Category Archives: NanoWriMo

Near Miss

I knocked on the rich cherry wood door. Shuffling and heavy footsteps neared the door and it swung open. An older Caligas man filled the doorway. Thick and sturdy he leaned forward.

“What can I do ya for?”

I was taken aback a moment. I can only remember seeing Caligas here but I’m sure none were this size. They all seemed to be slender like myself not bulky.

“You’re the wild goose I’ve been chasing. I need a chest unlocked and you come recommended,” I put the small chest under his nose.

His eyes darted down for a moment, then they were glued on it. He grabbed the chest and me with it pulling us into his shop. I let go of it preparing myself but he just turned away inspecting it. Looking around I noticed among other things a nasty looking axe sitting just inside the door jam, windows could be seen between the piles of trinkets, junk and various other utilities.

He cleaned off a wooden table with a swipe of his beefy, “So are you a thief or a pillager?”

“Neither as far as I can tell. Why do you ask?”

“This chest and few others like it belonged to high ranking officials or royalty. So which are you boy?” His eyes lifted from the chest scrutinizing me.

“Neither as far as I know.”

“Now quit playing with me!” Suddenly he was standing with his meaty hands planted on each side. “You can take your chest and leave, or tell me the truth.”

I stepped forward let out in a low growl, “I can’t remember anything short of three days ago. Now can you help me or not?”

He mumbled to himself a moment returning his gaze to the chest.

“How am I to know that you’re not a sympathizer? Do you know what punishment is for aiding such a criminal? Public execution if you’re lucky, prison for those Lord Preavus deems still of value,” he let on to mumbling again. “It’s a signature ether lock, so the only people who can open it are the original owner or those he allows.”

“What is an ether signature?”

He looked up with a little surprise and a little disgust, “Whenever ether is used, it let’s off a signature of the person who used it. It’s too slight for any person to sense it but mechanism’s can be build like this that do just that. The craftsman would incorporate the signature of the owner and any others within it. Chances are too, that a box like this was built with a fail safe in case someone tried to force it open. So, get your hands on some ether and try. That’s all I got for you,” He slid the box towards me.

I grabbed the chest, gave him a nod and turned to the door. Suddenly a crash came at the door startling me back a few steps. We both stood in silence unsure of what to do. Then it came again. Someone was knocking impatiently on the door.

“City Guard, open up!”

The words caught in my chest, had Lord Preavus already decided I wasn’t going to take the job? The handy-man stood from his wooden table and headed for the door.

“Hold on a second! I’ll be right there,” He muttered almost to himself.

I stopped him just before the door, “I’m not here.”

“We’ve sighted a known spy within the city walls and we need to search you shop. Open up!” Another barrage followed his words.

The man’s eyes shot over to me with faint surprise, then his eyes caught the glint of my blade in the dull light. I made sure he saw it in hand. I wasn’t going to go down to something so petty as a house search.

“Put that away,” He hissed.

His words were unexpected. He pulled a long cloth from a counter next to the door. Covering his mouth he opened the door and began to caught viciously in the guard’s faces. I stood on the other side of the door, prepared to gut the man if he sold me out.

“My apologies,” He sputtered before another coughing fit. “I haven’t seen any man, just have this damned fever.” He coughed again for good measure. “You’re welcome to come in I just hope I don’t pass this on. Feeling boils spring up too.”

I could see the guard covering his own mouth as he leaned to pear between the man and the door jam.

“Don’t bother, he wasn’t seen too close by. We’re just searching the outer perimeter. Back to your business,” he hurried through a gloved hand.

I slipped the knife away just as the door closed and crossed my arms.

“Not a spy eh?” The man jabbed turning back into his shop.

“If I was I wouldn’t be any use now, now would I? No use for a spy who’s lost his head. Either way, I have need of one more favor, a cloak perhaps you have spare somewhere?” I gestured to the messy room.

He let out a grunt, “Yeah I’ve got one somewhere. But that’s it, you gotta go.”

He handed me a worn rich brown cloak.

After covering myself I slapped two gold coins on the table, “You’ve done me a favor today.”

His eyes widened a bit and he nodded. I slipped out of the shop casually, the crowds were still present and bustling thankfully. Blending in to the flow of traffic I headed back towards the palace. I had no idea what I was going to do when I got there, but something wouldn’t let me leave my cloak and sigil.

Watchful guards prompted a few detours, but I was finally on track. There were two main bridges leading from each sector to the High Terrace. Both crossed the Falling Delta that the Terrace and the palace sat on. I could see the bridge now, I had chosen the busier of the two bridges to cross unnoticed.

A voice bellowed behind me setting me on edge, “There he is!”

Time slowed. Guards lined each side of the bridge, they were along the path behind me as well. I could fight and hopefully disappear down a side street. I could leap off the bridge into the torrid below and hope to survive the waterfall. Before I made a decision the din returned with a rush at the point of a knife in my back and a steady word in my ear.

“Do not move.”

My mind raced. There weren’t any guards this close to me, nor could they have reached me in a split second. No, it was someone else. My decision was made for me.

