Just got round to reading it after Ashlinn let me know about it earlier, and I love it! Numi is right, it didn't seem a long read because you are kept wondering what will happen next, it's a shame it ended
You have a knack for writing, looking forward to reading more!
Never one to be out done, I read Ashlinn's thread and could barely sleep lastnight wanting to write more my self... after giving my self a couple of hours off doing important stuff, i've finished XD. so ya 2 stories from me in like 2 days :P
o also i'm including a description of Fearaedan first, mostly because i realise i forget to describe him to people, and after being called 'boy' at the pit i realise people probably have a different image of him than me... so
Fearaedan is a tall ginger Cimmerian, of about 40 years.
Broad, heavily muscled, though the muscles don't have the hard stone-like quality they once had. He has a bit of a gut, from meat and ale, but his massive ribs and well muscled arms and legs mean it's in proportion, so he does not look fat.
His face and arms are tanned, with a hard almost leather like appearance. His skin of his chest is much whiter from the neck down, making it look less tough than it is.
His hands are callused from sword use, but not from 'labour'. He has many small scars, some big ones. Mostly on his arms, but some on his chest and back, and some on his legs. There are no obvious scars on his face. Though much of that is hidden behind a big ginger beard.
His eyes do nothing to hide his age, at a few years over 40 they have seen a lot, and have age-lines around them (though no other wrinkles as yet mar his face). He meets most things with a smile, in his eyes if less so now on his face, (since loosing two teeth the front right of his top teeth and cracking off most of the canine. Leaving a large awkward gap in his smile.) but there are times when his grey eyes were like clouds gathering deep around his soul. Telling tales of pain and death, of lost love, and a world he will never see again, to anyone who looked closely enough and knew how to read them.
He does not take especially good care of his cloths, spending most of his time either in well worn armour (though notably less worn looking now that Ashlinn is taking a personal interest in keeping his armour worthy of her work) or loose fitting britches, or a cloth knotted around his waste, preferring to feel breeze on his skin unless he feels the need for the protection of armour... or the need to wear cloths while in company (which is usually when he feels the need for the armour so...).
Fearaedan sat, eyes closed, listening to the waves. He'd found it relaxing for about as long as he could remember, since the first time he'd left Cimmeria as little more than a boy. There was something about the ocean... always moving, but never changing, which calmed his soul, even at his most restless he could always find solace in the sound. He raised the jug to his lips and took a swig of spiced wine... opening his eyes and staring into the neck of the jug, pausing for a second not quite sure why he had expected it to be brandy. Shaking his head he took another swig... it tasted expensive enough, so no sense in wasting it. His mind drifted back to the morning, when he'd dropped the armour off at the workshop. He'd left it a little later than he would usually turn up to start training as he'd expected that neither Ashlinn nor Balorac would be up for company too early after last night and so he'd been a little surprised when Ashlinn had been up and about, apparently with none of the mead from last night still haunting her. He'd given her a smile when she'd noticed him standing in the doorway watching her busy herself around the workshop, he even forgot to be self continuous about the gap in his teeth for once. But none of her levity from the previous night was about her today. She took the armour and then when he'd waited around.. to talk or ask how Balorac was, or whatever, she'd given him that confused look she got when she seemed to not understand why he was still there, wasting her time when he had quite obviously been dismissed.
Spitting, as if to get a bad taste out of his mouth, and then taking another swig of the wine he cursed himself for expecting anything else. She had been drunk... not so much as Balorac, but if she'd remembered anything of last night after the mead, and the fights, it was obvious that civility was something he had still to earn in her eyes... that and everything else. Casting about him checking the empty clay pots which lay around him for something stronger than the wine, he cursed, he'd had some brandy left... he was sure of it. Why would she be civil... he shouldn't have needed her to remind him... he was old, years past his best... not that he'd had the makings of a legend even in his youth, but more than that he supposed to her he was a knackered workhorse. Only kept around to save the effort of getting rid of it, ever hoping that there would be a use for a half lame bag of bones at some point.
