Sweet Freedom

Something ends, something begins

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Built into the cliffs overlooking the Suvan Sea, Riverfall resides on the edge of grasslands of Cyphrus where the Bluevein River plunges off the plain and cascades down to the inland sea below. Home of the Akalak, Riverfall is a self-supporting city populated by devoted warriors. [Riverfall Codex]

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Sweet Freedom

Postby Theo Popcampio on December 20th, 2016, 4:26 pm

Image
A flame in the dark.

“Behind every akalak is two men, one light brother and one dark brother.” The historian spoke through his purple lips. “We talk as one at times, differ at others. It is the way. Some brothers even choose to let their darker half take control and become our fiercest warriors. Some would argue that perhaps these men, our Ceruleans, do not have a place within our society, but I bet the Ceruleans would have different opinions. At the end we have a duty that we can all agree upon: Riverfall must prosper. Even our humans can get behind that. Isn’t that right, Theo?”

Theo looked up from the doodle he had drawn on the parchment. On the paper the historian’s head was far larger than it actually was, and his hair was on fire. Around him the students were cheering, pelting him with books.

”Oh, yes, absolutely.” He said with a soft smile. ”Some of our finest Kuvay’Nas are humans, beautiful, manly warriors. Except the women.” The crowd snickered.

Beside Theo there was sweet Nivasa, a Konti married to two akalaks. She was attending the classes so she could take the education home to her sons. His eyes darted over to her. They had become quick friends, bonding over the laughs they shared. Their friendship was twofold: He kept her entertained enough to pay attention to the sometimes boring lectures, and she covered his humor with serious fact.

Theo nudged Nivasa with his eyes. He did this constantly, leading her into a reply of sophistication that stunted the professor so well that it made him ignore Theo’s clownish behavior. Theo was here to breed a good name and learn a sufficient amount of history to stand out among humans. If the lessons weren’t free as part of his employment he would have never appeared. It still surprised him how patient their professor was with Theo in the lectures.

Nivasa followed Theo’s move as expected. Perhaps she was unaware of his gains and goals, or just liked Theo enough to cover for him. Either way, he felt like he was some master puppeteer pulling strings from behind the scenes.

Nivasa cleared her throat. “Every race has a roll among the akalak. Without the akalak, so many konti would be left without husbands. It is only understandable that any man would want to father a son, and every woman a daughter. An akalak and konti partnership is the only relationship where both of our races can enjoy those same benefits without asking our husbands and wives to make a great sacrifice. As for humans, kelvics, and others, their races are free from the dangers of the wild….”

Theo felt a tap on his shoulder, he turned and there was another akalak sitting behind him. He had a big blue neck and was dressed in loose fitting silks of orange, violet, and shades of blue with a gold collar. Silks flattered every man, but Theo could still see the bulge coming from his belly, a rare trait among the akalak.

”Human, may I speak with you?” He asked.

”Brother Bisvan, for what do we hold the pleasure?” The lecturer called out with a slight annoyance.

The big-necked akalak looked up. ”Brother Makar---”

”It’s actually his other half who gives the lectures.” Theo interrupted. Soft giggles bounced around the air.

”I’m glad to see you pay attention to the lectures, human, it will serve you well. Now let us quiet this interruption, I have a task for you.” The fat akalak said.

”I’ll be back in a moment, Brother Makar. I’ll get caught up with Nivasa before the next lecture.”

”You’ll be missed, Theo.” Is he joking? Just when I was thinking these guys had no sense of irony.

The akalak led him to another room and closed the door behind them. There was a desk made from wood, well sanded with a shiny finish. There was a painting hanging behind the akalak when he took a seat. It was a picture of the sun setting on the Riverian Bay, the orange hue of Syna shined on the water through the Sea Gates and reflected onto the white stone of the city. Syna only shined her light through the Sea Gates once a year and artists had painted this painting many times, but to find one of this quality was rare as it was to find a fine artist.

”Is this your office?” Theo asked as slumped in his chair.

”Yes. My office.” The akalak said as he leaned his arms on the desk. ”I’ll make this quick, I have other matters to attend to. This is not a matter tied to the Society, but it will be worth gold. You have no need to commit to this task, it will not reflect on your standing in the Society.”

Theo sat up and crossed his left leg across his right at the knee. ”I’m listening.”

