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Thread: Cronen Chronicles ~ Dam Lumberjacks

  1. #1
    Maul-Slayer
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    Name
    Joshua Breaker Cronen
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    Demigod (human)
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    Cronen Chronicles ~ Dam Lumberjacks

    Out of Character:
    Closed to the Otter Guy. This is the untold story of how Joshua Cronen first met the Corone Rangers. I'm leaving all the original content except for a few mechanical errors in the interest of remembering what I came from. Keep in mind that this story takes place early in Cronen's history on Althanas, before the creation of most current Canon, not long after an unstable portal transported him from Earth. At this point in time he has no special abilities and is loose in a magical world, with nothing but his specialised training and skills as a martial artist to his name.
    Quote Originally Posted by Corone Employment Kiosk
    Trouble stirs in Concordia. For no apparent reason, a group of local lumberjacks isolated themselves in the north region of the great forest, refusing to deliver timber. Instead they began barricading themselves in the evergreen trees, south of the mild slopes of Comb Mountains. Furthermore, they began construction of a dam on the Firewine River. The reason for this is as of yet unknown because Concordia is a region rich with water. Some doubt that they intend to accumulate vast amounts of water before breaking the dam and flooding everything that stood downstream from their current locations. It is clear that the woodcutters are not working on their own and while Corone can provide a regiment that would deal with this situation, we look for somebody who would infiltrate their camp and get some information on those involved in this insurrection before attacking.

    In short, if you think you’re capable to get behind enemy lines and strike at the heart of this rebellion, please contact the local vendor for more information.

    The wind slid through the treetops like slender legs beneath silken sheets. The sky was a clear, fair blue, wrapping the earth snugly like a baby’s blanket. In the corner of the horizon, the sun had just begun to creep above the tree line, casting long shadows and creating a thousand glittering mirrors on the rippling surface of the Firewine River. Many of the trees’ leaves had begun to dry out, and they whispered secrets of solitude as the gentle breeze rubbed them together. Autumn mornings were nearly always peaceful in the north of Concordia. Thirty yards from the river, and ten yards up a tree, the peaceful atmosphere was totally lost upon me. As the power of the wind increased, I gripped the trunk of my tree tighter, knowing that the branch beneath me could support my weight, but worrying all the same that it might snap at any moment. The leaves seemed to be laughing at me, cajoling how awkward I was so far from the ground. Trying to ignore the danger of my altitude, I gazed south and west, shielding my eyes awkwardly with one hand, while wanting to use it to cling to the sturdy tree trunk. I could see at least five ghostlike plumes of smoke rising into the cool crisp air, from fires in the lumberjack camp. The camp itself was hidden by the dense vegetation, but I could easily pinpoint its location from the smoke trails. One of them was much thicker than the others, probably close to the centre of the camp. Eventually, it would become my target. But I had other goals, primary targets, to accomplish before I could get there. Fixing the location of the camp’s fires in my mind, I allowed my eyes to slide along the treetops in a line perpendicular to the river. Where my eyes landed, the flowing water stopped most unnaturally.

    A large dam had been built spanning the width of the mighty river. I had seen many beaver dams back on Earth, but unlike those, this one was clearly man made. Large logs had been tied together with tough green vines and slick rope, weighted at one end with stones, packed with mud, and then placed in the river in a line. It also looked as though the upstream side of the dam had been lined with canvas, to make it even more watertight. More bundles of logs were stacked on the west bank, ready to add depth, and thus more fortitude to the dam. Already the mammoth construction looked plenty strong, and made a convenient bridge from one bank to the other. Staring at the enormous creation, my task of destroying it began to seem nearly impossible. Steeling myself against the notion, I began to climb down the tree. I had overcome massive odds before, and felt confident I could do so again. Hopefully, I would succeed inside the next few days… I knew the Rangers were impatient to move in.

    I landed softly on the forest floor, next to where my knapsack and new weapon lay. Reaching down, I shrugged the knapsack on and shouldered my new weapon. It had been given to me by the Coronian Rangers-- A massive dehlar War Hammer with a well bound leather grip. Adjusting to the weight of the weapon, I set off in a southerly direction, keeping the unnaturally still river in sight to make sure I didn’t get lost. At the same time, I was forced to divide my attention between the multitude of obstacles which threatened to trip me up, and the tough vines and branches which grabbed at my clothing like so many devilish hands. As I trudged onward, I entered a mental state of pure concentration. Completely aware of my surroundings, I was simultaneously immersed deep within my own thoughts, envisioning the mission I had set out upon, and all the challenges it would involve. I felt like an actor approaching a difficult audition. The only difference was, my audition was a life-or-death situation, and I knew I would have to bluff my way through many levels of security. Luckily, I had been trained to do exactly that. “Trained to do it on a different planet.” My mind told me. I quieted the doubtful voice and continued towards the dam. At that point, I knew doubts were something I could not afford.
    Last edited by Breaker; 01-31-11 at 03:45 AM.
    ... They fell to him as prey to bluefin
    for the Jya's warriors knew not how to swim...
    13-3-2

