Finding Freedom

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Finding Freedom

Post by Better Quell Jorel on Mon Feb 17, 2014 5:44 pm

Finding Freedom

The slaves escaped at sundown near the time the lamani were rounded up. Placed in rows of neat precision, each worker was judged on the labors performed that day and whether each beast was worthy of dinner. When the tally came to the lord of the manner, three were not accounted for. Their tools lay unused in the fallow fields of the Elven Lord they broke their backs to serve.

For three days of swift running, the lamani sped through the wooded havens, one of the sparse domains left to elvenkind. For near to three days they marched, at times casting furtive glances over their shoulders and others roundabout at the trees they nimbly dodged. These woods were full of ancient eyes that engendered threat, but at present the dangers were imaginary.

Near to the end of this third day of hard won freedom, the trio of refugees broke the thick woods to the west of them and entered a wide valley littered with the sparse fingers of the forest. To the north and south, great spires of granite soared into the clouds. To the front of them, the horizon whispered seductive success to their minds.

Here in this place they arrived at a meeting of two small groves joining at a strange rise of high smooth quartz limestone pillars in the attitude of rising, falling, and supporting their fellows.

The escaped slaves consisted of two males and one boy. One of the band slowed when they approached the jutting rubble, gasping for breath; he stamped his hooves as the other two continued onward.
“We must stop…Daryn…We must rest sometime.”

The other fully grown male rounded a thick poplar and returned to his companion.

“No, Cotumo. These three days, you plead for a stop. No. We must make headway between us and these woods. Perhaps when we reach the open plains.”

“But the woods are no longer a concern, now. And,” he said looking beyond to the young one, “Think of the boy. He barely has a season of the full gallop within him while we have years. He still possesses his wobbling spring legs.”

With disapproval, Daryn considered the request but turned himself to look the lad over. Even in the dying rays of the sun he could discern the flush in his cheeks, the belabored way he drew breath, and the wobble of legs that had known only toil in the fields. Stationary always. Never running. The thought gave him a sour taste he spat to the ground.

“You make your point, Cotumo. We rest but for a moment.” Daryn summoned the weary lad who came dutifully and rested near his guardian.

“Good,” said Cotumo. “You rest here while I go up these rocks to get a lay of the land.”

“Do what you will,” the other growled. “Just keep out of sight.” With a bound, Cotumo bounded around a swathe of trees and disappeared.

“Guide or no guide, that lummox better watch his back,” Daryn muttered. “We are not freed. Not yet.”

“Daryn where are we? How can there be a place without trees?” the boy said after he regained his breath.
Daryn smiled, in spite of himself, at the lad’s curiosity. “That’s because there’s more to the world than what our Elven captors feel we should know. Why out in the world there are places so high, one could fall forever and pits so deep he could never be found.”

He gestured to the plains ahead. “There are lands lad just like these. Flat to allow a gallop that could last for days. And that’s where we’re headed. A city on the far side of these plains. A place called Trinity.”

“And what’s at Trinity?” the lad asked.

“A new beginning. A new sunrise,” he said and sighed with deep contentment.

The warm fantasy lasted for a moment for they both heard a sound of something galloping through the trees at them.

“Cotumo. What is he doing in there? Trying to warn every Fey warrior within a hundred leagues where we are?”

At that moment a figure broke through the woods. He rode on a great gazelle; he had a head of green hair that grew to his back and bore solid leather marking him a knight in the house of the elven lord. He carried no sword nor any other visible weapon.

He and two others besides rode out of the wood at his flanks. They stopped mere feet from the slaves. The knight dropped from his mount and looked about him. “We are almost assembled. But a player is missing,” he said.

Almost on cue to the command, Cotumo came dropping from the heights of the fallen stones with ease. He drew up between the slaves and their masters.

“Cotumo, you fool! If we had kept going these pursuers would still be on our trail,” Daryn said.

“If we had kept going, perhaps. But that was not part of the plan.”

That startled Daryn. He looked between the one he thought his friend and the elves. “It was never your intention to escape with us. You meant to turn us back over to these devils. That’s why you wanted rest all those days ago. We needed only to rest while the trackers could catch up the prey.

“But why, man? Why betray your way of life and your people? What do you gain by working with these fiends?”

“Nothing,” Cotumo said. “Nothing but the humble acceptance of the elven lord. That and a promise that one day I might leave the fields to serve him in his house.”

“So lies of comfort and leisure are your corruption. And those are enough to betray your life to these brutish…”

“You will silence that slandering tongue of yours laman or I will have that tongue before you are put to the question.”

Daryn turned his furious look on the knight. “I am no animal to do your bidding, Elf. I am free to choose my fate in this world, and I choose now to stand and fight to the death rather than being dragged back in chains and made to endure the question of hot pokers and torture.”

