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Unread 30th of September, 2009, 02:46
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Black Plauge
PhD in Physics [Epic GM]

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"I had to suggest map drawing..." Blarth mutters as he guides Nicos and Lynn towards the copse of trees Cadrius had described. It had rather quickly become clear that Cadrius was not only more familiar with maps than Blarth, but he also was used to the way humans used them, a skill the Blarth had never quite mastered. He relied on maps to provide the landmarks and way-points that any good set of directions needed. Cadrius, however, thought in terms of distances and directions when using a map. Sure, those distances and directions had to be based on some landmarks, but often enough the distances and directions were such that you couldn't actually see one landmark from another or even the destination. Humans seemed to think that if you knew where things were in relation to each other, then you could get from one place to another. They seemed to forget that there could be vast spaces in between, spaces which you had to travel through and the knowledge of which could be crucial to actually reaching your destination.

Still, the land around Tradeholm, as with most human cities, was mostly farmland with just a few large stands of trees and the river had made for a fairly prominent, and extended, landmark. As a result, Blarth was able to figure out how to get to Cadrius's stand of trees, even if the route taken wasn't the best. One farmer in particular had seemed very upset when Blarth had moved to cut across his field.

Once at the copse, things start to develop much more smoothly. Finding an area big enough to meet Isac's specifications but which doesn't have any trees or stumps larger than the inch or two diameter that could easily be cleared away takes some time, but the copse is not a popular spot and Blarth, Nicos, and Lynn able to search relatively undisturbed. In the end, it is Nicos who finds the area, a fact which he promptly uses as an excuse to take charge and supervise the work. Another human convention that Blarth has never understood; it seems to him that supervising is simply an excuse for some one to avoid the hardest work.

* * *

“You know them.”

Sarra struggles along next to him, her short legs doubling in pace to keep step with his strides. Her rough-spun dress is dirty from the days of hard travel. He makes a note to check how much coin they have left and whether he could afford the girl a new dress or two. Not here, of course, it was risk enough for them to return to Tradeholm after the confrontation with the mob earlier. Cadrius hopes what little fortune has smiled on him lo these many cursed years will at least turn his way for a little while.

That the girl is speaking at all is a miracle. She had been catatonic those first few days after the plague had overrun her village and Cadrius feared he would have to carry her as an invalid. By the fourth day she was able to feed herself, but spent her hours dully staring ahead be it at the fire or a tree or nothing at all. Once he had finally grown confident that they were not diseased and had decided to press on to civilization she had been able to follow simple instructions. Yet she would not speak, would not look him in the eye. He couldn’t blame her for it. Perhaps he had brought that terrible pox down upon her kith and kindred.

His mouth twists. He cares not if Sarra loves him for the duty he has undertaken. It is for her good. She now bears the weight of all the departed on her. If she dies then all trace and memory will have fled like shadows before the dawn.

“I do.”

“What’s wrong with her?”

“I do not know,” he says.

“Is she sick?”

“I do not think so,” he lies. Cadrius understands the girl’s fears all too well. “She would need a healer if she were sick.”

“He’s a priest.”

Cadrius says nothing. One does not require a Morning Lord without dire cause. He knows not what this will require.

They do not enter by the main gate to the southeastern side of the town. Their coming and going will have drawn too much attention as is. Instead, they circle around to the north side of the town and pass through the farmer’s gate. The guards there are curious but a pair of silver stags pressed into their palms reminds them that they have other duties to tend to.He keeps their pace brisk without being too swift as they skirt along the wall that runs down toward the western gate. The inn is a bit of a ramshackle business with gaps in the roofing and sagging boards along the front, but its keeper is discrete and does not give Cadrius any trouble when he announces he is there to collect on behalf of Isac Moore.

An hour later they are on their way south from Tradeholm again, the fallen knight and the orphan daughter. The reins are slack in his hands as the mule diligently pulling the wagon along. In another life, he may have been a farmer going to market with his daughter. He sneaks a glance at Sarra sitting on his right, staring at the river as the mule plods along the rough trail. She would have made a fine daughter, one sure to have done Eadgar and Heleyne proud. But there is a shadow that lurks just behind her eyes. Cadrius worries it will harry her the rest of her days. He is determined to not let it be so. He can save her from a life of ghosts.

Can’t he?

Lost in their thoughts, the two arrive back at the copse of trees in silence.

* * *

Lynn trudged through the undergrowth of the forest, stumbling every few seconds as a malcontent plants snared her feet with their limbs. After Nicos had found the site for the ritual, Blarth, Nicos and herself had set to preparing it with a level of toil that the young woman’s past experiences had not prepared her for.

Her hands, more used to caressing instruments than swinging pickaxe and hoe, were covered in blisters, muscles radiated hot pain for the first time in her life, sweat stung at her eyes as it dripped from her forehead and soft shoes rubbed uncomfortably against her feet – it was only an act of stubborn willfulness to saved her from falling into a limp.

As the work had progressed and her energy flagged, Lynn had found herself growing ever more irritated and angry at Nicos when he would make a ‘suggestion’ from his self appointed role as supervisor. It had not escaped her notice that he had managed to avoid the more strenuous activities Blarth and herself attempted. As the time for Cadrius and Sarra to meet them approached, Lynn escaped with the excuse of guiding the pair to the ritual site, leading to her walking tired and alone through the woods.

The sound of a cleared throat snapped the young woman from her internal contemplations of suffering, and she uttered a soft curse. She had almost walked past Cadrius and Sarra, despite the wagon upon which that sat. Gazing upon the powerfully countenanced man with sorrowful eyes, Lynn tugged at her gray blouse with discomfort and rubbed dirt stained hands against her skirt. She resisted the inexplicable urge to run fingers through her hair, as from nowhere the thought of how she must appear, sweat and dirt stained, ran across her mind.

“We’ll never get the wagon there,” she sighed. “We’ll have to carry the supplies.”

The influence of approaching exhaustion made the trip seem to take hours, but in the end they all survived the return journey. A filthy Blarth and far from clean Nicos were awaiting them, resting in the shade of an overhanging tree. Another surge of tired irritation rose within Lynn before she pushed it back down.

Nicos’ eyes flicked over, meeting her own for a few moments before shifting over to Cadrius.

“We’re ready,” he said, pulling himself to his feet with a practiced languid grace. “We just need to fire the site and wait for the others.”

Collaborative effort by Black Plauge, Cadrius, and itches.
Physics is like sex. Sometimes it yields practical results, but that's not why we do it.
-Richard Feynman