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The Silver Wolf-A Light In The Dark: Prologue And Chapter One-The Long Roads
Posted on Fri, August 18, 2017 by LordCeb
CruelSummerLord writes "

Uboldine’s eyes seemed to pierce through Joelmac’s sight, all the way to the back of his mind. His heart began pounding, the blood roared in his ears, and a crippling tension seized his limbs. Ublodine’s gaze ravaged Joelmac’s body, seizing it with pain before it began to shut down.

It was the last sight he ever saw.




Prologue


Joelmac hardly knew whether he was awake or asleep anymore. He knew it didn’t really matter. He heard the laughter of the wicked ones who kept him trapped in this cell, and the screams and cries of his fellow prisoners, both in his waking hours and in his nightmares. He recalled all too clearly what the wicked ones looked like, and what horrors they had forced him to witness.

The wicked ones took pleasure in making Joelmac and the other prisoners watch, of course, making them know that their time would come. The wicked ones took pleasure in the trauma Joelmac and the other prisoners had endured, and the nightmares they’d suffered. The prisoners would continue to be tortured until their spirits broke, and then they would be the next to die.

Joelmac heard footsteps coming towards the large cage that held him. Realizing the wicked ones had returned, the boy began to shudder, before he retched all over the floor of his cage. The wicked ones had stopped outside Joelmac’s cage, and he knew they were watching him. They could see how far his will had been stretched, and they realized that he was broken.

Joelmac’s time had come, and that made him scream all the more. He continued screaming as the wicked ones unlocked the door to his cage, and two of them stepped in to join him. One of them came over and nudged Joelmac with his foot.

“This one?” one of the wicked ones who had entered the cage asked the other, pointing down at Joelmac. “He doesn’t look like he’s got much meat on his bones.”

“That hardly matters, Humding,” the other wicked one replied. “Tonight they want something more delicate...succulent, if you will. Our little friend is well-rested, and hasn’t overworked himself. They say that he’s extremely young and tender, because of that.”

“Bah,” the wicked one called Humding replied. “They ought to give us more of the choice prisoners, Bruddelmort-we always have to make do with the weak and sick.”

“Then you tell them that,” the wicked one called Bruddelmort replied, laughing under his breath as Humding instinctively flinched. “Now, come on-the witching hour has nearly arrived!”

Humding easily reached out and picked up Joelmac. The boy lay frozen with terror in his arms, completely cowed by the huge creature’s size. Joelmac got a better look at Humding’s fat, unshaven face, and shrank back from it, whimpering in fear. In turn, Humding looked down at him and only laughed.

Humding and Bruddlemort emerged from one of the caves, and Joelmac could see the beautiful starlit sky above him. It was hardly comforting, though-the vastness of that sky made him realize just how trapped he was, and how he would never be able to escape. Joelmac didn’t get to see it for very long, however, as they stepped into another cavern and walked down a series of carved stone steps.

As suffocating and terrifying as the cave that held Joelmac’s cell had been, this one was far worse. Hideous murals and bas-reliefs leered down from the walls. Joelmac shuddered at the sights of vile-looking demonic things and the disgusting things they were doing to their helpless victims. Groaning in horror, he tried to twist around in Humding’s arms so he wouldn’t have to look at the depraved scenes. Humding quickly realized what he was doing and forcibly turned Joelmac over, shaking him hard to force his eyes open.

The boy cried out again, which made Humding and Bruddlemort burst out laughing.

The stone stairs seemed to descend forever, until Joelmac and his captors finally emerged into a large cavern. Everything was just as Joelmac remembered it. In the centre of the cavern were a set of three stone tables drenched in blood. The wicked ones’ former victims were lined up along one wall, forced to remain in silent testament to what their murderers had done to them. There was a large pool of water at one end of the cavern. A depraved altar stood at the water’s edge, with human bones scattered on and around it. The same depraved murals and bas-reliefs Joelmac had seen on the stairs were on the walls of the caverns too, completing the horrific scene.

Two wicked ones rose from the stone tables they were sitting at to greet Humding, Bruddlemort and their prisoner. Their laughter overcame everything else assaulting Joelmac’s senses. He felt as if he would go mad, as he thrashed about helplessly in Humding’s grip. Desperate to escape, he struggled against Humding’s iron grip, although it did him no good.