“Stand behind me, lad,” he said. “If I fall flee into the woods and head west…”

Cotumo raised a boulder over his head and threw it full into the face of his former companion. The stone gashed the slave over the side of his head digging deep into his scalp. Daryn loosed a low groan and toppled to the earth.

“Daryn. Oh Daryn,” the boy said rushing to the side of his guardian and sobbing into his motionless massive arm.

The Elven knight tsked. “That was a reckless thing to do, Cotumo. I wanted to take him back undamaged. This one will serve a fine example with his head on a pike. That’s a far better example than a martyr’s fate out here on the frontier.

“You won’t get his head!” The lad said rising suddenly to his feet and advancing the elves. “I won’t let you kill him.”

With hands unseen, the two riders drew arrows and held them on the lad who stopped in his tracks.

The knight smiled. “Well, well. A youngling with spirit. What is your name, boy?”

The boy, still staring down the menacing arrows replied slowly. “I—I have no name, Sir. I still have a year before the time of naming.”

“Then allow me to educate you. You, boy, are a laman. A beast of the fields given to this land to serve but a single purpose: You serve the whims of your masters. It is your duty and privilege to toil thus until such time as we deem you civilized to look after your own affairs.

“Serve us well and you may live out your days in peace. Betray our good will and your fate will not be pleasant as with these trouble makers.”

“Trouble makers? You mean trouble maker, yes?” Cotumo asked.

“I said what I mean,” the knight said turning his baleful stare to the turncoat. “This chase was to last but a single night, Cotumo, not three. Your orders were to lead the deserters to a quiet spot, so that we could safely conduct you back to the slave’s quarters by morning.”
      

 “Milord, you must understand this one flew like the devil. Nothing could persuade him to stop. It’s not my fault.”

“Oh but it is my dear Cotumo,” the knight said. “For you see the rest of the slaves now think of you as a rebel. Where before a simple excuse of sending you to the master’s house for the night may have sufficed. But too much time has passed. We could not set up a sufficient ruse to root these scum from without our ranks. For this lack of vision, I can see no other alternative than an end to our relations.”

“Please, no milord. Please reconsider,” Cotumo said dropping to two of his knees. “I’ll do anything. Please beat me or brand me but don’t. Please.”

“Your pleas are pointless fool. But you will not be beaten or branded.”

The Elven knight raised his hand and spoke an incantation barely audible to the boy’s ears. The knight ended it on a shrill note and gestured.

Before the boy’s eyes, a fire from out of the air engulfed the hapless creature. Wreathed in agonizing flame, Cotumo cried the wails of the damned and fled at full speed into the woods, a great ball of light whose flame neither lighted the trees nor the bushes nearby.

“You will not find a quenching to that fire laman. It will not stop until your flesh is consumed.”

The boy watched the light fade into the coming night. His hopes darkened as the sun’s fleeting light.

The Elven knight walked to his mount and produced a pair of iron shackles from his mount’s saddle bag. He stepped and threw the manacles at the feet of the boy.

“Put those on while we tend to your friend,” he said. “Your life is bound to us. The sooner you realize that, the more bearable you existence.”

The boy’s tears had not stopped. He could run to the woods as Daryn suggested, but the archers would make short work of any attempt to escape let alone what witchery the knight could cause.

There were no alternatives left but surrender. Bending low, the boy prepared to chain himself to the only life he had known—that of servitude.

It was then silver projectile sailed through the air from the enclosed woods. Wide with fear, the knight spun on foot in time to see a spear shaft protruding from his man. The soldier gripped the shaft half-attempting to remove the object. He only gurgled a moment and fell from his animal, dying on the spot.

Simultaneously another shape sleek and gold swooped from the heavens leveling on the second rider. The boy saw a strange mechanical bird, a bird of prey, plated in gold fall upon the rider with outstretched talons. The rider on reflex swung his bow about to deflect the bird’s attacks.

A dark shape came leaping out of the woods behind. Vaulting upon the mount’s back, he took advantage of the rider’s momentary lapse in concentration. A sword point appeared at the riders chest. Twice. Three times neatly dicing through what protection the warrior possessed. The elf fell and the shape retrieved up his spear and came into full view.

The boy had never seen a living human before. Only in picture books and stories had he seen these beings who bred like rabbits and spread like locusts according to the elven teachings.

This man stood a little over six feet. He was dressed in a brocade and breeches of fine scarlet velvet. A chestnut beard tinged with the onset of white covered his face. In his eyes, the boy saw a sparkle and this restored a glimmer of hope to him.

The man smiled broadly and saluted the strange mechanical bird as it flew to nearby bough and observe the players.

“My thanks to you, faithful Falconiform,” the man said. “You are a wonder to have for spotting prey. It will be a shame when I have to return you back to Xander.”

