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Thread: Chapter Seven

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    Chapter Seven

    CHAPTER SEVEN



    Many years ago, when the first humans landed on the continent from foreign shores, the elves were there to greet them, and helped the humans become accustomed to the land, establish their first cities, and over time began sharing their knowledge about the world and of magic itself. The humans and elves developed good relations with each other, and this continued for many generations. However, the human population expanded rapidly, and more and more cities were being founded, more and more forests cut down for materials and cleared for farmland, more and more animals hunted for food and pelts.

    The elf Elders saw this trend, and began to worry about where it would lead. The humans seemed to have an insatiable appetite for land, food, and raising children, all at the detriment of the world around them. Attempts to reason with the human leaders led only to empty promises and the trend continued unhindered, followed by excuses to try justifying it.

    Tensions rose rapidly and negotiations broke down. Discussions began among the Elders about direct action to limit human expansion, even by force if necessary. Over time the possibilities became steadily less severe, and the majority of the Elders turned toward passivity once more. Instead of taking direct action, the decision was made to leave the coastal lands and retreat deeper into the Endless Woods, breaking off all contact with the humans…



    Gregor brought the caravan to a halt near where the treeline stops and the farmland begins. The city itself is in the distance ahead of them, but he turned and called out to Jothal, “I don't know how they'll react to your wolf. You're welcome to try, but I doubt they'd even allow him into the city, and the farmers nearby would think he'd kill their livestock. It might be best to part ways here and meet back up in the morning on the road to Triln.”

    Jothal nodded, understanding, and dismounted from his horse, not surprised by it whatsoever. “I'll meet you at sunrise then?”

    Gregor nodded back. “They open the gates at sunrise, and we'll be ready to go when they do so. You're welcome to grab any supplies or equipment you need from the wagons. Also, if you want us to get anything while inside the city let me know now and we'll see if we can find it.”

    “If you could, I was going to purchase a sword in Nalvo. I don't have much on me now to buy one, but maybe I can pay you back in some way if you were to get me one somehow? Either way, I'll be here when the gates open tomorrow.”

    “Sure, we can get something. Nalvo has a good variety of weapons as I recall. What type of sword are you interested in?” Gregor replies.

    After a few seconds of thought, Jothal answers, “Just a shortsword, if possible. I prefer lighter blades that are easier to use.”

    Nodding again, “A shortsword shouldn't be a problem. We'll have it for you in the morning. I’d suggest you keep the horse with you for the night, and you're free to take any supplies from the wagons. The farmland is vast around Nalvo and it's already nearly dusk. Sticking to the edge of the woods, it's probably 20 miles until you'd reach the road to Triln. I'm not doubting you could make it on foot, but there's no reason to wear yourself out like that. The woods are safe this close to the city, no bandits would come nearly this far and any large game would have been hunted years ago.”

    Jothal hesitates slightly, but agrees, “You know the land better than I do. If you recommend that I bring the horse, then I will.”

    “Just follow the edge of the farmland and it will lead straight to the next road. We will be there two hours after sunrise.”

    Jothal turns and grabs his bedding from the rear wagon, nods his goodbye to the caravanners, and heads off into the forest near the edge of the farmland. Gregor waits for a few moments before continuing forward, but the skies are already beginning to darken and so they set on to the city proper. After a few minutes, Trailo speaks up from inside the wagon, “If it’s alright, I can get the sword he wanted from the blacksmith. It will give me a way to be useful, and I can tell the quality of the forging to make sure it is good quality.”

    Gregor smiles a bit, “Aye, that's fine. However, Nalvo is a larger city than Foabur, and for weaponry people usually go to one of several shops. The shopkeepers will make orders for the blacksmiths to fill and also buy weapons from some caravans that arrive from other cities. It's already late so just get up early and ask the innkeep for directions.”

    The caravan reaches the city walls just after the sun sets across the horizon, but the sky is still aglow from the sunset, and a few minutes later they all arrive at an inn a few blocks inside the city. The horses are tended to, the wagons are set around the back of the inn, and Gregor procures rooms for everyone.

