A Rogue's Tales: The Ties That Bind

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#6 - Getting home

“Hey thief!” Barks someone.

Feeling poked in the throat Carr’s eyes open seeing his own cold, steel blade under the chin. The hilt firmly grasped in the gauntlet of a tall, sturdy guard, that’s studying him.

A younger bearded male stands off to the side, astonished some young punk dared and almost succeeded in stealing from their King Darvel.

Pointing to the backpack the guard with the sword applies pressure to the blade, “Is that all you took?”

The second man kneels examining its contents.

“Yeah,” Carr looks him in the eye.

The tall guard sternly inquires. “Did you kill the men in town?”

The second man looks over waiting for a response, seeing Carr just nods yes, gets him agitated, “We gonna kill him?”

Poking Carr’s throat the guard attempts to figure something out, “We were told a lone male broke into King Darvel’s Affairs building, stealing the entire tax collection, and killed a few men in doing so.”

Carr attempts to explain.

“Sshhh.” The guard hushes him continuing the thought, “We were the first of the riders on your ass, and found your horse grazing along the trail. It’s saddlebags empty, two shoes thrown and a bad split in one of the hooves. My question for you is, how many of you thieves were involved?”

Maintaining eye contact Carr answers in a raspy voice, “Just me.”

“He’s lying.” Utters the second male, “Sir, its’ just a regular pack. And there’s only a small part of what was told to be stolen.”

“That’s the problem Philip,” the guard points out, “only one horse left the city. There’s no way that horse could carry the whole collection. I’d say from the split hoof, the horse was struggling to carry our thief and his stolen goods. Somebody’s lying to us and I haven’t seen signs of anyone else out here.”

Philip stands, unsure of the problem, “What are you saying?”

Carr puts it out there, “Piate is the thief.”

A grin forms on the guard’s lips hearing that and says to Philip, “There it is. There’s more to the story than we’re aware.” The man eases pressure off the blade at Carr’s throat, “What have you to say? That will save your ass.”

“I didn’t come to steal the collection,” Carr states the facts honestly, “I came for two rings, by myself. In the Lord’s bedchambers, I found a chest. Over flowing with jewelry and precious stones.”

Philip gruffly dismisses him, “So, he gets paid well. What were you doing in his bed chambers, anyways?”

The tall guard rolls his eyes at the other male, “Go on. Tell me what you’re getting at?”

Realizing there’s a reasonable man holding the blade Carr humors them while planning an escape, “It looks like the Lord has been stealing for a long time. To have what I saw. It sounds like, I’m being used as cover for the whole collection going missing.”

Not wanting to believe a thief, Philip suggests. “Truth or not lets kill him and take the stash for ourselves.”

“If I wasn’t a sworn officer, I’d be tempted.” Tapping the bottom of Carr’s jaw with the sword tip, the guard points out. “What the both of you aren’t aware of is. Lord Piate and a few of his men are being watched. The King is always concerned about theft from his own people. For the last few months a couple of his selected men have been seen around the city spending more than they earn. So young thief you’re life could be spared if we take you back to the King to plead your case. Perhaps you’ll only be put in prison or maybe one of the work gangs for his Majesty’s mines.”

Not what Carr considers as a way to live out life, “I guess I don’t have any real choice, if I want to live.”

“See that Philip, he can be reasonable.” The guard grins seeing praise and reward in his future. Hoping if it’s true that Lord Piate is stealing, there’s a chance for advancement, if he can bring back the thief alive. “Bind his hand’s and we’ll take him back to King Darvel. He’ll decide the thief’s fate.”

“Alright,” sighs Philip sliding a satchel forward, “I don’t think he’s worth the effort.”

Becoming jittery Carr is thinking about bolting, risking a cut on the neck.

“Philip, you’re thinking to small.” The man continues his thought, “If the Lord is crooked. Us using this thief, we’ll be rewarded.”

Digging for a leather strap Philip pleads, “My God man there’s plenty reward, just sittin’ here.”

