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  #26  
Unread 4th of January, 2006, 00:21
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Morning came sooner then Nicos would have liked, the sun rousing him from sleep into a groggy state of half awake. Barely stopping to mumble a greeting to the others, the bard stumbled down to the river for a morning wash. Several minutes later Nicos returned; cold and wet, but awake.

"You wouldn't believe what I just found," he said shivering as he tried to warm himself with the now roaring fire. "It seems that while we were sleeping some kind soul anonymously left us a boat to use."
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Unread 4th of January, 2006, 10:36
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"Beware the unknown giver," Blarth intones, "That's what my father always used to say. Gifts that come from enemies likely have strings attached, and no friend gives a gift without giving it to you in person."
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Unread 4th of January, 2006, 23:48
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Shade rouses herself at Blarth's words and glances sourly up at the half-orc.

"Yeah, well, this one is from me. I was up half the night finding it."
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  #29  
Unread 5th of January, 2006, 08:39
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Ben raised an eyebrow at Shade's words.

"I'm guessing you didn't just find it floating down the river."

The sarcastic tone in his voice leaves no doubt as to how Ben thinks Shade aquired the boat.
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Unread 5th of January, 2006, 16:17
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“It matters not,” Cadrius says, approaching the craft, “so long as we will not be seeing its owner again soon.” His mouth twitches and he produces a small leather pouch before fishing inside his bag. The distinctive sound of coins clinking together can be heard. A few moments later, he drops several of them inside the pouch and draws its strings. Moving close to the river’s edge, he places it on a flat rock.

The Chard runs swift in the northern highlands. Clear and cold, it rushes south toward Enderin. Up here, the river is but fifty feet across, and alive with mountain trout. The difference between the vegetation here and the scant growth on the sorcerer’s plateau is astounding. There it is brown and mostly dead; here it is verdant.

“I hope this boat will hold all of us.” He looks to Ben. “Best keep your armor off today, unless you fancy drowning that is.”
  #31  
Unread 7th of January, 2006, 00:03
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Shade ignores Ben's remark, instead watching Cadrius as he leaves coins for the owner of the boat. Her mouth turns down, frowning.

"I don't know much about boats, but this - " was one of the larger ones " - should be big enough."

Without much fanfare, she joins the others in loading the boat. When they are just about ready to cast off and Cadrius isn't watching, she snags the pouch of coins he left on the shore.
  #32  
Unread 7th of January, 2006, 01:17
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Satisfied with Shade's explination of where the boat came from, Blarth resigns to help load it and get on board. Boats of any size were a rare thing where he was from and he wans't sure he liked the idea of floating in the middle of the river where he couldn't stand if he fell in, but the others seemed to think that this was better than walking, so he'd go along with it.
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  #33  
Unread 8th of January, 2006, 08:30
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Ben still wanted to know how Shade acquired the boat, but when Cadrius put the bag of coins on the rock he realized that he was in the minority of opinion and should just drop the subject. He nodded at Cadrius suggestion and took off his chain shirt, placing it with his backpack in the boat.

Ben wondered if it would hold them all. Even if it had just been Blarth and anyone else he would have seriously doubted the boat's ability to keep them all afloat. But not only was it Blarth, but Cadrius and himself were also fairly heavy with all the muscles they'd built over the years.

All the more reason to take the armor off, even if it was expensive. If the boat did sink, he would have a better chance without it on. He could always just buy another set, but he wouldn't be doing much of anything if the armor caused him to drown.
  #34  
Unread 11th of January, 2006, 15:06
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His family’s keep was set upon a hill overlooking a lake. Their primary, and only, town was set upon the shores. As a child he had often wanted to take some of the small boats out into the water, where the depths become too dark to see the bottom. There was rarely enough time. Between training with their master-at-arms, and his studies in etiquette, warfare, and religion, Cadrius had little time for aught else. Still, on more than one occasion he and his brother had snuck out of the keep’s walls and taken a rowboat, one such as this, and flailed around the shallow waters of Lake Castamar.

