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Thread: Chapter Six

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    Chapter Six


    Alithana walked leisurely southward, alongside the road. The sounds of talking and the residual light from the camp behind her started to fade. Several hundred yards away from the camp, the tracks from the bandits which have been pursuing them were easy enough to spot. She wasn’t a tracker, but the bandits had several horses with them, and the hoof-prints were fresh.

    Elves were naturally gifted with the capability to see well, even in near pitch darkness. With the full moon casting a dull light down anyway, her vision was on par with what any human would have during the day. She would easily be able to follow the tracks through the sparse forest, but she simply stood there, looking steadily up at the moon, with the leaves of the trees lazily drifting in the slight wind. Her senses remained acute, but she was deep in thought.

    The moon, somber and faded compared to the sun, but if you are all that remains of the light when the deep slumber that is approaching us consumes the world, will the rejoicing of nature be worth the price of its redemption? The Elders spoke of travesties and destruction wrought by the humans upon the nature that surrounds them, that they viewed the world as nothing but a tool for their own ambitions… But casting judgment on the world after 300 years of isolation is arrogance of an even greater degree…

    The trees, swaying gently in the breeze, blocked much of the moonlight as she began down the path, following the tracks as they meandered through the woods. Eventually, ahead of her was a simple camp for the bandits chasing them. However, there were only three men, presumably the three which Trailo spoke of as attacking him and his father Vicril after we left town.

    Two of them were sleeping, and the third was on watch, leaning against a tree and working on some makeshift arrows. Alithana recognized the man as the one who had caused her the injury in her shoulder, and what’s worse had placed poison on the arrow. Her brow furrowed as she recalled the event, and the hand on her staff gripped it tightly.

    It would be a simple matter to deal with him now, or even to deal with all three of them, and be done with it… But no, just as the Elders cannot judge, neither will I condemn them to death. They know they were spotted earlier, and know we will be alert, prepared for an attack. If there are only three of them, they wouldn’t be stupid enough to attack. But if they do, I will not restrain myself, nor settle with using mere illusions to scare them...

    She doubled back and returned first to the road, and then to the camp itself. She walked in with a conscious effort to allow the campfire to cast light on her immediately so that whoever was awake would not be unnecessarily startled. She noticed that everyone from before was now back asleep, and Gregor’s friend Jorba was standing watch. She headed toward him and explained about the three bandits in the camp. After hearing the explanation, Jorba scratched his chin a few times. “And you’re sure there were only three of them?”

    “These three were the only ones not involved in the ambush in the clearing earlier. It’s possible there may be others nearby, but I didn’t notice any other tracks.”

    Jorba nodded, “I spoke with Gregor earlier. We’ll try to put some distance between us and them tomorrow, so we’ll be leaving an hour before sunrise, which gives us about two hours before we start breaking camp. You should try to get some rest until then.”

    “I’ll be able to get some rest on the move. For now, I’m going to prepare a surprise for our pursuers to help… dissuade them from chasing after us any further.” Without another word, she started walking away from the camp along the road to the north.

    Gregor feels a strong hand on his shoulder, shaking him awake. As he opens his eyes, it’s Jorba standing above him. The sky is still dark, and the moon is nearing the horizon now, so even that light is fading. “Is it time?”

    Jorba nods, and then explains to him what Alithana discovered about the bandits. “She’s off to the north somewhere preparing what she called a ‘surprise for our pursuers.’ She hasn’t returned yet, and it’s been nearly two hours.”

    Gregor raised his eyebrow at this, “Well, we still break camp as planned. If she doesn’t return when we’re ready to move, we’ll send a few people out to find her.” Jorba nods again and they begins waking up the rest of the camp, briefly explaining the situation to all of them before providing everyone with a light meal. While distributing the food, they discuss how they will organize their group. There are 16 in the group, counting the new arrival Trailo and Jothal’s wolf Ash.

    A few minutes later, as they are breaking camp and preparing to move, Jorba addresses the group once again, “Myself, Gregor, and Bogart will pilot the wagons, while Trailo, since he's injured, and the three women will ride. But you eight other men will split into two groups of four which will alternate riding on the horses at midday. Those who rode yesterday will be riding in the wagons the first half of the day.” He then turns to Jothal, “Not sure how your wolf deals with long distance running without many rests, but, if he needs to, there's room in the wagons for him as well. Don't want him injuring himself keeping up with horses all day...”

    "If you want, I can keep him rested in the wagon until we get a safe distance away from the bandits. That way he'll be rested in case they attack. Once we get a safe distance away, he should be fine for a bit of running," Jothal responds.

    Jorba nods and says, "I guess have him run while you're on horseback and ride when you're in the wagon." He turned and spoke to the whole group again, "Including today, it'll take us 3 days to reach Nalvo. Assuming we can stay ahead of the ones chasing us, we shouldn't encounter any other bandits, so let's get things secured and move out." The group begins breaking camp and getting ready to move. It only takes a few minutes before everyone climbs into the wagons themselves or mounts horses. One of the four on horseback goes to scout ahead immediately and the other three will stay with the caravan for now.

    Gregor is piloting the front wagon, with Bogart beside him. Bogart is Gregor’s and Elda’s son, father of Seraphi. He’s been caravanning much of his life, and lost his wife during a bandit attack several years before. Elda and Seraphi were inside the wagon, as were two other men and the young Trailo who arrived in the night.

