Jump to content
  • Join For Free and Get Notified of New Chapters!

    Are you enjoying a great story and want to get an alert or email when a new chapter is posted? Join now for free and follow your favorite stories and authors!  You can even choose to get daily or weekly digest emails instead of getting flooded with an email for each story you follow. 

     

    Yeoldebard
  • Author
  • 2,730 Words
  • 114 Views
  • 3 Comments

Stolen Dreams - 4. Guardians

ELIAS

 

Darkness fell swiftly on the Stolen Lands.

The tables were removed, and a watch was set. Straws were drawn, and Elias drew the short stick. He stood now in the early morning, shivering as a late snowfall muffled the world around him. Yona was set in his arms, his horn at his hip. He could have the weapon ready to fire in half a minute. Provided his fingers weren’t too stiff.

Torchlight shone behind him, lighting the path to the post, but the rest of the world was pitch black, save for flickering lights in the far distance.

Lights that were slowly crawling closer.

Lights that were snuffed out one by one as they got within a thousand feet of the palisade, leaving nothing but darkness.

Elias crouched down, wriggling his fingers as steam rose from his mouth. Lifting his measure, the amurrun let grains of powder sprinkle carefully into Yona’s pan. The measure went back on his horn, the frizzen was closed, and the signal was ready to be sent. Cocking the hammer all the way back, Elias stood up again, turning toward the six tents that were set outside of the post. He raised Yona, aiming her empty muzzle above the tents, squeezed his eyes shut, and gently pulled the trigger.

The distinct scrape of flint on steel hit his ears, and then nothing. The amurrun cursed, opening his eyes again to stare accusingly at the powder that refused to ignite.

“Come on Yona, don’t do this to me…” he muttered, reaching for a small pinch of grain.

The powder sprinkled over the pan cover again, and Elias raised the weapon once more. He cocked the hammer back again, and pulled the trigger.

Another strike of flint on steel, and suddenly the amurrun was blinded by an eruption of powder and sparks. He bit back another curse, blinking the spots in his vision away as he ducked down quickly.

Hands worked feverishly, pouring powder down the barrel of the gun, followed by a small strip of cloth with a lead ball inside. Elias shoved his rod deep into the gun’s throat. Tamping the ball securely into place, the amurrun flipped the weapon around. A measure of powder refilled the pan, and he closed it as a door creaked open.

Out of the corner of his eye, he could make out the shadows of the post’s defenders, making their way through traps and barricades. His body turned, musket slipping through the holes between the palisade spikes, aiming down at the shadows creeping into the trading post torchlight.

He had three shots. At eleven stags a shot, there just hadn’t been enough money to buy more sulfur or lead for balls, not after losing his money to Ramiel. After this fight, Elias knew he’d have to be more melee focused, but that was something to deal with later.

Bodies moved through the gates, nearly a dozen bandits charging into the post. The click of a crossbow sent a bolt into the fireback Elias had set up the previous afternoon, and an eruption of flames suddenly doused the bandits.

“Nock! Draw! Loose!”

The commands came rapidly, and suddenly, twenty arrows hummed through the gates, cutting down a second wave of bandits in a series of sickening thumps. The few survivors stumbled into the bear traps, adding their agonized screams as their legs were broken by the steel jaws.

“Abapad of the Hidden Flame, Ramiel requires your aid!”

Black flame erupted in the middle of the bandits, an armoured arm slamming a mace into a fleeing bandit even before the demon could fully materialize.

“Stay your retreat! Fight, damn you!” a man bellowed from the back of the bandits.

A smattering of arrows flew from the bandits, a halfhearted response that largely missed. A few missiles struck armour, but none of the defenders so much as murmured a word of pain.

Elias brought Yona to bear. Fifty feet. It would be an easy shot at this distance, if he could get through that breastplate.

A hand pulled out a vial, and Elias dipped a finger into the watery liquid. Wiping Yona’s barrel with the tincture, he whispered to the gun, lining up his target.

