Halantown Village was a convenient little place on the main road, perfect for any traveler to stop and collect supplies for a long journey. It was the very first stop for the band of questers that had volunteered to work together in the search for Drymera. From here the search would encompass Calliad and beyond!
I had no idea the villages were so busy. Bria thought to herself as she glanced around. Despite having been there a couple days, looking for the party of individuals that were about to set out, the activity still surprised her. She finally shook her head and returned her attention to the people she had joined.
The young girl, Annalilly, looked far too young to be out traveling the world alone. Yet, Bria kept those thoughts to herself. If anyone realized where she came from, they were going to make a big fuss about it. Luckily, for all the things Bria didn't know about the world, surely the older gentleman, Captain Ril would. He was easy to like and his experience would be valuable.
What Bria wasn't so sure about was Gilgear. Any time she turned around and caught a glimpse of him, she had to squelch the urge to scream. She wasn't sure what to make of a man who surely must have been dead, but still insisted on moving around with the living.
Then there was herself. Bria had a map of Calliad and the countries beyond. Something she claimed to have drawn herself, which may have been a tiny little fib. As long as she could read it, no one would be the wiser. She needed to be here. To find Drymera, no matter the cost.
"What else do we need?" she asked to the others. "We have food and a few supplies. Would horses be a good idea?" she cast a quick look at Gilgear. Animals were sure to be as startled by him as she was!
With a rasping breath, the animated corpse named 'Gilgear' spoke. "Horssses. I would have suggested a cart, if we were not gooooing over mountainsss." That rasping hiss of his, combined with the completely-visible teeth and tongue where his cheek had been ripped off made him an... uneasy companion at best. It wasn't like he tried to be creepy, his apologetic eyes and slight frown would be evidence enough of that.
...That didn't make him any less freaky, of course.
He had trouble looking at the others. Not that he wanted to eat them, it was... that he was embarassed. Envious, perhaps, of the fact that they were each obviously alive. The fact that many people found the need to stare at him in horror as he passed caused him to raise his shield and lower his head so as to hide behind it. "Maaaybe we jussst walk?" Easy for him to say. He didn't seem to get tired or sleep since his 'death'... hunger was a possibility still, however, so he was happy with the food choices.
After waiting patiently for the half-dead knight to speak, and nodding at him accordingly, Captain Ril brought out his own answer.
"Well, lass, I'd suspect it's up to you whether horses are needed or not. After all, if we're crossing several plains they'd save some time, but a steep cliff too soon along the way would make them a waste of money."
He didn't express it, hadn't earlier either, but he was aware there was something funny about this girl. She had the lingering trace scent of perfumes about her, perfumes that no commoner would ordinarily have access to...One or two of which were used to dress the noble dead. And she didn't smell of dust the way that your average traveler should, either. It wasn't useful information right now, nor had it been earlier...so he refrained from bringing it up.
Bria had to tear herself away from staring as Gilgear spoke. It was so rude to stare, despite that childlike urge to pick up a stick and poke at him to see just how dead he was. For a brief moment she wondered how many other soldiers might now be undead, and just as quickly snapped herself out of those thoughts as she focused on the Captain's reply.
"I, well..." she started. Personally she would much prefer a wagon or horses, but the men brought up very good points. There was going to be all kinds of terrain to travel, not to mention having to feed the animals. Though she might be able to afford it, she had been told many stories about how harsh it could be when going off the roads and away from civilized towns.
"Walking won't do us any harm then, if horses will be a problem down the line. We certainly don't have feet for nothing!" she smiled brightly, shrugging her shoulders with the comment. "So I guess that's it! We should get going?"
Annalilly picked imaginary specks of dust away from the bodice of her dress. She seemed entirely uninterested in the discussion of horses and wagons. She did not look at them when they spoke, instead, with a dull curiousity looked around. When it was decided that they would be walking, Annalilly looked to Bria's exurberant enthusiasm with a blank expression. "I suppose so." she murmured in agreement. The thought of staying in this place any longer with all these people watching her leave made her feel anxious. She wanted to get going as soon as possible.