Water! She'd brought him water to wash his mouth. She couldn't have just left him... not even that, she'd needed to come over and remind him he'd lost... he knew he had, of all the people in the room surely he had known that most of all. Even now the taste of the dirt was on his tongue. He took another draught for the wine for lack of having found the brandy. He'd won the first two rounds, against the little beast girl, his footwork had improved and he was managing to avoid her blows as often as not.. and land his own harder strikes with regularity. He was beginning to feel some of his old form, a smile parted his lips as in the third round he knew he'd have the girl 3 for 3, and after the beating she'd given him a fortnight earlier there was more than a little satisfaction in his eyes. Over the sound of the crowd he'd heard Balorac's voice at his back... "Seems the useless lout, may not be completely useless after all", but before a snarl could reach his lips... before he could put this girl into the dirt again... before he could round on the Pit Master with a retort, Ashlinn's non committal grunt had filtered it's way through his mind. He'd not expected praise, not really. So.. he'd bested a young woman, half his height and half as broad. There was little enough victory in that for a Cimmerian... but still. Without really meaning it to his had head turned so he could see the two of them... at least Balorac was watching the fight... that blasted woman was looking at Balorac, whatever conversation they had been having before Balorac's comment resumed, and the fight once again forgotten to her... Then the crack of the staff on his chest piece returned his attention to the fight. Fortunately the most of the force was taken out of the blow by his armour, and the pain was of bruising instead of re-cracking ribs, but the wind was knocked out of him. Stumbling back and almost loosing his footing he failed to block the next two strikes: one to his right shoulder and the second across the back of his head. He was sent sprawling halberd falling from his grasp, face full of dirt. The whole tavern seemed to go silent... just long enough for the words "back to his old form I see" to wash over him. Anger spread from his stomach as he lay face down breathing through the dirt... Pathetic... Impotent... Rage. He stumbled to his feet, and left the pit as quickly as he could without seeming to rush, avoiding everyone’s gaze but willing himself not to look down at the floor, he returned to his seat. It was then she had brought him water... even slopped some of it over his face, where he had failed to wipe it clean with the back of his hand... Crom, damn bi...
Taking another pull from the jar, lost in memory and anger, all thoughts of brandy were gone. He sat alone in the dark, ragged breath burning in his chest.
She'd stood beside him for a time, watching other combatants fight. Commenting on their training, implying at the skill and how he should go see what he could learn from them. Heat flooded his face, he wanted to leave... to drink... to strike the humiliating bi*ch. But he couldn't, one may well have lead to his death, and all at the very least another vicious beating. Gritting his teeth he replied to her comments, trying with all the strength his soul had left not to appear overly 'disrespectful', but all the time glad they were both facing the pit so she was unable to see the anger on his face. After a bout where Cutter had bested Ash 2 rounds in 3, Fear'an could take no more of it, and without a word stood and walked into the pit, planning to challenge Cutter and drown his anger in the fire of blood. Before his challenge could form on his lips Ash had jumped down to the pit floor, now unable to refuse the fight for fear of looking the coward Fear'an settled on fighting the big man instead, trying to rethink his tactics. Bigger even than Fear'an himself, and older too by the looks, he was a beast of a man... more an oak, all gnarled muscle layered upon more muscle. As far from a knackered workhorse as a man could be... be was a bear. But he'd watched the last fight, and Cutter had out paced him. Ash, while not slow was carrying a lot of bulk and so Fear'an just had to use his extra reach... and keep moving... Just... The fight had started with blistering speed, catching Fear'an on the back foot. Ash, apparently unhappy at being so recently beaten by Cutter, was attacking with a wall of fury. It was all Fear'an could do not to be smashed to a pulp by the two maces. Down in the first round, a glancing blow to his chin which had Fear'an not pre-empted it slightly with a roll of his head, could well have shattered his jaw. He was once more in the dirt.
The water was rippling over his feet, in the darkness he had not noticed the tide was coming in. Almost jumping to his feet, Fear'an let out a wordless cry... in frustration at his own anger more than anything. The sounds of two mating dogs bolting away up the port with a yelp were the only sounds after the night ocean washed away his voice with is eternal vastness. Finishing the wine and throwing the pot into the wall, it's pieces landing amongst the other scattered bottles in the sand. He needed to sober up.. he needed a lot of things... but most would be easier to find sober. Pulling the knot loose on his britches and stepping out of his undergarments he walked into the rising tide. The cold water sharpening his mind and clearing his thoughts.