“Helpless little one, aren’t you?” one of the new wicked ones asked Joelmac, easily taking him in her arms as Humding handed him over. “You’ve seen what we do, and what your fate is, haven’t you?”

“Please…” Joelmac begged, his feet kicking helplessly in the air, as Humding and Bruddlemort turned and left the cavern by the way they came. “Please…”

“Do continue, child,” the other wicked one leered. “Your cries are such sweet music.”

Joelmac tried to silence himself, if only to deny the wicked one her satisfaction. For all his effort, he could not stop his crying.

“Such beautiful pleading. A pity it will not last much longer…are you certain that it is his time?” the wicked one who had told Joelmac to continue crying asked the first wicked one, who still held Joelmac. “This one would make a wonderful plaything!”

“It is his time, sister,” the wicked one holding Joelmac replied calmly. “Nothing more and nothing less,” she finished coldly.

“So be it,” the other wicked one nodded. “Is Ublodine set to return?”

“She knows that it is time,” the wicked one holding Joelmac reproached her. “Be patient, sister!”

Almost immediately after the wicked ones finished speaking, bubbles began to emerge from the pool on one side of the cavern. The bubbles gave way to splashing, as a third wicked one emerged from the pool and stepped onto the stone floor.

“Is it time?” the third wicked one asked eagerly, drool running down her chin. “Is it time?” she repeated.

“Is it time? Is it time? Is it time?” she continued.

“Of course it is, Ublodine,” the wicked one holding Joelmac replied, walking across the cavern to the altar and laying Joelmac down on top of it. “You are prepared, my sisters?” the wicked one asked. All three of the wicked ones stood over Joelmac now, each on one side of the altar. The fourth side of the altar was taken up by an idol of the horrific entity to which the altar was dedicated, which stared down at Joelmac and made him realize just how truly doomed he was.

The wicked one who had placed Joelmac on the altar and held him down by his neck began a chant. It was an obscene, disgusting song that filled Joelmac with fear and revulsion.

He thrashed helplessly, but could not break the wicked one’s iron grip as her sister, the second wicked one, added a second voice to the chant. The wicked ones’ voices seemed to become one, blending together in a way that made the chant even more vile and disturbing. It became even worse when the third wicked one, Ublodine, the one that had emerged from the pool, added her final voice to the chant. The wicked ones’ voices sounded like the gasps of the sick and dying, of victims who knew their time was come and that there was no escape. 

Joelmac was in a frenzy now, screaming and crying as he tried to drown out the sounds of the wicked ones’ voices. Those voices brought back the memories of everything Joelmac seen and heard since the wicked ones had taken him, the sight of the idol looming over him, and the realization that he was doomed. He was completely helpless, and yet he tried to fight it, something that only amused the wicked ones all the more.

Despite all of Joelmac’s screams, the chant continued. Perversely, Joelmac’s desperate thrashing became more and more frenzied in tune with the chant. Finally, the wicked one called Ublodine grabbed Joelmac by the throat, pulling him up as the other wicked one released him. Ublodine forced Joelmac to look into her eyes, until they were the only things he could see.

Uboldine’s eyes seemed to pierce through Joelmac’s sight, all the way to the back of his mind. His heart began pounding, the blood roared in his ears, and a crippling tension seized his limbs. Ublodine’s gaze ravaged Joelmac’s body, seizing it with pain before it began to shut down.

It was the last sight he ever saw.



Chapter One

The Long Roads


Joelmac hardly knew whether he was awa

“Why couldn’t we go to Greyhawk overland?” Seline Roas del Cranden asked her friend Weimar Glendowyr as they sat in Weimar’s cabin, looking at the waters of Woolly Bay. “Couldn’t we have gone through Celene or the Wild Coast?” The young woman was a beautiful sight indeed, with long, strawberry-blonde hair, bright green eyes and a slender, voluptuous figure that meshed well with the bright, vibrant energy she exuded. She was dressed in the deep indigo robes of a wizard, marked with silver signs of stars, moons and planets. Despite Seline’s youth, the magical power she possessed was plain to see, reflected in the intelligent gleam of her bright eyes. 