    During all of this, Alithana has mostly kept out of sight, wearing a hood to obscure her face and keeping a bit away from any people from Nalvo to make sure no one realizes she's an elf. After a quick meal, nearly everyone retires to their rooms and gets some sleep.



    Gregor and his son Bogart remained in the common room, sitting across from each other. The innkeeper was the only other person still in the room. Gregor spoke, “It’s been seven years since then… You have to move on, it’s what she would want you to do, Bogart. Her grave is alongside the road a day-and-a-half toward Triln, don’t you think you should go and pay your respects to your wife?”

    “It’s possible the bandits are still along the road. A group that large doesn’t just disappear, and I’ve not heard anything of them being routed. That road isn’t safe, and I’m not so keen to risking everything, including Seraphi’s life, especially considering we’re going to Triln for a woman we know nothing about.” Bogart sighed and leaned back.

    Perhaps overhearing this, the innkeeper heads over, “You are headed to Triln, correct?” Gregor nods and the man continues, “Horeak’s bandits are a nasty group, they’ve been preying on any caravan less than forty strong, but the attacks were usually pretty close to the city, only a few hours down the road. However, recent caravans have been safe, I haven’t heard of any attacks for nearly a week… It’s possible they’ve given up or relocated, but I haven’t heard of anything happening recently on the Tarmikos road either, and you are proof the Foabur road is traversable.”

    Bogart had his eyes narrowed, “Horeak… That bastard’s still preying on the same road after seven years?” His face was a grimace, it was Horeak and his pack that killed his wife, Seraphi’s mother, in the attack years before. Any but the largest caravans were in danger, and even then an attack was possible. They had merged with another group and had nine wagons total, nearly sixty people including the women and children, and Horeak still began an attack. It was bloody, but after a dozen men died they drove off the rest.

    Bogart and the others then found that a few bandits had snuck into the wagons, and a half-dozen women and children were killed in the midst of the battle. His wife was among them, and Seraphi, five years old at the time, was covered in her mother’s blood, confused and terrified. Having this memory return made Bogart grit his teeth and his hands formed into fists. He seemed as though he was about to begin smashing the table, but Gregor put up a hand to snap him out of it.

    “From the sounds of it, they’ve been steadily moving away from Triln and closer to Nalvo, likely trying to avoid getting found by the Knights, but now they can’t get any closer and are forced somewhere else…” He was looking seriously at Bogart, “The road is probably safer now then it’s been the last decade.”

    Taking a deep breath trying to calm down, Bogart responded, “We’ve no proof that they’re actually gone, though. There are other reasons they might have stopped attacking caravans… Perhaps they lost men and can only attack smaller caravans, such as ours?”

    “The last few days, even single travelers have arrived I believe, and a single-wagon merchant, all getting here safely, somehow,” said the innkeeper in response to Bogart, “However, if I recall correctly there’s another caravan leaving toward Triln in a few days. You could merge with them for safety…”

    Gregor shook his head, “No, we’re in a bit of a hurry right now actually, but thanks for the information, really.” He turned back to face Bogart, “If you are uncertain, speak with Seraphi. Base your decision on her, not on yourself. If she wants to stay, stay here with her. We’ll return as soon as we can.”

    Bogart bites his lip but says nothing for several long moments. Eventually he nods slowly, “…For her sake.” He rises from his chair and heads upstairs.



    Seraphi was sitting on the edge of a bed in the inn, and a few feet ahead of her was her father, sitting on a wooden chair with his hands clasped together and his face looking serious. He was speaking, “…leaving in the morning, and it will be a six-day trip. However, the day after tomorrow we’d be passing by the site where… where your mother passed away. I’ve already spoken with grandpa about it, and they’d be okay with us staying here in Nalvo until they’re done in Triln. I know that the last time we were here you said you made some new friends, and it won’t be for too long. What do you think?”