Chuckling the man points out. “Perhaps us returning what was only taken with the live thief and his story. Darvel will see our honesty and loyalty to his Kingdom. If the Lord is guilty he’ll surely be put to death and King Darvel will need to find a new man to collect taxes. Who better, than men he can trust.”

Pulling out a strap Philip processes the thought, walking towards Carr it sinks in, “Oh, I see. Tibor I knew there was a reason I listen to you. You become the new tax collector, I your captain and we compensate ourselves.”

Carr can’t argue with that logic, “I’d do it.”

“Bet you would,” Tibor motions to Philip to bind Carr, “Play nice thief and maybe I’ll spring you from jail once and awhile. I’m sure someday I could make use of your skills.”

Carr starts to stick his hands out, “Maybe someday.” Seizing the last good opportunity he flips backwards off the fallen tree landing on his feet and tears off. The tip of the sword only scratches his chin.

Being younger Philip gives chase still clutching the leather strap.

Tibor not wanting anything to happen to the treasure picks up the backpack and uses Carr’s long-sword as a walking stick briskly following. Not too worried knowing what they are running towards.

So do two other beings, sitting higher on the mountain, a pair of Giants. With nothing better to do, they have been watching most of the day.

Fearing capture over death Carr races through the mountainside brush, ducking and dodging leading the men further east. Philip stays close but just can’t gain any distance.

Traveling more than a league over the rough terrain Carr can’t hear his footfalls over his pounding heart and aching lungs.

Glancing back Philip is still in pursuit. Looking forward a knee, high tree root ahead and no time to alter course.

Carr jumps, easily clearing it. There just isn’t any ground on the other side. Carr’s eyes widen as he sails over a narrow but deep fissure in the mountainside.

The level of ground is higher on the other side. Slamming hard into the rocky edge with the bottom of his upper leg coverings. A couple of scale tips crack and scrape off. His left arm partially protects his face as the body hits ground skidding head first across a small clearing into a shrub.

Only seeing Carr jump over the root Philip leaps it too. Yelping in a high pitch noticing the fissure below.

Slamming chest height in to the rock surface Philip clutches mitts full of grass, and weeds to hold on.

Sore and wheezing Carr rolls over to see Philip pulling himself up. Thumping pain in Carr’s legs make it hard for him to stand.

Noticeably winded Philip struggles to upright himself. Panting Carr knows he can’t run any farther and Philip’s griping the hilt of his bastard-sword, this can only end with spilt blood. Missing the long-sword Carr draws the newly acquired short-sword.

High up and impressed the Humans cleared the fissure the Giants elbow one another, to pay attention. Both hoping an entertaining fight will take place.

Still half a league back Tibor tires from the heavy pack. Not wanting to leave it he slows up. Certain Philip has cornered or killed the thief at the fissure.

Sweaty, sore and short of breath the pair square off, sizing each other up. Carr recalls lessons taught in using a short blade, choosing to wait for his foe to make the first move.

Clearly agitated Philip feels he has a superior weapon and only needs a second. Rushing in Philip attempts to hack off Carr’s arm. Leaning back Carr deflects the blade with his, avoiding the strike.

Philip pivots following through, for a second swing. Carr jumps to the side slashing low, narrowly missed by Philips blade. Carr’s blade cuts into Philip’s pants leaving a very minor cut to the side of his thigh.

Angered by the nick, Philip begins a flurry of wild swings. Carr does his best to block and dodge the hefty blade.

Escaping another swing Philip kicks Carr in the stomach. Pushed back a step but not hurt, Carr steps back further.

Needing a breather Philip steps back, frustrated with the young thief.

Having heard the distant sound of clashing metal Tibor picks up his pace again. Focused on the fight the Giants don’t see Tibor approaching.

Out thinking Carr, Philip swiftly steps forward swinging up, Carr automatically attempts to block. The heavier sword knocks the short-sword free of Carr’s hand landing behind.

Seeing his chance Philip aggressively attacks. Carr tries to keep some distance eluding the dangerous advances.

