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  #176  
Unread 20th of January, 2005, 07:36
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Heulwen

Keeping a wary eye to the east, to Kingscross, Heulwen and Cytaill defty make their way toward the far side of the small forest. It's still some way distant, and they will have to be careful on these rolling plains as to not be spotted, but she's confident that right now there's little on the orcs' minds but rape and plunder and malice.

Too often she'd seen the last one in her former life. More than once she'd felt the lash of a slaver's whip and she concentrates, she can still feel it today. The halfling would not be made a slave again, neither by orcs nor men nor any other being that walks Aryth. She may be slight, but her spirit is strong, and so is Cytaill's. Looking over at the wogren, she's reminded of first meeting him and the change he brought.

Casting a glance over her shoulder, she can see the others have finally decided to follow her. It will be a while before they overtake her though. Once more they had to debate their course of action. She wonders if such indecision might not prove to be their doom one day. The breeze still blows out of the west. It is a boon; with her nose, the smell of burning and death would be far worse on her than for a man or dwarf.

Dun, Rhotha'ah, Aashya, Aleina

Bombur and the dwarf in tow, they set off to catch Heulwen. They can see her in the distance, but she and her wogren have a fair lead on them. Lyr looks relieved that they will not be venturing into Kingscross but he says nothing. Once they begin moving, the crunch of their feet on dry grass masks the distant screams. It is a relief, but the smoke still billows upward from the town as more and more buildings are set alight.

Rhotha'ah gestures to a path similar to the one previously walked by Heulwen. It keeps them mostly out of sight by staying in the shallow troughs created by the landscape. They are vulnerable from time to time, but for no eye should be pointed in their direction, not at the moment.

A half hour later, they've closed most of the gap with Heulwen.

"Heulwen," Lyr calls to her, trying to keep his voice soft but audible. "What is your plan?"
  #177  
Unread 27th of January, 2005, 12:22
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Heulwen

"We head south," she replies to Lyr's question, "as quickly and as unobtrusivly as possible."

"The orcs are probaly still busy with Kingscross, allowing us a window to hopefully slip by unoticed, but we daren't dally. When the two that escaped Feyd and the dwarf reach Kingscross, if they haven't already, a squad will likely be sent out to exact revenge for what was done. Once they reach the copse of trees its only a matter of time before they find our trail and begin to follow us. A group as large as ours leaves sign that I could follow at night with a cold. I'll do my best to make it difficult for them, but if we are to make any kind of decent speed I'll have to rely on what the land provides to obscure our trail."

"Beyond that, I wouldn't plan much. I'm not given to predicting the future, prefering to take things one day at a time."
  #178  
Unread 28th of January, 2005, 07:49
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Aleina

"Sometimes the future is clear enough for any to read."

For some reason, the halfling's words stung, although she refused to let the hurt show in her voice. Instead, she spoke with the same detached inflection she almost always used. Kingscross was wounded; it wasn't dead yet. In her heart, she felt the inevitable call of the suffering. Aleina wanted to go to the town and heal the hurts she found there, make good on her promise to make a difference.

And do I not bear responsibility for the fate of the town?

It was a question she could not answer definitively; like her elusive talent, it was something she had to interpret. At this time, in this light, it was a fool's hope that she was wholly without blame when it came to the demise Kingscross.

Entering Kingscross now was a death warrant, but that had never been Aleina's plan. Wait, her inner voice had counseled, and when the orcs leave there will be more than enough for you to do. And they were still painfully short on information about Dun's father . . . she had thought that Dun might be able to gather the information he had originally sought in the ill fated town.

And yet, Heulwen was most likely right - the orcs would come looking for vengeance, see the tracks and then investigate. Waiting here would mean a pitched battle with an armed and angry patrol. They were not ready for that. Her stomach clenches as another scream reaches her ears, muted by the distance. They would suffer and they would die, and she would stand idle. Where was the answer she had so desperately sought to this very problem? Why did she have this power if she was powerless to use it?

Squaring her shoulders, she follows the halfling without another word.
  #179  
Unread 4th of February, 2005, 14:53
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Heulwen, Dun, Rhotha'ah, Aashya, Aleina

"Ah, of course," Lyr replies, casting a final glance toward Kingscross before setting off after Heulwen once more.

