How much for a sword? [R]

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There is a rhythm in all things, peace turns to war, safety turns to fear, friends turn to enemies, lords and kings come and go. A time of uncertainty and war has fallen on the land. The strong do what they want, and the weak suffer what they must.


Sweat beaded and ran down his brow as large as pebbled. He couldn't stop his heart pounding or his legs shaking. His hand was clamped over his mouth for fear they would hear his rapid breath. Even though his heart beat pounded in his ears, he could hear everything clearly, even the smallest things. 


The horses snuffled and shuffled their feet in the lush grass of summer.


Leather creaked when one rider shifted in the saddle.


Metal clinked against metal. 


Rossi jumped and almost let out a yelp when one of the riders spoke up. 


"What do you think?" A male human voice said. 


"I'd guess two months before harvest time." A female elf voice answered. 


"Not worth it yet." The first voice answered. "Unless we want moldy blankets and barrels of flat beer." He let out a half laugh. 


"We hit this place last year anyhow, I doubt they have much else left." Said a lizardman voice. 


"Lets not waste our time here, we will be back in three months and take all they got." Said strong human voice. "We will hit that village down the river, I want fish anyhow."


The band of horseman turned and headed back over the crest of the hill from which they were viewing the tiny village. Rossi waited until he no longer heard them before scrambling up out of the patch of think thorns and vines that had concealed him. He gave one frightened look in the direction the horsemen departed in, and ran down the him as fast as his old legs would carry him 




Someone were crying, most were silent. They all knew what was at stake. Loosing one harvest was a disaster, loosing two in a row was a death sentence. 


Most of the village was gathered in the dusty common land at the center of town. Some shouted, some cried, some sat silently. Every so often someone would shout a suggestion, then get shouted down by dissenters. 


"We should give in! Beg to keep enough to live off of!" - "They would take everything just to spite us!'


"We should contact the lord!" - "He would do nothing! Just like last time!"


"We should just kill ourselves! Then the lord might notice!" Everyone fell silent at that suggestion. 


Ranunt, one of the more weathly farmers, spoke up at last. "We should as the Old Man."


Everyone silently agreed, and shuffled after Ranunt, toward the old, creaky mill at the edge of town. 




Not everyone would fit inside the mill house, most crowded out front, peering through windows. Ranunt and Rossi sat on the rushes silently. Everyone was silent and tense. 


They had told everything they knew, telling every detail they knew or imagined. 


The Old Man just sat, sunken old eyes looking down, deep in thought. 


"We must contact the lord." Said Ranunt.


"We must give them what they want." Said Rossi. 


"We must fight!" Shouted a younger villager pushing into the room. It was a younger elf, Turas, his eyes burning. 


The Old Man did not respond or even seem to react. Everyone held their breath.


Finally, as quiet as a whisper, the Old Man spoke:


"When I was a young man, I saw many villages burnt and destroyed. I once found one that was intact."


"What did they do?" Rossi interjected. 


"They hired fighters." The Old Man answered slowly. 


"But how, we have no money, only grain,"


The Old Man smirked "Well then hire hungry soldiers."




After some deliberation, it had been decided that Ranunt and Rossi would go to look for soldiers. Turas had insisted to come along too, and they did not turn him away. They set out the next morning with meager rations, old woolen cloaks and walking sticks. A bedraggled last hope for the village.


The had walked for two days before making it to the nearest town, Cooper's Crossing, the nearest ferry and the only thing considered a town for leagues in any direction. Even so it was a bustling place for the small town farmers, and full of traps set for easy marks. Luckily their lack of valuable got them out of most scrapes but soon left them with little food, and had robbed them of the few copper coins they had gathered in the village.


Every time they had approach a person bearing arms, they had been laughed away. No one was willing to risk their necks for a meal or two a day.


Time wore on and they seemed to get no where. Their hope failing, they sat in the corner of the public house they stayed in.


"Maybe we should return home." Rossi said. "At least we can starve in our own homes."


"Don't think that way." Turas snapped. "We must succeed."


