The Wounded King

Discussion in 'THREAD ARCHIVES' started by Asmodeus, Jul 1, 2012.

  1. The Wounded King

    Chapter One: Ardia's Quest

    There is a saying among the Caldane Order: that a story begun in blood will never wash itself. It will be steeped from start to finish and teach us nothing.

    It was the belief of their founder, Saint Pleodine, that if the junctures of paradise could be documented, then man might prevail against the calamaties that befell all things. His interest was in first causes, in original states and pre-conditions - in the way things were before they went awry. With this he drew the destitute and the dreamers and made of them an order offering wisdom to those in power.

    They won mixed fortune, as any who would bring a moral compass to the realm of politics. A noble seeking reform; a chieftain wanting godly validation; a minister struggling with the weight of office. By their generosity the Order would wend its way, and with each footstep leave the whisper: that perfect things may be kept so with neither tears nor bloodshed.

    It is thus a mercy and a tragedy that those monks would never realise, that with their deaths would begin the greatest story our world has ever known...


    Two bodies littered the bestiary floor. Tristan had hit the first - broken a clay pot across his head - but was too late to save the second. Friar Jaime, his friend of nineteen days, lay bleeding. Stepping over the assassin, Tristan knelt beside the old man, gripping trembling fingers slick with blood. "Brother... I'm sorry..."

    There were torches in the woodland. He could see them through the stable door. And the panic of his animals - the squawking ravens, howling dogs and straining horse - told him all he needed of the nature of those pursuing the monk. Cries of alarm were going up amongst the villagers of Elswich.

    The friar convulsed. Had the assassin not buried his blade so deep in the old man's back then Tristan would never have got the drop on the intruder. By taking this wound Jaime had saved the young falconer's life. The monk's hand shifted, gripping, pressing a tiny scroll to Tristan's palm. "Take it, boy.... it's all that matters..."

    There were tears in Tristan's eyes, perhaps the adrenaline of hitting the intruder who had chased the friar in here. Or maybe a reflection of the grief in the old man's faltering eyes. "Jaime... I don't know what..."

    A scream cut the night air. The first watchman had fallen to the marauders. They were coming across the ditches, raiding the outer homes. "Go now... you must go..." Jaime's voice was a wheeze caught in bloodied lungs. He closed Tristan's fingers around the scroll then let his arm drop, his body subsiding into the pooling blood.

    "No... what... I..."

    More screams. The horse in the stall was snorting and reeling, an embodiement of the panic sweeping through Elswich. Tristan's other arm reached out and took the assassin's short sword. He could feel the lightness of the Western steel... the hilt wrapped in hemp... the sheath's seasoned leather. His other hand felt only the scroll, heavier than the sword by the weight of Jaime's sacrifice.

    He could not think of the blade - of what it implicated. Nor could he think of the friar, nor the fate of his animals, nor the villagers he had spent his life with. He could not think, could not feel. His legs carried him to the far stall, where he untied the bucking horse. There was no time to saddle it. Hauling onto its back, he let it bolt towards the stable door that had swung open as Jaime staggered in here.

    "Tristan!" A man, a farmer, had appeared in the doorway, moonlight painting terror on his features. "It's the only horse!"

    "I'm sorry!" He did not stop the steed. It knocked the villager aside and took Tristan out into the screams and darkness. The village, like a single beast, was squealing as the marauders entered. With a twist of the reins the horse steered westward and vaulted the ditch. It carried him away...

    ...out into the night...

    He would ride until morning, to the town of Argeria... where even now there waited the companions who would change the world with him.


  2. "Come one! Come all! To the greatest traveling show of all the known kingdoms!"

    In the center of the Argeria town square was a set stage, backed by several tarp covered wagons. At the edges of the stage were men and women, all wearing matching clothes in deep greens and burnt oranges. Carrying various instruments, most of which were leather skinned drums already being hit with the gentle upbeat tempo to catch the attention of the crowd. The speaker on stage spoke with a deep intoxicating tone. Drawing in spectators with the beginnings of his tale. Several others lept on to the stage, dressed their parts and giving their speeches. They were Northerners from the upper kingdoms, a traveling caravan of performers, some family, most not. But all looked thrilled to be there.

    Except one.

    "I don't want to do this one." she hissed to the older man standing next to her. There was a circle crown of seaweed on her head. Long tendrils of green mixing with the dark amber of her hair. Her expression was cross, and with every nudge the old man gave her, she gave him a shove back.

    He snort in response, swatting her hands away. "Girl, it's a story. It is not going to kill you. You are going to miss your cue."

    "Easy for you to brush off, you didn't just find out you're a ro-" Her words were cut off when she was shoved quite violently on to stage. All at once her demeanor changed. An instant transformation from one very annoyed girl, to the character she portrayed. Hands out, painted blue and silver and green, towards her partner up on stage who wore a king's crown.

    "WHO DARES COME NEAR MY SHORES AND DISTURBS MY WATERS!" boomed out her voice over the terribly timed CLASH of a performer's cymbals.

    The one in the crown stepped forward, nose in the air and flourishing a wooden sword. "I, King Ranthos, bearer of the Five Wounds! I have traveled across nations. Mountains and rivers, villages and empires here now to YOU great Hollow Sea. To sail across your oceans and see what lies beyond..."

    The girl stepped forward, narrowing her eyes at the King. Prowling across the stage for every moment he tried to step away. "WHAT YOU ASK CAN NOT BE DONE BY MORTAL MEN, NOR EVEN KINGS! GO NOW FOOL, BEGONE!" A flick of her hand gave a cue, and one of the boys in the back splashed the king with a bucket of water. It was with a great deal of professionalism that she did not start laughing.

    With grace, he wiped the water from his face and continued his line. "NAY! Great god of the sea! I beg you, let me see what is in your waters! I will pay any price!"

    "ANY PRICE...? THEN I ACCEPT YOUR OFFER, KING OF THE LANDS. COME IN TO MY WATERS AND YOU WILL SEE..." Beckoning him with her hands, she led him towards the edge of the stage. She fell backwards right off it, caught behind the stage where the crowd couldn't see. The King tilted off and followed her.

    "And so, King Ranthos made a pact with the Hollow Sea...! Entering her waters where no man had ever gone before, only to come out as..."

    The narrator spoke on and the King had rejoined the stage. Now casting away items, and even clothes from his body which was drawing quite a few catcalls from women on the street. The girl was no longer paying attention or watching. She was back behind the wagons casting off her costume and glaring at the old man again. "I told you I didn't want to do it. It feels weird now."