Three hours pass and they put miles between them and the doomed village. The distance is great enough that even the wind cannot carry the sound of the dying to their ears, but the ghostly memories of men, women, and children being cut down still haunts them. The small forest laying to the west of Kingscross is far distant, and they are very much alone in the rolling plains of the Westlands.

Feyd had shown more courage than Rhotha'ah had expected. If the man died there it would have been a good end. A noble end. The dorn might have joined him if not for his oath. Death will come for him one day, but there are other things he must attend to first.

Aleina is still troubled by her conscience. Pragmatism told her that any resistance would have gotten the lot of them killed if they were lucky, and taken prisoner if they were not. She has a charge to take care of, and there are others who she can still help. The young woman doesn't know where to begin looking for Dura Abben, but the smoking ruin of Kingscross will hold few answers.

Dun is quiet, still rolling the words spoken by Feyd around his mind. A memory pops into his head of his father and the occasional trinket he would bring home. Dun's favorite had been a small wooden solider supposedly carved by an elf from Alloduan, but knowing his father it could have just as likely come from a merchant down the street. It didn't matter. He wonders where his father is at that moment. Is he still alive? Is he thinking of his son?

Aashya's mind continues to assail the impregnable fortress blocking her from the answers. Yet she comes up with nothing more than she had earlier in the day. She isn't a simple commoner, that much is certain, but the depth of her knowledge remains unknown. Her mind plays Feyd's parting over and over in her head. For a moment she had felt like it made sense to go with him, to do what she could for those people, but each time she thought of doing so left her with a feeling of unease. Had she done this before? The mental castle remains unbroken, but perhaps in time she will wear it down.

Heulwen leads the way, her mind focused singly on escape. Tomorrow should not be worried about if you die today. They were lucky that the orcs decided to put the town to the sword. It will be some time before they are through and by then the halfling hopes to be long gone and leaving nothing but a cold and obscure trail in her wake.

Yet here they stop for a while so that Aleina might change the dwarf's bandages and the others can eat what food they have. Heulwen does her best to mask their footprints while Lyr pulls a bit of bread from his satchel and pops it into his mouth.

Aleina strips away the dirtied cloth and peers at the wounds. The serious one, the one the Healer had tended to, is still bright pink, but otherwise should heal. The flesh wounds have clotted and will still need tending. She produces a few fresh bandages from her bag and begins cleaning the lacerations. As the water touches the dwarf's flesh, he begins to stir from his sleep and mumbles.

"Zirak-zigil ai-mÍnu. Baraz?" He grunts. "Aya BundushathŻr."
  #180  
Unread 4th of February, 2005, 19:17
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Dun

Dun mind wanders from his father to Kingscross to Feyd and back again. He says little, his mind numb from the last few hours and days, from the wanton killing and destruction he knows is, or rather, has taken place. When the others take a break for some food, Dun simply stops until they resume the trek again. When the dwarf begins to stir, Dun maintains his silence and looks on, although it is unclear if he is conscious of what is happening.
  #181  
Unread 8th of February, 2005, 06:25
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Of course when he wakes and speaks, his words are dwarvish.

At least Aashya guesses that the dwarf is speaking in his native tongue. The sound of the words is gutteral and harsh, and yet oddly musical in their own way.

Aashya had been trying to help Aleina with the bandages, collecting the old soiled ones, and helping to unroll the clean new strips of linen. She wonders what the dwarf thinks, waking up to find these strangers caring for him. He ought to be afraid. It can't be often that a dwarf finds people willing to help his kind.

"You're safe with us," Aashya tries to assure him. She hopes he understands.
  #182  
Unread 8th of February, 2005, 07:42
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Heulwen

As much as she hates to stop anywhere within a day's travel of Kingscross, even Heulwen cannot argue with the need to change the Soradur's bandages. Besides, it gives Heulwen the chance to obscure some of their trail, which, if it works, will cost those following them even more time than the stop will cost her and the others. After asking Aleina approximately how much time she will need to change the bandages, Heulwen back tracks the party's trail about as far as she figures she can cover in that time.

