THE TALE OF LIO, DREK AND THE STONES
CHAPTER I (DRAFT II)
The coldness strikes my face. The hoodie covers my head. It’s said that the warm of the body enters and exits through the head. I am alone in this forest. I need to find a place to sleep. Great, now the lightning and thunder also strike. Look, a cave! The lightning reveals it in this mountain. I now have a place where I can rest. Outside is pouring, found this cave at the perfect time, just when the weather started getting worse. Now I will rest…
There are colors in the sky. Red, yellow, blue and green, dancing and whirling against each other. A beam of light descending from the heavens. So beautiful… I need to get closer, inspect it. It’s like I am getting bewitched by it. An obsession that grows. I need to see the place where the heaven is descending into our world. I get closer but I’m still far away…
Is it the heaven coming to Earth? The end of all ages? The last moments? It feels as if there are answers, but I need to be closer in order to reveal them. No sun nor moon, just the stars. And behold! The stars are coming as well. The whole sky is dancing while coming to our world. What can a sinner like me do? Just getting closer and further under the dance. The light is colored into the sky’s colors. Red, blue, yellow and green. The beam is thick and it seems that I will manage to get to it in time, before it ceases.
If this is the end, I will then have no regrets. All my life I’ve been struggling by myself to have food, clothing and survive. The waste lands are no place for weakness. Eat or be eaten. If there truly are gods, I will demand for them to live in this world and walk into in my shoes; go through the struggles. Then and only then – can they judge me. Whatever I’ve done before, I’ve done it to survive.
This war, the great war of our age, is not meant to be won. There are no losers. The kingdoms are dangerous these days. It makes the wastelands look friendly. And I know that there is nothing friendly within the wastes.
It’s morning now. Time to get up and hopefully exit the mountains until dawn. There is a path that not many know of, but I’ve travelled these parts before. Bulur – the path through the mountains of Rertar. I am familiar with these mountains and forest. Me and Drek used to rob merchants travelling this place. The sun cannot break between the mountains, only after noon I will be seeing it. I need to eat something ’till then.
I’ve still gotten dried bacon. I will eat it as I have no time to spare for hunting. Not now, not until I’ve met him. I remember to this day, how we used to steal apples and pears from merchants in the towns of the kingdoms when we were just kids. We used to outrun them by hiding in right places. The trick was to know the place, so one can get shelter from being caught. And be fast too. We had much fun doing so and life was so much simpler back then. Why do people have to grow up? No sharp mind, either be priest or philosopher, has the answer. I think nothing. I simply don’t know.
The bacon was tasty. Now it’s noon and the sun will ”fall” soon on the forest on this side of the mountains. I should arrive to where I’m needed.
What’s that? There is a sound coming from the bushes, maybe ten or fifteen feet in front of me. I grab my sword with the right hand and draw it slowly and carefully from the sheat. There is movement! Something is there, something big. Shall I get closer? It may take me by surprise. But if I don’t, it can still jump on me. Perhaps it’s something swift. What then? I listen carefully and take gentle steps. I won’t scare it. It could be an animal. Or worse: a troll. More movement from the bush. I am right in front of it, with my sword pointing towards it. I am ready.
Nothing comes out. But there is a sound. Definitely an animal. Big one, perhaps a deer. I hit the sword against the leafs and it moves again. I take aside a bit of the bush with my bare left hand and see it. It’s a deer. Looking closely, I can see it’s wounded by an arrow into the right leg. It’s bleeding and it means that someone is hunting it. I take out the arrow and inspect it closely… I can’t decide what is chasing the animal. It could be humans, elves, trolls or centurions, but it looks more improvised and therefore untraceable. The deer is stuck into the bush. I won’t kill it. I let it be and continue my journey. Now I know that I am not alone, I’ll be careful and surprise the hunter, or hunters as they probably won’t know there is someone else than themselves in this place.
The rays of the sun are penetrating the forest’s thick trees. The trees are all tall and got a lot of leafs. If one does not know this location, one could get lost. My journey heads East. I’ll take another look at my compass. Yes, I am travelling East. I am on the right path. Just need to proceed.