"We certainly must." Ranunt said staring at the dirt floor. "I just hope we find at least one soldier willing to help us soon." 



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The steady rocking of the horse below him was all Tavaron could feel; that and the dull ache that wracked the right side of his waist and leg. When the rocking stopped, Tavaron realised he had been resting his head on the horse’s mane and jerked upright suddenly. Immediately he felt the sweat that covered his body head to toe, he no doubt had some kind of fever. A penance, he guessed, for not treating the wound in his side properly. His mind finally focused on why his horse had stopped and he realised that three Human’s stood before him, fidgeting in their scruffy clothes.


“Do you bar my way?†he asked hoarsely, realising that he hadn’t drunk anything in a while. 


“No, my lord, we are but humble beggars asking after a small donation of coin.†The centre man said after shuffling forward a foot or so.


In normal circumstances, Tavaron would have thrown a coin or two in their direction, but it was bad timing on their part to ask after anything from him at the moment. “I’m sorry, but I have no coin to spare.â€


“Liar!†the man sneered and it seemed to be some kind of signal as a figure leapt from the bushes to the side of the path and jumped at Tavaron in an attempt to pull him from his horse.


Tavaron pulled at the reigns but was too slow as the first man stepped forward to grab them, while the jumping man collided with him and they both tumbled to the ground. Tavaron got a face full of hard mud as the man landed on his back and tried to reach round and strangle him. For a second, he thought about letting himself die, then all his problems would be solved, but then his actual brain kicked in and he used his strength to push himself free. Luckily his assailant was smaller than him despite his thinner elvish features.


He quickly stood up, kicking his attacker to keep him on the floor, and rounded on the other three. “You would dare attack a King’s Guard?†he said, quickly drawing the two long daggers that rested at his shoulder. “I’ll gut you where you stand.†Despite the raggedness of it, his voice was still powerful and threatening and the three men recoiled slightly from it.


“Don’t believe him, he’s no king’s guard; they wouldn’t travel alone. And look at him, he’s probably dying or something.†The first man said, gesturing at Tavaron’s heavy breathing.


Tavaron took a couple of deep breaths to steady himself and then took a menacing step forward. “My business is my own, and my reasons are to. I may look frail to you, but I can still kill vagabonds with no overdue effort on my part.†The two behind the main man faltered and turned away before making a run for. The first man glanced over his shoulder before taking a step back to follow them.


“I’ll remember this, Elf.†He said before making haste after his friends.


Tavaron replaced his weapons and walked over to his horse, nearly falling on it when he grabbed the reigns. He had been mostly bluffing, he would likely have won a scrap but it wouldn’t have done him any good. He checked over his luggage, the long object wrapped in cloth and his bow and quiver were still strapped to his horse, and then prepared to pull himself back onto his horse. It was at this point a small whimper from behind him caught his attention and he turned to see his first assailant. When not grappling on the floor or in the thick of a fight, Tavaron realised it was a child.


“If you are attacking travellers on this point in the trail, am I to assume there is a town nearby or are you simply picking spots at random.†He took a leather bag from his saddlebags and took a swig of the water held within.


The child was cradling a bloody nose where Tavaron had kicked him, but otherwise seemed unharmed. Apparently he didn’t want to incur Tavaron’s wrath a second time as he answered immediately, his voice unnaturally nasally. “Not far from here, if you stay on this path. It won’t take you more than an hour.â€


Tavaron nodded his head and then grit his teeth as he swung himself back up onto his horse. “Next time, pick a more appropriate target.†He said before kicking his heels to spur his horse onwards.


=== 1 Hour Later ===


The town the child spoke of was moderately sized, but nothing compared to the cities Tavaron had seen while escorting the King. However, it was better than the wilds when night drew in. When he reached the edge of the town, where the buildings started in earnest, Tavaron slid from his saddle and hooked the reigns around his hand, keeping himself steady as much as keeping control of his horse. He walked for a couple of minutes, ignoring the looks he got that were aimed at his uniform, and then came to a stop.


