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Unread 17th of August, 2009, 12:13
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Stringbean2142
Ghoul [GM]

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·····Subchapter 11c- The Long, Lonely Road

A fish breaks the surface of the pond, taking a bite at one of the numerous flying insects skimming the water's surface in the deepening shadows of dusk. Ripples radiate out from the point its head breaches, reflecting back when they reach the small pine cone bobbing on the surface of the water. Tied around the cone is a thin piece of string. One end of the string leads down into the murky brown of the ponds depths, while the other trails back to the shore, where it is firmly tied to the end of a willow branch.

Keiron Druche sighs in frustration. He has been fishing for the better part of an hour, but while fish are breaking all over the pond, none seem interested in the grub attached to his hook. Wedging the pole into a stony crevice on the water's edge, he pulls his hands back under his heavy fur cloak. The full wrath of winter may not be here yet, but there is a definite chill in the air. Shivering slightly, he leans back and returns to watching the pine cone. A fish chooses that moment to bite the pine cone itself.

“Now you're just messing with me, aren't you?” He sighs again and stands up. If the fish aren't going to bite, at least he can get his trail journal and write down today's entry. Today I once again wandered the road aimlessly. No sign of Myra and the others, nor of the bastard who destroyed my family in a single day. Another wasted day in an increasingly wasted life. He shakes his head at the melancholy mood that has descended on him, but between the cold and eating trail jerky for the past three days he isn't in a happy frame of mind. He had hoped some fresh fish might raise his spirits, but...

Letting his worries run through his head, he walks slowly back towards the clearing over the hill where he has built a fire pit and left his things. But as he draws near the top of the small knoll, he hears voices on the other side. He freezes and listens for a moment.

“Well, who d'you think these are?” The voice is low, a rumble of thunder in the early evening calm.

Another voice answers, too soft to be heard. Was that a woman?

“Doesn't matter; they ain't here and we are. Let's see what they have.” That will be the leader. There is a simple authority in his rough voice, like that of a local gang leader or an abusive husband. The voice says, 'Obey or else,' and holds the promise that the 'or else' won't be pleasant.

It was stupid to leave his possessions unattended, but Keiron had just been glad to get off the road for a time. Now he is being robbed, and his weapons are all on the wrong side of the knoll. Still, he is alone and the would-be thieves are unaware of his presence. “Dofheicthe,” he says, his hand twisting in the air in front of him. A new type of chill runs down him, one that courses through his veins like flows of ice, and he disappears from view. Walking softly, he crests the hill and creeps towards the small camp he has set and the three men currently rummaging through his stuff.

“Did you hear something?” This is the soft voice he hadn't heard properly before. It belongs to a pale man with bulging eyes in a too-thin face.

“Nah,” the small mountain of flesh next to him rumbles. “You're just paranoid.”

“Shut up and search that pack.” The leader is the tallest of the three, and the only one openly carrying a weapon. The sword on his hip is short and looks like it is a bit rusted, but it would still be enough to lay Keiron low if he wasn't careful.

Keiron circles the camp, trying to move at a decent pace without making much noise. Luckily, the sound of Tubby rummaging through Keiron's pack is enough to mask the sounds of his passing.

“Bloody 'ell, look at the size of this pack! Is this a child's camp, you think?”

The leader shakes his head at his fat friend. “This far away from a town? Not alone, it ain't. And there's no other packs. No, this is something else.”

“Maybe a goblin?” Googly-Eyes asks, glancing around as though afraid to see one nearby.

The leader takes two steps and smacks him atop his head. “If it was a goblin, we'd have smelled it. Damn things don't shower their whole lives, unless they get caught in the rain. Besides, you ever actually seen a goblin? They ain't what you'd call common.”

Keiron finally reaches what he was headed for: his crossbow, leaning just where he had left it. He crouches down so that his cloak covers it and picks it up. It vanishes as soon as his hands wrap around the stock. A bolt is already in the groove, but it needs cocked. He grabs a second bolt as well and backs away from the fire pit. He doubts he will get a third shot if he needs it. Slipping around behind the leader, he cocks the string as quietly as he can.

Not quietly enough. “Shhh!” The leader glances around, trying to find the source of the sound. He looks right through Keiron, his eyes seeking something they couldn't hope to see.

Keiron takes aim and lets his finger slowly take up the pressure of the trigger. Remember, he hears his father saying in the past, squeeze the trigger, don't pull it.

The leader stops his visual search of the nearby area, shrugging. “Guess it was nothin'...” Six inches of steel and wood slam through his head, finishing his sentence with a brutal finality.

There is a moment of shocked silence from the other two. Keiron, not wanting to waste such an opportunity, quickly reloads and lines up his sights on Tubby. Soon, both men are staring at the now-visible halfling who had managed to kill their friend so easily.

Tubby is the first to speak, anger turning his face red. “You... you son of a...”

“Shut. Up.” Keiron's public voice, the one he is using now, is much deeper than his real voice. He has found that speaking deeper commands respect in a way that a normal halfling voice just can't. It works now, as Tubby breaks off whatever insult he'd been ready to hurl at Keiron's mother.

“How did you... where did you come from?” Googly-Eyes asks, his voice little more than a squeak.

Keiron shifts his aim briefly to the thin man and says, “It's a halfling thing. Now you shut up as well, son.” He shifts his aim back at Tubby, whom he deems to be the bigger threat of the two. “Drop anything of mine you might be holding or have pocketed, or join your friend.” His pack falls to the ground, as does some trail jerky Tubby had pocketed.

Glaring at the men for a moment, Keiron decides that was probably all they had of his. Jerking his crossbow towards the road, he says, “Get away from me. And don't come back.”

Googly-Eyes starts for the road, but Tubby stops him with his hand and asks, “What of Jon?”

Jon? They were following the lead of a man named... Jon? Keiron glances down at Jon's body. There is no pack on him, but he has that sword on his belt and what looks like a pouch tied to the other side. Crouching carefully and keeping his crossbow trained on Tubby with his right hand, he awkwardly undoes Jon's belt with the left. That done, he steps back from the body. “Take him. Belt stays with me as idiot tax.”

Tubby looks like he is about to argue, but another glance at the crossbow shuts him up. He picks up Jon's body with ease (The man's a bloody orc!) and follows Googly-Eyes out of the clearing towards the road.

Keiron stays still, listening to the sounds of their passage fade into the distance. Once they are gone, he lets out a huge breathe of relief. Now that the danger was passed, he can let his nerves show. It is with shaking hands that he gathers his supplies together again. The camp tidy once more, he pulls Jon's belt to him.

The sword is as rusty as it had seemed at first glance, but the edge is still somewhat sharp. Keiron is glad he'd avoided a fair fight this time. Tossing the sword aside, he opens the small pouch. Inside is a silver and four coppers, as well as a scrap of paper. He pockets the coin and unfolds the paper. It is a note.

Jon,

Be careful on the road, love. I know you think you and Pol can look after yourselves, but it's a dangerous world we live in. I'll be waiting anxiously until you can come back safe. Keep this note as a reminder of who's waiting for you at home.

~ Miriam

Keiron folds the note back up and, deep in thought, goes to retrieve his fishing pole. At the pond, he finds a fish had finally taken the bait and, while he was distracted by the three men, drug the pole into the pond as well. Another fish hook lost, it seems. Returning to the camp, he settles in with cold trail jerky and begins writing in the trail journal by the light of a small fire. Miriam's note had made excellent kindling.