    The rear wagon is being led by Jorba. Much of the equipment is in the wagon, but Jothal and his wolf Ash climb inside, alongside one of the caravaners and Alithana, who returned while the others were breaking camp. The two extra horses, one of which Trailo used to get here, are tied behind the second wagon. If any of the other horses tire, such as those pulling the wagons, they can quickly switch them out to be able to maintain a quick pace and keep ahead of the bandits.

    Gregor and Jorba set the horses to a trot and pulled the wagons out onto the road, heading north. The sun begins rising shortly after, and getting this early of a start should help put some distance between the bandits and them. The morning goes smoothly, and at midday they take a quick break to allow those on horseback to switch with those riding in the wagons. Periodically someone will head off to scout ahead, but most of the time they ride alongside the wagons keeping watch. The rest of the day passes uneventfully. Camp was made, watches doubled just in case, and no riders arrived in the night this time.

    Much of the next two days were the same. With the use of the extra two horses, one of which Trailo brought, and with Ash being able to rest in the wagon, the group maintains a quick pace and covers ground fast. As the sun begins to set on the third day, the caravan reaches the peak of a gentle hill and sees ahead of them the city of Nalvo.

    The city before them is where they were at just before heading south to Foabur, before they had been ambushed by those bandits and saved by the elf Alithana. The size of Nalvo makes the small town of Foabur look laughable in comparison. The vast farmlands spread out for many miles around the city, the roads are well-paved and kept mostly clean of horse droppings, and the walls that surround the city are tall and strong. With the city visible, the caravaners visibly relaxed and their mood improved; no longer did they need to be constantly alert and ready for bandits to jump out at them without any notice. They pressed forward, to the city.

    Tranan was well into the middle years of his life now. He had been born and raised in the vast city of Triln, but since joining the Mages Guild he has had numerous opportunities to visit surrounding cities and towns, usually on missions searching for those with magical auras that would indicate they have magical potential. If left to themselves, their untamed potential could lead to unconsciously bringing harm to those around them, and Tranan could view, or in most cases feel, the aura that surrounded them.

    Jorin was just such a case. He lived in Trannyth, and at the age of 15 he collapsed a house. He had already known for several years that he could move certain objects short distances, and one day a fire had sprung up in the city, spreading from building to building. Every able-bodied man was doing what they could to put out the fire. Jorin had tried to push the fire away to prevent it from spreading further, and ended up making it roar louder and grow quicker than normal, but he couldn’t figure out why. As the fire continued, he grew more desperate and tried as hard as he could to force the fire back. The weakened beams of the burning building couldn’t resist the blast, and the entire house collapsed on top of several of those trying to put out the fire.

    He later learned, after being recruited into the Guild, that what he was actually doing was moving the air, generating wind, and he had initially just been feeding the fire more oxygen, causing the opposite from what he wanted. When he collapsed the house, the gust of wind he caused was strong enough to knock most people off their feet. He wanted to dedicate himself to learning auras so that he might be able to find others with magical potential and bring them into the Guild before they also unwittingly caused harm to those around them. Tranan had taught him much, and Jorin learned quickly, soon becoming Tranan’s prime pupil and main assistant. When the Archmage came to Jorin about the discovery of instability within the aura, they decided this expedition was the best course of action—they needed to figure out the nature of the instability and then find out the cause of it.

    After only a few days and a tense confrontation with Lord Davben himself, they are now through the gate of Triln, headed to Gellantara in the northeast. The city of Triln was the largest on the continent, aside from Aciadon far to the southeast, and due to the massive growth the city has undergone in Jorin’s lifetime, outside the walls were thousands more buildings, circling the city. Mostly homes, with shops, stables, forges, markets, and other structures scattered around as well. With the recent growth, land inside the walls had skyrocketed in value, and increasing population spurred vast construction projects outside the wall. In some ways, it's like another town across the wall, but the people still identify themselves as citizens of Triln, and passage through the gates is free for everyone during the day.

    It was early morning, with the sun still rising across the horizon, so the streets were nearly unoccupied; most people were still waking up, getting ready, and beginning to start their days. Three of the knights were on their horses, keeping close to the wagons, and the other three knights were in the rear wagon. They did not expect anything to happen for the first few days at least, as any bandits that close to the city would have been routed and killed years ago, which is part of the reason that living outside the walls has long been considered safe and is now just a statement about social class.

    Continuing forward, the buildings steadily thin and grow spare, and farther ahead are vast farms with the occasional farmhouse, barn, shed, and granary. It takes a few hours, but eventually even that starts to end and trees dominate the horizon. The entire region between here and Gellantara is sparsely forested with rolling hills. The rest of the first day passes uneventfully, and camp is made on the side of the road. The second group of knights handles the watches that night, and in the morning they mount their horses as the other group ties theirs to the rear wagon and climbs inside.

    This continued on for several more days. The expedition made fast progress and was unhindered. Twice, they passed a caravan headed the opposite direction, toward Triln, but they caused no trouble. Eventually, on the sixth day, Gellantara was only a few hours ahead. Instead of riding in the wagon, all six knights were on horseback. The trees thinned and became farmland, and after cresting a hill the city walls of Gellantara were ahead of them, along with the vast ocean visible to the right with dozens of ships on the water, some easily recognizable as fishing boats and others as merchant vessels.

