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  #26  
Unread 7th of August, 2002, 01:29
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Maeko nods, thoughtful.
" It is the same in monastery, sometimes." she struggles with the language for a moment, she wants to make her meaning clear.

" At times one can grow to 'love' rules too much, to think that THAT is all wich is needed, forgetting the most important things, forgetting that everybody, no matter how low, has the seed of an Enlightened One in him or her, and that sometimes doing... making mistakes, it is the only way to grow.

We have a saying: 'Before Enlightement cut wood and carry water, after Enlightement cut wood and carry water'.

...But not everybody remembers it".
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Unread 7th of August, 2002, 01:46
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Cadrius nods and clenches his jaw, feeling the anger surge back into his soul. This paladin had caught him off-guard, but no longer. Cadrius was guilty of many things, but he would atone for them in his own way and in his own time. His gaze, once again fierce and proud, shifts over his three companions. If this paladin would seek to take Cadrius, he might be surprised at the resistance.

Yet if he did seek to bring him before the council, could he really decline? Could he fight and kill this one only to have more sent out not only looking for him but his friends as well? No, he couldn't. If this one chose to bring him in, Cadrius would have no choice if for no reason than to protect the others.

He straightens his posture and removes his hand from the hilt of his sword. Things might change once they reached town, but for now Cadrius is still in control. Striding over to the figure he stands before him and meets his gaze. The blood has stopped seeping from between the metal plates of his armor, but he still looks very much the grizzled warrior. As he speaks, strength fills his voice and he meets the newcomer not as something inferior, but as an equal.

"Very well, you may travel with us. We do not have much in the way of supplies so our meals may be light over the next day. However, neither I nor my companions will sleep soundly until you tell us your name and more of your purpose. An explanation as to why you were out in these woods alone would be a good place to start."
  #28  
Unread 7th of August, 2002, 01:54
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((After the Edit))

Smiling as the others move off, Itches gives Cadirus another pat on the shoulder, once again missing his wince of pain. Watching As Maeko and Shade work with the bodies, Itches carefully works his way around them until he is next to Paladin and Cadirus, avoiding the bodies every step of the way.

. Opening his mouth to speak Cadirus beats him to it. Listening to what Cadirus has to say, Itches interjects at the end of it.

"That not exactly fair. I mean I havent told everyone here my name. Still perhaps if one of us breaks the ice we might get somewhere quicker. Turning to Paladin, Itches extends his hand "Greetings, I am Called Itches, it's not my real name, just the name that I am using out here. You see Im travailing in secret, and out seeking adventure, so that I will gain enough glory to go home and ask for my Beloved Lily's hand in marriage."

Itches finishes speaking and looks at Paladin, and you are?
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  #29  
Unread 7th of August, 2002, 03:00
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Her dark eyes smile at Maeko's story. Shade herself was in no danger of following the rules too strictly, and gods knew she'd made plenty of her own mistakes. Of course, chopping wood and carrying water didn't sound like much fun either, but maybe she'd get into less trouble with those pastimes.

Her spirits rise as she hears Cadrius' voice crack like a whip, requesting more information from the mysterious Paladin. If he had seemed more alive this morning leading the group, he seemed positively charged at the moment. She glances up and behind the veil she smiles more warmly at his bearing and stance; this was the man she knew was hiding beneath his past.

She looks back to the dead and her eyes cloud over. Should this Paladin uncover her own past she could be in for trouble. It seemed unlikely that even Maeko would understand her actions; Itches would certainly be appauled. She wondered how Cadrius' new attitude would effect his opinion of her; after all, he was well aware of at least one of her crimes. It might be best if he didn't associate with the likes of her. Staring mechanically at the reposing corpses she speaks without thinking.

"Why do you bother? With the dead, that is. They would doubtless have desecrated our bodies if things had gone the other way, and as it is others will doubtless disturb these."
  #30  
Unread 7th of August, 2002, 04:23
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It is Maeko's turn to stop and gather her thoughts:Why indeed? Nobody will gather their bones when the animals have purified them...

Then she speaks, finding her thoughts clearer as she goes on:

" I contributed to cut short their lives, they had no chance to repent. Did they have choices till now? Could they have become something better, even great if they had time?

I do not know, but now they will have to go through another life with the burden of having died trying to commit evil, and I will carry the burden of having contributed to their deaths.