    I wrote a book! ~ Most Suave Character 2010

  2. #2
    Maul-Slayer
    EXP: 172,639, Level: 18
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    Level completed: 14%,
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    Name
    Joshua Breaker Cronen
    Age
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    Demigod (human)
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    One Day Prior, in Underwood.

    It was a dreary day, with a grey sky which was apt to smother the ground like a giant malevolent pillow. Despite a brisk wind, the air was incredibly dense, promising rain sometime that night. The wind carried many unpleasant scents, from landfills, sculleries, horse barns and back alleys, but moved them too quickly for me to be able to get a fix on any one smell. It seemed to be teasing me, slowing for awhile then suddenly whipping to high velocity, shooting tiny shards of earth into my nose and mouth. I spat the grit out, tasting its dry unpleasantness, and yearned for a drink. Just a bit further to the Peaceful Promenade, I told myself. The prospect of alcohol was not my only motivation to arrive in a quick and timely manner. The atmosphere that day was incredibly heavy, and my head felt like it was in a vice which continued to squeeze harder and harder. Finally, I rounded a corner and saw the familiar sign. Sighing with relief, I stepped across the threshold into the well renowned tavern.

    With my feet thudding softly on the hard tiled floor, I crossed the tavern to a corner table and sat down. It was around noon, and the interior was quite dim, normally relying on sunlight at this time of day. Instead, several lanterns had been lit, and they cast slim, flickering shadows about the bar. There were only a few patrons there that day, a couple who were in for lunch, and three alcoholics devout enough to start their drinking before sundown. The pub lacked its normal energetic bustle, but the lack of air pressure was enough to satisfy me. There were only two waitresses on duty, and I leaned back against the wall, watching the room through half-closed eyes until she arrived. She was middle aged and slightly plump, with her otherwise auburn hair going grey at the roots. Tight lines around her eyes and mouth showed that she was quite stressed out despite how slow business must have been. I ordered a glass of water, and watched her nod happily and walk away. I assumed her increase in mood was because of the simplicity of my order—all she had to do was fill up a glass. A stronger drink was tempting, but I wanted to keep a perfectly clear head. After several minutes, the waitress still hadn’t returned, and I grew impatient. Rising, I trudged my way over to the front desk, and spoke to the clerk there. He was a thin balding man, who seemed extremely bored with his job. I reached inside my trench coat and pulled out the scroll which I had been given at the Bazaar’s employment kiosk, waving it in front of his nose.

    “I’m looking for a delegation of Corone Rangers. I was told I could find them here… this scroll should prove I’m coming from the right source.”

    The clerk reacted as though I had been wafting a bad smell toward him, and I took an instant disliking to him. Luckily, he did not waste any time in directing me to the inn’s largest private dining room. The Rangers must have been paying a fair fee to have it reserved all day. Thanking the man in clipped tones, I turned and trotted away. I was beginning to feel a bit more energetic, glad that I would finally be getting some more information about the mysterious mission I had accepted. I walked down a hallway with oaken panel walls, enjoying the light and feeling of warmth which came from the many bare candles in their cast iron holders. As per the clerk’s directions, I followed the hallway to the end, where one door stood directly in front of me, and another was facing my right arm. The clerk had said I wanted the door on the right.
    Funny that the largest dining room wouldn’t be at the end of the hall. I thought. Putting this oddity down to poor planning, I knocked twice on the solid door to my right then, getting no response, twisted the knob and entered. Having taken one step into the room, my first observation was that it was the wrong one. It was a tiny dining room, with only a small square table, four chairs, and a single abstract painting on the wall. My second observation was that I was not alone. A flurry of movement in the corner of my right peripheral, coupled with a slight scraping sound, was my only warning. An instant later, large steely fingers closed around my right wrist, twisting the arm behind my back and slamming me face first into the wall.
    Last edited by Breaker; 02-09-11 at 04:29 PM.

