Finding Resolve

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Finding Resolve

Post by Better Quell Jorel on Sat Mar 08, 2014 8:53 pm

Finding Resolve

There lies a street among the rotting hovels and fishermen havens that dot the poor districts of White Hall. Denizens of the town call it Beggar’s Blindway for the many tortuous turns it offers to duck out of the way of an entourage. Or to spring a trap.

The rain had fallen fast and hard all through the morning and showed no signs of stopping. The afternoon sun, a swollen gray ball of light, had long since given way to darkened gray skies. The rain drops fell and formed pools at the tops of the fetid human dwellings of wood and stone and stayed there or fell in sudden bursts onto the dirt streets, which streets were no longer earth but stinking quagmires of mud.

For Centauri, Saule, and their new companion Davinia, the task they faced appeared to be sinking into the depths of the morass they struggled to avoid. The trio had set out earlier that morning to locate the uncle of the Mayburn sisters, a single trip to an inn that lead to a seedy establishment on the docks of the port town and from there the tedium of asking questions and receiving little information in return. Having dealt with a number of shady characters, they surmised the uncle had very probably been murdered and sent to dwell at the bottom of the marina. This information was by no means definite; but, being the only real information, they prepared to tell the sisters of their uncle’s fate.  

With boots and hooves sinking into the mud of the streets, the three continued on their way up the battered avenue.

As a wizard of  great focus and observance, it was Saule who first spotted the trouble. On the rooftops overhead, two ragged but menacing figures emerged. In each man’s hand they drew weapons: Crossbows with enough power to level with a man with the dust given precise aiming.

“Assassins,” cried Sol. He gripped his staff and made for the wooden hovels that passed for buildings in this part of town. So doing he grabbed Davinia’s hand and led her with him. The warrior woman, in spite of her training, followed the wizard not out of cowardice but the mercenary ideal that slaying a few ragged brigands would bring no real profit.

Centauri, because of his size, could not follow them into the small open doorway. He looked up at the men dressed in dark clothes approaching rags with stoic disinterest, one perched on a rooftop to either side of the street, neatly flanking him. As to height and surprise they held both as surely as they towered above his head. And yet the centaur did not turn to save himself though the cries of his companion echoed in his ear to run.

No, the stubborn beast held his ground. And his mind, though simple and bred to take orders, regarded this moment as the culmination of a journey that began nearly a year ago. Within the confines of his mind, he raced through the events at breakneck speed; they were familiar to him and in the altered time rate of the mind he experienced them all in but a brief moment.

This journey of the mind started far from that stinking corner of the world far to the south within the stone halls of a fort that once withstood the onslaught of an invincible army. Far away he sped—to the south.

To High March…    

“My Lord Baron, please,” said Centauri as he stood, at full attention, in front of his master. “Do not send me away. I would serve you all of my days to repay what I owe to you.”

“Centauri,” replied Baron Merack the Cipher. “I hear your protest now as I have in the past, but that doesn’t change my decision. This fort is mainly a military outpost, not a community, and so we have no shortage of soldiers. But this is by no means a goodbye. If your path brings you here again, then so be it. But for now, my decision is final as it has for all that grow up within these walls. When you reach your age of full adulthood you must go and experience the world. I will not budge on that request, even for you.”

The conversation took place between the young centaur and the old warrior within the confines of the Baron’s personal study. The brash horseman had interrupted his master’s evening of reading by a fire early in the evening when labor lies to rest.

“My Lord Baron, have I not served you with all the strength of my soul? In the years I have trained here, my thoughts have never swerved in loyalty to your house. I would gladly take every arrow and sword thrust if it meant saving your life. Why then do you cast me out?”

Baron Merack, now approaching 46 years with hair streaked in age placed the volume he had been reading on a side table. Rising, he walked to the mantle of the fireplace. There he took note of his spear lying above it, that matchless weapon that allowed him and his companions the sure defeat of the Iron Lord. With interest, he ran his hand along the haft and the makings of a smile appeared on his lips.

He dropped the hand to the mantle and spoke. “Centauri, you remind me of a centaur I knew in my younger days at the capital. Steelhoof was his name. He was the captain of the King’s guard. A damn fine soldier. And a good, loyal friend. He had that same impassioned fever for the protection of his liege and it served him well. In fact that scale mail you have once belonged to him. I think he would be pleased to see it used again.”

“Then allow me to defend you as he did with his liege the King,” Centauri pleaded.  

Merack shook his head and smiled with pathos. “You can defend me just as well abroad as you can here. When you fight for Acatia, you are fighting for me. That is the lesson I learned a while back for I too had reservations about leaving home. Looking back on it now, I see the wisdom of that decision. The only way to experience the world is to travel the world. To be a help to those of your own kind and hopefully to Acatia should the need arise.”