This place could still be dangerous. Many of the wastelands used to hide here. That was before the trolls, elves and centurions made appearance. Now a days there just aren’t that many that dare to hunt or gather here. Fruits of all kind can be found, some more mature than others. Those nearest the tree tops are sweeter than those reachable from the ground. It’s because of the sun. Here is a cherry tree. I will gather some and have with me. When eating fruits, you cannot go wrong, but if you are eating something poisonous. I know by now almost all kind of fruits and swamps so I know what I can and what I can’t eat.
There are whispers in my head. Quiet ones. A language I don’t understand. It seems as if there are a couple of “somethings” speaking to each other. It could be at least 3 different whispers. I do not recognize them. They are strangers to me.
-What do you want from me?
I need to make them stop. They are draining on my powers and tires me out. And right now, that is the last thing I need. I will check out my compass again – still heading East. Soon I should be out of these places and into the kingdom of Almur. There is this little town – Segath – in which I will meet him, at the pub.
Segath is at the edge of the kingdom and one of the towns where war has yet to make appearance. That’s why we’ve chosen it as place for our meeting. It’s been a couple of months since I last put my foot into one of the kingdoms of men. War is not my thing. War is ugly.
I know there are people that are pure evil and there are those that have too little choice, but I’d rather be one of those than become a murdered for the kings. It’s just not worth it. Why would they get my loyalty? What is there to gain? To rape and kill women and children? They do no wrong to me and pose no threat. I don’t understand how people are rezoning. The soldiers pledge their lives for the kings’ sake and they don’t get nothing in return but perhaps food and some money. Dirty money. Blood money. It’s just not worth it.
I must admit that I’ve longed to see him. My friend. My best friend. I wonder what adventures he’s been up to. What lands has he travelled? Who has he met? It feels like there is a lot to catch up for old times’ sake.
It’s evening by now and I am out of the forest. I can see the town downwards these hills. Everything is green. What a beauty, Segath shines like a pearl in the evening sun. It’s not that huge of a town, but it got a lot of “life” within its walls and only got one gate. I am reaching closer with every footstep. The moment of truth is here: has he made it? I’ll wait a couple of days; perhaps one whole week.
Now I am in the town and heading to the tavern. I can hear the music from outside. I take my steps inside and look around. I do not see him. I walk around the pub, no sign of him.
“- Is there anyone with the name Drek in here?” I ask the barman. He got a gray and long beard and mustache. He looks like a stereotype of barmen.
“- No, sire. Not that I know of. Can I serve you something?”
I take forth my bag with money. I’ve got gold and silver.
“- One alle” I tell him.
“- We got cold and perhaps the best alle across all four kingdoms. You can’t go wrong.” He said while he blinked. I met his eyes and I feel that there is something with this old man. He is kind and gentle. Perhaps never done anyone any wrong. I think that he can see goodness in me. Even though I feel as I do at times, perhaps I am not the sinner that I feel I am. And that gives me hope. Hope of a fool; to meet everything with kindness. Not my style. But it’s contagious.
“- Here you go” he said and served the drink.
“- Thank you”, I said without realizing it. Why did I say that? Ahh… it got to be contagious, just as I thought. I like this man and would probably not do him wrong. “- Whom are all these people?”
“- Some are town’s folk. Other are strangers on their path to only gods know where. Better not to ask. A lot won’t like to have strangers interfere with their business. Be wise and stay by yourself. Wait until your friend arrives but don’t try to make new friendships. With most of these people, it wouldn’t last.”
“- If I am not mistaken, you offer sleep place as well?”
“- Yes, I do.”
“- Do you have any free?”
“- As a matter of fact I do.”
“- Good. I’ll take a room.”
“- Go upstairs and into the one numbered seven.”
“- I’ll just drink the alle, then I will go to the room… If anyone asks after me, send him up.”
“- And under what name do you travel?”
“- Lio, sire. Just Lio.”
I am now in my room. The alle got me drunk. This bed feels so light and soft. It’s warm. Where is he? I hope he shows up soon enough. He’s probably just running late. Something might have gone into his path. Or the weather was just as bad as it was for me and slowed him down. I have done my part. Best he’s done his.
