Aiden Zahir shrugs his pauldron-clad shoulders at the mention of moving onward. "I am, as ever, prepared. The sooner we are off, the more quickly we can hope to find our Emperor. And where this harsh environment is concerned, I believe after last night moreso than ever, we have all discovered that time is of the essence."
Dradin grunts. "Yeh, I think I agree wif the Spymaster fer once."
Ashlynn takes a deep breath and releases it slowly as she stands, bundling away the last of her equipment securely before she nods to the others, slinging her pack over her shoulder. "If there are no other objections, then, let us continue."
Nikolaes makes ready to leave, hefting his haversack into place and securing it.
Aiden Zahir rises, buckling his ebon armor fast and sheathing shortsword at his side. "I am ready," he tersely concedes, pulling down his visor with a 'clang'.
Nikolaes says, "I follow where you lead, Mistress Birch, per the Blademaster's command."
Corriden checks over his weapons and slings his sheild over the wrapped greatsword on his back. "Carryin' around three swords.. I mus' look ridiculous." He grumbles, trotting with the typical clanging of armor after Ashlynn. Sure, he might not be agile, but Corriden Lomasa's certainly accustomed to long periods of movements in heavy armor again!
Vhramis nods and turns to give those assembled a look over. "The walk may be a bit more difficult, as we're moving into the foothills. But I'm confident we'll still make good time." He turns to face the northwest, their general direction, and sighs.
Ashlynn can only offer Corriden a grim, humorless smile for the comment before she is falling into her usual, comfortably long stride, gravitating toward Vhramis' side to walk beside him as has been her habit.
"Yer don' look ridiculous," Dradin assures Corriden with a smile, "Jus' more prepared is all."
Aiden Zahir joins the journeymen, falling into the easy step which has been the efficient cadence, thusfar. "Let us hope we encounter no such opposition as we suffered last night. We escaped that by little more than miracle and the supreme courage of the Prince. We have no such surety, now," the Spymaster morbidly affirms.
The confidence of the Steward aside, a figure crouches in the lower limbs of a deciduous tree, thick with new leafy early Greening growth, peering from a hilltop about a hundred yards from the expedition. Silvery eyes narrow, observing the Fastheldians shrewdly as they pass. A clawed, mottle-fleshed hand releases a branch, allowing it to slip back up to obscure the creature from view.
"Heh! You shoulda followed suit and taken the /rest/ of that suit of armor yer wearin'." Corriden replies to Dradin, gesturing to the ruined shoulder. "Pathfinder armor's nice stuff and I make it pretty well, but it helps if you don't mix different armor types and actually wear th' whole thing. When we get back, y' can put that scalemail helm back where y' found it and I'll give ya the pathfinder set."
With all the noise the more heavily armored members of the group are no doubt making, Vhramis has to make a more concentrated effort to keep track of things about them. Human senses aren't cut out for this sort of thing, though he does his best as they move along.
Nikolaes marches along relatively behind Ashlynn, seemingly unconcerned with the weight upon his back. True to his word, the Bladesman seems intent upon following the young woman wherever she may lead, though his gaze scans the trees with a strange intensity.
Dradin looks at his now-bandaged wound glumly. "I woulda, but couldn't figure out the res' of 'em fiddly bits." He pokes the strips of cloth and winces. "Thanks, though."
Ashlynn seems to eventually, belatedly realize the new shadow she has picked up, and she gives Nikolaes a wan half-smile before focusing on the horizon once again, adding her own perceptions to Vhramis' watch as she can.
Aiden Zahir continues along, as with the rest oblivious to any surveillance. This is, after all, far removed from their own element. The Wildlings have the home court advantage, and from the constant swiveling of the duke's helmed head in attentive watch, this pleases him none at all.
The Wildling crouched in the tree on the hill, roughly northeast of the expedition until they are beyond it, watches as the Fastheldians keep on the march toward the horizon. When they are about fifty yards past the tree, the splotchy-skinned creature scurries down the trunk of the tree and then slowly makes its way down the lee of the grassy hill to stare after the expedition in the glow of the descending sun. It raises its clawed hands to cup either side of its fanged mouth. And then it releases a grating shriek that echoes through the geological bowl formed by the surrounding foothills.
Corriden startles at the shreik, wheeling around in confusion. "What's goin' on?" The Lomasa blurts, pulling his longsword free of his belt in confusion. "Shades.."
Ashlynn whirls with her breath caught in her throat, searching for the source of the shriek, face white with the long dagger in her hand before she is even consciously aware of the movement.
"Light, what was ..." Aiden murmers at the sound. "Be on your guard!" he warns the others, withdrawing his sword from its sheath with the deathknell ring of steel on steel as blade brushes against metal-rimmed scabbard.
"They know we're here," Nik dispassionately says, his baritone even. He adjusts his grip upon his longsword and looks beyond Ashlynn since she is looking backward.
"We're.. Not in a very defensible position." Corriden murmurs, looking around the bowl-like area. He raises his shield defensively, scowling around him. "We ought to move to higher ground before stopping."
Well, that didn't take very long. "Of course they know we're here," Vhramis comments, looking about. "And I'm inclined to agree with Lord Lomasa. Take higher ground. And watch for traps. They may be trying to herd us." He draws an arrow and steps aside, looking up in the direction of the Wildling shriek.
Apparently satisfied with the reaction of the expedition, the Wildling settles into a crouch at the base of the hill with the tree. It digs little troughs in the sod with clawed fingers, panting a little as it peers at the Fastheldians. And then, at last, it plops onto its posterior and dangles its arms over its knees. The light of the dying day fades toward gray-blue, glinting in the creature's eyes. No others of its ilk come scampering over the surrounding hills. It remains alone and, for the moment, silent if vigilant.
Aiden Zahir's own pace quickens to match the staccato of his heart, nodding to the prevailing opinion but responding to it in curt and hurried response, "If we are to move, we had better do it -now-. Whatever that ... thing is, it cannot be far off. And must have friends, I'll wager."
Nikolaes turns very slowly to look back along the path. Slowly, the Bladesman begins to pace in that direction, lifting his shield. He scans the path as the darkness grows around him, frowning.
"Either that or it's the most retarded wildling ever." Corriden growls, turning to continue his trudge uphill. "But it's not attackin'. That's odd." His armor rustles and clanks as he moves, and the large man nudges his visor down with the edge of his kite sheild.
Ashlynn dry-swallows as the Wildling hunkers down, and stares disblievingly for a moment before she murmurs, "I do not know exactly what it is waiting for, and loath as I am to turn my back upon it...let us continue moving before it or any others nearby change their minds." And, putting deed to words, she begins to back slowly along the path, glancing nervously over her shoulder all the while.