But he’s no sailor. It’s been years since he’s set foot on a boat and his unease shows in the way he eases into the body of the craft. He waits for Ben to pass their arms and armor over and then settles himself in.

“Best we make certain it can hold all of us first,” he says. The wood looks sturdy enough and there are no leaks along the bottom. Yet Cadrius is a cautious man and doesn’t fancy drowning. “Ben, Blarth. Climb in, if you would.” The two ease into the boat with a similar uncertainty as Cadrius. The boat sinks a little lower in the water, but otherwise remains sound. “Well enough. If it will hold us, it should also hold Nicos and Shade.”

The boat drifts back and forth within the length allowed to it by its tether. It bumps gently into a nearby rock. Cadrius looks at it before glancing upstream. He shakes his head and looks to the two already in the boat. “The current looks swift. We shan’t need much power, just steering. I don’t suppose either of you have rowed before?”

“Right. Shade? Nicos? Whenever you are ready.”
  #35  
Unread 11th of January, 2006, 23:28
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Surayon watches the boat and the proceedings with a hard look in her violet eyes. No elvish craft would ever be some cumbersome or clumsy in the water. In any case, her hunt was not downriver.

She remains on the bank after Shade and Nicos have clambered aboard. Descending gracefully, she removes the tether and casts it to the others. The boat rocks gently, beginning to heel with the current.

"Nadath nâ i moe im. Dan, ú-'eveditham."

As the drift away from her and from shore, she speaks once again.

"I have my own work to do. Let the huntress be with you."
  #36  
Unread 12th of January, 2006, 09:08
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Gripping the edge of the boat with a white knuckle grasp Blarth waits anxiously for Shade and Nicos to get into the boat. This whole traveling on the water thing was not something he was looking forward to.
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Unread 12th of January, 2006, 09:36
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"For the record," Ben said as Shade and Nicos got into the increasingly heavy rowboat, "I would have much rather preffered walking."

He deigned not to notice the elf or her words as he kept his eye on the water level relative to the edge of the boat. We're going to sink. I just know it.
  #38  
Unread 20th of January, 2006, 02:15
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"Then walk," Shade says to Ben as she settles into the back of the boat.

Shade locks eyes with the elf, for a moment feeling a certain kinship with the reticent tracker. The current pulls them along and Surayon grows smaller with distance, until they round a bend and she disappears altogether. Her grey eyes stare back for a long while.

"I didn't get much sleep last night."

So saying, she curls up against the side of the boat and closes her eyes. In her mind, she reviews the time she has spent with each of them, wondering if anyone would care when she departed.
  #39  
Unread 20th of January, 2006, 18:47
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"Boating isn't so bad," Nicos said as he shifted around in the cramped vessel. "You get out on to the water and then lay back and relax as the current takes you to your destination. I mean, sure there is some rowing involved and," he added with a grin. "I would be glad to help you guys out but, you know. Missing an arm."
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Unread 21st of January, 2006, 10:32
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Cadrius does not offer a farewell to Surayon. The elf, beholden to none, is free to come and go like the fierce winds that whip across the now-distant plateau. A valuable companion certainly, but the coldness permeating her makes Cadrius think it best that they part ways now. She is both otherworldly and fey, and the fallen paladin would rather not be near when death finally catches her. His eyes shift from the diminishing elf to the rock where he had left the pouch of coins and sees that it is already missing. He says nothing, having already made up his mind.

The boat is responsive enough to Cadrius’s initially clumsy steering; however, within a short while, his time upon Lake Castamar begins to return to him. The water is swift and cold, but Cadrius manages to keep the boat away from the largest of the rocks, brushing but a few. It is a tedious affair, but so long as the rapids do not become too severe, they should make good time.