  3. #3
    Maul-Slayer
    EXP: 172,639, Level: 18
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    Level completed: 14%,
    EXP required for next level: 16,361

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    Name
    Joshua Breaker Cronen
    Age
    Ageless (looks 28)
    Race
    Demigod (human)
    Gender
    Male
    Hair Color
    Light Brown
    Eye Color
    Hazel
    Build
    6 feet / 202 lbs.

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    Reaching the dam did not take long, for which I was thankful. Despite constant conditioning, walking through the forest was definitely not one of my talents, and I quickly grew tired of being swatted by the many whiplike branches blocking my path. The air was cool, and that coupled with the breeze was enough to keep the many flesh eating insects at bay. I was incredibly glad for this, because I wanted to keep my mind exclusively on the task at hand. As I drew level with the dam, I crouched down behind the boughs of a large evergreen tree, spying out the dam and its surrounding area. Aside from the occasional movement in the undergrowth caused by the light wind, there was no sign of life. I crouched there for several minutes, just watching and feeling my muscles begin to cramp up. Birds twittered and flew about overhead, reveling in their freedom of movement. After a few more minutes, I decided that there was no visible threat, and straightened up. I knew I would have to encounter the lumberjacks at some point, and talk my way through their exterior guard, but I did not want to be caught on the dam when that happened. Balancing my dehlar hammer across both shoulders, I stepped out of the vegetation, over the riverbank and onto the dam.

    The construction, which had plugged the river like a cork in the mouth of a bottle, made a decent bridge. It was fairly easy to balance on the bundled logs, and I made my way across taking cautious steps. If I over balanced I didn’t doubt I would be able to right myself, but I did not want to lose the war hammer, as I wasn’t sure if the Rangers intended to let me keep it. It had been given to me for two purposes; one that my only other weapon was a constantly concealed nunchaku, and two to make me seem more believable. No one traveled alone unarmed in Concordia, I had been told. It was as my thoughts drifted back to my instructions from the Rangers that I heard the shout. My head snapped up, and I saw a man standing on the opposite bank.

    “You there… what do you think you’re doing?”

    At first, I thought the man was wearing some odd kind of camouflage makeup. Then, I realized that his skin was in fact a dark purple color. I delved into my memory, and recalled being told at some point, in some pub, that dark elves had purple skin. “But what is a drow doing in Concordia?” From the extreme little I knew about them, it had seemed like the drow folk kept to themselves in Alerar. Now, however, I saw one approaching me across the dam. I had been so caught up in keeping balanced on the dam that I had not been watching for enemies, and now this creature had the drop on me. I was caught; almost three quarters of the way across the dam, turning back would be useless. I was sure the drow did not intend to let me past, however, and two things told me this; the look of ferocious danger in his eyes, and the solid wooden quarterstaff he carried. The elf moved across the bundled logs with the natural grace which was commonly attributed to his species. Suddenly, my own ninjitsu trained movements seemed clumsy and slow. I stood my ground though, and let the drow approach, then called out in a firm voice.

    “I think I’m crossing this river, that’s what I think I’m doing… and I won’t have you stopping me.”

    In answer, the drow lunged forward, swinging his staff in a swift arc at my temple.
    Last edited by Breaker; 08-13-07 at 10:14 PM.

  4. #4
    Maul-Slayer
    EXP: 172,639, Level: 18
    Level completed: 14%, EXP required for next level: 16,361
    Level completed: 14%,
    EXP required for next level: 16,361

    AP
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    Name
    Joshua Breaker Cronen
    Age
    Ageless (looks 28)
    Race
    Demigod (human)
    Gender
    Male
    Hair Color
    Light Brown
    Eye Color
    Hazel
    Build
    6 feet / 202 lbs.

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    I didn’t even have a chance to twist my head sideways. My assailant was fast and strong, with a grip like iron pressing my wrist into the small of my back. To stop my nose from being shattered against the wall, I tucked my chin. The result was that my forehead struck the solid wood, and shockwaves ran down my neck even as I felt my skull bruise. The attacker shoved forward again, forcing my entire body flat against the wall. As he did so, the shock of the attack faded from my senses, and adrenaline began to pump, numbing the pain in my wrist and forehead. Quickly, I sized up the scenario. My assailant was strong, and had my wrist locked very effectively against my back. I knew I wouldn’t be able to overpower him, so I lifted my right leg, swung it out sideways for momentum, then brought my heel crashing back into the side of my opponent’s knee. He grunted, nothing more, and tightened his grip, pressing me harder still into the immovable wall. I could feel his heavy breathing close on the back of my neck, and both his hands wrapped firmly around my wrist, unforgiving and unrelenting. It was a decent wrist lock; the man obviously knew how to fight, and was very strong besides. He had made two mistakes though; the first was that he was using both hands to dominate my right arm, thus leaving my left arm free. His second mistake was engaging me in an unarmed grappling match.