Dradin's hand strays to his set of sharp implements in his belt, keeping pace with Corriden as his eyes dart about warily. "Mebbe ey'er up ter summat," he comment to the Lomasa.
"I'll keep an eye on it, and keep the back." Vhramis comments, staying still to allow the rest to pass him. He slides the bow from his shoulder and puts arrow to bowstring, though doesn't draw.
Aiden Zahir darkly agrees with the redshirt, "They are always up to something. The question is merely what. And more importantly, how many of them are up to it? I am sure we'll find out soon enough."
The Wildling grunts as it sees the expedition continuing on its way uphill toward the west. With hissed muttering, it ambles back to its feet, all gangly and wiry, and half-crouched takes a few steps after the walldwellers. The creature stops, cups its clawed hands aside its mouth, and shrieks once more. Squawkers flutter from a nearby tree, wings buffeting the twilight. And then the Wildling drops back into a crouch again, watching the expedition.
Nikolaes stops when he can get a good look at the Wildling that sits upon the path and he tilts his head as he gazes upon it. His breathing changes, slowing, and the man grows very, very quiet. From the way he looks at the creature, it is as if he's trying to memorize its face.
Corriden pauses and glances back, scowling beneath his visor. "It's either testing us, toying with us, or working on a trap of some sort." He grunts, unhappily. "Well, whatever it wants me to do, I don't want to do." He turns and goes back to trudging, if anything, putting on a bit more speed and effort.
Ashlynn can't help but jump at the repeated shriek, and this time she stops altogether to turn and stare at the bewildering Wildling. Walking through the group toward the rear, she begins to mutter in an undertone to Vhramis when she reaches him, "What does it want - " Except that she suddenly gasps, and blurts out before mind has caught up with action, "Four-Splotch?"
"For the love of the Light," Vhramis mutters, watching in disbelief as the Wildling starts shrieking again. "Someone has to shut it up, because if it's alone, it soon won't be at that rate. I'll get it. Someone come with me, hm? With armor? We'll catch up to the rest of you." Not quite waiting, he begins to move the reverse way, back towards the Wildling, when Ashlynn's declaration has him grinding to a halt. "Four-Splotch?" he repeats, face paling slightly, before it's replaced with what seems to be a slowly growing anger. "Four-Splotch," he hisses, rushing in its direction.
And along with Vhramis comes a slightly reluctant looking Blade, Lucius Nepos of course. He unsheaths his sword and sets his shield in front of his body, following the steward.
Lifting his visor, Aiden gifts Vhramis and Ashlynn with a risen brow. "What in the seven hells? You two actually -know- this creature? And it has a name? I suggest someone explain, before this gets all the more confusing."
Corriden turns at the noise to just /stare/ at the others. To Ashlynn he asks.. "You /know/ this one? Uh.. What's Skinner doing?" He reaches up to push back his visor, looking rather peevish at the whole matter.
The Wildling watches with some curiosity as Ashlynn seems to recognize it. And then Vhramis comes running toward it with the Bladesman in tow. Fangs click together as the creature known as Four-Splotch ponders its options. In the end, it seems to decide to err on the side of caution: It makes no aggressive moves. It hugs its knees with clawed hands and watches, humming softly in the twilight.
"Vhramis!" Ashlynn exclaims with a disbelieving blink after the steward, before she turns a helpless look upon the others and then runs after Vhramis. "Sorry, just a moment...Vhramis, you idiot! You're supposed to run in the *other* direction, or so help me, I will send you to greet the Light personally myself!"
Nikolaes throws out the arm that holds his shield in an attempt to block Vhramis' wild approach. "Wait. Wait!" he cautions. "It isn't threatening us. Just look at it!"
Dradin quirks a brow at the Wildling's inaction. "I fink it's got a trick up its sleeve," he mutters. "Or would, if were wearin' a shirt an' all."
Lucius Nepos stops in his tracks, his lips pressed into a rather unremarkable thin line. His eyebrows raise up as the green-blue orbs under them turn to shift on the Wildling, Vhramis, now Ashlynn and then
Aiden Zahir grips the hilt of his shortsword in action which speaks of nothing in way of surety or confidence about this situation. "Friendship between a Wildling and one of our own? Impossible," the Spymaster coldly opines, his expression turning from shock into a deep scowl. "Unless it can provide information worth gathering, it is ours to despatch this fiend to the Shadow from whence it came, not run and greet it."
"I see it," Vhramis replies hotly to Nikolaes, ignoring the arm as he rushes along his way. "I've seen it every night for the past 5 months." The arrow goes back into the quiver and the longbow over his shoulder as he runs. Instead, the black hilted Valacar is drawn from his belt as he approaches, and eventually slows in front of the creature, finding himself able to do little but stare at it, now that the moment has arrived.
Lucius Nepos stops in his tracks, for a moment at least, his lips pressed into a rather unremarkable thin line. His eyebrows raise up as the green-blue orbs under them turn to shift on the Wildling, Vhramis, now Ashlynn. He keeps his shield and sword at the ready, and as Vhramis speeds up he moves to offer him support if he needs it. He doesn't say a word, but watches both the Wildling and the Steward closely.
Aiden Zahir exhales a sigh, head shaking in equal parts disbelief and disgust. "I cannot believe what my eyes behold. Madness ... Utter madness."
The Wildling watches with narrowed eyes that grow slowly wider as Vhramis approaches. The creature's fanged mouth broadens into a feral grin and it softly hisses: "Ssssteward." It remains seated on the grassy ground, though, making no move to stand and keeping its clawed hands clutching its knees. The creature seems to be doing all it can to present little indication of threat.
"It provided us with information about She Who Protects before," Ashlynn informs grimly as soon as she has caught up with Vhramis, her steps slowing to a stop just behind his shoulder when he does not attack immediately, watching him and the Wildling tautly. "Perhaps it might prove useful again, though I hope simple speech will suffice this time," she continues in a low tone, reaching out tentatively to lay a hand on the steward's arm, trying to remind him to stay his intended swing. "Why are you tailing us, Four-Splotch?"
Nikolaes brings his shield back into readiness and frowns at the Wildling, blue-eyes glinting as he stares at it. "It speaks," he murmurs to himself. "The rumors were true." The man's gaze proves intense as he considers the creature.
Dradin's eyes go wide as the Wildling talks. "Shades," he whispers, staring awestruck at the creature.
Vhramis' face darkens as the creature greets him, his shoulders trembling slightly. Ashlynn's restraining hand seems to do at least a little to prevent any aggressive action, aside from glowering. "Four-Splotch. All the nightmares. All the pain. My stomach /still/ aches, at times. And it's not enough. Now you haunt my waking hours." He draws a deep, shuddering breath. "Where is Talus Kahar?"