The knight took stock of his fallen men and then faced the stranger directly. “Son of man, you must either have great courage or foolishness beyond belief to dare attack elves in this our greatest stronghold.
“Elf, eh…knight,” the man said eyeing the crest on the other’s armor, “You are by far the greater fool for ransacking a young centaur and his father.”

“We do not ransack, son of man, we repossess,” the knight hissed. “These renegades thought to escape from the responsible debt they owe to us.”

The man raised a thoughtful eyebrow as he eyed the shackles on the ground. “Debt? That’s a skewed way of defining slavery.”

“Call it what you will, man child. The pith of the argument lies with the responsibility we elves bear to all the living beings of this world. We inhabited this land for eons while your vermin were but mere slime sliding across stones. Our oldest elders declared the price for our eternal life would be to bring the walking races of this world to our superior traditions. These lamani need our guidance for without it they wander without purpose and meaning. Much like your kind, human.”

“Yes, guidance,” said the man. “You of course are referring to the way you yoke these poor beasts and force them to toil in your fields at the end of a whip.”

“That is part of process human. Something you could never comprehend in the short span of years given to you. There will come a day when our guidance will enlighten a generation of these of the far future. This generation shall be like us—perfect in every way. Then shall we take off their shackles for they will be even as we are.

“But for the moment they are imperfect beings and require our aid. Allowing them to run off in this manner will only inspire more to abandon the cause. Escape into the world beyond would only breed confusion for them.”

“Yes,” Merack said. “So confusing for a man, a gnome, a centaur, or even an elf to follow the dictates of their whims and desires. You would see the entire world chained to a post while you ride past with your pointed noses hitting the high heavens.”

“You work my ire to its breaking man,” the knight said. “You have profaned our lands, murdered my men, and now grind our traditions under your sodden foot. I do believe you will die slowly. By degrees I will deprive you of your life force until at the end on your knees you will beg me to end your pathetic life. And I may, for I am merciful.”

“Is that a fact,” the man countered. “And how will you do that when you don’t bother to care even a butter knife on your person?”

“He’ll do it with magic,” the boy centaur blurted out. “He set the one who betrayed us on fire with a wave his hand.”

“A magic user,” the man said. “This will make it all the more entertaining. I won’t even need to use my fairy field,” he said pressing the buckle of his belt. A strange light field appeared around the man and then dropped to the ground.

The knight’s firm grin of confidence fled somewhat when he witnessed that spectacle. For but a moment.
“You drop your defenses, man? To what end?”

“To this end,” he said hefting out the point of his spear. “I am going to walk with this spear until it fillets your insides.”

“No,” protested the young centaur. “No, he’ll kill you for sure.”

“Lad,” the man said brandishing his charming grin. “There comes a time in life when you have to exercise a little faith in the unbelievable. Believe in the miraculous” he said and winked.

“Brave for a man about to die,” the knight remarked. “I would know your name before your death so that it may be written in our great record.”

“My name is Merack, sir knight. Baron Merack of Icatia.”

Holding fast his spear, the man advanced on the elven knight.

“We’ll start with something easy. A sharp breeze to cut you down to size.” The elf spoke, snatched the winds, and formed them into invisible blades.

The winds flew from the trees to the man. They passed through him to the other side. The man was unharmed.
“What,” murmured the knight and shook his head. “No matter.”

He threw his hands to the heavens and shouted a prayer. In response the heavens crackled and threw lightning from a cloudless sky. The man raised his spear into the air. The great lights fell around him passing harmlessly into the earth.  

Now furious, the knight prayed to the earthen spirits. A great roar shook the ground and a pit with a depth no being could comprehend appeared beneath the man’s feet. Uninterrupted and unhindered, he crossed the empty soil to the other side.

“Two more steps,” the man said.

“Your flesh will burn from your bones,” the knight declared with near resolve.

Again he raised his arms and flames erupted around the man surrounding him at every corner. But even fire failed to work.

“One. Gotcha,” the man said as the tip of his fine metal spear now touched the neck of the knight.

“This is impossible,” the knight stammered. “You should be cut, incinerated, lost to time, and burned a thousand times over.

“Who are you?” the knight said. Then a memory from something he had read long, long ago surfaced for but a moment giving the ageless being the answer he sought. His eyes widened for now, in his last moments of life, he knew what manner of monster he faced.

“Me? I’m your executioner sir knight,” Merack said and thrust the point home. The blade sliced evenly into the elf’s protected neck as if the armor didn’t exist. He cut evenly around the neck and thrust upward. The severed head flew some feet in the air and landed in unison with the body to the grass wet with the coming night air.
Merack drew the spear back and inspected the point. “Hmph. Even after five years, the thing won’t keep blood on it for more than a moment or two. Such enchantments.”