Although she seemed preoccupied with her thoughts, Annalilly was extracting her first impressions on these party members. She found Bria rather peculiar in that mysteriously unbefitting way. The lady did not seem to be the type who would survey areas at length to make maps. Annalilly, however, could not argue with the accuracy and near perfection of the map Bria held, so she let the momentary surprise slide. Without looking at Captain Ril, Annalilly could sense his expansive field of knowledge. His keen observant skills did not go unnoticed, either, Annalilly looked at him sharply, catching his gaze after it had left Bria. She wondered if he understood the peculiar characteristics of their party members. Finally, Annalilly let her thoughts subside to consider the most hideous, repulsive near-dead man she had ever seen, Gilgear. He made her insides churn, and her eyes twitch if she thought about him with full concentration, but she did not feel the same disgust that Bria was attempting to hide. Annalilly could not bring herself to hate Gilgear the same way she could bring herself to love anyone. She did not believe in these things, nor did she have any reason to. Often, she found herself wondering if she might someday feel hatred for those parents of hers or for the unkind eyes of the villagers.
Annalilly let out a small sigh of breath as she looked in the direction they would be heading according to Bria's map. She blinked a few times, attempting to access some sort of feeling at the thought of finally leaving this place and then lowered her eyes. She wasn't too sure, but somehow she felt relieved.
Gilgear nods, about to attempt an encouraging smile... though he thought better of it, thinking that it might possibly be the opposite of encouraging. After all, when have you had morale improved by a smiling dead youth? Still hiding his head under his shield, his eyes moved about within their sockets, looking to each in turn. He was aware that the two females wouldn't be very willing to talk to him, though he longed just to ignore his living status... He felt it dishonorable to hide it, of course, but he did so wish that people wouldn't look at him with such... poorly disguised horror.
Captain Ril was about as close to that 'ordeal' as he could find at the moment, so the undead male turned to look at him as they walked. Were he alive, he would have struck up a conversation... and, after a few moments of thinking, he decided to. Death was no reason to be shy. "Youuu are a sea-captain... oceans... right?" The undead man was curious, to say the least. "I haaave never been on a ship... plenty of trailing behind my lord's horse, but never on the waters... I alwaaaays see horrible serpents and monsters on the edge of the maps in oceans... are there really such titantic monstrosities abroad?" The last was actually a favorite saying of the knight he once served, and it sounded smart, so he had learned what it ment. He liked the phrase quite a bit.
Bria fell in to step, waiting curiously for the Captain's answer. She nearly blurted out that she had never seen the sea herself, but that would be preposterous for a map maker. Perhaps she should be considering her background history in case those topics came up. It was going to be a long trip.
As Gilgear spoke, she briefly wondered if it was difficult for him to speak like that. Did he have lungs? What if his tongue fell out? Bria wisely kept her eyes on the street and her surroundings. Peering at passing villagers who seemed to be looking on at their group like they were passing by with the plague. That was surely because there was the walking dead right along side her. It was hard to decide how she felt about it - afterall, he seemed like such a nice zombie so far.
"Now that the war is over, I'm sure the worst we'll face is the occasional angry squirrel." Or villager. Bria tried to cast a smile at someone as they past, but it wasn't returned.
"Truth be told, the maps are inaccurate," began Ril. "There's monsters about, to be sure, and enough to be a hassle to any true sailor, but they'rnt everywhere."
"Th'maps are wrong because the big creatures either hate sailors and are rude enough to change positions every day, or they're busy guarding treasure that nobody has a map to until the creatures're dead. You can't find a map to a place that everyone dies who comes to, you understand."
Ril spoke just how he would to anyone else--just as cheerful and calm. After all, he'd been with diseased and wounded crewmates, men who were as good as dead and stank worse than it. Gilgear was no worse than that--perhaps better. Certainly more 'lively', as he could walk and talk still.
As if noticing the looks that the townsfolk were giving him, he began to walk notably faster. It was true, however... Gilgear was at least a little better to be around than a diseased shipmate. The undead man had taken pains to keep from smelling foul, and did his best to prevent his body rotting further.
He nods to Ril, "Reeeeallly? How terrible... at least on laaand you can tell where the monsters lay... there are always siiiiigns. I do hope we don't come across anything... well, anything more monstrous than myself..." His gaze falls in a depressed manner towards the ground. "I always imagined the ocean being a great deal of the same thing for miles... is it truuuuee you navigate by the staaars...?" The man gets a wistful expression. "...Now that would be a beautiful map to read..." He looks to Bria. "Do yoooou make maps like that...?"
To have monsters jump out of anywhere instead of predesignated spots was not a pleasant thought. She was musing over it when Gilgear asked if she maked maps with stars. Or was it maps as beautiful as stars?
Either way, Bria coughed, putting on a nervous smile. "Er, well, not really. I mean, the maps are artistically lovely but none of them are of the stars. It's the landscape of Calliad and the borders of Isova." The maps were fantastic pieces of work by the one who actually had traveled the entire country and beyond. Her brother had been a talented individual.