For once, Aiden agrees with Dradin, muttering a droll, "Indeed," looking on in wonderment, emerald eyes drinking in the mannerisms of this oddest of Wildlings, and mayhap filing away observed information for future reference.
Lucius Nepos's lips twist into a frown as the creature talks. His body, already tense, becomes more prepared should anything happen; he lifts his shield up so that the top protects his chin, and then his sword rises and points downward; should Four-Splotch decide to get feisty, he'll now have the looming sword to deal with. Other than that, the Blade is as unmoving as a statue.
The Wildling first casts arather annoyed glance at Nikolaes, grumbling. But then it revisits its silvery gaze to the Steward of Wedgecrest and nods slowly before raising a clawed hand to point roughly northwest. "Can take you," the creature says in a raspy voice.
Ashlynn's jaw tightens, casting Vhramis a look of sorrow, concern, and perhaps even a trace of guilt before she gives his arm a last squeeze and then releases it. "Why are you helping us now, Four-Splotch? Your 'She' has already been returned to you...or wherever she took herself, these days."
"The one that threatens to destroy us rather than protect us," Nik points out, drily. "How do we know it speaks the truth? It could just be leading us into an ambush." His attention upon the creature seems normal enough, this time, but there is a warning glint there in his eyes.
Aiden Zahir is no more trusting of the ... thing than anyone else, but, pragmatist that he is, overcomes his disbelief to posit, "If it can lead us to Talus, I for one am willing to take the chance. Sould there be perfidy and trechery in its mind, it will be drawn out, and when it is, it will suffer," a narrowing of eyes at the Wildling, "Grievously."
"You were quite helpful when his son was taken," Vhramis retorts, grip tightening on the knife. "And your kind hunts us, most likely. Even now. What says you're not aiding them?"
Dradin frowns at the Wildling. "I dun trust it," he grumbles, "But Spymaster's right," he looks a bit perturbed at the concept of him and Aiden agreeing once more, "could 'elp."
Lucius Nepos lowers his sword arm, and, therefore the sword; his body visibly relaxes itself and his frown dissapears. He does a sweep of the surrounding landscape - desolation. Then back to the Wildling. "At this point, I think that we have nothing to lose by following it. But we must stay vigilant, as always."
"Four-Ssssplotch kind *do* hunt," the Wildling replies, head bobbing up and down, fangs glinting in the twilight. "Black Tribe. Tall and sssharp." Slowly, the creature gets to its feet and peers up at Vhramis. "Green Tribe enemy. Walldweller king with Green Tribe."
Corriden just kinda watches in the backround, jaw sagging in shock.
Aiden Zahir snorts in dry humor at this latest unlikely bombshell. "Tribes? At odds with each other? Why, that sounds like our own noble Houses. Come to think of it, listening to that mostly unintelligible drivel and the lack of proper grammar, if one closes one's eyes, one could almost mistake the thing for a Seamel."
Ashlynn takes a short, trembling breath, and rubs the back of a hand across her mouth before she murmurs, "Let us go, Vhramis. It is more information than we have as pure guesswork right now. And even if it is an ambush..." She shrugs eloquently. "Guide us, then, Four-Splotch." Aiden's remark earns the man a snort and a flicker of a glance before she turns to watch the steward's reaction.
Corriden glances over to Aiden sourly. "You know, for a useless stuffed shirt, you sure insult others a whole lot. I'm beginning to wonder if you're capable of keeping your trap shut for more than five minutes." He grunts, lowering his visor again.
Vhramis bites down on his bottom lip at the information. "Your tribe will help us, then," he states, slowly, sounding not sure of this entire situation. "We've killed many of your enemy. And will kill more. Our king's brother fell already." He glances to Ashlynn, before sighing and nodding. "Lead."
Nikolaes asks, "Does he live? Or are you taking us to a corpse? Does your poison run in his veins?" The Bladesman tightens his grip upon his sword. "Do you have news of the Emperor?"
Lucius Nepos resheathes his sword, eyes fluidly trying to watch everything, and keeping themselves moving around. Being unarmed is dangerous, though; Lucius removes one of his iron tipped throwing spears from his shield compartment and grasps it with his right hand. "Keep alert." Lucius warns, once again, before moving with the rest of the group towards the Northwest, staying next to Vhramis.
"Two moonssss' journey," the Wildling says, lowering its clawed hand. "Black Tribe holdssss much land beyond hillssss. Wantssss him. Sssshe won't let them." His gaze shifts toward Nikolaes. "He livessss."
One Kahar apparently dead, the other apparently alive. My, how fate has its quirks. "The Emperor yet lives?" Aiden inquires with all the fervor of a faithful son and servant of the Crown. "Marvelous. We must reach and rescue him with all haste, then."
"Thank the Light," Nik sincerely breathes, his shoulders losing some of their tension. He nods to Ashlynn and prepares to serve as her shadow once again. "Just remember - I've got my eye upon you," he says to the Wildling in a warning tone.
Ashlynn bites her lip, closing her eyes briefly before she leans close to murmur something quietly to Vhramis, her hand seeking his out surreptitiously to give it a light squeeze. "Let us go, then," she motions toward the Wildling to precede them as she prepares to begin the hike again.
"Hoorah," Dradin says quietly with a relieved smile, trailing behind Lucius and Vhramis toward the northwest. He keeps his hand within easy drawing distance of his knives should the need arise.
"Does that mean 'She' has him?" Corriden asks, shifting uneasily at the thought of confronting a drake again. "Two days. That's not so bad if we've /some/ kind of ally. " Now he plods after the group following foursplotch, shaking his head bemusedly.
The Wildling bobs its head, then slouches off toward a hill leading to the northwest, keeping fairly close to Vhramis but not raising its clawed hands anywhere near the Steward - or anyone else for that matter. Instead, it clutches its fingers together tightly, claws click-clacking against each other as its arms sway back and forth with its movement.
Vhramis doesn't slide his weapon away, the man apparently taking comfort in the grip of it, though he holds it passively at his side. His eyes remain on Four-Splotch as he returns Ashlynn's squeeze. "How long have your tribes warred," he finally ventures to ask, set to follow the Wildling.
Lucius Nepos continues to walk towards the northwest, licking his lips wrapping his index finger and thumb through his spear's throwing strap.
Nikolaes, as Ashlynn's self-appointed bodyguard, marches to the rear of the scribe. He distrustfully looks to Four-Splotch, but doesn't use that intense gaze again. Not yet.
