Breaking Barriers

Discussion in 'THREAD ARCHIVES' started by Elflady, Sep 17, 2014.

  1. [BCOLOR=transparent]Golden fields of wheat and barley stretched out in all directions only interrupted by the fenced in meadows where horses and cattle grazed, the area was a mix of flat lands and rolling hills with dirt roads crisscrossing between the spread out farms. Further west a white tipped mountain range could be seen against the horizon while a large deciduous forest stretched beyond the farmlands in the southeast. The nearest city was located half a day away, by horse and carriage, the trip taking considerably longer on foot.[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]The afternoon sun spread its rays across a small farm, work was mostly done for the day and the silence was only broken by a wind chime hanging by the front door. Saera sat in the porch swing, slumped down against an armrest, one foot in the seat and one on the floor lazily pushing the swing back and forth, a motion she was so used to she could do it in her sleep. Strands of dark hair had escaped her loose braid during her work and the wind blew them into her face, she constantly pushed them back but didn’t bother redoing her braid, she would soon have to go inside anyway.[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]The work on the farm was already finished, their few fields were almost ready to harvest so they needed little care which meant the two draft horses could graze with the cows most days unless they had to pull the carriage into town. Caring for the animals and cleaning the barn was quickly done especially since during the warm months both horses and cattle were left outside at night unless there was a storm. These relatively easy days would soon be over, the harvest was a day long hurdle even on a small farm and then the fields had to be prepared for the next season.[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]Then there was the garden near the house to care for, her mother grew a small variety of flowers together with some edible plants and vegetables in the shade of a few fruit trees to compliment the meager rations they got to keep of their own harvest after taxes. It was not a lot to survive on but with the occasional meat traded from a neighbour and fish from the nearby river they got by without starving.[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]Living on the lands of a human lord brought the benefit of living peacefully at least, they had to pay heavy taxes for their home and land but the humans protected their property and also left the farmers alone, a good thing since Saera more than once had to fight the urge to say a few choice words to their human keepers. Her refusal to stay silent and just accept that the humans were superior also made it hard for her parents to wed her, not something she was greatly upset over. Of course she was raised to accept being married off but that didn’t mean she had to like it, or behave nicely for it, in her mind if she had to get married it would have to be someone who was at least as strong as she was.[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]Glancing to the sky Saera blew out a sigh as she stood up and stretched, the sun had sunk a good bit closer the the horizon, vivid shades of red and orange contrasting against the darkening sky that had yet to lose its blue colour. Even though her parents would be gone for quite awhile longer, possibly throughout the night if they were invited to stay Saera wanted to finish with her chores just in case they did come home. Not that it was very likely however seeing as the marriage talk probably involved some drinking after dinner to lighten the atmosphere. Stepping inside the wind chime moved slightly, its sound somehow laced with sorrow, or maybe it was just her imagination as she was about to clean which was one of her least liked chores.[/BCOLOR]
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  2. The sun was barely staying above the horizon now, and the sky would soon become that deep shade of blue. And then it would become a solid black color, like the heart of their less than gracious king. But none of these changes signaling the shift towards evening meant the trek would come to an end soon. If anything it meant that it would be much faster. It was always easier to travel at night without being spotted. Sure there was a greater chance of running into a large bear, or even a wyvern, or possibly something even more intimidating. But whatever dangers lurked out here would never compare to the danger that had been pursuing Willem for eleven days and what would soon be twelve nights.

    The forest had not been much of a challenge in trekking through, for the trees were well spaced enough for one to navigate using the stars as guidance but were still dense enough to hide a human of average size from potential dangers. Unfortunately Willem had to leave the forest earlier that day. Had he continued through it he could have taken the long way around to his destination. The Helefar River would have crossed his path within a few days, and from there he could easily follow it downstream towards Vansego. Unfortunately following that path would take much longer than he had time for. And there were far too many roads that came into contact with the river. So he decided that the fastest method of reaching Vansego would be to cross the plains of Ikaela's eastern border until he reached the Great Peak Mountains. Even if this route left him in open view, it would take him five days at the most to reach the neighboring kingdom.

    Slapping a mosquito that landed on his arm in the hopes of having an evening meal, Willem watched the sky as it slowly began to fade from orange to red to purple and finally to the deep blue he had been waiting for. It reminded him of the mesmerizing dress that Alyana wore to the ball honoring the inauguration of Harren Balkov, the new Lord of Calsburn. Unfortunately it was the last time Willem would ever see his closest friend, a loyal companion he had known since the two of them became fast friends upon meeting each other at the local market back in Rud's Town. As he recalled, she assisted him in swiping away one of the large melons that Boris the Belcher was famous for producing.

    Those were memories he could not dwell on. Loosing oneself in the happiness of the past was not good for the soul. And it made the mind weak to emotion, something that could not be done in circumstances like this. One day perhaps, he might see his home again. He might even see Alyana again. But as of now his life was elsewhere, possibly in Vansego or maybe even beyond that.

    What suddenly caught Willem's interest was the farmland he had come across. He had once heard that these lands were often used by lesser lords to maintain a wealth of crops to feed their many towns and villages. It was also said that most of the workers were elves in these parts. In fact humans rarely ever felt the need to travel to these parts of the kingdom, making it that much safer for Willem. All he had to do was avoid any human keepers while he crossed this area and he would be golden. The elves themselves did pose any real threat to him. But given the time of night, it was easy to imagine that no humans would be showing up until dawn at the very least. Perhaps some rest at the small, somewhat dull appearing house would be well deserved. He took the faint sound of wind chimes as a sign that he was just in doing so. Surely the inhabitants would not mind letting in a traveler. And if they were elves then they were in no place to refuse him.
  3. The sky had turned dark and through the windows Saera could see the first faint stars begin to shine, she had been quite slow with her chores now that she was home alone, normally she worked a lot quicker than this although no matter her speed she never left a job half done. Maybe it was due to her upbringing but doing anything less than a perfect job was not acceptable, if you were going to make a sloppy job then it was better to not do it at all. Casting another look out the window she raised a hand to her necklace, it was a simple rock, uneven in shape but very smooth, what made her pick it up and turn it into a necklace was its colour though, velvet black and covered in faintly iridescent bluish white spots.

