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Legends of Taltos:Crusaders

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Janara tries to imagine what Freen has described to her; the great banquet and fire-lizards executing prisoners. She shudders, wondering if the great lizard king can breathe fire.

 

Once back inside the legation, she directs Zeke toward one of several sleeping quarters before she rejoins Aridwyn.

 

"Did'ja find out anything about any Harmony Child yet?", she asks as she picks up the orc-book again, pretending to be nonchalant about it. "When we was lookin' for Zeke there was some monks outside like the ones we seen this afternoon. I kinda... I suppose I ourghtta asked first, but .... I asked Freen to ask one of 'em if he'd come tell us 'bout why Bhoggy's so special to 'em."

 

Joe returns from one of the side rooms shortly from putting Bhogmur to bed. She wonders which of the two won their game of 'Windsday-rules catch-the-king'. Now the room seems very quiet.

 

Janara reads through three more pages outlining the merging and splintering of notable clans of the Steppes. She yawns, puts the book aside, then looks up at the unutilized game-board; its pieces restored to their original orderly positions. To her surprise most of all, she starts to cry.

 

"I think they wanna keep Bhoggy here b'coz he's in their prophecies. Even if he's all they said he is, it ain't fair them jus' takin' him away from us like that." She tries to hide the fact that she is crying from Joe, but her voice begins to crack and waver. "It ain't right leavin' him here like that with folks we don't hardly know nothin' about. 'Least we know we love him an' he's happy with us. It ain't no more right than if we jus' left him at the doorstep in a egg-basket."

 

Having accidentally opened up a second emotional floodgate, she decides the best course of action is to find somewhere she can go have a nice long cry alone. Once in her sleeping quarters and away from everybody else, especially the one she wants to make believe she is strong, she curls up fetus-style on a bunk, buries her face in the lumpy pillow provided and sobs freely.

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Rai graciously takes her leave not attempting to hide the fact she would rather be any where else. She paces slightly as she waits in the side room. And when she hears the sicken sound of metal hitting bone with great force, her stomach gives a violent jerk and her whole body trembles. She gasps and her hand moves to cover her mouth but she continues to wait.

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Not knowing exactly how to deal with Janara's outburst, Ben is a bit relieved when she decides to leave the room. Walking over to the book, he flips through the pages casually, then looks up at Joe. "I'm no expert in these things," he says gently, "But I think that Jane wouldn't object too much if you would go comfort her and let her know that I said that we won't let anybody take little Bhoggy away from us without a fight." He gives Joe a nudge in the direction of the door and watches to see if he does as suggested.

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"Did'ja find out anything about any Harmony Child yet?", she asks as she picks up the orc-book again, pretending to be nonchalant about it. "When we was lookin' for Zeke there was some monks outside like the ones we seen this afternoon. I kinda... I suppose I ourghtta asked first, but .... I asked Freen to ask one of 'em if he'd come tell us 'bout why Bhoggy's so special to 'em."

 

"Well, some," Aridwyn says, pursing her lips, "but it's wrapped in enough vaguery to rival the most cryptic elf mage. I'm impressed. This indicates that the Child of Harmony will come from outside, but mentions nothing of the child's race. Oh, and while many Reptus will welcome the child, an equal number will declare this heresy. So now we know why fighting broke out in the streets, at least." She sighs and closes the book. "It will be good to speak with a monk about this. Perhaps he will be a bit clearer than this manuscript." She glares at it in frustration.

 

"I think they wanna keep Bhoggy here b'coz he's in their prophecies. Even if he's all they said he is, it ain't fair them jus' takin' him away from us like that." She tries to hide the fact that she is crying from Joe, but her voice begins to crack and waver. "It ain't right leavin' him here like that with folks we don't hardly know nothin' about. 'Least we know we love him an' he's happy with us. It ain't no more right than if we jus' left him at the doorstep in a egg-basket."

 

Having accidentally opened up a second emotional floodgate, she decides the best course of action is to find somewhere she can go have a nice long cry alone. Once in her sleeping quarters and away from everybody else, especially the one she wants to make believe she is strong, she curls up fetus-style on a bunk, buries her face in the lumpy pillow provided and sobs freely.

 

Aridwyn looks up in alarm as Janara bursts into tears. She starts to try to comfort her, but Janara is out the door before she can speak. "Excuse me," she mutters, and hurries off after Janara. She enters the room quietly, uncertain if Janara will welcome her or push her away.