Closing in, barely able to make out the dueling pair Tibor thinks his partner has it under control.

Drawing a dagger Carr has to swiftly jump aside coming close to losing a nose.

Philip turns striking down as Carr throws the dagger: missing Philip’s head. The blade of the bastard-sword chops through the scale armor slicing into the left, fleshy shoulder. The collarbone stops the blade.

In pain Carr cries out. Blood splatters across their faces as Philip grins pulling his sword out.

Philip attempts to thrust the sword through, Carr pivots out of the way digging for the second dagger.

Immediately Philip turns swinging for Carr’s stomach. Hopping back Carr watches the bastard-sword tip skip across the scales. The force of the blade pulls its wielder. Philip’s arms continue to move back twisting him off balance.

Staggering away Philip loses control tossing his weapon before hitting the ground. The back of his shoulder connects with a rock as his body flops to the ground. The bastard-sword skips off the ground then down the fissure, ting-tanging its way to the bottom.

Trying to get up Philip shakes his head. Carr hesitates noticing something’s not right. A look of panic crosses the man’s face, as all his muscles stiffen.

Excited by the spectacle and wondering why Carr doesn’t finish the man, one of the Giants almost yells out, but is stopped by his buddy.

Reaching the fissure Tibor sees they’re on the other side. Quiet and curious he watches from the shadows removing his gauntlets.

Clenching his jaw tight enough to crack bad teeth, Philip’s body totally stiffens before jerking several times. The panicked look washes off his face, with all color. Philip collapses exhausting out his last breath.

Wondering what happened all stare motionless at Philip. Carr looks curiously up to the heavens, inspiring the others.

Cautiously approaching Philip, Carr mumbles. “What the hell?” Bending down pinches the man’s ear, checking for a reaction, “What happened?” Feeling the blood run from the pulsating wound down his body, “I’ve got the worst of it.” Now he gets that feeling of being watched. Maybe there’s a magic-user out there. I wonder what they’d want with me? Trying not to look obvious Carr scans the surroundings seeing a silhouette across the fissure.

Carr speaks hoping to figure out who is standing there, “Thanks, but it wasn’t needed. I had him, right where I wanted him.”

“It wasn’t me,” Tibor steps from the shadows.

Almost forgetting about him the Giants nod, seeing more entertainment.

Figuring he’s got a minute Carr looks for a weapon, “Hey, I didn’t kill your friend.”

“I saw,” Tibor still wants to bring him in breathing, “but no one is going to believe it. Your charges will be the murder of three of the King’s men and grandous theft. I’m sure you didn’t kill Philip. I am, however gonna lay a beaten on you for it. Then your gonna help get his body back.”

Spotting the short-sword Carr inches towards it, “You must really want to be the new tax collector?”

“Aye,” Tibor tries to make a deal, “like I said before, plead your case. I’ll see that you’re only jailed, instead of being put to death.”

Bending down to pick up the sword Carr replies. “I’d rather be put to death.”

Realizing the thief is about to flee again, Tibor places a magical ring on his finger, “Give it up thief. Hey, I’m not chasing you all over this mountainside.”

He inserting the sword into its sheath, “Then don’t.” With a smile and wave good-bye Carr takes off.

Backing up Tibor runs at the tree root, lifting off the ground by the aid of the magic ring. Springing off the root he easily clears the fissure even with the heavy pack. Landing squarely he drops the old long-sword and races after Carr quickly gaining ground.

Glancing back Carr’s amazed to see how fast Tibor is. Unable to out run him, Carr draws the sword while turning to face Tibor.

Noticing Carr turning to attack, Tibor leaps through the air. Catching Carr off guard, Tibor lands a flying forearm to Carr’s chest. As they go down the blade of the short-sword slices across Tibor’s fingers.

With the added weight of the pack Tibor lands hard, almost cracking both their ribs. Hitting the ground the short-sword is tossed and Tibor’s ring falls off unnoticed.