I spun around in a flash, reaching for his armed hand and drawing my own blade. He recoiled as I slashed out across his chest. Blades whistled through the air, inches away from nicking and artery or slashing valuable tendons. One false move and one of us would be dead. He ducked, I lunged. We met at every split second just short of dealing a lethal blow. But, I was faster. I feinted back drawing him out and leapt forward, my hood drawing back from the swift movement.
The man hesitated for a moment, only able to utter a single word before we both realized my blade was in his side.

“Elias?”

The crowds fled and the guards swarmed in. I pulled my knife out and prepared to kill as many men as I could. To my surprise they passed right by me and disarmed my dazed foe. Beating him into submission they drug away a limp unconscious body.

An arm slapped onto my shoulder, instinctively my blade found its way towards his armpit.

“Slow down, I wanted to thank you,” The man said with a stunned look on his face, certainly considering how fast he could’ve died.

“What do you mean?” I asked lowering my blade, but keeping it in hand.

“That man you just bested is the spy we’ve been searching for. A Render working within a network here in Prakash. Trying to undermine the Lord’s good works,” He started to walk away. “I’ll make sure you don’t go unnoticed.”

Frustration twisted up inside me. I wiped the blade off on my tunic. Unnoticed is what I wanted to go, there’s no way to infiltrate the system I just openly undermined. Taking out a key player catches people’s attention and there were a lot of people watching.

There was a silver lining I decided as I made my way to my room in the palace; Lord Preavus wasn’t searching to kill me. Just yet that is. I figure I might as well wait around til morning to see if there’s anything left to salvage. A well paying job is hard to come by, working under a lord in process is near unbelievable.

I sat on my bed turning over the dull silver sigil in my hand. It was light, yet resisted any whittling I tried with my knife. The four arms interlocked, surrounding the name I had adopted. The name I was called today by a stranger. Elias. How did he know my name? More importantly who was he?

It was decided. First thing I had to do was get to the prison and speak with him. He knew more than I did, which wasn’t saying much. But, if he knows something about my past we needed to talk.

I pulled my leather armor off, setting it on the chair across from the bed. My tunic stunk from a days worth of running around. It landed on the ground in the corner along with my trousers. Boots next to the bed, and knife under the down pillow. My fingers traced over the raised scar on my shoulder. It had been too long since I’ve been in combat. Second thing to do tomorrow: find someone worth sparring with.

 


Arrangements

Lead to safety, food, furnishings, wounds tended to, and now I’m alone with the Lord of the land. I haven’t done too bad for myself in the few days I’ve been conscious. Granted it’s either a foolishly grave mistake, or he is far too confident. Time will tell.

“You have a useful set of skills, Elias,” His words were cool and smooth.

Conversations have been started in stranger ways.

“Serge has informed me about the circumstance surrounding your encounter,” my stiff body was a reminder of that night, “We tended to your wound when you arrived.”

Lord Preavus gestured to a seat and took one himself on a velvet tufted couch. I wandered around the room examining the simple furnishings, not yet interested in settling in.

“Don’t be concerned with any recompense. I find myself inclined to lending aid when I can.”

“And I am fed and tended to, but what is it you’ve brought me here for?”

“A man of action, I can appreciate that. You want all the pieces on the table, much like myself. You’re here because I may have use of you.”

It can’t seem to do me any harm to make friends with a Lord, at this point.

“What is this need you have?”

His smug posture gave way, he leaned forward with a raised eyebrow and grimace.

“Rest assured, you’re needs would be met generously,” I turned around with a fabricated gleam in my eye. “I require a fresh face.”

“Ah, a spy.”

“You are intuitive, indeed. Now, Serge tells me that you are suffering from some kind of amnesia?”

“For better or worse,” I planted myself in the opposite couch

“Well that is fortunate, it would make you more valuable. You see, if you decide to take my offer you will be required to lie, and given liberty to do whatever is necessary to accomplish my goal.”

“What is your goal m’Lord?”

He reclined once more, “I need you to infiltrate a sect within our city walls. They’re sympathizers of the late Caligas kingdom and wish to see my efforts  of restoration uprooted. It will be dangerous, but something tells me you are no stranger to violence. You will be required to listen to their lies, adopt their qualities, and draw out any and all valuable information.”

“Tell me more about how I will be rewarded.”

“We will secure a safe house within the city rather than house you here, to keep up appearances. You will be paid generously, and if you perform well there is potential for security of employment in the future.”

I took in a deep breath and blew it out with a whistle, “Well, let me sleep on it.” Let’s see what my options are.

“Very well. You may retire here for the night. There will be a parcel left outside your room in the morning,” Lord Preavus stood as I followed suit. “But,” he turned as he opened the door, “If you decline I would recommend you not be here in the morning.”

That’s what I wanted to hear. If he intended to kill me, he would never make a sound about it. This way I have options at least. I stepped between the two sentinels outside the room to where Lord Preavus stood waiting.

The smugness returned, “You are free to roam the city, take in what our beautiful capitol has to offer.”

