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    Yeoldebard
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Stolen Dreams - 6. Fire and Ice

HOPE

 

The horses trod slowly past a branch in the trail, following a trail through the growing grasses of early spring, dusted with the remnants of the previous night’s snowfall. Silence reigned over the group, the events of the morning disturbing them all.

Even Hope, as irreverent as he was, felt the emotion weighing him down as they rode.

“You make it sound like I have no respect for the lives around me,” the tiefling muttered. “Men died last night, in battle. It’s no less depressing for what they did. So what if I use humour to get over the battle? But this… You planned this all out, forcing us to deal with this man. Elias’ shot should have bled him out, but no. You put us through all this shit, and now you write about it, all high and mighty wherever you are.”

His voice rose in anger, a condemnation of not just one god, but all of them.

“And you fucking call yourself a god! We know the truth, you and I. You’re no fucking god. Stop acting like you are.”

“Hope. Pull yourself together. He was a bandit, and he was going to die. We did him a favour,” Ramiel snapped at the tiefling. “Save your sorrow for those who deserve it, few as they are.”

Hope’s fingers tightened around Elluin’s reins, the jennet snorting as his lead was pulled.

“Sorry,” the magus muttered, patting the sorrel’s neck gently.

He reached back for his waterskin with a sigh, uncapping it carefully as he swayed on Elluin’s back. A gulp of the liquid within had the tiefling spluttering, clear liquid spraying from his mouth and onto Elias’ back.

The amurrun let out a startled yelp, his head turning sharply to glare at Hope.

“What did you do that for?!”

“My fucking skin is filled with vodka!” Hope snapped.

“Well maybe you should have filled it with water like a normal person,” Elias scoffed, turning away.

“I did fill it with water!” Hope scowled at the amurrun. “Wulfrin, did you change my water around?”

“No? Why would I do that?” the gnome frowned. “Alcohol would be a terrible prank to pull on the road. You’d just get dehydrated.”

“Amethyst?” Hope demanded.

“Not me. But I could use a drink…” the elf said.

Her black jennet slowed, letting the rest of the group take the lead until she was riding next to Hope.

“May I?”

The tiefling handed the waterskin over without a word, and Amethyst took a practiced swig. Pulling the skin away from her mouth, she frowned at the tiefling.

“This is just water…”

“What? No, it’s vodka,” Hope exclaimed, taking the skin back.

He took an experimental drink, his eyes widening as flavourless liquid washed down his throat.

“See? Water,” Amethyst shrugged. “Maybe you’re just not used to drinking from a skin.”

“Maybe…” Hope sighed, staring at the waterskin suspiciously. “If we can make it to Nettle’s Crossing, I’ll have to refill it. I’d almost believe a certain nix was behind it, but those two are supposed to be in the Narlmarches, not the Shrike Hills…”

They rode on in silence, following the road south east until they came to the third branch of the road south.

“If we turn right here, we’ll find Kesten’s deserters,” Hope mentioned. “If we continue south, we’ll not have to deal with the nightmares of an undead.”

“Hold on. This is the first you’ve mentioned of an undead,” Wulfrin said sharply.

The tiefling rolled his eyes.

“Because Nettle isn’t that bad, all things considered. He just wants us to kill the bandits in a timely matter. I just want to stop by early to make sure we don’t wake up exhausted from nightmares right before battle.”

“It’s still early afternoon,” Amethyst pointed out. “The camp Kesten’s scout told us about is due southwest, right? If we follow this road right, it will take us to the camp. We could clear the bandits and camp there.”

“And we would have to double back for Nettle, or somehow find a way to defeat the Stag Lord and destroy his fort in the next three days. I can promise you that will not happen for a variety of reasons,” Hope said firmly. “Not least of which is because we’re going to be stuck searching through tree roots for anywhere from a day to three days.”

“Very well. What do you suggest?” Amethyst sighed quietly, looking down the narrower trail that led toward the hills.

“We’ll be lucky to make it to the tomb by nightfall. It’s going to take some time to track Tartuccio down, and we would not want to do that in the dark, not when we don’t have anyone dedicated to nature checks, unless someone respecs randomly” Hope said thoughtfully, glancing at Ilyas. “Why don’t we head to Nettle’s Crossing and spend the night there? We can strike camp early and get to the tomb by midday. I’m pretty sure Tartuccio will spend some time searching for the super secret artefact.”

“Did Captain Garess give any orders concerning his traitorous deserters?” Ramiel asked.

“Kill on sight. They abandoned him, betrayed him, and stole much of his funds to pay for their little excursion into the Stolen Lands,” Amethyst said quietly.

“But that can wait until tomorrow, when we’re rested. After this morning, I think we could use a night off from killing,” Hope suggested.

“Chaos never rests-”

“Speak for yourself,” Elias scoffed. “I, for one, would like to get some nice sleep tonight. Preferably somewhere warm and comfortable.”