Bisvan began squeezing the excess skin of his neck. ”I have an old friend of mine coming in with some gold he owes me. I need you to get that gold for me.”

Theo sat up. ”I’m not mugging someone if that’s what you’re asking.”

”It wouldn’t be stealing, this is my gold. This man is a slaver too, you would be compensated for each slave you brought in as well, plus the amount of gold received.”

”What’s the catch?”

”Nothing more than what I told you. He will have armed guards, but I figure you’d think as much. Akalaks are too.. strict for this kind of work. They’d say I was better off fighting him for it, I think differently, and I bet you do too.”
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Sweet Freedom

Postby Theo Popcampio on December 20th, 2016, 4:30 pm

Image
A flame in the dark.

All Bisvan had to bring up was the slaves. Theo despised slavery, but he could not go around freeing men and women in a lawful city, and that was why Theo hated laws. Too often they became corrupted with evil ideology, and evil ideology backed by tradition bred lawful evil-doers. Men who could claim honor with bad souls, outright defying the principles lying behind any good-willed law. It was better to let a person be judged by those of good heart and let the judges be free of overly strict regulations. But Theo couldn’t go around exacting his own ideology in Riverfall, at least not while he had problems of his own to deal with.

Outside the walls, however, Riverfall’s laws did not apply. Any man or woman who entered the city would be free. And I could make a bit of side scratch doing it too.

Theo was supposed to reach out to a contact who would inform him of the location of this slaver. His named was Julien, and he smelt like fish and had frayed hair that hung down to his pointy nose.

[b]”They’ll be heading up the Kabran by way of Sylira. If we leave in an hour we can get them before they’re past that knight outpost and we could avoid any qualms they pose.”
Julien said through his hairy fish lips, looking with his naive fish eyes.

”That’s fine, I’ll be back before dusk tomorrow. You can stay behind, have some mead waiting. I’ll be thirsty.” Theo replied.

”Oh, but I want to come. I want to see you at work, Bisvan tells me you’re handy with a sword.”

”Thanks but no thanks, I’m doing this alone.” Theo pecked again, beginning to walk away.

There was disappointment in Julien’s eyes as Theo walked past. ”It’d be real nice to have someone watching your back out there.”

Theo’s sighed and scratched his head. ”How are you with a sword?”

”I train everyday and spar as much as possible!” Julien said instantly with joy in his voice.

”Okay, come---”

”Hurray!”

”But you listen to everything I say. I say jump, you ask how high, got it? You mess up once and I’m sending you packing, got it?”

”Of course, anything you say, friend.”

Ugh, I hate him already. ”First rule: Keep quiet.” [/b]
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Sweet Freedom

Postby Theo Popcampio on December 20th, 2016, 4:34 pm

Image
A flame in the dark.

They had been provided horses by Bisvan. Theo wasn’t sure if they were rentals or he owned them, but asking the stableboys would only warrant suspicion. The horses were of fine breeding. If they were Bisvan’s, they showed he had deep pockets.

Theo road the horses to a gentle pace, Julien following on his stallion. It was good to be back out riding, and Theo was taking it rather slow. He tried to get back his riding posture, feel out the beast beneath him in case he did need to go for a gallop. Julien would probably be the one he went running from.

”Can’t we go any faster?” He begged. Theo relaxed his reins and let his own stallion walk a bit slower.

”’Can’t we go any faster?’ Can’t you shut up?” Obviously Julien had not been listening. Theo knew that respect for your mount, respect for life, was one of the most sacred things a man could carry. He had more love for the horse under him than the man beside him, more respect as well, and that’s why he did not beat his horses without necessity. The fact that it annoyed Julien was a plus.

Theo had grown to hate Julien in a short time. His pep felt so fake. His sword was the only thing that bound him to the journey. He smelt foul and he looked ugly and Theo could sense his lack of heart a mile away. He seemed a simple man, hitherto not Theo’s type. His presence made Theo uncomfortable, and not just because he was poor conversation.

”Listen up!” Theo yelled to Julien, who was a mere few feet away. ”We’re gonna ride up on this knight outpost. When I say that we’re going to give what they want for what I want you’re going to nod your head off, okay?”

”You got it, Theo!”

