The Story in Halan (Jalapeno x Peregrine)

Discussion in 'THREAD ARCHIVES' started by Jalapenohitchhiker, Feb 16, 2014.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. The moon would only be a thin crescent tonight, which meant that a fire would be necessary for the next few nights. Brinisa hated fires. Ever since she saw her father burned alive by the fiery onslaught of the dragon just a few days ago, she had always felt drawn away from the hot flames. What had happened to her beloved Palako was beyond her. Even Alnifa could not see what had happened to Noror, and everyone had been waiting eagerly for days to find out, though they knew in their hearts it would not bring joy of any sort. Their home was gone, and it was time to look to the future. But she could not bring herself to accept it so easily. Her life had been changing for the better, and suddenly it was gone. It was not fair.

    Though the moon was not bright on this evening, she was fairly confident that there were at most only thin, wispy clouds above them right now, but in the Red Mountains rain could come when least expected. And Afamrayl had been less than pleased with them as of late. "Bless the God above and all he has given us, and let him be merciful to us once more," she whispered to herself. Her prayers had not been answered during these days of endless trekking, but she would not lose faith. The Lord had granted them many blessings in the past. It would not be long before his mercy shone upon them once more. The only lingering question she had was this: What had they done to anger him?

    There had been whispers among the group that Osani and her bastard son had brought this doom upon them. Others believed it was Alnifa and her many years of practicing witchcraft. But Brinisa would not blame them. They were all of the same community, and they only had each other for support now. She disliked fighting and bickering, especially among family.

    The last remnants of sunlight were now falling below the trees, and darkness began to loom. She hated darkness more than she hated fire. People had spoken of the endless darkness that consumed their ancestral home centuries ago, but no one had expected it to return. The mere memory of seeing her home fall apart was enough to bring Brinisa to tears, and she mustered up all the strength she could to fight them back, but to no avail. She wept again. She had done that a lot these past few days, and it showed no sign of stopping any time in the near future.

    Ledaki was likely going to call them to a halt soon, which Brinisa would be more than grateful for. Her feet were exhausted. It seemed like they were making less and less progress every day. She was beginning to lose hope that they might ever see the shore at all. She had never visited the sea before, and though the prospect of floating on water in nothing but a large piece of wood made her nervous, it was far less frightening then remaining here.
  2. Ledaki's legs were killing her. She had been moving since sunup, moving up and down the ranks to check in with the twenty-one survivors who followed her. To the best of her ability she kept her expression optimistic. She listened to the complaints that the group offered onto her, and fumed silently inside. What did they want from her? Yes. she got that it was horrible, that everyone was tired and not as fit as her. The youngest children had to be carried, the elderly had to be guided, and the only people who could really be called "fit for travel" were herself, Brinisa, the beautiful young woman who had been weeks away from marrying Ledaki's brother Palako before the bandit raid on their village had begun, Shreen, a woman who had been born with a birth defect on her face that meant she could never be married, and Nerina and Kalin, two trained archers, and the only soldiers that her town had been willing to spare to protect the small group that tried to flee to safety. The two archers did their best, scouting far around the group to find additional supplies and make sure that they were not about to walk into a trap, but the strain was starting to show in their faces. Like Ledaki, they had to be the first to rise and the last to go to bed. They had to rotate in on the watches as well, so even night was not a respite. Ledaki did her best to keep her thoughts about her would-be sister-in-law polite. She was certainly coping to the best of her ability. Shreen was as silent as she ever was, her eyes darting from place to place as she walked.

    As the daughter of the chief of Noror everyone looked to Ledaki, expecting her to lead, expecting her to have all the solutions. She had taken the responsibility thrust upon her with no complaints, there was no one among them better suited for it. But she wished the others would give her a break. Havnuk threw glowers in her direction, but despite the old soldier's wisdom he refused to offer her any aid, of any sort. The women did their best to keep the children quiet, but it was natural to look for someone to blame when a young boy begged for food, and there was none to offer. But the ones who didn't beg were worse. They looked at her with dead, haunted eyes that made her want to cry. And she could only do so much for them all.