“Lord Preavus,” a messenger approached with a bow, “I wish to remind you of your meeting with the council.”

“Yes thank you, tell them I will not make them wait any longer.”

The messenger anxiously matched Lord Preavus’ slower pace as they walked away with the two guards.

A strange sensation crept over me, that of not having anywhere to be. I wandered through the halls of the palace making use of the time by memorizing different routes and stretching. My chest was still tight and tender, even the hands of a healer can’t put the limber back in muscles and tendons.

Satisfied with my wandering I set out to unlock the chest. I got the chest from my room and crossed the Terrace entering the vivid marketplace. The bright buildings and brightly dressed people surrounded me. It was more color than I cared for, uncomfortable knowing I was trying to blend in with a rainbow. I noticed eyes watched between the white draping of Prakashi uniforms, guards were posted past just about every corner I rounded. I made no effort to avoid their gaze, there was no doubt they had been informed about me and I stuck out like a sore thumb.

After questioning several vendors, one guard and a man selling some exotic birds I found a furniture salesman who led me to a handy-man.


An Evening Of Choices

“You are naive,” he hissed.

The sounds echoed off the sweating walls of the alley.

“What can we do? What is your plan?” Zoar fumed.

Gilbred’s pacing revealed enough.

“All you knew was from orders given. Why don’t you forge your own path? We’re in danger, and I’ll take all the help I can get.”

Gilbred rounded on her with a pointed finger, “You don’t know if you’re any safer with them. I know what they offer.” His eyes drifted away for a moment.

“They offer us food, shelter, possibly even hope. You gave up nothing coming out here; I gave up everything.” Zoar turned to the stairs. She watched the mouth of the dark alley where Gilbred lingered.

The door creaked upstairs and Greggor appeared next to her. Zoar continued to watch him. His head whipped up seeing Greggor standing with her. She could see the decision in his narrowed eyes. He took two long strides and was out of sight. Zoar took a deep breath fighting the heaviness and went back upstairs. Greggor joined her a few minutes later.

The festivities returned after a short time. Zoar’s own feelings were dull. She was still excited by what she could learn from these people; but she was still distracted by her loyalty to Gilbred.

***

“So please tell us everything,” one large man blurted. His excitement spread throughout the room as everyone quieted to listen.

Slight discomfort edged in on Zoar as she collected her thoughts.

“I do not know where to start,” she said taking a sip of her wine. Zoar explained the first encounters she had with the Man. She was forced to retell the story with painstaking detail. If she did not the group would groan with dissatisfaction and request more. They whooped praises when she described how the Man had appeared to her. And when she had been protected against the High Priestess.

“Now let me ask you this,” Zoar interjected just as her story ended. “Who is this Man of Light?”

The room went quiet, several looked to Greggor who had been quiet the whole time.

A smile spread on his face, “Why do you look to me? You know as well as I do, tell the girl she deserves answers.”

“He is,” a little girl sitting between her father’s legs looked around for the words, “our hope.” Her father patted her on the head with a smile.