“You can still serve, Nicos,” he says. Making the decision has put the typically dour Cadrius into good humor. The burden is now off his shoulders. “Should I lose an oar, I shall need a replacement. I do believe you are thin enough to fit through the oarlock.”
  #41  
Unread 21st of January, 2006, 11:35
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Blarth wants chukle at Cadrius' comment, but he's afraid that if he does he'll lose his white knuckle grip on the boat. He can't believe that Cadrius is actually holding on to those sticks that weren't firmly attached, oars he'd called them, and using them to guide the craft.
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  #42  
Unread 21st of January, 2006, 23:07
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"As I was saying," Nicos continued as he was not quite able to contain a grin. "Clearly our best course right now is to walk. Much safer then boating."
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Last edited by itches; 23rd of January, 2006 at 22:44.
  #43  
Unread 27th of January, 2006, 14:30
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The day passes. For some it is swift. Cadrius guides the rowboat as best he can. They flow through clear water, occasionally spotting glimpses of trout and other fish. The fallen paladin rows until his back and arms grow weary before steering into an eddy and calling a brief rest.

Over lunch and between bites of hard bread, Nicos tells the companions another tale. This one is of a cowardly baron and the singer that stole his wife. Cadrius a roll of his eyes and wonders just how much of the bard’s stories are truth and how much are fantasy.

For Blarth and Ben though, the day crawls by. It is an eternity before their first stop to eat. Ben tries to reassure himself with the thought that this means of travel is far more practical. They make far better time moving with the current than they ever could on foot. The warrior finds it to be cold comfort though as the oaken boat rocks back and forth as each new body climbs into it.

With Shade, the day is neither fast nor slow. She has reached a decision as well. All that remains is to idly wonder how each will take her departure. Some will be angry, some will be confused, but she doubts any will truly miss her. No one ever has.

There are still a couple hours of daylight left by the time Cadrius eases the boat into another eddy. He’s quite weary, despite moving with the current, and pushing himself further could only lead to a mistake. His arms have remembered what they knew of boats, but he does not trust them much. Shade is the first one out of the boat, nimbly stepping upon a large rock and tying off the rowboat to a nearby tree. The others clamor out, some of them grateful to be back on solid land. Cadrius comes last, passing their equipment to Ben and Blarth before hauling himself out. He sits upon a flat rock, his shoulders slumped.

“This looks like a fine place to stop,” he says. “Still a few hours left before dark, but I think we have made enough time today.”
  #44  
Unread 28th of January, 2006, 02:11
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Relieved to be back on dry land, it takes Blarth a couple of minutes of flexing his hands before full manual dexterity is restored and he is able to help unload the boat.

"How much further is it to where we're going?" he asks, dreading an answer that would mean many more days of boat travel.
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  #45  
Unread 31st of January, 2006, 04:42
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Shade shrugs.

"Depends on how far you want to go."

Let them decide for themselves. She helps set up camp, her manner detached. It had become routine, everyone falling into familiar tasks without the need for discussion. Shelter, fire, food - the basics of their existence. In this case a stand of dark spruce offer dry ground and protection from the wind, as well as sufficient deadwood to feed their small fire.

Cadrius had chosen well. Somewhere beneath the bitterness, she is pleased that he is becoming more adept at woodcraft. He'd need some if he was going to live the life of an outlaw and fugitive.

After the work is done, she settles in a little outside the circle of her companions - close enough to see and be seen, but far enough away to signal she doesn't want to talk. After a little while, she pulls out her adamantine blade, the one she'd captured from the gnolls, and eyes it for a moment. The dusky metal is streaked with congealed blood, black in the firelight. Without comment, she sets to work cleaning it.
  #46  
Unread 1st of February, 2006, 02:18
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As the companions sat around the campfire, Nicos launched into another of the tales with which had had lightened their journey. Upon some perverse impulse, he drifted away from the normal light-hearted subjects into something darker.

The bard wove the tale of a young man named Minok. Minok was a good hearted man, who possessed a quick temper of a love of the drink. One night whilst our carousing with his friends, his drunken haze caused him to mistake an innocent comment by a companion as a slight. Driven to rage, the young man turned and murdered his companion before any could stop him.