    The tropical forest hindered their progress passively, for without any path to follow the group had to wind around massive trees and find a way through the thick ground cover. Whenever possible Ledaki kept them directly on the river, where the moss-covered soil gave way to some firmer terrain. Yet the trees often grew the thickest right no the edge of the water, and then they would have to turn away from the river and bushwhack their way through the forest. It was slow going, and it only seemed to get slower as they got further and further away from any traces of civilization. Yet Ledaki still blessed the thick forest at times, for it provided everything that they would need to survive, since, even with the two pack-mules they had been able to rescue from the burning stables, there was no way that they would have been able to pack enough resources to give everyone a meal every day without the plenty of the forest. She also blessed the training that Shreen had received over the years, as Ledaki had never believed that she would need to find a way to survive out in the jungle, and she wouldn't have been able to tell an eatable mushroom from one that would kill her. Shreen was clever, and once she had won the trust of the children she put them to work so as to keep them out from underfoot. Whenever she spotted something along the trail that would be useful, either eatable, medicinal, or good for fire starting, she would send one of them to go collect it and bring it back to her. Two or three food items at a time did not seem to make much of a difference, but over the hours and hours of walking it would start to pile up.

    It was starting to get dusky, and the glow of the moon was distinguishable through the branches. They would lose the last of their light soon, and setting up camp in the dark was never easy. Ledaki cast her thoughts ahead to Nerina, who she had sent out scouting for a suitable place to camp over an hour ago. Ledaki did her best to contain her worry, but if one of the archer sisters didn't come back, it would strike a deep blow to the little remaining morale that the group had left. So when Ledaki finally caught a glimpse of her bouncing black ponytail drawing closer she let out a sigh.

    "There is a small clearing in the trees about a quarter-mile up ahead," Nerina told Ledaki softly, pointing just slightly off-angle from the path of the river.

    Ledaki let out a sigh, but quickly remembered to thank Nerina for her efforts. The young woman bobbed her head once before walking back to the pack-mule, where she picked up the pack she had left behind to scout. Kalin quickly moved over to her sister and the two exchanged a few brief words before they fell into the silence that dominated the group.

    A quarter mile was still a good ten minutes off, and everyone was getting tired. As the bird flew they had barely even made five miles today, yet the zigzagging made it far closer to eight or nine. Combined with the heavy packs that even the young had to carry, and it felt more like twenty. Under these circumstances, ten minutes felt far more like an hour.

    Yet, for now at least, no one complained. They marched along silently behind her, too out of breath to even talk amongst themselves.
  3. Though she was not carrying as much as some of her companions, Brinisa was just about ready to collapse before hearing Nerina's news. Knowing that they would finally be able to rest for a good while seemed to brighten some spirits, at least relatively. Good news had not come often during their endless march to the coast. As soon as they were in the clearing she was immediately going to plop to the ground and fall straight to sleep. She no longer cared how uncomfortable the uneven ground was. All she wanted was sleep. What had she done to deserve this? Had she known the trek would be this grueling she would have stayed back and let the dragon eat her alive. Or maybe she could have hidden herself until the attackers had gone. Then maybe she would know whether Palako had survived the attack or not. She was often ridiculed by others for being far too optimistic, as if she didn't understand how cruel the world could be. But she knew better than most would believe. Even Ledaki, their supposed leader, thought of her as nothing more than a little girl with ambitious thoughts, even though they were only separated by a year.

    The march to the clearing seemed to last far longer than she would have expected for what should only have been a quarter of a mile. But upon reaching it, everyone seemed relieved that they would finally be able to rest for the night. Brinisa immediately dropped the sack she had been carrying over her back and was tempted to lay flat in the grass and let herself drift off to sleep. But one glare from Kalin kept her from doing so. She was not going to be seen as useless. Most of them seemed to forget that had she been able to marry Palako then she herself would be looked to as the leader. Then again that came with even more responsibility, and she was not sure she had the energy for that.

    Grezno, Felzikis, and Maril assisted the archers in collecting firewood while everyone else began foraging their belongings for what little food they could muster up. Brinisa only had a a handful of berries, half an old piece of bread, and some seeds that she did not know the origin of. It was not at all what she was accustomed to. But she set it with the rest of the food that everyone had collected before getting to work and rolling out blankets for the elderly and the children among them. Alnifa was sitting off to the side. The old woman chanted prayers quietly to herself while she rubbed two rocks together in her hands. Brinisa did not have the slightest clue as to what it meant, but she avoided staring at the woman for fear of accidentally drawing her attention. She did not like when Alnifa displayed such odd behavior, even if she did not truly understand it.

    The wood for the fire began to pile up, though it was a slow process. Nerina and the others were having to leave the clearing to find suitable wood, as much of the wood was damp from rain that had hit the are only a night before. But there would soon be enough, and everyone would be huddled around it trying to get warm. Brinisa, however, would keep a safe distance. She was unsure of how long it would take for her to rid herself of this irrational fear of fire. In fact she may never overcome it at all.