    Steeling my nerves against the pain building in my wrist and shoulder, I reached my left arm straight up in the air, then bent it at the elbow, dropping my hand to the top of his head, then moving by touch down to his throat. Hundreds of years of evolution had given the human hand four fingers and a powerful opposing thumb, which I put to good use, squeezing his windpipe with all of my force. With a confused gasp he loosened his grip on my wrist, raising his right hand up and easily batting my attempt at strangulation away, which gave me the opening I needed. Clenching my right hand into a fist, I tightened the muscles in my arm and with a solid wrench freed the trapped limb. Knowing I had no time to lick my wounds, I pushed off the wall, hard, with my left hand and right leg, driving myself forcefully backwards, straight into my attacker. I had kept my right arm tightened up behind me, and caught him with a straight elbow to the gut, while the back of my head simultaneously clipped his nose. Instantly, I spun to face him.

    He was a grizzled looking man of maybe thirty, with short brown hair and a black patch over his left eye. Seizing this advantage, I sidestepped to my right, moving momentarily into his blind spot. My right arm shot out, wrapping around his left like a snake until my hand met his shoulder, where I gripped the heavy wool of his shirt. I pivoted powerfully on my left leg, forcing him face-first into the wall. In less than three seconds, we had changed positions; now he was jammed uncomfortably against the rough oak paneling, with my right arm controlling his left in a tight shoulder lock. I spun again, placing myself back to back with him, and reaching my left arm out to hook his right elbow, hoping to fully immobilize him. Before I could grasp his arm though, I stopped my attack and stood very, very still. A dagger had appeared against my throat, with calm, cool green eyes gazing into mine across the glimmering blade.

    "Release him."
    Last edited by Breaker; 07-14-07 at 01:07 PM.

  5. #5
    Maul-Slayer
    EXP: 172,639, Level: 18
    Level completed: 14%, EXP required for next level: 16,361
    Level completed: 14%,
    EXP required for next level: 16,361

    AP
    83
    GP
    16,175
    Breaker's Avatar

    Name
    Joshua Breaker Cronen
    Age
    Ageless (looks 28)
    Race
    Demigod (human)
    Gender
    Male
    Hair Color
    Light Brown
    Eye Color
    Hazel
    Build
    6 feet / 202 lbs.

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    The dark elf's sudden, vicious attack was quick and precise. It showed great physical balance and long hours of training with the weapon, and he moved with the confidence of a fighter who had used a similar tactic many times in the past. A straight blow to the head from a solid wooden staff: Knockout. His confident expression suddenly became startled when I bent my knees and tucked my chin. The staff whizzed by little more than an inch above my head, and the force from the swing threw the drow off balance. For an instant, he was wavering with all his weight on his left leg. I struck without hesitation. Still crouched, I gripped my war hammer by the head and swung the handle in a tight arc, striking my purple-skinned attacker squarely on the inside of his left knee with the leather padded handle. The leg buckled, and he went down headfirst, in the water. Using a warhammer backwards might lack power, but it sure is quick.

    A commotion on the river's edge drew my attention from the splashing, sputtering drow. I heard shouting, and crashing in the brush. "His friends will be arriving soon, I expect. Better make this look good." The downed dark elf clearly was not a very good swimmer, so I bent down and grabbed the back of his shirt, then began hauling him through the water towards the bank on which he had first appeared. Small droplets landed on my skin, shed by his struggling. My shoulder began to ache from carrying his weight plus the drag added by the water. Finally, my feet left the wooden dam and landed on solid ground. With a mighty heave I pulled the drow from the water and dropped him on the bank. He was coughing fairly badly, because when I pulled him through the water, the neck of his shirt had been strangling him. Seeming too exhausted by the ordeal to speak or move, the purple skinned elf merely lay on the bank, glowering at me and coughing violently.

    "Hey! Who are you, and what are you doing here?"

    Three men emerged from the dense vegetaion, one chopping his way through with a large axe, the others following in single file behind. The second two rested their hands on their hips next to the pommels of short swords. All three were of the same type: thick, stocky men with bulging muscles, scraggy hair and beards, dressed in layers of mismatched clothing. They were lumberjacks, but it seemed as if someone had recently given them a little military training. The two followers knelt on either side of the dark elf and began to lift him to his feet. The leader seemed confident enough to deal with me on his own. Ignoring his question, and the menacing axe in his hands, I grinned and looked up at the sky, pretending to be enjoying the sunlight and breeze. Internally, my mind was racing. I had a plan, but it innvolved a lot of smooth talking, fast action, and good luck. I counted to five in my head, then looked back to the axe wielding lumberjack.