 

"Janara," she begins softly, sitting down on the bed and placing a hand on her friend's arm, "no one is going to take Bhoggy anywhere he doesn't want to go." She leaves her own fear unvoiced: that Bhogmur will want to stay with the Reptus.

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"I don't want him ta go", Janara sniffles, looking up at Aridwyn. "Maybe it don't seem like a long time when you live as long as you do, but maybe they wanna keep him for ten years..maybe 'till he's all grown up..maybe longer even."

 

She sits upright and tries to wipe away the tears.

 

"He's got the healin' gifts, maybe even more than I got. He's smart too, an' prob'ly needs better schoolin' that what we can give him..but not if they're gonna make him stay if he don't wanna..an' not if they're gonna teach him nothin' bad...or tease him b'coz he's a orc."

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"Maybe it don't seem like a long time when you live as long as you do, but maybe they wanna keep him for ten years..maybe 'till he's all grown up..maybe longer even."

 

"No... it does. It seems like forever. He's growing so fast, and I don't want to miss a minute of it." Aridwyn feels a pang in her stomach. No mother wants to outlive her child... mine will be dead of old age before I have my first gray hair. She looks at Janara and immediately feels another pang. Perhaps this is why elves keep to themselves... it hurts too much to outlive your friends.

 

"He's got the healin' gifts, maybe even more than I got. He's smart too, an' prob'ly needs better schoolin' that what we can give him..but not if they're gonna make him stay if he don't wanna..an' not if they're gonna teach him nothin' bad...or tease him b'coz he's a orc."

 

Aridwyn throws an arm around Janara. "He is smart, and wise beyond his years. But he is strong too, and he knows right from wrong. And he's got you, me, and Joe. That's nothing to sneeze at."

 

She smiles, a little sadly. "I had hoped he might find his calling with your Aurellius."

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"It stinks when people hafta go away.", sighs Janara as it occurs to her how much this situation reminds her of Aeolene. They had both become such close friends that they were almost like sisters, but then one day Aeolene just decided it was time to leave. She had tried to explain to Janara why, but all Janara understood was that she needed to learn more of the ways of her own faith and that she did not care for city living. Though Janara tried to hide it, that day Aeolene left was the second worst heartbreak she had ever been through.

 

"D'ya think we ourghtta wake up Bhoggy when that monk comes 'round to talk to us? We ourghtta be shure it's what he wants."

 

Janara looked away in thought for a moment, then back at Aridwyn.

 

"D'ya think maybe my mamma..my real mamma felt like this when she decided to leave me with the nuns?"

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"D'ya think we ourghtta wake up Bhoggy when that monk comes 'round to talk to us? We ourghtta be shure it's what he wants."

 

"Perhaps we can talk with the priest tonight, then ask him to come back in the morning once Bhoggy's awake. He's had such a wild day, I hate to interrupt his sleep. He'll be thinking more clearly after a good night's sleep anyway, I suspect."

 

"D'ya think maybe my mamma..my real mamma felt like this when she decided to leave me with the nuns?"

 

Not for the first time, Aridwyn asks herself what right she has to brood over her own misfortunes when Janara has encountered so many more and yet manages to remain cheerful. "I imagine so. Yes, I do," she murmurs softly.

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Shortly thereafter, a monk, Li Kwang How, visits the legation. He is polite, kind and respects the request that Bhoghmur be allowed to sleep. He earnestly asks that the child be allowed to remain among the Reptus to study and to be evaluated regarding the claims he might be the Harmony Child. He soon departs with a promise to return the next day.

 

The banquet guests make their way back to the quarters assigned them. Sleep is fitful for some, but Rune sleeps the sleep of one who has done good works. The mighty dwarf awakens before dawn, with only a vague memory of aquiring the glowing green tatoo of a krung's head now emblazoned on his arm. The arm nearly pulses with strenght and vigor.

 

Joe and Janara find a wall outside, and sit together watching the constellations move through the heavens. They are silent for a time, before Joe speaks, "Everybody hurts, sometime....It's awright for you to cry, Janara. We are all worn out, and we have a long way to go...and Bhoggie says Zeke is real sick, an' he wants to stay and take care of him, and what'll Aridwyn say to that?.....I shoulda noticed Zeke wasn't himself, but I was too busy trying to watch out for other stuff....."

 

Aridwyn awakens to check on her son, only to find his pallete empty. Her well trained ears detect a slight humming, and she follows the sound to it's source. She finds the boy standing beside the exhausted halfling, his left hand resting on Zeke's forehead. Bhoghmur is humming the "Lady Rai" song, and crying at the same time. Finally he looks up at her, and speaks, "Zeke need me to stay, Mama, he is so sick." He reaches his right hand to the elf. "I can help him."

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The banquet guests make their way back to the quarters assigned them. Sleep is fitful for some, but Rune sleeps the sleep of one who has done good works. The mighty dwarf awakens before dawn, with only a vague memory of aquiring the glowing green tatoo of a krung's head now emblazoned on his arm. The arm nearly pulses with strenght and vigor.

After returning to his bed, Erik finds it hard to rest. The events of the last few weeks, and especially this night, stream through his mind, denying him sleep. Strangely, his mind keeps returning to the little orc child Boghmur. Erik had long been uneasy with the decision to bring Boghmur along. Any child would not only be a burden, but would be in more danger as well. Thankfully, Erik had kept his mouth shut and his opinions to himself. I don't believe in chance, least not this kind of chance! What are the chances an orc child would be travelling with Crusaders? What are the chances the Crusaders would send this expedition to the Reptus homeland? Aurellius must have put Mercy in Janara's heart for Boghmur, and Aridwyn's too, even though she doesn't really worship Him. See what happens when you start thinking you know best? Best leave the thinking and planning to those that are wise.

 

Having come to a workable resolution, now his mind is able to rest. Need to find Janara and Aridwyn and apologize for how I been treating Boghmur. Didn't know how to hide that I thought he shouldn't be along, so I ignored him. Not right to treat a kid like that. A kid needs friends, someone to play with, tell him he's a good kid . . . With that, Erik drifts off to sleep.

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Janara rises earlier than normal in spite of the fact that she had stayed up so late the night before. She had not meant to, but so many thoughts were racing around in her head after speaking to Li Kwang How. He was very sympathetic to the fact that Aridwyn and others in the party from Denelspire had formed such a strong bond with Bhogmur; and he assured that he would be respected as their guest and not kept against his will. Again she thought back to her own beginnings as an initiate and how thankful she was to have ended up in the care of the Sisters rather than being given the lot in life that befell amost every other half orc she had ever known of.

 

She and Joe had sat up for hours after Brother Li left. Mostly niether one spoke as they gazed upward at the starry night sky. As anxious as Janara was to question Sir Erik and his escorts on every little detail regarding the banquet, she had decided to save the inquisition until the morning; merely giving Joe a nudge in his ribs to call his attention to their arrival back at the legation.

 

Joe was the absolute opposite of Janara in almsot every way possible. He hardly ever spoke unless spoken to, had no apparent desire to master the art of reading or writing, was rather indifferent to what he ate, and often behaved incredibly orcly, even for a half orc. And yet he was a follower of Aurellius, a healer of sorts, a ranger, kind to children and animals, and had a fondness for tales of charming warrior-princes and damsels in distress. Most of all, he had been a good foster-father to Bhogmur. For a long time Janara struggled with whether her interest in Joe was as a friend, as a fellow devotee to Aurellius, as a rolemodel, or whether her attraction to him was what Mother Superior Geneva called "lustful". By now, she had decided that it was all of those, though she still had no idea what to do about it.

 

The pre-dawn stirrings of the legation's servants and the anticipation of breakfast coax Janara from her cot. She is not able to recall putting herself to bed, but suspects Joe was responsible. Her last recollection before waking in her room was Joe's massive arm wrapped around her shoulder as she counted the stars in orcish. She had counted all the way up to tukhuh-sepuluh dan sembilan and could not remember what came next. She feels well-rested though and seeks out a suitable window with a good view of the eastern sky at which to say her morning prayers.

 

Janara ammends her usual list of names in her prayers to include "...Mister Cow-Loon, b'coz he's been so good to all of us an' ain't really scary at all once ya get'ta know him..." She also puts in a special prayer for the health of Zeke and for the emotional strength of Aridwyn "...b'coz she ain't got much family neither and she's gonna miss Bhoggy somethin' awful"

 

Janara finishes her prayers and goes to find Ernesto or one of the legation's servants in order to ask for a page of paper and something to write with. In spite of her attempts to get her journal the night before, it was still in the wagon 'wherever is is the wagon is' and write down all that had happened yesterday.

 

Hearing "the Lady-Rai Song" being hummed in the distance gives her an idea. Before Brother Li comes, Janara plans to ask Bhogmur to draw a picture for her to remember him by. She waits in the common room for the others to awaken and join her, eventually gravitating toward the book about orcs she had been looking through the night before.