    The boys returned carrying more bundles of wood, and Nerina eventually returned with quite a bit as well. Kalin had not returned again, however. Brinisa expected she was probably off looking for something to hunt. That was all the better for them, as meat had been hard to come by even with two skilled hunters among them. She recalled the boar they had eaten during the last harvest feast and her mouth began to water. She was not going to be eating that well again for a long time as far as she could tell.

    Havnuk picked up a piece of bread to feed Zahrana, but immediately dropped it upon hearing a voice slither its way to his ears from one of the nearby trees. He staggered back with his granddaughter still in his arms as Kalin appeared before them. She had a long knife at her throat, and the bearer of it was one of the most hideous goblins Brinisa had seen. She quenched her instinct to scream, watching as the goblin forced his captive forward, daring anyone to approach them. Others soon followed behind him, or it. Brinisa could never tell if a goblin was male or female. They all looked ugly to her.

    One goblin with a pale face and a deep frown that did not seem to change at all stepped in front of the rest and spoke harshly. "Drop all weapons and supplies you have." Faala and Rille began to cry and grabbed hold of Alnifa, burying their scared faces into her worn skirts. The goblin ignored them and spoke again, this time much louder. "Who among you do you name as leader?"
  4. Somehow, even without her comment, it seemed as though everyone would have known the clearing when it arrived. It was even better than Ledaki had been expecting, clear of even most of the dense vegetation, with very few rough patches on the ground. it was almost too perfect, in a forest as littered with obstacles as this one was, but she was not about to look a gift horse in the mouth.

    Everyone quickly dropped their packs, and Misaye and her daughter quickly went over to the baggage that was strapped on to the mules, unloading it from their mostly complacent backs and adding it to the growing pile that was forming in the center of the clearing. Ledaki walked around the clearing, checking in briefly with most of the members of her group, except those who were actively involved in setting up camp. But her thoughts were elsewhere, as she tried to find a way that she could, just maybe, improve the general morale of her group. The hard days were all starting to pile up, and it was entirely likely that depression would destroy the band before hunger or the elements had a chance to do it instead.

    What could she do? What could she start without it seeming false or forced? There was very little out here that would bring comfort, and most of the traditional celebrations that would take place in the city would only remind those here of what they had lost. She pushed the worry into the back of her mind, determined to let her subconscious stew on it. Maybe something would arrive before too long.

    She stayed to chat for a few minutes with Creya who, due to her pregnancy, was suffering just as much, if not more, than the oldest members in the group. Ledaki worried for her, having to exert herself so much, and she knew that the possibility of the young woman having an abortion as the strain continued to grow was more than likely. She had spoken to Shreen about it over a week ago, asking the woman if there was anything they could do to aid her. Shreen had promised at the time to keep her eyes peeled for any herbs that would aid her pregnancy, but all she had come back with so far was the bark that was commonly brewed in a tea to cause the body to abort, whether it wanted to or not. Ledaki had not had the heart to even offer them to Creya. That baby was probably the only reminder she now had of her husband, who was almost certainly dead or dying.

    The fire was stacked up, and Ledaki moved over to help with the preparation. She was not particularly skilled at firebuilding, but as the time had gone on from their escape she had devoted herself to learning the process. It was essential that someone in the group be able to build a fire, and, as little as she wanted to think about that, the more people the better.

    So it was that Ledaki's back was turned as Kalin was escorted into the clearing, dagger at her neck and goblin at her back. She instantly noticed the change of attitude in the surrounding people, heard the gasps of terror and the cries of the young children, but it wasn't until the goblin actually spoke that Ledaki turned around.

    Panic rooted her to the spot, her eyes wild and terrified. What had gone wrong? They had been traveling for days and days, and there had never been any signs of goblin patrols in the area. If there had, she would never have allowed the group to settle in here. She would have kept them moving, no matter what it had taken.

    The goblin was calling out for the one they named leader, and eyes were starting to turn in her direction. But Ledaki's legs were like jelly under her. She didn't want to stand. She didn't want to be the one who would be responsible for whatever happened at the hands of these monsters. But, a quiet voice told her, she was already responsible. She had become responsible the moment she had started making decisions, the moment she had taken a position as a leader. And if she was going to be a leader, she would have to be one through the bad as well as the good.

    Ledaki didn't know from where she got the willpower to stand. But she did. She gathered her legs under her, stood, squared her shoulders, and faced the goblin.

