A Rogue's Tales: The Ties That Bind

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#3 - The wild

Soon as the rains slow Carr’s shivering starts.

Scouring the area for anything that’ll still burn he finds enough semi-dry wood for a small fire. Protected by the opening in the rock Carr sits to ease the shivers with a small smoky fire.

By midnight the rains pass taking Carr’s chills. Though still damp he begins to nod off.

“Snap,” a stick breaks nearby, giving Carr’s heart a jolt.

He scans the dark woods, Bressi tries to sniff the air but the wind flows towards the noise.

Making only the slightest of sounds he carefully eases the sword from its’ sheath. Glancing back he tries to discern if the steed detects anything.

“Crack,” an old branch breaks.

Bressi becomes agitated. Carr rises to move in front of the fire and allow his eyes to better adjust to the dark. “Who’s out there?”

Bressi’s ears perk up. She backs up in the shelter, making Carr nervous. The sounds of something two legged is moving slowly towards them.

Carr yells in Orc, “What do you want?” Easily understood by most races.

A smell as foul as a hundred unwashed feet wafts in, Bressi snorts with disgust, Carr almost gags.

From the shadows steps a big figure, threatening in Ogre, “Your shit, your horse or your life.”

Carr doesn’t need to know exactly what was said, studying the fifteen stone Ogre, at least ten spans tall. Carrying what appears to be a small tree over his shoulder. In a threatening motion it steps closer sizing up the small, young Human.

Gulping Carr takes notice. That’s no tree, that’s a spiked club as big as me. He takes a couple deep breaths in an attempt to stay calm.

Ogres only give up after victory, maiming or death and it isn’t scared of Carr.

The Ogre steps closer, Carr readies as they are almost in striking distance of each other.

The Ogre takes another step, Carr rushes in with a hard wild swing. Pivoting out of the way the Ogre swings his club. The sword grazes the Ogre’s midsection as they pass leaving a minor cut. The club connects with Carr’s back, no spikes pierce him but the force sends him sailing hard into a large tree, dislodging the long-sword from his grip.

On the ground and winded Carr feels for the blade. Quickly moving in the Ogre grabs Carr by his long hair flinging him back.

Connecting hard with rock Carr is dazed and winded. Shakily Carr searches for his daggers.

Laughing manically, the Ogre moves closer pointing the spiked club at Carr. “Now you die little man.”

Not hearing or understanding the Ogre only sees a double image of it raising the club overhead for a fatal blow. Carr pulls forth a dagger mustering his strength and focus, whipping the dagger towards the Ogre’s head, sadly aiming at the wrong head.

As the Ogre starts to swing, Carr’s thrown blade manages to strike the Ogre’s weapon hand. The blade tip dives into the Ogre’s thumb, momentarily pinning it to the club. The Ogre’s opposing force allows the dagger to sever the thumb. Following through the club escapes the wielder’s grip, gouging Carr’s left arm coverings as it slams down.

The Ogre screams out in pain, Carr grabs a handful of dirt getting on his feet.

Turning pain to anger the Ogre rushes, letting the dirt fly Carr blinds and avoids the Ogre.

Hoping to use the large club Carr bends over to pick it up, but its way too heavy for him. The Ogre aggressively flails its’ arms about, trying to connect with the young male, only stumbling into each other.

Carr is knocked aside by his foe’s sheer size. Losing balance and tripping on a big piece of rock the Ogre falls hard face first on the ground.

Seizing the opportunity Carr swiftly jumps on its’ back, drawing out his last dagger driving the blade deep into the back of the Ogre’s neck. Twisting the blade Carr severs the brain stem.

The Ogre’s body convulses violently shaking Carr off. Rolling to the side Carr watches the body until it stops moving.

Kicking the Ogre to make sure it’s dead Carr leans over to pluck out his dagger. Wiping the blade off on the Ogre’s shirt Carr returns the dagger to its sheath.

Trying to calm down he stumbles backwards into his collected wood accidentally kicking it into the fire.

“Easy, relax,” Taking a deep breath to finish calming, he sits. Watching the small flames dance about in the fire he carefully removes pieces that haven’t caught fire.

Getting comfortable enough to relax he allows sleep to finally take over.

Chirping birds wake Carr, opening an eye to smoldering ashes.

Shaking his head to snap to, notices the woods are beginning to lighten. Just a few paces away Bressi is eating what ever she can find.

Stretching while looking around sees the fallen foe. Curious if the Ogre has anything of value he gets up with a big noisy yawn.