    One of the knights, Darvyn, whistled and said, "Would you look at that..." Likewise, a few of the other knights and some of the mages made short statements about it. Triln is many miles from the sea, and several of those here have never seen it before in their lives. After a few more moments of hesitation, the group continues forward, reaching the city and entering it.

    Tranan led the caravan through a few streets to a large inn with adjoining stables, the Delirious Sailboat Inn. From the gates to here, only a few blocks inside the city, there had already been more than a dozen city guards, either patrolling around, standing at attention in front of important buildings, or watching various intersections. After arriving at the inn, the horses were attended to, the wagons stored alongside the building, and rooms in the inn purchased. Tranan, addressing the group, says, "We leave in the morning, so don't get too comfortable. You've got the rest of the day to do what you want, go sight-seeing, whatever, but be ready to leave at dawn."

    The knights decided to check out the city a bit, while most of the mages decided to get some rest. They weren’t used to travelling, and the quick pace they kept resulted in few rests or chances to stretch their legs, so they retired to their rooms upstairs. It was a larger, four-story inn, but even so they booked more than half of the available rooms. As the knights left and the mages went upstairs, Tranan turned to the innkeeper, “After passing through the gate, the guardsmen seemed distracted, and we noticed there were an abnormally high amount of them on the streets. Did something happen recently?”

    “Aye, last night some trade official or something like that got murdered. Not sure what his name was, but he was apparently pretty important if the reaction is severe enough to triple the guards on duty. They’ve got a big investigation going on as well, but I don’t know the details,” the innkeeper responded.

    Tranan nods. He had a bad feeling that this would slow them down. He thanked the innkeeper and left the inn, heading toward the western gate and going outside the city. The riverboat they would use to leave Gellantara and head to Tarmikos makes port just outside the city, and Tranan went to speak with the rivermaster who coordinated the shipping up and down the river. Similar to Triln, the area outside the walls had houses and other structures, and a few hundred yards past them was another group of buildings near the edge of the water.

    After getting directions to where he would find the rivermaster, Tranan approached the man who was overseeing a few boatworkers. After explaining who he was, Tranan asked, “I came to confirm whether we’d be leaving on schedule tomorrow or not, considering the investigation going on in the city.”

    The man looked Tranan up and down and responded after a few moments, “Sorry, they already ordered us to stay at port today and tomorrow, so you’re stuck here an extra day.” He put his hand up as if to stop any complaints and continued, “Nothing I can do about it, that’s just how things are. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got workers slacking off…” Reluctantly, Tranan turned and left, considering possibly heading on foot to Tarmikos, but dismissing it since it’d still be slower and would only serve to spite those who had no control over the circumstances. They had no choice but to wait the extra day.

    For as far back as Seraphi could remember, the road was more familiar than any other place. Her grandparents as well as her own parents had caravanned constantly, barely staying at any town or city long enough to trade wares and move on to the next. When her mother died seven years ago, Seraphi could not comprehend what was really happening. Now, being twelve, she’s learned from others how it happened.

    The caravan had been heading from Triln to Nalvo, a road that is generally considered rather safe. Every now and then some bandit packs will decide to attempt to raid caravans on the road, and the day before they would reach Nalvo they were attacked. The battle was bloody, with twenty caravaners losing their lives. They had been unable to circle the wagons at the time, and the fighting was frantic as the charging bandits rushed in from both sides of the road. During the midst of it, a few bandits took the opportunity to immediately search the wagons for valuables, and upon finding the women one proceeded to slaughter several of them. Seraphi’s mother died hiding the five-year-old girl beneath her.

    Bogart, Seraphi’s father, and several others had managed to fight off the bandits and make it to the wagon only moments too late to save her. Seraphi’s own memories of the event are unclear and confusing, but she knows well the grief her father has been dealing with ever since, and he’s long refused to travel down that road as a result. Yet, after reaching Nalvo that is exactly the path that must be taken. So far he had yet to make mention of it, but Seraphi knew it was affecting him, which is why grandpa Gregor had insisted he ride at the helm of the wagon, so they both could discuss what would be done.

    Seraphi herself wasn’t sure how she felt about it either, but she pushed off thinking about it, trying to avoid the memories as much as possible. When they had first been attacked by the bandits in the clearing two days before, Seraphi understood what it could mean, and feared the worst, seeing flashes from her memories as a young child. When they had been saved by Alithana, she fought back the memories and focused on the present, greatly admiring the seemingly unnaturally beautiful elven women who had taken an arrow to the shoulder and hardly flinched.

    Yet when she collapsed from the poison, dread and despair crept back into Seraphi’s mind. Later, in Foabur, seeing Alithana’s arm, crippled and useless at her side, did little to abate her fears. And now, being chased by bandits on the road, she couldn’t help but constantly imagine another ambush, with every tree being a possible hiding place. Yet the trees hid nothing, and the bandits are now far behind them. She was anxious. Everything had been happening way too fast, was way too frantic. She could hardly keep up with everything anymore.

    First an elf that rescues us from harm and needs to get to Triln… We owe her our lives, so we’ll help if we can, but we still don’t know why, only that she’s being chased by other elves… The stranger with the wolf and the other one with a crippled arm similar to Alithana… Why are they here? They owe her nothing, unlike us… What are they after? Why does Alithana need to reach Triln? Do these other two have something to do with that? And why are those bandits chasing us? Usually they give up if their target escapes, yet they haven’t… None of this makes any sense… What happened to a simple life on the road that caused it to become like this…?