Theo figured that bringing “free people” into the city in chains in rags wasn’t the best idea. As a former squire, he knew the knights opposed slavery vehemently. He hoped that alone would be enough for him to barter out a deal with them, but he was willing to negotiate if need be. They could probably use a conscript or two this far out, I doubt any knights are heading south for the Winter.

The forest is so lovely when he’s quiet. The trees themselves are dancing to the whisk of the winds, the songs of birds, and the music.. wait, music? And it was. As they rounded a bend the vines and moss grew and surrounded the towers and high stone walls of the knight’s outpost. On top of the wall sat a man playing a lute, hanging precariously with a smile on his face.

”Ser!” Theo called as he approached. ”May I speak with your commander?”

He lifted his eyes slowly even then they only hung half open, seemingly resting on the air above Theo’s head. ”It is I.” He said softly in a Syliran accent, parting his hair to one side. ”I am Stewart Knight Rickenbacher. And who might you be, fruit of the land?”

”I am Theo, friend of the Syliran Knights.” He remarked.

”Oh, a friend!” The knight retorted as he strummed a happy chord. ”And what can we humble servants do for a friend?”

”I’m an old squire. I was forced to leave due to personal issues, but I left on good terms. ” Theo cleared his throat. ”What are your opinions on slavery?”

”I find the very idea abhorrent.” He struck back.

”I’ve received a task to hunt down a slaver---”

”A former squire putting his skills to task as a mercenary? Why I find that quite questionable.”

”As you can see I only take up honorable tasks, some teachings stuck around.” Rickenbacker strummed a buzzing note. ”Anyway, I have no intention but to free these slaves once I have the slaver in hand, but I do need some help. Once these men are in my possession, however, let us just say they’d hardly look like free men.”

”I get your meaning, but charity is hardly something we can afford this Winter. It was uncharacteristically hot this Fall and good cloth is hard to come by.”

”I am not here begging, Ser Knight. I am here to barter.”

”Let me hear it then.” He said hesitantly.

”Naturally this convoy will be guarded. I propose you get a share of those goods in exchange for clothes and shoes for these people. I will give you all their armor, save maybe a suit of chainmail for myself, and any arms they may possess will be yours. Their rations will also be given to you, you will make better use of them than I will. Any other goods, horses, and the people are mine.”

Rickenbacher sat there rubbing his chin for a time. His face remained stoic. ”We get to keep whatever men wish to stay, and a horse if their carriage is pulled by more than one stallion. That horse’s saddle and any of its other equipment is also ours.”

”You got yourself a deal, pretty man.” Theo smiled at him.

The man smiled back. ”And how do you feel about this, Theo’s fellow?”

Theo gave Julien a smack on the back. Julien proceeded to nod in agreement. ”Of course, ser! Theo’s the one in charge!” He smiled back at Theo seeking approval.

”It is agreed then!” The lyrical knight strummed his lute and produced a rapid, excited sound. ”You may stable your horses here while you make your fight. I’ll tell my squires to open the gates for you. Best of luck to you, gentlemen. May Sylir guide you.”
Last edited by Theo Popcampio on December 20th, 2016, 4:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Sweet Freedom

Postby Theo Popcampio on December 20th, 2016, 4:40 pm

Image
A flame in the dark.

”...And you’re going to wait here. Crouch down behind the shrubbery, make it so only your eyes can see above the bushes.” Theo said, instructing Julien. ”I’ll fluctuate to whichever side of you would have more guards, front or back. You’re going to need to attack in an instant, make sure you get the upper hand. If you don’t kill your first man in one strike you’re going to die, you got it?”

”Yeah, so I just squat here and wait, what’s the signal?” Julien said as he sharpened his sword. Figures this fool wouldn’t be prepared.

”Oh, you’ll know. Just listen for the screaming.” He’ll probably go blabbing to half the town if he knows I set fire to a man. Might be best if he dies in this little skirmish

With a half dozen slaves, Theo guessed the slavers would have about four armed adventurers, maybe five. The point he picked in the road narrowed so any coach could barely squeeze through. Having to file behind and in front of the coach and close rank, whichever flank got struck first would be out of sight of their allies, giving Julien a brief moment of confusion to pounce in on his foes. Theo planned to use his res as a trap on the far side of the road. The damage caused by the res would take out one foe, and effectively distract whoever was left on his side. Theo was banking on there not being more than five total fighters. The coachman and the slaver himself posed little issue in his mind.

