"The man told me to meet someone here, and you halfway meet his description. Where is the rest of your group?"
"I know of no one who even knew we'd be in the area..." Malyc started, confused by the other warrior's apparent knowledge of what was supposed to be a secret mission. "Unless... The wizard, Kaladin. He sent us on this little party. Probably who sent you down here as well. As for where the rest of us are, I have no idea. You get a bit confused when someone drops a bridge on your head."
"Luckily for you boy, It does not look as though you have broken anything, it is not nearly floppy enough. I believe I can fix it, if you want, though I will tell you, I will be none too gentle."
"Do what you must. I'd rather be able to use it than avoid a bit of discomfort." Malyc stated. "Remember though: it isn't a good plan to cause unnecessary pain to potential allies. They may remember it at an inconvenient time." He had no intentions of acting on the threat, but it never hurt to try and even the playing field.
Abe remained speechless in the face of that mysterious man who seemed to have known both of his parents and his story. Had he been the one who helped deliver him, the travelling magician of the dirt path? Nothing was certain, but the facts were on the table. He knew.
Solomon felt his throat drying suddenly. He tried to answer the man, but ended up coughing into his hand. "I-I...", the man mumbled, "Lead the way...", he spoke in a defeated tone. His words taken from him at the sight of an amazing tale he thought to be mere fiction, Abe simply followed the man on the road with a smile plastered on his face.
"A wizard huh? He seemed the part, appearing suddenly and wearing his cloak over his face." Reganth said as he positioned himself in front of Malyc, so that they were rather close, and face to face. He set his nub on Malycs other shoulder, in an attempt to hold him down as best he could, as he wrapped his good arm around the Aqueans bicep, and began a quick countdown."One, two.. Three" He said, and on three he pushed the arm back up into its socket, with a grinding popping sort of noise, and released his grip on the other man, standing up quickly.
"There, that was not so bad, kind of quick actually." He said with a half smile, then turned to look around. "Should the others be showing up? Or will we have to go pick corpses out of the river." He said, referring to the mention of the broken bridge.
The Northeastern banks of Straylight River...
"Lead the way..."
"Bah!" Bartholomew scoffed with hearty laughter as he climbed atop his cart's bench seat. "Nonsense, climb aboard. Trust me, the trip will go a lot more quickly. Providing the wheels stay on, of course!"
Abe merely shrugged and complied with the man's request, wearing a cheery smile on his face as he did so. Before long, Bartholomew coaxed the horse along and they both headed down the river bank, making their way to whomever awaited their arrival...
After a night's ride downstream...
As dawn had already passed, with the sun starting to peer through the tops of the trees of the nearby woodlands, Bartholomew and Abe were well past the Stavros Crossing. It wasn't until the first signs of light had shone upon that region of the world that they realized had, taking note the debris embanked alongside the river. Planks, vessels of wood and metal, anything that wasn't washed further down the river or light enough to be carried had run ashore, lining the rock and soil with litter. Something once thought inconceivable was making itself evident every step of the way as they headed south, the grim nature of it all only being strengthened by the occasional corpse of the Royal Guard washed up.
"Fates help us all..." Bartholomew muttered as his stupor began to fade, breaking the eerie silence of the land around them. The pair hadn't even taken in the soft clop of the horse's hooves when their minds were processing the possibilities of the tragedy that befell the soldiers. "What in all the world could have done this? Collapsed the bloody bridge as if it were naught but a straw hut...there is definitely something dark at work here."
Quite a ways downriver...
Terrus awoke with a great pain in his head and the coldness of the water mixed with the soft breeze bit him harshly. As he moved his arm to try and pick himself up, the stone plates of his armor clacked against the wooden door he'd been riding on until this point. He had to get warm and dry, but that task would seem rather daunting for as he tried to get himself to a sitting position, even that was becoming a job in itself. Finally, he managed to bring himself to sit, promptly removing his heavy stone helm before propping himself on his arms. When the plates of his helm slid against his flesh, the earth elemental winced at a sharp pain above his right brow. He reached up to inspect it and found a deep gash had split his skin open, revealing the soft tissue beneath.
"Damn!" Terrus cried out as the touch brought pain to the wound again, and the realization that there was a fracture beneath open flesh. There wasn't anything the Fae could do for himself at the moment, other than consider himself lucky that he wasn't already dead. Once the pain subsided into a dull, steady throb, the Fae's mind quickly snapped back onto the world around him and it only took a brief moment of clarity to realize his brother was nowhere in sight. "Arborus? Arborus?!"
The shouting of the Fae had brought the unconscious Aquean, Soreal, back into the world. Soreal had been peaceably comatose beneath the surface of a splintered table not more than ten feet from the Fae, though feeling none too comfortable, he slowly lifted the weight off his chest and let it fall to his side. He groaned in pain as he felt every muscle in his frame being put under great duress, and rather unexpectedly, those groans turned into cries of agony as he tried to stand. Upon inspection of the source of this profound feeling, the Aquean's eyes widened in horror as he found his left foot to be facing the wrong direction.