Checking out the Ogre’s fatal wound Carr pulls back its heavy hide shirt collar, spotting a gold chain.

Gagging on a foul stench that pours out he turns away as his eyes water from the vapors.

Releasing the collar he kicks it in the side, “Ah, baluck! You stinky bastard! You’re barely dead.”

Turning to spit frequently the stench lingers on his tongue.

Seeing a Bay Berry tree Carr snags a leaf immediately chewing on it, “better.” Starring at the Ogre shaking his head, “I can’t believe that smell,” sighing, “I can’t believe I’m gonna search this guy?”

Taking in a deep breath Carr runs at the Ogre, going in with momentum to roll the heavy body. He grabs its’ shoulder and sides lifting at the same time. Getting the body partially up puts his own shoulder and weight against the Ogre’s stiffening body. Digging in with his feet, a big grunt and heave Carr manages to roll the male over with a thud.

Landing across the Ogre’s body, Carr pushes up to get off, forgetting not to breath, inhaling a lungful of the stench.

Now puking up the last of the venison stew Carr moves back. Getting some good air and another leaf to let things settle.

The loud vomiting causes Bressi to stop and watch him, most of the small woodland creatures fled or went into hiding.

Approaching Bressi for his canteen Carr spots the first dagger stuck into the club, a bloody thumb lays nearby.

Plucking it out Carr wipes off the blade on the soul of is boot. Sheathing it Carr looks around, “Now I just need to find my sword.” He pats Bressi’s hindquarters, “Have you seen it girl?”

The horse pokes him with her nose getting his attention and moves forward.

However Carr’s trying to retrieve the canteen from the saddlebags, “Where are you going?” Look where she’s going they see the sword in a patch of weeds. “Oh. Thanks Bressi, you’re a good girl.” Patting her neck as he moves in front of her, “Really smart, good girl. Yes you are.”

Her head seems to nod yes like she already knew that, getting Carr to chuckle.

Having removed the sheath from his back Carr gasps, “Oh, there’s a crack in it.” Following the crack he gasps again, “Ah, damn it! There’s a hole right through it.” Certain it came from the blow to his back. “Well at least its still in one piece.” Inserting the long-sword blade in, he shows it to Bressi. “Hey its alright.”

Disinterested Bressi goes back to nibbling, Carr slings the sword onto his back and goes for the canteen and a bit of rations.

Now feeling ready to check out the Ogre, Carr spots a rusty, sword in a matching sheath tied around the side. Tied to the sheath strap a small filthy pouch. It contains coins, which he opens to find eleven copper coins. Not much but adds them to his, “It’ll at least pay for dinner,” looking at his on the ground.

Stepping back for fresher air Carr uses the long sword to open the Ogre’s shirt to view the necklace.

Returning the blade Carr notices the necklace’s long thick gold chain has a finely crafted, platinum medallion hanging from it. Holding his breath goes in for a closer look at it.

“A Medallion of Protection.” Finding and opening the chain’s clasp Carr pulls it from around the Ogre’s neck.

Stepping back to check its’ markings closely, a smile slowly crosses his face. Laughing, Carr uselessly points out to the dead male, “Stupid Ogre, this is meant to protect those of good heart, it’s a curse to evil souls like you.” He studies the medallion, “Better for me.”

Carr hesitates before trying it on. For the first time in a few years he’s curious if all the stealing, lying, and killings have corrupted his soul.

Thinking of what respected elders have said to him and certain the Gods know intentions were good on jobs taken. Shrugging he tries it on, looking about with squinted eyes waits to see if anything bad happens to him.

Pushed, Carr stumbles forward, “Hey!” Staying upright he turns to see its Bressi, nudging him. “Oh are you telling me its time to get going?”

Bressi nods once, getting Carr to laugh.

The sun has risen far enough to illuminate the area. The niche they stopped in is part of a long rock shelf and the start of the Ildihom Mountain range.

Knowing only that the mountain pass is to the west Carr leads Bressi northwest. Making their way up the increasingly rocky terrain.

Mid morning Carr reaches a high cliff base leading up to one of the ranges highest peaks. Unfortunately he’s too close, to see the top.

Following the base they happen across an animal trail winding up the mountainside.

Turning into the hardest part of his journey. The trail follows a section of the mountainside that has the appearance it tried to separate, long ago.

After every rough section they carefully traverse the tree coverage lessens. Each level starts with an outlook point, close to tight groups of tall standing rock. Most stand taller than him and contain exposed yellow and pink crystalline veins.