The Baron spoke on. “Friend, there may come a day when you will need to make a stand. It may be for a person, a group perhaps, or maybe an entire village. Now, think on the fact that if you remained here, those unfortunates you may meet would be left alone and may not survive. What would happen if I chose to remain here in this comfortable study rather than raid the Elven lands to find you all those years ago?”

The young centaur did not understand much of what his Lord Baron spoke of, but the inclusion of his rescue did serve in bringing the basic point home to him.

In his gruff way, he stamped his back hooves and grumbled to himself.

Baron Merack walked forward and standing on raised foot, clasped his friend’s shoulder. “Now this is not a final goodbye. I hope to see you in time, but let it be not a year from the time you set forth.”

“I would that it were a few months,” said Centauri.

“Oh, I wouldn’t know about that,” said Merack smiling. “The open road can easily become the passionate lover you never see coming. You can travel the road thinking to return home the following day, only to realize your life has passed away in the service of wandering…”

“And now friend, you must excuse me as the labors of the day have run their course.”

“Certainly,” the centaur said bowing low and turning to leave.

“Oh, Centauri there is one more thing,” said Merack. His friend did not turn but stopped from opening the door.

“It is a question I would like you to consider. Just what is it, master centaur, that you are willing to bleed and die for?”



And with that enigmatic phrase, Centauri’s present mind departed from that scene to a time eleven months into the future. He galloped out of the mountains and to the southeast ending to the far reaching plains of the Thulds. And there he found a wandering tribe of Centaurs and dwelt among them, learning the ways of a people he had never known. The ways of his people as they were meant to be.



The heat of the late summer beat upon the horseman on that day, leeching into his bones making them a heavy burden to bear. His armor suit only served to intensify the discomfort with weight and keeping the sweat of his body confined. He glanced upward at the blazon ball above him thinking it would take more than a little sun to keep him from his place. To prove the point, he dug his cloven hooves into the dry packed earth if only to raise a little more of the hardened gray clay into the air.

A rare wind swept along the grasses of the plains, bending them gently in a multitude of direction. Centauri felt relief as it cooled him slightly.

He drew up to the middle of this herd of centaurs of what his people called a Datch. There were about sixty that comprised the small group of the young, the old, and those that guarded the datch.

“You pace well with the datch today,” a voice said behind him. Over his shoulder he espied a female warrior rounding from the back of the herd. Her autumn auburn hair was bound tightly into a single tail at the back of her head. Her face drew into taut lines and pointed cheekbones. Her cheeks reminded Centauri of two great cliff faces set straight with a thin stretched mouth. Her coat of course matched the color of her hair. She was a warrior maiden of the datch as both men and women served the role to protect the wandering nomads.

“Yes, Dina, it appears that I do,” Centauri said, glancing over his shoulder again. He supposed her comment had something to do with the difficulty he had in keeping pace with the group when he first found them. A few months of hard riding had strengthened him to where he could now easily keep his place no matter hard they drove.

“And yet you still lug that silly armor about you. What benefit do you get from being confined when you could change into cloth or leather and run a pace or two faster?”

“It’s a dangerous world, bow maiden,” he replied. “I bear this armor so that I may be better prepared against those dangers.”

“That may be,” the horsewoman said, sighing. “But it won’t help you escape by  yourself running from hungry wolves.”

“And soon you will be leaving us,” she said. “Going off to the Thuldan port towns in the east while we continue our migration southward to our wintering grounds. What do you hope to find back in the lands of the humans other than their wars and plots? Here out in the open you have no one to serve but yourself, the datch, and the open.”

“My loyalties will always lie with humans and their lands,” Centauri said. “That is why I must go. To that purpose and answer the riddles my Lord Baron would have me answer.”  

Centauri had some dealings with this one over the last few months. She, being a near expert with a bow, spent time teaching him techniques to perfect his own skill. He enjoyed the contact for he had never known a female centaur his own age back at High March. He kept discreet distance and his stoicism, but he enjoyed the contact nevertheless.

Centauri nodded his head and would have commented further on the subject were it not for a cry that rose up the group. One of the males near the front of the group shouted and pointed a finger to the skies with the shout, “Droktol,” escaping his lips.

Centauri’s lip curved downward with grim disgust. Droktol, the great birds of the air, often hunted in the open plains. While no danger to an adult, the great leathery monsters possessed the strength to make off with one of the young if any were left unsupervised.