    "I'm sorry, did you say something?" The man's red face turned redder, he seemed about to burst with rage.

    "I asked you who you are, and what the hell are you doing here!" He screamed. The release of verbal energy seemed to make him feel better, and he became moderately more composed.

    "My name is Josh, I'm a mercenary looking for work... and I have very valuable information for your leader." I could see the gears grinding slowly behind the lumberjack's eyes. He clearly wanted to disbelieve me, but I hadn't said anything that sounded even remotely like a lie. Also, he would be in a lot of trouble if he stopped me from carrying information to his superiors. He reached this conclusion just as is friends and the drow disapeared into the forest.

    "Well, Josh, I suppose I'd better take you to see the Commander then... but no strangers come into our camp armed, so I'll have to take that hammer." I grinned disarmingly, nodded, and tossed the warhammer to him. He caught it awkwardly against his chest, and immediately realized his mistake. Both his axe and my hammer were large, heavy two handed weapons. Carrying both of them was extremely awkward, and would make it difficult for him to travel through the dense woods. Embarassed, he handed the weapon back to me. Turning his back, he muttered "Follow me," and plunged into the forest.
    Last edited by Breaker; 08-13-07 at 10:21 PM.

  6. #6
    Maul-Slayer
    EXP: 172,639, Level: 18
    Level completed: 14%, EXP required for next level: 16,361
    Level completed: 14%,
    EXP required for next level: 16,361

    AP
    83
    GP
    16,175
    Breaker's Avatar

    Name
    Joshua Breaker Cronen
    Age
    Ageless (looks 28)
    Race
    Demigod (human)
    Gender
    Male
    Hair Color
    Light Brown
    Eye Color
    Hazel
    Build
    6 feet / 202 lbs.

    View Profile
    Concealed behind a cunning barricade of leafy branches was a path as wide as three men. Trees had been felled, and stumps uprooted to allow easy travel between the lumberjack camp and the river's edge. The sides of the path were littered with broken tree trunks and clumps of vegetation. "This must be how they transport their materials to the dam," I thought, following the lumberjack closely. Although it was a fairly straight path, I could not see the camp at the other end, and realized that I had misjudged the distance earlier. From my position it seemed like the camp was a mile or so away from the river. "Must be a pain to move tree trunks all this way." Catching up to the lumberjack, I moved beside him, matching stride for stride. "Time to gather soem information." I instructed myself.

    "What's your name?" I asked genially.
    The lumberjack glared at me, as if I was trying to trap him somehow.

    "It's not a difficult question," I said, sarcasm leaning briefly into my tone. "I told you mine." I added. He glared at me again, then stumbled on a loose rock and returned his attention to where he was walking.

    "Henry." He grunted, after some time. As we walked I had begun to set the pace. He seemed reluctant to let me get ahead, which was stupid. Ideally he would be pushing me in front of him with his axe at my back. Evidently, Henry was not experienced in bringing strangers to the camp. He had caved very quickly on the no weapons rule, and now seemed perplexed as to how to deal with me. I decided to take advantage of that, and began to pick Henry's slow-moving brain.

    "What are you building that dam for, Henry?" It was a direct inquisition, but I tried to sound conversational.
    "We don't ask questions, we just do the work."
    "Okay, so who hired you?" I jumped over a clump of weeds, and increased the pace again. Henry kept up easily, breathing only a little harder than me.

    "The dark elves, like the one you pulled out of the water back there. There are about fifty of them at the camp, but mostly they spend their time patrolling the woods. The Commander is their leader."

    I took a moment to think, pushing our pace up yet again. I was impressed by how well Henry kept up; his cardio was evidently better than his bulk suggested. He carried his axe with apparent ease. It was a big weapon, although I was willing to bet my hammer was heavier. From the corner of my eye I scrutinized him. "The Commander" seemed like a name, not just a title. I doubted whether Henry or any of the other lumberjacks knew the mysterious leader's real name. I was trying to think of more questions when two dark elves materialized from the foliage. Henry did a double take; I tensed and lifted my hammer. The first olive skinned fellow spoke to his partner in a foreign tongue, then turned to me and spoke in common.

    "You're coming with us, human."
    Last edited by Breaker; 08-13-07 at 10:24 PM.