“Now don’t you get all fussy with me. I’ll clean you off later…”

His finger pulled the trigger, and the flint snapped forward, sending sparks into the powder. The powder erupted in Elias’ face, but he held his breath, and his aim, as smoke belched out Yona’s mouth.

The bandit leader was the next to add his yells to the wounded, his knee shattered by a lead ball. That was all it took to send the rest of the bandits fleeing. Elias watched them scatter, his eyes picking out a lone man in a dull breastplate watching the scene from a distance. The man turned away, and vanished into the surrounding gloom before Elias had a chance to reload Yona.

Sliding down the ladder to the tower he’d used, the amurrun moved swiftly toward the defenders, Yona hanging in his hand. His feet carefully avoided an untriggered bear trap, and he joined the party as they came down from the attack. Bodies were already being pulled aside, dead left to be buried. A cloaked figure was casting healing spells over a few wounded, and Elias frowned at the sight of a black tipped tail poking out of the bottom of the cloak.

The gunslinger shrugged, moving on to help Hope disable the rest of the traps. Amethyst appeared to be keeping secrets. It was none of Elias’ business if the witch wanted to have a fox tail. Tails were rather useful after all.

“Well, I don’t think they’ll be returning any time soon,” Oleg scoffed, looking at the carnage. “And what’s this? You got Happs too!”

The man approached the bandit leader, a grin on his normally gruff face. He looked down at the unconscious man, then kicked his side, forcing the bandit back to the waking world, and the agony it involved.

“For over a year now, you have tortured me and my wife, stealing our money, and more. And now we get to watch you hang.”

Happs whimpered, drawing into himself as blood flowed from his wound.

“Amethyst, can you heal him?” Elias asked, looking down at the man.

“I… what… did you hit him with a hammer?” Amethyst demanded, staring at the fragmented bone.

“Why heal him? He’s going to die for his crimes,” Ramiel frowned.

“Because he’s probably the only one left who can tell us where the Thorn River camp is. And we need to destroy that camp before they can warn the Stag Lord,” Elias explained, pulling a silver amulet off the bandit’s chest.

“Fine. Abapad, find out what he knows,” Ramiel sighed, pointing at Happs.

“Gladly,” the demon sneered, grabbing the bandit.

“Wait!” Hope demanded. “We are not at the point where people have to be tortured!”

“You’re not in charge here,” Ramiel sneered.

“You’re right. Amethyst is in charge. We will listen to his decision in the matter.”

Amethyst murmured a spell, healing energies washing over the bandit leader and leaving his knee in a more solid state. The witch frowned at the group before closing his eyes.

“I cannot decide yet. We will leave him imprisoned for now, safe from any threat of harm. In the morning, I will decide what to do with him,” the witch sighed.

“Take your rest,” Kesten said suddenly, approaching the group. “My men will see to it this swine does not perish before you determine his fate.”

The captain grabbed Happs, another yelp escaping the bandit as he was dragged to his feet.

“I need to check on Greenbriar, then I will retire as well,” Ramiel said stiffly. “I hope we will be on the road to the bandit camp early?”

“I will see to it that the group gets a good rest before we set off into the wilderness. Elias, Hope, I want you two in charge of our supplies. You two seem resourceful enough,” Amethyst replied.

Elias shrugged, watching the mercenaries move bodies.

“As long as I don’t have to bury corpses, I’m happy. I do need to give Yona a nice rub down though. And see about getting some more lead.”

“Oh, I can give you some lead,” Oleg said. “In fact, to show my gratitude, I’m giving your group a thousand dragon credit to be used at my post. Anything you want is yours; all you have to do is ask. We even have our own alchemist… when he comes back from hiding...”

The amurrun’s eyes widened. A thousand gold to buy anything he wanted. He’d never had so much money before. Granted, he didn’t actually have the money, but credit was almost as good.

“Flint? Charcoal? Maybe even some more of that wine from dinner?” Elias asked excitedly.

“Slow down Elias. We need to think about group expenses too,” Hope interrupted.