    "They name me," she responded, as boldly as she could. And while it had never been officially decided who their leader was, she doubted anyone would want to protest at this moment. "What do you want."
  5. There was a long, tense pause as the goblin who spoke, presumably the leader of the attackers, looked Ledaki up an down. He was clearly not impressed by their so called "leader". Brinisa could not blame him really. She was not the tallest person by any means, she lacked the muscle needed to be a strong warrior, and the only weapon she carried was a short sword that she barely knew how to handle. If this was to be their great protector in times of desperation then they were surely not going to get far. In fact their journey looked to be over now already.

    Alnifa crouched low and began chanting something to herself. Brinisa could see a faint glow in her eyes, but nothing seemed to be happening. Was she praying? Was she attempting to cast a spell of some sort? Whatever it was, Brinisa desperately hoped it would help them escape from these monsters. She had always disliked goblins. They were disgusting just to look at, and they had always been a problem to many villages. They were notorious for pillaging and stealing from any place that they found, and Noror had suffered from it quite often in the past. And they were murderers. Her won brother Jarisino had been killed by a goblin, an incident that had left her and her family devastated for months.

    "You are there leader?" the head goblin asked with a look of disbelief. Some of the menacing looking creatures behind him snickered, but he himself maintained his demeanor without much effort. A small trail of blood trickled down from the point of the knife being held at Kalin's neck. "Tell your people to pick their items back up. You are returning to Noror." He said nothing more as the goblin who held Kalin removed his weapon and pushed her back towards her fellow refugees. She shot him a look of malice but said nothing, knowing better than to anger them.

    Nerina on the other hand was red-faced and had an arrow notched to her bow as soon as she saw Kalin released. The head goblin's frown deepened, if that was at all possible. "You are no fighters. Don't waste your time. We've killed more than enough of your people already."

    Nerina refused to budge until Kalin placed a hand on her sister's shoulder, whispering something inaudible. Whatever she said, it got Nerina to unwillingly lower her weapon. As the goblins stood around waiting for them to gather their belongings, Havnuk stood stock still, eyeing the head goblin coldly. Brinisa admired him for his past greatness. He was revered by all of the young boys in Noror who wished to be skilled fighters one day. But his age had caught up with him long ago, and he was out of his mind if he was going to challenge this goblin to a duel. What would that accomplish? Even if by some miracle he won there was no guarantee that the rest of the goblins would leave them alone. In fact they would probably kill him themselves instantly.

    But Brinisa's questions were put to rest when Ahn grabbed a hold of his leg and held on to his grandfather mightily. A sense of realization seemed to come over the old warrior, who patted the boy on his head and moved to gather up his own possessions. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief when he did so. The head goblin shook his head, almost pityingly.

    The unit of ugly creatures had already surrounded them and occasionally gestured at their blades to speed things up. They were an impatient lot. Had Palako been here, Brinisa was sure none of them would be this smug. The thought of him being dead nearly brought her to tears again, but she would not cry. Not this time. For if she cried, then she would be slow in picking up her possessions. And if she was slow, they might kill her as well.
  6. How had this happened?

    Everything had been going so well. They had been making good time, despite the troubles that the group had been facing. If everything had continued according to plan they would have made the ocean before the end of the month, and then they would have found some form of passage across, and her responsibilities would have ended. Everyone would have been able to find a new life; start over, make new friends, find new hopes and new loves.

    Now, it was looking as though they were all going to die before they ever got out of this goddamned forest.

    Ledaki hated the goblins. She hated them right now with a burning passion ,and if she hadn’t known how foolish it was she would have jumped one from behind, gone down fighting. Because surely that was better than being dragged back to the fallen city of Noror as prisoners. And had she been alone she really might have worked up the nerve to do just that.

    But she wasn’t alone. She was responsible for a large group of people, people who would not survive any sort of foolishness, from her or any of the other members of the crestfallen and beaten party.

    She longed to be bold, to stand up straight and ask them where they thought they were taking them, why they wanted to horde them in the city like some sort of absurd herd of goats. But she didn’t dare. Her legs were barely able to stay up straight, and she watched the people she had been leading stare at the goblins with venom. She could do nothing to calm them. Not right now. Right now, she probably could have used someone to calm her down as well.

    But she was the leader. She wasn’t allowed to be entertaining thoughts that might sacrifice the others for her own benefit. She had to get her head back on the right way. The goblins might not outnumber them, but over half of their members were children, and almost all of the rest were elderly. Were they to try and fight, their fighting force would be pitiful, and horrifically unequipped.