  7. #7
    Maul-Slayer
    EXP: 172,639, Level: 18
    Level completed: 14%, EXP required for next level: 16,361
    Level completed: 14%,
    EXP required for next level: 16,361

    AP
    83
    GP
    16,175
    Breaker's Avatar

    Name
    Joshua Breaker Cronen
    Age
    Ageless (looks 28)
    Race
    Demigod (human)
    Gender
    Male
    Hair Color
    Light Brown
    Eye Color
    Hazel
    Build
    6 feet / 202 lbs.

    View Profile
    The eyes were slightly slanted, like a cat’s, and piercing as the blade on my windpipe. I looke beyond them and saw a set of pointy ears protruding from beneath short sand colored hair. “An elf. No, make that a half elf.” I might have been wrong, but I doubted it. The ears weren’t that pointy, and more rounded than long. Also, the warrior had broad shoulders and a muscular frame, not normal for a pure bred elf.

    “Release him.”

    The half-elf repeated the command, every bit as calmly as he had said it the first time, but an extra fragment of danger edged into his voice. The knife pushed harder, it was very uncomfortable now. Slowly, I slackened my grip on Eye Patch, feeling him groan and move away, undoubtedly massaging his sore limbs.

    “Who are you?”

    The half-elf and I both stood still, but my eyes danced. I spotted a symbol on the left breast of his shirt. A sword crossed by a rifle.
    “A Ranger. They’re Rangers, thank God.”

    “Joshua Cronen. Check my left inner coat pocket.”

    Cautiously, the Coronian Ranger’s hand reached inside my trench coat. For an insane moment I thought about carrying a set mousetrap in my pocket for occasions like this.

    “It’s him. Yuri, tell the clerk we don’t need this room anymore.”
    “With pleasure. I’ve got better things to do then sit in a...”

    Eye Patch—Yuri’s voice faded as he moved down the oak panelled hall. The half-elf sheathed his dagger. The blade had vanished from my neck as soon as he removed the scroll from my coat. He hadn’t even needed to unroll it; the seal was enough. It bore the same crest that adorned his shirt. He looked a little sheepish now that the moment of danger was over. I was glad to see that this particular specimen carried none of the haughty demeanour elves were famous for.

    “Sorry about the ambush tactic, we needed to make sure, beyond all reasonable doubt, that you were legitimate.”
    “No need to apologize. I’d have done the same thing.”

    The ranger nodded and led me out of the decoy room, through the pleasant-smelling hall and into the inn’s largest dining room. It was a larger version of the room we had just left. A fire crackled and popped in the hearth, unecessary in the day’s heat, but a pleasant addition to the aesthetic of the atmosphere. Several nature paintings hung on the walls, and two square windows stared out at the cloudy sky. A large square table made the room’s centrepiece, with five chairs surrounding it. The craftsmanship was a little better than the furniture in the other room, but made from the same cheap wood. Three of the chairs were occupied by two humans and an elf, pointed ears and slim frame marking the last as a pure-blood Raiaeran.

    It was obvious they had been there awhile. Cloaks and jackets were thrown over the backs of chairs, shirtsleeves rolled up, the men lounging in slumped positions that spoke of hours of sitting. The elf looked a little edgier, like maybe he had just sat down. For all the long lives they led, elves could be quite impatient. I guessed that he had been pacing until his extra-sensitive ears picked up the commotion in the adjacent room. Something told me it was not unusual for Yuri to bash new recruits against walls.

    The remains of a meal, or perhaps several meals, had been pushed to the centre of the table, leaving room in front of each ranger for a thick sheaf of documents. Mostly maps, from what I could see, mixed in with the odd scouting report. My guide took the empty chair next to his half-kin, gesturing for me to sit in the remaining seat directly across from them. With one man on each side of me and the two elves straight ahead, I felt like I was up for interrogation. I shrugged my trench coat off onto the back of the chair, getting comfortable. My casual demeanour under their scrutiny sent a message; I’m capable, I can handle myself, you’re not wasting your time with me, I’m one of you now. The humans nodded to each other and one of them poured me a glass of water, which I gratefully accepted. Even the elf’s ramrod spine softened a little. The water cooled my dry throat, and seeing this, the half-elf began to explain.

  8. #8
    Maul-Slayer
    EXP: 172,639, Level: 18
    Level completed: 14%, EXP required for next level: 16,361
    Level completed: 14%,
    EXP required for next level: 16,361

    AP
    83
    GP
    16,175
    Breaker's Avatar

    Name
    Joshua Breaker Cronen
    Age
    Ageless (looks 28)
    Race
    Demigod (human)
    Gender
    Male
    Hair Color
    Light Brown
    Eye Color
    Hazel
    Build
    6 feet / 202 lbs.