"What...what the..." Soreal's heart and mind were racing, he was at a loss for words as the initial shock took over. He began to inspect the extent of his injury with his hands, but that quickly brought a new surge of pain through his nerves. "Gaaahh!!"
This time it was the Aquean's turn to break the attention from the Fae, for once he let out that second cry of agony, Terrus set focus from his missing brother to his injured ally. The Fae slowly stood and hobbled over to Soreal and knelt beside him. Terrus grimaced at the sight of the injury, the grotesque mound of disfigure flesh and bone that was once a perfectly aligned ankle certainly wasn't a pretty sight. He looked into Soreal's eyes and, with a nervous smile, told the Aquean what he surely knew needed to be done, "Alrigh', lad. I'm gonna hafta straighten this out fer ya. Ye ready?"
"Yeah, no, just wai-" Soreal was unable to finish for Terrus had already wrenched the twisted foot back into its proper place, eliciting yet another agonizing cry along with some profanities the Fae could barely make out.
"See? Weren't so bad now, eh?" Terrus asked with a nervous laugh, a little surprised that the Aquean hadn't reflexively hit him hard across the jaw. The Fae stood once more and made off to search for his pack, needing to fashion a splint for Soreal's freshly-realigned ankle, though not before lightheartedly making one thing clear. "An' I'll let it slide just this once, but sully me mum's good name again, an' I'll guarantee ye'll wake up wit' more'n a twisted ankle."
Over twenty miles across the river...
Arborus, almost subconsciously, began crawling from the muddy riverbank, carrying himself to the grass-covered rise. The Fae breathed deeply, exhausted and aching all over, but vying for dry land and warmth. With much work, he finally reached the tall grass and began running his fingers through the thick blades, their familiarity comforting him greatly. He could only lie there for the time being, slipping in and out of consciousness as he tried to regain his strength.
"One, two.. Three"
Despite the warning, Malyc couldn't help but utter a cry of pain as the other Aquean relocated his shoulder. Damn, but that hurt. He thought, experimentally moving his arm. Don't quite have full motion yet, but at least I can use it...
"There, that was not so bad, kind of quick actually. Should the others be showing up? Or will we have to go pick corpses out of the river."
"I don't think they'll be showing up on their own, at least not quickly." Malyc said. "Although I'm hoping for no corpses. I survived, they should have as well." Yeah, somehow I managed to survive every piece of furniture in the damned tower trying to kill me... They aught to be alright.
Turning to the other Aquean, it occurred to Malyc that they hadn't been properly introduced. "It seems to me that we haven't been properly introduced. The name's Malyc." He said, extending a hand.
Reganth glared at the man on the ground when he said his name, casting his mind way back to when he lost his arm. He thought for a second, before it clicked in his mind, and he gave a snarl. While Malycs arm was extended for a shake, he wound up his left arm and let it fly across his face, with a satisfied exhale of air.
"My name is Reganth Kaill. We served on opposite sides, mercenary,and that was not one of your best career choices. One of your buddies took my arm, and as far as i'm concerned, you can pay me up front for it." He said quickly before moving in closer and drawing his broken shafted ax with his left hand, and getting face to face with Malyc. "Give me one reason I shouldn't take your arm right now." He growled, and moved to set the ax a few inches away from Malycs arm, awaiting a response.
Malyc never saw the punch coming until it cracked against his jaw, knocking him onto his back. Dazed, he tried to get back up, but he didn't have time before the Aquean pushed him back and drew his axe.
"My name is Reganth Kaill. We served on opposite sides, mercenary, not one of your best career choices. One of your buddies took my arm, and as far as i'm concerned, you can pay me up front for it. Give me one reason I shouldn't take your arm right now."
Ten years... It's been ten years since that damned war, and I still can't shake the consequences of my choice... He thought, dazed. "They weren't my friends" Malyc spat, remembering the atrocities committed by both sides in the war. "The only friends I had in the war are dead, killed by Sophisma's treachery. You lost an arm, and for that you have my condolences. I've had to live with the guilt of being the only survivor of my squad, the only one skilled enough to make it away from the gates. And then, once the war was finally over, I was hunted for years by people who for some reason believed that everyone fighting for Malum was some sort of evil bastard. Nobody ever heard about the village that my squad evacuated before the armies went through a day later. No one ever heard the countless civilians I could have captured, but chose instead to release because it was the right thing to do!"
Malyc, after venting his frustrations, was strangely exhausted. "You say you want payment? Fine. But don't bother with the arm." He said, moving the axe from his arm to his throat. "Finish me off, that I may finally join my comrades in peace."