Then, turning around, she heads back towards the party, straigtening grass and "undisturbing" disturbed ground as she goes.
  #183  
Unread 8th of February, 2005, 15:15
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Dun

The dwarf's words wafts through Dun's mind as it carries through the air, words, thick with gravelly intonation, Dun recognizes from his father's many lessons, all the while they make little sense. And yet, they've brought him back to the present.

While Aleina and Aashya tends to the dwarf's bandages, Dun lithely gets into a better position in which to view the dwarf, for the first time perhaps. Dun can see the years the dwarf has lived in his weathered face even behind his extraordinarily thick beard and unkept hair. There are so many questions he wanted to ask, 'is he gaining conciousness? Will the dwarf be well enough to travel? Where will he go from here...?' No time for any of that now.

Unclearing his throat with what spittle he is able to muster, Dun speaks up in an uncharacteristically rough voice, "Mountain/Hill/Stone/Rock warrior, you are among friends and protectors. Who is Baraz? Are you well enough to travel again? We are less than a day's travel from orcs who may well be upon our trail."
  #184  
Unread 12th of February, 2005, 07:23
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Aleina

"Enough."

She does not look up from her work as she speaks. Her voice is calm as ever, but it carries the weight of promise. The dwarf was her patient - wounded and barely coherent. He was in no condition to answer questions or fret about their situation. When she speaks again, her voice is softer and directed toward the dwarf. She lays a gentle hand on his brow.

"Rest, warrior, and heal."
  #185  
Unread 14th of February, 2005, 09:15
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Heulwen, Dun, Rhotha'ah, Aashya, Aleina

The dwarf's face is weathered and careworn even in a state of near unconsciousness. He lays on the ground, almost helpless while Aleina carefully cleans his wounds. In autumn, water can be a precious commodity in the Westlands and the young healer tries her best to use as little as possible while still cleaning the grit and dirt from the lacerations. The wounds have already begun to scab over.

Aashya takes a step toward the dwarf and tries to reassure him. "You're safe with us," she says, trying to be sincere but the promise sounds hollow in her own ears. The dwarf doesn't respond. Undaunted she tries again, this time switching languages. "You're safe with us."

Heulwen busies herself with masking their trail as best as possible. It isn't an easy task. Even if they were all familiar with surviving in the wild, a group of five, plus Cytaill and Bombur, will leave tracks. Yet she can do something to mask the worst offenders. She sets to the task; any that follow them will have a harder time determining which direct they turned in here. She sees Rhotha'ah standing just below the ridge of a nearby hill, keeping a wary eye toward Kingscross.

Dun's questioning causes the dwarf to stir again and he mumbles a response. "Baraz? Granud felak bizar dia..." he trails off as his eyes finally open. They blink twice, focusing on the overcast sky and then they shift, first taking in Aleina, then Aashya, and lastly Dun. His brow furrows, making his already weathered face appear even craggier. The dwarf truly looks like he was cut from stone. He remains on the ground, but it is not clear if he is simply too weak to stand or if he doesn't wish to make any sudden movement.

"Who are you?"
  #186  
Unread 14th of February, 2005, 13:56
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Dun

With some trepidation, Dun looks back at the dwarf, uncertain of his condition or whether the dwarf heard his words or not. Dun replies in kind to the dwarf's question, "I am Dun Abben, my companions and ... I have been ... your caretakers..."

Last edited by Berova; 14th of February, 2005 at 14:53.
  #187  
Unread 15th of February, 2005, 08:46
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Aleina

The healer resists the urge to turn a disapproving gaze on Dun as the dwarf rouses himself at the Erenlander's questions. It would have been better all around if her patient slept longer. Closing her eyes, she clears her mind of any anger.

What is done is done.

The dwarf seems coherent, both in manner and speech. She felt that his wound was well on its way to healing and his attitude confirmed that observation. If he must wake now then they would deal with it now. She remains seated, resting on her heels, and places her empty hands on her knees. She makes her face as serene as her voice.

"I am Aleina, a healer. This is Aashya. Dun has named himself. Near him are Lyr and Rhotha'ah," she indicates each with a gesture.

She tilts her head slightly and takes a moment to replace her hands in that neutral position on her knees.

"Also with us is Heulwen, a halfling woman and her wogren companion. It was Heulwen who requested I ensure you had found a healer. That was but two days past, just outside of Kingscross. Much has happened in that time, and Kingscross was not safe for you. The healer sought to move you out of danger and was himself pursued. We helped him and he decided it best to leave you in my care.