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    Re: Chapter Six

    Player Characters mentioned/seen in Chapter Six: Trailo Milner, Jothal Wayland, Darik Rynthai, Holland Novak, Cypha Capulet.

    Player Perspective for Holland Novak, Part 1:

    The Harbors of Gellantara, said by many to be the most magnificant of any within a thousand miles, and beyond that seconded only by Aciadon to the far southeast and a few obscure ports on foreign shores. Yet, Holland cared little about how it compared to strange places he's never been nor likely ever will. He knew this harbor inside and out, it was his home.

    His father was a fisherman, working hard to earn the day's pay. He had no memory of his mother, just that she died when he was very young. When six years old, he stood on the edge of the furthest pier, looking out toward the east over the water as the sun slowly set behind him and the skies darkened. His father's fishing boat still had yet to return, even though they were due back hours ago.

    Night came, and still Holland remained, worried and confused. By morning, there had still been no sign of his father's vessel. Occasionally other ships would arrive, bringing false hopes that vanished quickly, and in their place they left doubts and fears. In his hand he held the tooth of a shark, given to him by his father only days before, and he gripped it tightly as he waited.

    Eventually, a dockworker who had long been friends with Holland's father came up to him. "You can't stay here forever, he wouldn't want you to just sit out here and wither away. Come with me, I know a place you can stay. If he returns I'll let him know where he can find you." Holland was reluctant to follow the man, but didn't know what else to do.

    The man took him on horseback to a place a half-day south of Gellantara, a small settlement named Dalhurst. It was only a few dozen buildings and perhaps 60 people, half of whom were children. Dalhurst took in stray and homeless people, as well as orphans, and they agreed to accept Holland as well, until the day his father would return and come to get him. But his father never came.

    Trying not to lose hope, he thought back to stories his father had told him about their homeland across the see, a place called Aynor far to the east. Holland had no memories of it, and his father never explained why they had sailed away from it. The few stories he heard about Aynor described it as a lush but harsh jungle-covered land, sparsely inhabited with isolated towns.

    Holland's foreign appearance caused the other orphans to often pick on him and make fun of how he looked. Both him and his father had colorless, white hair, and their eyes showed a faint reddish hue. The hope of his father returning was all that kept Holland going, but as week after week passed, no one came.

    Holland gradually became more and more despondent and distanced himself from those around him. One day another orphan approached him and asked about the color of his eyes and hair, not mockingly or sarcastically like all the others, but out of genuine curiosity and interest, and it caught him by surprise. His short answer that he always gave, about being from Aynor, was usually all that he ever told anyone, but she continued conversing and asking questions, and he found himself readily explaining everything, the stories of Aynor, his father, their life in Gellantara, and the disappearance of his father.

    Her name was Touka, and they gradually became friends, but all the questions about his father had forced him to come to terms with his death. She told him about her own father, a former knight of Triln. All that she had to remember him by was a crest with the sigil of the city of Triln emblazoned on it. The next day, she took that crest and held it out to Holland. It had been made into a necklace, and she was giving the only memento of her father to him.

    He was stunned at first, but as he grasped the shark tooth in his hand he knew it was necessary in order to move on. He accepted the gift, and then fastened his memento from his father into a necklace and handed that back to her. Each of them now wore the memento of the other's father, and As the next few years passed, they grew closer together, relying heavily on each other.

    However, when they were both 12 years old, Holland awoke to screaming outside. As he rushed out of the building, several buildings were on fire, the flames roaring in the early morning light. At first he was going to get a bucket to stop the fire, but the sight of someone being stabbed through the chest and the screams of "Bandits!" stopped him cold. He stood there, unable to react.

    After a few moments, he realized the bandit was headed for him next, and he started to turn and flee, but was grabbed by another bandit only a few feet away. Screaming and kicking trying to get free, the men just laughed as they threw him into a wall. Holland felt the dull heat from a blade slashing its way through his flesh like butter. His cry of pain lasted only a few seconds before he blacked out.

    Waking painfully, he pulled himself from the ground. The wound on his chest hurt like nothing he had ever felt before, but as he looked around at the charred remains of buildings and dozens of corpses scattered throughout the remnants of Dalhurst, he began looking around and calling out in a weak, pained voice, all in search of Touka.

    There were few survivors, but Holland didn't find Touka anywhere, nor most of the other women. One of the other men that survived told him that they had been kidnapped by the bandits, and hearing this Holland panicked. He turned and headed out from the settlement in the direction the man said the bandits went. His wound bled constantly, but he didn't care anymore; he just gripped the necklace with her father's knight crest and continued on.

    For awhile he thought he was on the right track, but he quickly got lost. He wandered in the woods for two days before finally finding the main road, which he followed for another day before collapsing to the ground from exhaustion.

    The next time he awoke, he was being treated by someone. "You're lucky to be alive, boy. Your wound was infected, and you would've been dead if we hadn't shown up when we did..." It was a travelling merchant and his wife that tended to him, and they were part of a larger caravan headed from Gellantara to Triln.

    Holland explained his story and what had happened, and eventually learned that the man's name was Bogart. "I have to find them... I have to save her."