At least I will help them by reciting the Mantras for their souls, and show them the respect due, in death if not in life.

It may shock you, but this is how we treat our dead too: they are exposed, to give back what they have taken in life; then their bones are gathered and entombed".

Maeko stops, she had said much, but her feeling is that it was either too much or too little, even though she wishes deeply that Shade could understand
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Unread 7th of August, 2002, 05:28
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Did anything shock her anymore? It didn't seem like it. Her mind wrestles with that explanation. Praying for the dead still seemed a waste of time but she wondered if it eased the burden of having killed them.

And how great my own burden, with the deaths that lie on my hands; creatures evil and otherwise?

She looked into Maeko's eyes and saw the almost pleading look there, begging her to understand. Did the monk forgive the creatures, is that what this was about? Shade had never been the most responsible of people, but she wouldn't trade her guilt that way. She had killed; she would live it and she wouldn't let somebody tell her it was alright.

Some of us are entombed even in life.

She looks down and when she looks back there is a profound sadness in her eyes. It is more and more clear that she does not belong with these people. Her debt was great, and she had little enough to give back.

"Will your mantras cleanse their souls of the evil they have done?"
  #32  
Unread 7th of August, 2002, 06:03
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" I hope they will help them somehow, even though are our choices who decide our fate, and each as to live with theirs".


Will she understand? Or will she mistake it for an easy way out? Will she comprehend that, when I pray for them I fight my instincts who scream they deserved death for what they where, even though they didn't ask to be born that way? That I will live again their deaths every day?
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  #33  
Unread 7th of August, 2002, 15:28
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Originally posted by Cadrius
Striding over to the figure he stands before him and meets his gaze. The blood has stopped seeping from between the metal plates of his armor, but he still looks very much the grizzled warrior. As he speaks, strength fills his voice and he meets the newcomer not as something inferior, but as an equal.

"Very well, you may travel with us. We do not have much in the way of supplies so our meals may be light over the next day. However, neither I nor my companions will sleep soundly until you tell us your name and more of your purpose. An explanation as to why you were out in these woods alone would be a good place to start."
The paladin nods. "Fair enough. I'd spent most of my years at the church in Enstad, focusing on my lessons. The usual: swordplay, tactics, riding, and all the teachings of the Battlemaster. Yes, it sounds dry and boring; it was. I started to have my own doubts, but they weren't strong enough to trouble me.

"That's when Hell broke loose." The emphasis on Hell is unmistakable.

"It turned out that one of the senior priests wasn't true to his faith. He certainly seemed valiant enough, so it wasn't noticed until too late. By the time it was discovered that he had turned his faith to Erythnul, he'd managed to convert several others, and was likely to turn the others -- or drive them away.

"I was the one who discovered his secret, without meaning to. I'd caught him performing his devotions in his room. When I confronted him, he threatened to turn me in as a faithless heretic -- and with the power he possessed among the clergy, he was fully capable of doing so.

"I left the church that evening. Heironeous has turned his back on the remaining faithful there, but I believe that he will help me return the church to its rightful patron. Courage and skill-at-arms notwithstanding, it's a task that I cannot perform alone. So I left to seek help.

"That was nine days ago, and the priest had been sending people after me until I fled into the forest. As if that weren't bad enough, I found a pair of gnolls rooting through my supplies this morning. The only reason I didn't catch both of them was because I was... occupied at the time."

He looks everyone else in the group, pointedly making eye-contact. "Thanks to those beasts, all I have left is my blade and my faith, and a mission that may kill me. If you'll trust me no further than you would a common mercenary, so be it. If you would rather I go on my way after all, then I will."

He pauses for a beat. "And, until the church is restored to its proper state of worship, I have no name."
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  #34  
Unread 8th of August, 2002, 02:28
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Cadrius strokes his chin as the paladin speaks and ignores the rough stubble with might have otherwise irritated him. All in all he was a wretched sight with the blood splattered across his skin and armor. Still, the tale given to him keeps him enthralled.

So He turned his back on yet more people, what a surprise. And by the sound of it, they hadn't even done anything deserving of such desertion. But why? Why was this paladin among them now? Did Heironeous have some sort of sick sense of humor. Does he enjoy torturing Cadrius, forcing him to do good deeds and meet righteous followers? The man thinks it is entirely possible.

