On the Morn of Moonday, 5th Month of the Year of the Emberhound. This morning we unexpectedly are found by Nadem. We spent the night in the town of Enrobek, and I was persuading the innkeeper about taking food up to our room to break our fast, when I was called by a familiar voice. Most unexpected. Nadem has the most uncanny knack of turning up at unusual, if needed times. And more, he was actually looking for us! It seems we will not have to go hire-hunting after all. Nadem has already a venture lined up, and with the baron, no less. Serendipitously fortunate, our coming this way, looking for work suited to our... ah, talents.
Finally receiving a grudging and reluctant assent, I take our food, and Nadem up to our room. My creche-sib was using his cover-cloak to polish his blades. Two at a time. I click amusement at him, he hates having to wear the enveloping thing. Keeps threatening to 'accidentally' cut the cloak to shreds while polishing. He clacks a rude sound back at me. Nadem jokingly comments on the unlikeliness of being mistaken for intelligent beings with a language that sounds like that. It is good to be with our friend.
Nadem recounts the details. He has been working with two others for some time now. He met them shortly after we last parted ways. It seems that they are skilled and able individuals, and he is enthusiastic in his descriptions. It seems that many raids by giant-kin have occurred in the duchy, but only in this duchy. In a typical example of the local politics, none of the neighboring barons are willing to send reinforcements lest they should be weakened and suddenly attacked. Those who have sent somewhat, have sent only tokens and rather poor ones at that.
The duke, in short, is looking to find some brave (foolhardy) souls who are willing to track to the lair and beard the giant-kin in the den, so to speak. With the help of myself and my creche-sib, Nadem feels that we could accomplish this task. Our share of the reward, would be enough to see us far on our quest, if well rationed. The hope, the longing, the unseen end. Will it ever be fulfilled, the quest won? I feel auspicious tinglings concerning this opportunity. But I must consult with Pik before we tell Nadem yea or nae.... _________________ Does the walker choose the path, or does the path choose the walker?
On the Morn of Fireday, 5th Month of the Year of the Emberhound. I so value Pik's wisdom. In his blunt and abrasive way, he asks questions that, quite frankly, would not occur to me until much too late. We now prepare to embark on our journey with Nadem, to meet with his friends. We, I, have high hopes for this venture. Pik is grumbling as usual about having to cover himself from the prejudiced eyes of the common townsfolk. I remind him that I have to cover myself just as thoroughly, or suffer severe burns upon my sun-sensitive skin.
I wonder, almost automatically, about my parents, and lost history. Even the ever present ache of the past only passingly impresses itself upon my consciousness. I hope that Nadem's friends are not adverse to working at night. Binding my eyes with the transparent gauze that protects them from the achingly intense light of the bright summer's day, I venture a complaint about the cheerful sunshine of the day, and receive several clacks of mandibles in return. Amusement. Our preparations are nearly finished, I shall write more once we have spent a few days in some practice with our soon-to-be compatriots. _________________ Does the walker choose the path, or does the path choose the walker?
On the eve of Metalday, 5th Month of the Year of the Emberhound. It seems that the feeling of confidence almost invariably precedes a fall. Thus in the face of the feeling of confidence that Pik and I have been feeling, I am wondering what we have missed. We have met with Nadem's friends. They seem most capable individuals. Our time spent training together has helped us to become known to each other. Indeed, the times of sharing about ourselves and our experiences in combat have done as much in that regard as our actual mock-combat sessions. My suggestions have been well regarded, always a pleasant feeling.
Nadem tends to defer to myself or Pik as he always has since our first meeting, but Sabriel and Gramblin are refreshingly outspoken. Yet, they too seem to defer a final decision to one of the two of us.... I wonder just what tales Nadem has been spinning of us?
It is said that, 'Worn yet well cared is better than new'. Sabriel is a warrior-priestess more practiced than most with a bow. She is also an accomplished wielder of Faith. The combination of the two is quite impressive. To say the least. Pray for her continued good grace.
Gramblin wields the traditional tool of his kind, the dual hammer-spike. But he is a specialist with a most unusual quarry: giant-kin. He is perhaps two-thirds my size, and I myself am somewhat short among either of my people. I marvel at his courage in facing such dangerous opponents as a matter of course.