"Speaking of which, I suppose we should be headed for the nearest battlegrounds from the war." she changed the subject quickly, tilting to dig around in the bag at her shoulder. Bria pulled out one of the maps and unraveled it as she walked. "Where is the nearest place, do you think?"
Annalilly watched Gilgear with profound interest. As repulsive as he was, she could still look at him with some ounce of respect because of the way he spoke. He was not a mindless, horrific creature that lived to terrify, but he had interests and worries and thoughts like any other human. Annalilly was astonished.
She watched, with childlike eyes as the others discussed mapmaking and routes. She knew little about the world outside of these borders and thus, kept her silence. Walking alongside Bria, however, she glanced at the map she had unwraveled with wavering curiousity. She could see why Gilgear would rather see a map of the stars.
"Do you like watching the stars ? After storms at night, when the sky is crisp and clear ? Can you see the shapes they make ?" She asked Gilgear quietly. She wasn't sure why she was so eager to know. Something about having something in common with a creature like him seemed intriguing.
Gilgear lets out a rasping sigh at Bria's reply. "Piiity... I'm fond of art with a purrrpose... looks nice, and heeeelps..." He continues to walk, "The neeearest battlegrounds... wouldn't that be the Anci Baaaasin?" He was interrupted at this point by a fit of wet, mucus-filled coughing that would have had the most hardy of living men gasping at their throat for the pain. After the weird spasm was over, he looked apologetically around and continued, "Didn't fight in thaat one... heard that our forces won throooough some quick maneuvering..."
He began to look a little nervous at the townsfolk. He whispers, "Hope we reach the town limits soon... I'm not sure I waaaaant to find out the limits of this booody so soon..."
He began to turn to look at Annalilly... though, remembering the... looks she ad given him earlier, he spoke, "I must apologize if I seem rude not faaaacing you while I speak, but... I'm sure you'd prefer to face the scarred half of my face instead of the one with the hole in it..." He nodded, "...But yes... even on cloudy nights, the staaaars give comfort. They're alwaaaays there... when I'm alone, I can look up and think, 'I share this sky with millionssss of others'... and I feel better. When I'm angry and thirsting vengeance... I can look up and think, 'under thiss sky, my quarry waits - the staaaars shall witness my victory'. When I am happy, I know the stars twinkle in laughter at my silly actions..." He allows himself part of a smile. "...Here I am, going off like a poet... you'll haaave to excuse that. I'm a warrior, not a baaard... I'm no scholar, either. I'm more thaaan happy to play my part in defending youuu from the same fate I suffered." He offers a polite nod, and is silent again.
Bria winced as Gilgear coughed. It really sounded terrible! Like the man was dy-... well, he was already dead, she supposed it wouldn't make a difference.
"You have a very romantic way of thought, Mister Gilgear." she responded to his comments about the stars. She never would have expected an Undead to have a way with words - what did she really know about them, anyway? Bria turned her attention back to the map, looking for the Anci Basin. On the map itself it didn't look very far, but there were little notations along the sides. Things that were probably scribbled before. It was going to be a long walk.
"Meanwhile..." she blinked with a frown as she looked up from the map. "I do suppose it isn't a good sign when villagers are carrying torches in broad daylight?"
Ril kept himself quiet--the conversation was coasting just as well without him. At this point, however, he chose to interject. "Not generally, no. It usually means they want the fire to burn something. Unless of course, it's deep winter..."
He then gave his most charismatic smile to the nearby villagers. "It's alright, folks, we were just leavin' with this..eh...this one." He gestured vaguely at Gilgear. "You know, the clerics down the road know a lot better how to handle this sort of thing--fire rarely does any good, has a nasty habit of burnin' clothes and houses..."
Halantown. The place he'd grown up, before the war. Cisk hadn't been back in over a decade, and he didn't have the luxury of stopping. He needed to get supplies and be on his way to the capital. He started to turn toward the livery stable - or where he remembered it being, at any rate - and stopped as a certain motley group caught his eye. And the mob on the other side of them.
Cisk really didn't feel like dealing with an angry mob right now. He'd been on the road for weeks, and he was tired. He sighed. Best to cut this off at the pass. He turned and marched for the group, glowering the whole way there. They didn't notice him, but that was understandable, torch-waving villagers and all. As he neared, he spotted the focus of the villagers' ire - a zombie. Not being one to make a problem any more complicated than it had to be, he stomped right up behind the zombie, spun it around, and yanked off its helmet, staring at its forehead for a few seconds before walking past and tossing the helmet back at it.