"You have no food, or equipment fit for survival, to let you go on your way would be inexcusable. Our offer still stands. You may accompany us to town," he says speaking crisply. Perhaps this one did not know of Cadrius or his crimes. It mattered little, he would take some of the strain off the former paladin should more battle ensue.

But what did he mean when he said he was 'occupied?'

He gives the man another appraising look before at last extending his hand. He might not like who the paladin followed or how he acted, but if they were to travel together there had to at least be courtesy.

Glancing over at Shade and Maeko he attempts to puzzle out their conversation. The bald woman was arranging the dead in their neat positions again. Odd. He smiles grimly, had the gnolls won this one Cadrius doubts they would have granted the same favor.
  #35  
Unread 8th of August, 2002, 16:45
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Cadrius strokes his chin as the paladin speaks and ignores the rough stubble with might have otherwise irritated him. All in all he was a wretched sight with the blood splattered across his skin and armor. Still, the tale given to him keeps him enthralled.

As the paladin relates his tale, his eyes scan the others. He notices the rapt fascination of the nobleman -- apparently, anything that doesn't pertain to court functions, bureaucracy, and rumor fascinate him. The woman called Shade watches him with attentive detachment; it seems that she takes things as she sees them, rather than as they're presented. Fair enough. The others completely ignore him, except for one -- the warrior who called himself Cadrius.

Despite himself, the paladin notices a certain bearing to Cadrius's demand, the way he stands with his hand near his blade, and the subconscious nods and raised eyebrow at certain points of the story.

He once followed the ways of the Valorous, he realizes. But the way he carries himself, and the way he's presenting himself to me, that's changed; somehow, somewhere, his courage broke. What happened? And does he blame me, even if only by proxy?

When he finished his tale, no one seemed taken aback, or offended, or otherwise adverse to his presence. Of course, he may just simply be completely misreading everyone -- the Battlemaster knows, he's never been the best at figuring people out.

"You have no food, or equipment fit for survival, to let you go on your way would be inexcusable. Our offer still stands. You may accompany us to town," he says speaking crisply. He gives the man another appraising look before at last extending his hand.

The paladin steps forward, clasping Cadrius's hand in a warrior's grip, just past the wrist. "Thank you. I do not anticipate more danger on the road ahead, but I swear to remain vigilant. Before we go, I would like a moment, to ask that Heironeous grant us the courage to face whatever awaits us on our journey."

And now, the test. "Will you join me, please? Your presence would honor me, and grant strength to my prayer."
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  #36  
Unread 8th of August, 2002, 22:09
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She nods slowly to Maeko, as if she expected no other answer. Still there is confusion in her eyes before she presses them tightly shut, dropping her head. One hand rests lightly on the blood spattered arm of the fallen gnoll.

We must live with the choices we make. What of the choices that are made for us?

It didn't matter. Things were far past any difference a few prayers would make. When her eyes open they are once again the hard, stony things that Maeko is used to seeing.

They waver once, when Paladin asks Cadrius to join him in prayer, but quickly steady and turn flinty. Without looking, her hand reaches back to pluck up the bag of coin as she rises with her customary grace. Without looking at anyone she heads for the woods. Her voice drifts back as the forest swallows her up.

"I'll catch up with you further down the trail; maybe I can determine if this was all of them."
  #37  
Unread 8th of August, 2002, 22:44
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The nun stands, fighting a sense of inadequacy; face it, Maeko, you have never been good with words.

She turns towards the paladin and Cadrius, just in time to hear the end of their conversation, she vaguely recognize 'Heironeus' as the name of a god of this land.

On hearing the paladin's request Shade falters slightly, then she is quickly off, saying something about rejoining the group later.

Kannon's grace! What is happening here? She might need time alone or might in fact go scouting, but it was almost like she did not want to be here, now; did not want to witness... what?

Her gaze returns to the other three: Itches is following the conversation, entranched, and, for once, silent; the paladin is calmly waiting for an answer, and Cadrius...
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Unread 9th of August, 2002, 00:15
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Cadrius nods as the warrior clasps his wrist and he begins to turn away just as he makes his offer. He blinks in surprise, his mind going into total shock. Was this some sort of joke? A cruel kick from the righteous? Or did he fancy himself one who could convert one of the fallen?