    He gave her a raise of his eyebrow. "Ardiaei, it's a story. One of many stories about the Wounded King and the Hollow Sea. You've never had a problem before."

    She muttered a few curses under her breath, shrugging off the big cloak that went with her costume and trading it for her own clothing. Ardia wiped the paint from her hands. "And before I didn't know what I know now. I don't want to spend my last night here fighting you, Nanjo."

    Nanjo picked up the cloak she dropped, folding it up in his hands with a deep scowl across his face. "You are still a child. Do you really think that the world will fall to your feet when you leave this caravan? Thieves, brigands, rapists. And THAT is only on the roads. In the city you are surrounded by deception, one might call you a friend and stab you the next moment. See reason, girl. Your family is-"

    "Is -dead-. By circumstances that don't look so normal the more I think about it. I want to know the truth, Nanjo. I want the truth, and I'm going to get it by any means."

    "Madness. You will be giving yourself to madness."

    "Then the irony will make a great story for your show." Ardia cast a wide grin in response to the older man's loud scoff. "I'm to grab a bite to eat. I'll say goodbye before I go, I promise."
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  3. Prianne found the hot sun to be irritating, especially today. Her deep emerald eyes narrowed as the waving reflection of the heat rising off the earth blurred her vision. The small leather wrapped canteen at her side jostled as her long slender legs carried her to the stables. The prized war horses she raised for the Assassin order were birthing today, and she could only hope that was the only responsibility she would find in the next twenty four hours. </SPAN>

    Her ranch was located on the outskirts of Argeria, a city she rarely needed to travel to. The Order made sure she had what she needed, and in return-she did odd jobs for them by night. Her talents were vast, though no one who knew her by day had any idea. They had made it very clear to her that her double life was supposed to be an illusion-and that it was. Prianne employed only a couple assistance, but neither of them had found their way to the ranch, the reason unknown. She didn’t mind-knowing she was better trained and more likely to trust herself over others.</SPAN>

    The mixture of hay and horse dung wafted under her nose, making tears rim her eyes slightly. Though she worked the stables for years, the initial smell always stung her eyes. She traced the soft pads of her fingers over the hardwood beams that held the structure of the stable in place. She cooed, approaching her favorite mare, a light tan and white horse that was heavy with foal. </SPAN>

    “There’s my girl” Prianne smiled, opening the narrow gate to enter the pen and embrace the horse. Her thick skin was warm to the touch, but despite the heat-cooler than Prianne’s body. She ran her fingers over the horses mane, intertwining her fingers in the silky strands. </SPAN>
    “You kept me out of trouble today; I am thankful to you Elsie” Prianne smiled, grabbing the flat bristled brush and using it to gently dust off the mare, listening to her happy whinnies.</SPAN>

    Prianne wasn’t lying when she said she was thankful. The assassin order that she had been sworn to, gave her the responsibility to care for the horses-instead of going on a very important mission with the others. They were taking Elswich by force, killing as instructed by the higher ups. Instead, she got to foal her pregnant mares, and take a smaller job to take care of a wealthy aristocrat with a foul mouth.</SPAN></SPAN>

    Elsie seemed spooked for a moment, her hooves stomping the dirt and hay bed of her pen. Her tail lifted and Prianne could tell it was time. She patted the large mare on the behind, helping her into a comfortable laying position. Prianne left the pen to gather her birthing supplies, something she kept close at all times. She had a large bucket of water to fill at the troth. The other mares began getting restless, feeling the suspense in the air as they all sensed Elsie’s labor. </SPAN></SPAN>

    Within a couple hours, there was a new stallion in the world, a stunning grey and white horse that Prianne named Veldur, a swift name for a war horse. The muscled foal was attempting to stand, like the many foals she had birthed before him. His mother licked at him sensitively, a passionate love in her actions as she cared for her child. Prianne helped the mother pass her afterbirth and left the pen to wash up, once again happy to bring such a beautiful being into the world.</SPAN></SPAN>

    She would have to prepare herself though, to remove someone ugly from it.</SPAN></SPAN>
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  4. Arguably so, Corrine found the preformance amusing to the eyes and the mind. She had known of the preformers, trapising from here and there to tell tales and act lives of the world. There was much to do than gawk at the funny stage acting. People didn't seem to bother with their happenings one way or another, dropping their duties for a minute or two of entertainment. Argeria, as bustling a town as it was, still had the time and leisure to kick it's feet up, enjoying the succulent juices of the norm, like some rare fruit found in the most opaque of woods. The tiny woman in the frame of the open, mahogony window was doing both at the same time with ease.

    A needle through a thread, a thread around a needle, a needle through a thread. The process repeated upon repeated upon repeated itself once more in what the townsfolk liked to call, 'seaming.' The pattern was both intricate and tantalizing to the mind if one would sit and spectate it with an open eye. Corinne had long since passed the phase, finding more amusement and peace than the weight of her problems. Her mind had wandered out of the window when a tuft of air and the booming voice of a female broke across the stage like a shattering vase.

    The tale was quiet similar to the one bored in the roads of her memory, engraved in the walls of her thoughts and nostalgia, though not as pleasant and exciting as it was told before. Remnants of the sweetest nectar of voice, the most crisp and stern of hushed whispers, thus is the memory of her parents. The preformance was crude and didn't bring the tale of King Ranthos any justice. It was exactly what the actors had meant it to be: entertaining. Fufilling to the mind. Corinne pulled a silken, copper thread through the needle nonchalantly. She could have told the store better, seaming it into some type of fabric, a blanket, a quilt, what say you.

    The applause rounded from the base of the bunched audiance until all were clapping away at towards the stage, an ccsional hoot and holler here and there.

    "For the blood of me..." Corinne's face was pulled into a fine line of unamusement and disapproval, not that it mattered one way or another. The shop had been empty for quite some suns and moons. A tunic, dress, and pantaloon or two lay on a desk to the far end of the room, threatening to harbor a blanket of dust in the impending hours or so. Two buckets of blue from her eyes looked down at the grey and copper tunic sleeve she had yet to finish. A great deal of unfinished things lay dormant in her mind as well. The preformance helped none; none but to boost her curiosity of what the King really went through. What the Wounds had made him become.