Tavaron wasn’t entirely sure what to do next; he had no money to pay for lodging, or to get a healer to look at his wound.

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Iirin could weep. The fletching had come free from the back of his second-to-last arrow. Arrows were a catch-22 of a thing; to craft them, you had to catch a bird to get its feathers. To catch a bird, you had to shoot it with an arrow. And Iirin only had a few shots left with what ammo he had.


His head thunked back against tree bark, where he was slumped at the edge of a forest. He was going to have to start eating medical salve; it was the only resource he hadn't totally burned through since his last money boon. Maybe he'd been a little overcautious thinking he'd have to blot out more cuts than eat, drink, and warm himself. It was all herbal, though, it couldn't taste that bad...


Minutes later Iirin was gagging and spitting as he beat feet running towards the town. No grass nor meager bush would trip his flighty feet as he dove towards the water pump outside a small cottage like a swan diving from the sky towards dinner. He could barely pump fast enough to rinse the horrific bitter taste swirling his tongue around like burnt worms.


So, no, salve was not edible.


Even rinsed out, Iirin's tongue was an odd, fuzzy numb. His head was swimming as he tried to regain some spacial awareness, the world of people living and breathing outside of his tasteless reverie. Soft regret for trying to eat his salve rubbed against him; there limped the only person for a few hundred feet and his supportive horse, and that man was no human but elf, and not well but ill, and hugging his side where a little stray blood against his clothes hinted that whatever afflicted him was just what Iirin's latest snack had been intended for.


"Sir!" Iirin stumbled best he could on graceful feet. He didn't really have to rush to catch the elf and his horse, but dawdling would only drag out his cousin's pain.


"You seem off your gait, sir... are you wounded?" The soft amber eyes begged trust from the young elf, though the menthol wafts from his breath might have given anyone pause.


"If you'd like a hand, I'll help you to the nearest infirmary." Offering his own help straight off would be weird, wouldn't it? People came to town for a town's services, not some back-alley hack. Besides, a real healer would have far better than a traveling antiseptic. Probably. Frankly, he hadn't come across any towns that seemed like they had much to call their own, recently. The dry weather was foremost a killer, of plants and people, and most people with a sword had gotten a little possessive of things that weren't theirs.


Which, it seemed, Iirin and this fellow elf both carried.


Iirin offered a smile.

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The stars seemed brighter the previous night. It seemed they dimmed as time moved on due to the chaotic behavior of the people of her village and the thieves. Saena wouldn't mind calling them attackers. Those who take what is not theirs would truly be attacking the heart of the harvest and the people it was meant for. Knowing her talent in thievery, she wouldn't dare compare her ways to those who took without a desperate need. They would be weak and meager, begging for food instead of taking it so cleverly. They were strong and greedy. They were attackers.

Braiding her long charcoal waves back, Saena gripped onto the edge of the roof she had been laying on for the past hour or so and gracefully slipped off of the edge. Her grip remained strong as she looked down and expected a relatively painful fall. Candle lights, in the part of the village in which she found herself wandering about, hadn't been used. Therefore, she was concealed for as long as she kept an effort in trying to remain in concealment. She took a deep breath and released her fingers from the rigid edge and dropped down within no time onto the dirt infested ground. The hard surface caused her legs to lose their balance for just a moment before they carried her into an alley way where she dropped herself next to a wooden wall of another cabana.

Quickly, the woman tore her leather boots off, ones she took from a sleeping vagabond in the woods, and felt their soles to check for a hole. It seemed something had tore into the weak undersurface of her boots and punctured her heel. Leaning up against the relatively flat surface behind her, Saena pressed her hand onto her heel only to realize the long yet somewhat thin piece of glass has lodged into the thick skin of her heel. Biting her lower lip, the woman took a hold of the splinter and pulled it out, feeling a quickening in her breath as she tore it from her skin. A few smaller shards pierced her skin though she had no time to fiddle with removing every minuscule piece.