It was on Theo’s demand that Julien stayed quiet while they waited. It was not like Theo to sit around waiting, but he was taking whatever chance he could to keep Julien’s mouth shut.

The shaking of mail and the banter of guardsmen found its way to their ears. Theo got low in the shrubs and moved closer for a clearer look: They had three men, humans, guarding the pair of horses pulling the wagon in addition to their driver; a tarp guarded the cargo so Theo could not see what was inside the wagon, presumably the slaves and the slaver himself, and was followed by an additional two guardsman. They had arms varying from short swords to maces and spears. Their armor reflected their experience, an older man was guarded by a breastplate and mail and the two around him wore leathers. The two men in back were wearing leather gloves and mail down past their waists. Theo crouched and moved his way slowly around Julien and took his established spot. ”Adjust to where they’ll be, charge em once you get the signal.” He whispered.

Theo hovered his hands above the ground and began pooling his res together, he channeled it along the ground in a translucent light liquid and let it slither along through the shrubs towards the road. It found its resting place along the far side of the road.

”Shame he ran off, he was a good boy. I’m fearful we might encounter his corpse as we walk these woods.” One of the guardsman spoke.

”Aye, maybe too good. Glassbeaks love that tender meat.” The others in the front sounded their agreement.

All of their movements were wary and swinging, save their leader, signs of a long travel.

As they came into alignment with Theo he turned and gave a nod to Julien who moved up towards the caravan. The guardsman on the far side of the road from Theo stepped in his ressy goo and lifted up his boot to see what it was. In mere seconds it was traveling up his legs and he began to beat his feet in a disgust. It wasn’t until the match struck in Theo’s mind that he knew what was going on. His legs were on fire and the edge of the flame would soon drive the burning all the way up his torso.

The guardsman’s comrades were covering him in dirt as he screamed and rolled in the ground when Theo sprang from the wilderness. By the time they were aware of him Theo already was within mere feet of his first foe. The man in leather moved to raise his spear, but Theo’s cold iron blade met it along the shaft, cutting clean through it. He followed through with a twirl of his full body and struck his blade downward across the guards clavicle, slicing well into his chest.

The other guardsman charged in as Theo was removing the blade from his fellows shoulder. He struck hard from behind his nasal guarded helmet. Theo was still off balance from withdrawing his blade. The blades met but Theo’s left hand slipped from the force and his guard was bending.[/b]
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Sweet Freedom

Postby Theo Popcampio on December 20th, 2016, 4:44 pm

Image
A flame in the dark.

Theo’s guard hung on his weaker right hand, his own blade mere inches from his face and closing. His leg reached up and kicked the old man square in the knee and he buckled backward, falling to one knee. Popcampio’s left hand once again met the top of his blades handle and he struck down on his foe. The old warrior met Theo’s strike above his head and tried to stand but failed.

”I yield!” He exclaimed.

Theo moved his sword to his side. ”I accept your yield. Toss your weapon.”

The man began to lower his sword, holding it perpendicular to himself. When the blade crossed past his shoulder he twisted his grip and swung out at Theo parallel to the ground. The former squire’s twisted his body back and sucked his gut as far in as it could go. The tip of the sword pierced the leathers of his waist, just barely grazing Theo’s stomach. Theo reared up his longsword and with two hands sliced it parallel to the man’s shoulders.

Theo took a step back as the blood began to shoot as the head rolled off and into the dirt. Out of the corner of his eye the driver was reaching for his foot locker. Laughter rolled off Theo’s tongue as the pilot emerged with a shortsword. He was trembling as he began to totter his way off the bench. Theo closed his eyes and channeled his djed through to his right hand. Out his palm emerged the res and he threw it at the man, flying above him harmlessly in the air, but not before he lit it aflame.

”I wouldn’t do that if I were you.” Theo said, generating another glop of res in his hand, fiddling it with his fingers.. The inched his way back to his seat and placed the sword away.

Looking over, Theo could see the burnt man convulsing on the ground, his body thrashing in pain. His eyes hung open with a milky white glaze as he rattled on the ground. He was due for a slow death. Theo unsheathed his assassin’s dagger as he hunched over the man, clearly out of his own mind now. The flame had never reached his face but the leather he wore had been melded with his skin through the heat.