    Corinne had qwelled the storming cloud of wonder away just as she did most of her storms: return to her present until her future beckoned her to follow. And so, with a stable sigh, Corinne returned her senses to the window at the packing preformers, fingers still playing the piano of seaming into the tunic.
  5. Tifaa stood in the crowd quietly as she watched the performance go on. It seemed that the crowd was really enjoying it as the actor was splashed with water and then later stripped upon the stage. Oh how the women cat called. However, Tifaa was not there to watch actors and performers, she was there to make some money...hopefully. Slowly making her way through the now excited people, she started to head towards a less busy area of the city.

    Wandering towards an inn of sorts, Tifaa decided to get something to eat for dinner. She was starving and had just enough money for a drink and a plate of whatever they had that night. Wandering into the inn she didn't seem to gather much attention, then again being dressed in leather and chain male then they probably all had one assumption about her. Tugging back her hood she wandered up to the bar and took a seat, simply looking around curiously for a moment or two before turning towards the bartender who was currently working on a glass.

    "A glass of ale please...and whatever you have for a meal tonight." She said with a small and polite smile, the bartender just nodding before wandering off to do as he was requested.

    As she waited she just turned and looked over the smaller crowd in the inn, it mostly men and travelers trying to relax as the real citizens were busy being entertained by the performers out there in the center of town. All the better in her opinion of course. Not that she had anything against actors or crowds but she was hungry and she didn't want people getting in her way of dinner.

    With her hands over the washbowl, scrubbing the afterbirth from her skin, Prianne almost missed it. But her moonlight profession - her real profession - had kept her senses sharp. Turning, she squinted into the morning sun to see the raven overhead. It was on the flightpath of the town lords but was low - lower than a raven should have been. Moment by moment she watched it dip, its wings erratic, till at last it dropped from the sky. There was a soft thud as it landed in the outer field, on the edge of her paddocks.

    It was with a sense both curious and foreboding that the girl finished up with the foal, fed the horses, then strolled to the lower fields. The black plummage of the bird made it easy to spot along the well-grazed grass. She knelt beside the creature, now quite dead and with eyes stained virulent yellow. She recognised it immediately. Gunisdane Root, a poison used by her order. Slow acting and utterly reliable. They had sent the raven from the eastern valley, and by the action of the poison it could not have been far. Without a doubt, the raven had come from Elswich, where her brothers and sisters had been dispatched on a special errand two nights ago.

    Knowing now that this message was meant for her - that the raven had been timed to fall across her property - Prianne detached the leather sheath from the bird's leg and unrolled the tiny, fragile scroll within. Her eyes deciphered the code quickly.

    A rider comes from Elswich. He wears the sash of a Westerner. Kill him.

    Prianne lowered the message, eyes narrowing. She had been given her orders.


    "Woah, you fucker!" roared the soldier as he jabbed his halberd at the rearing horse. He and his fellow watchman had seen it coming for a good half-mile. They had yelled at the rider, waved their weapons, alerted the archers on the battlements. But it had kept coming all the same. The rider was slumped forward, his arm hanging loose, the reins slapping free. They had had to wait until the horse was right upon them before trying to stop it.

    "Get the reins, damn you!" His friend dodged the hooves and seized the reins of the horse, pulling it aside. The beast was black with soot and blood, its eyes terror-white. As the steed turned the rider dropped from its bare back and into the arms of the first soldier.

    "Help me... the ravens... can't.. help..." Tristan's murmurs were lost to the horse's grunts and the shouts of the gate guard. They turned him over roughly, hauled him up against the inner archway.

    "Drinking and riding, lad?" As they shook him the man released a cry. It was then they saw the arrow lodged in his thigh. Letting him drop on the cobbles, the first soldier wiped at the blood on his hands. "Ah, fuck me!"

    "Marauders... the hill tribes... Elswich... gone..." Tristan raised a hand, trembling, to point beyond the gate. The two watchmen turned and looked to where the rising sun broke the horizon. And there, at last, they saw the first wisps of smoke that rose from Elswich. And as if the colours of nature were held in delicate balance, the faces of the soldiers grew pale as the eastern skies grew dark.

    "Shit..." the first watchman hissed. He hesitated, then yelled at his friend. "Get the Sergeant. GET THE FUCKING SERGEANT!"

    They split in opposite directions, one leading the startled horse as the other sprinted for the guardhouse. And in their panic, Tristan was abandoned. He tried to get up, hobbling beyond the inner gate and between the market stalls beyond. Soon he was amongst the dawn buyers and meat merchants, swaying and staggering. He drew scowls, then stares, then questions, before finally he fell again.

    "Y'alright there, boy?"

    "What's wrong with ya?"

    "Get up, you drunk!"

    The questions stabbed at him. Faces hovered over him. He was turned over again. Hands began patting at his robes. Fingers began prodding him. His antics had drawn a clutch of peasants, merchants and washer women, intrigued by his Western clothes and the blood that ran from his leg. "Please... the marshall... must... get the marshall!"

    In his anguish he lifted his fist, trying to make them understand. His fingers were prized open. The scroll was snatched. A tall man, wearing a butcher's apron, laughed as he unrolled the scroll. It took him a moment to understand the message then he lifted it above his head and yelled. "A MESSAGE FROM THE MONKS! THEY'VE FOUND THE WOUNDS! THEY'VE FOUND THE BLOODY WOUNDS!"

    The crowd erupted. More hands snatched at Tristan. Shouts rippled across the marketplace and down the streets of Argeria. Whispers leapt between the washer women and urchins ran off, howling the news to other squares, like the one where Ardia and Corrine were. It was chaos. Tristan tried to keep eyes on the butcher, who was dancing with the scroll and moving away into an alley. "NO!" Then a hand found the shape of the sheathed short sword beneath his robe. Someone tried to reach inside his clothes. He twisted, scrambled away between their legs. Then another hand grabbed the arrow in his thigh. He yelled, then screamed as it was ripped out. He didn't know if it was a child being playful or someone trying to help. He could not tell anyone's motive anymore.

    He slumped against the wall of an inn, curling up as people pawed at him and asked him questions. The blood was flowing freely now. The scroll was gone.

    Tifaa was only a few feet away.

  7. The ale in Argeria weren't as great as the mugs he'd had in other towns, but a great deal better than most. It was his first day in this particular town, and he was eager to rope in the crowds. The tavern he stopped into was the first one seen inside of the gates of Argeria. It was tall, warm and homely.

    ...As homely as any inn's bar can get when there are men who fancy a mug at any hour, whether it be feasible or ungodly.

    "Ah, but it's true."

    Andrei D'Angeli set the tall glass mug onto the bar with a dull thunk, licking the foam off his lips like a happy child. Turning around on his perch atop said bar, he waited for the inevitable question: the question that one person was always bound to ask.

