Author Topic: A Free Man  (Read 3031 times)

Daycryn

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A Free Man
« Topic Start: March 13, 2012, 06:55:47 PM »
Thirteen coins clinked and clanged in Lokenth's leather pouch. Not too bad, all things considered.

He had been on the Isle of Arcachon, going where he had not gone before, exploring countrysides recently conquered by the realm of Arcaea. New lands, he figured - perhaps the walking dead abominations and the snarling beasts there would be easier to kill. As of late they'd been harder than ever. His body still ached from the serious wounds they'd given him, and more than once since then he'd had to run for his life. He wondered if he was getting too old for this business. His skills were sharper than ever, and his equipment the best he'd had - what else could it be, but weariness and age?

But he'd hardly had a chance to test himself against the curse of the lands on that island than the Baron's men had set upon him, and before he could think to defend himself (not that he would have tried to resist) he was bound in fetters and hauled off to a dark, damp dungeon.

He entertained thoughts of trying to escape, or writing to the King whom he'd given that sword to once - bribery was out of the question - but he was freed, as wordlessly as he'd been captured, and let out onto the streets of the capital.

Now night was on him, and he had acquired a bottle of hard liquor to celebrate. He walked the ways of the city, not quite roaring drunk, humming to himself. He'd wanted a better life, wanted a chance to serve as a knight, and perhaps that would happen one day - but for now he was simply a free man, with all he needed in his sack and in his bottle, and he was content. He swaggered and smiled at the women and the men alike, enjoying the pleasures of life as a commoner. Perhaps he needed nothing more.

He headed to the tavern for a refill, and tried not to think of the caves and crypts where his future dwelled.
Lokenth, Warrior of Arcaea, former Adventurer
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Re: A Free Man
« Reply #1: April 14, 2012, 09:08:42 PM »
Steel plates clinked along his arms and legs and body as Lokenth walked the roads of a foreign land.

He took stock of his situation: adequate, definitely adequate. He'd received fifty gold coins from the King of Arcaea himself, for the relatively easy task of delivering a gift to the High Lord of Kindara, many days walk to the south, nearly on the opposite ends of the Far Eastern continent from the frozen northern island where he'd not too long ago been a hapless prisoner.

The task of acquiring the gift - a warhammer of renown - had been a bit more of a challenge. The beasts had nearly overwhelmed him, but, owing to fortune alone, he'd found a narrow passage in a wooded ravine where he'd been able to lure the monsters to him and slay them as they came at him in pairs or singles. His sword had been nearly ruined in the bloody endeavor, coated with ichor and gore and turned all but kitchen-knife dull against the thick hides and heavy bones of the things.

Yet it had profited him, and instead of ale to celebrate, he'd acquired with his money some real gear. Armored greaves, gauntlets, breast plate, helm, pauldrons, heavy boots, a new two-handed sword, and a pole-axe. He'd had a taste of opportunity to try out this equipment in battle, with the undead and monsters alike in Masahakon, and he was astonished at what a difference it had made. Other adventurers on the roads in his life had always warned him about heavy armor, praising the simple leathers and mail of a rugged adventurer. It was true he wasn't able to run as quickly nor as silently now. But what did those bands of near ruffians know? Likely they'd been no more able than he to afford real armor anyway. He found that the undead could not bite their way through steel, nor monsters claw and bash through it to much effect either. His pole-axe could lop the heads off the walking dead abominations and his heavy sword chopped through thick hides of monsters as well.

Clink, clink, clink.

He wasn't as quiet, and while he could save the armor for when battle arrived, he found he rather liked the noise. It served as a warning, and conveyed a strong message to would-be assailants: I don't care if you know I'm coming. You can't hurt me. I can kill you. Plus, walking in armor was a true physical challenge, and he knew he was getting stronger by the day by it. That couldn't hurt, when the time came.

Freeman Lokenth was practically giddy at the thought of returning to his homeland of Arcaea, of revisiting those caves and crypts where he'd been bested and beaten bloody, or forced to flee for his life. He knew, as any level-headed warrior should, that he wasn't invincible by any means. But he was more formidable than at any time prior.

Best of all, coated in such armor as only gold could purchase, he was looking more and more the part of a true knight. It was only a matter of time before he could reclaim his rights to his name, fly the Daycryn banner... and drive out the fools and weaklings who even now stood between him and his inheritance.
Lokenth, Warrior of Arcaea, former Adventurer
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Re: A Free Man
« Reply #2: April 15, 2012, 07:30:05 AM »
Nice! For anyone that's interested, these are true IG events as well. He did give the King of Arcaea a sword as a gift from the previous king, and was later asked by the king to deliver a present to the High Lord of Kindara.