Elias sighed, looking at the tiefling. Already the rest of the party had retreated back to bed, and Happs and Kesten were nowhere in sight. Elias wondered briefly if the mercenary would keep his promise. Maybe he needed to have a talk with Amethyst to see if they could split their credit with Kesten’s men. After all, their arrows had cut down most of the group.

He decided he’d think about it. It was a lot of money, surely the group expenses wouldn’t be that much.

 

AMETHYST

 

Nightmares danced through the witch’s head, dreams plagued by fear and doubt and guilt. Amethyst had killed before. For someone who had devoted their life to studying healing and magical remedies, it was hard, but in this case, it was necessary.

But she had never felt the weight of responsibility wash over her like this before.

More than that, no one knew she was truly a kitsune. It was a secret that was near impossible to hide, yet every day that it went unnoticed sapped her sanity. How much worse would it be when the group found out she was lying about her identity?

“Rest easy, my sweet.”

A honeyed voice broke through her frightened dreams, lulling the kitsune into a grassy enclave in the woods.

“You carry far too many concerns. Life, death… why burden yourself?”

“Who are you?” Amethyst demanded, standing in her fox form, her true, feminine, fox form, unmarred by any witch’s curse.

A nymph appeared before her, in the haze of dream, or of memory. Her green skin brushed over white fur, gently stroking Amethyst in a way that made her knees tremble.

“I am the Guardian of the Bloom. I am a friend, someone who can help you find the answers you seek.”

A hand held a silken pouch, Amethyst’s Harrow deck, her most sacred possession. The kitsune’s hand covered the silk uncertainly. She’d held it in dreams, she’d pondered its meanings, but she had never had the urge to read in her dreams before. There was no harm in it. Instinctively, Amethyst knew this wasn’t her true deck. And yet she hesitated.

“Go on. You know you want to. You know it can give you the answers you seek.”

The silk wrap slid off, tucked neatly into the fold of her sash. Amethyst took a deep breath as her hands held her cards, sinking into that familiar meditation as she sought the question she needed to ask.

“What should I do with Happs?”

Her hand shuffled mindlessly, drawn by the energy of the universe. Finally, the cards slid against each other, once, twice, three times without a shuffle, and Amethyst laid three cards out on the grass before her, the three card spread seeming natural for a choice with multiple paths.

“The Inquisitor. Less about justice, but still firm in resolve. The choice is immutable. Whatever I do will be permanent.”

The kitsune let the card settle in her mind, studying it as though it could provide further clarification. When none came, she moved on.

“The Juggler. The fate of others is flexible, a decision unmade. A decision of possible chaos, though good intentioned.”

A shiver ran through Amethyst’s body. She already knew she wanted the right option, the good option. But was the good option right? The kitsune pushed ahead, hoping, praying, that the final card would have the answer she sought.

“The Twin. Neutral balance, indecisiveness. The spread is unanswerable. I must seek my own answers within myself.”

She sighed quietly, carefully shuffling the deck once more. Looking up at the nymph, the kitsune met a searching gaze. One she had no answers for.

“You are still conflicted. What are your desires?” the Guardian asked gently.

What were her desires? A desire to follow the path fate had outlined for her. The path her cards had set her on. But more than that, she wanted, needed, to find a way to remove the curse that had plagued her since her hands had first touched a Harrow deck.

“I desire to do good, to be the change I wish to see in the world.”

The Guardian chuckled quietly, her musical laugh making the kitsune’s ears flick.

“Admirable, but I was referring to the present. What do you wish to see with this bandit under your protection?”

“Justice served, but in a way that does not require death. Many will die in the coming months. I do not wish to add to that if I can avoid it.”

“He has killed many. He attacked a trading post with the intention of burning it down and murdering everyone within. What justice would that act deserve?”

“Death…”

The word escaped her lips like a physical blow. The answer she’d been seeking, but deliberately avoiding.

“You would be steward of these lands, queen of the realm. These decisions are necessary, as much as they are painful. Or did you plan to let the people who live here go on without a ruler, without someone to protect them?” the Guardian questioned.

“No. I will protect the people of the land. Though I fear it might cost my sanity, and my soul.”