“Your hope?” Zoar asked, the word was foreign to her.
Another person piped up, “Do you not know of hope?”
A brief wave of embarrassment swept over her. She shook her head.
Greggor spoke out, “Hope is looking forward to what we can’t see, but we know.”
“I don’t understand,” Zoar said.
He mulled it over a little more this time. “It’s like tomorrow, we hope for it. We know that if the Light wills it we will see another day. So we live our life in hope of tomorrow.”
Some around the room nodded, other just smiled at her.
“How do you mean the Man of Light is our hope?”
“He comes and goes when his wisdom sees fit, and yet we trust in him even when we cannot see or feel him. He gave us all a promise, and that is our hope. That he will make good on his promise.”
“What if he doesn’t?”
“Let me ask you a question, why did you follow him?”
Zoar had avoided asking herself that question. She went back to the times he came to her, to her decisions, and what drove her to them. “Freedom.”
“Exactly!” Greggor burst with excitement. “You see, it is that you hope for freedom and you felt he offered it. Am I incorrect in this assumption?”
It was true Zoar realized, “No, that is correct.” A sudden wave of emotions hit her. A promise had been made, of a way out of the bondage of the tribe. And it had been made good. She felt like she was floating, she couldn’t pin down any more words. Why would anyone make a pact with her? Where emotions of awe had filled her vulnerability began to creep in. He had no right to obligate her this way.
“Forgive me if I cannot grab a hold of your hope like you have. The Man has been gone since I left my tribe, that’s the only reason I came with you Greggor. I wanted to find him and get answers” Zoar stood up and grabbed her spear. “Your hospitality,” she said to Greggor, “has been unwarranted.”
Everyone sat in silence as she left the small upper room.
***
Zoar navigated the grimy walls and shady nooks of the city back to the small tavern room. Gilbred’s possessions were gone. She sat down on a rickety stool in the corner and starred off with a blank expression. What now? A plan had to be organized. She tracked her steps to where she was now, refocusing.
Several hours later Zoar’s head bobbed as she fought the heaviness in her eyes. A loud crack startled her into a crouched position spear ready. Someone had slammed into the door sending a nail from the dilapidated door jam ringing across the floor. Loud swearing came from the other side of the door as a thud sounded and the door knob turned. It giggled but the door wouldn’t open. With another loud snap half the door jam bust off as the bartender came crashing through the doorway.
“Damned door jam,” he muttered now inspecting the damages.
He was startled when he noticed Zoar in the room.
“What are you doing here Rajani,” he spat out. “Your owner left, he didn’t pay for another night so you best find some other hole to stay tonight.”
“Did he say where he was going?”
The bartender laughed, “I don’t know what business you had here, but he was obviously finished.” His eyes went wide for a moment, hands wringing out a towel, “And I was serious about you leaving.”
Zoar stepped around him never taking her eyes off of him. She nearly tripped over the large bucket of water in the hallway. She wasted no time leaving the muttering man to his business.
It was cold tonight. The Miasma drew closer, bolstered by a fog that had rolled in. The Miasma hung just outside of reach, a thick fog that was unaffected by wind or passerby. Yet it shifted on its own accord, leaning against anything within its grasp. There wasn’t a time Zoar remembered being able to see more than a handful of strides in front of her.
On the street again, only worse off than before. Alone and confused she wandered. Drawing her firs close to fend off the cold’s bite Zoar leaned against an alley wall. It was packed with garbage and debris as was most of the city. But, tonight trash would have to do. Before settling into something like rest she fortified herself within the heavily laden alley. It helped keep her warm and facing the side street, but it smelled like the inside of a stomach.
***
Something demanded urgency on the edge of consciousness. It was surely a dream. It hissed again. This time it wouldn’t be lulled back.
Familiar accents ripped Zoar from her half sleep. The voices were right on her, there was another though. The darkness slowly revealed the presence of those speaking. Three men stood at the mouth of the alley, another two facing her but looking at the last figure standing. All Rajini except the one being interrogated. It was the Rajini Blood Scouts. The person they questioned violently stood only a few feet from her.
“Where is she?”
“I told you I must’ve been mistaken, I thought you meant someone else,” the man frantically reasoned.
“You have lead us astray before, I will give you one more chance where is the High Priestess?”
“I, I don’t, ack!” The leader stepped forward and kicked the man’s knee, then punched his spear into his chest sending him backwards against where Zoar was hidden.
The other Rajini stepped forward and they both pierced the man’s chest with their long spear heads. The man whimpered and coughed. A scream left his throat as the two warriors drained the life from his body up the shaft of their spears and into themselves.
Satisfied they turned and whispered orders to the other three and were gone. Heart pounding, Zoar pushed the body off of her niche and took a closer look. The man’s face was sunken and withered but it was clear who it was. An especially quiet man from the evening dinner. Surely a friend of Greggor, probably the one who had lead the Blood Scouts away the first time.
A lurch doubled Zoar over as she wretched on the cobbled ground. Blood was on her hands, blood she didn’t ask for but blood none the less. Should she go back with them, resuming her role as their leader, or were they here to exact justice for the death of the last High Priestess? In a town this size, especially with so little defense or surveillance they would continue to kill until they found her or a new trail. A thought made her freeze, Gilbred or Greggor dead in the alley. Fear and remorse filled her.
She would have to warn them.

Day 9: Greggor the Watcher

“Why are you taking us here, again?” Gilbred asked, he had made it clear he was thoroughly displeased with where his life was heading.

“Acting ignorant doesn’t suite you Gilbred,” he had already asked that question, but was unhappy with his answer.

“And what is your name anyways?” Gilbred asked, trying at every turn find some ought against him.

“Greggor, the Watcher.”

Zoar walked next to Gilbred, and behind Greggor who lead the way. They had left the inn they were staying at under Greggor’s council. He was made aware, by whatever connections he had, that the city was harboring spies that had just arrived behind the two of them. A Clelite and a Piramin. They asked around about any recent visitors with their description, thankfully those they asked were in league with Greggor and lead them off the trail.

Passing through the hewn stone buildings the changes came quickly; beggars and the afflicted seemed to populate the streets, most of which acknowledging Greggor’s presence.

“Why do you associate with such a lot?” Gilbred grunted under his breath.

“You tell me, is there no room in your father’s house for these?” Gilbred looked like a bull flaring its nostrils.

He must not be used to being scrutinized, least of all by an equal.

They hurried through the maze of sweating buildings and grimy cobble streets. They approached what appeared to be a dead end alley, two sunken men squatting near the end of the debris. A twinkle lit their eyes when they saw Greggor round the corner and in the time it took to reach them, they had scooted and wheeled the towering debris in such a way that a door was visible behind all of it.

Zoar couldn’t help holding her spear close, but Gilrbed’s knuckles were white as bone wrapped around the handle of his sword in its hilt. Between frustration, nerves and something that must be personal conviction perspiration was trailing down his dark brow and the short brown hair around his face was dampened. The bristles on his face seemed to stand on end, he brushed them and scratched them; uncomfortable by the sensation of not having a clean shaven face.