The stars… It’s so beautiful! The colors are astounding. It makes me wanna drink them up
“- Shut up!”
“- You are all alone! You and that… thing you carry.”
“- Shut up!”
These voices won’t cease. I’ll go and get some breakfast. I am hungry and still tired. I’ll never forget that man’s expression. Death… He suspected nothing and made me promise I’ll take good care of the stones. Little he knew that it was the purpose to why I befriended him. I won his friendship and his heart. I knew not that he was dying, but he was. And in his final moments, he gave them to me. He trusted me… He trusted me to protect them with my own life if needed. A couple before him did that. So they got to be valuable. I understand what it does, not how. That makes them worthless to me. I could sell them, but I won’t gain nowhere near what I am offered by the quest giver. He is waiting. And so am I.
I see my favorite food: egg and beacon. I’ll have a little of that. Perhaps even cheese and some bread. And a wine to top it up. Tasty, well cooked. I enjoy the flavors, it’s dancing in my mount just like the colors and stars in my dreams. They complete each other. After I eat this, I will take a bath. A long and warm one. Just to enjoy life.
I hope he will arrive today. I don’t want to stand at this place one week. Sure everything is good, but I have to fulfill my quest. I will take a walk around the city and go to the square. There are the shops and booths filled with everything one would need, actually. Spices, fruits, green food, clothes, armors, jewels, perfumes, swords and shields, shoes and boots. The war has driven up the prices. I won’t but anything but some spices. Spices from Wahl, the faraway lands. It’s definitely worth it. If I stay here until tomorrow, I will go outside of the walls and into the waters nearby. It’s been a while since I dipped my feet in a river, lake or sea.
Now I am going into my room. It gets darker and the people drunker. I wish no attention. Just in and out when the time is in. It knocks on my door. “- Who is it?”
“- Drek?!” I hurry to open it and here he is: Drek. “Finally, you made it!” I said while hugging him.
“- Don’t get too excited yet, Lio… We’ve got a problem…”
“- What can it be? Don’t you have it?”
“- No, that’s the problem… I got really close, but they took the jewels under the protection of some soldiers. And… I am not you, I am no match for the soldiers…”
“- Yeah… shit.”
“- I’ve done my part… I got the red stones.”
“- They are worth nothing to us. And without the other jewels, they aren’t worth nothing to him either.”
“- Where did they go?”
“- Rormath…” he told with a sad face expression.
“- Rormath? What are they doing in the wild?”
“- Only the gods know.”
“- Good thing I have a favor to request from Barbar. He owes me one. And he and only he can track them down in the wastelands. We will be getting our hands of them soon enough. We start our journey tomorrow.”
“- Great! I was thinking you will be mad at me.”
“- Mad? No, I know you did what you could. It’s good you did nothing foolish and jeopardize our mission. You’re a thief, not a warrior. He is waiting, so we have no time to spare. Tomorrow… we will go straight to Rormath and talk to Barbar. Now sleep… In the morning we’ll have breakfast. I suggest that you get up early and join me. Here are some coins… Go downstairs and pay for a room for yourself. See you in the morning.”
THE TALE OF LIO, DREK AND THE STONES
CHAPTER II (DRAFT II)
The city is behind us and we need to get through the wilderness one more time. Nothing scare me longer and few are the things that surprise me. Nothing is impossible. Trust is hard to gain outside the realms of kings’. On the other hand, there is no war out here. Maybe, just maybe, the folks of the wildlands aren’t wilder than those in the kingdoms.
“- Where will we find him?” the young thief asked.
“- We’ve got to head North. He is there, somewhere.”
“- I know you know him. But he isn’t that keen of favors… But that you already know.”
“- He won’t cross me… He is a man of words. If he promises something, he keeps his promise and does not break it.”
“- You know him better than me, that thing is sure. I trust your words.”
“- Don’t you worry… If I would’ve felt danger, I wouldn’t take you as my companion.”
“- So we are companions now? That I can live with” Drek said happily.