“It would have taken us longer to reach Greyhawk by land,” Weimar replied, “and the lands of Celene are less than receptive to entirely human bands,” he pointed out. “As for the Wild Coast, there’s much competition there, but not so much of the treasure we might seek,” he explained. “Greyhawk is just as competitive, but there’s more wealth there than in the Coast. There’s a reason the Coast is called the Flanaess’s garbage midden, you know.”

Weimar’s unkempt blonde hair, dull green eyes and rakishly handsome face matched his lanky figure. He carried himself with the easygoing confidence of someone who had seen half the world, for all that he was only a few years older than Seline. His confidence came from years of hard living, as evidenced by the bloodshot look in his eyes and the ugly scars that marked his neck and upper arms. His drab beige clothes and leather armor, both stained from the liquor their owner enjoyed consuming, only reinforced the image. Anyone looking at Weimar would know that his confidences was well-earned, given how easily he wielded the dagger he turned over and over in his hand.

 “But we’ll still have to disembark at Hardby,” Seline pointed out, “and then travel to the Free City overland.”

“Yes, but the roads are faster there than in the rest of the Coast,” Weimar pointed out, “and direct travel to Greyhawk by ship would have been much more expensive. I had to save our limited funds, you realize,” he finished, turning his dagger over again before sliding it into a sheath on his belt. 

Seline just sighed, turning her gaze back to the window of Weimar’s cabin. She was a little unhappy at having to spend her twenty-first birthday aboard the High Tide, sailing out from the Principality of Ulek towards the free city of Hardby, but she knew that much of that came from having to spend more than a month so far at sea. As beautiful as the bright waters and shining spray could be, Seline found that they tended to lose their luster after a while.

“It’s just that there’s so little to do,” Seline said, the frustration evident in her voice.

“So little to do?” Weimar asked in surprise. “You, who’s always interested in poetry and stories? I thought you enjoyed taking the time to write those things.”

“Oh, just ignore me,” Seline replied, smiling wanly as she turned back to Weimar. “I just feel too confined on this ship. The meals we’re served don’t help, either.”

“Too spicy?” Weimar asked expectantly.

“Too spicy,” Seline frowned humorously. Her delicate palate had long been a joke between her and the rest of her friends. She had a distinct preference for sweetmeats and light fruits, and the heavy amount of spices the High Tide’s cook put on the meals he served the passengers did not sit well with her.

“You should just do what I do,” Weimar smirked back at her. “There’s a good reason I-“

“Drink enough stout and mead for all four of us, I think?” Seline’s sister Luna Roas del Cranden said as she walked into the cabin, a boiling kettle in her hands. “Here, try some of this,” she continued, pouring some tea for Weimar and Seline before pouring one for herself. Luna set the sack she was carrying on the floor next to her chair before she sat down, savoring the smell of her tea.

In contrast to the vibrant Seline and the relaxed Weimar, Luna cut a distinguished, dignified figure. She was no less lovely than her younger sister, her dark hair, blue eyes and soft voice enough to set any man’s heart racing. The warmth she exuded complemented her slender frame, blue and gold robes, and the golden pendant around she wore around her neck that marked her as a priestess of the sun god Pelor. In the short time Weimar had known Luna, he had seen how well she channeled the sun lord’s power, a reflection of her worthy service.

“Perhaps I would,” Weimar replied with a smirk, “if they actually had something hard on this ship. “All they have are light cider and wine. You couldn’t get a halfling drunk on that ditch water,” he rolled his eyes in annoyance.

“You, not being able to get drunk on something?” Seline asked in mock astonishment. “I never thought I’d see the day!” she giggled, as Luna joined in.

Weimar scowled briefly at the sisters, but he soon found himself smiling along with them. Helping himself to some of the tea, he savored its fine flavor, before licking his lips in satisfaction.

“Don’t mind the spicy food, though,” Luna said to Seline once the laughter had died down. “You won’t be having it tonight.”

“What do you mean?” Seline asked in surprise.