Saena grasped into the lower portion of her thin tunic, which she'd taken from the vagabond as well, and tore it off only to wrap her bloodied heel in case she'd encounter an animal carrying screw worms. Her life was difficult at best and she was intending to make it easier on herself. It would be a shame if she died of a parasite after having slaughtered men twice her size and hoards of them with a mere stiletto and her swiftness to aid her.

Taking the boots, The young woman sauntered out of the alley and took a seat where the moon provided some generosity and the stars some light. She punched the boot from the inside to check the strength of the boot and slipped them back on. It was advisable that she keep off of higher than life roofs if she was ever to prevent another shard or splinter to foot encounter. Even if the raven haired fighter was strong or held quite a bit of stealth, she was still vulnerable to pain. Especially if it were something piercing her body without warning.

[ several hours later]

Daylight had chased the navy blue sky onto another hemisphere and so the rest of the world had awaken. Saena heard a hoard of shouting going about far from where she had fallen into deep sleep. She gripped onto her hip, noticing her weapon was still intact and looked around. No one had quite occupied this part of the village therefore she was surprisingly lucky to have not encountered any other thieves who may have wanted what she'd stolen. Though before she could release a sigh of relief, she groaned and pulled herself up from the ground and quickly hurried toward the crowd. She scurried into another alley and crouched down, too keep herself concealed.

Saena silently listened as the villagers spoke. Their voices sore from excessive shouting. They were discussing the loss of what the attackers had taken and it seemed a few were willing to call fighters in order to keep their village safe. She scoffed and closed her eyes, slipping away to take her into the nearby woods. She climbed a tree to the top and sat atop a branch before pulling her weapon from the belt around her waist. She poked the bark and laughed to herself, knowing the ridiculous situation, but also keeping in mind that herself alone was not enough to track down and kill those who cause harm to her village. Even though she'd be willing to take up a heroic yet highly unrealistic act, she wouldn't mind watching the towns people wallow in their death due to the fact this cursed village had removed her from her parents.

Despite her anger, she'd found sanctuary in the village thus she would be just as bad as those who harm for their unnecessary-to-be-replenished needs and that was not what she expected of herself.

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As Tavaron stood there, thoughts swirling through his mind about what his next step could be, he felt something warm run down right leg. He pressed his free hand against the cloth above his wound and realised it had started bleeding freely again. It must have been the scrap with those beggars. He thought as he took his hand away and looked at the faint layer of blood that sat on it. Luckily for him, Tavaron’s clothes were a deep red anyway so he quickly wiped his hand clean on his trouser leg. I’m going to have to find something, and somewhere, to bind it closed again. It’s probably the best I can do for now.


A shout from his right suddenly caught his attention and he looked across, over the saddle of his horse, to see an elf scrambling across to him from an alley. Tavaron was immediately suspicious, thinking back to the beggars, but the elf’s eyes spoke of innocence. He didn’t know if it was because the elf was an elf, but he felt like he could naturally trust him, and it had brought him an opportunity. He listened as the elf offered to take him to the nearest infirmary but Tavaron shook his head.


“I thank you for the offer, but I’m afraid I have no coin to spend on a Healer.†He said, intending to simply walk on and forget about the elf. But the elf didn’t stop looking at him, so he decided to stop. Ignoring the pain that throbbed in his side, he quickly assessed the elf from head-to-toe.


The clothes he wore blended with trees and grass, so Tavaron guessed he spent a lot of time in the forest. Match that with the bow and quiver he had looped across his shoulder, it was likely that the elf was a hunter of some description. The long, smooth, brown hair on his head looked dull in comparison to Tavaron’s own fiery colour, but Tavaron but his amber eyes matched somewhat with Tavaron’s own golden ones. Tavaron also noticed that either the elf didn’t recognise the King’s seal carved into the cuirass on his chest, or he was choosing to ignore it. Regardless of that fact, he decided to continue.


“But you might be able to help me. You wouldn’t happen to know somewhere I can stay the night for free, would you? Where I can tether my horse close by?â€

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