    The man, seeing the crest on his necklace, shook his head. "For now, you need to be patient and become stronger. This crest is of the Knights of Triln and has the sigil of House Davben on it. We are headed to Triln now. If you want a chance to save someone, you need to grow strong. For instance, you can join the knights, train, get used to using a sword, and then you'll be able to prevent bandits like those from making others suffer as you are..."

    It took time, but eventually Holland Novak joined the ranks of the knights. His determination came from the sliver of hope that he'd find Touka one day and slay the bandits that kept her imprisoned. Every day he trained hard to improve and grow stronger as quickly as possible.

    He outpaced nearly every other knight his age, although he cared little how he compared to the others. His mind was focused only on what he would be able to use his skills to accomplish. One day, when he was 18, he was assigned a new sparring partner, but it wasn't another knight-in-training he was to spar with, it was Adolin Davben, son of the Lord of Triln. At first, Holland went easy, afraid to harm the young lord, but Adolin was extremely skillful and immediately disarmed Holland. A bit stunned and trying to go over what had just happened, he stood there for a moment and a knight supervising this called out, "Don't underestimate him, Holland! He's been trained by the best since he was old enough to walk!"

    Holland preferred a heavier blade, a broadsword, but the young lord used something much more rare, a flamberge. A longer and heavier sword, its steel blade curved like flames, but the strange shape wasn't just for decoration. Whenever it struck Holland's sword, it caused intense vibrations in the metal, making it nearly impossible to keep hold of it. Sparring every day against such a weapon was difficult, but it helped him improve quickly, and he found that against normal opponents his newfound grip strength gave him distinct advantages. He steadily became something along the lines of friends with the young lord, and they sparred against each other frequently for several years.

    Most knights-in-training only become official Knights of Triln at the age of 20, but a mixture of good words from Adolin and his recognized skills led to him being knighted a year early. Being a knight, they were fed and housed by the city itself, but above that they weren't paid extravagantly. If Adolin was involved in planning specific things where a knight was needed as an escort, guard, or some other position, Holland's name was nearly always put at the top of the list, often earning him some extra pocket change for awhile, if the job went smoothly.

    This continued for the next year, until shortly after his 20th birthday tragedy struck the city. An assassination attempt on Adolin and his family led to the death of Adolin's mother. Holland wasn't directly involved in the investigation, but tried to follow it closely. The organization of the assassins, known as Teir, was quickly destroyed. The noble house Margold headed the investigation and led the attack on the Teir hideout.

    The ensuing time where the people who hired Teir were searched for was a tense period. The knights were kept on standby constantly, ready to receive orders at any moment day or night, but few orders came. The names of a few co-conspirators came out after a few days, Mark and Burnett Anders, two trade dignitaries from Gellantara, and Jon Archadian, who many recognized to be a very successful tournament fighter in the city for numerous years. Jon Archadian had won dozens of large tournaments, and when his name was branded as a co-conspirator many of the knights were taken aback. Nonetheless, the knights set out in search of the men, but they had already fled the city by this time.

    Gellantara has since refused to give up the dignitaries, which has led to them being considered prime suspects for the assassination attempts. Jon Archadian's whereabouts are unknown, but his name and a brief description of him remain visible on message boards throughout the city. After a few months, the tense atmosphere in the city dissipated and things calmed down and steadily became normal again.

    Holland continued training to master his sword skills over time, and one day while practicing in the training yards they ask for a few volunteers for some field research the Mages Guild is doing. Intrigued, Holland puts his name in. As they are headed off the field for a full briefing, he hears Adolin call his name.

    However, Holland's brow furrows and he turns away, a bit irritated. After Adolin approaches, he asks about the situation and what is going on, to which Holland gives a curt explanation about the volunteers being asked for and then begins walking forward away from Adolin.

    Caught off guard, Adolin jogs forward to catch up and asks, "Holland? What is going on?" After they both get a bit farther from the others, "We are away from the others now. Why are you acting so oddly?"

    Holland sighs. Some of the recent jobs Adolin has got Holland into haven't turned out so smooth, and have been more troublesome and far from worth the meager pay, and if Adolin is about to offer yet another one he'd rather have no part in it. However, Adolin dismisses that and says "Anyways, that expedition thing is why I'm here... What's it all about?"

    A little confused, Holland looks at him and says, "They haven't given us any details yet, just that the Mages Guild was getting an escort for it. It was a chance to get outside of this boring city, so I took it."

    Adolin considers this for a moment, and then explains, "If you can help me out and keep a close eye on the Mages Guild and report back to me what the mages are up to, then I will in return help you out with your financial situation. All you would need to do is keep a close eye on them and try to gather what you can. Try to guard their meetings, stick close to them while they are talking and gain their trust. I have a feeling something incredibly bad is about to occur in this city, and I think the Mages Guild is directly in the heart of it."

    Holland is a bit stunned by this, but slowly nods his head and responds, "I'll do what I can, but don't expect anything too much, not sure they'd let me get too close to anything important. Now, if you'll excuse me, they are about to begin briefing us." Holland steps forward and catches up with the rest of the volunteers into the building for the briefing.

    The one who explains the expedition is Archmage Tranan Chandler. The explanation is quick, and afterward when he asks for questions Holland speaks up, "In the event of a bandit attack, will we be taking prisoners, and should we pursue fleeing bandits after such an attack? Also, should we be aware of the purpose or goal of this expedition?"