The former paladin's memories turn to a happier time, when he was in love with Kalia and a fledgling member of the Order. He was surrounded by love, both mortal and divine. Goosebumps dance across the flesh of his arms as he remembers what it was like to know that he was right, to know that he was a defender of goodness. Knowing that he was bolstered by two things greater than himself, one a god, the other an ideal. It was a powerful combination and it had left him feeling intoxicated. His eyes remain unfocused as he remains within his reverie. He sighs slightly as a man is often wont to do while reliving a fond memory.

No. He shakes his head and comes back to the present, Cadrius would not be praying to that one any time soon. He had turned his back on Cadrius and Cadrius had no choice but to turn his back on him. He had lost both loves and he would never regain them. The path he treads lead down into darkness, not back into the light.

He speaks softly, almost as if to himself while his eyes glaze over again, "No...no I do not believe I shall be joining you. Your god and I...do not agree," coming back to the world again he says more firmly, "I shall be waiting further along the path when you are ready."

Moving up the path slowly, and lost in thought, the former holy warrior walks in the present while his mind treads in the past.

Last edited by Cadrius; 9th of August, 2002 at 00:20.
  #39  
Unread 9th of August, 2002, 00:27
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Maeko hears bitterness in Cadrius' tone, bitterness and resignation.
Almost like a betrayed lover, she thinks,and his going...is so great a grudge he bears to this god?

She almost moves to follow, but something tells her he would not welcome her presence. She goes back to her gear, instead, putting away the few things she had taken out to tend her wound, experimentally she moves her shoulder good, it is not going rigid, then, water gourd in hand, she approaches the paladin.

"You are welcome to drink, if you are thirsty.
I am called Maeko"
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Unread 9th of August, 2002, 02:38
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Once she sinks into the dense greenery surrounding the trail, Shade pauses a moment, her eyes automatically scanning the ground. She can still hear the murmur of voices from the group and she picks out Cadrius among them, though she is already too far away to hear his response. Not wanting to dwell on what might be happening there, she concentrates on putting all thought out of her head. Staring at the ground, she becomes aware of a large number of ants scrambling amongst the brush. Most are of a large, red-brown variety but one is smaller and glossy black. The reddish ones seem to be hunting it and, being larger and faster, soon have it surrounded though they are still far enough away that they can't possibly see it.

Fascinated, she watches as they close in, pausing frequently as though scenting their quarry. The small black one seems inevitably doomed as it climbs a small stem. The reddish ones march in and gather together, heading for the hiding place of the small one. The black ant simply shifts slightly, putting the wide leaf between it and the others. They march by, pausing at the base of the stem but unable to see their quarry. As they continue past, the black ant actually bends the stem around, keeping the leafy barrier between it and the others. Once they are gone, the small ant scurries down to the ground and heads off away from the others.

Shaking her head, she smiles to herself. Sometimes it wasn't so bad being unnoticed. Her face grows serious once more as she studies the tracks - both gnoll and human. Ignoring the gnolls for the moment, she starts tracing the route this Paladin must have taken to get to their camp, her face grim.
  #41  
Unread 9th of August, 2002, 17:16
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Water gourd in hand, she approaches the paladin. "You are welcome to drink, if you are thirsty. I am called Maeko."

"Thank you, Maeko. I am--" he begins, abrubtly catching himself. "I am rather thirsty." He takes the proffered bottle and takes a drink from it, careful to avoid drinking more than is polite. Recorking the gourd, he hands it back to her.

"I wanted to say a prayer before we go. I asked the warrior if he would attend me, but he refused." He shakes his head in disappointment. "Would you join me? You don't have to participate -- your presence alone would grant me strength."

He waits only a moment for an answer, then moves to the side of the trail. Dropping to one knee, he bows his head in supplication. "Heironeous, Battlemaster, Lord of Valor, Keeper of the Sacred Blade, your courage is everlasting. We undertake a journey which has already proven dangerous, but you have lent your hand, and we have emerged victorious. But our travels have not yet come to an end, and we may face more trials along the way; watch over us, so that we may arrive safely and continue to face adversity. Bolster the hearts of those who might falter, so that they may witness the fruits of their labors. Clear the way for those who fall back, that they might find the courage to face what troubles them. My life, my honor, my heart, is yours."

