with the bow. You must trust it. There will be so much more to worry about in battle, believe me. You have to let your mind get out of the way. In the old tongue they called it, ‘mushin no’shin’. The mind without a mind. You have to lose your mind, without losing it, if you see what I mean.”

Tim didn’t, but he nodded in what he hoped was an agreeable fashion.

Then in the late morning hours, just as the rain had started to fall again, and Tim felt his fingers almost as numb as his nerves from the hours of practice, the Islander and another pair of Shadow Warriors drew up to their group. The scarred face was normally grim, but at that moment it looked positively severe.

Without greeting or preamble the Shadow Walker said, “A Corsair vessel was seen off the coast not far from here. I’m going to take the veterans and scout towards the direction the vessel was sighted in. Make sure they didn’t drop off any raiders.” His eyes went from face to face of the new recruits. “But we can’t be certain that the ship was operating alone. It might have been part of a convoy. So Caleb,” he said and looked to the older Shadow Warrior, “I want you to take these new recruits and sweep into the hinterlands on the opposite side. Make certain that there’s no force of Druchii over there.”

“Aye, Tanith,” Caleb said with a nod.

The Islander Tanith turned away, but then hesitated. He turned back and looked at the boys. “This is real. This isn’t training. I don’t want you doing anything stupid. Or brave. Listen to Caleb. Follow his orders. And if you see anything, send up the signal, and the Host will deal with it. Not you. Caleb will know how. Understood?” Everyone stared at him. The face turned hard again; well, harder. “I said, ‘understood’?” he hissed. There was a chorus of assents at that and the Islander turned and hurried away.

“Well,” Caleb said after the Islander had left, “this is unexpected.”


***


That was how two hours later, Tim found himself standing in the pouring rain, deep in the lush vales of the hinterland forest. Other than the sound of the falling water splattering on leaf and bough, it was eerily quiet.

“Do you see anything, Romani?” the Lowlander whispered to him. Still in too loud a voice which made Tim nearly jump out of his skin. He quickly shook his head, both in answer and to make the other quiet.

It was just the two of them now. Thirty minutes into the search, they had climbed an escarpment. It had been empty. Caleb had scanned the surroundings and said, “Well this is the most obvious place for a force to camp. So that means either there’s no force out here…which would be good.” He chewed on his lower lip. “Or that they are smart enough not to camp in the obvious place. Which would be bad. Maybe dangerous sorts. Nagarronder Shades, maybe.” He had stared at the forest as if willing the enemy to appear. But no such luck. “Still, we have to sweep the hinterlands to make certain. It’s too big to do together.” He swallowed. “We will split up into pairs and take different directions.”

Of course Tim had hoped to be placed with his cousin – they had hunted together often – but when Caleb divided them he had ordered his cousin to go with the young Quinn, and took Quill himself. Leaving Tim to be paired with the quiet Lowlander.

“What about that?” the Lowlander whispered again breaking his thoughts.

“That?” Tim frowned. “That’s a log.”

“Should we…should we check it out. Maybe something is hiding behind it.”

Tim was beginning to wonder at the burly Lowlander’s woodcraft. He seemed to have little wood lore, and even less experience hunting. Why he was among the Shadow Warrior recruits was a mystery. He was a decent enough shot; though Tim had noticed that he too had not hit the target once that morning. But the Lowlander seemed positively nervous to be out in the woods.

“Just signal if you see anything,” Caleb had said as a last direction. “Don’t handle it yourself. Just signal and let me know.”

“What’s the signal?” Tim had asked.

“Depends. If they don’t see you, just double back on your tracks towards the escarpment. I will find you there.”

“And if they do see us?” Tim had pressed.

“Then run. And scream loudly.”

Tim tried to pull his scattered thoughts together. Focus on the here and now. The rain falling thick and hard. Cold at this time of the year. The scent of the forest all musk and damp, thick with pine and the scent of mildew and mushrooms. He looked to the log; it was true, it was large enough to be a hunter’s blind. But they didn’t have the time to examine every large log they encountered. There was too much territory to cover.