    The archmage responds, "The purpose of this expedition is not to slay or capture bandits around Tarmikos. If they attack, we defend ourselves, but making them flee should be enough. We won't mourn for any casualties on their side, however, so no need to hold back during a fight." He pauses for a moment. "Our goals are purely academic. We'll be studying magical auras."

    Tranan asks the rest of the group if they have any other questions. No one else has any, so everyone is dismissed and told to gather at the northeastern gate at sunrise...
    Last edited by Mythonian; 11-25-2014 at 12:58 AM.
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    Re: Chapter Six

    Player Perspective for Holland Novak, Part 2:

    The next morning, Holland wakes early, over an hour before sunrise. He prepares his equipment, half-plate mail consisting of steel plates interspersed with leather and chainmail to allow more mobility, and a broadsword which he attaches at his waist.

    He heads out with his horse toward the gate and is the first to arrive. He Leans against a wall to wait for the others to arrive, idly grasping the necklace which he still wore from Touka. He would use this as an opportunity to hopefully find a hint about her whereabouts, or information about those that kidnapped her years ago.

    After a few minutes, one of the guardsmen approaches Holland and recognizes him as a knight, starting a bit of small-talk and then inquires about why he'd be standing around as he is. Holland answered, and the man responds, "An expedition? Usually they give us notice ahead of time, I didn't know the knights were doing anything until next week." He takes a look around the street, still mostly empty as the sun hasn't risen yet, "It seems you're quite early, sir knight. Is this expedition something special, to stand so long waiting on the rest of your party?"

    Holland shakes his head slowly, "No, I just like to be early, 'cause I am just that kinda guy." The man nods his head a bit, and there's a little more small-talk that happens. Eventually he walks away and returns to his post. After about 30 minutes or so, the other knights begin arriving with their horses.

    Just before the sun rises, two wagons approach, and those in the wagons are wearing the distinct robes of the Mages Guild. They stop a few yards in front of the knights, and Tranan comes down from a wagon and speaks, "We've got enough supplies for everyone until Gellantara, where we will restock. There is room in one of the wagons so half of you can alternate days to prevent your horses from tiring out. It's six days to Gellantara. Is everyone ready to set out?"

    Everyone nods and looks over their equipment one last time. After Holland checks his gear, he reaches into his tunic for his necklace, thinking again of Touka and of what happened in Dalhurst. The knights decide amongst themselves how to split into two groups and separate. Holland is in the second group and ties his horse to the rear wagon before climbing inside. The sun is nearly fully visible now, and the group is ready to leave the city.

    However, the gate is still closed. Normally it is opened at sunrise each day, but for some reason they have not yet opened it. After a few moments, Belkas approaches one of the gate guardsmen and asks about it. The guardsman takes a moment, and then says, "That." He points down the road leading toward the center of the city. He says this loud enough for nearly everyone to hear, and so everyone begins looking down the road.

    Approaching the group is the unmistakable figure of Lord Davben atop his steed, flanked by a retinue of his Elite Guard and a few other individuals. There have been various processions where he has made similar appearances, but this is quite odd.

    Holland and the other knights and mages in the wagons slowly step down onto the ground, all of them confused at the situation, and the knights on horseback dismount. As Lord Davben nears, everyone kneels to the ground. He stops his horse about 10 yards away from the nearest person and speaks, "Who among you is orchestrating this venture?"

    Tranan speaks in reply, "My lord, I am Archmage Tranan Chandler of the Mages Guild. I am the one leading this field research endeavor."

    Lord Davben continues, "From what I have heard, this expedition went from a simple concept to you all now standing before the city gates in mere days, and this timing has caught my attention. If you would be so kind as to satisfy my curiosity then we can both be about our day, Archmage."

    "Of course, my lord. At the Mages Guild, I have a very specific field of study, something known as the magical aura. In my study, I detected a disturbance in the aura and wished to investigate, but to do so I must leave the city and go to a place where other magics will not interfere. The area around Triln, due to the Mages Guild being here for centuries, is satiated with magical energies, and I am unable to determine the cause of the instability within the aura. As such, I set up this endeavor. Our goals are purely academic, my lord."

    The lord considers this for a moment, and then speaks again, "And where in this lies the urgency to spur it into action so quickly?"

    Tranan answers, "I fear that if the cause of the instability is not corrected, it may negatively affect all magic uses in unpredictable ways, and if left unchecked could lead to magic becoming uncontrollable and dangerous for the city as a whole."

    Lord Davben's eyes widen a bit at this, and he looks to his left, where his son Adolin is flanking him. Adolin looks around at the knights and mages, and Holland realizes he made eye contact with Holland, reminding him about what he was asked to do during the expedition. Adolin then speaks, "Archmage Tranan, if the city was potentially in such danger, why was it not immediately brought up to my father?"

    Tranan responds after a moment, "I do not believe that the city is in any immediate danger. It could take months or even years before any effects are seen from this, but I cannot tell for certain without getting away from the interference around the city. I did not think it worth your time to hear of a single man's thoughts that haven't even been verified yet, and are mostly theories at this point. Once we return from Tarmikos, we shall immediately explain our findings in full."

    Adolin looks back toward his father, who speaks once more, "You said you were headed for Tarmikos. That's quite a distance away. How long is this venture expected to last?"