”Shame you got caught on the long end of the rank, that’s a bad way to go. I give you this mercy for your suffering.” Theo made a swift laceration across his neck, even his blood was smoldering as it dripped out in thick goops. ”Never seen that before.” Theo said as he finished dragging the blade across the other side of the man’s neck. The convulsions began to calm soon after the blood started gushing. Theo raised his fingers to the man’s eyes and laid him to rest.
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Sweet Freedom

Postby Theo Popcampio on December 20th, 2016, 4:51 pm

Image
A flame in the dark.

Theo rounded the corner to see Julien hunched over a man in a fine linen cloak. Julien snapped his head around and stood up, ”Theo!” He said with his obnoxious smile. Scattered about were the two men he had to kill, they each had a dismembered arm laid across their chest and their heads were sitting on the foot of the cart. What is this sick fuck doing? Behind Julien, the slaver had both his hands cut off and his rings had been ripped from the fingers, where they were purple and blue.

”What are you doing? You didn’t have to kill him. I bet the guy couldn’t even hold a sword.” Theo eyes wandered to the man’s face, his eyes had been gouged out.

Julien began laughing. ”Oh, but Theo, don’t you see? You’re petched.” He said as he began laughing. He reared his head back in his cackle and his face started to scale as his laughter grew deeper and harsher, until it was thick and hoarse. When he finally finished his face was born anew, with wrinkles and a gray beard.

”Holy shyte! You’re the one they were talking about, you were the one who ran away.”

”Exactly right, so I fed your man Bisvan that info to get you out here. His smile was missing teeth, the ones he had were a dull brown, almost green. ”Shame, you seemed to be getting along well with Julien.”

”One, you still smell like fish; two, you’re going to die.” Theo said as he drew his sword and charged in a slash.

In an instant Julien generated the res to knock him clean off his feet with a gust of wind. Theo launched to his feet and tried slashing at him again, but was met with the resistance from Julien’s blade. Even though he held it one-handed, he was clearly stronger than Theo.

”What’s the matter, Theo? Have you forgotten your flux?” He said as his sword lashed out and launched Theo into the cart, the heads rolling down into the dirt. Julien came up and struck down, Theo just managing to catch the blade with his guard. He used leverage by kicking off the cart to launch off Julien’s strike and sent the man stumbling for once.

Res began to flush out of Theo through his pores and he quickly condensed the cloud in front of him. He launched his djed created energy at his foe, transforming it into a bolt of lightning as it stormed forward. Julien retorted by throwing his sword at the strike, which caught and scattered the electric bolt.

”You’ve lost, boy.” Julien said as he gathered his own res. It was so much so fast, far more than Theo himself could remember seeing, and then in an instant the strike was down upon him. The ground began shaking underneath and the wind forced him upwards. Theo could do nothing as he flew through the air before he dropped helplessly down to the ground. Theo reached out to catch his fall, but he was too high, and as his hands buckled against the force of the impact everything went black…

When Theo awoke there were others: A man with twin daggers mounted on his hips and a scar on his face dressed in chainmail, and a woman in a red cloak holding a staff.

”Should I?” She asked.

”Not now.” The man formerly known as Julien spoke. ”Young Revan is not yet ready.”

”Why do you call me that?” Theo said coughing. He felt so weak. He put a foot underneath himself but a swift kick to the chest sent him falling back down to the ground.

”Lumin, stop it.” Lumin, where do I know that name? ”He’s no use to us if he’s dead.” The old man crouched over Theo and held his face. ”You remember his name, don’t you?” He said with his broken smile. ”Do you remember mine?”

”What are you talking about?” Theo asked.

”You do.”

”What do you want from me?”

”Say my name!”

”No!” Theo responded immediately.

”Say my name! Say it! Say it now!” The man shouted with a thunder.

And Theo didn’t where it came from, it was like a whisper in the back of his mind. Divinity or just a call harkened from long ago. ”You’re… You’re Lucius. They call you the Black One.”

Lucius smiled. ”So you can remember good. We’ll get it all out of you.” Lucius flicked his sword to the pommel’s end ”A blow took your memory, maybe one can bring it back.” He said bringing the strike down on Theo.
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Sweet Freedom

Postby Grim Ravenwood on June 29th, 2017, 1:34 pm

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