It’s clear that he seeks recognition. Anyone would and probably also could manipulate him into doing their dirty works. Not me though. I liked him from his first breath and promised his mother I would take good care of him. I shelter him from the wickedness and perversion of the waste folks. He will be no foot soldier for some corrupt and twisted leader that strays away from the right path. No one. Not even Barbar. Now he came to my mind – Barbar. He is big and handles the battle axe very well. Few are those that can look him straight into the eyes. I am one of those. He never was my leader, but I helped him gain his power. And I got a favor to collect now.
My only fear are trolls. I can handle one or two but three are too many. Drek got a bow. And he is actually pretty good at firing them arrows. He could easily take on one or two smaller trolls. But bigger ones… well we’ll just have to wait and see.
I’ve met smaller trolls a couple of times. It ended up with us beheading them. Bigger trolls I have met while in the Legion and it took battle axes to kill them. They can become eight or nine feet tall. They use to hide into caves and under the ground in the forests. Their smell expose them. It’s not pleasant.
Centurions are interesting creatures. Wise. Half human, half horse. They are kind and helpful. I met their kind only two times. The first time down at the flood of Ombular at exactly that spot where the 4 smaller rivers combines into the flood, on the shore. They drank from the water and bathed. They aren’t that wild; they can speak our language. They were 4 and greeted me. I posed no threat to them. We spoke and exchanged stories. They told me the tale of their creation. It was Zamzar, the god of the humble that created them. And the god gave them a long and healthy life. Centurions train the wild elves in the art of the bow and arrows. The two races use to share forests and resources.
The second time was when I was in trouble. I got attacked by 4 thieves and got knocked to the ground. When they were about to end my life, a couple of centurions ran and scared off the thieves. It was one of the few times that I’ve tasted ground
We’ll go by the path of Mortar. It’s much safer. No trolls go that North. It will be cold but as there is no snowfall, we’ll be doing fine.
“- So how did you get them? The stones?”
“- I befriended their master. It wasn’t easy but he trusted me.”
“- You haven’t killed him, have you?”
“- No, I did not. You see, he was talking about their power openly, to all of those that listened. So they got curious. I got curious. He held them in a red bag by a necklace. Never went anywhere, or slept without them. No one could have taken them. So I plotted
As everybody got curious, I offered him my services until the day he would die. Little I knew that it was that soon that the big day would arrive. Otherwise I would have waited for a couple of months more and then I would’ve slain him. The stones must get to him, remember?”
“- So it was pure luck that you’ve got them?”
“- A coincidence. Just in time when I was preparing to meet and update you about the process. Either a coincidence or the skies are going mad.”
“- The skies?”
“- Yeah… From what the old men told, they could control weather… It’s bold to claim it but he did not seem like a man out of his mind. No craziness in sight.”
“- Did you see him using them at any time?”
“- No, I did not. So one cannot be sure of their powers. But I suspect that they need to be made whole, by joining them with the jewels that now have refuge in the wildlands… But that’s just my own speculation. Perhaps we’ll find out or never know.”
“- It doesn’t matter. He knows why he needs them. Maybe there truly is something special with them.”
“- He is a wizard, Drek, everything is special to them.”
I was born in the waste lands. It’s my home. Barely lived in the kingdoms. I know them inside and out. I know how to trace almost every creature that is passing. I know how to fight with the sword. I know how to shoot an arrow. I know how to hunt. I’ll hunt today and preparing Drek as well. He will shoot our dinner.
“- Do you remember?”
“- The first lesson of hunting?”
“- Yes. Say it!”
“- Don’t move and be quiet.” He is catching up fast. Swift learner. It’s good for him to know the art of hunting. He’ll become a straighter shooter and will soon pick up how to trace a wounded creature. “- All creatures besides troll bleed red. Trolls bleed black.” I tell him while he is on his stance with the arrow on the bow. He holds it as he should. He already knows how to shoot, but it’s good practice. “Have you ever met one?”
“- A troll?”
“- Yes, a troll.”
“- No, I can’t say I have.”
“- Someday maybe you will.”
“- Lesson number two”
“- Wait until your target gets closer and does not move.” There is a rabbit ten feet in front of us.
“- Release, now!” It hit the target. The poor animal had no chance to escape death. It was its time. Like everything in life, nothing is certain. One morning you can wake up, the following you possibly won’t.