They let the three of them pass and murmured a greeting to Greggor.

“Grace be with you brothers,” Greggor greeted enthusiastically as they entered the dimly lit stairway.

Zoar snapped around as she heard the clatter of the door being sealed up by the two men. The cramped staircase opened to a small upper room that appeared to not have any other entrances. It was packed with a variety of people. All classes and tribes sat together, some in more vibrant generous clothes, others who clung to their faded and worn clothing. They all suffered from the small space and heat they were generating, sweat dripping from everyone there.

Greggor gave another warm greeting, “Grace be with you brothers and sisters!”

They returned in kind, tired faces yet they carried something else inside, was it love or light or something altogether? Zoar and Gilbred stood at the top of the stairs, as there were no there places to stand other than the center of the room where Greggor stood.

“Do you recall the visions our lord gave myself? It brings me great joy to share with you in this, after weeks of waiting at the tavern they have arrived!” The crowd struggled to stifle its excitement, after an immediate outburst shushing spread throughout.

“What are your names?” One cried out.

“And your tribes?” Another let loose.

They were both taken aback, unsure of these people and the unexpected events. A mild insecurity manifested, Zoar hadn’t been able to bath since before the Reckoning was complete, and they had both been traveling without proper supplies.

Gilbred answered, “I am Gilbred once a Judge of the Remnant, and she is Zoar next in line as High Priestess of the Rajini.”

A hush came over the room, then an outburst greater than the first. It was startling, clapping and rejoicing overcame them. Greggor too was clapping with glistening eyes; then hushed the room again.

“And who are you?” a rush of boldness filled Zoar.

This time the group waited for Greggor to answer.

He turned around to introduce the group, “We are the humble Renders, those who’s hearts were pierced by the Risen King.”

“Who is the Risen King?” just as she finished the question Gilbred turned and strode down the stairs.

The room was quiet, “Where are you going?” she asked.

No answer or hesitation came, so she followed behind him trying to stop him. The door was unblocked and he stepped through just ahead of her.

“Wait,” she hissed, stopping him just outside of arms reach. “What are you doing?”

“Leaving, you should to… rather, do what you want it makes no difference to me.”

“Why? What happened all of the sudden for you to bolt?”

Gilbred wheeled around on her, “You do not know anything, those in there are are heretics, in league with the Creature!” he pointed forcefully behind her towards the upper room.

“In what way?” doubt pervaded her confidence, who to trust?

“The Risen King! He was a false prophet who reigned during the Common era. He was believed to be Sendiil Himself living along side us as a man! Heresy! But,” he sneered, “Sendiil is infinite, He cannot die, and the Risen King is yet to rise. So where is their evidence? there is none!”

“But what about the man of light? The one who told me to free you before I fled?” desperation was starting to trickle in, there was no denying a connection had formed between the two despite its volatility.

“I don’t know! I can’t explain it… I don’t know what to tell you.”

“Where would you go? What would you do if you just left?” Zoar asked.

The truth was, neither had any other ideas. The plan had been to simply move forward thus far. Gilbred had no home, and neither did Zoar. Orphans.

Actual: 1008

Goal: 1667


To Those Who Wait

Hello friends, and readers, and reader friends! I wanted to give an update due to the inactivity here, so here I am. My NaNoWriMo has tapered off considerably. Between busy schedule and sheer laziness I’m behind several days. But, my intentions are to continue at the pace of 1667 words at least to not let the discipline die off.

My philosophy is: I’m further now than I would’ve been had I not started it.

So I’m back in the race, just not probably at the break neck speeds as earlier; defeat is the best feeling to give you writer’s block.

Thanks again for reading folks, I greatly appreciate any feedback you can provided; granted as long as it’s constructive.


Day 8: Cold Soup

The next morning came far to quickly for either. The first restful night of sleep had taken Zoar, wether she wanted it or not. The discomfort and insecurity of the drastic change her life had taken were still lingering. Doubt and fear made sure to not stay gone for too long.

Gilbred was awake when she woke, the frustration from last night’s events hadn’t fully left his countenance.

“I’m going to run some errands today, but I need you to stay here,” GIlbred walked to the door.

“How long are you going to be gone?” Zoar was bothered that she had to stay put like a puppy.

“I don’t know, I will try and check in before noon. I’ve never been to this Cleland city, so it may take me a little longer than it normally would.”Very well, if I do not see you come nightfall I will flee the city; assuming something has happened to you,” she scratched at her back, the meager room had given her mean itch.

Zoar was left alone, in her windowless prison only to wait for a strange man she had met days earlier to hopefully return with unspecific supplies. She flopped back angry with her situation, only to smack her head on the eroding wooden floor.

***

There was a sudden thrashing; Zoar ripped the pelts off and grabbed her spear startled and confused she faced the door. Gilbred burst through the door and spun around to secure it closed.

“What is it?!” Zoar asked frantically, preparing to face whatever it was in combat.