He'd gone down once again in the second round, but this time he had gotten the measure of his opponent's fury. He was keeping up better, landing his own blows. Not quite enough of them but as he breathed, chest heaving, as he looked over at Ash, whose massive chest was also labouring with exertion, in the pause between rounds Fear'an knew how he would win this time. His breathing steadied, a smile parted his lips slightly. The round had progressed much like the last, but this time when he left himself 'open' with a feint, he had been ready to take advantage of Ash's off position attack. With two quick strikes to the man’s face with mailed fist holding the butt of his halberd Ash was down, Fear'an had a bruise just above his knee which he supposed was inches from making him walk with a cane for life, but a win was a win. Turning, half smiling, to Ashlinn she returned his look with a comment about trying to win all three rounds next time. Bubble bursting, a weight in his chest making his ragged breaths burn all the more, Fear'an noticed the sounds from the crowd... there was noise for sure, but the general background blood-lust associated with the pit, nothing more. He'd just put Ash in the dirt... Ash, the man currently at the top of the league... and there were no cheers, no shouts of adoration... no one cared... Ash got to his feet as Fear'an went to leave the pit, feeling more defeated now than he had in any of his fights the previous Pit night and Ash roared his victory... a boom of Cimmerian manhood echoed from the walls. This received cheers, some jeers as well, but even to be hated was to be known. As he walked back to his seat, this time not even trying to cover the defeat written clearly on his face, Ashlinn told him that he had improved... in an absent minded fashion as if remembering to do something almost forgotten and of no interest, but which was still was required. Improved?... Improved!... Improved, like patting a dog on the head because he'd started sh*tting on your floor instead of on your rug. There had been water that time too.
Waist deep in the cold lapping waves he raised his arm’s wide, letting the cool breeze and the cold water raise goosebumps on his skin, then he let himself fall backwards. Chest tightening as the cold water splashed over his body and head, he forced himself not to gasp, then began breathing again as he bobbed once more to the surface. Lying on his back spread eagle in the water, eyes closed he tried to cast the Pit from his mind. The weight in his chest slowly began to lighten as the ripple of the waves relaxed him... washed away the anger... the pain. It was simple he just needed other people to train with, more variety to his training would do wonders... then respect or civility be damned he'd win the league, give her her bag of gold, and he'd go home... He couldn't remember how long it had been since he'd walked the mountains of Cimmeria, but it was many years... too many... then even that thought was washed away by the sway of the ocean.
I'm posting this, in the end, because I had a really great time in the pit, and despite this being much to long again, (and despite me stealing half of it from Ash's story :P) I just couldn't bring my self not to post it.
“Shouldn’t... Shouldn’t need the map.” Fearaedan said back tracking quickly when he noticed the look in Balorac’s eye.
The barely concealed threat was plain on his face; Fearaedan returned the look with one of confusion as he replayed the last few seconds in his mind once more... He had retracted his statement more or less on instinct, but now he thought about it even if the man had thought Fearaedan’s statement of not needing the map was bravado it was hardly reason for the threat in his eyes. Ok, Balorac defintely had a soft spot for Ashlinn which he didn’t seem to have for anyone else Fearaedan knew of, but she was more than capable of looking after herself as Balorac well knew, and she was even as their eyes locked folding and pocketing the map. So, even if he had been lying about his lack of need of the map, she would not get lost, and thus there was nothing to anger Balorac in that.
The look passed reasonably quickly, possibly hastened by what Fearaedan realised, much too late, was an expression much like a moron which had been evident on his own face. But even as Ashlinn dismissed him to tend to her mare again and Balorac’s attention turned back to the blacksmith, he couldn’t helped being disquieted by the look.
Could it be that Balorac jealously thought Fearaedan was trying to impress Ashlinn with this feat of memory...? No, that thought made no more sense than the last. Balorac of all people had to know the contempt Ashlinn had for Fearaedan, and therefore any attempt to impress her would be cause for pity not jealousy.
Fearaedan arrived at the stable in time to see Belle try to take a chunk out of a stable boy, who barely managed to duck out of the way with obviously well practiced agility. Fearaedan laughed a little in his throat as the boy danced backwards, away from a half hearted follow up bite and cursed loudly, throwing a look of daggers at both the horse and Fearaedan in turn. Fearaedan just smiled at that and tossed him a small copper piece as he walked towards the stall the big white horse was in. The boy spat out a rather colourful comment about almost losing half his fingers being worth more than a copper and kicked Fearaedan in the leg, just to the side of his knee, which sent a spark of pain up his thigh, then the boy did the same backward shuffle he’s performed against the horse. With that Fearaedan’s eyes hardened and his laughter stopped, rounding on the boy with a look which probably wasn’t all to dissimilar from the one he’d so recently received from Balorac, Fearaedan loosened his sword in it's sheath with his thumb and growled. “It’s the copper or the steel, boy, choose and be quick about it.” With a slight yelp the stablehand all but fled from the room.