We are skinning the rabbit and grill it. It’s our evening meal. It tastes good but there is not a lot to eat as it was small. Yet, our stomachs have something to work with. It’s good for the health. Empty stomachs are unhealthy. In the morning we’ll have beans. Beans are good; they won’t get spoiled by heat or cold. They can last a couple of months, some of their kind even longer. There is also lots of fruit everywhere. A few apples can be taken in the backpacks and be eaten when there is not much to eat. That’ll be in North. There is not as much wild food as it is here.
His mother was a fine woman. She used to give me food and clothes. Myself I have never had a real mom nor dad. He was 7 and she was 35 when she died by a sickness. I was only 14 but had to promise to take good care of him. I’ve gave him everything I could. Now he is in his early 20s and I am 30. I made a thief out of him. A skilled one. Those skills are needed in order to survive. Well, that and handling weapons. I want him not to kill anyone, so I am and was training him to strike trolls and only trolls and there is, of course, the hunting of wild. I don’t know why I began thinking of her again. I’m sure he misses her. He was just so sad when she died and needed comfort. I was able to provide him with that and we started to travel with the adult men and women of our group. To learn the fine art of survival.
The journey will take a two to three weeks. First we’ll pass Bulur – the same way I got to the meeting. Then we will travel on the shores of Ombular, the flood that goes straight to the Northern Sea and finally we’ll deviate from the river throughout Mortar. Keep it that way and we’ll soon arrive to Rormath, the settlement where Barbar has his seat.
I’ve never give much of a thought to the future. Will I marry? Will I have children? Will I live in the wild? Will the kingdoms be safe? I am unsure of what I want. But right now I feel like in the next twenty to thirty years I’ll still do what I’ve done in the past decade. I will hunt down magical items across the realms. It’s my business and I am good at it.
The Staff of the Warden is the most expensive item I’ve retrieved – I got two hundreds gold coins for it. The Great One of Ambur was the one needing it. My first quest was something minor: a glove that could turn the wearer invisible. Both of the items have found a new home. I got help from Drek to steal them and as I saw him getting better at it, it was when I decided to make a thief out of him. It’s been already ten whole years.
Big wolves could be a problem. But that’s the reason to why we should go on the shore of Ombular. They usually don’t’ make an appearance there. And even though they are violent, they are more scared of us than we are of them. Fire easily scares them. So we should have a torch fired up when we are in the North. That’s their place.
I am unsure of what I’d rather meet: wolves or trolls. Wolves are swift and have strong jaws, yet trolls are more human- alike and have weapons, just like we – men – do. I do not know what the lesser evil between these two would be.
“- Come to me…” a voice told me.
“- What are you? Where are you?” It responses not.
“- Drek, do you hear voices at times?”
“- No. Why, do you?”
“- No, just wondering…” I lie. It’s better to do so than to make him believe that I’ve gone mad. Ever since I got the stones, the voices have started. They do not speak at all times but when they do, I get a bit scared. What if it’s too powerful magic to be yielded by a simple warrior as I am? I personally haven’t encountered it, but I’ve heard stories of magic that not even the mightiest of the magicians could handle. It corrupted them. I think that there are is a message with every story, so it’s not that I believe the stories, it’s more what they speak of, what they represent, what it could teach us.
A lot of the culture of our people, the struggle to survive, the beliefs, the wizards, the kings, the other races, they’ve all been influenced by tales and myth, by those stories that we tell our children in order to pass on our knowledge to future generations. Those stories have shaped and molded us and we shape and mold them. We teach and learn, narrate and listen.
There is no light in the sky but the moon’s. All the stars have faded, there are black stains where they used to be. They’re all gone…
When the jewels are all found and we’ll give it to the Great One, it would be time for the two of us to head home. Home sweet home. Nothing beats the feeling of being the master of your own place. It’s a tent but it’s my home. We travel at times to discover new places, to gather food and hunt animals. There are other groups that do the same. We have no dealings with most of them.
The winter was rough and cold, wonder if the summer will also be rough and warm… There has been no winter like the last one in the last fifty years. At least that’s what we’ve been told by the old folks. I know that I haven’t experienced it from what I can reckon.