Aiden Zahir makes to follow as well, but not before looking to Corriden and raising his own visor to retort to the Lomasa's earlier comment, "And for a hulking poor fish, one might say the same for you, Lord Lomasa. I, of course, couldn't possibly comment." And with that, the Spymaster lowers his helmet's front with a sharp drop of visor, and settles into the walking cadence.
Corriden doesn't dignify Aiden's words with a reply, turning the proverbial cold shoulder to the Spymaster as he plods along. "What can you tell us about th' different tribes?" He calls over to the creature, curiously.
Ashlynn remains silent amidst the back-biting and question-calling, simply watching the Wildling and the shadows around them with the stiff, wary air of the distrustful.
"Sssinssse the coming of the Black," Four-Splotch replies to Vhramis as they make their way up the hill. "It isss why we ssssought Ssssshe."
Vhramis considers the creature next to him as he walks, taking in it's features. Perhaps trying to become accustomed to walking next to such a thing. "I've seen...Greens like you wish the Blacks. We all have. Slaves, are they?"
Even, steady steps keep pace behind Ashlynn as she walks. Nikolaes is a dutifully vigilant Bladesman, his attention less upon Four-Splotch and more on his surroundings.
"Not just seen; killed a few, too. Most of the Wildlings we've fought so far were the normal kind." Lucius shrugs lightly, continuing with a crunch of iron boots on his eventual path towards the Emperor and keeping vigilant, as he advised everyone else. He takes a moment of walking though to have a sip of water from the skin he carries on his belt.
"Yellow Tribe with Blackssss," Four-Splotch answers as they reach the top of the first rise. "Green Tribe not like Yellow." He shrugs easily.
Ashlynn and the rest trail behind the Wildling Four Splotch like some macabrous version of the Pied Piper's tale. Her expression filled with the conflicting emotions of caution, doubt, and fledgling hope, the courier asks, "How many tribes are there?"
Dradin trods alongside Lucius, watching the Wildling closely and warily as it answers the group's inquiries.
Aiden Zahir marches along with the rest of the motley band, expression hidden by his ebon and gold-embellished helm, yet obvious interest is paid to the Wildling as other tribes are mentioned. Curiouser and curiouser, that more and more of these divisions within their kind are revealed. Perhaps divisions which might be exploited at a future date.
The Wildling turns its splotchy gaze toward Ashlynn briefly before resuming its trek down the other side of the hill, the northwestern face. "Many," is all Four-Splotch offers.
The deluge of questions never cease, apparently. "Why is the Green Tribe helping us retrieve our King?" Vhramis asks, looking ahead of them as he trudges along. "Why are you keeping him safe?"
The wildling is watched closely with narrowed eyes, as the segmented armoured Guardian Leader Nepos continues to march on the open ground alongside Vhramis and Dradin. His ears seem to be perked up through their slits in his helmet, listening intently to the conversation - who knows when it could be useful? With his spearwielding hand he pulls his wolfskin cloak closer to his body, the warmth of the dead animal producing a smile on the Blade's face.
Nikolaes's movement is more businesslike. He quietly marches along and doesn't speak, though a dark frown has settled upon his features.
Tattered cloak trailing behind him as he trails behind the group, Thayndor Zahir keeps a hand on his longbow. Although his eyes move around the edges of the trail, he also occasionally glances at the Wildling leading the expedition - plainly keeping track of the conversation.
"Perhaps you should ask the questions from now on. It seems to respond better to you," Ashlynn mutters sardonically in aside to Vhramis, one of her shoulders bumping into his in a wan attempt at light-heartedness.
"There's the question of the day." Corriden murmurs under his breath. For the moment, he just trudges along in a stolid manner after the odd party, glancing around warily for other such 'visitors'
"Walldwellerssss releassssed Sssshe," Four-Splotch answers the Steward, loping as he picks up speed down the hill. "Sssshe repay. We sssserve Sssshe."
Vhramis frowns slightly at that as he increases his speed to stay next to the wildling. "Repay? She still exists, then? I was told that She and He turned into the Instrumentalist." He looks over to Ashlynn, maybe hoping for some input.
Dradin nods at Vhramis. "'swhat I saw 'appen, but maybe we was wrong 'bout 'at." He scratches at his nose with a gloved hand.
"But we upheld our part of the bargain and released her," Thayndor notes from the rear. "What happened afterward they may have seen coming." He glances speculatively at the Wildling.
Ashlynn nods slightly, her brow furrowed as she glances between the wildling and Vhramis and then back. "Yes," she murmurs back to the steward. "Unless they serve the Instrumentalist and call it 'She' now. Unless...it had been the Instrumentalist all along that they wanted us to bring about." She shrugs helplessly. "How are we supposed to know?
"I too was there, and saw both the Ravager and She Who Protects fall in the ruins of Halo." Lucius's boots continue to crunch against the ground, hobnails providing some form of traction. He cracks his gauntleted fingers loudly, relaxing the hands under, and glances at Ashlynn. "I don't think any of us know their Shadow powers."
Aiden Zahir adds his own two imperials with typical sarcasm, "I expect 'She' will show herself again soon enough. She foretold the destruction of Fastheld and the end of the Empire. I cannot imagine that happening unless she takes a direct role in the affair. Which, judging by her powers on the night she arose from the ashes of Halo, could be entirely possible. And probable."
"She does have our Emperor," Nik points out as he trudges along.
"Sssshe dessstroyed He," the Wildling replies after a long and rather exasperated rattling sigh. It stops near the bottom of the hill, allowing the rest of the expedition to catch up as it peers up at Vhramis. "Became new Sssshe. Sssstill Sssshe. Sssstill ssserve."
Vhramis pauses as well, looking down at Four-Splotch, his gaze gradually turning into a glare in response to the sigh. "Do you think us stupid?" he asks quietly after a moment of eyeing the wildling over.
"Prob'ly," Dradin says to Vhramis, "cuz we ain' Wildlin's."
"Think you no more sssstupid than mossst walldwellerssss," Four-Splotch answers with a diplomatic shrug.
Ashlynn coughs with an embarrassed sound, trying to hide a quirk of real amusement behind a fist before she clears her throat and finally shrugs as the others fill in the natural response readily enough.
"Anyways, with th' new bows an' arrows, the black tribe's going to be putting a great deal of hurt on yours." Corriden grunts, shifting his sheild to alleviate the ache in his arms.
Vhramis stares down at Four-Splotch for another moment, before glancing to Ashlynn and sighing quietly. With a gesture of his knife hand, he sets off moving again. "Tell us of the condition of Talus Kahar. Is he concious?"
"Think sssso," the Wildling replies to Vhramis. "Wasss when left Green Tribe village."
"'Ey ain' terr'bly good shots," Dradin says to Corriden. "Bit perturbin' that 'ey're usin' 'em, though."