    It reminded her of the night sky, something she loved to look at, when she was feeling down it was somehow comforting to see all those stars look back down at her without any worldly problems and when she was filled with boundless energy, unable to release it fully, the night sky that stretched without end could carry her excitement in her stead. But now for some reason she had a bad feeling, not a premonition of any kind as Saera did not believe in psychic powers, but like many of her kind she believed not everything could be explained and that nature was more powerful than humans gave it credit for. When something felt off it usually proved to be correct, whether it was a surprise visit from the human keepers or a violent storm.

    A yawn interrupted her musings and she dusted off her pants and the maroon wrap around skirt as she steered towards the kitchen to finish up, grabbing the bowl with food scraps that needed to be added to the compost before she went to bed. Outside the chilly night air send a shiver down her spine, she didn't do well with cold, and even though the night was nowhere near freezing the difference from inside was enough to make her cold. Emptying the bowl Saera quickly headed back towards the warmth inside only to stop in her tracks as a shadowy figure was closing in on the house. Frowning Saera hesitated to call out at first, there was no reason for any of the humans around here to come this late and the other farms lay both quite the distance away and it wasn't very likely to be another elf either, around here you went to sleep early and rose in time with the sun.

    Knowing she would get both the humans and her parents on her back if she refused to greet a guest no matter the hour however she caved in and stopped in front of the porch to wait for him to reach her, wishing she had grabbed a jacket before leaving seeing as her loosely fitted moss green shirt didn't shield much against the cool air. She was fairly certain it was a human and she felt a bit apprehensive all alone like she was, suddenly wishing her parents had arrived home tonight so she would feel safer. "It's rather late to be out, what are you doing here?" She asked when the man came close enough, her tone and words far from as polite as they should be. She held the bowl pressed against her chest giving off a defensive air and looked at the stranger, her grey eyes brimming with suspicion.
  4. Dark as it was, being out in the open was not exactly ideal for a man on the run. And spending time in a house that drew more attention than a sore one's upper lip was not likely to help him stay very hidden. But resting under a roof would be more than helpful to Willem's journey, so long as whoever lived here was hospitable enough, or weak enough, to take him in. He still carried his longsword at his side as well as a few knives for close combat, but he did not expect they would be needed tonight, unless of course he was miraculously found by the king's men on this god forsaken night.

    As he touched the small amulet around his neck, the everlasting thought of its significance stepped to the front of his mind once again. It was always in the back of his head, both as a blessing and as a curse. Tonight though, he was a young traveler and nothing more. He delicately lifted the precious item and tucked it away under his tunic. It would not be safe lying in his pocket where he could not feel its radiant touch. He had been in too many markets to know that anyone could easily pickpocket his items without him even knowing until the next day. It was not as likely to happen here, but one never knew what kind of characters were lurking about on the distant plains and farmlands of the kingdom.

    Upon reaching the house, Willem could see a figure standing in the dim light. Her short stature confirmed his belief that the farm was inhabited by elves, though she looked rather young to be working here alone. Either the rest of them were asleep or they were gone from the estate for the time being. He did not need to hear her speak to know that she was not the kind to cower away at the sight of a human. Still, she was an elf and for that she at least owed him some respect. Despite her lowly status, however, she stared at him as if they were on equal ground, and her eyes, clear and beautiful as they were, continued to bore through the depths of his skin like a hawk. Clearly she was naturally mistrusting of strangers, and for good reason. In times like this, and those soon to follow, the only people that could be trusted were the closest companions one had. At the moment that was no one for Willem.

    Her question almost made him laugh. "Never ask questions you don't wont the answer to." With that he gave her a shallow bow and returned her stare, though he did it with as much warmth as he could muster. Giving her a cold eye would not help his cause in any way. "May I stay here for the night? I am traveling to Vansego and would greatly appreciate some proper rest before going on my way." Willem rarely ever came into contact with elves, though he knew of more than a few nobles who kept them as concubines or servants of some sort. It felt odd to be speaking to one now regarding entry into her home. He almost felt pathetic in a way, though his face would never show it.
  5. [BCOLOR=transparent]Saera barely resisted the urge to ignore the manners her mother had hewn into her mind but in the end she curtsied back, although not especially deep, it was late and she was not in the mood for rebellion especially if this human didn't handle it very well. She had learned that some people either ignored or found her antics funny while some on the other hand couldn't tolerate their inferiors acting out, she wondered if those humans were afraid of losing the power they held and that's why they couldn't take any insubordination. After all if you had a natural authority and the skills of a leader then you wouldn't need to act tough just to constantly point out how much power you commanded, of course that behaviour wasn't limited to just humans, instead it was one of the few things the different races had in common. But testing the boundaries with this particular human could wait until later, if he was even staying long enough for her to try, besides her parents would probably arrive home rather early to start work on the farm.[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]It was not like she could outright refuse his request, if she did he could complain to the humans her family was in service to and then hell would break loose and set their sights on her, there was a strict hierarchy in place and as an elf Saera didn't rank very high on it, that in itself was frustrating but what made it even worse was that she had to respect and treat perfect strangers well. It was not like they had done anything to earn her respect and for that reason it was hard for Saera to just accept it, one of the reasons at least. "I'd like to sa..." she interrupted herself before she could finish her sentance, it was probably best to not say that outloud, a lot of the time her life would go along smoother if she just learned to think before speaking. "Of course..sir," the last word came out a bit reluctantly and her tone didn't suggest she was overjoyed by this. "My parents are not home at the moment so I'm afraid you'll have to make do with me if there is anything you need." Despite resenting her current situation Saera did feel relatively safe allowing the stranger inside, not completely but more than you'd think. The human who ruled these parts of the land, Lord Delaer, didn't like loosing his precious workers as it was such a hassle to obtain new ones, and there was also the insulting part of killing a subject to the lord on his own land. In the end it didn't make her immune to danger but it was something at least and more protection than many others had.[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]"If you follow me I'll show you were you can sleep." As she spoke she promptly turned on one heel and made her way to the front door. It was a small house but still it was not tiny as Saera was lucky to get her own room, it was not large and more like a closet space almost but considering she could have been forced to sleep in the kitchen instead she didn't think it was too bad. The house was L-shaped and the first room was a rather large combined kitchen and living room, by the door was the living room area with a fireplace offering extra warmth and by the kitchen a door led the a corridor going through the shorter part of the L, containing the master bedroom, a storage room and Saera's room at the end. Small but rustic and impeccably clean.[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]"You can sleep in the first room to the right," she indicated with a hand towards the corridor leading away from the kitchen as she spoke. This was one good thing about her parents being away, normally if a guest had to stay the night Saera would have to be the one vacating her room and sleep on the kitchen sofa, but now she could keep her bed and let the stranger use her parent's room. Washing and putting away the bowl she had been carrying Saera turned to look at the man. "Would you like a meal as well or just a place to sleep?"[/BCOLOR]
  6. Her words were accepting, but her tone was far from it. Not that it mattered at all. Willem had a place to stay for the night and that was all he was looking for. The house was obviously built for elves, as everything was slightly smaller than what he was used to. But it was a minimal difference that he could deal with quite easily. Having lived on the road for the past few days any house at all was like a gift. He would have to think of a way to thank this elf girl and her family later on. They may be of lower status then him, but he was not one to let a good deed go unnoticed. But he had all night to think about that. For now he needed some rest and possibly a meal. A lesser man would have asked for quite a few other luxuries, but he was not about to dishonor a young maiden in her own home, and she seemed a rather fierce one anyway.