Crossing Carr’s arms over his chest, Tibor pins them knelling on top, “Had to run!” He says angry, laying a flurry of punches to Carr’s head, “Got Philip killed! Ran again! Stupid Bastard! I hope you, like pain, cause that’s, what you’re gonna get, for the rest, of your life!”

Satisfied with the beating Tibor contends with his pinned satchel to retrieve a leather strap. Defeated Carr debates wondering, what’s better, jail, pain or death.

Discouraged by no more swordplay, one of the Giants wants to help. Holding a rock in one hand he points at Tibor. His buddy takes the rock and sets it down. Being curious to see if the small Human can escape before getting to the city.

Finding a strap Tibor binds Carr’s wrists, “Now we’re going back for Philip’s body. You’re responsible for his death you can carry him.”

“With my hands tied?”

Tibor forces Carr up by the wrists, “He can hang over your shoulder. Now go.”

Returning Tibor notices he’s lost his ring, if it wasn’t for the thief and Philip he’d go looking for it. Annoyed he shoves Carr aside to pick up Philip’s body.

Folding Philip over Carr’s right shoulder Tibor pushes Carr to continue east knowing a different way to get off the mountain.

Seeing the long-sword Tibor picks it up reusing it as a walking stick.

Slowly navigating the path, weighted down Carr struggles passing over a log he easily cleared twice already.

Feeling dizzy Tibor wipes sweat from his brow.

Getting over the log Carr carries on.

Tibor has to force his legs to move. Hoisting a leg over the log Tibor losses balance, crashing to the ground.

Carr turns to see what happened. Tibor is convulsing like Philip did.

“Hey!” Carr calls to Tibor, “Hey, you alright?”

The only reply from Tibor is his dying breath.

Concerned for his own wellbeing Carr looks about approaching Tibor. Kicking Tibor’s nose sees no movement so he drops Philip’s body.

Using his teeth unties the leather strap.

Free and curious Carr searches their bodies for signs of death. Finding only the cuts on Tibor’s fingers and barely a cut on Philip’s leg.

Taking the backpack off Tibor, Carr gingerly seats the strap over the wounded left shoulder, his arm almost useless. Though the wound needs attention Carr feels watched.

Casually retrieving his long-sword and not wanting to try jumping the fissure, Carr quietly continues east. Listening hard and hesitating over any noise, even sniffing the air, as he ambles along.

The Giants unsure of what happened are still content with the day’s entertainment. They decide to check things out in the morning light. Getting up the pair wander off unnoticed.

Walking along Carr wonders what happened. Is someone watching over me? Did they have a deadly disease? Am I next?

Oh good I don’t have to even look for it. Passing the spot where Tibor flattened him, Carr observes the short-sword laying on a patch of stones. Bending down wipes the blade off, on his boot before sheathing it.

Climbing over a patch of boulders Carr grows weary. Though higher up the mountain he’s still along way from crossing the range.

Coming across a small, mossy clearing with a tiny spring running through it, Carr rests.

Gingerly takes off the pack, swords, armor, and shirt. The weight of the pack slowed blood-loss, but he’s still lost much.

Tugging out a wrap from his full pack, he unrolls it.

Wanting to put the healing herbs on the wound they end up in the gapping wound. He almost passes out from seeing his own collarbone.

Wrapping the wound as best as possible he takes a drink and fills the canteen. Needing energy to continue Carr eats any bugs within the reach of his right arm.

Thinking of something his favorite cleric told him to do regularly but was thought a waste of time. With the warmth of the sun he leans against a boulder and closes the eyes to try meditation.

Oh Violetta I wish you were here. He prays in hopes she’ll hear. I can’t cauterize the wound until I get over the range to start a fire. Yes I did something bad but it was for Ma. He wonders with the blood that’s lost if he can survive another three days. By that time, his arm will have to be removed.

With all that he’s went through on little sleep, and the couple of pints of blood missing, the meditation becomes more than that, falling into a deep slumber.

A draft stirs him from sleep, cracking open an eye he focuses on the plant-life around him. Noticing the sun is low in the western sky.

Behind Carr a familiar voice growls in the old human language, “You break promise made.”

