PDA

View Full Version : Fools and Sages


~Ozy~
April 29th, 2005, 05:46 PM
Forgotten Realms-based story I'm working on. The title is a working one. What more can be said? Aside from if you have a comment, leave it, and don't be kind, if it sucks and sucks hard, do say so.


Prologue

Ahndrith stood in the center of the circle. Underneath the ceremonial garb covering him, his muscles were slick with sweat and blood, both earned in the grueling test just completed. Master Saku had been merciless in it. The again, the young elf thought with an internal laugh, the old warrior was never anything but. He was glad of it, though. Now, he stood in the village green, ready to become a full-fledged member of the clan, ready to become a Tailin in truth. Elbereth, his lover and love stood at the edge of the green, along with the rest of the village. She was beaming, and that meant as much to Ahndrith as one of Master Sakus rare compliments. He would never hear one of those again; the cruel test had been a duel to the death with the old man. Ahndrith had emerged victorious, although far from unscathed.

Now, the five elders of the village approached, bearing with them the ink and needles used to mark clan adults. An attendant stripped him of his shirt, revealing his lean frame. The eldest of the group, a one Heisei by name, approached. Ahndrith presented the inside of his arms to the old man as Heisei knelt to begin his work. The tattoo was done carefully, with precision born of years of practice. Lines, crosshatches, wild designs. It was an intricate mark, used to denote one who had completed the brutal training regimen practiced by this almost forgotten clan of warriors.

The needles and ink moved to Ahndriths chest and he had to fight to keep from wincing as the tattoo crossed over fresh wounds. Master Sakus emblem was being engraved into his chest, a testament to his mentor. The design, two snakes entwined, and either fighting or kissing was representative of the fluid fighting style used by Ahndriths master.

One last mark was to be made, Ahndriths personal sigil as a Tailin. This was an exercise in instinct. Elder Heisei let his emotions and impressions of the wood elf guide his hand. It was an elaborate thing, done in multiple colors. A dragon emerged on Ahndriths back, the head rearing over his left shoulder, the tail wrapping around his waist. Flames beat down from the mouth, looking as though they would scorch any who came too close. Such was the skill of the old man. It was a mighty red dragon, the symbol of power throughout Faerun. It had been centuries since the Tailin had used the dragon as a sigil, and never before a red. Destiny must have great things destined for this warrior, surely he will not fail. Our clan must be destined for great things if he has earned the dragon. These thoughts ran through the mind of all who could see the sigil as Heisei stood and stepped back.

Knowing his part in the ceremony, Ahndrith raised his arms and turned a full circle, displaying for all the symbol of the newest of the clan. The attendant returned his own clothes to him. He changed on his spot, completing the ceremony. He was now a Tailin, forsaking all other races, religions and friendships. He would marry within the clan; train a student of his own. The blade, the arrow, and the lightning bolt, the symbols of the clan as a whole were now his religion, his god. Such was life of his people.


Chapter 1: Remnant

Ahndrith stared at the smoking ruins of the town. He growled under his breath, feeling Tear tense as he scratched him behind the ears. Under his breath, the elf said Easy, old friend. Easy. With a snarl, Ahndrith spun on his heel and strode back into the forest. Best to leave before the flashbacks started again. Centuries had passed since he left the Tailin, and yet, the memories were as clear as ever. His greatsword, Solus, moved with him, the two flowing together in a grace born of years of practice. Tear too, turned, and trotted to catch up to her friend.
The grizzled old female wolf, long ago exiled by her pack had found a battered Ahndrith years ago, after a vicious fight with a pack of werewolves. The elven warrior had won. Exhausted, he collapsed to the ground and would have become fodder for the scavengers had it not been for Tears intervention while he recovered his strength. Now, the two were rarely separated.

The bandit attacks had been growing more frequent, that was the third village in this month alone They did not dare to enter the forest yet, to pillage the wondrous elven city of Iccariel yet, but it would not be long. The bandits, under their leader, Gronok (rumored to be half-orc) grew more confident daily. For all his efforts, Ahndrith had been unable to locate the bandit camp. A pity, that. Always he was too late to defend the towns around the Blackwood, always to late to do anything but observe, to do anything but want to shed tears that never came.