    He followed her through the house to the large bedroom her parents stayed in. It was well furnished, especially for an elven farmhouse. The linens were soft and warm when he ran his hands over them, and there was a clean, sturdy table for to its left. There were a couple of chairs arranged by the fireplace, probably for late night reading, sewing, or whatever it was this couple did in their spare time. His hostess still did not seem too fond of allowing him refuge for the night, but to her credit she did not shy away in fear. A single glance would have caused him to mistake her for a young girl, but a closer look proved that she was actually far more mature in age than he initially thought. It was always difficult for him to discern the ages of elves. They did not wrinkle or wither like humans did. In fact there were elven women well past eighty years who were easily more appealing than a few humans that were thought to be in their prime. It was a sweet irony that no one ever spoke of but everyone knew in their hearts.

    Willem took another moment to study the room before answering her offer. "A meal would be nice, thank you," he accepted, dropping his bag of supplies to the ground with a heavy thud. He still had a fair amount of food left in there, but rationing was always easier when he found food elsewhere. The last thing a man on the run would ever want to do was run out of food. He knew she was only offering out of courtesy, not because she actually wanted to help him. But why turn down the offer? He could not imagine what life as an elf must be like in this kingdom. He recalled his last visit to Peldost, one of the few kingdoms that treated elves, and even dwarves, equal to humans in every way. Their were marriages between the races all the time, something that was heavily frowned upon here. Willem could not guarantee that he would ever be willing to marry an elf, but it was easy to see how much happier they were when they were allowed to live as freely as humans.

    Exploring the rest of the house proved to be fairly boring. There was not much to see other than a few spots of rotting wood in the corners of the hall and the occasional decoration here and there. Willem decided to return to the kitchen to see what his hostess was putting together. He did not expect her to be so bold as to try and poison him, but he was curious about how much fresher the food prepared on the farm itself was compared to most other places he was used to. Walking into the kitchen, he did not directly approach her. Instead he sat down in one of the chairs, noticing immediately that it was rather small for him, but he would manage. "What's your name, miss?" he asked after watching her for a few moments. Her mind seemed to be on multiple things at once.
  7. "Of course, I will prepare something at once," Saera said, not comfortable with this at all but still glad for the chance of doing something rather than just sit still with a stranger in the house. The meal would be a simple one but even poor people could make their meals larger than they would have been when growing their own ingredients, also providing more fresh food than buying on a market or any such place. Picking out what she needed she put it to the side so she wouldn't have to keep running back and forth to get it once she started cooking, the hearth was still lit in the kitchen area, it was rarely put out although it faltered during the night but the fire was quickly awoken again.

    Peeling and slicing carrots, onion and parsley roots in quite thin pieces she placed them in a pot together with water and parsley, putting it to boil above the hearth, she also took a few small potatoes that her mother had recently harvested from the garden and added them as well after peeling them and cutting them into squares. To add flavour she added powdered rosemary, sage, salt and grains of paradise as a substitute for pepper since black pepper was expensive and not something a poor person could obtain, let alone an elf. While waiting for the mixture to boil Saera took some dried beef, rinsed it to remove the salt based preservant and sliced it into small squares, she also took a few small apples that had belonged to the summer harvest and added them along with the meat into the stew after peeling and slicing them.

    Although she was far from happy allowing the stranger to stay she couldn't stand it to serve poorly done food just to spite him, it just wasn't acceptable to do any chore badly just because you didn't like the circumstances. This trait of hers always drove Saera to work hard and do what she was tasked to do even while a part of her wanted to do the opposite or ignore any command she received. Shifting the pot so it stood higher from the fire so it could continue to simmer without boiling dry Saera put forth a bowl in front of the man who had moved into the kitchen by now. "Saera," she answered after a few beats of silence where she was tempted to ask for his before giving her own. "Saera Aktzura. What can I call you then?" She asked, not managing to keep from asking even though she should keep quiet.

    To eat with the stew she brought out dark bread baked on barley earlier this day and to drink hazelnut milk sweetened with just a bit of honey, in richer households wine or beer might have been common but for the poor milk made from boiling ground hazelnuts. Taking a look at the stew Saera fetched the man's bowl and filled it before putting it down with a spoon in front of him. "I hope it will be to your satisfaction," she said. Still looking reserved her tone was honest for the first time, actually meaning her words.
  8. The stew that was placed before him looked beyond appetizing, and the aroma was more than enough to relax his stiffness. He had not expected her to put so much effort into a meal for a stranger. Either she had been taught to put her best effort into everything or she was very good at kissing up to humans. Either way he was more than gratified by the outcome. Putting a spoonful of the stew into his mouth, he almost flinched at the heat but resisted. His mouth lit up with ecstatic flavors from the fresh potatoes, beef, rosemary, and numerous spices, whatever they were. He imagined life in the lower class could not be all that bad if they were eating meals such as this every day. Food of the royal and noble courts was considered to be the finest in all the lands, though Willem often found it too heavy and unnatural for him. But whatever this girl Saera was taught was something he could get used to. After savoring the first spoonful for a moment he took a thick slice of bread and dipped it into the magnificent stew, munching on it hungrily.