Daycryn

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Re: A Free Man
« Reply #3: May 12, 2012, 06:31:45 PM »
Lokenth stirred. His body hurt from the beating he'd received. The memory of the small army of undead, surrounding him, terrifying him, still terrified him. Waking up like this, he could almost be uncertain that whether what he'd experienced had been a disturbing dream or a disturbing reality... almost.

The sky was still dark and the air was still cold as he armored up and ventured out into the wilderness where it had happened. He had a good feeling about this. He knew where the enemy was. It had been such a short time since he'd fought them that perhaps they wouldn't be expecting it. He made sure to be quiet and cautious as he picked his way through thorny, dead brush. He could only hope that he wasn't being foolish... well, more foolish than usual, anyway.

Then all of a sudden, there they were! They'd moved a bit since the other night. Well, that was what the undead did. They moved about on their own. It was pretty much their defining characteristic, he mused to himself as he hefted his sword and charged to meet the walking abominations.

As before, he found himself quickly surrounded. He hacked the head off one dead man in one mighty blow. Then they were on him, scratching and clawing at his armor, trying to get at his tasty flesh, but he wasn't having it. He moved quicker than they did.

The champion was a gaunt, skeletal figure with glowing red eyes, bearing a rusty sword and a shield that looked to be made of shiny, giant scales. He parried the first blow, then counterattacked, tearing off a chunk of dry dead flesh. His opponent didn't seem to care too much, but stared him down with those evil glowing eyes. He slashed again, his sword rebounding off the leather-like shield. And again, and again.

"Bugger off already!" he growled in frustration. More enemies tried to sweep him off his legs, so he danced around and hacked their legs off, freeing him for a few more seconds. The undead champion moved in for the kill, his skeletal grin seeming to suggest it would be easy. Bugger that! he thought, and danced backward from a brutal downward slash from that rusty sword, and then leapt in to slash again. Again, the shield lifted, lazily, casually, and his sword bounced back ridiculously. He shouted, and the undead minions grabbed and pawed at him. Losing his temper, he bulled against one, knocking it down, and then brutally hacked apart two more.

The champion seemed content to let him be torn apart by the zombies, so he concentrated his efforts on them. They fell before him like so much dead flesh. Hands and arms and legs and heads fell to the ground beneath him, dead black blood spraying with each cut of his blade. Finally he had some space.

"Alright, you," he told the red-eyed thing. No response, of course. The undead were such bores.

The sun peeked through the treeline, its bright morning light piercing through the gray darkness like a burning spear.

He danced to the right as the rusty sword came down, and instead of parrying the blade or attacking the protected undead swordsman itself, he brought his sword down in a furious motion and off came the hand, sword still clutched in its dead claws. He gave a shout of triumph, swinging his blade twice at the champion, both times coming up against that weird shield. Then he quickly left his sword in his left hand and with his right grabbed the shield and, after a brief struggle, wrenched it from the bearer's grip and flung it to the ground.

He liked to imagine that in that faceless red glare he saw some sort of surprise or dismay, but of course you could never be sure. He swung his sword twice and hacked the head off his enemy. The glowing eyes stopped glowing and just became black sockets of the dead. To be sure, he hacked the remaining limbs off and kicked the torso.

He wheeled around, looking for more, but the undead were all now dead.

Then he picked up the shield.

Nobility, he thought slowly. It looks like a shield, but this is nobility I hold in my hand.
Lokenth, Warrior of Arcaea, former Adventurer
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Re: A Free Man
« Reply #4: May 15, 2012, 05:41:57 AM »
Lokenth stood naked and dripping from the tub of now-lukewarm water and the not-unattractive wench scrubbed his body of the remaining filth. He had arrived here coated in dirt and dried sweat, caked in blood and bits of black gore from the undead he'd slaughtered recently, and felt a new man, and relaxed to the point of near stupor.

As he lay down on clean linens hands pulled and tugged at his sore muscles and flesh, and he let out a half-chuckle half-groan as relief set in his body. This truly was the best thing he'd felt in a while. Very much worth ten silver coins pulled from the claws of the dead undead.

He closed his eyes happily and reflected. He was well-off. Well-equipped, too. His rusted sword had long been traded in for a sharp two-handed longsword, his battered shield replaced with mail and gleaming plate armor. His purse was stuffed with coins. He even had books - books on monster hunting and daimon banishing, near as he could tell. Who knew their worth? He carried with him letters of recommendation - from the High Lord of Kindara and from the King of Arcaea - and letters of correspondence from royalty and gracious dukes. He had supped with a great general, now a king, and had had discussions with a great noble, the former King of this realm who had even hinted at being a friend. And he carried with his equipment a dragon-scale shield as good as a knighthood. All he needed to do was wait, meet up with a duke, and then see about getting some weapon repaired. Simple.