Heart pounding and eyes now open Carr turns his head slowly eyeing the Lammasu, “Sorry, great one, Men hunting me, my horse gone.”

“Horse?” The Lammasu asks, “Small, brown, leather saddle and bags?”

“Yes,” Carr smiles, “Bressi. Did you see her?”

Eyes showing signs of guilt, the Lammasu struggles to reply, “I, am Sorry. Found horses tied to tree, wife and kids hungry…”

“No, no, no,” Carr is overrun with emotions.

Nodding slightly the Lammasu sighs trying to apologize, “Very sorry, I did not know. Mountain is covered in men. Figured it was theirs.”

“Why? How? I had her seven years.” Sad, frustrated and feeling defeat coming on Carr fights back tears, “Good horse, why? What about your goat? Eat Bressi bad. Just kill me now. I die here anyway.”

Seeing Carr like a Human child, the Lammasu feels bad, “No need for that little man. Maybe I can help you? Some meat or…” He hesitates not wanting to offer a special service that would be embarrassing to his kind and alike.

“No food,” Carr releases a long sigh.

“I make you, one time only, promise.” The Lammasu takes a deep breath, in disbelief of what he’s about to offer the young human, “You must tell no one, ever, what I offer.”

“Offer?” Carr listens to what he has to say.

“When the sun sets. I take you to town.” He points behind them, “South, Ingleside, yes.”

“Ingleside?” Picturing Violetta, Carr hopes the creature is not messing with him, “You can get me to Ingleside? Really? How?”

The Lammasu sigh, “I can, before dawn.” In a stern tone he reminds Carr, “Yes. Never speak it. You keep promise.”

A faint glimmer of hope returns to Carr, “You can get me to Ingleside, before dawn?”

Insulted by the question but he proudly states. “Alone there and back in minutes.”

Carr’s intrigued, “Sure, if you can. You would save me. I would owe you great. I promise, I never met you.”

“Good.” Pointing at his chest, “I, Kryston, elder Lammasu. Who you?”

“Kryston, I Carr, loyal rogue.”

Raising a fuzzy brow at the title Kryston asks. “You are thief hmm. Life worth risking for shiny coins?” Pointing out his blood soaked wrap. “I smell you all over. Easy to find.”

Startled by the sight Carr reaches for his pack, “Rings worth it.”

“Not dead in mountains.” Noticing the heavy backpack, Kryston tests his character, “Much gold, can not take you and gold.” Knowing full well he can.

Carr freezes to ponder aloud, “Not much gold. Gems and jewelry.” Showing a few of the bags inside, “I need off mountain more. Can I take some gems?”

Not surprised by his reply, Kryston queries, “Why?”

Speaking truthfully Carr explains digging out the last wrap, “winter supplies.” He points at the armor, “new suit, boots. Ma needs boots, some blankets.”

For the first time in Kryston’s twelve hundred seventy eight years, he’s found a Human he finds interesting, “Blankets? Kill animals, use furs.”

Changing the shoulder dressing Carr nods sharing his view, “Killed many as kid, not good for spirit. Like you only kill if needed. A ranger taught me respect nature, it keeps us alive.”

Kryston is impressed, “If your word true. Flying you to Ingleside good idea for both.”

“Oh yes, true,” he answers slowly clueing in, “fly? Fly to Ingleside?”

Kryston stretches out his wings smiling, “Yes fly.” He sits back down, “At night. Many armed men on mountain. We wait for night. You tell me about your journey.”

Glad to tell tales to anyone who’ll listen Carr finishes the dressing while talking. Starting from the day he came home to find out the Lord Piate and his men had ransacked the farmhouse. Embellishing the story inside the city of Monsteil, while suiting up, he leaves out the fall from the window.

Enjoying the tale Kryston doesn’t care if Carr’s enhanced it, the diversion in life is welcomed.

As the sun finally sets they discuss what happened with the previous men. The Lammasu shares his opinions on Wights and Specters but points to the short-sword suggesting the blade could be poisoned.