    "You may call me Willem," he grunted through a mouthful of bread and stew. It was a common enough name for her to not think much of it. His full name, Willem Arturus Nazar, would draw some unwanted attention. The likelihood of an elf living on a farm that was leagues away from the capital actually knowing of him and the raucous going on in the capital was fairly low. But surely she knew of the history he represented even if she did not know of him. It was better to leave his full name unspoken. He could not have it lingering about here with an elf that might spill his location unknowingly. Although she had already proven that she was not the most delicate little flower in the field. Interrogating her would be a headache for just about anyone. But Willem was thoroughly convinced that she would be the ideal companion if one expected satisfactory meals while traveling.

    He eyed her carefully as he continued to eat then stopped for a moment and put on a friendly grin. "It is beyond satisfactory, Saera. But this is your house, and this is your food. You should be joining me. Come, sit down. It's not often one finds himself with company while he is on the road." He beckoned towards the chair across the table from him. Even now he could see that she was still uncomfortable with this, and he wanted to make sure that she did not feel the need to defend herself from him. He was not a killer, not by choice anyway. And even if he had set out to end lives he would not have wasted his time killing elves when he could be searching for more important souls.

    "When I first saw you out there I mistook you for a much younger girl. Forgive me for asking but how old are you exactly? I can never tell with elves. You do not age as unhealthily as we do." His question was more of a distraction really. He did not usually pay attention to people when they answered questions about themselves. He had become an expert in discerning primary traits simply by examining their emotions and the ways they expressed themselves. So whatever she said when she spoke went straight through his ears. He took the time to examine her posture, her eyes, and her speech. Needlessly to say, she was rather stoic in demeanor and very strong of mind.
  9. Secretly pleased that the food was acceptable Saera examined Willem as he ate, her side parted bangs that never stayed in the braid falling to shade her face but those strands could not hide the surprise on her face when he invited her to sit down as well. Even though the house was technically theirs Saera was used to not sit at the table when the humans stopped by to check up on the farm and it's condition or to watch over their workers, if they accepted the meal offered to them then Saera and her parents would serve the food and keep out of the way. It was a very frustrating thing to accept, especially in your own house, and just because their race was considered lower than the humans but Saera had also learned to handle it, under protest.

    First she was about to just take a seat but the smell of food was alluring and although she had already eaten dinner she grabbed a bowl of her own, it had been hours since she ate anyway. Normally the elves living in this area ate breakfast around sunrise after caring for the animals, then worked to around noon when a light lunch was served, in bad times it wasn't uncommon to skip lunch or just eat a piece of bread. Dinner was usually served in the afternoon, close to five or six and most also went to bed a few hours after that only to rise early the next day. Taking a small piece of bread and a mug for herself she sat down opposite Willem, sitting relaxed as if she ate with her family rather than with a stranger of a higher status, although she would have looked far less reserved with her parents.

    The portion she had poured herself was small as she didn't want to waste a good meal when she had eaten her meals for the day, the rest of it could be heated in the morning and used for breakfast, keeping it much longer than that and the food would spoil. After a few spoons of hot stew Saera looked up at Willem, her eyes not quite as sharp any longer. "I turned twenty this year," she answered calmly, as if she was used to the question. Which she was, rare travellers and most the people who oversaw the farmers living here had trouble with that, it didn't help that she was on the tall side for elves when her face and small stature made her look young, at least to a human.

    It was not terribly common for young women her age to still live at home, by this age most women were already wedded or taken as servant girls to rich human families, or the less appealing job as a concubine although that probably offered quite nice privileges even for an elf. Saera, as could be guessed, didn't exactly mind this delay in her future, she had the same qualms about obeying human superiors as she did being passed off to a husband, however nice he may or may not be. Taking a sip of the creamy hazelnut milk she turned her grey eyes to Willem. "Have you travelled a lot?" Her eyes showing the curiosity her voice didn't reveal much of, she was interested in pretty much everything that lay beyond Lord Delaer's lands, something someone like her would not be able to see easily. She was not the type that wanted to leave this life and do as she pleased, that would be no better than to run from life, you had to work and suffer a little to earn the good times in your life according to her view n the matter, but she was still curious about what was beyond her home and wouldn't mind to see it once.
  10. Willem waited for Saera to sit and take a spoonful of the stew before continuing to eat. He imagined that she was probably not used to being allowed to eat alongside a human before. The surprise displayed on her face when he proposed that she join him said as much. But he hated simply sitting there, eating the stew she made for him while she watched with curiosity and possibly fear. Added to that was the fact that he had not had any company over the past few days. Even if she was an elf she was still someone. It was difficult to have to travel for so many days without having a single soul around to talk to, except for the occasional squirrel or wildcat. Thankfully he never had to make friends with a wolf or a wyvern... or worse. He could only hope that his luck would hold through the rest of the journey.

    Twenty seemed about the right age, though it was odd for her to still be living with her mother and father. While Willem did not come into contact with elves very much anymore he certainly knew about their culture. Sixteen was the age at which most elven maidens left their families for various reasons, usually through marriage. It would become more and more difficult for her to be wedded off the longer she waited. Perhaps that was what she wanted. Saera did not seem the type of elf who was willing to let a man she barely knew carry her away without some sort of protest. The fact that she had been able to avoid leaving her family for so long was admittedly a miraculous feat. "I suppose you wouldn't want me asking about why you are still unwed then," he suggested with a slight smirk. He was probably stepping over his line a little bit, but there was no fun in boring conversations.

    The question she popped to him turned Willem's smirk into a full grin. She was curious about the outside world, something that had been a mystery to her all her life, or so he presumed. It made sense that a young elf maiden who has spent all her time working on a farm serving humans wanted to know more about the world. He could not imagine not being allowed to leave home for any reason other than to maybe pick up some items from a nearby village. Adventure was something he lived for, though until recently most of his life had been in the realm of politics. Despite the danger he was in now, Willem was glad to be relieved of the enormous stress that came with the political arena of Ikaela. But he never would have imagined it would end the way it did. He would return one day though. Maybe the new king was not a supporter of what Willem and Alyana stood for, but there were many around the kingdom who did. And when the two of them returned with a new force at their backs then all who supported them would rise to the occasion.