    She looked at him, uncertain how to respond. She had known this discussion would happen, but had been trying to delay it, trying to avoid it. Over the last few years, the topic had rarely been brought up, but several times she had been pulled aside by Grandpa Gregor or Grandma Elma, or a few of the others in the caravan, offering their consoling words and bits of advice, usually about remembering those we have lost, but trying to move forward and make their memory proud, do justice to their passions, do what would make them smile…

    She had always had a hard time figuring out what they had been expecting of her or what their words actually meant. “How can you move on if you’re remembering them and making them proud?” Whenever she tried to ask about what they said, the answer they tried to formulate was often even more confusing to her. “You have to keep them in here,” pointing to her heart, “and here,” her head. She didn’t know how to do that, and it never got any clearer. However, as she looked at her father, the look on his face, some of it seemed to make sense.

    “Running away won’t make her proud…” She spoke without realizing it, and began thinking about those they were travelling with. She didn’t know the exact goal they had aside from reaching Triln, but Grandma Elda had spoken plenty about the rumors of the Elves, and she wanted to find out about Alithana and what she was searching for. After a breath, she faced her father, “I want to go to Triln.”

    Bogart’s was silent for several moments as he looked away, thinking. Eventually he just nodded and then embraced her. Afterwards, he cleared his throat, “Then we’ll be leaving in the morning. Try to get some rest now.” She returned the embrace but they didn’t say much else the rest of the night.

    The caravanners didn’t waste any time in the morning, and began preparing the wagons, supplies, and horses to be ready to leave at sunrise. A few of the men went to the early markets for food and by the time Trailo returned with the sword for Jothal they were just about ready to move out. Two of the men stay on horseback while the rest climb into the wagons, and Gregor leads them down the streets toward the southeastern gate.

    The gate isn’t far, but already the streets are beginning to form crowds, people moving in all directions going about their morning business. Gregor turns to some of the others in the wagon and call out over the noise of the crowd, "This only gets worse as the day goes on. This is why we had to leave so early." The others chuckled a bit as they nodded, but before too long they were outside the city. They were expecting to meet Jothal at where the forest begins, but when about halfway there they see Jothal atop his horse already approaching them. Gregor called out when they were within earshot, “Decided to meet us halfway?”

    Jothal waits until he’s closer before responding, “There was a very odd man who just came out of the forest. I was following him to see what he was up to. Since you guys came along though, I guess I'll give up the chase.”

    Gregor takes a moment before responding, “An odd man? Well, there are all kinds that live out in the wilderness between cities. Sometimes they come out to get things at city markets or sometimes grow weary of the lonesome life and move to the cities...” As this is being said, Trailo climbs out of the wagon and approaching Jothal, handing him the new shortsword as Gregor continues, “He wanted to pick it out himself. Hope it suffices for what you need.”

    Jothal takes the blade gingerly. After a moment, he unsheaths the blade and grips it in his hand, takes a few swings back and forth, and resheaths it. “It should work perfectly, a great light blade which is just what I was searching for. Thank you Trailo.” Trailo smiles and nods but doesn't say anything. He starts to climb back into the wagon and Jothal does the same after tying his horse to the trailing wagon. They group sets off again away from the city.



    For Alithana, a large city like Nalvo was multiple things. Most importantly, it was a break from being on the lookout for those the Elders would send after her. They wouldn’t risk doing anything in the middle of a human city, so for the first time in a while she could relax and get fully rest. However, she wasn’t able to relax completely, as it was also a risk for her to be here. If she were detected, or rumor got out that an elf was here, it would quickly become a major inconvenience. And word could easily spread and reach the ears of those looking for her.

    She needed to reach Triln. At first she wasn’t sure of its location, but after viewing the rough map Gregor pulled out back in Foabur, she could have easily headed there alone, though the woods. However, Triln wasn’t the end goal, it was a stepping stone toward the real reason she came east. She needed allies, people whom she could trust.

    Keeping to herself during the short stay within the city was easy enough, the cityfolk and guards were laid back and relaxed, not on the lookout for anything strange or being intrusive into the merchant caravans. Now, they had left the city and it is beginning to be become obscured behind them in the distance. The caravan took a brief rest around midday for lunch before continuing and everyone was noticeably more relaxed. The tension of constantly being under the threat of a bandit attack has faded.