And Nadem has grown in his abilities with since last we traveled together. We will never lack for warmth when he is about. Tomorrow we embark. _________________ Does the walker choose the path, or does the path choose the walker?
During the course of Stoneday, 5th Month of the Year of the Emberhound. I am always faint in the strength of the day. As usual, we have found a place to rest, out of direct sunlight. Pik dances in the sun. The gracefulness of his leaping spinning turns tugs at my soul, so at odds with the normal jerkiness of his loping gait. Even through the double thickness of the black gauze I must shield my eyes with my hand; the deadly glitter of his scimitars form dazzling patterns about him, til his form is nearly lost behind the blinding flashes of the quartet of silently singing blades.
In many ways, we are opposites, him and I. Child of the desert day, he; child of the desert night, I.... _________________ Does the walker choose the path, or does the path choose the walker?
On the Morn of Fireday, 6th Month of the Year of the Emberhound. Starday passed in contemplative travel. On Moonday we met with the duke. He was not quite what I expected. He seemed more the harried bureaucrat, despite the armor. Our appointment was squeezed in between some merchant factors and soldiers report. We were thanked for volunteering, told that unusual giant activity has been taking place in his duchy, and oddly not in any of the surrounding duchies. We are to investigate and if able, do something towards ending the threat to his duchy. He issued us a voucher for 'supplies, simple', and sent on our way. Scratch item off of list. One can certainly tell that he was once a man-at-arms and not overly trained in the art of the word. Handled us with words as an inexpertly used weapon.
With lives so short, perhaps it is not so strange that humans spend so much time worrying about time, and scurrying like small bugs to accomplish what they may. Almost like Pik... living so briefly. He is already my fifth companion, and I, by the standards of our people, my first-kin, have not yet achieved adulthood, despite outliving so many of my brothers and sisters.
Let me be not turned aside in this my desire. If any way there is that can be found to lengthen this the lives of my people, that will I discover. I have not spoke of this even to Pik. Nor, indeed to any of my companions... not even to the elders of our tribe. I once asked one of my second-kin, about lengthening ones natural span, but was answered only that it was a common folly of youth. Later, one of my other tutors, of nature-lore such as exists in the forests, commented that it was dangerous and unpredictable to alter something from its natural course, something seldom attempted by the wise, save in the face of extremity. So it seems that my words traveled. Perhaps in the process of learning how to do what I seek, I will also discover the wisdom of if and how to use such knowledge along the way. I returned to the desert and my first-kin later that month.
Fortunately, the duke's scouts have narrowed down the area where the giants lair. A recently fashioned stronghold was found, and it is there that we will begin. I wonder what we will find. _________________ Does the walker choose the path, or does the path choose the walker?
On the Eve of Starday, 6th Month of the Year of the Emberhound. We have arrived nearly a half-days walk from the stronghold. Lord Mousehunter consented to scout out a site for us, finding as near to perfect a camp as we could hope for. Tucked away in the corner of a valley-rift, with a nearby stream hides our cave. And the cave now hides our supplies and horses. A rather tight fit at the mouth, but then it widens out nicely once inside. We will even be able to build a small fire, assuming we are careful with the wood.
A matter of politeness, perhaps, but we try to avoid using our friend Nadem, as a living campfire.
The rest of the evening passed in securing our camp, and scouting for any patrolling giants. Again, Lord Mousehunter proves her worth, finding a roving patrol heading into the stronghold. We now know the lay of the surrounding land. The forest has been cleared back to quite a distance around the fort. I think it would be best for us to take the next day in observing, and honing our basic strategy a little more. It is fortunate that we have learned to speak with each other, Lord Mousehunter and I. As the years go by, she grows more intellectual. I shouldn't be surprised if she should challenge me to a game of Jar'nai one of these days. She brings news of the first hitch to our plans.
The giants keep a full pack of dire wolves in their outer courtyard. With night falling, we can now hear the occasional howl, despite the distance. The moons are waxing near full, tonight. _________________ Does the walker choose the path, or does the path choose the walker?