    Saera, on the other hand, had little to no experience in activities that did not involve farm work. Perhaps getting out and seeing the world was something she needed. But could she go with him? It was not like she had much to offer in terms of being a travel companion. But at the same time it would certainly help his cause if he could gain the trust of an elf. It might gain him a lot more support among the lower classes, and an uprising by them would cause utter chaos for the ruling nobles, something that made him giddy as a little girl. Why this thought had popped into his head was still a mystery, but then again why should he not consider it? He had nothing to lose, and Saera clearly wished to know more about what was out there. Folding his hands on the table, Willem looked her in the eyes and explored the curiosity behind them. "I used to travel a lot, and now I find myself on the road again. But I cannot tell you what is out there. You must see it for yourself."
  11. [BCOLOR=transparent]Dividing the her bread in two she dipped one piece in her stew before eating it while she considered his question. "That question is more uncomfortable to my parents," she said with a shrug. "Around here people prefer to not piss off the humans too much and seem to strive to be as boring as possible, of course that is the safest way to go through life but where is the fun in that?" Oh how much her parents wanted her to be more traditional, sure she did everything she was tasked and was not afraid to work hard but part of her wanted excitement and to experience new things. It was too much to say she would slowly wither away if she stayed put all her life, it was nothing as dramatic as that but she would never really fit in well as a person of lower status, or rather she wouldn't mind being a lowly peasant as long as others didn't look down on her because of her race and gender.[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]So Saera would never quit that attitude of hers making her quite misplaced where she lived now, a place where tradition ruled and where nothing really changed much except the seasons that brought year after year to an end. "My parents have not found anyone that is willing to risk taking a wife who likes speaking her mind even to humans." Pausing to wash down the bread with some milk before continuing. "At least not yet, but my mother has not given up hope." Aska was a lot more persistent than her husband in finding a man for her daughter, convinced it would only do Saera good to settle down and maybe start her own family, and although her father was a bit more understanding he often found it easier to just go along with whatever Aska decided. Even if mother and daughter were very different it was still apparent from which parent she had inherited her stubborn and confident traits.[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]Saera looked up from her bowl where she had been about to soak up the last of the stew with her bread, her face creased by a frown at his words, surely he could easily describe what existed beyond this farm and the town of Lenion that was the furthest she had ever been. "Is that your way of telling me to stick to the role I was born into," she said, never shying away from his gaze. "Or that I must do things on my own instead of relying on others?" An askew grin gracing her face, her small nose and naturally arched eyebrows often giving even the smallest of her smiles a vaguely impish appearance.[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]"It's not so easy for me to leave here so I can see for myself," she said turning serious again. "Don't take me wrong, I'm not afraid of a little danger or being alone but I don't leaving all the work to my parents while satisfying my selfish desire to see a bit of the world." If she decided to ignore the traditions and just leave she to see what Ikaela looked like or even the countries beyond the borders she didn't feel it was right to burden her parents with her own dream, loyalty was an important concept to her and it didn't even occur to her that if she married and left her home it would basically be the same anyway.[/BCOLOR]
  12. Leaning back in his chair, Willem folded his arms and smiled with amusement. He had never met an elf so willing to ignore the rules regardless of the outcome. It was a sign of strength in his eyes. Her people were basically underpaid servants to a race that had so little respect for itself, and yet she was ready to tell off any human that dared mistreat her. "Most men would tell you that what you are saying is out of line and worthy of punishment. But I admire you, Saera. I have to admit I thought you would be just another elf maiden who bowed her head and stayed silent all the time. You've proven otherwise." He kept his face serious as he spoke, but inside he was almost ecstatic. Maybe he would benefit a lot if she were to tag along, and she would certainly gain some valuable life experience herself. The only matter that remained was placing the idea in her head.

    "I can say with certainty that there are few men out there that are willing to put up with a woman like you. And I do not mean that as an insult. I mean it as a fact. Like you said, you are far too outspoken." He lifted the cup next to his stew and took a long gulp from it. He had forgotten it was milk and not ale, so he nearly ended up spitting the contents back into the cup. But he resisted and swallowed the drink without complaint. It was sweeter than he expected. But it was certainly no replacement for some good mead that had been brewed and stored long enough to let the yeast collect to perfection.

    Finally Willem brought up the point he had been leading to, almost humored by her accusative question. "I am not telling you that you have to do anything. How you lead your life and where you go is no one's choice but your's. But consider this. Your parents have been trying to marry you off to someone in the hopes that you will start a new life. Traveling the world is almost the same thing. You just avoid the marriage part. Unless I've read you completely wrong that sounds exactly like the type of thing you are looking for, does it not?"

    Now came his ace in the hole. For all he was worth, Willem could not fathom why he was about to reveal something so vitally important to this elf he only just met. But even elves knew the legend and what it represented. He reached into his shirt and revealed the small amulet that hung around his neck. It was half of the original, which had not been whole for almost a thousand years. The other half was in Alyana's possession. They were the Twin Warriors, chosen by divine right to continue the legacy that had been past on for centuries. "Do you know what this is?" he asked, his voice now far more serious than it had been all night. He knew this could easily bite him in the back if Saera suddenly decided she did not like him.
  13. "Well, maybe men don't like it if their wife won't listen to them when they tell her what to do?" She countered, it would take quite a lot to silence her when she didn't like something or was given orders that she was expected to follow. Something inside of her bucked like a horse when ordered around, she had always been like that, the only exception to that behaviour were her parents who she didn't like to disappoint. She didn't show much on the outside, as usual, but she did value his praise, seeing as it came from a human she felt it was more well earned then if it came from another elf, especially as it was regarding the traits that always got her in trouble normally.

    "Aren't I going to be popular then," she remarked dryly. It didn't look like leaving would be all that different from her life here when it came to the views on gender at least. Not that she would ever change her ways because of others saying it was wrong, especially not when it came to simply speaking her mind, as long as her words didn't hurt anyone, except a man's ego, then Saera didn't see anything wrong with it.

    Pushing away her empty bowl to the side she emptied her mug before speaking. "You aren't wrong, no," Saera said. She did not have any dreams of the future filled with sunshine and rainbows where everything was perfct and without strife but she at least wanted to chose her own road through life, not someone else's. But the man did have a point she had to admit, whether she stayed here or left she would still leave her parents home, would it then matter so much which option she took?