Vhramis' next question quickly sobers the courier, and Ashlynn unconsciously bites her lip as she looks to the Wildling for the answer. With Four Splotch's reply, she releases a soundless sigh of relief, looking quickly away, over the long distances and natural obstacles of the land.
Nikolaes quietly suggests, "Does he have any injuries?" He has stopped behind Ashlynn and now his gaze is upon the Wildling.
"Had ssssome bruisssesss after He got him," Four-Splotch says to Nikolaes. Shrugs. Starts walking northwest through the night. "Healed."
"That's alot better than we could've expected." Corriden grunts. "I suppose he's not going to be happy that his brother's dead, though. Let's not tell him until after we get him home. I personally don't want to see a royal temper tantrum."
News of the Emperor's health piques the Spymaster's curiousity, and he listens, intently if silently, to the telling. His expression shrouded beneath thick and sturdy armor, nor is there any sign in his gait or mannerisms to suggest Aiden's appraisal of things. And that is likely just how he wants it.
Vhramis' mouth tightens slightly at Corriden's words, though he doesn't reply to that, instead picking up on something else Four-Splotch said. "Where did He bring him to? Not your village, I'm sure. And did He threaten all of the tribes? Or just yours?"
Nikolaes slowly nods, but he doesn't seem to entirely trust the Wildling's words. He has to stifle a chuckle at Vhramis' next question when he hears it.
"He left him. High Hill. Sssshe found him," Four-Splotch tells Vhramis. "Sssshe brought him. Green Tribe village. Not like ssstew."
"Thank the Light that he's safe.. but if your tribe," Lucius motions to Four-Splotch with the sharp iron tip of his spear, "is keeping his royal highness safe, then perhaps there is more to these Wildlings than the others. Now, whether they're civilized or not is a different story." Muses the Blade.
"Stew," Ashlynn breathes with a half-scandalized, half-horrified air before she snorts a disbelieving laugh.
"Why's She want to keep him safe?" Corrden pipes up, absently.. That is, until he realizes what kind of stew everyone's talking about. "Er.. Ew."
Nikolaes trudges along after Vhramis and seems to urge the Wildling along with a slow movement of his longsword. Thankfully, he knows nothing of Wildling cuisine, so doesn't get the ickies like the rest of the group.
Vhramis blinks at that, shaking his head before looking forward again. "She is repaying us for releasing her, Lord Lomasa."
Dradin tilts his head for a moment, looking confused. He trudges toward Corriden and asks in a low tone, "Wha's wrong wif stew?"
"People stew." Corriden whispers to Dradin, pointedly. "At least, s'what it sounds like. I think there's many things wrong with soup au Kahar."
Ashlynn grimaces and throws a glower toward the others behind her as she states in no uncertain terms, "If you please, let us move on to other subjects."
"Does the Black and Yellow tribe...or any other...care about us inside the wall?" Vhramis speaks up again, glancing down to Four Splotch. "Your Green tribe has no more reason to enter, correct?"
Dradin pauses to let this sink in. "Ooooh. I s'pose that is a bit of an 'quired taste."
"Green Tribe?" Four-Splotch shakes his oblong, mottled-flesh head. "No. No reassson. Walldwellersss no threat. To ussss."
"You know, if she wanted to repay us, she could always just drop the emperor off back at the palace and leave us alone. We 'walldwellers' aren't a threat to anyone unless you come inside of /our/ territory. Clearly we just want to be left alone to subjugate the unwashed masses in peace." Corriden points out, wrinkling his nose. "If they don't care about us, why attack? Or will those stop, now that She is released?"
"Then why does She want us to fall?" Nikolaes' baritone suddenly voices. "Exactly, Lomasa. Why does She bear us ill will?"
"Yet you slaughtered us during your attacks prior to our locating Her," Ashlynn reminds stiffly with a hard look toward the Wildling.
"Might be the bit 'bout sealin' 'er in the big ball unnergroun'," Dradin explains to Nikolaes and Corriden. "I figure one would prob'ly get a little tiffed about summat like 'at."
"I suppose it was counterproductive to set her free, then, if we were going to be destroyed one way or the other." Lucius sighs, as quietly as he can, although the sound of the exhaled breath is in actuality quite loud.
"Sssshe doessssn't want kingdom fall," Four-Splotch answers with a shrug as he walks along. "It jusssst issss."
"Then are we a threat to the other tribes?" Vhramis asks, continuing his earlier course. "Or don't you know much about their actions."
"Let us not remind them of that, please," Ashlynn drawls toward Dradin after the man's remark before she settles with a sigh to just listening once more to what else might be drawn from the Wildling.
Nikolaes decides to hold his tongue for now, simply marching and listening. He studies Ashlynn with a new curiousity for a moment.
"Other tribesss?" This gets a rough laugh from the Wildling, fangs glinting in the moonlight. "Oh, yesss. They think walldwellersss alliesss of Green Tribe. Want you dead."
"What do you mean by that?" Corriden rumbles, confusedly. "The kingdom's falling on it's own, you mean? It wasn't a threat, but a prediction?"
Lucius Nepos lowers his shield to the side of his body but keeps his spear at the ready. Thereafter, he marches along in silence (like Nik), his boots treading a path through the grass. The night's only getting darker and more uncertain; he keeps vigilant.
Dradin shrugs at Ashlynn and continues plodding alongside Corriden.
Ashlynn cannot help but wince at the thought of being thought 'allies' with Wildlings - no matter the type - and casts an aghast look toward Vhramis before shaking her head silently and turning her gaze back to the moon-lit 'scape. "I imagine that nothing lasts forever. But, Light grant, it will not happen in our lifetimes."
"Allies?" Vhramis repeats, looking down at Four-Splotch with a flat expression. "Why do they believe that? With the exception of this current...arrangement, I don't see why they'd think it so."
As Corriden speaks, the Wildling gazes first at the man's knees and then its eyes travel up the height of the freakishly tall human. Slowly, Four-Splotch backs up so he can at least gaze up at the man's nostrils, past his chin. "No threat. It happenssss." And then, once finished with the whole neck-craning thing, the Wildling turns back to regard Vhramis. "Sssshe isss loossse. He issss gone. Very mad."
"The other tribe sides with Him, I take it," Nik says with a snort.
The Lomasa lifts his visor to blink at the wildling, grinning somewhat sheepishly. "Greaaaaat." He replies, wryly. "Well, better She than He. She didn't torch any towns. So long as she leaves us alone to fall apart in peace, I'm a happy man."
"It happens," Vhramis mutters, finally tucking the blade back into his belt. He is silent for a few moments, before speaking up. "We should stop to rest soon. I can't imagine our heavier armored friends can go indefinately."