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    Seconds later I was travelling along the well beaten path once more, sandwiched between the two dark elves. With one in front and the other behind, both resting their hands on the hilts of sheathed longswords, I had no apparent avenue of escape. Not that escape was a part of my plans. The camp was my destination. I chalked it up to arrogance that the elves let me hold on to my hammer. I could think of six or seven different methods of disarming and incapacitating both of them before they knew what was happening. Luckily for them, that wasn’t in my plans either.

    “What are you doing in this part of the forest, human?” The drow behind me piped up suddenly. I refused to turn around, responding instead to the back of the other elf’s head.

    “Seeing as how this is Concordia, I could ask you the same question, dark elf.” I heard a seething behind me, but the elf in front of me cut in, backing his partner.

    “You could, but since you’re our prisoner, we’ll ask the questions.”
    “Prisoner? I don’t think so. I’m a mercenary for hire. The fact that I’m walking with you two, rather than leaving your ugly corpses behind me on the path, is purely a courtesy.” They ignored the half-threat, the one behind me again taking over.

    “Maybe you’re a mercenary for hire, or maybe you’re a walking dead man. It all depends on whether or not you pass initiation.”

    “Initiation? What the hell is that? Damnit, why didn’t Henry mention this?”

    I kept up the tough front, my mind racing, wondering what I would need to do in order to infiltrate the camp.

    “Well, if you two got in, I’m sure I’ll pass with flying colors.” There was a moment of silence, and then I realized we had arrived at the camp.

    It was an impressive clearing; a massive ring of rough brown tents lined the exterior, alive with action. Lumberjacks, mostly big burly types, sauntered in and out of the ramshackle structures, going through their daily routine with nonplussed motivation. Several fires blazed wherever there was space, and a few men stood around each, cooking, dicing, or just passing the time in idle conversation.

    Although I doubted it was intentional, circles seemed to dominate the camp. The outer layer of tents formed a circle around the inner layer. These were smaller, neater shelters, made of heavy dark blue canvas. The camp itself was a circle within a circle within a circle, the innermost ring being a small bare area with a massive fire set in the middle. A thick shaft of smoke rose from the fire, showing that these people were not afraid of being discovered. A beacon that high could be spotted from kilometres away. The theme of circles continued. Each fire was surrounded by a small circle of rocks, containing the flames, and the rocks in turn were encircled by men. It was almost like looking at an odd piece of modern art. Secretly, I dubbed the camp “Bubbles”.

    Before long I had been escorted to the largest tent, a navy blue extravagant affair not far from the main fire. Within, I was told to sit and wait. Since nobody stayed with me I opted to stand instead, examining the interior. The only furnishings were a number of chairs and a large table, which sported a map of that particular area of Concordia. It was new, with the locations of the camp, the dam, and the path clearly marked. I was beginning to examine it further when a voice from the entry flap startled me.

    “Tell me your name, and what your purposes are in Concordia.”

  9. #9
    Maul-Slayer
    EXP: 172,639, Level: 18
    Level completed: 14%, EXP required for next level: 16,361
    Level completed: 14%,
    EXP required for next level: 16,361

    AP
    83
    GP
    16,175
    Breaker's Avatar

    Name
    Joshua Breaker Cronen
    Age
    Ageless (looks 28)
    Race
    Demigod (human)
    Gender
    Male
    Hair Color
    Light Brown
    Eye Color
    Hazel
    Build
    6 feet / 202 lbs.

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    I looked up, surprised but unwilling to show it. A lone drow stood in the entrance, confident, a king in his own domain. He was at least three inches taller than me and about the same weight, carrying more muscle mass than most of his kin. Silver hair spilled down around his ears, but it was not the silver of old age. It glistened; catching what litle sunlight came through the entry flap and throwing it back. I guessed it had been that color since the day he was born. He was healthy, muscular and hard-looking, as though he could eat rocks and like it.

    “My name is Josh Cronen, and as I’m sure you already know, I’m a mercenary looking for work.”

    He seemed satisfied by the answer, but it was clear I would have to give more information.

    “What makes you think we have work to offer the likes of you?” I ignored the insult, not really sure what ‘the likes of you’ was supposed to mean.

    “Well, apparently you’re building a dam, and I can swing an axe as well as any of those lugs outside. Of course, I have other talents too. The skinny staff wielding drow on the dam can attest to that.”