Not bad for one who only recently was an outlaw, harassed by guards everywhere and spat on by surly peasants who begrudged him for two silvers in exchange for an uncomfortable night in straw and [email protected]#$ in a stinking barn. Soon, he knew. Soon. Soon he could leave the life of bashing beasts and unmaking the undead in crypts and caves, sleeping in tents on the sides of rural roads and hiding from the authorities.

But might I miss this simple life? he wondered.

"Done already?" he asked after a while. "Indulge me some more, why not?" The wench blinked a few times, a blank look on her face. Happily his purse was full. He reached in and pulled out a gold coin and offered it to her. The coin disappeared and she got to work. He closed his eyes again.

No, he thought. I won't miss it.
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Re: A Free Man
« Reply #5: May 15, 2012, 09:26:18 AM »
A scrubbed-pink and clean-smelling freeman kneels before the Duke's feet, bows his head, and offers up a sturdy shield which appears to be covered in reptilian looking scales.

"To His Grace the Duke of Remton, I bring you greetings and a gift from His Majesty, Velax, King of Arcaea!"

Lokenth kept his eyes lowered respectfully, his heart beating. A letter of recommendation, was all he could think about, words he could not voice, for it would be inappropriate for one so lowly as him to come out and ask. Yet it was all he could think of. That, and the number of swords the Duke had with him, and that his neck was exposed so conveniently...

Quote from: Tenal
Tenal accepted the polished shield from the freeman, nodding in satisfaction at the balance and heft before he passed it along to a servant.

"Thank you...Lokenth, was it? It's a fine present from His Grace and you have delivered it diligently in these troubled times. Since you wouldn't accept gold, take this stamped letter declaring your good service. Also, you are welcome to join the feast tonight, should you wish. We come back victorious in the west, so we celebrate and refit before heading off again. Drink and food, as much as you can fill."

With a friendly wave, Lokenth is dismissed.

He bowed again before leaving, hardly knowing what to do with such an invitation. His feet felt lighter than ever and he walked as if on air back down to the tavern he was staying at, letter clutched still in his hand, a tear in his eye.

But there was still one thing to do. Once in the privacy of his room, he found one of the last pieces of paper he had and, carefully dipping a cheap quill into some ink, slowly wrote out the letters and words telling of the successful completion of his task, and his reward, and that he was all too eager to take up the burden and honor of this other request to repair some item or another. This letter was addressed to none other than His Majesty, Velax, King of Arcaea.

As the sun began to sink in the sky, the hour of this feast approached. Well, he'd been invited by none other than the Duke of Remton, how could he refuse? He stifled a giggle as he put on his finest clothing: once upon a time, it would have been unseemly, even dangerous, for him to attend some victory feast of nobles. Now it might be unseemly for him not to. How the wheel turned, and was still turning...

He had quite an appetite as he approached the assembly where the battle-hardened Arcaean army men, their commanders and captains, knights and lords had set up feast tables and opened casks of wine and ale.

"Hold up, you," a guardsman carrying a tall spear and a round shield growled to him as he came near, blocking the path with his spear arm. "This is for the Royal Arcaean Legion only. Begone now."

Lokenth's stomach fluttered, as it almost always did before armed authority figures. But he said, "I'm Lokenth Daycryn, and His Grace, Duke Tenal Quasath, Margrave of Remton invited me for services I did render him today."

The man chuckled. "You've got his titles correct, that's very impressive. Go on, now, don't make me toss you out on your arse."

Lokenth pulled the piece of paper from his vest. "I've got a letter from His Grace right here, bearing his signature and his stamp. You can go and find the Duke, explain to him that you're refusing to let in one of his personal guests, or you can read for yourself the Duke's own words." He held out the paper.

The guard frowned, peering suspiciously again at Lokenth and glancing at the paper. Of course the letter itself was a recommendation of knighthood, not specifically about the feast. Still it bore what was undeniably the Duke's seal. Even if the guard couldn't read, that was obvious enough a sign. And if that wasn't enough, he had a similar letter from no less than the King.

After a moment, grudgingly, the guard straightened his spear and waved his hand dismissively at the paper. "Alright then." Then, amazingly: "Sorry. Can't be too careful in times of war."

"Think nothing of it, friend," Lokenth absolved the man.

He was loving this.
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Re: A Free Man
« Reply #6: May 17, 2012, 06:55:52 PM »
"A sage," Lokenth repeated patiently. "A wise man, a wizard, that sort of thing?"