    "Wha' d'you know?" came the mocking slur of one of the patrons. He was large, ungainly -- he had a hard time finding his balance on the four legged chair at a table in the center of the tavern. In the middle of the same table was where Andrei strategically placed a large hat, upside down. After all, he was a traveler without much of a steady job like a locksmith, blacksmith or even a messenger.

    "Yeah," another, patron agreed. She was crass for a lady -- no, a woman. No lady would sit at a table with a leg hoisted over a table with her undergarments (or lack thereof, in this case) exposed for all to see -- not that he especially had any qualms with the view, it were. The woman took an untidy gulp from her mug and slammed it onto the wooden surface of the table she genitally molested. "Ev'ryone knows tha' th' Wounds is lost t' th' world as we know it."

    Andrei toed to him the nearest stool and rest a booted foot onto it, leaning some of his weight onto the leveraged knee. There was a rumble of hummed agreement and the call for more ale. The gypsy's mismatched gaze held a glint in them that he knew made most lean closer as if he were about to tell them the secret of life. He flicked his gaze from the haphazardly seated woman to the many faces in the tavern. He smirked, an expression clearly telling them that he knew something that they didn't.

    Unlikely as it were, considering.

    After performing to the varied tales of the Wounded King, he had done some scouting of his own over the past four years.

    "There is word out there," he said in a low voice. The clinking of glass and even the obnoxious bouts of gastric release had dimmed as the tavern quieted. Many ears traveled closer, torsos moving forward, dilated pupils managing to focus on one point for more than a few seconds at a time. "that there is someone who holds the location of the Wounds. These," he continued in a much louder voice to prohibit interruption. "are not rumors, I assure you." He cast a not so overt glance to the cap in the middle of the table. It wasn't completely empty then, but he knew exactly how to play small crowds. After all, he needed to pay for the second round of ale and gain enough to feed himself over the next few days.

    Andrei nudged away the bar stool and hopped down from his unconventional seat atop the bar. He meandered around the tavern, gesticulating as if a teacher. He kept a careful eye on his money, watching as coin after coin dived into his shallow depths.

    "There are but one set of people who can tell where the Wounds are hidden," He carefully dragged out the answer; it was a known fact to anyone used to the tavern setting, that the drunk were among the most impatient and would do anything to get what they want.

    It certainly explained the half-filled hat in the middle of the table at the center of the tavern.

    "After all," he said, stopping just behind the hat and picking it up and placing it on his head, not one of the coins falling out. "Who suspects a holy man?"

    As if on cue, there was a wild stir of noise outside of the tavern. Curious, Andrei turned away from his disgruntled, and unwittingly cheated, audience, and went to stand outside of the doorway. There was a man, hands raised high above his head and a manic look of joy spread across his face.

    Curiosity heightened, Andrei took long, quick strides toward the source of the noise.

    "A MESSAGE FROM THE MONKS!" the butcher shouted above the din of the thickening crowd. "THEY FOUND THE BLOODY WOUNDS!"

    The bout of shock and disbelief that washed over the gypsy man was palpable.
    "Well I'll be damned..."

    Then, with a mighty roar, the crowd went absolutely ballistic. They reached forward onto the ground, as if the Wounds were actually there. They reached, snatched, grabbed and lunged. Men fell over themselves and women were thrown to the ground with reckless abandon. Like a large living mound, the crowd bulged outward, as if collectively reaching for something -- or someone, as the case seemed to be.

    Curious, and now concerned, Andrei moved forward to see what was going on.
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  8. Tifaa had been eating her food as some strange gypsy man went on about the wounds. She wasn't listen much to the tale and was more interested in eating the bowl of stew that had been given to her. She had been terribly hungry after all. However, her curiosity was peaked slightly, if only for the fact that she was found of being entertained and this seemed to be that man's main source of income. Finishing her food she pushed the bowl away and turned with mug in hand to listen to the man finish his sort and simple tale, which in the end left much to be desired.

    With a small huff she shrugged her shoulders and turned back to the counter, leaving a few coins for the barmen before she stood up and headed over to the door. Before she could exit properly though there seemed to be a crowd forming outside and large amounts of noise. Curious once more, she stepped out of the tavern and stood on the ground outside of the door, watching as a crazed looking butcher announced to the world that the monks had found the wounds.

    Well Damn...

    Tifaa was shocked to say the least. She had heard the many tales of the wounds and how the king had been driven mad by them. To know that those things were not just the items of fairy tales was rather unnerving and surprising. Of course, her mind did not stay on the wounds for very long as she noticed what the crowd was actually doing. A poor bleeding man, dressed in western clothing, seemed she be crawling madly for his freedom from the crowds. Thought they seemed more interested in getting answers from him, he seemed to be in terrible condition, at least that was what the trail of blood that lead to him told her. This was not good. The people were distracted by the news and did not realize that his injuries were terrible.

    Moving over to the group, she tried to get to the man. However, she was shoved away easily with her light frame was stumbled back onto the ground with a loud 'oof'. Pouting a bit and even glaring this time, She stood once more and this time took her bow from her back and pulled and arrow. There was still some space between the crowd and the man, a slim amount of space but enough for a shot. It seemed that his curling up kept them at bay, along with the blood pooling around his a bit. Aiming precisely, She shot an arrow into the ground in front of a large man who seemed to be leading in the questioning.

    The crowd jumped back, some screaming and others paling as if maybe this man's attackers had come for him. Instead though, Tifaa took this chance and hopped in between them.

    "Enough of this! This man is hurt and all you people are doing is prodding him for answers! Leave the questioning to your marshall and find a doctor for him at least. Otherwise no one will ever know the answers!"

    The crowd was frozen, mostly because they did not expect an arrow from someone her size. Sighing she just turned and knelt towards the man, placing a gentle hand on his shoulder if he allowed her to.

    "Are you alright? Where are you hurt? You need to get to a doctor, can you walk?" She said softly to him as she spoke in a calm voice.


    A window opened amid the pains and voices. It gave him time to feel the aftermath - the imprint of boots and fingers on his flesh, throbbing as if they were still there and holding him to the ground.

    The shortsword had remained strapped to his back, but it was digging in now. It crunched against the spine. He heard the thunk of an arrow, whistling like the one that had struck his thigh last night. More memories. More phantom agonies.

    Then the voice, not unlike the others that had promised help while visiting torment.