The two companions moved through the undergrowth without a sound. Though they did not hunt, the toe-heel movement was now habit, as was stepping around the fallen twigs, the bushes, the fallen limbs. They were known as the silent protectors of this small forest, stuck in the far northeast of Faerun. Always there, never seen or heard. Now, they were failing. Ahndrith felt the frustration building. It was always building anymore. He felt as hopeless as he had than night . . . No, mustnt think on that. Muttering to himself, he said Cant let myself remember. Counterproductive. Wont solve anything. He strode into the camp they shared, deep in a clearing. A small hut for Ahndrith with a nearby cave in the cliff backing the hut for Tear. She usually slept with him, though, on the small rug in the center of the hut. It was far from spacious, but a living was a living. Checking the nearby dead oak used by the inhabitants to inform him of events, he found nothing. Again. Nothing was never good news. Which town would it be tonight? No sleep again, it seemed. Sleep, as anything seemed anymore, was a rare luxury.

The sun was setting, an orb as fiery as the dragons flames that adorned his back. They still hadnt faded. Such was the skill the emblem had been done with. Sighing, Ahndrith scratched the name of Barrowsvale off the map of the area. Too many names crossed out, too many towns obliterated without a trace. That was what puzzled him. No survivors, only the rare building left as a flame-blackened hulk. Hed never seen bandits work like that. It was almost as if orcs were behind the attacks. But even then . . . orcs didnt behave like this. They were content to torch the town and leave it be. This was deliberate, systematic. Ahndrith slammed his fist against against the wall, making his home shiver. Growling, he cast a quick glance to Tear and said We hunt.

The sounds of the nighttime forest awakening didnt penetrate the mind of the warrior as he ran through it. He was reviewing the geography, looking for any possible clue, any hint of which settlement might be next. A bark of bitter laughter sounded in his mind. There were so few now, that it was getting quite easy to check on them all.

He scrambled up a tall tree, nestling in the crook made by the trunk and one of the boughs for a rushed dinner. A few bites of jerky, a gulp of water. Hed been planning on something a bit more substantial, but that was when he noticed the flames licking the sky, off to the south. Not outside the forest, either. That made it Arrowsford. He leapt from his perch, rolling as he hit the ground. Tear was already on her feet and running as he broke into a light run in a beeline for the imperiled settlement.

It was a scene plucked from the Nine Hells themselves. Every building in sight was burning. A woman trying to flee, her child wrapped in her arms found a sword buried in her back, killing the pair of them. Human bandits, mainly with some orcs and trolls for stiffening. It was the figure Ahndrith saw striding amongst the destruction that nearly stopped his heart. Her movements were light, graceful, casual as she inspected the destruction. She was stunning, with a dress that clung to her form, revealing far more than it concealed, opaque by the barest of margins. None of this, though, registered with Ahndrith. Her skin color did. Ebony-black, the drow priestess smiled and nodded as she came upon the corpses of the mother and child.

Though he could not see his face, Ahndrith knew it to be twisted in rage. His greatsword was out in a flash. Charging in, he lacked the cool efficiency of his typical demeanor in combat. An almost offhanded stroke cleanly removed the head of an orc as he charged into the flames. Out of the periphery of his vision, he saw Tears fangs tear into the throat of a bandit. A spinning slash ripped another of the thugs in two. Ahndriths follow-through turned the head of another orc into a pile of gore. He screamed in rage as he did so, feeling the blood and tissue splatter across his face.

A thought activated one of the enchantments wrapped into the making of his blade. Lightning crackled along the surface of the metal. Licking some of the blood from his lips, the hatred turned into a feral grin as more of the attackers noticed him. A few quick strokes later, they lay dead or dying, weapons and bodies alike shattered by his blade. It was then that the drow ***** noticed him. She smiled, managing to make the expression both seductive and terrifying. Faster than he would have believed possible, she raised an arm, firing the handcrossbow hidden within it. Ahndrith dodged a hair too late. Just a hair, but in combat, that hair could contain worlds of difference. He felt the quarrel bite into his shoulder, felt the potent sleeping poison within go to work. He collapsed on the spot.