    She gathered up her belongings carefully, conscious of the feel of a small dagger pressing into the back of her heel. There were still some of those little shivs distributed around the group, but they would hardly be enough for a fight against a fully armed goblin. She stood, trying to press the small weapon out of her mind. Turning it over would do them no good, as she was probably not the only one concealing a weapon. She would simply have to hope that the goblins never decided to do a thorough cavity search of their prisoners. Not that she would let their slimy hands get that close to her anyways.

    There were some children in the group who did not have any parents to watch over them anymore. Ledaki quickly did a head-count. Maril was old enough to know to take care of his little sister and make sure that she stayed out of trouble. She caught a glimpse of the two of them huddled together, Maril desperately trying to maintain the brave face that he had worn since they had left the city. Yet she could see the damp reflectiveness in his eyes. His little sister was crying, but he hushed her before picking her up in his arms.

    She was pleased to see that Shreen had already taken charge of both Grezno and Felzikis, they boys more willing to take instructions from someone who had been giving them tasks since the hikes had begun. That only left... Rille. Ledaki gulped suddenly, her eyes darting about wildly. The boy was a troublemaker, and perhaps not likely to understand the difference between goblins and humans. If he did anything to them... Ledaki didn’t think about what it might mean for him.

    Yet apparently even he was not that foolish. She caught a brief glimpse of his orange hair sticking up behind one of the packs they had taken from the mules. She moved over to him, musing abstractly in her panic as to whether or not the goblins would even let them reload the mules, or if they would be eating the poor beasts for dinner tonight. She knelt down next to Rille, and felt her heart twist at the tears streaming from his eyes. She held out her arms and he rushed into them, his crying growing in intensity.

    “Shhh...” she hushed him, lightly stroking the back of his head. “We’ve got to walk again. Just like we do every day. Can you help me make sure that everyone is ready to go?”

    The boy quieted a little, sniffed, and then nodded through his tears.

    “Good boy,” Ledaki praised. “Stay close to me, alright.”
  7. This was really happening. It was not a dream, and Brinisa loathed every moment that she was awake now. Why was this happening? What had she done to anger the Lord above? The last thing anyone needed was to trudge all the way back to Noror with a hoard of filthy goblins watching their every move. Feet were sore, stomachs were empty, and moods were terrible. And now they were hostages. It was almost as if a curse had descended upon them; one that tarnished any idea of happiness.

    Her pack felt heavier with every step she took, but there was no point in worrying about that now. What she did worry about, however, was how the elders would manage to keep going. They were all so frail in their old age, and it would be difficult for any of them to continue much longer without collapsing. Surely the goblins knew this. They must have. But did they even care? Her instinct was to say no, for their actions relayed no indications of sympathy for any of the new captives. And of course there was Creya as well. It would be dangerous for her to continue exerting herself this much when she was expecting a child. But they would have to stop at some point to make camp. Not even goblins were accustomed to traveling by night.

    Nevertheless, everyone continued to do as the goblins had said, and few words were spoken among them. Before long, they were marching again, this time in the opposite direction. After all the ground they had covered, they were being forced to return. In the past, Brinisa had always been overjoyed to see Noror after venturing off with family for a few days. Somehow she expected this would not be the same.

    It broke her heart to see the tears streaming from the children's eyes, and she wanted desperately to tell them that everything would be alright in the end. But who was she kidding? What hope could she give them? What hope could she even give herself? All she could do now was continue praying, and pray she did. "Lord above," she whispered, "cast your light on us. The darkness grows, and the light fades. Give us your mercy. Do not let these terrible creatures do away with your humble servants. Lord Afamrayl above, bless us all."

    Alnifa and Hazika were struggling noticeably. Brinisa attempted to help Preesi and Rehike assist the two elderly women by carrying some of their supplies for them. That did little to help them though, as their joints were creaking and their breath sounds were now coming in huffs and gasps. If they continued for much longer one of them was likely going to collapse. Even Alnifa's normally bright purple eyes looked dull and ordinary right now.

    Havnuk looked to be struggling as well, but he would not accept help from anyone. That was to be expected, for he was a very proud man and would not make himself look weak. While he had aged physically, the warrior spirit in him was always youthful. It was almost comforting to have a man with so much courage present. But she merely had to look at one of the goblins for that comfort to disappear once more.

    One of the ugly creatures was walking a few feet in front of Brinisa, carrying a large spear that looked sharp enough to break through a skull with little effort. For a split second she almost thought of turning that weapon on him and gutting his sorry hide while his entrails fell out in clumps. But that was wishful thinking at best. Oh were she a man.
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.