In the Afternoon of Moonday, 6th Month of the Year of the Emberhound. One of my least favorite things... waking to blinding sunlight, especially noonday sunlight, most especially after a hard night's foray. Even with the forest canopy and comforting dimness of the cave, the light is intensely bright and painful to me. It would take me an hour or so to adjust, but my hunger triumphs over my painful reluctance. Eating blindfolded has it's humorous aspects. Pik laid a sympathetic hand on my shoulder as I stumbled past in search of some food to break fast with.
He apparently guarded my waking absolution as well, as he caught me from behind preventing me from stumbling over an unseen root on my way back to the cave. I gratefully leaned upon him, reflecting on how fortunate I am to have such a brother, and how strange to find such compassion in an otherwise remorseless hunter. To him, the hunt, and the dance is nearly all. Weakness is more likely to arouse his hunting sense, and yet, he somehow finds compassion clouding the otherwise austere and stark perfection of his clear-sighted mind.
We apparently caused quite the stir amongst our new companions. I had not thought anything of it, and Nadem has seen our meditations before. It was not until I heard a gasp of indrawn breath that I was even aware that we had an audience. I think it was Sabriel. Much too high pitched for Gramblin. These thoughts drifted across the emptiness of my mediations like wispy clouds, briefly occluding the sun that is our dance together. I can glimpse the flashing blades even through the blindfold, as they flicker all around us. My movements slow and deliberate, a move here, a shift of stance there, as i slowly pace out the intricate patterns of the spring of power within. Pik steps through, past, and around my dance, a light-shattering whirlwind of steel and shell.
Never once do we actually touch. Never once are we more than a couple of hand-span from each other. His lightning dance of death gracefully surrounds my solemn dance of power. As we end, i feel the flow of power welling upwards to fill me with potential. We stop suddenly, scimitars framing our forms in a window box of metal. I let loose a flicker of power; illumine a faerie ring of air which flows down our final form in a swift ripple, stirring the dust into a circle around us. A perfect melding of physical might and arcane power. _________________ Does the walker choose the path, or does the path choose the walker?
In the Eve of Moonday, 6th Month of the Year of the Emberhound. We are now rested and fed; the time for our preparations is drawing near. I have now recovered sufficiently to relate the events of the preceding night. I had best set them down now, lest with the oncoming raid, they be pushed to forgetfulness.
We waited until deep dark lingering in the woods within view of, but hidden from, the giant's stronghold. What an edifice it was! No mere split logs for the outer wall, but tree trunks entire! There is even a tower, squatish and ugly, despite it's actual height. There appear to be sentries in the tower, but we have not seen them against the light in some time. I touch Pik and unleash some of my power upon him. He fades from sight. I hear the scuff of his claws as he leaps forward into a bounding run. When he reaches the base of the tower he will leap up to the wall and run up the rest of the way. The mind-force fragment embedded in his slippers allows him to literally run up the wall as if upon level ground. We wait tensely. After what seemed surely much too long, we see his spindly from in the window, flashing the light from his four blades in the prearranged signal.
It is a hurried crossing that we made. We know that the gates are closed, and the wolves inside.... Yet one should not depend upon the fortunes of fate or luck. Not if one has a choice. We reached the tower base and soon the rope that Pik had carried slapped the rough wood besides my head. Gramblin and Sabriel made their way up, Nadem and I clung to the bottom as we are pulled up. Pik muttered something in our speech about being on the hunt, by which i took it to mean that someone has said something. As I am pulled into the room, I see the dead giants upon the floor; spilled tankards and heads loosened from shoulders. I reply, also in the tongue of my first-kin, that they cannot be faulted for having been raised in ignorance of the Way. Nadem proved himself, and he has vouched for them, so will they not likewise prove of worth? Sabriel called upon her faith, and draws around upon us a silence. It settled upon us like a shroud, as if drawn whole-cloth from an ancient sanctuary. I must admit I had always wondered why such places seemed so quiet. Now I know.
Deaf and mute, we made our way downstairs and into an entry hall. I take a moment to drew my own shroud around us, this one of the unseen mysteries. This one is less concentrated than the one I placed earlier upon Pik, more fragile. It is always a novel experience for me to see ourselves fade to a nigh transparent shadow of ourselves. We used some hand signs that Pik had taught everyone and arranged ourselves around a door. Before we can open it, it opened of itself! Some giants walked into the hall, and we scoot around to avoid them. As soon as the doors closed, we strike. The shroud of vision frayed and fell away, expended. I felt somewhat guilty at the unannounced attack, at first, but I soon recalled what these giants have done to the defenseless villages described by the Duke's men-at-arms.