Malyc met Reganth's eyes and didn't blink as he waited for the other Aquean to decide his fate.
Reganth continued to stare back, judging whether or not Malyc was telling the truth in his own mind. He continued on for another twenty seconds, before sighing and rolling off to the right, and sitting up quickly. He dropped his ax and just sat quietly for a minute or so, before standing up and looking back at the Aquean. "Guess we all have our unpleasant thoughts concerning that war." He said with a half smile, and shook his stump. "It has been long enough though, and whatever side you were on, it is not for me to play executioner. That crack to the nogin should be enough..." He said before stepping close and offering his good hand to help Malyc up. "I was sent to help, not cause trouble, so I apologize for that. Now lets find your friends before the river claims them."
It was a solid half minute before Reganth let him up, and Malyc determined he'd have to find someone else to off him, as fate seemed determined to keep him alive.
"Guess we all have our unpleasant thoughts concerning that war."
Got that right, Reganth... It was not a fun time for anyone. He thought, sitting up.
"It has been long enough though, and whatever side you were on, it is not for me to play executioner. That crack to the nogin should be enough... I was sent to help, not cause trouble, so I apologize for that. Now lets find your friends before the river claims them."
"Thanks for offering to help me find them." Malyc started. "Ordinarily, I'd refuse, but with the day I've been having... If it even is the same day... Let's just say I'm gonna need all the help I can get. I'd suggest heading downstream, mainly because I want to avoid the thing that took the bridge down. Shall we start walking, then?"
The sight of the blaoted dead laying on the grassy ground along the river didn't disturb Abe as much as the smell of them did. It wasn't merely the smell of blood - gasses had been stored in the bodies and were being slowly released into the air, making the trip incredibly unpleasant to say the least. What had awaited them at the end of their trail was a sight that Abe had hoped he wouldn't have to see - the entire stone bridge smashed to bits. Bartholomew seemed to be distraught by the new development and so was Abe - you don't run into that many corpses often - or at all, in your life.
"there is definitely something dark at work here."
Bartholomew's words sent a shiver down Abe's spine. He new such things must be a mere legend, but the fact that such a man would be terrified of the unknown had caused him to sense a feeling of crushing feel as well.
"We shouldn't assume anything, it could have been anything. But now we have no bridge, and how are we getting the cart across the river?", Abe asked Bartholomew.
"We shouldn't assume anything, it could have been anything. But now we have no bridge, and how are we getting the cart across the river?"
"Perhaps you're right, but I've very much doubt natural cause was to blame or anyone with good intentions," said the medicine peddler, having his doubts on the matter. "But as for crossing the river, we're going to have to keep going South 'til we get to the ferry docks nearer Windfall Lake. It's going to be quite the trip, mind you."
The horse steadily pulled the cart down the road alongside the riverbank while Bartholomew scanned the debris. Among the splintered lumber and assorted nick nackery, he spotted something quite a ways a way, what first appeared to be a small child sitting on the embankment. With a quick whip of the reins, the horse picked up speed and brought Abe and the peddler closer to the prostrate half-pint. Bartholomew stopped the cart nearby and looked curiously at what was apparantly a female Fae on the ground.
"This is rather peculiar, don't you think?" Bartholomew muttered to Abe as he clambered down from the cart. He took a few steps closer to the Fae before him as he spoke to address her. "Excuse me, little miss? What are you doing here, so far from home?"
Rena let out a small groan as she heard something approaching. It sounded like a horse from the clopping sound of its hooves, and she could only hope that they knew she was there and wouldn't trample her. Turning her head, which caused her to wince in pain from her headache, she said. "M-my everything hurts.." One could tell from just looking at her eyes that she wasn't completely 'there' at the moment. Before she fell limp against the ground, she said. "I don't suppose..you can help me? My head hurts the worst.."
"I don't suppose..you can help me? My head hurts the worst.."
"Just hold on a moment, I have something that may be of use," said the aged medicine peddler. He quickly stepped to the rear of his cart and began sifting through jars and vials with a great deal of rattling. The old man produced a vial of white powder and a small glass before steadily making his way to the small girl. He handed Abe the glass and proceeded to shake the vial vigorously. "Mr. Solomon, I'm going to need you to fill that with water, quickly if you'll please."
"Now, not to worry little one," Bartholomew spoke softly to the little Fae. "It'll take some time for your injuries to fully heal, but I can alleviate some of the pain for you."
Reganth gave a nod as he gathered his things back together, and slid his ax into his belt. He started walking toward the river with Malyc, then turned his head and asked "Who is it we will be looking for? From what I have gathered, there was a good sized group. Also, what took down that bridge? Would take an awful lot to send that thing into the river". Maybe an explosion or something.. Then again, weirder things have happened, got to be ready for anything. He thought casually as they were walking toward the river.
"Who is it we will be looking for? From what I have gathered, there was a good sized group. Also, what took down that bridge? Would take an awful lot to send that thing into the river"
"Another Aquean, Soreal, who happens to be leading this merry band of micreants." Malyc started, listing names as they came to him, pain from his ribs evident in his voice. "3 Fae, Rena, Terrus, and Arborus. Entertaining lot, to say the least... A Vulkan, Drogon, a cryomancer, of all things for a vulkan to be. Aaron, another mage, and Albin, a dwarf, were the remaining survivors before the bridge fell.
As for what brought the bridge down, you wouldn't be asking that question if you had seen what awaited us there... A being beyond the capabilities of mortals such as ourselves. I watched it steal the soul of one of us. He died on the bridge, we'll not find him alive." With that revelation, Malyc fell silent, trying to think of a way to bring that thing down if he ever ran across it again.
Rena could hear the various noises made by the stranger. It seemed he had a lot of things with him. With the combination of the horse and the noise, she assumed that he was a merchant of some sort. Frowning, she said. "I-I'm sorry, I don't have any money to give you to thank you for your kindness." She then managed to puff her cheeks out in a cute pout before saying. "A-and I'm not little. I happen to be normal sized for a Fae."
The quick sequence of straggering events that transpired over a short period of time amounting to a minute and a half would have startled the poor lad if it weren't for the authoritative command given to him by his somewhat of a surrogate father figure peddler miracle maker who entrusted Abe with a flask and ordered him to fill it with water. He went with great urgency to the riverbank and looked down upon the violently splashing and flowing stream of water. Luckily a small tree with a curious root that had lifted itself from the ground up to the open air provided Abe with a sufficient enough security against any unfortunate mishaps involving falling into the water and then promptly dying. With a quick stretch outwards Abe filled the flask and pulled himself up breathing quickly and later thanking the tree for keeping him alive. Abe then pulled himself up carefully as to not fall down to the water stream and walked as quickly as he could back towards his companion who had already sat next to the seemingly human yet inhuman looking fae. The closer he got the more strange the fae looked, though a strange tingle informed him of the alarming news that an attraction to her had been achieved, only the oracle would know why.
Abe found himself standing near Bartholomew staring at the injured fae in both curiosity and sedated attraction. He was quickly snapped out of his unnatural visions by her moaning which on another day would have kept him in his day-dreams yet these were accompanied with the sight of blood and bruised skin. Abe handed Bartholomew the flask filled with water and tried to keep his mouth shut and listen in as much as possible.
"I-I'm sorry, I don't have any money to give you to thank you for your kindness."
"No worries, I wouldn't take a single copper from you even if you did," Bartholomew said with a smile. "'Twouldn't be right of me."
"A-and I'm not little. I happen to be normal sized for a Fae."
"But of course, I hadn't meant anything by it," said the old medicine peddler with a light chuckle. He accepted the glass flask from Abe and quickly dispensed some of the white powder from the vial in his hand. A quick shaking dissolved the powder in the water and he handed the drink off the to Fae. "Just drink this, it'll take the pain away for now. Word of warning, it's awfully bitter."
If it was the morning sun, that had already climbed quite a bit on the tender sky, or the cold, damp cloth chilling his body to a level even the young cryomancer found uncomfortable that had woken him from his sleep he did not know, but he knew that he had to get up, and if possible, make a fire.
Head beating in protest, Drogon used his right side to support himself up on shaky legs.
How long had he slept? Four hours? Eight hours? A day? Anything more than a day seemed unlikely, for even if his robe was somewhat dryer, the cold was just one of the things that could have killed him by then.
The thought of of laying beaten, bloody and unable to work his craft for hours without even being concious sent a cold shiver down his spine. Whatever... things had brought the bridge down, and sucked the very being from Athgar could still be around.
Trying as best he could to ignore the sharp pain caused by breathing, he used whatever parts of his body that seemed to hurt less than the others to gather a small pile of wood and burnable material.
Cryomancer that me may be, he was still a mage of sorts, and a Vulkan trained in a respectable academy non the less, so lighting a fire should be well within his abilities.
But it all seemed hopeless. Where once he had taken pride in his ability to clear his mind, there was now nothing but a haze of pain and fatigue.
A small flame appeared for less than half a second, but it was far from enough to light the fire, and it's only contribution to the situation proved to be a slightly worse headache.
Without the ability to use magic, and thus warming himself, there was no reason to stay here and die.
I'm not going back up to the bridge. I have no evidence that those... monsters aren't still there, and besides, the roads was packed with highwaymen on our way here in the first place.
What does that leave me? Downriver.
If I follow the river down, I'm bound to find someone... or something. Either way is better than this.
Dagger in hand, the other hanging limp, Drogon began to make his way down the shoreline, hoping for friends but searching for corpses.