Shortly thereafter a glimmer of sense found it's way into his mind, and with horror he realised that he had murdered a friend over an imagined insult. Filled with shame and guilt, he fled those who sought him and travelled to a far distant land where none knew him.

Minok's older brother Dolson felt disgust when he learnt what had happened, but it could not undo the love that was bound within his heart. With no other surviving family each had bonded closely with the other, with Dolson looking out his Minok as often as possible. Dolson confessed to the crime to give his younger better chance at a new life. He was put to death and Minok remained ignorant of the sacrifice his brother had made.

Once in the distant land, Minok spent every ounce of energy he possessed to the service of making the world a better place, in a desperate attempt to make amends for his crime. Over time he married and had children. He made close friends, all who knew him proclaimed the purity of his sprit, and gradual he grew to despise himself less and less until one morning he woke and allowed himself to forget.

It was when Minok was an old man that his friends and family set off on a journey through the woods which grew near his adopted home. Disaster struck almost immediately. As they made their first night’s camp a long, anguished, pain filled scream was heard. Spring alert, it was quickly noticed that Minok’s daughter was missing. A searched revealed blood, but no body, so clinging to hope the companions launched an immediate search for her in the night shrouded forest.

They sought in vain for many minutes until a second scream was heard. All hurried to the source and found yet again only blood stained ground. Then they noticed that Minok’s son had disappeared as well. The desperate search continued in a frenzy for almost an hour before a third scream echoed through the forest. Brought low by dismay and fear, all crept back to the camp and cuddled close to the fires. Minok’s wife did not return.

When daylight lit the green depths of the forest, courage returned to the companions. Determined to continue the search, they set out in groups to ensure safety against their unknown attacker. But what hunted them knew no fear of numbers, and by the time the sun had set another dozen screams were heard. Another dozen people missing. The fear was almost a palatable thing as Minok and the rest of his friends huddled together that night, starting at every unidentified noise.

But for all their terror the night passed uneventfully, and in the morning the survivors made the hard decision to abandon the search for those missing. They reasoned that it was better to seek help and return with great numbers, then stay and slowly become picked off one by one.

Misfortune or some evil trick stole even this dim hope from their hearts, and once familiar paths became unknown until they were helplessly lost in the forest. Slowly – as if the hunter was relishing the terror it caused – one person after another was taken unseen. Unnoticed except for the tell tale screams and blood which littered the forest ground where they once stood.

By the time the sun fell again Minok was alone and half crazy with fear. It was as he hunched by a dim campfire that he finally gave up all hope, knowing that the unknown hunter would come for him next. As the last dregs of hope drained from his body, a figure stepped into the light. Looking up Minok saw his daughter, but his joy was cut short. Where once the girl had been a beacon of light, laughter and life, she was now a dead thing. Her body rent and tormented, he eyes staring with baleful hate. Then his son entered the light, and his wife, and one by one all the people who had been taken until he was surrounded.

In a single hollow voice each accused him of murder. Each accused him of attempting to escape the penalty of his crime and bringing the eventual doom upon others around him. Even upon his brother long left behind. Finally the shade of the man Minok murdered those long years ago appeared before him.

With a dread voice filled with promised of vengeance, the shade towered over the cowering Minok and pronounced his doom. He would not slay the man, not even lay the slightly physical hurt upon his murderer. Instead his punishment would be life! Life knowing that - because of his long ago murder - every person that he cared about had been brutally killed. Living those few years remaining in solitude and misery.

Then all stepped away from the light and Minok was alone.

Nicos let his tale fall into silence as he stared into their camp fire, staring as if the very flames were imparting secrets to the bard. Finally he spoke aloud, his voice conveying meanings lost upon all who listened.

“Sometimes, no matter how far or fast you run. No matter how you attempt to make amends, your crimes will find you. And sometimes instead of finding you, it finds those around you. Sometimes.”

Nicos’ voice became quieter, barely more then a whisper as if hushed by the aftermath of his tale.