“Lets skirt around it. Head towards that incline there. It sounds like there might be a stream that way,” he had said.

The Lowlander looked at him with what appeared new-found respect, and nodded. The two boys dropped into low crouches and swept through the trees. Their bows were in their hands, but other than that, Tim had only his hunting knife at his belt; the Lowlander, his hammer. He didn’t feel like a warrior.

“Should we…should we be checking for broken branches? Or something?” the Lowlander asked when they paused once more to survey their surroundings.

Tim shook his head. “There are too many things in this forest that can break a branch. And the twigs are wet with the rain. Many will bend and break on their own. No you should look for something that….ummm doesn’t feel right,” he tried to explain.

“Like what?”

“Ummmm…like boot prints in the mud. Wherever it’s soft and wet. Or signs of a camp. Woven cloth, flax or wool caught in a bramble. Things that don’t belong in a forest of their own accord,” he explained.

“So…I don’t know if it belongs or not,” the Lowlander said softly, “But what about that?” He pointed to a tree near where they crouched.

Tim scanned the indicated tree. A birch, standing tall and wide. Its bark flaking with age. And…there, some five paces up the trunk, a long series of parallel furrows in the wood.

He froze. In a voice far too quiet, he whispered, “We need to back away, slowly, now.”

“Why? What is it?”

“Territory marker,” he whispered again. “We must back away slowly.” Tim said and did as he spoke. The Lowlander was following him, his face pale. Tim could feel warm sweat on his back and neck; his eyes were shifting through the foliage about them.

“Oh no,” he whispered. The bushes nearby suddenly seemed to be taken with a quivering of their own. An entire length of fern and shrub, some twenty feet long, shook and shuddered as one. Tim could feel the color drain from his face as the long snouted head rose up from among the plant covering. The muzzle scented the air, and then turned towards them.

“A Mountain Black!” the Lowlander gasped in fear. “What do we do?”

“Don’t run,” Tim said quickly. His father’s words were flashing through his head. What had the old elf said? “Just back away slowly. No sudden movements.”

The bear’s head was nearly the same size as Tim’s torso; the jaws wide enough to fit his shoulders in its maw. He had heard that the Blacks looked like bears from other realms, except for their size and unpredictable ferocity, and….

The beast rose from its rest. There, he could see among its thick sable fur, the heavy ridged bone plate nestled between its shoulder blades. The thing lifted its head and roared at them!

The boys took another hurried step back. Both bows up in their hands.

Like an explosion the bear burst from its covering, sending great torrents of mud and bramble into the air. The beast was at least twenty feet in length and had the weight of several aurochs. A tree shattered under its shoulder press. And the rain splattered in wavy cascades of shattered drops as it flew towards them with astonishing speed. Tim could feel the bow string leap into his hands. Felt the arrow to cheek; then loosed! Saw it fly, alongside one from the Lowlander’s bow. One arrow went and was lost in the thick fur of the beast’s chest. The other struck the bony plate and ricocheted into a thicket.

“RUN!!!” Tim cried and turned and ducked and wove behind an oak tree, before breaking into a sprint.

He could hear the sound of the bear slamming into the oak. Hear the fury as the ancient tree was cracked from its roots. “Oh GODS!! Oh GODS!!” the Lowlander was calling from somewhere to his left.

A Black! He had never hunted one. Only heard the stories. Of their ferocity. Of one tearing apart an entire party of hunters. Of the blood cravings and furies the beasts went to. How some believed they were spawned of Chaos….

But he couldn’t think. He was sprinting for his life. Feeling the tendrils and branches flay at his face and limbs. The mud was thick about his boots, and slimy and slippery. And he tumbled, and went forward, and slipped! And there! He was in the stream!

“Get up Romani!!” the Lowlander yelled, and was grabbing onto his shoulder.

“My bow?!” Tim spluttered, realizing his hands were empty. He looked about in the shallow stream.

The roar was deafening. It felt like it came from just over his head! Tim could feel it sending shocks down his vertebrate. He stumbled around and back. He could see the bear lurching up and over them. The beast was right there. Its long talons, razor edged and as long as daggers, stretching out and over them. The fangs bared.