Before Weimar or Luna could say anything, a fourth person strode into the cabin. The new arrival was almost seven feet tall, with a powerfully muscled frame, and dark skin, eyes and hair. He said nothing as he sat down to join the other companions, his silence matching well with the stony expression on his face. And yet, the man’s visage softened as he looked around at his companions, the cold stare replaced with one of serenity. He seemed to radiate power and warmth all at once, a contrast reflected in the bright gold and dark blue of his multicolored clothes.

We mean, Ma’non’go of the Silver Winds signed to Seline, that we have something special in mind.

“We have a special meaning…” Weimar tried to interpret Ma’non’go’s sign language, before he trailed off in frustration. Weimar was trying to learn the sign language Ma’non’go used to communicate, but he found it hard going.

“Not quite,” Seline giggled, before she correctly translated what Ma’non’go was saying. “But what did you have in mind?”

This, for one, Ma’non’go smiled, as he reached into the sack he was carrying and pulled out a thick leatherbound tome. Placing the book on the table in front of Seline, Ma’non’go sat back, pouring himself a cup of Luna’s tea.

Seline’s eyes lit up as she examined the book. It was a collection of the plays of Heward, the legendary bard who had ascended to godhood upon his death. Seline had always enjoyed reading and performing in Heward’s plays as a teenager, and the book was a wonderful gift.

“I love it!” Seline exclaimed brightly. “How did you-“

Did you think I would forget how much you loved the theatre, especially Heward’s works? Ma’non’go replied, as Luna translated for Weimar. Surely you know better than that! Ma’non’go reproached her.

“And that’s not all,” Luna added, as she picked up the sack she had laid down by her chair. Handing it to Seline, Luna only smiled as her sister examined its contents. Seline exclaimed in joy as she saw the collection of Ulekian sweetmeats and fruits, carefully preserved with special herbs, the sack contained.

“Oh, it’s wonderful!” Seline exclaimed again, this time hugging Luna. “Thank you so much.”

“I contributed too, you know,” Weimar smirked. “Who do you think managed our finances well enough to afford these things? And who do you think knew where we could buy the book of plays?”

Seline’s response was to kiss Weimar on the cheek, an action that he greatly enjoyed. 

Now do you feel better? Ma’non’go asked with a grin, Luna translating again for Weimar.

“Much,” Seline said with a contented smile. “And the tea is wonderful, too.”

“It’s a new recipe,” Luna explained. “I was getting tired of your complaining about how spicy my old blend was, so I decided to try something else. Too much of the same thing can get tedious, you know.”

You are not merely talking about the tea, are you? Ma’non’go asked Luna as Seline translated for Weimar. You are speaking about the ship as well, are you not? 

“…Yes, I am,” Luna confessed somewhat awkwardly. “The sooner we make port, the better.”

“We won’t be docking in Hardby for another nine days,” Weimar said. “But what do you dislike about the ship?”

“It’s too confined,” Luna frowned, this time seriously. “And all that water…I just don’t…”

“You’re afraid of the water?” Weimar asked in surprise.

“No, I just hate the possibility of getting wet,” Luna replied. “It’s one thing to bathe or take a shower, but I hate getting caught in the rain,” she continued, her voice taking on a decidedly unhappy tone.

“Don’t worry, then,” Weimar assured her cheerfully. “When we make land, you’ll be off this tub, and we can go the rest of the way to Greyhawk by road.”

And how long a journey will that be? Ma’non’go asked, as Seline translated for Weimar again.

“Less than a week, if the weather continues to hold,” Weimar answered the larger man. That’s something else…” Weimar continued hesitantly.

“What is it?” Luna asked.

“Well, I don’t mean to pry, but…” Weimar continued, looking back at Ma’non’go again. Ma’non’go had opened his eyes and was looking once more at Weimar, understanding what the blonde man wanted to ask. Again, Ma’non’go nodded at Weimar, apparently at ease with the question.

“What is it?” Luna asked again.

“Why doesn’t Ma’non’go ever talk? With his voice, I mean,” Weimar asked. “I’ve tried talking to him a couple of times, but he’s never replied to me. Is it something about me, or-“

“Certainly not,” Seline interrupted. “It’s just that…” she trailed off.