    After several hours, as the sun is nearing the horizon and the shadows are growing longer, leaving only a few hours of sunlight left, Alithana senses something ahead of the caravan. It was the unmistakable feeling of an aura of latent magic, and after taking a moment to focus on it she realized it was an enchantment upon an item; someone imbued magical energy into some physical object, a talent difficult to use and one taking many years to become proficient in. Alithana herself had met a few enchanters in her life, but her own magic did not manifest in a way that could work well with enchanting so she never spent much time with any of them.

    However, the presence of such magic here is strange indeed, and the intensity of the aura, to be able to clearly sense it from this distance, makes her worry. She calls out loudly, “Stop the caravan!” She can tell that immediately everyone grows alert, their jovial attitudes disappearing as they frantically search for any possible ambush, but they see nothing. Alithana climbs down from the wagon and looks briefly around, spotting Jothal atop a nearby horse, “Stay hidden in the woods... Don't miss.” She begins heading toward the front of the caravan, but adds quickly, “You'll likely only get one shot...”

    Jothal nods and dismounts as she continues up to Gregor. Several people have half-drawn weapons, and Jothal begins jogging off into the woods with his wolf Ash ahead of him. Alithana speaks to Gregor and the others in the first caravan, “It's one of those that were sent to find me. Keep everyone here, no matter what happens.”

    Gregor quickly asks about Jothal running off into the woods, and she just nods, “There's a good chance I get bested here, especially with this injured arm. He's the backup plan.” She doesn't wait for another response and begins walking down the road away from the caravan. She focused more on the aura ahead of her, and became more and more certain that it was someone the Elders had sent. After going about fifty yards from the caravan, a figure began walking out from the trees onto the middle of the road, wearing bright white clothing that seemed to be reflecting the sunlight, blurring the individual.

    She continued forward, but sighed inwardly. She recognized him, it was an elf by the name of Aimar, one of the more prominent enchanters among the elves, but also a more-than-capable fighter. From what little she knew of him, she didn’t think he’d be the prime pick the Elders would make to send to chase her. He planted his large broadsword into the ground in front of him and laid his hands on the pommel, waiting as Alithana approached.

    Once within speaking distance, Alithana stops. “Aimar… I can’t even guess why they would have chosen you to come after me…” Now that she was quite close, she could tell that he wore no armor, just clothing, but she could sense that it was just as enchanted as the sword he wielded, and his entire presence made it obvious he was prepared for a fight.

    The elf, Aimar, smirks slightly, “Actually, I volunteered for this. I was hoping I could convince you to peaceably return. The Elders have chosen someone else to wield the scepter, you don’t need to worry about that anymore.”

    Alithana’s frown deepened, “I didn’t leave because I was to wield it, I left because of what the Elders want to do with its power.”

    “Have you really deigned to side with the humans?” he responded, tilting his head slightly and narrowing his eyes. “To what end? You know they care not of the world around them, only of themselves… They are a blight upon this land.”

    “It is not our place to judge whether others live or die. Their lives are their own, Aimar. You cannot justify murder as altruism.”

    “You are young, Alithana, young and naďve. You will come to regret this decision. If you will not return, then I will be forced to consider you an opponent and take you by force.” He released the pommel of his sword and wrapped his fingers around the grip, raising the sword up to point the tip toward Alithana.

    Alithana took a deep breath. A fight against Aimar wouldn’t be easy even in the best of circumstances, and with her left shoulder injured she knew she would be hard-pressed just to hold her own. She readied herself and raised her staff, gripping it strongly in her right hand. Breaking the silence was the twang of a bowshot, and she used it as her cue to rush forward toward Aimar.



    TO BE CONTINUED...
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    Re: Chapter Seven

    Player Characters mentioned/seen in Chapter Seven: Trailo Milner, Jothal Wayland, Rigatoni Ketchatori.

    Player Perspective coming soon!
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