With that, he rises and hurries to rejoin the travelers. And, he prays silently, watch over the one whose courage has failed him.
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  #42  
Unread 9th of August, 2002, 17:34
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She bows : " I am honoured, I will gladly assist, even though I do not share your faith".

She stays behind him and slightly to one side as he prays to his god, giving silent praise to Botahara and all the Arahts for their protection.

Their devotions ended, she follows the paladin down the path Cadrius had taken.
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Unread 9th of August, 2002, 19:48
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While they walk, Maeko speaks out:" May I ask you a question?".

At the paladin's nod she goes on : "Please, forgive me if it is a stupid one, but I am trying to understand...

I have been told that paladins are god-chosen warriors, " she stops, thinking how to best phrase the question as he nods agreement again.

" Then, when the gods of these lands have a disagreement, what happens? Do their champions battle in a ritual duel, like the Northern tribes? Do their churches fight each other? Or do they go to court?"

" To court?" His surprised tone is not lost on Maeko.

" In my country, when our gods have a quarrel they file a complaint to the Ministry of Celestial Affairs. The case is assigned to a magistrate who investigates the matter, then a court session is held and the Judge decides. Of course," she comments" if one of the involved gods is unhappy with the verdict, he can always appeal to the Jade Emperor, but it is not very common."
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  #44  
Unread 9th of August, 2002, 19:55
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Listening intently as the to large humans speak, Itches it fascinated by their conversation. However as the talk turns to pray, Itches attention starts to wander. Meandering his was over to the trap that caught him, still staying well away from the corpses. Looking carefully at the trap made of rope; the half-elf draw his dagger and attack it with Gusto. A short time later he stands triumphant over the remains of the trap, with 4 short lengths of Rope. Stowing them in his pack, Itches looks up in time to see the others start to make their way down the trail. Putting his dagger back in his boot, the noble swiftly catches up the pair and walks slightly behind them, head down observing the road before his feet.

((Ah such a large post by Itches. I blame you <Points Out Of Monitor>))
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  #45  
Unread 10th of August, 2002, 01:06
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Shade moves along, silent as a mouse, and eventually finds the discarded campsite of Paladin. She observes from a hidden vantage for a short while, listening to the forest around her. All seems normal, and she notes the human's tracks as well as the larger gnoll prints. Her brow furrows as she considers her reasons for trekking all this way; later on, she'd need to hurry to catch up to the others.

Deep down, she didn't really doubt that the stranger had been telling the truth. A quick poke around the remains in the clearing reveal little more than the man had told them. Idly, she retraces her route; for the moment grateful to be far from the others. She finds herself thinking of Maeko and the monk's ritual with the dead. Our own choices decide our fate, the little woman had said.

What choices did I make to find the path that I am now on?

Her decision to seek vengeance on the dwarf was certainly the most recent pivotal event in her life. She had gone back to Driftport, nearly two years after she had fled from the 'justice' at the guild. She had, of course, gone to seek out Ricard. She had vague ideas that ranged from stalking to torture; as weeks passed without spotting him these thoughts turned to hopes of merely locating him.

That was when she'd found Lorrus and he'd whisked her off to a small hole-in-the-wall tavern deep in the thieve's quarter. He'd risen some in the guild, although he remained partially retired these days. He had been both friend and mentor, and after meeting Ricard she hadn't seen much of him. Too busy for him, really, and Ricard was willing to let her push her limits; Lorrus had been a strict taskmaster. Still, he'd been there when the guild wanted her executed and it had been his word that had allowed her exile instead.

He had looked happy then, as they'd joked of old times. Eventually, she brought up the reason for her return and he'd only shrugged. Ricard had been gone for months now, with no word to any. That sounded like him, of course, always out to make his own name.

And then later, drunk and showing off, Lorrus had stumbled into that damned dwarf and botched a pick. He got his death for that, with her only a few blocks away. She got there in time for him to die in her arms and he'd said a few words. She barely heard him through the shock and rather than spill tears she vowed she'd spill blood instead. He hadn't been easy to find but she didn't give up easily, and rivers of it had flowed when she finally caught up with him. It didn't bring Lorrus back, though, and it hadn't filled the void that lived inside her all of the time now. His rotting body lay unburied, with no prayers to follow his soul to the afterlife. She squeezes her eyes shut and shakes her head.