“They’ve found us, they’ve found you!” his voice was angry and biting.

There wasn’t anything in the room sturdy to block the door, and regret crept in with the realization that their room had no windows. Gilbred fought to keep the door shut from the immense force on the other side. A rushing wind filled the room and the door burst into splinters consuming Gilbred. Through the dust shadows poured in and the High Priestess leapt through the darkness. Zoar’s body responded in kind, leaping through the air spear ready to run her through.

Sweat poured off Zoar’s shaking body. A moment passed before it was clear that it was a dream that had startled her awake. A swift breeze blew in the stuffy room as Gilbred stepped through the door. Zoar went for her spear instinctively and leapt to her feet startling him.

“It’s just me,” he said closing the door behind himself.

He carried a pack stuffed full of supplies, and tossed it on the floor between them. His attention was turned to the candle that threatened to go out at any moment. While he replaced it, Zoar looked the bag over.

“What hour is it?” she asked, sitting down on a small stool.

“Nearly dark, I was worried you would have anticipated my going missing and left. It seems you slept all day instead,” he leaned down to the bag and pulled its leather flap open. “I got you a change of clothes, some supplies for our travels, and this,” he gestured to the mace at his hip. “I must say I do prefer a good broadsword, but I was running low on money and the smith wouldn’t budge on his price.”

“What’s our plan now?” hopefully he had time to think of something, she was a complete foreigner here without any idea of what to do next.

He paused, “I have no idea. I haven’t had any time to consider that,I was a Judge not a tactician.”

“What does that mean?”

“I’ve been appointed by Sendiil to be His right hand of judgement, when a community under the Remnant’s authority needed assistance whether moral or judicial a Judge would be sent.”

“Why are you no longer a Judge?”

She hit a nerve, “I have to assume that I wronged Sendiil, and it was my punishment. A sin unatoned,” a moment of shame covered his face just before he redirected the conversation.

“I don’t think it’s safe here for us, you specifically. Though you seem to be different, which is yet undecided in itself, you’re people are still the animals they’re known for. It’s only a matter of time before someone comes for you-“

“Do not see me as a human just as yourself?” her transparency stumped him for a moment.

“Well-“

“What does your god think of me?” she pushed forward.

“You are fallen, there’s been no atonement for your wickedness,” he concluded.

“So why is it you continue to watch after me? Do you think you will atone somehow through penance?”

Her raw emotions were starting to get some air. Without a moment to think, only time to act there has been no chance to be honest with herself.

“I can’t explain it… I simply know what has been revealed to me,” she waited for him to elaborate, her dark eyes boring into him; for once she had the advantage.

“The Psalmanir says, ‘I am Light, even shadows are illuminated to me’. You are not the only person who has had some kind of encounter with this man of light. I do not believe in chance, and I have never before heard of this apparition. Though, I am wary, the Creature tends to parade as light; he is the Deceiver.”

“So you think there’s some connection between me and the other person who saw the man? You think this Sendiil has appeared to us?”

“I do not know that, nor would I make any claim that He would be so greatly humbled to walk amongst His creations. Why He would choose to appear to you would only deepen His mystery to me. But, I am hungry and I would assume you are as well having not eaten anything all day. Let’s go and get something to eat.

The festivities from last night had not been matched tonight. There were only a handful sitting in the great room and none carried any kind of mirth on their faces. The bartender was as professional as he could muster taking their orders. Zoar and Gilbred turned to find a seat when they were surprised by the first booth from the bar. The man charming man with the hat sat by himself with a book and a grin, fingering the two stones from earlier.

Zoar tensed knowing there was no avoiding a confrontation from Gilbred.

As he stepped towards the booth the man spoke, “Have a seat friend, I’ve been waiting for you.”

Gilbred stopped in his tracks, “Have you been following us?”

“No, I knew you would be here. I tend to be early with these things, but that’s better than late; that would be rude,” he looked at Zoar and winked. “Sit sit, you’re making me antsy.”

They both sat, Gilbred more apprehensive than herself.

“Why is it you desecrate Sendiil’s tools?” he asked in disgust gesturing to the two stones on the table, “Using them for bar games and gambling!?

“I don’t feel I was given a full opportunity to explain my original statement,” he digressed. “I’ve seen you before.”

“What do you mean? And what does that have to do with what you said?” Gilbred was annoyed.

“Why do you think Truth and Revelation are concealed for only the Priests?” Zoar was having a difficult time making the connections the man was making.

“Who are you to question the authority of the Remnant?!” Gilbred was getting flustered.

“You see, the one you serve is very different from the one I serve. Though the Psalmanir describes the leaders as being ‘anointed’ for their position, that’s not to say that He cannot bestow His generosity on anyone He chooses.”

“Your words are rich coming from a gambling man, I suppose you are a holy man as well,” Gilbred quipped.

“Ah and we have come full circle haven’t we, you are so easy to anticipate. You are casting judgement yet you are no longer one. Do you not see the irony here?” Gilbred started to interrupt but was cut off, “I’ve seen you before I saw you. I knew you would be here, unfortunately it took two nights of waiting to actually watch you come through the doors, like I said early.”