The beggar looked at him blankly, then shook his head slowly, as if to suggest Lokenth was some sort of madman.

Maybe I am, he thought bitterly. Not too long ago, I could scarcely walk down the road without stubbing my toe on at least three "sages." Now there's not one to be found in the entire bloody realm.

He had made sure to be careful with the sword - the Bone Sabre of Blood. Plain steel, with a bone hilt wrapped in leather bindings, it was the first famed item he'd found. Now the King had charged him with the task of finding someone to repair it. The weapon had seen better days, it was true. He'd even asked local blacksmiths to give it a try - how difficult could it be, after all? - yet to a man they'd refused, sometimes gesturing with superstitious signals, as if it were a powerful and cursed artifact. But perhaps they simply knew that if they botched the job, the king might have their head. Evidently only a half-mad sage could be mad enough to try. If one could be found, he could bring it to the king himself, and then take an estate.

If I can't find a sage.... he worried. What then? What if he brought the weapon back to the King, unrepaired? Or worse, what if it actually broke in his care? It would not exactly be an auspicious beginning to a knightly career.

All he could do was try.

"A sage," he called out to the next man on the streets of Niel he saw. "Have you seen or heard of one? A wizard, a wise man..."
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Re: A Free Man
« Reply #7: May 18, 2012, 07:29:33 PM »
"Welcome to my sacred space! Come, sit under my roof, eat of the feast, drink of my wine! I am called Kelvoriss, Lord of the Evening!"

Lokenth searched for a proper response. Several came to mind. What roof? What feast? What wine? Lord of the what, now? The old man before him was clothed in rags, and his eyes couldn't seem to stop moving about, as if he were surrounded by dazzling flying insects. Magic powers, indeed. He suspected the man was drunk on ikrif.

"I am called Lokenth," he said slowly. "I have heard you can repair this weapon. It belongs to the King of Arcaea-"

"Yes! Yes! You have no doubt heard many tales of my magic powers. This sword of yours. The Bone Sabre of Blood, of infamy and mystery, yes?"

"Right," Lokenth said. It was he who had given it the name, so it was unlikely the man had heard of it's infamy or mystery in some arcane tome or anything. Yet it was slightly impressive that the so-called sage could identify it quickly, anyway. "Your magic powers. What will it cost?"

"Let me see, my child. Ah, yes. Bone hilt, leather, steel blade. A prestigious weapon. An auspicious weapon, and the blade of a king, yes! I can improve it for you at small cost."

"What cost?" Lokenth repeated patiently.

"Fool's gold! Moonstone! The skull of a monster! And twenty-four gold coins... and four silvers, too, yes. Then it shall brighten the night, and darken the day!"

He sighed. "I don't need it to brighten the night or darken the day. It's worn out, is all. A repair. How much for that?"

"You may not need it to brighten, to darken! But this king of yours, he might, no?"

"I doubt it." What did that even mean? The man was clearly mad. "Besides, I have none of those things."

"Oh." Kelvoriss sounded truly saddened. "A simple repair, then. The blade is nicked, and rusting. This I can do... though with more, I could do more!"

"I'm sure you can," said the adventurer, who wasn't sure at all. "A repair is all I am charged with." Thank the gods. Fool's gold and true gold... I'd have to be a great fool to give him either. "The cost?"

The sage waved his dirty hands in an overly dramatic dismissive gesture. Or perhaps he was waving at the invisible insects. "No cost. Such a trifle you ask of the Lord of the Evening. Any blacksmith could do the same."

If only they would, he thought with irritation. "It would be ... an honor for you to do this. My lord," he added, feeling quite ridiculous. The man was living in a hovel in the woods of a rogue region. If he was the lord of the evening, the evening clearly wasn't a very profitable estate.

"Yes, an honor. Yes. Fine, I shall do this. Give this to me and I shall have it done by the evening. Although I will require one thing to do this right."

By now Lokenth knew better than to assume it would be a hammer or tongs. "What thing?"

"Incense," Kelvoriss declared. "A small amount of incense. Burning it will give a a good-smelling smoke. It is critical for this repair."

"How can incense be-"

"Do not ask such things, my child!" the man cried out in a booming voice that might have been intimidating, if it didn't crack. "Give me the blade and some incense, and this thing will be done."

"...I don't happen to have any incense with me..."

"Oh," Kelvoriss said, sounding disappointed again.

"...but I can get some for you. Surely. Somewhere. Your lordship."

Kelvoriss handed the blade back to him, and again made the elaborate hand gestures. "Yes, yes. I shall be waiting. Return here, in the evening, and the Lord of the Evening will perform this minor feat. Go! And come not back without incense!"