“KHAINE’S TEETH!!!” the Lowlander cried and threw his hammer. The heavy piece of metal leapt from the boy’s hand and went careening into the bear’s under-throat. There was a yelp of surprise!

“C’MON!!” the Lowlander was dragging at him.

“My bow?!!”

“Forget it!!”

And they were scrambling down the stream, the water rushing fast about their ankles. They leapt from stone to stone, heading away from the bear as fast as they dared.

And then, the water had turned to white froth. There was the sound of rushing and falling. He could see the stream ended at a ravine, and fell in a cascade of white vapor and sputtering winds. No way of knowing how deep it was – until they got to the edge. But the bear! Tim could hear him smashing and sloshing through the water behind them! And…

There!! His bow!! He saw it lying against a rock near the waterfall’s edge. Soaked, it must have been swept down the stream before him. He leapt across the shallow white stream, landed upon the rocks above the bow, his arms windmilling about him. He reached down and snatched up the stave, an arrow coming out of his hunter’s quiver, finding the string. The Lowlander was there thrashing through the water before him….

And right behind him, like a moving hillock, the massive figure of the bear.

“JUMP!!!” Tim cried.

And he felt the arrow come back and kiss his cheek. Saw the Lowlander looming large before him. There….a gap past his ear. He could see the bear’s open maw. The string sung. And he felt the Lowlander sweep past him. And he was leaping back as the bloody maw swept towards him….

And then he was kicking his feet and waving his arms in space, screaming at the top of his lungs!

He felt water sweep up and around him. Felt his body tumble, spinning in the cold white fury. And then he felt gravel beneath his back, he floundered and kicked. And then air! Blessed air!! He was up and gasping. He pulled and pushed and he was on a rocky shore beside the pool. The Lowlander was nearby, looking at him exhausted and wide-eyed. The two shared a momentary look filled with terror and shock, then they both looked back.

The giant bear lay at the top of the waterfall, its head lolling to one side, an arrow protruding from its mouth.

And the waterfall beneath the dead beast ran a bright crimson, thick with its blood….

***


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PostPosted: Mon May 04, 2015 10:50 pm 
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Chronicler

Joined: Mon Nov 10, 2014 11:47 am
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Location: Brisbane, Australia.
Mushin no-shin; mind no-mind. It appears our Naggarathi friends have studied their Takuan Soho.

Great chapter, can't wait for more.

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Smiths in Nagarythe that can repair the holiest piece of armour worn by the Shadow Prince himself... 0 apparently.


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PostPosted: Mon May 04, 2015 10:59 pm 
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Chronicler

Joined: Sun Nov 06, 2011 11:37 pm
Posts: 346
"What if they do see us? .... then run.. and scream, Loudly! Hahah, great story so far! 8)

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PostPosted: Tue May 05, 2015 1:27 am 
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Ultimate End Times Chronicler

Joined: Wed May 25, 2011 9:10 pm
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Makiwara wrote:
It appears our Naggarathi friends have studied their Takuan Soho.


Nah....

I heard he was a friend of Nagarythe! Completely ripped off the Host's training practices and philosophies! Then tried to pass them off as his own. Tanith was pissed.... :wink:


Headshot

P.S. Btw, it is 'Nagarathi'. Only the soft southern elves spell it that gobbledy way! [-X

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PostPosted: Tue May 05, 2015 4:30 am 
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Joined: Mon Nov 10, 2014 11:47 am
Posts: 219
Location: Brisbane, Australia.
Well to be fair it's the only time I've made the mistake...

But also... wouldn't the elves of Athel Loren technically be north of and therefore northerners to even the Nagarathi? :-6

Damn southerners.

Also now I have to go and cross out Takuan's name on my copy of the Unfettered Mind; I'll put Tanith's in it's stead hey?

:lol:

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Headshot wrote:
Makiwara wrote:
Smiths in Nagarythe that can repair the holiest piece of armour worn by the Shadow Prince himself... 0 apparently.


Duct tape counts!!


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