Both are unsure of the sword’s markings and think its’ best to treat the blade carefully.

Stretching out his body and wings Kryston yawns out, “You ready?”

“Yes,” answering unsure of what to expect Carr stands looking at his pack.

Catching him Kryston doesn’t care having been entertained, “You can bring it.”

A sly grin forms, “Yeah? You sure?” It disappears as Carr pictures dropping down the mountain. “Can you still fly?”

Waving his paw aside Kryston replies. “We good, no worry.”

“K-then,” Carr struggles to get it on with one arm.

Kryston watches the boy, “Your arm no good?”

Checking the arms ability Carr can grip and move the forearm with discomfort. The arm can’t lift at the shoulder and pain shoots across the shoulder ever time he tries, “Need healer, one in Ingleside.”

Not wanting to lose Carr while merely taking off Kryston warns, “You hang on tight, two hands. Or flat you be.”

He gets the pack in place, “I will.”

“Good.” The Lammasu instructs him, “Sit on my shoulder. Hold tight to mane for take off and landing. When we glide try not to move much.”

Sliding the long-sword through the pack straps, Carr nods. “No worry I hold tight.”

“Your life, you best.” Crouching near Carr, Kryston points to his back hoping nobody is watching. “Climb on.”

Carefully Carr sits on Kryston’s shoulder grabbing up a couple thick, locks of the mane. “We good?”

The Lammasu positions his body like a cat about to pounce, “Hold tight.”

Springing up Kyrston leaps high into the air, Carr grips tighter than he realizes. Not affected Kryston beats his huge wings strongly, climbing high into the evening sky.

Carr can’t believe what he’s feeling torn between fear and excitement. He can see for thousands of leagues around except past Kyston’s large head and flowing mane.

Cresting the peak Kryston has a little bit of fun with Carr diving sharply they sail down the mountainside at great speed. Carr’s butt lifts along with his stomach, teeth clenched and eyes shut, he’s barely able to hold on.

Not wanting to lose the young rogue Kryston adjusts his wings to glide.

Reseated Carr opens his eyes marveling at the nighttime view. What would have taken a day, takes only minutes. Clearing the range they soar south.

“You like, flying?” Kryston asks.

“Oh yes!” Carr’s eyes watering from the wind and heart pounds due to the height.

Wanting them to fly on quietly unnoticed Kryston warns Carr, “Good, pray, nothing sees us. If attacked, I could drop you.”

Now more nervous, Carr sits silently watching around. Picturing anything from archers to Wyverns attacking them.

Unhindered for over an hour Carr relaxes listening to the beating wings and wind rushing by. Ahead a faint orange glow marks the town’s location on the land.

Never viewing Ingleside from this vantage point Carr tries to identify each building as they distinguish themselves. Barely making out Violetta’s place his ride comes to an end. The Lammasu lands in a clearing just outside of town.

“Here you are,” Kyrston says touching ground, “I dare not, go closer.”

“This good.” Carr gently slides off, “thank-you.”

The Lammasu reminds him. “Just never tell.”

Thinking nobody is going to believe him even if he did, Carr assures Kryston. “You spared and saved my life I owe you. If you need my help please ask. You know where I live, you come I will help.”

About to tell him it’s not necessary Kryston rethimks, “Maybe one day I might. I will remember your promise. You have safe journey home.”

“Okay,” Carr steps back, to give the Lammasu some room, “You fly safely home.”

“Ahh, get home easy.” Kryston winks, rubbing his fore paws together, growling strangely.

“What you say?”

Winking once more Kryston vanishes from Carr’s sight, magically teleporting home.

Carr stands wondering where he went. Looking towards the range debating if the beast even existed and if he’d ever see Kryston, the Lammasu again. Jeez, he’s got to be a magic user. Carr speaks to no one, “The flying was great but if you could’ve just flashed me here, why not?”

Only the sound of rustling leaves is heard. Painfully shrugging it off Carr turns south happy to be so close to salvation.

A.R.T. The Ties That Bind Chapter # 6 Complete

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