“He is about as chaotic as they come,” Hope shrugged at Ramiel’s glare.

“Heh, you said cum,” the amurrun snickered.

“And no, you do not need to kill him. You will tolerate his presence, or you can return to your citadel,” the tiefling continued, as Ramiel’s hand inched toward the mace at his hip.

“This party is under my protection. You do not want to hurt anyone here, or that pain will be revisited on you tenfold,” Amethyst agreed.

“Do not mess with one who knows how to heal, for they often know what kills as well,” Ilyas spoke up.

“We travel to the river. And then we will go to the camp. After the camp, we will visit the tomb,” Amethyst decided. “If we have to double back, we might as well make the doubling back worthwhile.”

“That would give Ilyas a chance to draw the interior of the Shrike Hills. Or, at least the southwestern portion,” Ramiel said quietly, hand holding the reins of his charger.

“Well, what are we waiting for then? Let’s get going.”

Hope urged his horse forward, setting his sights on the road to the Shrike River. The rest of the group followed a moment later.

 

ILYAS

 

Small hills slowed their travel, the road climbing over the inclines instead of around. Trees offered sparse vegetation, and animals seemed lacking in the chill spring afternoon.

Ilyas shivered as a gust of air blew around the party. Another incline rose to their left, a broken crag covering their road in shadows that made the day even colder. A rock clattered from the top of the cliff face, and Elias’ ears flickered.

“Everyone off your horses,” the cat said suddenly. “There’s an ambush on the road.”

His hands were already working his staff as he dismounted, and Ilyas scanned the area around them as Jawhara pulled up short. The Zefaheen snorted, ears at rapt attention as a whistling arrow flew into the ground.

“The cliff!” Ilyas called out, Jawhara already moving as the Qadiran removed a hand from the reins.

Pulling upon the faint heat of the day and augmenting it with the heat of his own body, Ilyas conjured a saif made of burning flames as a group of bandits leapt out from the rocks around them. A nudge pushed Jawhara into battle, and Ilyas rode into the bandits, scattering them as his blade swung.

Screams filled the air as his victim’s body burned, flames eating him away in seconds. A sudden blow to his back sent Ilyas tumbling and Jawhara squealing. His flame went out as he fell into a snow drift.

Ilyas fought to regain his feet and his senses, watching as a pair of arrows flew down from the cliff. Amethyst was on the ground, head bleeding from a nasty gash, while Hope stood beside her, ensorcelled bow sending arrow after arrow back to the archers. A sudden explosion tore the Qadiran’s attention from their healer to the other cat man, Elias’ staff billowing white smoke as a bandit flinched. Yet they were being overwhelmed, regardless of the cat’s magical weapon, and Ilyas raced to offer his aid to Wulfrin and Ramiel, who were fighting desperately to protect the fallen witch.

Flames sprang into life once more, a bolt of fire launching from the heated sword in Ilyas’ hand. The bolt struck a bandit in the back, burning a hole through his torso, and Ilyas fought to keep his fire up as his feet stepped into a narrow dueling stance. Fast and furious sang his flames, rising above the din of ringing steel as the genie-kin tapped into the magic of his ancestry. Fire and wind combined to create a storm of burning death… yet it was not enough.

Elias was the next to fall, the cat toppling from an arrow to his leg. His staff erupted as he hit the ground, a bandit crying out as a hole was punched into her gut. Ilyas turned his attention toward the cliff, letting his saif vanish. It would be hard to hit the bandits on the cliff’s top, but he would succeed. Irori would accept no failure, and if Ilyas died because he was not perfect enough, he would never join the pavbaghas to serve his god in the afterlife.

He would not fail.

Flames flew from his hands as he dodged an attack, his body like water even as he harnessed the power of fire. A bandit tumbled from the cliff, body smoking as he broke upon the rocks below, and Ilyas conjured another flame, ducking under a sword. His hand swung into his attacker, fire igniting the torn gambeson under his assailant’s steel shirt, and the bandit screamed as he was roasted alive, frantically pulling at the metal that burned body and hand.

He knocked a low hand away, disrupting Wulfrin’s attempt to heal his meager wounds.

“The elf and the cat first,” the Qadiran growled, sending another fireball that sizzled past the last bandit on the cliff.

She fled quickly into the late afternoon, leaving her companions to die, and Ilyas scoffed, turning to survey the battlefield. Bodies lay strewn over the road, broken and bloody. Elias and Amethyst were sitting up slowly, Wulfrin aiding them as much as he could with his divine powers. Somehow, they had made it through.

Copyright © 2021 Yeoldebard; All Rights Reserved.
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God of perfection must be a hard god to follow... best of luck to Ilyas! 
 

Glad nobody suffered beyond repair. ❤️ 

 

Hope had a quite an outburst and didn’t even accept liquor to help him settle down. 
 

The Rock Reaction GIF by WWE

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