    But this voice had come amid a silence, amid a stillness. Tristan uncurled slightly, with his body pressed against the tavern's outer wall, and one swollen eye opened to gaze at Tifaa. His hand reached out, bruised and trembling, the fingers trying to curl so the forefinger could point.

    Beyond Tifaa's shoulder the market crowd was still in frenzy, and in the throng he could see the butcher waving the scroll above his head and moving into an alley. There were others with him, apprentices and drunks, cheering as he danced.

    Tristan tried to speak, but his throat was desert-dry. His view of the butcher was broken suddenly as Andrei stepped unwittingly into his line of sight. His vision blurred.

    Tristan's hand gave up trying to point and came to rest on Tifaa's shoulder.


    And with that, he passed out on the street.


    The Gatehouse, as usual, had been quiet for much of the morning. Then it had been disturbed by a yelling guardsman. Now it had now returned to that same state of calm, just as the Sergeant liked it. The guardsman in question stood to attention behind him, while the old sergeant protruded his eyeglass through the eastern arrow slit. His one unscarred eye squinted at the telescopic image. Elswich was now all but ashes. And the occasional flicker, like insects in the embers, told him that the Hill Barbarians were still on the warpath.

    "Should we send aid?" asked the watchman, who was doing his best to control his volume after his initial outburst.

    The Sergeant lowered his eyeglass and stroked the handles of his moustache. "Only angels'll help 'em now, lad."

    "But shouldn't we...?"

    "No sense in it," the Sergeant interrupted, lost in his own thoughts as he paced the tower room, stepping round filthy bedding and cooking pots. "Hill Tribers 'ave been content for five 'ole years - not a single raid. Summin's got 'em riled up."

    "How big are the tribes, Sarge?" the guardsman asked, glancing at the walls of the barracks as if suddenly unsure if they would be standing much longer.

    "Enough to make your balls drop, Rat-face. Now get word to the Lord General. If them dirt-eatin' savages've got a taste for pillagin' then we'll need an army raised."

    "You... they wouldn't try to attack Arge--"

    "RUN, YOU LITTLE SHIT!" The Sergeant chased the guardsman to the stairwell with a few swift kicks, and as his messenger departed the one-eyed veteran turned back to the arrow slit, watching the smoking pillars of Elswich. It was pointless telling the boy to keep the news from the townsfolk. They would know soon enough that the fire on the horizon was no lingering sunset. If anything, what the sergeant felt was a sense of being cheated. He had served as a soldier, five years ago, in the many battles that ended with the territorial agreements between the heartlanders and the hill barbarians. Everything was settled, and even those savages were happy with the land they were given. Now, out of nowhere, they had descended on the valley.

    It made no sense.

    Spitting, the Sergeant crossed the tower room and unlocked the chest that held his father's longsword.
  10. Prianne had been lingering in her barn, watching the foal take his first clumsy steps. It was entertaining to think that this wobbly baby would one day soon become a stead of destruction, carrying a fierce warrior or assassin on a back supported with thick, gleaming silver armor. Just as she once was a meek, fragile child- this horse would see many battles and too much blood. </SPAN></SPAN>

    After a brief nostalgic moment, Prianne made her way to the stallions, untying the foal’s father and saddling him. Marduk (mar-duke) was a fitting name for a stead so powerful. He had seen more battles in his years than Prianne had raised horses. The “blood bringer” as they called him, was a gift from the order when she had successfully murdered her own father, who was wanted dead by a very powerful and wealthy ally. For her ability to keep herself distant and murder her only living relative, the order gave her Marduk- an even trade in her eyes. </SPAN></SPAN>

    Prianne walked Marduk to the main house, where she instructed him to wait. It was something unique to her horses, the ability to listen to human command and actually fulfill them. The thick stead nodded his head in confirmation, just like he had been taught to. </SPAN></SPAN>

    Once inside, Prianne readied herself, dressing in her typical “go out and kill someone” attire. Her armor was a bit strange for an assassin, which gave people the impression her profession was more of the “personal pleasure” type. Requests from men for sexual favors wasn’t uncommon, especially in the city. Her armor was lightweight and tightly fitted to her battle trained body. Her dominant arm was free of any plating, while her defensive arm was covered in thick metal scales-like an attached personal shield, easy to deflect oncoming attacks. Her breasts were covered in the same type of armor, but it ended scantily at her rib cage, leaving her entire abdomen and navel exposed. Something only a seasoned fighter was comfortable doing. Seeing as her stomach and hips were clean of any scars, one would know she was successful at dodging any attack toward that exposed area. </SPAN></SPAN>

    It wasn’t the most pride bringing fact of her lifestyle, but being a woman assassin, Prianne was trained to use her feminine features as a distraction, giving her the upper hand in battle with lecherous and fantasy prone men. She flipped her head over, tying her shiny black hair up into a tight bun fitted atop her head with a bit of leather. She took some charcoal, drawing thick black lines under her eyes to somehow conceal her true appearance. She added a venomous looking green lipstick to the disguise, knowing how distracting the slightest out of norm appearance was to most people.</SPAN></SPAN>

    Once she was fully dressed, Prianne went outside, mounting Marduk and taking off in the direction of the city.</SPAN></SPAN>
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  11. At least two streets away from the source of the madness, Ardia was at a baker's cart handing over a few coin for a couple fruit strudels. She took a bite or two, chewing and wandering down the street with no real direction in mind. Watching the people on the street as they meandered about their day. But like a tidal wave rolling down the street, the people began to twitter. A lady running across a street to speak to her husband. The husband passing it on to his partner. The partner shouting down the walk at his neighbor. Ardia's brows furrowed with curious interest, and it wasn't long before it was sated.

    "Dey fownd da woons! Dey fownd da woons!" squeak a dirty little girl as she tore down the street in excitement. Ardia's eyes went wide and in three quick strides she was snatching the girl back the back of the collar and pulling her over.

    "Hey now, what are you going on about? What's this about the wounds?" Ardia asked quickly.

    The girl was so overly excited that she was bouncing up and down and Ardia had to keep a grip on her, less she escaped before explaining. "Yaa da woons! Da monkies in Esswich did it!"

    Ardia raised an eyebrow at the girl's fumbling speech, but she assumed that meant the Monks. "That is news, how did you find out about that?"

    Turning, the girl pointed off down the street towards the Meat Market Square. "Da man had da noos! He gots BLOOOOOOD all ova him and had a scroll and bloooood and noos! Oh, dat noos der!" Passing Ardia as she knelt speaking to the child were a few of the raving townspeople. She pointed at a large man, swinging an unfurled piece of paper over his head and shouting about the wounds. Every few paces he'd pause and show it off.