“Ma’non’go simply doesn’t speak at all,” Luna picked up the explanation for her sister. “It used to be that he could only speak by writing, until our father taught him a form of sign language he could use.”

“Your father?” Weimar asked in surprise. “But how…”

Weimar frowned at the somber expressions that crossed his friends’ faces. Finally, Manon’go took a deep breath. Looking at Luna and Seline, Ma’nongo signed something with his fingers before nodding solemnly.

“You’re sure?” Seline asked.

Ma’non’go nodded, and signed again.

“So that’s how it is?” Seline asked again, a bright smile crossing her face. “Well then, so much the better!”

“What do you mean?” Weimar asked, now completely confused.

“Ma’non’go gave us permission to tell you his story,” Luna explained. “He said that you’ve earned the right to know.”

“Really?” Weimar asked. “Well then, thank you!” he smiled at Ma’non’go.

The larger man nodded again.

“Our father was Lord Roas Del Cranden, part of a lesser branch of one of Aerdy’s Celestial Houses,” Luna explained, as she poured herself another cup of tea. “Lord Roas was involved in a number of trading ventures, including with the peoples of Hepmonaland.”

“The southern jungle lands?” Weimar asked in surprise.

“That’s right,” Luna continued. “Don’t believe the stories you hear about the people of Hepmonaland being savages-they have civilizations all their own. Different from ours, perhaps, but just as advanced as any in the Flanaess. The people of that land, who call themselves the Olman, produce many of their own exotic trade goods that people in the Flanaess will pay large sums for. Our family was heavily involved in that trade, and so Lord Roas would go down to Hepmonaland at least twice a year to deal with the Olman.”

“So you’re an Olman?” Weimar asked Ma’non’go, who nodded.

Hence my colorful attire, Ma’non’go said with a half-smile. Luna translated the larger man’s words for Weimar, before she resumed her story.

“On one of Lord Roas’s travels to Hepmonaland, Ma’non’go stumbled into his camp. He was half-dead and starved, and so Lord Roas nursed him back to health. Lord Roas was as surprised as you are that Ma’non’go wouldn’t talk, and would only communicate to him in writing. They taught each other how to read and write their languages so Ma’non’go could speak to him. But even then, Ma’non’go wouldn’t tell our father where he came from.”

A haunted look sprang up in Ma’non’go’s eyes, and the large man gripped the table. Weimar could tell that Ma’non’go was clearly angry, although Weimar didn’t sense that the larger man was angry at him, Luna or Seline. Rather, he was probably recalling something unpleasant from his past.

“Why wouldn’t you tell them?” Weimar dared to ask.

Ma’non’go signed something back, the angry glare still in his eyes.

“He said that it involved betrayal and loss, and a past that best remains buried,” Luna translated. “He’s never explained to anyone, not Lord Roas and certainly not us.”

Seline frowned at that, but said nothing.

“…So what happened after that?” Weimar ventured.

“None of the locals Lord Roas was dealing with wanted anything to do with Ma’non’go. They said that his country was apparently hostile to theirs, so they said Ma’non’go could rot for all they cared. Our father offered to take Ma’non’go back with him to Aerdy, and he agreed,” Luna said.

“You just left everything behind?” Weimar asked in amazement.

Ma’non’go only nodded as his shoulders slumped, seeming as if he was forced to bear a very heavy burden. He seemed to age twenty years all at once.

“By the gods…” Weimar murmured sympathetically, reaching out and putting a hand on Ma’non’go’s arm.

“Ma’non’go came back to Aerdy with Lord Roas, and he was taught a type of sign language so he could communicate better with our father. Lord Roas taught it to us as well, so we could talk to him,” Luna continued.

“How did you justify him being in Aerdy?” Weimar asked in surprise.

“Lord Roas explained Ma’non’go as a bondsman who was trusted to guard Seline and I,” Luna explained. “It was a way to save face in Aerdi society without anyone asking too many questions.”

Ma’non’go signed something else, as Luna and Seline nodded.

“Ma’non’go just said that he owed Lord Roas a debt of honor,” Luna translated, “and he intended to keep it. He’s been with us ever since, even after we had to leave home.”