    The Archmage responds, "We plan to spend about three weeks in Tarmikos before heading back, meaning we would return to Triln in about six weeks. If we make an important find earlier, we may send a messenger immediately, or leave early, to ensure you are informed as fast as possible, my lord."

    Look Davben looks over the gathering once more before speaking. "I will be expecting the full details when you return. You are all free to go." They all turn to head back toward the Citadel. As Adolin turns his horse, he once again locks eyes with Holland and gives a slight nod before heading back toward the heart of the city.

    Several of those in the group breathe sighs of relief, and after a moment return to preparing to leave. The gate opens, and the expedition sets off a trot, toward Gellantara, passing through the gate.

    Due to the massive growth Triln has undergone in Holland's lifetime, outside the walls are thousands more buildings, circling the city. Mostly homes, with shops, stables, forges, markets, and more scattered around as well. With the recent growth, land inside the walls has vastly increased in value, and the growing population spurred vast construction projects outside the wall. In some ways, it's like another town across the wall, but the people still identify themselves as citizens of Triln, and passage through the gates is free for everyone during the day.

    It's still early morning, so the streets are mostly unoccupied, but people are waking up, getting ready, and beginning to start their day. Holland, Darvyn, and Shalak are riding in the second wagon with their horses tied behind. None of them expect anything to happen for the first few days, as any bandits that close to the city would have been routed and killed years ago, which is part of the reason the that living outside the walls is considered safe.

    As the buildings thin, ahead of them are vast farms with the occasional farmhouse, barn, shed, and granary. It takes a few hours, but eventually even that starts to end and trees dominate the horizon. The entire region between here and Gellantara is sparsely forested with rolling hills. The rest of the first day is uneventful.

    Camp is made on the side of the road. Holland's group handles the watches that night, which passed uneventfully, and in the morning they spend the day on horseback, sometimes scouting ahead but mostly riding alongside the caravan.

    This continued on for several more days. The expedition made fast progress and was unhindered. Eventually, on the sixth day, Gellantara was only a few hours ahead. Instead of riding in the wagon, all six knights were on horseback. The trees thinned and became farmland, and the city walls of Gellantara were ahead of them all, along with the ocean visible to their right.

    One of the other knights, Darvyn, whistles and says, "Would you look at that..." Likewise, a few of the other knights and some of the mages make short statements about it. Triln is many miles from the sea, and several others have never seen it before in their lives. Seeing the city and the ocean brought back many memories in Holland. He was able to see dozens of ships out at see, some he instantly recognized as fishing boats and others as merchant vessels.After a few moments, the group continues forward, reaching the city and entering it.

    Tranan leads the caravan through a few streets to a large inn with adjoining stables. The horses are attended to, the wagons stored alongside the building, and rooms in the inn are purchased. Tranan, addressing the group, says, "We leave in the morning, so don't get too comfortable. You've got the rest of the day to do what you want, go sight-seeing, whatever, but be ready to leave at dawn."

    Some of the knights decide to see the harbors, while most of the mages decide to stay at the inn and rest. Holland takes a long stroll around the city, trying to get an idea of how things have changed from how he remembered Gellantara. Heading through the streets in his full armor, the townsfolk give him various looks and some whisper amongst themselves. Triln and Gellantara haven't had good relations, especially these last two years since two of their dignitaries were labeled as conspirators. Holland and the others wouldn't be very welcome here.

    He took a circuitous route around the city, eventually ending up walking around a bend and seeing before him the harbors. The harbors are the part of the city he remembered best, and also where the memories of his father were strongest. He realized that the harbor seems less busy then it used to be. Fewer ships are docked and unloading cargo. Because Triln has grown in recent years, Trannyth, another port to the south of Gellantara, has been receiving more and more sea trade every year, which has been hurting Gellantara.

    The raised tensions due to this were originally why the Gellantaran dignitaries, Mark and Burnett Anders, were in Triln two years ago. They were trying to work out agreements to use Gellantara for sea trade instead of Trannyth, but the negotiations took a turn for the worse after the assassination attempt was made and since then Trannyth has had a monopoly on any trade from Triln that needed to go out over the sea. The current state of the harbors Holland was looking at was pitiful compared to his memories...

    Breathing in the ocean breeze was a bit refreshing, but he turned away, trying to ignore the feelings it brought to the surface. He finally noticed that near the other side of the harbor were several of the others knights. They had come to take a look at the harbors, and he could see them speaking to one of the Gellantaran guards.

    He started to head in their direction, but after a few moments longer they turned and started heading down a street away from the harbor. Holland felt no need to catch up to them, so he simply continued at his current pace. The path they took was in the direction of the inn, which was where he would have been headed anyway. As he rounded one bend in the streets, he saw that the knights had stopped moving ahead. Someone was speaking to them.

    Holland was too far away to hear what was said, but the conversation was brief. Perhaps they were merely asking directions back to the inn, because afterward they continued on their way, the man stepping out of the path. However, after a few more seconds, the man begins to follow the knights down the road, and Holland realized he was intentionally using crowds to hide and stepping into doorways to remain hidden if the knights glanced anywhere close to his direction.

    Holland narrowed his eyes and continued forward. The man was focused forward, ensuring he didn't lose sight of where the knights went, and Holland was able to stick behind without much difficulty since he knew the path the knights were taking. He considered approaching the man and interrogating him, but figured he'd observe a bit longer to see what the man did.