Immediately, the great group stopped, and following orders, the warriors herded the rest of the Datch into a tight circle and drew their weapons to the circling skies. Centauri nocked the string of his own bow and set an arrow lightly across the fine string as he moved on the perimeter along the outside circle. Soon the centaurs were packed tightly in the center of the circle with the warriors on the outside.

Formed as they were, the centaur bodies were close together as they waited. As the luck would have it, Dina drew near to him, so near their bodies met. Centauri felt warmed by the contact but ignored it as he too scanned the skies for sign of the creatures these warriors used to make the armor they wore.

He saw no immediate sign of the creatures, but Dina broke in at his attempts at search the horizon.

“Hesta,” she said looking over her shoulder at the corralled centaurs over her shoulder. “Where are you, my sister?”

Dina repeated her entreaty again and again with no response. She grew uneasy as her tail swished from side to side with furious abandon.

Centauri continued his vigil against the skies when from out of the glaring sun, he saw a dark shape swooping in a dead drop to the ground. The black mass was silhouetted against the summer sun’s glare, but it fell quickly to the ground. At length, it opened wings easily spanning a centaurs width and allowed the air to fill them as it dove ever closer to the Earth. Fortunately its rapid decent would take it nowhere near to where the datch huddled closely together.

Centauri followed the trajectory of the massive flying thing and then, in blinding flash of insight, he caught the true intent of the creature. At length, far from the centaur crowd, a young female centaur galloped toward the main group. She held flowers in her arms. With a smile she ran toward the waiting group unaware of the black mass that had upturned from the ground and now flew with maddening force straight to its unsuspecting prey.

Centauri saw and understood all of this in a passing moment. He also understood what he must do. He acted without knowing what action spurred him on. He only thought to obey the unknowable motivation that now moved his soul.

Centauri, without a sound, dropped his bow, rose, and bounded from the main group, leaving any cries or questions to the winds to sort out. His course, his path, his purpose was to reach the young girl before the creature.

He did hear Dina’s frantic shouts to mobilize and give chase but by this time he was by and far ahead of the datch, pushing his four limbs at his top speed and greater still beyond it.

But he was too late to stop the predator from taking the prey. In a exertion of its wings, the great bird of leather grabbed the young one in its pincer-like claws. Hesta shouted, doing her best to struggle and beat the claws, but they held fast to her. Fortunately her size kept the great beast from gaining much in the way of altitude.

Centauri ground his teeth in frustration but continued his pursuit of the thing.

As he ran, he scanned the terrain for anything that might aid him in effecting a rescue of the damsel. His eyes ran to and fro before resting on what he sought. A small rise in the ground occurred not thirty yards from where he galloped. If he pushed himself, he could crest the rise and attack the thing as it came by on the other side.

Flecks of white spit already fell from his mouth to his beard; his limbs were screaming for release, but he could not stop nor could he falter for the feeling he could not explain drove him on faster and faster than he could know.

From within, he summoned all his reserves of running strength and pushed his pace ever higher as he neared the rise. Sweating and near to exhaustion, he pushed up and over the small hillock.

Only to realize the hill on the other side was no hill but a cliff some great distance. Common sense would have reined him in at that juncture, but he could not stop. Not with the thing swooping just below him.

Again, driven beyond his limits he used his momentum and final push from his back legs to carry him over the cliff’s edge into the open air.

Now a fearsome arrow himself, he flew straight at the thing desperate to bring it down. And everything, his running, his extra effort, and his leap combined to give him that success as he flew and then fell right into the Droktol. Both masses now toppled to the Earth.

Centauri could not see the young girl as the massive Droktol’s body blocked his view, but using what force he could muster, he moved so that his body weight would center on the dread creatures neck. So inclined, the trio toppled and hit the earth sending great clouds of dirt high into the air.

The great centaur heard a great snap and himself rolling as he and the Droktol’s body locked together down the rest of the hillside. Centauri thought for sure he snapped the creature’s neck, but even its death throes, the creature thrashed, its great sharp claws hiting his armor again and again leaving many wide wounds. At the end, a great wing hit him in the face before they both came to rest at the foot of the rise.

Shaken and tired, Centauri managed to come up to a standing position. He drew his broadsword with blinding speed, half expecting to be cut again by the Droktol. But now the creature lay still, which was well considering that the centaur had to support himself on the sword like a crutch when he drew it.

No, that thing moved not. He had slain it. But still…

Using the sword, he dragged himself up the hill searching in vain for the girl. He found her near the cliff, lying on one side and unmoving. He grunted through the pain and found his way to the maiden’s side. Bending near to where she lay, he checked the young one’s breath.

She appeared to be unharmed; her breathing escaped her mouth at a steady pace.