Once he was gone Fearaedan quickly took the weight of his left leg with a grimace. He’d not noticed how much he had been guarding the leg in his training, but his knee throbbed with a hot wet radiance which signalled that he’d have to be careful or be walking with a limp for the rest of the week, as his old injury settled itself again. For the first time in a what must have been several years Fearaedan cursed the Turanian lancer who had skewered his horse causing the beast to crush his knee, and not for the first time he forced himself to be thankful that it had just been his knee. Trapped under a horse in the middle of fighting cavalry was no way for a man to live long... Shaking his head Fearaedan continued towards the stall trying not to put too much weight on the leg whilst not letting himself limp. Belle had calmed noticeably and shook her head almost playfully. “What are you looking so smug about ya damn mule? Mood I’m in I’ll sell you for dog meat,” he said flatly, while resettling his sword at his hip. At this the white snorted and stamped her feet a little. Barely able to contain his mirth Fearaedan smiled and patted the mare tenderly on the nose. “You know I’m only joking, you’re as touchy as that damned smith of yours. And we both know your linage is as dubious as my own." After a playful nip on the arm Belle settled again and Fearaedan looked around the stable. “Not to mention that your bed for the night will be a lot warmer and dryer than mine.”
It was early the next morning when they began readying to leave. He had slept little due to the ‘bed’ he had had for the night; after giving the copper to the stableboy the small leather bag hanging from his sword belt was empty aside from his teeth, so he'd no money for even the meanest bed. But it had at least given him time to recall more of last night’s conversation. It now seemed to Fearaedan more likely that Balorac’s anger had been at his interest in the scroll, or more specifically the seal. Fearaedan had probably failed to hide his surprise at seeing the seal, he’d seen such a seal more than once before, during his times in Nemedia, but he’d never been handed a scroll adorned with it... Nor could he even remember ever having a scroll which was meant to get him out of trouble with an army just by showing it. And it would be highly possible that showing too much interest in where Balorac had obtained such a scroll, even if it was forged... almost more so if it was forged in fact, might have been beyond Fearaedan’s level of need to know. It seemed a little strange that Balorac had chosen that moment to show his displeasure, given that the scroll had been on the table for a while, and he had probably failed at covering his interest when it was produced, plus he had been engrossed in the map for most of the conversation since then. But maybe he’d been looking at it without noticing when Ashlinn picked it up? He had kind of gotten lost in his memories while looking at the map. He’d almost found himself planning an attack on the camp in his mind, where he would place archers, or horses, when and where to attack and have the sun at their back, how many men he would need... But he had been interested in the scroll, so maybe he had been staring, without realising.
The journey was quite a long one. Well ok, it could have been a nice quick excursion if he’d also had a horse and they could have ridden, but it was not made any faster by Ashlinn taking time to orientate herself on the map. Not that she seemed to be having trouble reading it, but she had to stop from time to time to get her bearings with respect to the surrounding landmarks, and the stops were too short to rest, but long enough to break his stride. Fearaedan let her lead however, mostly because as long as she wasn’t getting them lost, and she did seem to be taking the route he’d have chosen more or less, it was easier to follow than to risk annoying her any more than usual by implying that she might have been struggling with the map. He probably couldn’t have redrawn the map from memory, or at least not all of it in detail, but the general lay of the land, where the roads were, the rivers, the hills. Major landmarks which he’d probably be able to see from anywhere on their expected route and surrounding their destination, that much at least. He could have gotten them in and out blindfolded, and probably out of the area in any direction without too much hassle if the need arose. If his years as a soldier hadn’t given him sufficient skill with reading maps, his time as a smuggler had. With the need to navigate reefs and rocks, to land on shore lines which looked more or less identical for a score of miles, and all this in any weather or at night. What he couldn’t learn from a map in half a turn wasn’t worth remembering. It was often not advisable to be caught with maps with private caves or uninhabited strips of beach on them, so he had quickly learned to remember the shape of a map, the angles, distances, points of interest. It was a useful skill, and even now with all he'd lost with age, seeing that map had brought it all flooding back. He thought he could almost remember them all, it was invigorating. Almost enough to make him forget the scroll... Almost.