    This continued until they arrived at the inn. While his fellow knights went inside casually, the strange man ducked into an alleyway, obscuring him from sight but remaining near the edge so he would see anyone entering or leaving the inn they were staying at. Holland stays well away and around a bend in the road to remain out of sight as he waited to see what the man would do next.

    After a few more moments the man decides to go inside the inn. He casually approaches the front door and walks inside. Scratching his chin a bit at the curious actions of the man, Holland follows suit and enters the inn and going into the common room. The aroma of cooking food reached his nose, and several other knights were sitting around a table, as well as some of the mages around another table. A few other people were scattered around the room, and the strange man that Holland had been following was sitting at the bar near the innkeeper.

    Holland grabs a drink and takes a seat at an empty table. All of the knights except for Cypha were in the room, chatting amongst themselves mostly, and after about 10 minutes of this the main meal is finished and the other knights begin grabbing bowls for the stew, and Holland just gets some bread instead. After sitting back down, Darvyn comes and sits down beside him and without a word begins eating. Between some bites he begins whispering, indicating the man at the bar, "That man's been here for awhile...he spoke with us out on the street he's from triln...wanted to know why we're here...must've followed us back to the inn."

    Holland nods, "I know, I have been following him around since you two were talking. He looks too shady by my standards."

    Darvyn raises his eyebrow slightly, but then nods. "For now we're just gonna keep an eye on him, but keep your sword handy just in case." After another minute or two, the man seems to rent a room from the innkeeper and stands up to head upstairs. After he walks up, Cypha walks down the stairs unarmored, seemingly not having recognized the man. She begins to get some food of her own.

    Not wasting any time, Holland finishes his food and heads up to his room as Darvyn heads over to where Cypha is filling her bowl. Holland's room is on the second floor of the four-story inn, and after stepping up the floor above the looks around but sees nobody. Holland sighs and enters his room. It's been a long day, and he'd leave it up the others downstairs to deal with the stranger. He begins taking off his armor and while pulling off a his greaves he hears a knock on the door. "What is it?" he says gruffly.

    After a moment, a voice comes from the other side of the door, "Sir, I have to clean the room right quick."

    Holland sighs and shakes his head, "The room is clean enough." He proceeds to take off his boots, setting it at the side of the bed alongside the rest of his equipment.

    The person beyond the door insists, "Sir I'm sorry, but I have to make my rounds. It shall only be a moment then I will be on my way..." Grumbling and sighing slightly, Holland stands and opens the door, instantly recognizing the man standing before him as the stranger that had followed Darvyn and the others. However, he gives no sign of his recognition and lets the man inside. Holland takes a seat in the corner of the room, keeping his sword nearby and watching what the man decides to do.

    After walking around the room briefly, the man steps by the mantel and while passing nearby Holland he suddenly jumps close and tries to bring his fist down on the side of his head. The strike is quick, but Holland was alert already and leans back in the chair as he raises his arms defensively. The blow comes down near his ear, but by warding off the man's arm it has little power and does not affect him. Holland attempts to grasp the man and shove him back to allow him to draw his blade, but the man avoids it and they both grapple back and forth for several moments.

    After a brief hesitation, the man makes a quick, focused jab with his hand straight toward Holland's exposed throat. The training the knights received did not focus heavily on hand-to-hand combat, but the great grip strength he developed from sparring with Adolin allowed him to simply grasp the man's upper arm and stop the blow cold. After successfully getting a solid grip on the man, he was able to plant is other hand on the man's chest and half-shove, half-throw the man several feet back to the edge of the bed, buying him enough time to draw his sword and ready it.

    The man barely manages to stay on his feet, and as soon as he realizes that Holland was drawing his sword he turns and runs for the door. Holland begins following him, and once the man reaches the door Cypha steps up from the stairs onto the landing, directly in the path of the man that just attacked Holland. The man doesn't hesitate and yells out, "Look out he's a madman!" in an attempt to delude Cypha.

    However, Holland responds by calling out as well, in a serious tone, "Cypha! Stop that man!" Without hesitation, she turns and attempts to grab and trip the fleeing man as Holland runs out of the door. The stranger ducks and barely manages to avoid the grasp and is able to get past her, making it to the top of the stairs. He hesitates a moment, and then proceeds to run up the stairs toward the third floor. Holland hears a bit of commotion downstairs, certainly the other knights responding to the sudden yells.

    Holland runs up the stairs following the man, and after reaching the next floor he rounds a corner in the hall just in time to see the man leaping through a window. The glass shatters as he does so, and Holland rushes to the window to look at the street below, in time to see the man sprawling on the ground below, seemingly unscathed somehow. A nearby guard in already moving in the direction of the man on the ground, "Hey, what happened? Are you alright?"

    Holland thinks a moment and then yells out to the guard below, "Guards, he is a thief!" The guard looks up toward the broken third-story window, hesitating for a moment as he steps toward the man. However, the delay allows the man to jump back out and reach and begins sprinting down the street, quickly turning into an alleyway as the guard begins pursuing him, yelling out to notify nearby guards and Holland can hear the chase continuing through several alleys and streets.

    He shakes his head, dissatisfied that the man escaped and they still had no idea why he had been after information about the knights...
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