Reaching the sixth and final level, the trail continues amongst thick brush and sparse trees. Enjoying the view Carr takes a break.

Identifying an eastern peak he figures they’ve still a ways to go before finding the mountain pass. Looking back down the way they came Carr marvels at natures’ simple beauty. He can see each level of the standing rocks almost in a straight line. The noontime sunlight catches the occasional crystalline vein producing glittery flashes.

Towards the south he can barely make out the towns of Lahfee and Ingleside, they look only a stone’s throw from each other. Ahn isn’t visible to him but he knows where it is, south of that, home. He waves that way incase Ma is actually watching.

Seeing the blue green of the great swamp he follows it east to the ocean. A deep blue covers everything past the coastal Akemi mountain range.

Ready to carry on Carr speaks to Bressi taking her rein, “Great path. Hope we can find it again.”

The trail eventually comes to a fork, heading up east or down and west. Staying true to course they head west.

Carr thinks about stories told of an old green Dragon that lives in this range and of course Giants have been here for centuries. Though never seeing any such beings here before, Carr still constantly and carefully checks about.

Ahead the path turns around a rock formation. Carr’s heightened senses make out a faint noise and Bressi wants to back up.

Cautious, he ties Bressi to a tree and stealthily scouts out the path ahead.

Nearing a bend the chilling sound of flesh being torn from bone and eaten makes it to his ears.

Hesitating he locating the source, behind a large rock formation.

Driven by sheer curiosity Carr picks his movements and coverage getting closer to see what kind of beast is up here, with him.

“Crack! Snap!” A large bone breaks, followed by an awful sucking sound.

Looking up Carr prays. Great Chislev beautiful guardian of the earth, please let this be one of your fury predators and not a Dragon outside its den. Although I would like to find an unoccupied lair.

Holding up behind a tree trunk Carr can see something past a large pine tree moving, tan in color, in a small area behind the rock formation. Sure it’s a big cat eating something, Carr dares to get closer. Deciding to risk crossing the path, to the pine tree.

Quickly he darts across while the beast is tearing a piece of flesh off. The tree’s branches hang too low to hide under quietly.

A span out too far, he sees there’s brush on the other side of the tree obscuring the creature. Carr does manage to see the tail of a cat whip out briefly.

Certain it’s a mountain lion and feeling exposed Carr decides to creep back. Hesitating him something flashes by the corner of his eye. Was that a really big wing?

Taking a second look he can’t see properly. It’s a big cat eating a big bird, but bird bones don’t break like the one I heard.

Wanting the cover of the main rock formation, just a long jump away, Carr waits but a second. As the beast digs in and begins to remove more flesh, Carr dashes to the rocks. Catching a glimpse of something he needs to process first.

Back against the rocky wall replays the sighting in his head, a giant mountain lion, with a huge black and grey mane and a big pair of folded feathered wings.

Unknown to Carr the breeze created dashing past was enough to alert the creature. Silently leaping atop the formation, it sits curiously watching the young Human.

What the hell was that? The color starts to leave Carr’s face. A Manticore? I’m done for. No it can’t be?

Hoping not to have encountered a wild, evil creature he cautiously peeks around the corner. He sees only a partially eaten mountain goat, sprawled across a large flat rock. Blood from the animal is all over.

Quickly putting his back to the formation, Carr feels like being stared through. Scanning the area he realizes the creature is probably above. Carr’s hand slowly moves for the sword hilt.

Stopping Carr, the creature sternly growls out an old Human language, “Do it and die.”

A language not used anymore, but was taught to Carr in case he should happen across ancient books or scrolls. Today those lessons are going to aid him. Slowly extending fingers and distancing the hand from sword, Carr turns around while looking up.

Sitting out of easy striking distance, as big as a draft horse a winged lion. A very, large head crowned with bushy graying black hair, framing a Human like face. His long beard and mustache soaked with blood and patches of goat fur. It’s able to hear Carr’s heart rate increasing and fear beginning to emanate is smelt.

Feeling Carr is no real threat the creature asks. “Up here, alone, why?”

Thanking Chislev for this being a creature of some intelligence Carr shakily replies, “Crossing over for Monsteil city.” He’s unsure if speaking correctly.

The creature understands and believes him but the armor and young age make him wonder what he’s up too. “Dark, Dragon scale armor, why?” He points with a bloody black claw tipped paw. “Soft boots, Monsteil city, why?”