“Are you saying Sendiil gave you a vision?” his tone was on the edge of insulted by the thought.

“That’s precisely what I’m saying, I’m glad you’ve joined the conversation. I know the gambler, the wicked man of the world or whatever it is you think of me; I’m glad He sees things a little different. Do you wish to have me prove it?”

“And do what,” Gilbred asked with a mocking tone, “cast the stones?”

“What else would we do?”

Gilbred was forced into another challenge. Zoar watched as a man who was never to be challenged, now being tested and questioned. Imagine how the High Priestess would’ve reacted had she ever been questioned; the thought was pushed from her mind quickly.

“Very well, Sendiil will honor my heart. I seek the truth, regardless of what you seek,” Gilbred stood and pulled another long table against their booth table.

“Would you like to do the honors?” the man asked with a smile.

Gilbred snatched the stones with his gloved hand, took a moment of silence with his eyes closed then cast the stones down the length of the table. They skittered and slid nearing the edge. They both slowed just as they rested on the corner of the table top, Zoar and Gilbred both holding their breath in suspense.

The black stone leaned and slipped off the table with a clatter.

“Do not move,” Gilbred ordered.

He carefully leaned under the table without bumping it to see where the black stone had landed. He came up with a sober expression. Zoar did the same, peeking beneath to see that the stone had landed in such a way that it had double backed towards the three.

“What does it mean?” Zoar whispered.

“It means I have spoken the truth young one.”

The bartender arrived with their meals, “The foods cold,” he said sliding the bowls over to them and sloshing some of their contents on the table.

Actual:1703

Goal:1667


Day 7: Stones

The trek had lasted a day longer than either had expected. They stopped every few hours when they encountered tracks left by their pursuers. It was estimated there were at least twenty warriors, the largest Zoar had seen travel together. If they had slaughtered an entire village, they had taken a blood oath to finish their mission; she feared that would be her demise.

When they reached the city it dwarfed the little village they had come from. Easily the largest thing Zoar had seen except for the mountains. There had been a few occasions where the tribe had navigated within sight of a city, but they tended to stay clear of others except when they had a need.

The city’s buildings were several stories tall and formed with wood and bland gray stone. Windows were shut up and few stood in doorways or wandered the streets. The city was unwelcoming.

“We need to get you a change of clothes first, you stand out like a poisonous snake here,” Zoar acknowledged his double meaning.

“How do we do that? Don’t your people barter and trade, we have nothing of use,” she put an edge on her tone.

“I do, you’re people stripped me of everything but my clothes and money,” slight amazement at the tribes priorities.

“All is not lost.”

They travelled through the damp streets, eyes from every alley and door frame watching the unusual pair with a hunger. Zoar kept her spear in hand and ready, were any unusual person to decide to become mortally wounded today.

An old woman careened from an alleyway in front of them, Gilbred could barely place his hand on her shoulder causing her to whip around with a scowl.

“Old woman-”

“What is it,” she blurted out clearly impatient.

Gilbred was taken aback for a moment, then returned with a softer approach, “We are in need of a warm bed and some food.”

“Ah,” she said eyeing Zoar. “Running off with one of them are yeh?”

Their expressions were identical disgust.

“I am a Judge of the Remnant,” his softness was gone.

“You don’t look like any Judge I’ve seen. Whatever you think you are it makes no difference to me, there be a tavern not too far from here.”

The old woman gave them directions with a scowl and hurried away. The inn was exactly where she had guided them; a murky building but glowing with light and mirth inside, something they had yet to encounter since their arrival.

The two entered unnoticed. The tavern was deceivingly large once inside, it opened up further back than could be seen from outside. It was filled with men and a few women all circled around tables or in booths. The boisterous company, which were the primary bunch, hid those more aloof in their booths tucked away with ale or woman, uninterested in any gambling or storytelling.
Zoar looked around unsure, it was not completely unlike the festivities within her tribe, though those always seemed malicious in nature. If you get enough people together they stop differing so much from one another.

There was a large group of men huddled around table playing some sort of dice game, and a group of misfits at a table mumbling bar songs. Zoar was on guard as they pressed to the back of the tavern towards the bartender. Almost overnight, she was one of countless now she’s the minority.

Gilbred squeeze between two large men to speak with the bartender. Zoar listened hard to catch what was being said.

“I need a place to sleep, possibly a few nights,” Gilbred said.

The bartender gave them a shameless speculative look, “What business do yeh have bringing one of them here?” He motioned.towards her with a thrusting finger.

“Our business is our own, we’re not here for trouble, we just want to put some coin in your pocket and stay out of the way,” he leaned in and whispered something she couldn’t hear.

“She looks to be the one armed,” he smirked.

There was a silent battle going on. Eye’s locked each waiting for a tell from the other. A moment later money won.

“Well, I happen to have an extra room. Not one I fill often, its mostly home to undesirables who need a bed,” a grin that made Zoar’s stomach turn spread on his face.