He looked at the mechanical bird that had borne witness to the strange even. “Falconiform, why don’t you fly around and see if there are any more of these devils lurking about. I got lucky with surprise this time. I would not like the situations reversed.”

Merack  drew near to the fallen guardian and inspected his wounds. Reaching into a pouch that hung at his side, he produced a bandage and set to work tending the wound.

Halfway through his work he noticed the boy still sobbed in a barely noticeable tone.

“It’s Daryn,” the boy said in response to Merack’s question of what still bothered him. “He must be dead by now.”

“No, no lad quite the opposite. He took quite a blow to the head, but he is still breathing. I think he will make a full recovery once we get him back to camp.”

“Camp? You have a camp?”

“Of course,” Merack said unable to stifle a laugh. “You don’t think I’d be out here on the borders of dangerous elf lands without some reinforcement. I am a Baron if you recall.”

The boy had turned to face the noble. “Yes, I do,” he said. “Sir? May I ask you a question?”

“Certainly.”

“How were you able to do all that? I mean I saw Cotumo burst into flames. How is it that you’re not dead?”

Merack grinned yet again and placed a finger on top of his nose. “Ah, that’s a guild secret, but since I can tell you’re the inquisitive type, I shall tell you.”

The boy smiled and trotted close to the man as he looked about to make sure they were alone and leaned in close.

“Between you and me, there was something I knew that elven knight did not. It is true I am a Baron, but I’ve named my domains the House of Cipher. Do you know what a Cipher is, lad?”

The boy shook his head.

“Well, the Ciphers are an old lot. Many years ago we were quite numerous. We were valued for our ability to nullify any magic we came into contact with. Ours was a golden age to be sure, but of course there came a generation of magic users who thought to do away with us. During a large battle we were betrayed by our own side and nearly slaughtered to a man. The few of us that remained fled to the mountains in the north and there we stayed for many thousands of years. I am one of those descendants.”

“Oh, I see,” said the boy excited. “No wonder he wasn’t able to harm you.”

“Now let’s get moving. I’ll have Falconiform circle back to camp and get a contingent of men out here to help move your friend.”

“That sounds good,” said the boy agreeing.

“Sir?” The boy said.

“Another question?” Merack said. “I sometimes think that’s the only thing I ever do as a Baron. But that is the life I’ve chosen.”

“What’s to become of us?”

“That depends,” Merack said. “It will take some time for your friend to heal, but I thought I might use him for information about these woods. For you see lad, I’m not here to breathe in the clean air. I’ve been commissioned by the Icatian King to raid and possibly destroy as many elven lands as possible to free those that have been enslaved.”

“After that,” said Merack. “Well, where were you headed?”

“To a city called Trinity.”

“Ah, Trinity. I’ve been there a few times. A lovely place if you don’t mind the smell and the ferocious looking toughs with pikes. If you’re head to Trinity, I won’t stop you certainly. But you are welcome to come back to Icatia if you like.”

“I would,” the boy said nodding.

“Then it’s settled lad…lad. Sorry, I’m not one for informal titles. Do you have a name?”

The boy shook his head. “They only give us a name at the coming of age ceremony.”

Merack frowned. “That’s an elven custom. As of this moment you don’t need to follow those backward ways anymore. Why not choose a name now.”

“All right,” said the boy. “Let’s see. What did you say the human word for us was? We were called lamani by the elves. I think it means animal or something.”

“We call your kind centaurs,” said Merack.

The boy thought on the question for a time.

After a time, Falconiform’s reflective body caught the last of the bleeding light for the day and landed on Merack’s outstretched arm.

“Any other sentries?” he asked. The bird’s eyes narrowed to process the question and shook its head.

“I’ve thought of a name,” the boy said lighting up.

Merack turned from the bid. “Oh? What is it, lad?”

“From now on, I won’t be lad, or boy, or lamani. My name from now is…Centauri.”

Merack smiled and nodded.

“Very good,” he said. “Very good, indeed.”
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Re: Finding Freedom

Post by Casey on Tue Feb 18, 2014 8:36 am

I'll say it again, I quite enjoyed the addition of Merack and Falconiform in your background story. It formed a bridge between the two campaigns, so to speak
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Re: Finding Freedom

Post by Better Quell Jorel on Thu Feb 20, 2014 4:33 pm

Hey, if your liked that one, I'm sure you will love the sequel I'm working on now. That story though is still in the making.
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Re: Finding Freedom

Post by Casey on Sat Feb 22, 2014 2:28 pm

Alpha Centauri wrote:Hey, if your liked that one, I'm sure you will love the sequel I'm working on now. That story though is still in the making.


Waiting, waiting....



 Very Happy 
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