    However it was still a bigger step to leave this way then to just follow traditions and marry, she had no problem with facing the unknown or leave all that she knew behind but it was still not a choice one just decided on a whim. A small part of her tried to voice the question if this man always behaved like this when staying a night somewhere, and if he was after something, Saera had grown up mistrusting humans so it was not a big leap for her to suspect a human to have some ulterior motives.

    All those thoughts vanished however when Willem turned suddenly serious and pulled out an amulet he had kept hidden under his shirt, her eyes widened slightly in surprise and she found no words at first. That was indeed a legend she had heard about, but if she remembered correctly the amulet was split in two so where was the other half then? "What are you doing with that," she finally said. Granted it had been a long time since she had heard about the legend and as she grew older Saera didn't get the same oppurtunities for reading as she used to so her knowledge may have been a bit rusty but she knew of the importance of the amulet. "I thought that amulet was supposed to be in the capital and why are the pieces not together?"
  14. Suddenly Saera did not seem to lack any interest in what he had to say. Willem had not revealed the amulet to anyone he encountered on this journey up until this point, and he still wasn't quite sure why he was doing so now. A gut feeling perhaps. But Saera was clearly ready to listen now, as demonstrated by her sudden outburst of questions. She definitely knew of the legend, but she was oblivious to what had happened recently in the capital. That was no surprise given how far into the country she and her family lived.

    He laid the brilliantly carved artifact on the table between them, taking a short moment to marvel at its beauty. He rarely took the time for that nowadays, but when he was first given the honor he would spend hours just staring at its greatness. So much history was carried in that amulet, and he was determined to keep it out of harm's way.

    The smile that was previously on Willem's face returned slowly. "To answer your first question. What am I doing with this? Well it belongs to me, you see. And no, I did not steal it. The honor of being christened as one of the Twin Warriors of Afamrayl is the greatest achievement a child can dream of. As much as I had wanted it I never actually expected to get it... that is until the High Priest himself bestowed this amulet upon me when I was barely ten years of age. Both warriors are chosen by divine right, so I guess you could say that the Gods are pretty fond of me." The other questions were not as easy for him to answer. She would likely be confused by some of it because of her lack of experience in the capital, or any place beyond a league from here for that matter.

    "Let me explain the rest of this with a statement simple enough for anyone to understand. King Eltrion is dead, and the new king, his son Gorlon, is beyond mad." He let that sink in for a moment before continuing. "We knew it was only a matter of time before that egregious man finally took the throne. If they had let me I would have done him in beforehand, but apparently treason is a much worse crime than letting a psychotic king rule the land." He rolled his eyes at the stupidity of some of the laws. It was almost as if the ruling class was designed to harbor corruption. "King Gorlon wants my head. And not just because I spoke out against him. He has a dream of expanding Ikaela into a massive empire. But he will not garner any support from his vassals unless he is supported by those who represent the Gods. He already has the High Priest, but that is not enough. He needs those who wield the two halves of this," he said as he indicated the item lying on the wooden table between them. "My guess is he would have us killed and bestow the amulets upon someone who would support him without question. So I did the only logical thing to do. I fled. As for the other half, it belongs to my closest friend and ally, Alyana. We knew it would mean chaos and bloodshed if Gorlon were to get his hands on both halves, so we split up. It has been seven nights since we fled the capital in separate directions. Or was it eight? Honestly all the days seem to be blending together now."
  15. Saera wasn't sure what exactly she had expected Willem to say about the amulet and his role in it but that the man would be one of the Twin Warriors was definitely not it. Sure he did not appear to be neither poor nor a nobody but it was a big leap from important city person to a legendary warrior and the chance of actually encountering one of them was very small, almost nonexistent, so was it bad luck or good luck that brought him to just this farm? Turning her eyes to the amulet once more where it lay innocently on the table, its importance masked by its small size and the fact that it was only half of the original as well, the designs on it was beautiful and led your eye along the lines and symbols and had she not known how special it was she would have reached out to touch it.

    His words snapped her attention away from the amulet however. "The King is dead? How?" Her voice audibly surprised at the news, although as an elf and a farmer far from the capital she was not so terribly upset over the fact but instead more concerned about how the lives of the elves and other poor would change under the new king, it may seem like treasonous thoughts but considering King Eltrion had done nothing to change the way elves were treated during his reign Saera harboured little sadness over his death. Not that he had been the one to decide which race was superior and which were inferior but he had not bothered to change it in any way, so no which king ruled didn't matter to her, although a mad king was even less appealing. "Too bad the Gods doesn't seem to be so fond of you any longer." Saera said dryly. "It sounds like you could need it now. While she was certainly open to the existence of Gods she viewed them with as much trust as she would the rich and powerful among the mortals, beings with power and influence but with little care beyond what was closest to them.

    "But can Gorlon really create such an empire even with the support of his vassals, I know Ikaela is a large country but still. Or does this Twin Warrior thing come with powers that could help him in his goal?" Even if Gorlon failed in creating his empire the damage to both Ikaela and other countries would be vast, with the poor and low ranked receiving the worst of it like always. "You said you and your friend split up to keep the amulet separated but what will that do in the long run, do you intend to stop him somehow?" Not that there could be many ways to stop a king, without being seen as a traitor or failing before even reaching him.

    She realized she may have been too forward again talking like she had a say or knowledge in the matter but in her defense it was he who started it after all so what could she do. Besides she was not so keen on seeing her home ravaged by a war, if any foreign country managed to get this far into Ikaela, it didn't even have to be foreigners for that matter. It took a lot of resources to feed an army and far from every soldier cared if they pillaged from their own country's farms, even if they didn't take food by force farmers would have to give away their regular taxes from their harvest and also help feed an army. Of course she could not do anything to stop it or help in any way but she appreciated to at least know what could happen if Gorlon got his way.