Centauri sighed with relief and dropped to his haunches, closed his eyes, and drew in great breaths filled with life-giving air as he waited at the girl’s side.

Soon after, Dina with four warriors to her back rounded the hillside and found the pair. The guards drew up and set themselves in array to meet any other attack that might come as Dina drew near to her sister’s unconscious form.

“She will live,” Centauri said noting the worry on her face. Concern—the only emotion he had seen Dina display. “She may be shaken and bruised but she lives.”

The warrior woman dropped her bow, and falling to her knees, hugged the unconscious form of her dear sister. Tears from her eyes freely fell round those rugged cheeks of her face to the ground. She wept and held her sister for some time.

At length she spoke, still clutching her sister. “Centauri of High March. You have done me great honor this day in preserving the life of my sister. She would certainly have met with an end this day had you not acted as you did. You have my…” she said and there paused for a brief moment, “my…my thanks. Because this debt is something I cannot repay, I would follow you to the ends of this Earth.”

Cenatauri grinned slightly in spite of himself. Rare emotions indeed coming to bear this day.

“You need not follow me Bow Maiden Dina of Datch,” he replied. “For your datch and your sister need you to see them safely to your wintering grounds.”

“And you have paid me for on this day, for now I understand what riddle a friend put to me nearly a year ago to this day.”

“Perhaps not today noble horseman, but there may come a day when I will seek you out,” she said half in the open but mostly to herself.

Centauri only half heard what the bow maiden mentioned for he had lost himself in the knowledge he obtained.

“I know what you meant my Lord Baron,” Centauri said to himself. “I now know.”



And back to the present, from the majestic purple plains of the south to that disgusting street of humanity he traveled back to the place from where his thoughts lead him with blinding speed.

With his gaze cast firmly on his assailants, the centaur reached into his quiver and pulled an arrow. With years of practice, he drew neatly it to the string and brought the missile level to his eye. Then he aimed and let fly.

A miss as the arrow flew too far to the right. His attacker’s shots landed wide of where he stood as well.

With the resolve he found on that hot day, he calmly drew another shaft to his eyes and aimed carefully at the figure that desperately worked to draw his crossbow back into position.

Moment followed moment. Fatigue, fear, loathing, anger. All these he drew into himself and allowed them to annihilate, leaving nothing but the calmed center. And the great purpose that now carried him forward.

He let loose his arrow. Again, another miss.

He set for his third attempt and made note that both men had their own weapons in readiness to fire.

Centauri felt a searing pain in his left side, the unmistakable sign that one of his attackers had met his mark. But he let his pains go too as he let the third round fly from his hand. This time the arrow flew true and straight, hitting the cloaked man square in the chest. The force of the blow threw the attacker out of sight as he groaned and rose no more.

His companion shouted a hoarse curse, and fleeing from him his weapon, fled from the roof top.

Centauri marked the man and followed his decent as fellow half-leapt and half-fell from balconies and cloth coverings to the street level. He rolled and came to rest at the feet of the centaur.

Overcome, the man sprang to his feet and quick as lightning drew a knife from his cloak, which he stabbed through the centaur’s armor. Another wound and more pain assailed his senses, but they would not deter him from his purpose.

Grinding his teeth from the pain, Centauri grabbed hold of the knife hand and drew the hysteric man up until his panicked eyes met his own.

On that day and in the days leading to this one, the centaur had found his resolve; he found the truth behind what drove him to on the plains on that day. Following his Lord Baron’s riddle, the horseman discovered what he would be willing to bleed and die for. For in Centauri’s own soul, that poor soul Hesta had only been himself, as a lad, about to fall to the whims of one he could never overcome. And he had been saved. And now, after all of these years, the time had come for him to follow in kind and save those that could not do the same for themselves.

For this simple ideal he would willingly go to his grave if it came to it. A cause he would gladly suffer and die for. For his companions. For those that could not help themselves. He would duplicate the noble act that saved him as many times as this life would permit. And in so doing, he would find the redemption and rest he sought.

“What? What do you want with me?” the man screamed as he struggled in vain to release himself from the iron grip.

“With you? Nothing,” said Centauri.

Off in the distance, he heard the sound of heavy steps heading his way. No doubt the alerted day watch would be on the scene to sort the situation.

“But in a moment, the day watch will arrive. And then I will be only glad enough to hand you over to justice you deserve.”

And this very thing the centaur did as men in armor arrived to relieve him. And as for his resolve, his true weapon of offense, this he drew fitted into the scabbard of his soul to draw whenever the need arose. Whatever may come.
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Re: Finding Resolve

Post by Casey on Sun Mar 09, 2014 3:00 pm

Epic.

Now I know why you were asking about the obtaining an Ally.


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