Dradin nods at Corriden, "Lesser o' two weasels, as 'ey say."
Ashlynn swallows an irreverant laugh at Vhramis' mirrored retort, nodding after she has managed to attain a straight face again. "It would be best if we remained relatively well rested...particularly if we encounter any of these rival tribes that would as soon see us failed and filling their stomachs or something equally gross."
Almost in response to Vhramis' words, Nik stops suddenly to lean over and retch. He vomits rather soundlessly, but for the falling of the contents of his stomach. Dark circles have appeared beneath his eyes since he began to speak less and march more.
"Nonsense, I feel great!" Corriden isn't dreadfully good at this 'lying his ass off' thing. "Anyone who wears heavy armor is in enough shape to wear it, and thus better off than you poor injured saps in leather." Which is why his arms ache so badly that they feel ready to fall off, sure..
SQUISH. "Bloody ashes!" Grinn snarls, hopping out of the puddle of vomit and grimacing at his soiled boot. His attention had been too focused on their surroundings, and not the ground immediately before him. The sellsword growls another curse and drags his foot through a scraggly tuft of grass.
"Camp," the Wildling says as the expedition reaches a clearing on the verge of some woods. Four-Splotch starts ambling toward one of the trees. "I keep watch."
Dradin cringes at the sound of digestive juices and acid-eaten food splatter on the ground. "Uuugh," he groans, "That's... ugh. Ew." Says the guy who eats bugs.
Vhramis glances about, ignoring the vomit. "This will work," he muses, moving off to find a spot against a tree to sit against.
Nikolaes drags himself upright and then trudges toward the clearing without one word to anyone - not even an apology to Harwel. With a groan, he slides down into a sitting position and, abandoning his sword and shield to the grass, reaches up to grasp his helmet with both hands as if he is in pain.
Ashlynn shudders at the messy sounds, taking a quick peek over her shoulder just to confirm who it was before she grimaces and studiously tries to pretend the entire episode had not occurred. "Yes, camp," she states in as authoritative a manner as she can muster, immediately swinging the pack from her shoulders. Her gaze follows the Wildling, before she adds, "And another guard. Just in case. Just like the previous nights, we'll rotate through...better two sets of eyes than just one, after all."
Lucius Nepos sticks his spear back into his shield compartment, stowing it now for the night, the time spent safely inside a tent or before a bonfire. With his free hand, he gives Nik a reassuring pat on the back and smiles weakly at the fellow Blade, nodding at the idea of camp. He takes a seat next to the man, and gestures to an area that would make a suitable firepit. "We need to keep warm." He says, not offering to do the job himself.
"You'll keep bloody watch alright," Harwel hisses beneath his breath, forgetting the mess for a moment. "An' slit our throats first chance." He snorts loudly and drops his haversack where he stands. "I'll take first watch." Grabbing his halberd, he stalks off to the edge of the camp where he plops down and kicks off his shoes.
"Don't count on my eyes," Nik says as he closes them very tightly and curls up on the ground. "I am unwell." Pale, he's still looking a little green. "I'm sure it shall pass," the man quietly advises.
Unslinging the bow from his shoulder, Vhramis lays it and the quiver against the tree he claimed, before turning about to gather wood. "A fire...one of you has some flint, I hope. I lost mine. We'll keep it small, though." With a brief look to Nik, he frowns. "Been eating some odd colored mushrooms?"
Nikolaes' terse response is a simple, "No."
"No, you should rest," Ashlynn agrees with a sympathetic look toward Nikolaes, wandering over to crouch down and eye the bladesman with a scrutinizing gaze. "What is it that you are feeling? That was a rather sudden onset of sickness. I did not always listen to my mother while she lectured her five children whenever they came in out of play in the rain with some sickness, but some of her common sense remedies have rubbed off over the years."
Dradin begins undoing his armor and placing it in an organized heap. He stretches out on the ground and sighs, looking up at the stars and the six moons. "Always did like lookin' at the night sky," he says to no one in particular. "Makes e'ryfing seem real small-like."
"In me pack," Harwel grunts over his shoulder, drawing the ratty folds of his cloak about himself like a blanket. He turns his back on the camp and the bright fire Vhramis builds, all the better to preserve his night vision for the long hours ahead.
With his eyes still closed the Zahir Bladesman quietly replies to the woman. "It feels as if a tribe of Wildlings is rioting within my skull," are his mumbled words. Nik cares nothing for removing his armor. He just wants to lie very still.
Lucius Nepos pats the fellow Blade on the back once more. "You just rest, Niko. No need to exert yourself any more than you already have." Then, he rises up and casts a still very much awake gaze at the Wildling and Grinn, eyebrows arching. "I'll take watch with Master Harwel." He declares.
Vhramis looks thoughtful as he builds the small fire, stepping back once satisfied and moving over to lean against his tree. He doesn't try to sleep just yet, instead looking over to the place where Four-Splotch went to perch.
Dradin wraps his cloak around him and sits up, looking around at the camp grounds, then at Four-Splotch and the others, and then back up at the sky.
Ashlynn nods with a sigh as she stands, stretching a bit on sore feet as she moves to sort through her pack. "I am no healer, and carry none of their tools with me, but I do carry a tea with me that has been known to help if I have had a particularly hard day of riding. Help loosen the muscles...deaden aches...lets you sleep. Shall I brew a cup for you, M'Lord?"
Grinn Harwel pulls his cowl down low and stares off eastward, grumbling irately to himself. The aleskin he's worn since leaving Fastheld has grown smaller and smaller, and the lack of a good drink has begun to take its toll. A man's liable to go sober in a place like this.
"Mm," is Nik's noncommital reply. The Bladesman doesn't stir from his place upon the ground, eyes tightly shut against the ambient light.
Lucius Nepos spits on the ground, also pulling up his cloak, one made out of wolfskin and fur. Keeps him warm in the winter times, and through this extra-Aegian chill it keeps him nice and toasty. He takes a seat near Grinn, and removes a small hunk of bread from a pouch, laying his shield down on the ground.
Vhramis idly lowers his hand to his stomach as he stares at the tree, gaze distant. "Try the tea," he suggests to Nik, in support of Ashlynn.
Corriden sinks down by a felled treestump, resting his arms over his knees with a soft groan. "I'll take a watch too." The blacksmith grunts, scowling. "Doesn't matter who with. "
Ashlynn glances toward the steward at the unexpected words, and noticing his motion, she asks as she sets a small tin cup with a wooden handle on the heated stones near the fire, "Would you like a portion as well, Vhramis?" Measuring out some of her waterskin's contents, she takes out a packet of leaves and crumbles a few dried blades into the cup.