“Sometimes ghosts of the past mistake revenge for justice.”
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Last edited by itches; 1st of February, 2006 at 03:13.
  #47  
Unread 1st of February, 2006, 06:20
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"The dead always seek vengance," Blarth mumbles quietly when Nicos's tale is done, "Those who would wish us well must remember that in death as well as life. Dolson was not a true brother."

Unconciously, Blarth reaches into his backpack containing his brother's armor and removes the helmet and a rag. He then quietly begins polishing it as if his brother would put it on tomorrow.
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  #48  
Unread 4th of February, 2006, 00:37
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Shade shifts uncomfortably as the tale unfolds, her grey eyes darkening all the while. She scrubs at the blood on her sword, already a day old. The strange, dark metal sheds those stains far easier than she ever could. She stands, not looking at them, and swings her blade in a glittering arc.

"Dolson was a fool."

Her eyes find Nicos.

"What is justice but a tool of the rich, an excuse to keep down people who have less? Dolson should have helped his brother flee if he loved him, not sacrificed himself to placate people who couldn't care less about him.

"And Minok was a coward if he couldn't live with his actions. Life is punishment? Aye, for us all. That doesn't make me want to die, or let someone else judge me - I'll let you in on a little secret: everyone is a criminal in someone's eyes."
  #49  
Unread 9th of February, 2006, 16:38
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The story has the same effect that all good stories do; it breaks over him like the sea upon stone and then recedes, leaving him different than he was before. Dolson, Minok, and the rest lurk in vivid life within his mind. They leer and cry and laugh and otherwise live on after Nicos has fallen silent. Cadrius considers the obvious moral of the tale, but moves toward a different thread.

“Both were fools and cowards,” he says, folding his arms across his chest. “But they were also men who had challenges set before them. Their decisions might not be ours, but it is not hard to see why they chose their paths. The love of a sibling, of a younger brother, is…men and women alike are fools when love beckons.”

A piece of wood in the fire pops and hisses as the flames take it. Cadrius feels the brush of the heat’s hands across his face. It stands in contrast to the chill night’s air. It will be some time yet before they reach the lowlands and its more temperate climate. Further on, the river will widen and the waters will warm. They will lose time from the morning fog. But for now it is cold, and this will be another night for thick blankets.

“It is not that life is punishment. No. It is that there is always a price to be paid. Some of us are merely allowed to wait longer to pay it.”

His decision is set more than before—even more than earlier today. In this moment, Cadrius not only knows what he must do, but he believes in it as well. His peace of mind expands, granting him an odd tranquility not felt in years. He smiles, his mirth being a queer juxtaposition to the sober tale.

He has to leave them, and it must be soon, before the sins of the past come forth to take their due.

Last edited by Cadrius; 10th of February, 2006 at 05:20.
  #50  
Unread 13th of February, 2006, 16:13
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Nicos watched as one companion after another reacted to his story, until only Ben remained silent and the man was forced to wonder whether or not he was the wisest of them all. Contemplating the hidden meanings of the tale brought another to the mind of the bard.

“Back at the monastery where I was raised, there was a crazy old man who lived there. He wasn’t a monk, just a poor beggar that non one had the heart to toss out – or so I thought.

“Until one day that is. On the evening just before I was to begin mediating for my manhood initiation, he approached me and spoke – something that had never happened before. He said in a low solemn voice ‘The tree that grows green knows no bird as a brother.’ He told me the same thing when I completed the initiation and for a third time shortly before I departed.

“’The tree that grows green knows no bird as a brother.’ A very strange statement that I spent many, many hours contemplating, trying to riddle out the meaning or reason that he told me.

“It was only after that I had become a teller of stories myself that I finally figured it out. All those tales I told finally gave me the clue I needed to unravel the mystery. And do you know what I worked out?

“He told me it because he was a crazy old man. There was no hidden meaning, just gibberish. I don’t know how much of my life I wasted before I worked that out.”

Nicos stood up at the conclusion of his second take and began to ready his bedding at a warm spot near the fire.

“I’ll take the dawn watch if no one objects.”
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