Amethyst shuffled the deck in her hands, watching the cards slip between each other. She had one more question to ask. But she didn’t know how.

Finally, the witch closed her eyes.

“Should I tell the group about my nature?”

Cards whispered as they mixed, promising answers, and more, promising secrets to be revealed. Her fingers slipped over a shuffle, and the three final shuffles followed. Another three card spread, decisions to make, paths to take.

“The Twins… I am indecisive tonight.”

A sigh escaped the kitsune. It was as though this deck that wasn’t her deck refused to cooperate. The next card changed that sigh into a worried gasp.

“The Keep reversed… Unshakeable strength that has become shaken. Strife and discord.”

Fingers hesitated once more, as Amethyst steeled herself. Finally, she flipped the last card.

“The Beating… destruction of one’s mental self. An assault from all sides.”

Hands scooped up the cards hurriedly, Amethyst shaken by the reading. They couldn’t know. They couldn’t be trusted. She had to find a way to hide her fox form, no matter how hard it was.

What did she expect from strangers? From an armiger that would just as soon lead the armies of hell, or a catfolk that stared at her with lust in his eyes before he had ever gotten to know her? Maybe one day, they could be told. When it was too late to go back, too late to change. But for now, she would remain hidden.

“It is a hard life, a hard path you have set yourself. But I will guide you, and I will provide you rest, safe from the world,” the nymph whispered comfortingly. “You can always come to me for help. All you have to do is dream.”

And with that, Amethyst’s eyes shot open, the elf laying in a hard straw bed. She stared up at the dark ceiling for a moment, trying to figure out if she was awake or asleep. The transition was so fast, she couldn’t tell for sure. But the feel of her oversized cloak covering her head and body from view brought her fears to a close.

She was awake, and it was time to start the day.

Copyright © 2021 Yeoldebard; All Rights Reserved.
  • Like 1
  • Love 4

Recommended Comments

Chapter Comments

It looks like Elias’ weapon is not entirely reliable. Is this a new technology still in its early stages? 
 

This fight was more like a massacre. Very useful to have a full mercenary band or even just half at your service and they don’t even require hand jobs 😂
 

Do the cards speak the truth? 

  • Love 2
Link to comment
1 hour ago, IkeNeko said:

It looks like Elias’ weapon is not entirely reliable. Is this a new technology still in its early stages? 
 

This fight was more like a massacre. Very useful to have a full mercenary band or even just half at your service and they don’t even require hand jobs 😂
 

Do the cards speak the truth? 

Guns have been around for only a few hundred years, and have been a staple in the city of Alkenstar, where nearly 90% of the weapons made each year are kept for members of the guard. They're insanely technologically advanced for Golarion, and many have never seen such a weapon before. Mechanically, the flintlock musket has a 10% misfire chance, so Elias definitely has to be careful.

Tactics also have a huge part to play here, along with bandit stupidity (I mean, who just charges headfirst into enemy fortifications?!) And who says there were no hand jobs required? I think Kesten would absolutely love a hand job from Amethyst :P

  • Love 2
Link to comment
On 10/19/2021 at 3:20 AM, Yeoldebard said:

Guns have been around for only a few hundred years, and have been a staple in the city of Alkenstar, where nearly 90% of the weapons made each year are kept for members of the guard. They're insanely technologically advanced for Golarion, and many have never seen such a weapon before. Mechanically, the flintlock musket has a 10% misfire chance, so Elias definitely has to be careful.

Tactics also have a huge part to play here, along with bandit stupidity (I mean, who just charges headfirst into enemy fortifications?!) And who says there were no hand jobs required? I think Kesten would absolutely love a hand job from Amethyst :P

I feel cheated out of that scene then! 😂

  • Love 1
  • Haha 1
Link to comment
View Guidelines

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Newsletter

    You probably have a crazy and hectic schedule and find it hard to keep up with everything going on.  We get it, because we feel it too.  Signing up here is a great way to keep in touch and find something relaxing to read when you get a few moments to spare.

    Sign Up
×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

Our Privacy Policy can be found here. We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue..