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Legends of Taltos:Crusaders


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Janara made her way around the room with her bagful of loot from the abbey's larder. She was not really sure if the elven lady with the reddish hair would be keen on what she had to offer, because she had once heard that elves had peculiar appetites. She knew half-orc appetites well enough though, and guessed Joe had already missed a meal and was probably fit to eat just about anything that wouldn't eat him first. She noticed that Fin was still hanging around Joe, so she went over to offer shares of the food to both of them.

 

"Hey you two. I got some fruit and bread and butter if ya both want some." She paused for a moment, picking an apple from the bag for herself and staring at Joe's darkspawn-soiled clothing.

 

"How many of 'em did'ya get, Joe? Musta been a whole lot. Yer covered in... "

 

Some new smell that was out of place found its way through the vileness to Janara's nose.

 

"You smell peaches?"

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Ben gently helps Rai to her feet and supporting most of her, the two

head slowly towards the door. "We'll be back as soon as possible," Ben

says to whom-ever is in charge of this foray; he wasn't really paying

attention to much of what was being said earlier. "Don't worry, Sir

George, I'll be sure to bring your things along."

 

As the two make their way to the tower, Rai goes into deep thought over

her fiery spell.  She hardly pays attention to where they are walking as

she thinks out loud, "I was quite unprepared for the amount of energy

that spell would require.  Master warned me, but I never imagined...  I

shall be prepared the next time however I honestly don't think I

can cast it again this day."  She takes a deep breath as her eyes

flicker with excitement and pride.  "But the results were

magnificent...quite magnificent indeed."

 

Ben replies with a heavy note of concern, "Maybe you shouldn't be going

along on this mission. I know that you think it is necessary and you

will be sorely missed, both for your power and for other obvious reasons

but is the threat to your health really worth it?" He blushes a bit at

this statement.

 

Rai seems to be lost in her train of thought as she murmurs to herself

as Ben speaks, "But if I hadn't placed it where I did, the fire would

have most certainly hit George and the others...must remember not to

rush on placement..." She stops as if something caught her attention.

"What do you mean? Of course it's necessary that I go. I most

certainly am NOT staying behind."

 

"But, I don't think that you are in any physical condition what-so-ever

to go."

 

"Nonsense, I am not injured. I am weakened, yes. But I'll be fine,"

she replies slightly irritated since it's obvious that Ben hasn't heard

a word she's said. She straightens up slightly though still relying on

Ben for support. "I told you that my last spell took more out of me

that I expected. It was the first time I had ever cast the spell. I

will be better prepared next time..."

 

She is about to continue when Ben interrupts, "I wouldn't want anything

to happen to you because you were too weakened by this last battle."

 

"I am NOT too weakened. Have you not noticed how much I've recovered

since the battle ended? I'm truly flattered by you concern over my

well-being. Ben, you're sweet; you really are," she pauses for a moment

blushing and smiling up at him then adds more seriously, "But I'm going."

 

Ben sighs in frustration and resolves himself to the fact that her mind

seems set "By the way, thank you for saving my skin in there!"

 

"You're welcome. I wouldn't want anything to happen to you either you

know. How is your side by the way?" she asks stopping. "Here I am

leaning on you knowing that you were wounded!"

 

"Don't worry about me," He says gently. "My wound was taken care of by

one of the healers. I'm quite fine and your leaning on me is more a

comfort than an actual burden. Ah look, we've arrived, take your time

gathering your things and try to rest as much as possible. I'll be back

shortly."

 

Leaving the tower, Ben quickly heads to his small apartment. Once

there, he strips out of his once fine garb and changes into his hardier

traveling attire. After carefully buckling the last buckle on his armor,

he straps on his sword, conceals a wide assortment of darts and daggers

upon his person and grabs his bow and quiver and his already packed

travel bag and heads on to the squire's quarters.

 

When Ben arrives at the squire's quarters he sees that the place is

quite empty. After searching around vainly for what seems like hours

(but is in reality only about 15 minutes) he finally comes upon

George's familiar pack and crossbow. Grabbing them along with

anything else that he thinks the former squire might need, Ben exits the

building and heads back towards the wizard's tower and his lady fair.

 

As he approaches the tower, he sees Rai waiting for him in the spot

where he left her. She too had changed into better traveling robes.

The pack by her side and the traveling equipment and weapons carefully

laid next to it go verify that she did not have a change of heart

in his absence. If there's one thing that his father was absolutely

correct in it was his belief that once a woman's mind was set on

something, nothing on this earth was going to change it.

 

Even though her going goes against his better judgment, Ben greets

her warmly and begins collecting her things.

 

"Ben, you really don't have to do that. I'm perfectly capable of

carrying my pack on my own. It isn't that heavy."

 

"If you insist on going, my dear," he replies, "then I must insist that

you at least get as much rest as possible before we go. I'm sure you be

under more than enough strain once this venture is under way."

 

Rai sighs and is about to argue back but stops herself not wanting

to start a fight. "Well if you insist Ben. Thank you," she adds

feeling helpless as he continues to load himself down.

 

Once he has added her pack and weapons to his own and George's,

he staggers a bit, but quickly regains his balance and the two

of them head back towards the temple, Ben closely resembling

an undersized pack mule.

 

Finally they arrive back at the temple and pass through the main

entrance, appearing to the others to be Rai accompanied by a shambling

mound of adventuring supplies.

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With a curt nod of the head, George returns to his post. As he does so, he hands an apple and half the chunk of bread to Erik. "It isn't much, but with the Holy Spirit it will be enough I think."

So surprised is Erik, that he almost drops the offered food. "Uhh, thanks." He quickly eats the bread in two bites. The apple also vanishes in several large mouthfuls. He washes it down with a long draught from his waterskin.

 

"Need a drink?" He offers the waterskin to George.

 

Returning his attention to the tunnel, several minutes pass. Now why didn't I think about thios earlier?!?! Erik quickly reaches into his pack and retrieves a flaming torch from it. I knew this would come in handy! He takes a moment to gauge the everburning torch's weight and the limits of his vision. Hoping to have it land just beyond the limit of his vision, he throws it down the tunnel.

 

"That should give us a little more room to see."

 

Several more minutes pass in silence. Soon, Erik begins to fidget.

 

"George? er, uh, Sir George."

You.....I mean......uh.... I thought you weren't going to make it. Earlier, I mean.....in the fight. Four of those Darkspawn on you."

Erik can feel the redness slowly creeping up his neck. "You....you did....I thought....standing in against four of them." The flush has now fully taken over Erik's face; beads of sweat are starting to form on his cheeks and forehead.

"Aurellius should be proud of you!" The last sentence tumbles out in a rush. Embarrased now, Erik turns back to the tunnel mouth to continue his watch.

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Grateful for the water, George takes a gulp from the offered waterskin and then hands it back.

 

The newly knighted Am I? servant of Aurellius smiles at Erik as he sees the flaming torch land further up the tunnel, and for a moment he thinks he sees something scurry back. Must be my imagination, they'd not dare to approach this close.

 

George doesn't look at Erik while he's stammering out his question, in order to not put even more pressure on his fellow man at arms. Once the question is out though, he thinks for a moment while looking down the tunnel still.

 

"I am thankful that the Son's protection was upon me at that moment." George says after a few moments contemplation. "But to be honest, I try not to think about it too much. But I do try to learn something from every fight and to apply that to those that follow. And ultimately, if the Father so wishes, no matter how hard I fight, my foe will slay me."

 

George is quiet for a few minutes before turning to Erik. "You know something Erik? Between fellow men at arms, I see no reason to be called Sir George." George pauses, as he almost can't believe he said that. He'd dreamt of this all his life, but he felt differently than he thought he would. "I am not different to yesterday, except perhaps a little more experienced. I am still the same person. Roman said that it was more of a reward for service and a title which would tell those who don't know what I've been through that I had been through many tests and always been steadfast. Well if that is so, then those that know the toils of the Crusade need not address me as Sir. I have proven my dedication to those that matter, that should be enough I think."

 

George is quiet again for a few seconds. As he begins to speak again, he turns back to the tunnel and adjusts his grip on his sword. "And you know something else? I think Joe is the most dedicated one I know. Sure, Roman weilds the Spirit's holy vengeance like I wield a sword and wears his faith on his sleave the way we wear armour. And I may fight for the Father and His people, but that's partly because I like to help people and am too ugly to be a bard. But Joe, he fights with us because he wants too, because he knows it's the right thing to do. He may be derided as dim-witted by some, but not by me. He's got things right on the money in my book."

 

As George stands there and listens to himself, he is somewhat aghast as to why he's saying all these things. Sure, Erik is a fellow Crusader and servant of the Father, and he's also a capable and skilled warrior whom had just shed blood alongside him against the vile filth which invaded their chapel, but he doesn't really know this man beyond that. But still, George keeps talking, and even asks Erik's views on these matters.

 

Might as well do something while we're on watch. George thinks to himself. And this way I get to know this man, whom I will almost certainly be entering the bowels of hell alongside.

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Malachias steps outside the chapel and stops, openmouthed, at the evidence of a city-wide Darkspawn invasion. Everything is chaos.

 

"Oh dear." He nocks an arrow as he quickens his pace. "I sent Yvette out in this..." He doesn't run, but takes on the businesslike jog of A Soldier On His Way Somewhere, so nobody stops him. After he has to detour around the third butchered housewife though, he starts kicking darkspawn bodies as he steps over them. "Durn...frippin' ...murderers..."

 

Malachias is not the picture of the pure serene holy Crusader. "Fine with me," he growls, breaking the fourth wall. "I'm just an archer. I thought I could just get by obeying orders and letting my betters wrestle with the big moral decisions..."

 

He breaks off as he rounds a corner and almost trips headlong over Zeke the one-eyed halfling. The halfling is standing over the a dead Isiri, and Zeke's shortsword and a bloody alpinestock are stuck through the body.

 

"Zeke! argh. There you are! What happened?" Malachias gasps.

 

Before Zeke can answer, Yvette says "Malachias!" She had been cowering against the wall of a nearby building, out of sight in Malachias's rushed arrival. She stands up and her face brightens. "You're safe! I tried to get help like you said, but they were all over..."

 

With a huge sigh of relief, Malachias tries to find his tongue. "It's ok, it's ok. I wouldn't have sent you out if I knew they were all over." He takes her in his arms, and for a moment the world is a good place again.

 

"Look, we're going in after them." Her face falls, and she pulls away. "I have to find the Lads and get back to the chapel..."

 

"You're going to go away again," she murmured, her eyes tearing up. "It's like I said before, what if you get killed, just like Torrit?"

 

"Zeke, could you go to the chapel and meet up with the others? Joe missed you," Malachias said curtly over his shoulder, but didn't actually look to see if Zeke left.

 

Looking down at her so that he can se her eye to eye, he declares, "Look, Yvette, if it is within my power, I will come back to you. This I promise you."

 

She scowled at him. "You need to go get your Lads. "

 

Malachias sighs, frustrated. "I do, yeah. Can you get back to the Leaky Stoat ok alone?"

 

Yvette nods, and stalks off without looking back.

 

"Yvette, you're being unreasonable!" he calls after her. She does not respond.

 

It is therefore a very frustrated Yeoman Malachias who appears at the chapel half an hour later with his three archers. These he introduces as Kenyon, who had accompanied him on the last mission, Percival, the former squire, and a grizzled balding man named Jonathan.

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Joe had returned to his old stoic self now, but since this was normal for Joe, Janara was not really bothered by it. The elf, on the other hand, had stopped talking, which was quite unusual. She thought to herself that maybe it was because he was a short elf stuck in the middle of a half-orc conversation. Knowing how bad it can feel to be the only one of a kind in a roomful of people, Janara got an idea.

 

"Hey Fin. I know somebody you oughtta talk to."

 

Without waiting for his reply, Janara went to the elf-lady again and began trying to arrange a meeting.

 

"Why don't'cha come over here and meet Fin. He's kinda strange, but he's alright. You'd like Joe too. He don't say much, but he's a friend of Fin and me."

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Without waiting for his reply, Janara went to the elf-lady again and began trying to arrange a meeting.

 

"Why don't'cha come over here and meet Fin. He's kinda strange, but he's alright. You'd like Joe too. He don't say much, but he's a friend of Fin and me."

 

Why not, indeed? Aridwyn had promised the stern knight she would speak with the duke, but he seemed busy at the moment and she didn't wish to interrupt. This might be her best chance to speak with the young elf while he was still unguarded. And she was curious to learn more of her unexpected guide. Without the half-orc's kindness, she would have felt quite lost.

 

She bowed her head slightly to the half-orc. "That would be delightful. Please forgive my lapse in courtesy. My name is Aridwyn Starwarder, and may I ask yours?"

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"I'm Janara."

 

She extended one hand, only to realise it was still clutching a half-eaten apple; so she extended the other. Seeing that it was still clutching a towsack full of edibles, she offered her new friend something from it.

 

"Good to meet'cha, Ardwen Starwater. Want some fruit?" Passing the bag of food to Aridwyn and her half-eaten apple to her freed-up left hand, she gave the elf a gentle though sticky handshake.

 

"Me an' Fin met a coupla weeks ago when we all come back from the crusades. Well I wasn't really with the crusades, but we all kinda was together. Fin an' Joe was part of Roman's group. Fin's a funny kid. He thinks the revens are fish. Joe's his only friend I think. What'cha looking for Fin for anyway? Is he lost?"

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Malachias approaches Sir George and Erik. "My lords," he says with a harried smile at George. "Please allow me to post my trainees to aid your watch over the tunnel. They're good lads. Jonny, Percy, over here. Keep watch down that tunnel and if anything evil moves down there, kill it. Remember, you're to support, not steal the show. Kenyon, watch the door."

 

Percival, a young man in his late teens, leaps eagerly to his post. Jonathan, a grizzled fellow with a swordsman's build, grudgingly follows. They both take up a conspicuously-readt-to-shoot-stuff pose. Kenyon and Malachias trade knowing smiles, and Kenyon takes a relaxed stance against a pillar and unobtrusively guards the door.

 

"Janara, I'm glad you're back," says Malachias. I may need to pick your brain later...Oh hello, Master Elf," he nods to Fin. "Did the faeries eventually overtake you, as you feared?"

 

His eyes wander to Aridwen. "I don't believe we've met. I'm Yeoman Malachias. Ken and I helped Janara hate her some necromancer in our last mission."

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George is quiet for a few minutes before turning to Erik. "You know something Erik? Between fellow men at arms, I see no reason to be called Sir George."

Erik turns his head for a moment, arching an eyebrow at George.

"I am not different to yesterday, except perhaps a little more experienced. I am still the same person.

Erik nods his head in agreement, "True, true."

Roman said that it was more of a reward for service and a title which would tell those who don't know what I've been through that I had been through many tests and always been steadfast. Well if that is so, then those that know the toils of the Crusade need not address me as Sir. I have proven my dedication to those that matter, that should be enough I think."

As George finishes talking, Erik ponders his words for several moments.

"I agree. Most of the knights that I've met made it very clear that they were 'better folk' than the rest of us. I spent ten years in the Crusader smithies. Most of the knights treated us as their servants." He snorts in derision. "With Duke Gerard back now, he's reminding everyone that the true purpose of a knight is to serve, not be served."

 

He looks over at George. "I've met few men that I would call 'noble.' Duke Gerard, I'd follow him into the depths of Hel! Father Halbarad, Lord Ironraven, Sir Broderick, and Roman also. You seem to be a fine man. I hope you continue to be one. You've got good examples here."

 

Erik pauses, and then embarrassed at having talked so much he quickly adds, "Not that it's my place to judge. I just mean to say that most knights I've met seemed to think that being a knight made them better than the folks feeding them, that's all. You don't seem to be that sort; I hope not anyway."

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"I think you may find that doing the feeding and being treated as a serf teaches you humility." George says with a smile. "I've dreamed of being a Knight since I was a boy, but a Knight that helps people. My faith isn't as strong as Roman's, and I could never do what he does, but I can help people as best I can. That's my calling."

 

George finishes speaking just as Malachais and his archers walk over, and greets the Yeoman with smile, which quickly turns a little sour as he calls him Sir George. It must have been for the benefit of his archers. George decides after a moment's thought.

 

"Sure, welcome lads. The more the merrier." George replies as he observes the archers taking up their positions so as to best keep out of their line of fire. "And don't worry, so long as it's a painful death, as befits the foul abominations of the Darkspawn, I care not who inflicts it."

 

He then turns to Erik and smiles. "Archer support. This is turning serious."

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Roman returns with two young priests in tow. He instructs them to see to everyone that's wounded and leaves them to do their work. He then joins George, Erik, and the two archers in guarding the tunnel. "Hello, Johnathan, Percival." he says to them. Then he turns to George and Erik "See anything yet?"

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"I believe I glimpsed a few shadows in the shadows down the tunnel, but nothing substantive." Reports George as he looked to Erik for confirmation. "Certainly nothing which requires immediate action, although the sooner we move out and purge this nest of vipers the better."

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Malachias glances over to the archers. "Jonny, send a fire arrow down the tunnel, see what we can see," he says quietly. "Percy, be ready to fire at whatever you see."

 

The older man sighs heavily, pulls out an arrow and an oily rag, and wraps it around the tip. He lights it in a nearby torch, plods back to the tunnel, and shoots it down into the darkness. Meanwhile, both Percival and Malachias have nocked arrows and are sighting down the tunnel.

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Upon arriving back at the temple Ben stumbles up to George. "Well, we made it back." He says breathing quite heavily. "If you could do me the favor of locating whatever equipment is yours, I'd appreciate it. I'm sure that I don't know who's is who's at this point."

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