Surprised by the beings’ observation, Carr pauses wondering how to respond. “I cause worry?”

Like a big cat he starts cleaning his face, “Yes.”

Carr wonder’s why a monster sized beast would worry about him. “I want thing from Monsteil. Go home remove crops.”

Thinking about what was said and not seeing Carr as a farmer, the creature cocks his head cutting to the chase, “You thief? Yes. Hhmm?”

Beads of sweat form, Carr fears answering, “Ah, um… In some eyes.”

Unhappy with the reply, the creature stares menacingly into Carr’s soul. “Tell me what you seek.”

Feeling faint Carr squeaks out, “Two rings.”

The answer honest, the creature wonders if he still has to worry about Carr, simply and calmly asking. “Explain? Please.”

Still hoping to get out of this alive, Carr speaks slowly in an attempt to plead his case to gain safe passage. “King Darvel, sent men south, demanding, coin from people, for protection from his men.”

He knows about tributes paid to leaders or you could be beaten, robbed, killed or jailed. Finding jail the most distasteful the being motions with its’ paw to go on.

“Ah, alright,’’ Carr’s pulse slows some going on, “they found my farm, only my mother…”

“They hurt your mother, you want revenge?” The creature interrupts.

“No.” Carr tells him, “ Mother said there was no coin. They throw things looking for coin. Take two nice swords and two rings. Swords, ah,” Carr shrugs. “Rings important. I must get back.”

Taking in Carr’s story the creature sees his quest as believable and foolhardy. “You two legged creatures always risking life for things. My concern, killing for fun or wealth.”

Carr automatically thinks there’s treasure nearby, but is more concerned with walking away for now, “Oh, I do not seek your treasure. I thought Manticores only stories.”

Offended the beast stands stretching out his great spanning wings darkening Carr, while roaring out, “No Manticore!”

Carr’s mouth drops figuring he’s just pissed off something more dangerous. He speculates the odds of at least fending it off, “Sorry. I do not know, sorry.”

Seeing Carr scared, the creature sits calmly, “I Lammasu,” Pointing at his puffed out chest.

Close to collapse, Carr exhales deeply. “Lam,ma,su got it.” He wants to know the unseen near future, “You play before killing?”

“I kill to eat and protect home.” Resting on the rocks he finishes cleaning up. “You worry me not.” He points towards Monsteil, “You die there I think.”

Insulted but Carr’s glad to know he’s not going to get torn to pieces. “You let me go?”

“You make promise?” The Lammasu asks.

Seeing the light at the end of the cavern, Carr eagerly answers, “Yes.”

The creature firmly states. “Never speak of me. Never look for me. Leave this area soon.”

“Yes, I promise,” Carr stands stretching out his hand to seal the promise.

Strangely the Lammasu stretches its’ face out sniffing at Carr’s hand, sitting back, “I know where you live,” He points directly towards the unseen farmhouse, “If I smell you, around here, after today. Or feel you did wrong to me. I will find and kill you.” He says without actually meaning it, “I do not find you. I find your mother.”

“No need for that.” Carr sighs once more, “The mountain road is west?”

The Lammasu shakes his head at the idea of a young male lost in the mountains. “Yes stay west. East no good for you.”

“Oh, thank you kind being.” Carr has to ask. “Why east no good?”

The Lammasu stands stretching out body and wings, “Giants.”

Carr whispers, “Giants?”

“Yes, Giants,” the being replies, joking at the boy’s age and small size, “They take you home as play thing for children.”

Not liking that idea Carr pictures being fought over by two giant kids and losing a limb.

Disinterested in Carr, the being leaps into the air flapping its huge wings, blowing Carr’s hair back.

Flying up the mountainside the Lammasu crests the summit vanishing from sight. In awe Carr stands reflecting before returning to Bressi.

After that the afternoon slipped by pleasantly as their new found trail eventually leads them to the main mountain pass.

Reaching the highest point by early evening, Carr takes a last look south, waving back to Mother at home. A silly gesture, his father made on their first trip over the range.

Turning north and starting to descend, he looks past the Tirion valley, to a row of independent mountains. To the far northwest the last peak barely peeks over the curved horizon.

A Ship on Cabe lake sailing to the village of Seri, looks like a speck on the calm water’s surface, it’s white wake seems a mere ripple.

Glancing down, the city of Monsteil is almost recognizable. The Castle Monsteil north of the city seems like a boulder perched dangerously close to the cliff edge.