We quickly dispatch them, and dragged them into a shadowed corner. A short time later a few more giants appear, looking for the others. We deal with them in a manner like the first. We decide to retreat and leave the message time to be received. I take a rope in my hands and send my power along it's length, seeking for a gap. A few moments and I feel a suitable one, and insert the rope into it, letting my power flow upwards, blossoming into a bubble between the warp and woof of the world. We climb upwards and disappear into the otherwhere bubble. Last of all, the rope was drawn in, and the interface rippled slightly as the rope end passed through. We were then sealed in. The surfaces of the bubble are slightly rough to the touch, somewhat near the texture of the rope which anchored into the misted grayness of the boundary. We settled back to wait and see what response the giants will make to our 'message'. _________________ Does the walker choose the path, or does the path choose the walker?
If it were not such a serious business we were about, the shock and panic displayed by the giants would be almost comical. We watch as the bodies are carted away, and a search is commenced. Soon however, all thoughts of mirth fade away, as patrols in pairs begin to be seen; guards are stationed. These creatures are unexpectedly cunning, and quick to respond! In our experience, the lesser giant-kin tend towards brutality, and a disinterest in any but the most crude of social organizations. They barely cooperate with each other. These are acting more like trained armsmen, than typical giants. Gramblin in particular, is taking great pains in pointing out the atypical behaviors. We conference hurriedly and decide that we need to learn more.
Truth be told, we had not paid overly much attention to the claims of the duke that the giant raids had been highly organized and took only valuable and critical goods. We had thought that he was exaggerating his stories in order to hook us to his need, not realizing that we have our own reasons for attempting this foray. But now, we are witnessing it for ourselves. Something has affected these giants; we must learn what it is.
I draw forth a matrix rod, and send my power through it into a cloak upon Gramblin. The unique structure of the matrix will have the effect of lengthening the effects of my power beyond what i can accomplish for myself. The effect blooms out from him invisibly, as he fades to a transparent image of himself. We open the interface by touching the rope's end to it, and Gramblin drops nimbly down to the floor, disappearing completely from our view as he does so. I quickly pull the rope back in, and we settle down to wait nervously.
The minutes crawl past, in a slow spiky progression. The occasional giant patrol passes by. Finally, Gramblin returns, heralded by a coin sudden appearing on the floor directly below us. We descend the rope to meet with Gramblin and hear his report. Pik is watchfully listening, eying the exits. I am taken by a sudden fancy and wander over to the front doors. Pulling out a scroll I lay a hand upon the doors, and reading the arcane symbols to guide my power, I weave power about the two door panels, binding them together. I smirk as I write upon the wall next to the doors, 'you have been warned!' in the blocky giantish letters, large enough for even them to see. Suddenly Lord Mousehunter stirs upon my shoulder and hoots softly in my ear. She has heard the approach of footsteps!
I hurry to the others and warn them. Sabriel and Gramblin begin climbing the rope as Nadem and I set fire to the doors to the hallway. That should slow them down. Swiftly we climb into the otherwhere bubble, and draw the rope in after us. Not a moment too soon! From the sudden appearance of smoke, a large amount of water must have been thrown onto the doors, for they open as we are frantically pulling in the rope. An entire squad, fully eight well armed giants enter the room and carefully scrutinize everything. After seeing the message on the wall, one runs out of the room. One of them even tries the door, but much to our surprise, does not attempt any violence upon the unmoving door. Any other giant would have tried to force the stubborn door open. Then that giant also runs out of the room. Reporting? To whom? Who is guiding these giants so skillfully? This is becoming more and more ominous.
Turning from the window portal, I see that Gramblin has taken out some parchment and quill and is inking a sketch of what he has seen. We had best find someway of reducing the combat ability of these giants, and fast. Giant prowess at combat with someone who has an obvious grasp of tactics and strategy, and the ability to get giants to actually cooperate and fight intelligently, is a danger of, forgive me-but i can't resist, giant proportions. _________________ Does the walker choose the path, or does the path choose the walker?
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