*****

Arrows cut into the attackers, each broadhead shaft burying itself in a throat or eye. Orc and human alike fell to the ground. The brunt of the attack was crushed by the decimating assault. Dark figures seemed to spring from the ground, swiftly cutting the throats of the few survivors. The leader of this assault screamed for the archers to take down the priestess, fast! Another rush of arrows fell towards the town, bouncing harmlessly off a shield of air. The drow smiled as the foot soldiers ran toward her, their lithe strides covering ground at a frightening pace. Faster than most eyes might detect, a whip came out, with writhing snakes for heads. One head took an attacker by the throat as the priestess flung a lightning bolt at another of her assailants. She seemed death incarnate. The numbers, though, were simply too much for her. Her body was quickly ripped to shreds by their blades.

The entire scene was a gruesome one to a healer. Silthia vomited, looking at the senseless destruction. There would be minor wounds to heal later, amongst her companions, but it was too late for most of them and she could do nothing for the few survivors. None of them would accept help from such as her. Her eyes flickered over the battlefield. She felt bile rising again in her stomach but forced it down as her sight caught on the body of a wood elf, a warrior for all appearances. She shouted, Help him! to a few companions, pointing to his prone form and hoping they would take her meaning. Thank the gods, they did. Two warriors scooped him up, another grabbing his massive greatsword. Without another sound, the Nystramiel disappeared into the deepest parts of the Blackwood, moving for the nearby mountains.

Slithia sighed in relief as they moved away. She hated seeing people in distress, hated killing, hated fighting, even. That was what had originally driven her from her families comfortable home in Menzoberranzan. Shed found the Underdark a harder place still to live, though, and had almost returned to the deceptively beautiful drow city to face her (no doubt very public) execution when shed found this band of her kin, rogues much like her. Ched Nasad, Menzoberranzan, even a few slaves escaped from the illithids.

Together, they had eked out a meager existence in Faeruns darkest recesses. There, she had slowly learned to use her magical talents, once a hated part of her to mend the injuries of her comrades. All too often, the wounds were beyond her abilities and they died. Slowly, the band had been whittled down to a hundred. That was when their leader, Alruhn, had decided to resort to the most desperate of measures. They had fled to the surface.

They soon met with rejection, though. A good hundred drow was far from a welcome sight anywhere in Faerun, much less near a small farming community barely able to protect itself from the orcs the plagued the area.

So, the rogues fled once again, hiding themselves away in the deep passes of Faeruns northeastern mountains. There, they acted as silent guardians, keeping to themselves. It was an unspoken rule that they guided them in this, but one that was obeyed as strictly as any law. There, they began referring to themselves as the Nystramiel, in the drow tongue, uncommon ones. It was a private joke amongst themselves.

They were silent as they crossed the rope bridge leading to their small village. None had said anything, but all knew it: 13 of them lay dead. 13. With the other deaths long gone by, that left them with but 79. A bare 79 to resist their kin should they decide to destroy them. 79 to defend themselves should the surface world discover them. Silthia sighed. Not enough. More would die in the coming winter, she was sure of it. The last few hadnt been as bad as the first, but they always lost a few. A voice interrupted her reverie, saying, Where do you want him? She started and turned, finding one of the two warriors carrying the wood elf. After a moments thought, she replied, Take him to my home. His things, too. The pair nodded and moved off, leaving her alone in her thoughts again.

The Nystramiel village was a nice enough place, she supposed. It lacked the grace of the drow cities, but so too did it lack the undercurrents of tension, chaos, and death that swirled amongst most of her kin. Shed seen little of surface architecture, but from what she had seen, it surpassed that. No small huts of mud and what wood could be gathered. Well-built stone was predominant. Slithias home was fairly comfortable by their meager standards, four side rooms and a small common area at the end of the village commons.

The two young warriors had hurried off, so by the time she returned to her house, she found him lying in the bed tucked into her treatment table. Sighing, she clucked her tongue as she looked at the wound. Sleeping poison, and a lot of it. Enough to kill, if left in too long. The trip to the village hadnt done any wonders for the wound, either. The quarrel had worked itself between his shoulder joint, dislocating the arm. The poison would probably be enough to keep him under, but the shock might well kill him before she could even begin to stabilize his condition. Sighing, she said, Nothing is ever easy and set to work.

The first matter, of course, was to clean the wound. Simple enough and done with speed born of years of practice. Stripping him of his shirt and light leather armor, she used a wad of bandages to staunch the blood flow and hold the quarrel still. He was quite handsome, she supposed, lean muscle structure, well proportioned. Too many scars, though. Nice enough hair. Such thoughts were well to the sidelines, as she started to twist the quarrel free. It was slow, gentle work. If the sinew was damaged too much, even her not inconsiderable talents would do nothing. After a good fifteen minutes of careful labor, she felt the bolt pull free. It would be easier now; the quarrel could simply be removed.