"Your wound is mending but still requires attention. Dwarves are fast healers, it is true, but still I did not expect you to wake so soon."

Last edited by Gralhruk; 15th of February, 2005 at 08:50.
  #188  
Unread 17th of February, 2005, 14:51
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At the mention of his healing the dwarf rumbles an agreement. It's the sound of a small avalanche. His considerable bulk stirs, slightly and he pushes himself halfway into a sitting position. The red tattoos that decorate his face twist slightly as his brow furrows while he pats the surrounding area.

"My weapons...I remember battle. There were orcs, and a man, and another. I fell. Now I am here. I guess I owe you my gratitude, Aleina, Dun, Rhotha'ah, Lyr, and Heulwen. I am Soradur." He tilts his head into a nod, as if he has just bestowed a great courtesy upon them. The gesture is short lived and he quickly eases himself back to the ground. He draws in a long slow breath before exhaling. "A halfling and her hound? I met that pair in the woods yesterday" --he manages a weary grin-- "That is a beast I would not wish to fight. He looked fierce."

Aleina's trained eyes take in the dwarf's wounds once again. It's true, he has healed quickly, but what strikes her as unusual is the multitude of scars crossing his flesh. She's heard that dwarves, like most fey, can live for centuries but the number of wounds that he has received is staggering, even for one of his indeterminate age.

"Fast healers we may be, but I am still weary. Two orcs and three Fell have fallen by my hand within the past week." He tries to run a hand through his thick, tangled beard. "Where are you headed? And who is pursuing the healer?"
  #189  
Unread 19th of February, 2005, 08:19
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Aashya

Aashya is much more comfortable with the dwarf speaking Trader. It makes him seem more human, less alien, somehow. She wonders about the drawings on his face. They're not like the bleached swirls that decorate her own face (which she also happens to be curious about - she's been told that they are a Sarcosan tradition, but she doesn't remember getting them). The dwarf's markings look like they were painted on, or dyed, and are bold red.

Two orcs and three Fell.... There were no Fell bodies back there, so I guess that was before he came to Kingscross and met the Healer. I wonder if that is how he got those wounds.

"We're heading South," Aashya volunteers. "Are you ready to ride again? I don't think we can rest here much longer." She hesitates to explain why, and looks questioningly at Aleina. She'll let the seeress take over from here.
  #190  
Unread 19th of February, 2005, 08:32
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Aleina

The young woman pauses, her eyes still trained on the dwarf as she measures out the ration of information she is willing to dole out. In that short space, Aashya speaks and inwardly, Aleina nods.

"We are headed South in search of Dun's father. As for the healer's pursuers, we are not sure exactly who they are. Lucien himself rebuffed our offer for further help and it seemed best to heed his wish."

It was truthful, although it left out her own guesswork and glossed over the outright power and menace of the man they called the Hound. The dwarf still needed tending and she didn't want him rushing off to face a powerful wizard.

"And no, we cannot rest long. Heulwen is doing her best to cover our trail, in case we are followed. When she returns we must be off again. It is best if you ride Bombur until your healing is further along."
  #191  
Unread 21st of February, 2005, 13:08
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"Ride? I don't like to ride," he tries to push himself upright again but sways and quickly lies back down. Grumbling something incoherent, Soradur jerks his hand through a tangled beard. "Maybe for just a little while longer."

Heulwen appears, as if on cue, shortly after the mention of her name. Concealing the trail had not been easy, but as always she does her best to confound any pursuers. Whether or not the orcs are interested in a chase remains to be seen. Perhaps their bloodlust will be sated with the violence wrought upon Kingscross. Perhaps not.

Soradur grimaces. "Well, come on then. I can't kill any orcs like this." He casts his eyes downward until Rhotha'ah has finished moving him. The dorn grunts under the weight. The dwarf is under five feet but likely weighs as much as the northman. Tales of dwarves being made out of stone seemed foolish to Rhotha'ah as a boy, but perhaps there was some truth to them.

Gathering themselves, both physically and emotionally, the happenstance companions set off. They leave the fire and death behind them and begin their search for Dura Abben.
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