Was it wrong?
  #46  
Unread 10th of August, 2002, 02:59
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Cadrius continues to move in a dream-like state. His body moves along the path, his strides lengthening until he is striding up the game trail. Were he less preoccupied he might have noticed that the trail was becoming wider as they drew closer to civilization, or at least more civilization than the forest that presently surrounded them.

His mind however contiunes to dredge up memories of the past. Life as a squire: rising early each morning to bathe and pray to Heironeous for guidence and courage. Learning the basics of combat using wooden swords and shields. The fieldmaster teaching them tactics while commanding troops. Sitting at fake dinner tables practicing proper etiquette when around nobility and other knights.

No memory lasts for more than a few moments as his mind dances along the road of the past. Some are joyous, some are tragic, but all are long gone to the former paladin. They are all from a life he left. Had he a choice? No, not really. He had let his rage take control, and it became his master for a time. He could not have stood before the Order and be stripped of everything. So he chose to flee instead, he had already lost everything that was dearest to him. What was a home anyway? Just a place to rest while you weren't in armor and fighting.

Yet there is a part of him that cries out in frustration at his fall. It was the part that still made demands upon his conscience, the part that still showed compassion for others. He fears that while his god might have turned his back on Cadrius, Cadrius would always retain a bit of him. The thought fills him with both disgust and a more unfamiliar feeling: hope.

He comes to a stop suddenly and looks around. Judging by the heaviness of his breath and the slight burn of the muscles in his legs he had been walking quite quickly and for quite some time. Turning to look down the path he does not see or hear the others.

Perhaps this was his opportunity. They had a more fitting protector now, one who would not, could not, turn on them. One who was still pure. He could simply keep walking and never look back. If he was far enough ahead he could resupply in town and be gone again before they arrived there. He might not have such an opportunity for a long time. They would be safer without him anyway, he didn't want to have to fear that the Order's members would kill or inprison them for merely associating with a criminal like Cadrius.

He glances once more down the path before whispering, "I am sorry, for everything."

The fallen paladin then turns and begins jogging up the path. The only sound that can be heard is his ragged breath and the clank of his armor as the disappears further up the trail and away from his companions.
  #47  
Unread 10th of August, 2002, 16:08
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The paladin shakes his head at Maeko's decriptions. "None of the gods have the patience for such workings, nor would they ever be able to agree on a neutral arbiter. As far as I'm able to tell, they disagree far too often -- if they had to go through all that effort to settle a dispute, the system would break down anyway.

"They tend to avoid battling each other, to my knowledge. Instead, they settle -- or cause, depending on who you favor -- their differences through their followers and faithful. Through divinations, responses to prayer, and omens, they guide the faithful toward acts that please them; sometimes, said actions end up displeasing another, or bringing an opponent down a notch in their pecking order. My guess is that they have a lot of rules for it -- something like a sporting event -- while leaving a lot of leeway for interpretation or new, temporary rules. It would be like watching a bar brawl where no one's allowed to swing anything with less than both hands. Orderly in one respect, chaotic in another."

As he finishes his discussion, he and Maeko catch up with the others. "Where is everyone? It seems that two of your number are missing."
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  #48  
Unread 12th of August, 2002, 14:37
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The paladin looks over the others, expecting a response. Maeko, obviously, won't have much input, unless it's a statement about the others' silence. Itches scrapes one toe in circles in the dirt, his expression saying I don't know as clearly as a spoken word. The others are just as mute.

Finally giving up, the paladin sighs. "All right. If they were attending to tasks that required privacy, one of you would've spoken up. One has to assume that they've wandered off, without giving a clue as to their purpose. Since I promised to attend to everyone's safety, I cannot exclude any of you."

He looks around, trying to find signs of the warrior or the tracker. "For now, I'll have to assume that the woman knows what she's doing -- that, and I have no idea where she went. Rather than risk getting lost, I'll try the simple route first. I would appreciate help in the search, but if you wish to decline, please keep yourselves easy to find."

With that, he stalks down the path, watching for signs of either person's passage.
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  #49  
Unread 13th of August, 2002, 00:19
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Meanwhile...

Cadrius continues jogging down the path, his breath coming harder and harder. He was in no shape for running but through sheer force of will he pushes himself on. He is determined not to have the others find him for it would be difficult to explain his actions. They wouldn't understand. They'd think he ran away for himself, when he did it to save them, or at least that's what he told himself.