“How much?” Gilbred asked.

“A silver.”

Gilbred resisted the outburst, “That’s not an option, especially not for the runt of the rooms. I’ve got twelve copper burning a hole in my purse, and that’s it,” he reached into the black folds of his shirt and slid his hand across the bar, leaving the copper in front of the bartender.

With a grunt the man took the coins and threw a thumb behind himself, “It’s down the hall on the end. Enjoy.”

They left the bartender without another word heading down the narrow hall. The door swung open popping and clicking and stopping with a start. It opened into a dilapidated room, there were no windows, a sunken creaking floor with missing boards, and a large sack bursting with soiled straw. This room hadn’t seen a cleaner since it was furnished, maybe before.

“I claim the floor,” Zoar said quickly.

“Sendiil protect me from any infirmity or disease,” Gilbred said under his breath.

Zoar removed her large pack, separating her tent from the rest.

“I have pelts if unless you want to wake up with a rash in the morning sleeping on that,” she didn’t need to motion to the makeshift bed.

“That would be fine.”

They set up beds that seemed infinitely more appealing than the disfigured lump in the corner.

Gilbred turned to Zoar, “I’m going to get some food, are you staying here or coming with?”

“I have no money to barter for food,” Zoar said refolding her pack.

He stood there a moment, then said, “Until I can sort out all of this, you’re my responsibility.”

She didn’t want to be someone’s responsibility, she had taken care of herself since her first sign of becoming a woman; as had all of her tribe when they came of age. But, eating was more appealing than fighting for pride’s sake, tonight.

The main hall had died down only slightly. It was less populated, but the group that was the noisiest still remained, throwing things on the table with a clatter then bursting out with noise at the results. Gilbred ordered their meals from the bartender, and they sat in a booth waiting for it to arrive.

Uninterested in conversation, they both watched the game. Zoar noticed every few minutes Gilbred would lean trying to get a better view of the table with little luck. The bartender arrived and deposited two bowls of brown soup and a chunk of bread and returned to his post to grimace generally. Gilbred’s attention was forced to the painful ache in his stomach and began shoveling spoonfuls of food into his mouth. Zoar followed in suite, and had she not been hungry she would’ve acknowledged more so the unusual feeling of eating a meal. The last of their travels had been through muddy country with little to feed off of, and the city was lifeless; all but the unpleasant inhabitants.

Zoar’s stomach stretched and burned. She had never been so ravenous, and eaten so carelessly. Her shrunken stomach rarely saw food, and she had to resist the urge to vomit. There was no way the first sustenance was going to be wasted.

Another cheer burst out. The ringleader corraled them like cattle, captivating and herding them as they played whatever it was they played. He had a wide brimmed hat in one gloved hand and pointed with his other. He wore charisma like his long coat, a charming grin peered from under his lightly bearded face. Though he was probably the same age as Gilbred, probably ten years older than herself, she could see how they could be appealing. There was something to be noticed though, he wore a blade on his belt. A shining silver hilt could be seen when he leaned forward in the slit of his coat.

Gilbred had finished his meal and was watching the man again. Every time he reached for and picked up the skittering pieces his eyes narrowed. Then after another toss, the man retrieved them and held them open handed in victory.

Two stones sat there, a opalescent one and one darker than night; it appeared to capture the light within itself like a void. He cast them across the table again and Gilbred stood from his chair and strode to the table. His hand slapped down on the table around the two stones. The room went silent.

“Where did you get these?” Gilbred demanded.

“Friend, we’re simply having a little bit of sport here. If you would like to join simply say so,” the man smiled and extended his hand for the stones.

“Do you have any understanding of what these are?”

“Sure, cheap entertainment for the guests here. How about this, you can toss the next round.”

Now what? Zoar watched in shock, waiting for Gilbred to make his next move. Surrounded and between drunk men and their fun, for no other reason than to ruin it, it seemed. The group started to grow restless and for a second it seemed Gilbred could be in serious danger.

The gambler stepped over to Gilbred and leaned in to whisper below the growing chatter of the disgruntled company.

“You ought to sit back down, before you do something I can’t fix,” his warning was clear and without misinterpreting.

Gilbred’s hand loosened, clearly realizing the situation he had put himself in. The man retrieved his stones and faced the group.

“This gentleman is unaware of the ways of our humble city, a traveler passing through. Let’s not fault him for his honest ignorance, shall we?” the company’s fervor subsided and redirected to the game at hand.

The man gave him a wink and was back entertaining. Gilbred was clearly flustered. Pent anger showed through his occupied expression as he snatched the remains of bred from next to his bowl and left down the hall. Zoar didn’t linger long, feeling entirely out of place and followed to their room.

Gilbred sat with a single candle lit lighting a scroll in front of his eyes. Tired and uneasy in her stomach, Zoar decided sleep was a more viable option than exploring what just happened. Though, there was fear that he may bring about more danger before their time together was finished.

And hour later sleep started creeping in, and the candle was blown out.

Actual: 1783

Goal: 1667