Too high to really tell but no one seems to be traveling on the roads.

Barely finding a well used camp-sight as the mountainside darkens, Carr stops for the night. Deciding not to light any fire to draw attention.

Tonight he sits upon a rock gnawing on rations and enjoying the view.

The city slowly begins lighting torches individual flames can’t be seen by Carr. After awhile the enclosed city glows like a distant candle.

Extending his arm and hand flat out, pretends to hold the now tiny city of Monsteil in the palm of his hand. Threatening to drop them down the mountainside if the rings are not returned to him.

Laughing at himself thinks of the story, of how the great stonewalls of Monsteil came to be.

After the walls were completed Carr’s father, just a small boy at the time, was taken by his father to the city. Telling him each time they went how the walls were built. Carr has only heard the story a few times.

During his grandfather’s days, the Darvel family was at war with northern Orc and Hobgoblin clans. They were trying to take over the region all the way down to the Great Swamp.

The Ildihom clan of Giants didn’t want that to happen but were not yet a target. Choosing to sit up in the mountains much like where Carr is. They watched repeated attacks on the once open city. A castle once stood there and was said to have survived twenty sieges during its life.

The surrounding Kingdoms having lost too many men to the conflict, couldn’t risk leaving their territories open to attack.

The Orc’s were to receive aid from a few bored clans southwest of the Great Swamp. Traveling north those bored Orcs encountered the Giants on the mountain range and tried to force their hand into choosing a side.

The Giants not wishing to join them started a battle with the southern clans. Destroying half the southern clans, the surviving Orcs did make it past. Joining up with the northern clans readying for a large scale, assault on Monsteil.

After having lost many good people the Giants received a request from King Darvel’s father, hoping they’d help fend off the next assault. The Giants weren’t interested in losing any more people.

They were informed if the Orcs could fell Monsteil, the Orc, Hobgoblin and Goblin clan leaders, of the rest of the northern continent, would commit their warriors to spread out destroying anything not with them; until the northern continent could be taken.

Unsure of the truth the Giants said they would have to think it over. The King returned unhappy to his castle, figuring it’s just him and his worn army. He sent all unable to fight down the eastern road to make a weeklong trek to King Halford’s City, south of the Great Swamp.

Days later the clans came from two directions the west and north. As Darvel readied his army the Giants decided to help. The older Giants, too slow to fight, knocked stone piles free from the mountainsides. The women with older kids would toss the heavy stones and small boulders closer to Monsteil. Awaiting capable Giants hurled them at the clans.

The strange distraction unnerved the advancing clans. King Darvel and his men cheered and chanting excited to have the Giant’s aid.

That afternoon hundreds of Orcs and Hobgoblins were crushed to death. The clans in the valley never made it up the cliffs. Most fled complaining Darvel wasn’t fighting fair. That humorous piece of information caused Darvel and the Giants to try and help one another.

As a gesture of good will the Giants aided in building the walls. A pack of Dwarf stonecutters cut the rocks to fit, the Giants would place them.

With the walls progressing smoothly the Dwarves challenged the Giants to help build the tallest and strongest wall seen by any creature with eyes. The Giants actually enjoying the project were easily coaxed. Darvel certainly wasn’t going to stop them. By the next fall they had completed the wall.

A grand ceremony was held, people of neighboring tribes, towns and Kingdoms showed up. All leaders were impressed by the effort put out by three different races. That literally couldn’t see eye to eye.

As the celebration dragged into the early morning, a few of the Giants, not experienced drinkers, began drunkenly wrestling with each other. One Giant tossed another, crashing him into the old Monsteil castle destroying a tall spire.

King Darvel’s men, also intoxicated, tried to stop the Giants from wrestling inside the city walls. As alcohol clouds the mind the situation took a turn for the worst.

Feeling as they weren’t welcome in the city, the Giants became agitated and demolished the castle.

A foolish battle started between the Giants and Darvel’s conscious men. A needless bloody fight lasting until the sun came up.

Its’ citizens and visitors fled in fear of being crushed. Monsteil city was in ruins and the King and Giants lost many people.

The new walls were barely damaged, but it took years to rebuild most of the dwellings, and three years to build the new castle, that now sits on the edge of the cliff.

The Giants returned to the mountain range never to involve themselves in the affairs of others again.

Old King Darvel realized alcohol was the demise of their alliance and never pursued the Giants, despite the requests of widows and merchants.

A.R.T. The Ties That Bind Chapter # 3 Complete

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