    "While this is interesting, why are you telling me this?" She asked, her tone serious, voicing the question that had bothered her for awhile. "I'm just an elf, not the type of person one would chose as a confidant, especially not of this importance."
  16. Saera did not seem overly concerned by the death of the king, and rightfully so. But such news was bound to shock anyone who lived so far out of the way and rarely participated in conversations involving the upper circles. "He was an old man and was becoming rather sickly. Unfortunately for him, and for all of us, he left behind an heir that is less competent than a buttered roll." A phrase like that in the capital would easily cost him his head, and it felt wonderful to be able to say it without consequence. Everyone and their mother was aware of Gorlon's miraculous ability to prove himself to be dumber than everyone believed, but no one would ever have the courage to say so out loud... except for Willem of course. Even if he did not say what he had, Willem could not let himself believe that things would have turned out very differently for him in the end.

    A short laugh escaped his lips at the mild insult. "Aye, perhaps the gods have grown tired of me. Although to perfectly honest I have never found myself to be truly fond of them myself. I only say I am because I have to keep up that image. How terrible would it look to the legacy of the Twin Warriors, two people chosen by divine right, if one of them considered the idea of divinity itself to be folly." Willem was not fully aware of how elves viewed the idea of a higher power than what they themselves could witness. He guessed it had something to do with how often they were around humans that led them to believe certain things and not others. He himself never wanted the role of being a Twin Warrior so he could claim himself as a spiritual leader for the entire kingdom. Instead what had drawn him to the idea was holding a position of prominence, something no one in the history of his family had ever accomplished.

    Raising an eyebrow, Willem eyed the girl with the same interest that had hit him since the moment she first spoke out unexpectedly. "You really are a curious one. Well I suppose it is possible to take over the surrounding lands with military might. Keeping them together is another story entirely. Like I said, he is not the brightest king we have ever had." His eyes fell to the amulet again and a thin smile crossed his lips. "Some people believe the amulets hold special abilities that must be unlocked by the wearers. I've never believed such superstition. They are relics more than anything, used as symbols to represent something that the people believe in. The only way Gorlon can ensure he has the support of every single one of his territories is if both warriors bless his cause as a righteous one." Fat chance of that ever happening, not while Willem still lived anyway.

    Willem pondered for a moment before taking the question about Alyana to heart. "We would rather not see our homes torn apart by another war, but if that is what it comes to then we will have no choice but to fight. That is why I am going to Vansego. If I can sneak aboard a ship that will take me across the see to Maladov I can alert their king of what Gorlon is planning. The last I saw of Alyana she was taking the road to Hervaz, hoping to do the same. Unfortunately I have no way of knowing whether or not she will be successful, not until I reach Maladov anyway. Until then we are both remaining in hiding."

    The last question that was asked was something that Willem was not sure he even knew the answer to. Sure he thought might be a good idea to enlist the trust of an elf if he were to gain more of her kind in support of his cause. But he couldn't tell her that was using her for his own goals. She had a life here, albeit not a very lively one, and one that could easily be taken from her should a war hit Ikaela. Finally he leaned back in his chair and folded his arms. "I think you would be better use to the world if you were out seeing it rather than working as a farm girl or whatever your husband would have you do. You are not as weak minded as most would think you are, and that is an invaluable asset out in the real world."
  17. The insult drew a snort of laughter from her, it was not many who dared to insult the King, or any one of the royal family for that matter, among the elves there was not such a big deal who heard you speak since pretty much no elf was satisfied with being treated like they were but among humans it was a good idea to watch your mouth. Even away from the capital it was not completely safe to utter your opinion of how the nobility acted or did not act, who knew what could be taken as the beginnings of treason. Of course Willem had already proved he did not support the new king but it was still something Saera was not used to hear from a human. It also proved that while nobility looked down on the poor like uneducated rabble they could not with all their money raise their children correctly, of course it was a generalization on both sides but the poor had to be raised to work hard and respect those higher in rank, two traits many nobles sorely lacked.

    It seemed Willem was even less a believer than Saera was, something she did not expect, being chosen as a Twin Warrior by divine right apeared to go hand in hand with being a believer in the gods. While open, albeit sceptic, to a higher power existing Saera herself put more faith in nature and the spirits dwelling within, gods were more a human belief although many elves had adopted that faith after living in a human culture for so long. "Objects can hold more power than you think," she said in a low voice. This was her superstition, believing objects could both be infused with power and hold meaning depending on where it was found or how it looked. Her own black sstone being one example, to her it represented freedom and it could also be taken as a sign to follow her heart and not anyone elses plans, like the night sky was free and unbound by anything or anyone.

    Crossing the sea. The thought was both alluring and a bit frightening, Saera had never been close to the sea in her life, the only water she had experienced was the river croosing the fields where she also had learned to swim during the summers of her childhood when her duties had not been so time consuming. But when she thought of the sea she often wondered if it resembled to open sky and if she left Saera was determined to see it one day. Her knowledge about Moldov or any other country beyond Ikaela was about as large as her knowledge about the sea, her education left much to desire if it could be called schooling. Her parents, other workers and travellers heading through Lenion was her largest source of information, and of course the books she had poured over with her, needless to say her knowledge was sporadic and probably not entirely correct.

    She pondered on the reason he gave for telling her about all this, that her otherwise cumbersome strong will would be more of use outside these farmlands, it was words that further fueled her will to see what lay outside her small world. "And an uneducated elf like me could do much with just a strong mind?" She would not mind leaving at all, her only worry had been her parents until the obvious had been pointed out by Willem, that she would leave either way. "Do you know how elves are treated in other countries?" She asked after some silence, it was something she often wondered, if her race was always seen as inferior or if they could live free somewhere, if they did perhaps she could use her determination and bring that freedom to Ikaela, although even she realized it was an impossible tas for her alone.
  18. The glimmer in Saera's eyes at the mention of what was beyond the sea was noticeable the moment Willem spoke of his destination. She was more than intrigued by this point. He was still not quite certain why the thought of bringing her along had settled into his mind so readily. Perhaps elves in general were just more interesting than humans. And because of her size it would be relatively easy for her to sneak by potential enemies. If anything she could at least give him company along the way, and someone that could actually hold an intelligent conversation. That was a rare opportunity when one spent so much time around the air-filled heads of nobles born into wealth and power. So few of them ever cared to take advantage of the intellectual opportunities they had in front of them, save for a few here and there.