"I can relieve one of you, if necessary," the Lord of Darkwater offers. He winces slightly and rolls his shoulder. "I'm still passing fresh."
Grinn Harwel shifts the skin to his other side, opposite Lucias. Like a child with a lollipop. Despite his foul mood, the sellsword manages to crack a grin. "At this rate there won't be nobody for second watch," he comments wrly, casting a sideways glance at the Guardian beside him.
Dradin yawns. No watch for him, thank you very much. As he watches Ashlynn prepare the tea, his eyelids droop slightly, but he shakes his head and fights off sleep for now.
"My thanks, m'lord, but we have just taken watch and will be quite alright for a little while longer. You can take next watch, though." Lucius says, motioning around with his gauntleted hands. "Watch the Wildling, though." Whispers the Blade. And then, turning to Grinn, he chuckles. "I wish we'd brought a full contingent of troops but then again.. we'd have to survive off forage."
"Of course," Thayndor replies to Nepos with a nod. The Zahir shrugs off his cloak and spaulders, removing a bandage of black velvet - obviously cut from his tattered cloak - that has been wrapped inexpertly around his shoulders. He pokes gingerly at two sets of day-old claw marks on his back.
"No thank you, Ash," Vhramis replies, shaking his head. "I'm fine. I'll probably fall asleep any minute now." He smiles faintly as he looks away from the tree.
"S'okay to build a fire?" Corriden asks, inclining his head. "It's chilly out t'night."
Ashlynn nods as she lets the brew steep for a time, resting her chin upon her knees as she stares moodily at the cup, arms wrapped around her legs, before finally shaking herself and rising to take the tea to the ailing bladesman. After that chore is done, she walks directly to Vhramis' side, slumping down to a seat against the same tree with a sigh. "Let the fire bank itself," she murmurs in response to Corriden's question. "Four-Splotch found us with little problem. I do not think it would take such great effort on the others' parts if they chose to do the same."
"Train a crossbow on that beast says I," Harwel adds darkly. "Better yet, slip a rope around its scrawny throat an' be done with it." He uncorks his skin and takes a measured swallow without offering so much as a drop to anyone else. "An' Light knows what's attention a group much larger 'n this would draw. Best we move quiet-like. Avoid trouble."
"Now now, Grinn, don't you touch him. He's our only lead to his royal highness, even if he is a Wildling." Lucius pauses, taking a sip of water from his own skin, as well as beginning to unroll his ashen coloured leather sling. "With all due respect Master Harwel, the way we've been moving is anything but quiet. Killing Wildlings left and right, leaving firepits and refuse everywhere as well as easily tracked trails.. there's safety in numbers in a place like this."
"Who says he's even there?" Vhramis muses, reaching an arm about Ashlynn's shoulders as she settles next to him. "Could be off rushing about, doing whatever it is they do."
"Which is why you're not leading this expedition," Thayndor replies to Grinn. "Does anyone have clean water?" He pokes again at the gashes on his shoulder, sucking air in through his teeth.
Dradin lies down on the ground, cloak wrapped around him for warmth. He stares upward and listens to the conversation of the others, silent for now.
Ashlynn snorts softly in amusement at Thayndor's retort to Grinn, leaning into Vhramis' side before she frowns, refocusing upon the Zahir. "Use some of the drinking water if necessary...is it becoming inflamed?"
"... it's not on fire," Thayndor replies with furrowed brows. "And it doesn't feel like it is, which is how it felt the last time."
"Grinn ain't no leader. Nor is he a follower for that matter." The mercenary grunts loudly to himself. "That's the bloody problem," he states, lowering his voice by several octaves and leaning closer to Lucius' ear. "We're traipsing about like this is a bloody hunt in the bloody forest district. We ain't got numbers or discretion on our side." He pauses, licks his lips, and gives into the urge to swallow another swig of precious brew. "All we've got is blind luck."
"It felt different than other times I've been clawed," Vhramis adds, nodding to Thayndor. "There was no poison. Not like the other ones." He taps at his torn mail cuirass.
"If the expedition were better organized.. if we had a proper supply chain running out from Fastheld.. if, if if. At this point, there's no reason to speculate. We must press on with whatever resources we have and weather it. I'm not a fan of blind luck, but when it's all you have, you take it." Replies Lucius to Grinn, as quietly as the man had spoken a minute ago. He ventures a guess to the group, lifting up his water skin from his belt and tossing it towards Thayndor. "Maybe only certain tribes of Wildlings have poison claws?"
Ashlynn nods uneasily, her brow remaining furrowed as she glances between Thayndor and Vhramis. "Nevertheless, try to keep it clean. Wildling poison could be the least of your worries..." She closes her eyes as she lets her head rest against the steward's shoulder. "Either we would have the entire army out here, or woodsman who could move quickly and silently. But as we must compromise either way, let us simply rest, and hope that we make good time tomorrow without interruption."
"Either that or they coat their claws with it before coming into Fastheld to attack us, knowing it's likely to kill us more than the claws themselves." Corriden murmurs absently, from his restful position near the fire.
"That's what I'm thinking," Vhramis nods to Lucius. "Whatever the case...I'm thankful we didn't topple over from it." He leans his head sidewise, resting it against Ashlynn's.
"Yeah," Dradin pipes up, "I were jus' thinkin' of 'at. Like 'at nightslider venom," he nods to Corriden from his spot on the ground.
Something in Harwel's mood lightens. "Aye, blind luck an' a big stick." He gives his halberd a sound rattle before planting it upright by the buttspike beside him. He draws his hood back and removes his helm, allowing the tangled mess of hair within to spill freely. "So what brought you over the Wall? Duty was it?"
"I think it's because of a difference in race," Thayndor suggests. "We were attacked by black wildlings, yes? His kind are green," he inclines his head to the tree, "and they're the only kind -I've- seen before. Maybe his kind have venom, the black ones do not?"
"One scratched Lord Corriden's throat, yet he took no greater harm," Ashlynn reminds in a murmur, her eyes already half-closed in lazy contentment. "Perhaps it simply did not scratch deep enough. The claws are not hollow, like a snake's, through which they can inject venom via the tips...perhaps it comes from something secreted at its base, by the nail."
"Mebbe Master Skinner should ask ol' Four-Splotch," Dradin suggests.
"The ones we fought were of the 'yellow' tribe, according to Four-Splotch," Vhramis shrugs slightly. He consider's Dradin's suggestion before nodding his head. "I'll need to. It could be crucial to know. Perhaps they have another type of toxin, also."