    For a moment the Commander did not respond. He took a seat in the nearest chair, facing me across the table. Refusing to be put at odds, I leaned forwards, examining the map, both palms braced on the table edge. Moments later, the Commander spoke. His tone said that he had been contemplating the answer, not deciding what to say, but rather how much to say. In short, how much to tell me.

    “The boy you sent into the river is Hassin. He is a far better fighter than I think you think he is. And he has other talents, talents very valuable to a man in my position.”

    The turn of phrase seemed odd. I would have thought the Commander would say “a drow in my postion”, or “an elf”. I was hardly an expert on Aleraran elves though, and dismissed the comment. The Commander’s eyes were boring into me, flat and dull in the tent’s dark interior, but the gaze felt penetrating all the same. I made a choice at that moment, trusting my instincts.

    “I’ve travelled through several villages on my way here. One of them called Underwood.” The Commander raised an eyebrow at the seemingly useless information, then gestured for me to continue.

    “It’s a day’s walk from here, less if you move quickly.” I paused a moment, letting suspense build. The more he waited for the information, the more likely he would be to believe it.

    “There’s a legion from Corone camped in the forest just outside the town. I asked around, and none of the citizens could think of any reason for them to be there.”

    A long moment passed, in which I met the Commander’s eyes, our pupils dilated, locked in a non-verbal battle of wills. Finally, he spoke, and it was nearly a whisper, rhytmic, almost taunting, like a child’s song.

    “So this is the 'valuable information' which you bring to the leader of the camp. The camp you seem to be looking for honest work at.”
    I said nothing. Neither of us blinked, then he looked away and continued.

    “Well, it is valuable information indeed. If you pass the initiation, you will be given employement starting tomorrow.”
    “What’s the initiation I keep hearing about?”

    The next was delivered in such a casual, offhand way that it took me completely by surprise.

    “A fight to the death. Your opponent will be that oaf, Henry. The winnings a job; the pennance final.”

    I blinked, shrugged, and walked out of the tent.
    ... They fell to him as prey to bluefin
    for the Jya's warriors knew not how to swim...
    13-3-2

    I wrote a book! ~ Most Suave Character 2010

  10. #10
    Maul-Slayer
    EXP: 172,639, Level: 18
    Level completed: 14%, EXP required for next level: 16,361
    Level completed: 14%,
    EXP required for next level: 16,361

    AP
    83
    GP
    16,175
    Breaker's Avatar

    Name
    Joshua Breaker Cronen
    Age
    Ageless (looks 28)
    Race
    Demigod (human)
    Gender
    Male
    Hair Color
    Light Brown
    Eye Color
    Hazel
    Build
    6 feet / 202 lbs.

    View Profile
    I stood with my back to the camp’s largest fire, the heat crackling against my back.

    Ten feet away, Henry was doing powerful lunge stretches, the heavy axe gripped in his hands, bloody murder in his eyes. His warm-up reminded me of a bull pawing at the ground. I thought about the way a matador fights a bull, and smiled.

    After leaving the Commander’s tent, I had received instructions, and taken them with a total lack of emotion. The grinning lumberjacks, with their sparse leather armor and rusted helmets, had delivered the specifics, seeming to expect a show of nerves. They were disappointed; in my first few weeks on Althanas I had been “recruited” as a Pit Fighter, and escaped only after a solid week of matches similar to the Cell tournament. Then I had been nervous; now I was not. I shivered despite the heat of the fire, remembering the gore, the carnage in the Pits.

    “This lot would probably lose their breakfast over a day in the Pits. Dinners, too.” I thought, inspecting the would-be soldiers. They formed a rough ring around the large fire, leaving lots of room for Henry and I to fight. The rules (which had simply been that we fight to the death) said nothing about the fire, so apparently it could be used as an obstacle as well as a weapon. My smile grew a little wider. The Commander had just joined the crowd, which was three or four men thick. He stood on a box at the back, the skinny Hassan at his side. The battle would give me a chance to invade the Commander’s circle of trust.


    A cheap little firecracker was tossed into the bonfire, and as it burst the battle began.

    Henry charged straight at me, axe held in front of him like the bull’s horns. From five metres away he telegraphed his move, and I got the signal loud and clear. With each step the axe rose a little higher, and it was clear it would reach the apex of a swing just as he came into striking range. When he was three paces away going full steam, I tossed my hammer in his direction and dodged sideways.
    Last edited by Breaker; 09-22-07 at 10:16 PM.
    ... They fell to him as prey to bluefin
    for the Jya's warriors knew not how to swim...
    13-3-2

    I wrote a book! ~ Most Suave Character 2010

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