He wasn’t sure if Ash had seen him pick up the scroll from the dead Nemedian, but if she had she hadn’t mentioned it, and aside from her strong suggestion that he might want to not break the seal as they were travelling to the camp, she hadn’t even given it a second glance in the corpses limp grip, not even a first in truth. So he assumed she had decided it’s usefulness had passed, especially now as they walked Belle with the barely conscious man on her back through the streets of Old Tarantia. It seemed that the seal on this particular scroll would cause much more problems than it would solve, so he felt no fault in keeping it, even if he wouldn’t mention it.
In truth he had not hidden what he was doing from her, even at the time. She’d soured his mood with the killing of the soldier. Not that he had a problem with the man’s death, but just the way she had done it... not stabbing him in the back even, sometimes that was necessary, but she had once again just casually assumed that he was incapable of dealing with the situation himself. Grudgingly he admitted that with his knee, bound as it was, he might not have had an easy fight of it... but he’d already taken a couple of days off his training and he was in need of the practice. Not to mention the ‘walking into an area full of giant spiders’ thing, to save a man who, even in his half dead, addiction riddled state was still obviously meant to be ‘the better man’ for the job. And so he had taken the scroll as payment and had proceeded to set the pace out of the camp, but she at least hadn’t taken the map out again and she let him lead the way back... That was something.
Carrying the mostly unconscious form of... actually he had never asked the man’s name, though he would have plenty of time to once.. if.. he began talking sense again... up to the top floor of Ashlinn’s smithy was harder than it should have been and Fearaedan only hoped he didn’t struggle too openly, showing Ashlinn his "weakness". After carrying Balorac up a week or so before it should have been easy however, the bindings he had not had chance to remove made it hard to bend his knee, and while fortunately these had prevented his knee from flaring up on the walk they made lifting the man up the ladder a toil. As such, while standing over the man he'd just laid against the wall, he'd been more than a little tempted him a quick kick for his trouble. Fearaedan berated himself for this however, there was nothing to be gained by it, especially not with Ashlinn so close, and not when the man seemed to have regained consciousness, at least enough to yell out at a quick boot to the ribs.
Fearaedan instead settled opposite against the opposite wall and took out the scroll. He was being overly harsh on the man; he’d been naked, starved and being fed to a bunch of spiders when they had found him. And it defiantly wasn’t his fault that Fearaedan had been training too hard, or that everyone else seemed to enjoy giving Fearaedan grief. Instead of anger at the man sat opposite him, who was still talking mostly gibberish and answering none of Fearaedan’s questions, Fearaedan decided to allow himself a smug sense of satisfaction as he slid his knife under the wax seal, trying to not break it... What man knows when such a seal might come in handy? It was a childish feeling, he knew, but none the less he wanted to relish this small ‘rebellion’ against Ashlinn and his debt to her. But all sense of petty rebellion was lost at the actual power of the scroll he held, the seal alone would open many a door, would give the bearer protection in many situations... But the content.. it was short, no more than two lines and a signature. But it was no less than a free pass, “with liberty”, for the bearer of the message... anywhere. Well ok, given the signature only anywhere where the word of a Nemedian General held weight. But still, the signature of the head of the Nemedian Witch Troopers was surely not inked lightly.
Checking the seal again to make sure it was mostly undamaged, and storing the scroll safely back in his pocket Fearaedan set to trying to remember what he could of Balorac. He had not placed it straight away but he had heard tales of a Balorac during his time in Nemedia a few years back. At the time they had just be talk, and even after recognising the man they had seemed unimportant, but now... there was a lot more to this man than Fearaedan had seen, or heard, or even suspected...
Crom! That was it.. Balorac had not shot him a look of anger, at least not at his interest in the scroll, though his knowledge of the crest it bore might not have helped. The stare had been at Fearaedan’s passing comment of not needing the map, Balorac had said something about knowing the land like the back of his hand. Obviously, Fearaedan’s comment, next to that, had looked like an admission that he too was familiar with area, and depending on what past Balorac had hidden in those mountains, in that forest, such an admission might have seemed like a threat... not anger, maybe. Had it been that Balorac was just ‘seeing’ him for the first time, weighing his worth, weighing his danger?
I know i say this every time, but sorry it's so long... I think after this i might take a break from writing about Fear till i can stop adding 500 words each time i write a new part, (or at least till my report is done/ my exams are over)
Thank you once again for reading this, it's really nice to hear people appreciate it, and it's nice to see so many people RP'ing... I just hope more people will post things, because reading other peoples RP is even more fun than writing my own.