And the conversation goes over Lucius's head almost as soon as it's started. The Blade simply shrugs at the people, turning back to Grinn, and something more familiar. "Fastheld needs the Emperor. Before I left, the state of the people was dismal. Light, even the army was almost in revolt. We've had mutiny on all quarters... We need our leader back. The Regend Nillu is doing a superb job, but he can only do it to a certain degree." Lucius explains.
Thayndor Zahir snorts. "Superb, sure. Cast away every Councilmember who was loyal to the Emperor and replace them with his own choice." He holds a waterskin against another strip of cloak, wetting it, and, wincing, wipes down the wounds at his shoulders and shoulderblades. The young Zahir grunts as he reaches for the bottom of the claw mark, at the bottom of his shoulder blade. "I agree. Return the Emperor."
"Loyal to the emperor..." Ashlynn mutters with a decidedly derisive sniff before she closes her eyes entirely and turns her head into Vhramis' shoulder, murmuring something to him alone.
"Mutiny," Harwel repeats, lips parting in a vicious grin. "You know," he begins, jabbing a thumb at the Blades insignia on Lucius' breast, "it weren't so long ago I wore one of them." A sharp snort of laughter erupts from his now clenched lips. "Funny how much a man's perspective can change."
Vhramis eyes those assembled from his position at the tree. "There will be no mutiny," he responds. "The Emperor will be returned and the Throne will be given back to him. We'll prove the words of an overgrown bushdragon wrong." That said, he whispers quietly back to Ashlynn in reponse.
Thayndor Zahir glances over at Ashlynn with a shrug. "Well," he says. "-I- recall swearing to discharge my duty, and upholding that oath until he removed me. Gah." He winces at a particularly tender spot and starts tending the other shoulder, dousing the rag once more in water. "And for what? For missing a few -" he gestures dismissively with the rag, a look of scorn on his face, "- 'meetings?'" As the Zahir moves to pay closer attention to his work, he continues to mumble. "The job lends itself to being done from the water. Would he rather me sit on my hands at the Palace?"
The Guardian leader nods his helmeted head. "Yes, I suppose so, Master Harwel. I try to check my love of coin by the much greater love of country." Lucius turns to Thayndor. "If it had been any other man occupying the Regency, I imagine that the state would have fallen apart into a bunch of quarelling, bickering fiefdoms controlled by the noble houses. I doubt you can find a man more qualified than Oren Nillu, m'lord, to lead Fastheld in this moment. He has his faults as any other man, that much is true."
"I made the comment on the account of one person alone, and that person is not you, M'lord. Nevertheless, it is not my place to speak such of my...betters," Ashlynn concludes neutrally before she blinks her eyes open and tilts her head back to turn a puzzle frown upon Vhramis.
"About Tomassa, I imagine." Corriden pipes up. "Or maybe Orell's capering about with those simpering women he keeps around him, I didn't like him either. Anyways, I can't blame him in either circumstance, and I /know/ why the surrector was dismissed." He rolls on his side with a large yawn.
"I saw the Chanc'ller once. I fink," Dradin remarks.
Grinn Harwel mutters to himself and turns his attention eastward. The sellsword falls silent, huddled as he is within his brown cloak, and watches the horizon fixedly.
"I hear good things," Thayndor replies drily, scrubbing a little at his wounds before unfolding the rag with a grunt and binding one shoulder with it carefully. "However, you'll excuse me if I choose to rely more upon my own personal experience with the man. And it is somewhat embarrassing to admit that I do /not/ know, why the Surrector was removed." He chuckles once. "I haven't spoken with my cousin in some time."
Ashlynn casts a quick glance toward the others, but deciding to leave them to their own conversation this time, she turns her attention back to Vhramis.
"Y'wanna know why the surrector was removed?" Corriden asks, trundling to his feet with a pained expression. "I'll show ya." He reaches for his belt-buckle and begins unfastening it. "Hey, Birch, look away. You don't wanna see this."
Thayndor Zahir laughs at that, shaking his head. "No, Corriden, thank you much. You've already made me a sabre, I don't need to see the one you carry around in your pants as well."
Lucius Nepos also falls silent, recovering his waterskin from the ground and looking towards the horizon. All he sees is vast, uninhabited plains. Desolation which could make a man want to end his mission and go back to Fastheld. But it's not like that would even be possible, now, in this barren land. He grits his teeth yet remains at watch.
Dradin's brow furrows upon hearing Corriden's remark. He's probably glad that he's staring straight up right now and can't see anything.
Vhramis only casts a brief look over to Corriden as he begins preparing to swing around his extra sabre, before focusing on Ashlynn.
Ashlynn's eyes flick momentarily toward Corriden in bemusement before her eyes widen in surprised comprehension, turning quickly back to Vhramis with a snort and an exasperated shake of her head.
"Believe me, I wasn't going to show you my Lomasa goose." Corriden replies, with a laugh. "Allright, to make a long story short, my former fiancee and I had a fight, and she used the imperial dungeons to tie me up to a rack, burn me, and so-forth. The Chancellor was even invited to witness it, but the fat bastard didn't bother to find out until later that I wasn't there on any charges, but rather by a whim."
Vhramis shakes his head slightly as he responds to Ashlynn.
Thayndor Zahir raises both eyebrows. "Well. A woman scorned, I suppose." He tugs his tattered shirt back on over bandaged shoulders, then his jerkin and spaulders. Glancing back at Corriden over the strap of his jerkin, the young Zahir smirkingly adds, "While I would not condone my cousin's ... lack of control, I would point out that it wasn't necessarily a lack of loyalty as well."
Ashlynn shakes her head with a wondering air and a last sigh before she settles more comfortably into Vhramis' half embrace, curling into the beginnings of a doze.
Vhramis yawns faintly and shifts how he leans against the tree, resting his head against the bark and murmuring something.
"I'm not complaining, pal... I was still willing to marry the woman, after all. I'm just explaining. Apparently it's not good business to use an imperial position to torture someone who's just ticked you off." Corriden explains, with a laugh. "Anyhow, /that's/ why she was removed. I can't stand the fat old bastard, but he was right in this one case."
"Glad to know I have an ally," Thayndor drawls, strapping on his spaulders again and throwing out what's left of his cloak, pinning it down with rocks on four corners to stake out his sleeping space. The young noble moves to the edge of the camp, just outside the circle of firelight, and sits.
Ashlynn chuckles, and then finally utters a last sigh and seems to drop fully into sleep with the exhale.
"What was it, Serath said before he died?" Thayndor asks the wind. "My church is the battlefield?" He exhales and shakes his head, slumped shoulders silhouetted in the moonlight. "A noble prayer ..." There is a long pause before the Zahir raises his head again. "Let's hope none of us warriors die in church."
Return to Season 3 (2005)