"Right. I will. My lord." Lokenth put the blade carefully back in a scabbard, and, feeling silly indeed, bowed his head as he departed the hovel.

Incense, he thought exasperatedly. Of all the mad bloody damn things.
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Re: A Free Man
« Reply #8: May 28, 2012, 06:06:56 PM »
Long ago, when Lokenth's adventuring days were new, he remembered a time when some taverns in Remton and Saex were filled with the perfumey scent of some kind of incense. He also remembered some other taverns, further south, filled with the rose-smelling and nauseating stench of ikrif. But in any case, it seemed there was no more incense to be found anywhere in the Far East. He wandered from village to village, marketplace to marketplace, tavern to tavern, and no matter how much of his gold or goods he offered, there was simply no incense. It didn't help that everywhere he went, there were armed militia men peering at him suspiciously, or thick-witted peasants.

He'd nursed some less-than-worthy thoughts of giving up, going back to the King and telling him he couldn't do it. He still had his letters, and so he could still become a true knight, and take an estate, and go about knightly things (he still wasn't entirely certain what these would entail, but he imagined they'd be more interesting than hunting about for incense). This notion was banished when he received a letter from King Velax inquiring about how the repair job was going, and how much the King valued the blade and how it would be a true shame if it were to crumble into rust and dust.

From any noble, such comments were as good as an order. From the king, they were a decree written in stone.

So he continued to search. He'd had sixteen golds when he set out, and only seven remaining; all of it going to just basic meals and tolls for the roads. It was distressing. Such a simple task, for one who had faced down monstrous evil beasts, and yet so difficult! It was hard to believe.

Incense, he thought today, as he laid down to sleep in his tent outside Lasop. My knighthood for some incense!
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Re: A Free Man
« Reply #9: June 06, 2012, 02:15:30 AM »
He'd found a lot of things that were not incense before he finally came across some incense. A thief's hand. An expensive toy. A lump of wax. A wolf's hide. A tent. Some battered armor. Flint stone. Giant serpent's eyes. Moonstone. A wooden statuette. A piece of amber. Four books; two allegedly of Daimon Banishing and two of Monster Hunting. Ten scrolls of Daimon Banishment he had pieced together somehow from some books he'd found. All very interesting stuff, some of it useful - that tent would have been convenient a few months ago. Most of it rather useless. Incense surely just as useless.

Traveling around Sorraine, he heard rumors about a "wizard" and decided to seek the man out. It would be easier than traveling all the way up north again.

Elmoc introduced himself as a 'court wizard,' whatever that meant - he found it difficult to believe any court in the land would have him. He wore a crushed velvet shirt and leather breeches and boots, and a moth-eaten cape, and was selling his wares on the street of a small town in Arempos. He didn't seem as hermit-like as Kelvoriss the Lord of the Evening had been.

"I am Elmoc, the famous Court Wizard, and there are many things in my powers to do!" the man exclaimed.

"I might have use of you," Lokenth began warily.

"Oh, truly, who would not? Do you desire an amulet that will protect you from evil? A potion to make a woman love you forever? Tell me, and I will make one for you."

Lokenth remembered scribbling down words that made no sense into scrolls of banishment in a feverish haze, and had come to appreciate that the world was larger than he had thought and perhaps magical items and their abilities were real. He might once have thought that if this man had any powers he wouldn't be selling goods on the street like a common merchant; but then Lokenth himself had somehow transcribed the scrolls, and here he was, a common adventurer.

Still... "I don't, as it happens, have need for such trinkets. I have in my possession a sword, and perhaps you could repair it."

"A... a sword?" the man's smile was fading.

"Yes. It's name is the Bone Sabre of Blood, and it belongs to His Majesty the King of Arcaea. I found it for him in the vile grip of-"

"What do I look like to you, a blacksmith? Go, go, find someone else to work steel for you."

"No blacksmith will touch it. It's an item of great power and renown, and only a famed and mysterious man such as yourself could-"

"A lump of sharpened metal."

"Not that sharpened, now, actually..."

The man snorted. "I care not. Go, find yourself a brave smith then, I work with magic, not metal. Or I could create for you a ring, whose bearer would wield more power than any sword."

"Couldn't you at least look at it?"

"What's to look at? A sword is a sword, no matter the name. I cannot help you. Truly."

"I have incense," he said.

"...incense?"

Lokenth felt warmth come to his face. "Yes, incense... you know, to use in the repairing..."

Elmoc the Court Wizard looked at him blankly for a brief moment, and then burst out laughing. "You must be mad! Incense for repairing a sword? Ha ha ha!"

Lokenth frowned, and then turned and walked away.

"No wonder you can find no blacksmith to touch it," the man called out to his back between great belly-laughs. "You are asking perfume sellers! Ha ha ha!"