“Why did-“ Weimar asked, before trailing off as he saw how Seline flinched.

“Our father was murdered by House Garasteth in retaliation for House Cranden trying to block Garasteth’s influence at Zelradton with the Chelors,” Luna explained, sadness creeping into her voice. “Lord Roas sent us to friends of his in Sunndi for our own protection, so we would not be claimed as ‘compensation’ for what House Cranden did to them. We adventured in the Iron League states for a while, but the treatment we received was…less than ideal,” she finished, “and that’s when we set sail for the Principality of Ulek. We couldn’t bear the suspicion and harassment anymore.”

“…And that’s where you met me,” Weimar frowned sympathetically. “Are you-“ he asked, before noticing that Luna was humming under her breath.

“That’s a lovely song,” he smiled. “Did you come up with it?”

“No, it was a song of the Flan of the Rieuwood,” Luna replied, a smile returning to her face. “They taught it to me when I was working as an ambassador to them for the church of Pelor.”

“Like I said, it’s a lovely song,” Weimar smiled back. “Better than any tavern shanty I ever heard…and there’s less chance I’d end up in a brawl at the end of it, too,” he joked.

Luna and Seline laughed at that, and even Ma’non’go smiled.

Somehow, Weimar knew he would never have noticed that smile when he’d first met Ma’non’go.


***

Revafour Greystar was an impressive sight. His coppery-bronze skin and shoulder-length black hair marked him out as a Flan, that group of humans that had given the continent of the Flanaess its name and were its first human inhabitants. Standing more than six and a half feet tall, with thickly corded muscles, Revafour’s formidable appearance was only enhanced by the thick plate armor he wore and the massive two-handed broadsword strapped to his back. His attire was completed by the moccasins on his feet, and the cloak he wore on his back, beaded in the Flan tradition. Revafour carried himself with the calm stoicism the Flan were reputed for, and his movements showed how well he followed his people’s warrior traditions.

Airk Venbelwar, Revafour’s gnome companion, barely reached past the Flan warrior’s waistline. Airk’s appearance was no less formidable, however. Clad in plate armor similar to Revafour’s, topped with a dragon-headed helmet, Airk carried a shield marked with the design of the crescent moons and stars on one arm. A military pick and a spiked morning star hung in easy reach on the gnome’s belt, and it was clear that he knew how to use them. Airk’s hair was blonde, as were the short, bushy beard and the thick, waxed handlebar moustache under his long, pointy nose. If Revafour was calm and stoic, Airk appeared always alert, ready to react at a moment’s notice.

Amyalla Reorsa, the halfling traveling with Revafour and Airk, was a contrast to her more reserved companions. She was a rare beauty, with long fire-red hair and emerald-green eyes and a gorgeous figure most elves would envy. A coquettish smile always seemed to play around Amyalla’s lips, and her eyes gave a thoughtful and penetrating gaze. The halfling projected a sense of knowing charm, reflecting her years of success at stealing coins, gems and hearts all at once. She wore a leather jerkin over a plain traveling gown, with a series of daggers hanging from her belt. That practical attire contrasted with the fashionable new boots on her feet and the elaborate blue hat, decorated with orchids and lilacs, she wore on her head. 

 “I don’t know why you insisted that we pass through Leukish so quickly,” Airk Venbelwar, was complained to Amyalla, walking beside her as Revafour strode ahead of them. “As it was, we barely had time to replenish our supplies!”

“I’ve…never had much fondness for Leukish,” the halfling, Amyalla Reorsa, replied without looking back as the Leukish city gates receded behind them.

Just the day before, the three companions had arrived in Leukish, capital of the Duchy of Urnst, with the merchant caravan they had been guarding. Amyalla had insisted that they leave Leukish the next morning, only allowing Airk and Revafour time to buy fresh supplies. She hadn’t given any explanation for the haste, only demanding that they leave the city as soon as possible.

“And what’s with your boots?” Airk asked, nodding at the stylish boots she wore. Amyalla had bought them in Radigast City, capital of the County of Urnst and the Duchy’s northern neighbor, and the city where they’d joined the caravan to Leukish. However, Amyalla had refused to put her new boots on during the trip to Leukish. Instead, she’d continued to wear her old boots, which were filthy and worn through. She had only taken off her old, dirty boots once the companions had left Leukish, throwing them back at the city. Amyalla had put on her new boots after that, and she was now distinctly happier, although Airk was still annoyed.