He continues his jog, making steady ground toward what he hopes to be civilization. He slows to a walk occasionally to catch his breath, but it isn't long before he forces his legs to start running again.

Time passes, the sun begins to wane and it is at this time that Cadrius comes skidding to a halt. There is a noise, it sounds like a woman's scream echoing from the woods to his left. He peers at the underbrush, his hand on his sword, and sees what appears to be a faint trail covered by the branches of nearby trees.

He pauses a moment, his heart beating at a frantic pace. He hears it again and he is off, barreling his way through the faint path his sword ringing as it is pulled free from its sheath. The branches clutch and cling to his face as he runs down the narrow path.

Coming around a corner he skids to a stop. There is a narrow clearing, and in it are two gnolls standing with weapons ready. A trap. Cadrius glances over his shoulder as he sees two more move in from the bushes behind him. It wasn't even particularly clever but he had fallen for it like the fool that he was.

Scowling as his hand tightens on the hilt of his large sword Cadrius assesses his situation. Four of them, and he was wounded and tired. It wouldn't be easy, but then again, was anything?

He spins about and swings the bastard sword in a viscous arc leaving one of the gnolls behind him missing the lower half of an arm. The beast howls in pain and drops to the ground as the other three close in on him.

It is then that he notices their weapons. Clubs. He had yet to see any of their kind use a blunt weapon. Odd. Had he more time to ponder it he might have also considered why it was they always traveled in fours. Yet he does not have the luxury and the three launch into their own attacks.

He violently deflects one club with his shield, and parries another with his sword, but the third catches him in the ribs underneath his sword arm. Cadrius grunts in pain as he feels one of the ribs crack underneath the force of the blow.

He screams in defiance, he would not die, not like this. Spinning again he thrusts the end of the blade into the stomach of the gnoll that had struck him. It stares down at the gaping wound and Cadrius gives it a twist with a grim sense of satisfaction. Two more blows come from the remaining gnolls and again Cadrius deflects one with his battered shield. The other, however, strikes him on the side of the face. His head snaps to the side with the force of the blow and a small amount of blood flies from his lips.

He shakes his head, attempting to keep his vision from swimming. He squeezes his eyes shut and opens them again as he makes his attack, yet he is slowing now. The gnolls are tiring him out. Still he finds enough strength to create a brutal cut along one gnoll's throat and ending in its shoulder. The beast sinks into the dirt, its lifesblood seeping out its neck and down its chest.

Once more he is able to deflect the ensuing blow with his shield and once more he is able to land one of his own. Coming in low Cadrius uses the momentum and weight of the blade to lop off the gnoll's leg at the knee. It falls to the ground, writhing in pain and clutching at the bloody stump that was once its leg.

Cadrius can do nothing but stand, his posture slumped, his hand still clutching his sword. His breath comes raggedly, and there is a liquid sound to it. Perhaps one of his lungs has been punctured by a shattered rib. Blood trickles slowly from his mouth and from the wounds he had sustained earlier that had been reopened with the fighting.

There is a snap of a twig and he turns around as quickly as his tired body will allow. There is another quad of gnolls standing before him. However this one seems to be different. There is one in the middle who is much larger, and much more well-armored.

It strides forward and raises its fist all the while it's lip is curled in what might be a sneer or possibly disgust. Cadrius makes a feeble attempt at harming the large gnoll but it bats the blade aside easily with a mailed hand.

Cadrius' head rocks backward as the gnoll delivers a solid punch. The fallen paladin collapses to the dirt and sinks downward into darkness, again. He doesn't even have the pleasure of a last thought before he falls unconscious.

Hours later just before the others are about to make camp for the night, Shade and Maeko simultaneously spot something shining and hanging on the branch of a nearby tree. Upon closer inspection it is a silver necklace with a locket affixed to it. As they ponder where it came from Shade notices that there appears to be a small trail hidden behind the branches.

Last edited by Cadrius; 13th of August, 2002 at 00:27.
  #50  
Unread 13th of August, 2002, 01:28
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Following along behind Paladin, Itches at last speaks up

" I thought I heard Shade say that she was going to join us further down the track, I dont know where Cadirus is, he might be scouting the trail."

Falling silent again, Itches continues to walk along, not paying any attention to the area around him.
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