Elmoc's laughter followed him down the road as he contemplated the long walk north, hoping that Kelvoriss could do the job after all this. If it turned out he'd been sent on a wild goose hunt that mad hermit bastard would pay.
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Re: A Free Man
« Reply #10: June 08, 2012, 06:21:10 PM »
Two sages in one spot! thought Lokenth eagerly. Surely one of them can do it.

He'd had some trepidation about coming to the Dark Isle. The last time he'd been here, he was imprisoned by Arcaean troops. But the rumors all suggested these two sages were up here, and he was determined to seek them out.

But Evoro, while he could indeed repair the item, balked at being able to do it without one essential ingredient. And that ingredient was not incense, but a monster claw.

Denomwar, the other sage, carried a lute and sang songs. But he sung no different song from the one Evoro did. He demanded a monster claw.

"A monster claw!" Lokenth exclaimed, disbelieving. "I've killed hundreds and hundreds of the damn things, and I never thought to take one of their claws."

"It is a Bone Sabre of Blood, is it not?" Denomwar pointed out. "The claw of a monstrous beast is strong, and will shore up where this hilt is weakened."

That made some sense - more sense than incense, anyway.

But it was still damn inconvenient. And he could just see himself now - searching the mountains and forest glades high and low, until finally coming across one - and then the sages would be nowhere to be found. Then I'd find some other wise-ass who offers to repair the damn blade, if only I find for him the maidenhead of a whore.

"The quest of a hero is long and perilous, good man," Denomwar was lecturing. "If it were easy and quick, it would be a trifling matter."

"Repairing a sword is a trifling matter, old man," Lokenth replied angrily. "Or at least it should be. Fine. I'll get your damned claw."

He ventured angrily into the wilderness.
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Re: A Free Man
« Reply #11: August 22, 2012, 04:31:49 AM »
His rough-spun traveling clothes, his pack full of assorted items - stones and gems, lamps and ropes, pieces of animal, patches of leather and silk - all of it sold for enough coin to buy Lokenth a horse and some fine clothes. He still carried his weapon and armor, dented and nicked as they were, but this only made him look ever more the part. He still felt half a fraud, like those bloody sages. Sure, they could call themselves "Lord of the Evening" and whatnot, and no one seemed to notice or care, but of what worth was such 'nobility?' Why, as much as his own.

Still, he had his letters, and he had coin, and in Saex there might be a manse for him to take. It was time to introduce himself to the nobles of Arcaea. The king knew him, but to the rest he was a nobody, with no name; a minor new claimant to a minor house nobody in the Far East had ever heard of and precious few elsewhere did either.

Hmm... I don't feel different, he thought as he ventured down the road to Saex.

If anything, it was rather uncomfortable. His new clothes were not made for rough use, nor his arse for horse riding. The horse wanted to go one way, and then the other, and seemed to avoid the straight path down the road. Even walking, his legs splayed over the saddle awkwardly. He met some travelers along the way, freemen and commoners like him, and they didn't give him a second glance. Looking down on the peasant-folk from one's high horse was a disappointment.

As night fell he tied his horse up, started a fire by the side of the road, and by the campfire light began to write.
Lokenth, Warrior of Arcaea, former Adventurer
Adamir, Lord of Luria Nova

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Re: A Free Man
« Reply #12: August 23, 2012, 07:17:23 AM »
"Just call me Lokenth."

"Ah, c-certainly, Sir," stammered the balding, pink-faced steward. "Lokenth it is. Would you care to take a tour of the property, Si- Lokenth?"

The new-made knight held back a smile. How stuffy were these land-owning knights, that this pampered servitor didn't know how to talk to one like an ordinary human? When he was a commoner, he spoke politely to his superiors, to be sure. But the habit wasn't so ingrained in him that he would be unable to do otherwise. He was grateful he never developed it. Living in the wild and mostly keeping to himself probably helped, he reflected. This man had probably not strayed from this manor in ten years.

"Not right now, Fricio. I've got business to attend to in Remton."

"Of course, sire. Then you will be wanting a summarized report. Since the harvest, the mill has been considerably improved. Three wives amongst your people have given birth, though one of the babes did not last. Monsters were sighted two moons ago in the northern wood, but a patrol of guards dispatched found no traces of them. But one of your farmers found one of his chickens slaughtered, the coop broken up..."

Lokenth nodded slowly. This was all normal sounding enough. Guards never found monsters. Farmers always complained when animals tore up their livelihood. Women gave birth all the time. He wondered what he was supposed to do about it all, but luckily his steward didn't seem to expect him to do anything at all. Figures.