“My boots?” Amyalla grinned innocently. “What, a woman can’t enjoy the opportunity to put on a new pair of shoes?”

“I’d say it was more than that,” Airk pointed out matter-of-factly. “We could have at least spent another night in Leukish, I would think. You do realize that we’ll probably have to make camp tonight, and that there’s a good chance of it raining?”

“What’s wrong with that?” Revafour asked, raising an eyebrow at the scowl crossing the gnome’s face.

“Suffice to say I hate getting wet,” Airk groused, “and I won’t even get to enjoy the sunset.”

Revafour and Amyalla just stared at him in surprise.

“You…needn’t mind me,” Airk continued. “I’m just annoyed at the haste. Do we really need to reach Greyhawk so soon?”

At this, Revafour gave a sigh. He tried to keep it quiet, but both Airk and Amyalla heard it clearly.

“And what’s your problem?” Airk asked Revafour, more curious than irritated this time. “You would have preferred to stay in Leukish?”

“Hardly,” Revafour muttered, looking away briefly. “I am, shall we say, less than pleased about going to Greyhawk.”

“Why’s that?” Amyalla asked curiously. “There’s always work there for adventurers. Plenty of treasure as well, and caravans and ships to almost anywhere you could imagine. There’s a reason my people call Greyhawk the ‘Gateway to Everywhere’!” she said brightly, hoping to raise her companions’ spirits.

“There are too many people there,” Revafour muttered, anger creeping into his voice. “Too many of the same people who-“

Airk blinked in surprise, unsure what Revafour was talking about. Amyalla instinctively understood, however.

“Too many Suel and Oeridians, I take it?” she asked, more gently this time.

Airk understood after that, recalling how Revafour had alluded to the many betrayals and broken promises the Flan had endured from the lighter-skinned humans that had come to the Flanaess during the Great Migrations. He frowned at that, remembering his own bitter betrayals at the hands of the dwarves who claimed themselves to be allies of the gnomes during the Hateful Wars. The Wars had ended nearly six decades ago, but Airk could still clearly recall them, particularly what Kalrek Burunne had done to his people.

Airk did his best to suppress the rage he felt at those memories. Taking a deep breath, he forced himself to focus on what Revafour was saying.

To his relief, he managed to keep a calm facade.

“It’s one thing to travel on caravans, as we have,” Revafour explained, “but apart from that, I am not fond of crowded conditions.”

“And yet you wear Oeridian armor and carry an Oeridian sword,” Airk reminded Revafour, something he’d originally pointed out when they’d first met.

Revafour’s eyes flared at that, although he continued to keep calm.

“No one can change the past,” he said uncomfortably, “and if most of this world is now dominated by the Oeridians and the Sueloise, I’ll do what I must to survive. Isn’t that what you do as well?” he asked, with a question that was halfway between a retort and an observation.

“Of course it is,” Amyalla said smoothly, trying to ease the tension in the air. “That’s exactly why I left Leukish.”

“So, what happened in Leukish, then?” Airk asked, not keen on pressing Revafour any further.

“A family who sought to gain from a prestigious marriage, a husband who was not half the hero he seemed, beatings and cuckoldings, a hideous scandal caused by his philandering, and my leaving all of those damned wretches behind so I could be free,” she replied. “I trust that is enough for you to know?”

“Indeed it is,” Revafour said, sympathy in his voice. “Small wonder, then, that you did not care to stay in Leukish.”

“How perceptive,” Amyalla smirked back. “Yes, I have come to enjoy my freedom, and I would not go back to Leukish if I could. Indeed, I found Greyhawk to be a truer home to me than Leukish ever was. It will be a joy to come back-even more so because I’m doing so with a handsome gentleman on either arm,” she laughed, glancing from Airk to Revafour and back. Both man and gnome seemed somewhat embarrassed and looked away, discomfited with the attention Amyalla gave them.

This, of course, only heightened the halfling’s amusement even further. 


"
 
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