Sighing again, she set the small crossbow bolt aside, still covered in blood. Now for the poison. This was a delicate matter, drow poisons were vicious. Some contained enchantments to destroy the victim if magical aid was offered. She was out of any suitable antivenoms, though and had to risk it. Placing a hand over the face of the wood elf, she released her magic, letting the warm, comforting feel of it wash through her and into him. The hand glowed a soft gold that slowly washed through his body. No screams, no violent convulsions. It was without a hook, thank the gods. For the first time, her sigh was one of relief.

Now, it was a simple job to close the wound. A different healing energy this time, a pale green in color that knitted flesh to flesh, muscle to muscle. The dislocated joint was brought back together and the wound closed without a trace. Perhaps the first injury of his that didnt, she mused, eying the numerous scars running along his body and arms. Now, he needed rest. With a yawn, she realized she did as well. A wolf howled in the distance, the sound ripping through the night air. Without giving it a second thought, she extinguished the lantern and retired to her own modest bedroom.

*****

Deep green eyes flecked with lavender flickered open, invisible in the near-total darkness. Near total. They werent too deep into the Underdark, then. There was still a chance of escape. The effects of the sleeping venom still clung to Ahndriths mind as he swung from his bed. Small wonder, then, that he failed to notice the bed, or that he was unrestrained. After allowing a few moments for his eyes to adjust, he stood. Almost, he fell back into the sheets. Using a hand for support, he rubbed his temple and set out to explore his environs. It didnt feel as he imagined the Underdark would, the air wasnt hot or muggy in the slightest. Indeed, it had the bite of nighttime in the high peaks. Perhaps they hadnt made it to the entrance the drow had come from.

The chirp of a nightbird confirmed his suspicions. Working along the wall (apparently theyd stumbled across some form of shelter), he entered the common area of the house. Listening for a careful moment, he followed the sound of the breathing, entering Slithias room. His eyes picked up on her sleeping form, running along it for the briefest of intervals before he crept to her bedside. This was the woman who had taken him captive, who had no doubt sent Tear to the afterlife. He whispered a quick prayer for his longtime companion before letting rage surge through his body. His hands shot forward, wrapping around her neck. Thumbs pressing into the hollow at the base of her neck, he cut of her air supply as she awoke. The technique was effective; her attempt at a scream was nothing more than a feeble wheeze.

Clamping a hand to her mouth, he kept the other to his throat and whispered, You, drow, are going to tell me why you were in my woods and help me get out of here. Then, youre going to leave. Understand? Her eyes were shot with fright, but at the corners, something else flickered. Pity, perhaps? Sorrow? He couldnt identify the emotion but released his grip on her jaw as she nodded her assent. The hand trailed to her throat, should she try anything. Who are you Ahndrith demanded in a harsh whisper. Slithia she gasped, adding A healer. It was all Ahndrith could do to contain a bark of bitter laughter. He caught her mumbled I should have expected this by the barest of margins. His shoulder was healed, though. Probably only so she could push his torture further.

You didnt answer my second question, drow Ahndrith said, eyes glinting. My name, Silthia replied, a touch of annoyance in her voice Is Slithia, not drow. As for why we were in your woods, our kin rejected us. This time, Ahndrith couldnt keep the laughter down. His tone completely sarcastic and bitter, he asked, So you come to carve out an empire of your own on the surface? Slithia shook her head as best she could with Ahndriths massive hands still around her throat, disheveled hair flying. Nightmares. We have no desire to hurt you or any other surface dwellers. All we ask is peace she replied, desperation touching her voice. She suddenly found that for despite all her shortcomings, all her unfulfilled desires, she didnt want to die. This man, whoever she was, could deny her life with ease.

Please she gasped. Dont kill me. I speak only the truth. I swear it. Glaring, his hands left her throat as he said, I trust you. For now. Well talk further in the morning. He returned to his room, and she, to her fitful sleep.

Kitty-Kat
May 10th, 2005, 10:39 AM
It's great, I like it! Though sometimes you're a little too descriptive and I lose my train of thought. XD But it's really good. =3