He left as soon as he could. His manor was vast, and well supplied with fine clothes and furniture and wines, even a library filled with books. He could get lost there, he knew, and looked forward to doing just that - some other time.

In Remton, he definitely noticed the people treating him differently. It wasn't mere gold now. He rode his horse, swaddled in warm, costly clothing, battle-hardened and armed with sword. Townsfolk and travelers would hop to get out of his way, and some bowed their heads slightly, avoiding his gaze. Guardsmen looked up at him, and not with the usual scowls of immediate mistrust or wary threat. And nobles met his eyes. It was an odd feeling.

He knew where the barracks were, and there he headed now to hire some men to follow him, and a banner to carry the colors of his house.
Lokenth, Warrior of Arcaea, former Adventurer
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Re: A Free Man
« Reply #13: August 24, 2012, 11:19:48 PM »
"So there I was, covered in black, dead blood," Lokenth said, slamming down his wooden mug onto the trestle table, "And this nasty walking skeleton had a shield as well as sword. Well, he parried my attacks, or left me to blunt my damn sword against that damn shield, and all the while the other corpses kept pawing at me, and I had to keep hacking at them too. I didn't have time to think I might die, I was so busy with it all. Gray, murky pre-dawn darkness all around. Finally I danced away and cut apart some of the other dead men, and had enough space to deal with this champion of theirs. Still it was no good, the damn dead man kept me at bay with this fancy shield of his."

He looked around at the men he'd hired. Twenty-six of them, and most of them drunk, and they were listening with only a casual interest. Oblivious, he went on regaling them. "Then suddenly the sun peaked out through the treeline, and I managed to lop the skeleton's hand right off, sword went flying into the bushes. That didn't bother him none, though, and he kept raising that shield of his with each attack. Finally I held my sword in my left hand, and with my right I grabbed that damn shield of his and ripped it out of his grasp. Then I was able to cut the thing's head off. His eyes stopped glowing when his skull bounced on the ground a few times."

He finished his mug of ale. "I picked up that shield of his after. Wasn't no ordinary shield, but some storied item from long ago, and it was for that I got a letter of recommendation."

There were murmurs of hushed conversation then. He stood up from the table, patted his fellow soldier on the back and went to grab another hunk of bread from the ovens. He felt slightly confused.

A moment later his captain, Aldric, appeared by his side. The man was a grizzled, scarred old soldier with white hair and a salt-and-pepper beard. "Sir," said Aldric. "Mind if I speak frankly?"

"Of course!" Lokenth boomed. "Always. Please."

"You're a warrior, so you'll be knowing about swords and fights. But, pardon my saying so sir, you might not know so much about soldiering. Now, most of us have known stuffy, honorable knights who couldn't give a damn about us, and you're not like that, and that's appreciated. All the same, they know about command, and it's plain as day you might have a lot to learn. You might stop trying to impress us."

Lokenth said, somewhat defensively, "I'm simply telling what happened. Anyone can rise, as I have. There's hope to be found."

Aldric looked at him a moment. "Aye, sir, there's hope, but not the kind you're selling. Most of us can't relate to your story at all. You think we ever had the luxury of roaming the wilderness, fighting undead and monsters, selling fancy items to high lords? Most of us is just peasants, sir. Bound to the land. We're not here because we wanted glory and riches, we're here because our lords commanded us to sign up, and we had no choice. Most of us would rather be on the farm, with our wives and children, with our fields and anvils and woodsman's axes. You think I have any hope of riches and honor, of being knighted? I'm just like the rest of us, sir. The gold we get paid doesn't get saved, to buy us letters and items and adventure. It's to get us cheap drinks whenever we rest, so we can obliterate the memory of the past and the terror of the future. That's all we can afford. Think any of us care about this war? [email protected]#$, Sir, I don't even know who we're at war with, or why, and I don't care."

I don't even know who we're fighting either, Lokenth realized, or why.

"I'm not even from Arcaea," Aldric went on. "I was born in Arcachon, and when I was young I was fighting under Elerik Taim in the Battle of Soniel, against the invaders from the south. I didn't care then either, I was just there because I had to be. Now Arcachon is conquered, and we're fighting for Arcaea now, and it's all the same. One battle, then marching and marching, and more marching, and then another battle, and that's the life we have. We don't have heroic last stands against mobs of monsters, alone in the wilderness but for bravery and a sword and hope of a knighthood. That'd be easy."

"Easy!?" Lokenth bristled.

"Easy," Aldric said firmly. "We don't fight like that. We don't fight one-on-one against the evils of the land, nor can we run off and rest up and lick our wounds before choosing to fight again. We wake up, and one day the enemy forms up against us, and all of us together, we fight. Not against beasts. Against men. You ever seen a pitched battle, Sir?"