Tired and haggard he may be, a six-foot-tall man in Dragoon armor more scarred and battered than any dozen infantry veterans tends to catch one's attention, and the peasant mob suddenly found themselves facing such a man. "There's no sigil," he pronounced, his tone and stance making it very clear that he would brook no argument. "Moldy-guts is perfectly safe. Besides which, the buttsniffer is right. You set a zombie soldier on fire, all you get is a flaming zombie soldier, which you still have to kill the normal way."
Those villagers were just about to have themselves a real hissy fit despite what the Captain had said, when on hell of a cranky Dragoon soldier showed up. He snatched Gilgear's helmet to take a good look at him and announced the Moldy-guts was perfectly safe. No one look like they REALLY believe it, but no one was gonna go and argue with a soldier either. At least most of the villagers dispersed, even if a few still lingered to give dirty looks.
Bria on the other hand, didn't seem relieved by the announcement. Maybe it wasn't so much the villagers as the soldier that had showed up! A hand on her stomach, she was feeling a bit queasy now! He looked just like her- like her brother..! Her brother was a zombie too! Crawled up right out of his grave to find Drymera!
And thus she fainted! As no Lady wishes to see her brother as a zombie!
When his helmet was returned, Gilgear gave Cisk an expressionless look, righting the helmet on his head and turning from him. A long, raspy sigh left the undead man's lips. "Muuuust the dead be desecrated so? Even as I liiife this unlife, caaaan one not give me the sliver of respect one shooould give a squire of the reeeealm...?"
He thinks on it a moment. "Maaaybe in death, I am not as much of a persoooon as you think I aaaam... but I still have feelings... which can be hurt... and priiide..." The undead man suddenly swings around, jabbing a punch at the offender's face in retaliation for this 'dishonor' involved. He finished the sentence. "Aaaand priiide... which can hurt you."
The swashbuckler shook his head the way an expert does at an amateur toward the soldier's insulting nouns. 'Sniffbutt' was about the weakest insult he'd ever heard. He wasn't very interested in pride, so he stepped gently away from the undead who was picking a fight with a soldier and toward the woman who was apparently in the process of fainting, easing her to the ground to avoid injury and then sitting cross-legged behind her head.
Finally, in a weak effort to stop the quarrel that he suspected would be decent entertainment, he said: " 'Ey, you might be int'rested that our wayfinder just fainted."
Annalilly was quick to understand that what the soldier had done was wrong, but she held her tongue. The villagers had been just as spiteful of her own parents and rarely gave her a chance for amends. She had tried her hardest to help them, but still they held their hearts in closed fists in memory of her lineage. She found it worthless to believe that they would agree with this soldier, even if they had walked off.
She turned as the mapmaker, Bria collasped. Annalilly's green eyes narrowed slightly as she made her way to the woman's side, casting a glance at their helpful, yet humourous companion. Tucking her skirt under her knees, she sat down carefully. Annalilly found herself turning the slightest of smiles as she placed her hand above Bria's forehead. She closed her eyes, concentrating her energy into her palm, giving it a soft white hue.
In her mind, she was scanning Bria's health and nerve connections. When she found nothing disturbed, she opened her eyes, retracting her hand to her lap. "She'll wake up soon, seems like she went through a bit of... shock..." Annalilly dare not glance in Gilgear's direction for fear of being more rude than she already been, but she found it curious that Bria, who seemed so independent and strong willed, had fainted at the sight of him without his helmet.
It only took a few moments for Bria to come back around and when she awoke she damned near fainted again - until she took a second look. The stranger that had arrived, getting rid of the villages was no zombie and he was not her brother. Similarities were there for sure, but... Alas, he eyes must have been playing tricks on her.
Of course now, that poor Gilgear probably thought she fainted from horror at seeing his zombie face! Bria flushed, quickly scrambling to her feet, and though a little dizzy, was brushing off her clothes and looking severely apologetic.
"I am so sorry. The day is just a little warm and I suppose I didn't eat far enough this morning and the sun has gotten to me just a tad!" she rushed out all in one breath. Ah, but there was going to be a scuffle between Gilgear and the stranger, which wasn't going to improve the suspicions of cranky villagers at all!
Bria stepped between the two men quickly, holding her hands up against Gilgear's chest and trying to cast a cheerful smile. "I'm sure he didn't mean any offense by it! After all, he was just trying to make sure the villagers didn't start swinging their torches! Now is a good time to get going, don't you think?" she gave him a pleading look.