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Aridwyn awakens to check on her son, only to find his pallete empty. Her well trained ears detect a slight humming, and she follows the sound to it's source. She finds the boy standing beside the exhausted halfling, his left hand resting on Zeke's forehead. Bhoghmur is humming the "Lady Rai" song, and crying at the same time. Finally he looks up at her, and speaks, "Zeke need me to stay, Mama, he is so sick." He reaches his right hand to the elf. "I can help him."

 

Aridwyn gazes down at her son, and her eyes fill with tears. Rune had warned her recently that the road to Aizen Krahl would be dangerous, and though he hadn't mentioned it, she knew at its end waited a people not known for their kindness to orcs, no matter how small and extraordinary. Though she wanted him with her, she knew it was selfish. He could learn much from the Reptus, and Zeke needed him. What kind of mother would she be to prevent him from doing good? Besides, a little voice in her head that sounded suspiciously like Adeline was murmuring he doesn't belong to you... he belongs to all of Taltos. "Of course, Bhoggy. Of course." She takes his outstretched hand and squeezes it as she kneels beside him, and then she does two things she has not done in years. She softly begins to pray: "Aurellius, keep my son safe... and please favor an unworthy elf and let me see him again someday." Then she begins to openly weep.

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"Who let these Ogres loose in my head," Rune asks aloud, though no one is in the room with him. "And why does my mouth taste like a Trolls armpit?"

 

The dwarf rises grogilly, and goes to the basin in the corner of his room. Cold water on his face does much good, and soon he is alert enough to wash himself and ge dressed. The tatoo throbs slightly, but is no painful. Indeed, it seems to give him a newfound strength, as his weapons and gear seem a little lighter as he straps them on.

 

He leaves the room and wanders down a corridor, and then another, and another, eventually finding himself outside. "Must've took a wrong turn somewhere," he mutters. His feet keep wandering through the streets of the great city, until he finds himself outside The Legation. He remembers that this is where the rest of the group is staying, and walks in, hoping someone else is up this early.

 

Janara is sitting alone when Rune enters, and he walks up to her table and sits down. "Morning, Janara," he says, managing a small smile. "How'd your night go? Did you guys get that business wih Bhogmur straightened out?"

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Janara looks up from her writing as she hears heavy Dwarven footfalls from behind. On the table in front of her are three large leaves of paper, one of which is blank, the second of which is already covered in clumsily hand-written text, and the third of which she is rapidly scratching away at with a thick charcoal pencil. The book about orcs is laid to one side, opened to a page full of words in orcish followed by their Taltain translations.

 

"Morning, Janara," he says, managing a small smile. "How'd your night go? Did you guys get that business wih Bhogmur straightened out?"

 

"G'mornin', Rune.", she replies as she double-checks the orc-book and jots more words on her paper. "They sed I could have some paper from their lie-berry. I never seen books like this'un before."

 

She puts aside her pencil and cracks her knuckles noisily.

 

"There's a monk gonna come today an' tell us all more 'bout Bhoggy an' why they wanna keep him. Joe sez Zeke's really sick an' Bhoggy wants'ta stay here with him an' take care of him. Ardywen's shure gonna miss him though. I'm gonna miss him too."

 

She shows Rune the blank page of paper. "He don't know but a few of the letters I showed him, but he can draw really good. B'fore we go I'm gonna ask him to make one of his drawings for me to keep."

 

Janara's stomach growls in anticipation of breakfast and she is suddenly reminded of food and feasts and the scores of questions she wanted to ask about the banquet with Khong-to.

 

"Tell me all 'bout last night. Was there jugglin' monkeys there an' did they feed their pris'ners to dragons? Freen sez they would....an' was King Khong there? What all did they feed ya? Did they say anything there 'bout the Krungs or Freen or Bhoggy?"

 

Janara's stomach growls again. "Shush, you.", she says, poking her midsection with her finger. She tries to give all her attention to Rune though she can still hear soft humming from one of the other rooms in the legation.

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Rai walks in just in time to hear Janara's questions about the night before. She moans slightly and makes a face. "Rune, please be so kind as to not share the full details of the execution in my presence. Though I was removed from the room, I could still hear every sickening sound." She sighs. "Sounds which have haunted me all night."

 

She looks around. "Where is Ben this morning? Have you seen him Janara?"

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