    "Thank you, sweet." Ardia mumbled, passing the little girl the uneaten strudels. In an instant, she was up on her feet stalking after the fat man. A scowl plastered across her face.

    When she caught up with him, he was bragging on about his prize, as if he were the one that was tasked with sharing it with Argeria. "He came ridin' in on a horse from Elswich covered head to toe in blood! Caught up in a raider's attack no doubt. Here it is plain as day, a message from the monks themselves!" As he flourished the scrap of paper around, Ardia snatched it right out of his hands.

    "Took it right out of a bloodied messenger's hands, right? Did you leave him dying in the square too? Do you even know WHO he was meant to deliver it too?! Asses! All of you!" Her sudden chiding seem to cow most of them in to a reluctant shame. The fat man himself seemed ready to argue it, but by the time he had bolstered up enough steam, Ardia was already pushing her way throw the crowd on the street. Scroll clutched tightly in her hand as she searched the faces for a blood covered messenger from Elswich.

    Ardia had planned for weeks to leave her family and search for truth. To leave on quest that very night. Now in her hands was proof the wounds were real and where they might be found.

    This was kismet. Destiny.
  12. Tifaa found herself terribly confused. The poor man had not been able to saw for than a word before he slipped into unconsciousness against the tavern wall. He bleeding had not stopped and now it seemed that she was without any way to get the man to the doctor. Looking him over, she decided to see what she at least could do for the man. Shuffling around in her pockets, she pulled out some cloth, originally it was scraps of a hanky that she had washed and now it would be some wrappings for the wound in his thigh. Tying it tight, she hoped that it would at least slow the bleeding somewhat as she turned to look at the crowd.

    They were all cheering and dancing and running, no one seeming to care to look at her and the poor bleeding man. It was enough to make the usually calm and happy girl yell and scream. So much for caring for one's fellow man! She had never seen such selfishness before! Still, maybe she could at least get someone's attention, anyone's attention would be a positive improvement of the situation at the moment. Stepping away from the man slightly she reached for her arrow in the ground and plucked it lightly before putting it back with her other arrows. Putting her bow on her back as well she began her calls.

    "Please! Can anyone help this man? He is injured from and arrow and needs assistance as soon as possible! Please, just help to a doctor is more than enough of a service, that is all I ask of anyone!...Please!"

    She went unheard though, as the people continued to stomp on, off in some direction. They were probably following the person who was spreading the news of the wounds and making a scene of themselves. She'd follow after them if she could, but that would mean leaving this man to the streets and any curious eyes that might what to bring harm to him. She went to all tis work to help him so far and she wasn't about to let a bunch of rowdy civilians ruin her cause. Still, being unable to help him really did put a damper on her purpose there.

    She turned and knelt next to him for a moment before glancing over at the tavern. It wasn't a Doctors office...but it would do for now. Maybe if she dragged in a bleeding body she'd gather some attention. Moving closer she took one of his arms and put it over her shoulders before wrapping her own arm around his waist. She took in a slow breath before giving him a tug. She only moved an inch before she fell on her bottom, flushed in the face.

    This was going to take awhile...
  13. No less than what was expected of her, Corinne was called from her seat on the leather rocking chair centered at the far right side of the shop, a place where little out came in through the window only because of its angle. A small touch of darkness and solitude and Corinne could seam her life away. That is what her life had went to regardless, was it not? She had been doing the same thing for years on years, smothering the need to find the Wounds. The damned Wounds that could have been long since destroyed or lost by her days. Hope was too small of a rarity for her to cling onto. It was much easier and definitely better for her to focus on the present: focus on the next customer, strands of cloth to seam, and the next day.

    A noticeably loud amount of shouting and pounding mare hooves brought her tiny and frail attention span back to the outer window. he performance, as she was sure, was over. Unless the band were having a rough time packing their things, or possibly another show was to begin? Whatever the matter, Corinne put down the tunic sleeve again and stood. A bone or two cracked followed by a groan of irritation and deep frown below her eyes. It was too early in her ears for her bones to be cracking; a very unsettling thought.

    Suddenly, a cacophony of shouts, screams, and even a few cheers flew up in Argeria. At least, that is what it sounded like to her, A brown curl flew from it's secure place behind her ear when her chin stuck out of the window. To her surprise and intrigue, the first thing she caught was a trail of blood. The remaining things were similar to what one would see if there was a robbery or murder. Was that what the blood was for? Did someone get killed?


    "Please, just help to a doctor is more than enough of a service, that is all I ask of anyone!...Please!"

    From news to pleading to a bit more riling around, Corinne had no idea what was going on, but she had heard more than enough. The Wounds had been found. There was a momentary light feeling in her stomach, soon quickly drowned out by the pleading of some woman. A doctor she wasn't but a Samaritan she could be. Muttering a curse to herself for her hesitation, the girl dashed away from the ruckus beyond the window and out to the back door of the shop. This was where she resided, safe in the company of her fabrics. There, in the tiny, dimly lit room, she spotted the red handkerchief hanging listlessly off the side of a near by night stand.

    Corinne yanked the tiny cloth and zipped back through whence she came, all the why repeating the words of the loud, booming voice. He wasn't specific over how many were found, but it was surely beside the point. Argeria may have heard the biggest news in a while, suddenly reminding Corinne that it was not such a good thing, either. Men are snakes, striking after tantalizing poor travelers with the tongue. Joy was surely to be drowned by greed in a matter of moments.

    The door to her shop flew open, blasting her pale face with sunlight and hot, humid air. The shouts were louder and undecipherable. She couldn't make out head nor tail of what else could have been said. The blood on the ground was caking, meaning that it had been a good vast of minutes since spilled from the...body. Her white dress billowed up in a tuft of smoke, bringing whistles from a few passerby's, all ignored. The trail led to a couple, a man and a woman. They both where fair with darkened hair, hunched to the side of a building alone. The blood their was fresher and a groan from the man was enough for her to know what had been happening.

    "He is not from here. What happened?"she questioned the woman. Corinne knelt on the tips of her feet, pulling the red handkerchief from underneath her forearm, Immediately, she moved the man's bristled and charred arm out of the way, exposing the wound for what it was. Just as quickly, she cradled the cloth in her hand and pressed it to the gaping hole. She hadn't said that she was the doctor the woman was looking for, but stopping the bleeding could at least buy time if someone would else would here the woman's pleads for assistance. That sad part was that Corinne didn't expect it at all.

    "You're going to be fine." Her voice was mellow and not sweet at all. It was only said to calm him, regulate the breathing, and keep him from trying to snatch her hand away. Whatever the matter, the man had been in some serious doings. From the Wounds, perhaps?

    Time would tell if the man lived through the madness.
  14. Tifaa was certain an angle had fallen upon her and the man, as her white dress was only seen out of the corner of her eyes. However, as she realized that this lovely woman lacked any wings, she assumed that someone had heard her plea, still someone that put a smile on her face. Turning to look at the man as the woman put more pressure on the wound, she gave him a small adjustment so that he was sitting up right in his unconscious state.

    "I don't know exactly what happened, I only caught what happened in the crowd. He was being mobbed for a better lack of the word, these crazy civilians were grabbing at him and pushing him for answers, not even care about the blood that was pouring from his leg! Luckily, I separated them before anything could be bad and set them off into the cheering parade. He didn't tell me much either, just mentioned Elswich before passing out cold. I only just arrived in town myself so I have no clue where a doctor is or how to get him there. I am an archer, not exactly put to carry full grown men. And all the helpful people only seem to carry about on bloody thing and that is the wounds!"
    She explained quickly but smoothly so nothing would be lost.

    She looked back to the woman before standing and dusting off her knees for a second. She needed to stand and think, after all there was a lot on her plate at the moment. Looking around, the crowds seemed to have slipped away, still following after whoever was spreading the news. Maybe this would make getting him somewhere safe easier.

    "He needs to get in a bed, at least there he won't get infected to walked on. I tried to get him inside the tavern but my efforts were not successful like I had hoped. If we work together then maybe we could get him in the door at least, who knows maybe the bartender can help."


    The two bandages would stop the bleeding, in time. But the wound would need to be cleaned and stitched, lest the fever claimed Tristan's life.

    With Corinne and Tifaa around him, the unconscious messenger had lost his appeal and most of the townsfolk continued through the market, shouting and passing the news. Some soldiers had arrived too and were bellowing for calm. Amongst the melee, the two women struggled to get a grip of Tristan and lift him up. The tavern had all but emptied thanks to the tumult, which only made their entrance more conspicuous.

    "NO!" yelled the bartender, a short and balding man with reddened arms. He threw a cloth down and came out from behind the bar. His eyes were screwed up, exasperated. "NOT IN HERE!" He motioned to the street. "OUT!"

    He got between them and the tables, blocking their way. He was a little shorter than the ladies, but made up for it with over-developed forearms. He was like a bulldog. And he had had enough fun for one day. "OUT!" he repeated.


    "Thieving bitch! Come 'ere!"

    Ardia's hair was seized before she could go any further, and with a yank she was back in the alley. While her feist had cowed most of the rabble, the butcher was not so easily dismissed. He was a tall man - taller than many these days - with dark hair slicked back from a face that told the years of his trade. Ardia was pulled against his leather apron, which was stained with blood and fat from his morning shift. He twisted her arm behind her back. He snatched the scroll.

    Then a boot to the arse sent Ardia sprawling on the floor. There was laughter from the butcher's cronies. Another got up the courage to kick the woman in the side, curling her up.

    "Try that again and I'll carve your tits off!"

    The butcher turned and headed off with his gang, the scroll tucked beneath his bloody apron.
  16. Marduk’s thunderous hooves-steps echoed off the cobblestone pathway leading into the outskirts of the city, turning heads of meek, country folk as they carried on with their day of trading and commerce. Like any other time she travelled to the city, she was echoed by suspicious eyes and gossiping mouths. The chattering, chirping whispers were always annoying to Prianne, but today seemed a bit different. Her orders were to find a man who seemed to escape the reaches of her companions, which was not an easy thing to accomplish. Marduk whinnied as a group of tattered people crossed the road directly in front of them, absolutely no regard for the danger the thick stead and his lustrous rider represented. </SPAN></SPAN>

    “Damned whore of death, you embody all that’s wrong in the world” A woman hissed through clenched teeth as Prianne directed Marduk through the smelly bodies, his long black tail swishing up and hitting the bitter naysayer in the dirt covered cheek. The stallion chittered with excitement as the grumbling woman retreated back to the large trading tables and stands; defeated by a horse. </SPAN></SPAN>

    She was a bringer of death, it was true, but being called a whore was a bit too much. Prianne had only had one lover in her life thus far, a fellow assassin named Jace who served as a teacher to her in her late teens. She had been infatuated with him since their first training session, his swiftness pinning her against the splintering wood of the abandoned shack within seconds from the start. Their love had been breathtaking and completely devastating. It sent a haunting shiver down her spine and even to this very day, she remembered the feel of his body against hers. </SPAN></SPAN>

    Prianne was lucky to learn her lessons early in life, just as the clan wanted. The most difficult lesson was that of how to regret, because ultimately it was her love for Jace that forced her to murder him. The deed had come to her in the same perishing flight that her current mission had come. A carrion bird dropping out of the sky in a twisting tornado of perfectly timed, poisonous death. </SPAN></SPAN>

    Jace had been attempting to find a way out for them, a new life, despite everything they had been told. It was his life for hers. She dispatched him from his earthly form with a quick and painless stab to the back of the neck, knowing exactly how to relieve him as honorably as possible. An attack he had taught her himself.</SPAN></SPAN>

    Prianne shook her head, fighting back the horrid memories and focusing on her task at hand. There was quite a commotion as she got closer and closer to the center of the city. Large buildings blocked out the sun, giving Marduk some well-desired shade to cool his body in. Men and woman alike were howling news of the Wounds and how they had finally been found. </SPAN></SPAN>

    I suppose that was why they attacked the monks…</SPAN> Prianne thought to herself as she continued leading her stead through the open streets. She wondered why their leader wanted the Wounds so badly, though she couldn’t really understand why anyone would. Her father, like many other people, was after the Wounds for a ridiculous reason. Unfortunately, Prianne’s father did not live to hear the news of their return, though it did not matter to her either way since she was the one who killed him.</SPAN></SPAN>
  17. The power of two women, believe it or not, was just what Tristan needed to get his bleeding form off of the street and into a shop for assistance. Corinne didn't yet get the lady's name or the man's, but things of that sort could and would wait until the chaos in Argeria had calmed and soothed over. For now, priorities were met: The man needed healing.

    Unfortunately, that healing would not be given to them in that shop. It wasn't an infirmary, that was for sure, but there was still an inkling of thought in their minds that maybe someone would have the decency to assist them with the bleeding man. At least, that was what Corinne thought, but she was wrong. Not even a minute went by before a wild, stubby man swung his mass towards them, flailing his arms wildly like a chimpanzee with a fruit. A good group of the insiders at Skinner's didn't even bother to lift an eyelash towards the ruckus whatsoever. The atmosphere was the usual mellow, dull, blatant mood as ever; a good reason why Corinne hardly set a toe into the tavern.


    "Excuse us for a moment, we just have a man here wh--"

    "NOT IN HERE!"

    "Sir, just let us get some wat--"

    "OUT! OUT!" Her face upturned in a cross expression, none of it being the strain of holding Tristan in her feeble little arms. Rules were set: The three of them had to get out of there.

    "Just a few little shouts about the Wounds and everyone suddenly looses their civilization."she muttered, loud enough for Tifaa and the man to hear, but just short of becoming what the men in the tavern would deem 'fighting words.' With a small grunt of effort, she helped Tifaa wheel the wounded man out of the tavern and back into the maw of the beast.

    "OUT OF THE WAY, STREET WHORE!" A man with a horse zipped in front of them so quickly, that a reign whipped across her cheek from the wind, stinging it as if she had actually been slapped. Her face whipped to the side, cheek white with fire, but not letting go of Tristan. This man knew about the Wounds and she needed answers.

    Noble yet she was for helping him, Corinne still had a curiosity boiling through every blanket of her skin at the stories he would spin. She corrected her face and crooked it towards Tifaa.

    "To the right place, I suppose?"she hissed, still feeling the remnants of the leather struck across her now blood-red cheek.
  18. With assistance, moving the heavy male was no longer an issue for Tifaa. However, it seemed that when one problem was solved another one arose. Before they could even enter they bar they were forced back out by the bartender, and very rudely at that. She had only be drinking their moments before and now the man was a complete ass! If she was strong enough she might have given him a black eye, but that was going to be a very unlikely situation. So, shuffling back out into the danger of the streets, though not before flipping the man the bird rather angrily, Tiffa and the other woman paused.

    "And I doubted that will be the last that we'll see of rude actions and harsh words. Gods help me if the doctor turns us away as well or I might actually shoot an arrow into someones head."
    The young archer mumbled as she stood there with her arms around the other side of the man as the woman held the other half of his weight.

    Then, a man on horse raced by, rather close to the woman in fact. Tifaa just blinked only to see the woman with her head turned, her cheek going from white to a fiery red in seconds. Hissing a little herself as she looked over the strike, she just nodded her head at the woman's question and moved on her way. She hoped they would get to the doctors in one piece, for at this rate no one would be safe outside for very long.


    The pole was easy to spot - a brass railing wrapped with white linen and wine-soaked bandages. The symbols of hair and surgery. There were also copper tins, both serving as its base and skewered on top, to signify blood and leaches respectively. The pole was sunk into the ground outside one of a line of sheds that bordered the canal. Boatmen and cargo-handlers glared at Corinne and Tifaa as they shouldered Tristan over the cobbles.

    "YE FUCKED HIM TOO 'ARD, GIRLS!" shouted one of them and a chorus of laughter hounded the trio till they reached the barbershop.

    As the stable-like door swung inwards, Corinne almost stepped in a bucket of leaches. A man in a middle-class doublet, thin and white-bearded, glanced over his shouder before going back to bandaging a young man's head. "Put him on the straw there," he said, as if the sight of them was an everyday occurence. Chickens clucked angrily as they scattered across the courtyard.

    A table along one side of the shed was laid out with blades and clamps, while mahogany chests overflowed with bandages and linens. There were other buckets here and there, containing sea-salt and vinegar, plus a barrel of assorted rose petals, lavender, sage, and bay leaves. Vials of hemlock juice and laudanum rested between the blades, while a beehive hummed contently in he opposite corner, a few glass jars set expectantly around it.

    It was likely the barber had been a farmer in his younger days, and had carried over many if not all of the principles.

    "My fee is five Rants for the initial consultation," the barber spoke while fixing the bandage to his current patient, a boy who had one eye covered while the other blinked at Tifaa and Corinne. "If blood must be let, that will be an extra Rant. A herb and vinegar salve will cost you two and amputation will be three. They'll be a Half-Rant discount if you let me keep the limb."

    It was like a schoolteacher explaining mathematical formulas. The barber did not look at them again, but started to whiste as he pinned the bandage on the young boy.

    "A most noisy morning," he commented.


    "Yer alright there, gurl?" A washer-woman's thick, red-raw arm got hold of Ardia's and lifted her to her feet. She was middle-aged, but a life of toil had wrinkled and dried her features. With strong pats she brushed the dirt from Ardia's clothes, even as the girl tried to get her bearings. "Pigswill-drinking whoreson that Brindley is!" she spat with a nod to the vanishing butcher. "They say 'e raped 'is own mother. I've a mind to believe it."

    No sooner had the woman helped Ardia up and dusted her down than she had gone back to watching the crowd in the Meat Market. Her arms were crossed disapprovingly, as one who had seen the idiocy of peasants for too many decades. "It's no way t' act, stealin' from a royal messenger. That's an 'anging fer sure." She glanced at Ardia again, with a gossip-hungry expression. "Y'know what Brindley'll do? Try an' sell that scroll to Filger's Gang. An 'andsome price they'll pay an' all, for news like that!"

    She shook her head once more and cuffed a street urchin out of her way.
  20. Ardia's surprise at getting ambushed and kicked in the street quickly turned to a reluctant gratefulness that being kicked was the worst she got. Especially at the helpful washer woman's rather unpleasant gossip about the butcher being a mother fucker. Literally. She was still grunting in pain and rubbing what might've been a cracked rib when the woman left, swinging at some poor kid in the process.

    Her first instinct was to go stomping after the butcher to retrieve the scroll. It didn't belong to him, she really didn't take well to having it snatched from her, and it was going to be even harder to get it out of the hands of some gang. But she hesitated. Hovering at a corner of a building and leaning against the brickwork to catch her breath, Ardia reconsidered. It took all of two seconds to drop her to the ground and beat the devil out of her, and Ardia had no desire to repeat the incident. What she needed was some help...

    ...likely the message bearer needed some help too. He would want the scroll back just as much and she wanted to know what was in it.

    Thus, casting one last glare to the direction she assumed the butcher had fled with her prize, Ardia took the opposite route towards Lovett Street. Seeking out the signs that the messenger was nearby. How hard could it be to find a bleeding robed man in a city full of gossipers?