    He nodded at her question with a smile. "Uneducated, maybe. But certainly not unintelligent. You would be surprised how far a sharp mind can get you in the world, and an even greater advantage for you is that no one would expect it from an elf. It is always better for people to underestimate you than to have them know exactly what you are capable of." Unfortunately for him people knew exactly what he could do. He was trained by some of the most worldly swordsmen, archers, and scholars. But even so, it would be difficult for anyone to oppose him alone. The Twin Warriors were trained from a young age to be among the most skilled and knowledgeable fighters. Willem had at least mastered one of those things.

    There was a long moment of silence that passed between them, and Willem could see that Saera had another thought sitting in her mind. His prediction proved correct when she finally spoke again, and he for a moment he felt a sliver of pity run through him. She had never lived a life that did not make her a second class individual. And yet the hope that there were others out there like her that lived freely was still possible in her mind. "I have not seen many places where elves are equal to humans in the eyes of the rulers, but they do exist. Unfortunately they are far across distant treks of land and vast seas. Ikaela has not seen elves treated with respect in centuries..." He leaned forward against the table and flashed a knowing grin. "... But it doesn't have to remain that way."

    It was not fair of him to get her hopes up when he knew that the likelihood of anyone changing the mindset of a kingdom that had been ingrained for over three hundred years was slim. And Willem had not intended on liberating the elves when he initially left the capital. But there was a lot of upside to his eventual goal if he could accomplish such a task. It sounded great in theory, but physically executing this idea was not going to be just another household chore.
  19. His words certainly sparked hope in her, it may not be anywhere close to Ikaela but such countries did exist at least and that knowledge was enough for now to make her determination grow. Her race was not slaves per se but they were definitely not treated equally to humans and that had been true for a very long time, even Saera could realize the enormous task it would be to even begin changing peoples minds. A lot of humans would not appreciate losing their precious workers, workers who rarely got sick and could work into an older age than humans, cheap manpower that had no legal right to speak their mind about their life. Even if it would succeed and the races were to be called equal there was no doubt that there would still exist places were elves were kept as illegal workers, underpaid, if paid at all. No, it would be a very hard task but Willem's words had hardened her desire to try and make a change, having no idea of his own motivations or interest in gaining the elves on his side for his benefit.

    She bit her lip and curled up in the chair, on leg bent beneath her and the other resting against the chair leg, long, dark strands escaped her braid as she thought and she pushed it back behind a pointed ear almost without noticing it herself. The only remaining obstacle in her mind was how to proceed, once she left she had to survive on her own, a prospect that didn't face her more than a move to a new house would, the hardest part was to find food which she could handle and the other to live sparcely with little luxuries, basically what she had been doing so far anyways. But how would she even begin to start something, whether it be to try and help her people or perhaps do something to aid in the case of a war breaking out or even just try to travel around. She had no idea of how to gather people together, or finding already existing groups with her mindset, such topics was far from what she had learned growing up.

    But if someone was willing to help her, then that was another thing entirely. She cast a glance across the table at Willem, he had certainly been willing to talk to her despite her race and also revealed some very sensitive information, not to mention seeming to encourage her to do what she wished. Would he be willing to do even more for her, like help her find a place if she left, maybe teach her a few things about the world of humans and politics that she never had learned or could learn here in the middle of nowhere. "If I decide to leave," she began, a faint hesitation noticable in her voice that had not been present during their talk so far. "Would you be willing to help me along a little, I won't get in the way of your mission but just for awhile, until Vansego maybe." That would get her some time to get used to things and Willem could continue on his way without her hindering him.

    Her hesitation was not because she as a lower class elf dared ask a human for a favor, and not a small one at that but rather a mix of nerves, a fear of refusal and a part of her that didn't like asking for help, especially not from a human. Raised as someone inferior to an entire race Saera was determined to never show weakness in front of humans, preferably not to anyone else either. She wanted to prove that she was far from inferior but in her efforts she often overlooked what was weakness and what was foolishness. "Just so you know I don't need your agreement to leave, I'll make it on my own if I have to." She tilted her chin up slightly in defiance, like a child convinced it could do anything on its own.
  20. He could see that Saera needed some time to take all of this in. All he had yet to do was tell her outright that it was in her best interest to leave this place and make something of her life. She may have been born and raised on a farm, but there was nothing about her persona that would lead Willem to believe that she was happy with such a life. And being an elf did not help her situation either. Based on what she had already told him Saera was not likely to accept whatever marriage proposal was brought forth by her parents. That only made it all the more likely that she would eventually be taken away by traders to be sold as a concubine. And judging by her rural upbringing she was not likely to be given to the most prominent of lords.

    The first words that came out of her mouth were all he needed to hear. Her decision to leave this life behind was made, in part due to his words no doubt. "I'll be completely honest. You would not last very long out there by yourself. An elf, and a female at that, would garner so little respect in the larger cities. Even the people of small towns and villages would toss you aside without a second thought. And before long you would find yourself kidnapped and forced into... well, less desirable occupations than you might intend. I'm not calling you weak. Far from it actually. But your birth status does not help your cause out there in a world run by men. Luckily for you being alone doesn't have to be an option."

    It was a bleak picture that Willem had painted for her, but it would not be fair to Saera if she did not know exactly what she was getting in to by going out to explore the world beyond her farm. Judging by her build she probably never learned how to wield sword or any weapon for that matter. She would be a thousand times more useful to him if she could hold her own in a fight. Willem could teach her without a problem, but first they would have to find her a weapon she could possibly use. Unless her father kept some combat tools stowed away in a safer part of the house it looked like they would have to find one somewhere down the road at a nearby village. Which one was the closest again? He had not traveled in this direction nearly enough times to know the minor locations very well. But Saera likely knew even if she had not visited it herself.

    "I will certainly go with you. In fact I would be more than happy to have a bit of company on the road. Trees can be wonderful, but they tell such awful jokes." Willem's smile faded and he put on a more serious tone. "You will have to learn combat if you plan on surviving out there. Burglars, murderers, and rapists are always lurking about, especially during the night. I can protect you from them without a problem, but any more than six at a time would be a bit much even for myself. And if anyone working for the king were to arrest me then you would be on your own." Willem then kicked his feet up on the table and examined her for a moment. "When seeking a travel companion you should always consider someone you trust. Tell me, why would you trust me? I have a bounty on my head after all." He mentally asked himself the same question about her.