"No," he admitted.

"No. Well, most of us are lucky to survive them if we do, sir. The arrows come flying, flying in the hundreds and thousands, filling the air, and it's only luck if they don't punch through our eyes and necks and chests. The trumpets sound and the banners fly, and then the knights on horses come charging, and we get our commander telling us to hold the line, standing in front of hundreds of armored cavalry. While next to us, we see our mates, our friends, get slaughtered helplessly by the merciless arrows. Then the horsemen come, and some of them die on our pikes, and others hack us in two with two-handed-swords and impale us with lances, and still we have to stay, because we'll get killed if we run - by our own commanders, if not the enemy. Then it's a melee, and instead of mindless corpses, it's men just like us, armored and armed just like us, desperate just like us, and we have to kill them to survive. Have you even killed another living man, sir? Those of us who survive, we have to, and we have to live with that, and we get to remember the blood and the guts and the screams of the dying and the maimed, and wonder if maybe next time it'll be us. Or we have to charge a castle, and scramble up ladders, bolts and arrows and rocks and boiling oil pouring on us as we do. You've never seen that madness. All of us, all of us who been through a battle and lived, we have. We aren't none to be impressed by heroism. There isn't any, for us. And there isn't any knighthood awaiting any one of us, sir, not a one of us. Just survival. That's the only hope we have."

"I... I hadn't really thought about that," Lokenth said, taken aback.

Aldric merely nodded. "Best start thinking, sir. Now you've hired us, and your gold is good, and you're a good fellow. A lot like most of us were when we start out. But after the first battle, you'll know better why none of us care about your adventures. You can order us to march and fight with you, and we will, but not a one of us cares about the whys or who's of what we're fighting. And those of us who survive don't make friends. We'll drink with you, and joke with you, but we all know that tomorrow any one of us could be dead. A man learns not to become fond of anyone. Least of all his commander, no matter how he got his knighthood. Fact is, it's best you not fraternize with us at all. You get on your high horse, wear your armor, and shout the orders to attack, and we'll follow. You survive, you get to do it again. Just like us. You die, and we just get someone else to fight under, just like when we die, we just get more recruits to fight alongside, and none of us matter."

Lokenth looked down, frowning into his drink.

"Thanks for the drinks, Sir," said Captain Aldric, and when he left Lokenth was still looking down into the empty mug.
Lokenth, Warrior of Arcaea, former Adventurer
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Re: A Free Man
« Reply #14: September 25, 2012, 03:12:32 AM »
Hatdhes

Lokenth didn't think it was his first battle, but it was.

For he'd fought before, against the undead, against the unnamed monsters of the wilderness, sword to claw and shield to fang, outnumbered and alone, the blood and the beatings and the sweat and the terror and the victory. He'd fought a thousand unsung battles in places that were on no map, against foes that only existed in rumor and trails of inexplicably slain livestock.

And since then, he'd led his Adventurers against the peasant militias, alongside the mighty army of Arcaea, banners waving, trumpets sounding. These were no single combats. They were battles, surely!

But they weren't. Nothing had prepared him for the assault on Hatdhes; not even the wise words of old captain Aldric. It wasn't about banners and trumpets then; they flew and they sounded, like figments in some murky dream. Scaling the walls; being thrown back. Again and again; he lost track. He couldn't find his men either, though in the back of his mind he thought they must be around somewhere. The shouting and clamor was so loud he couldn't tell what was going on. Death was everywhere, in the air, on the field, hiding behind stone fortifications and taking whoever it did. He thought he gave orders, shouted commands, but even he hadn't been able to hear himself, and who would listen to him in such chaos? Who could? The siege engines were incomprehensibly large, complicated beasts he warily ran about as he tried to advance. He couldn't remember if he slew anyone with his sword, but he was pretty sure he tried, here and there. His throat was raw and bleeding from the smoke and the shouting - so he discovered afterwards.

He discovered a lot of things afterwards. Most of his troops were dead, or presumed dead or deserted. Many, many people were dead. The battlefield stank of death worse than any undead horde. Fresh death, and fresh [email protected]#$, and the iron scent of blood filled his nostrils as he stumbled around, exhausted, trying to gather anyone who survived. He'd felt more beat-up and put-upon than ever he had in any number of single combat engagements in the wild... and had he even fought anyone? Already his memory was fading. As he left the region in an exhausted daze he filled his mouth with warm wine and winced as it seared his raw throat.

Aldric had told him, had tried to. But no words could have described it.
Lokenth, Warrior of Arcaea, former Adventurer
Adamir, Lord of Luria Nova