truth and consequences part 3

youre-a-geek-300x240I happen to be a writer, and on occasion I like to post Fiction stories for my readers to check out.  Sometimes these stories are just random ideas.  Other times they are stories I wrote and the contract fell through so they are just gathering dust.  Its up to you to figure out which is which.

This particular Short story is called Truth and Consequences .It involves two of my more abrasive dungeons and dragons characters going on an adventure together.  The world and setting of this story comes from Josh Weekley.  If you you enjoy the setting of Braeton and the tapestry of the pseudo historical world, he’s written a novel set in the same world called ‘Crown of the Dwarf King’.  Check it out on Lulu.com.

This is the third part of the story.  Parts one and two  can be found here.

****

True to her word, the widow Mrs. Fuller supplied Aefric and Father Gerrit with a writ.  With her ledger they stocked up on the supplies for their sojourn.  Though Aelfric wished to find a replacement for his battered wooden shield, this town hadn’t the stock of equipment for adventurers and warriors.  Gerrit did however feel the need to remind the half-elf that the host always provided with what was needed.

The horses they bore upon were neither warhorses nor trained steeds.  They were bulky work horses with slick muscles that vibrated under the wide chestnut tanned saddles.   The heavy hooves stomped slowly across the well cleared roads.  Heavy horse shoes spraying clumps of rock and dirt behind their careful trot.

There was a chill to the day.  The first ice of winter had reduced the massive trees that beset them to leafless skeletons.  The golden light of the sun had little hindrance slipping through the earthen husks of knotted limbs.  Combined with the raw peat of the path they trod—the duo existed in a world composed entirely in shades of rich brown.

Aelfric was thankful the priest had prayed with him early this morning.  Even among the castle of his youth, he hadn’t heard such dutiful prayer.  The bizarre priest’s words were charged with purpose.  It was an inquisitor’s prayer.  A prayer no ordinary priest knew or said.  It was dedicated to holy warriors.  Aelfric himself hoped to learn such prayers someday.

The prayer however had more utility than just the penance of the revered god.  This prayer, as Gerrit had said, was to ask favor on their holy act.  A simple request on the part of the Slavarian priest was for them not to grow frigid from the mountain’s ice.  The prayer seemed to have been more than mere words.  As Aelfric, felt not even the numbing of a finger or toe beneath the chill of scattering snow.  He mused that the protection of the host seemed to not be isolated to the devout.   But also those whose aid they sought.  A benevolent god indeed!

It was also evident to the young lord that, Father Gerrick wasted no words.  For even before they left the gates of Barlaeworth, his lips went tight. And his sounds were muted.  His hard steely countenance had returned.  And his determination to a mission, he originally had no wish to deliver had taken to zeal and focus.

Unlike Father Gerrit, the half-elf, was not as easily focused.  As the trip wore on, Aelfric felt himself fidgeting in his saddle.  His eyes only saw the same mundane rock and brown husk of trees pass them by, hour after hour.  The silence of a man who couldn’t be much of older than he only intensified his growing boredom.

They had travelled less than two hours into the forests of the mountain, before Aelfric’s curiosity could no longer be held.  His smooth regal voice broke the silence, in manicured staccato.  “So how long have you been a priest?”  Aelfric asked turning towards the back of the priest’s head.  The young adventurer couldn’t help but notice how the black patterns in Father Gerrit’s vividly white hair looked like the growth of tree branches.  He proposed it must have been some sort of birthmark.

“I have been in service of host, all my life.”  The priest said, not turning his head.  “I was orphan; my parents killed by fire when I was young.”  He continued.  His accent always seemed to struggle with pronunciation.  Aelfric assumed Gerrit left out certain adverbs and prepositions not because of any failure with learning the language.  Only that he couldn’t be bothered with the extra words.

“So you have been training to be a priest since you were a child?”  Aelfric asked.  His voice seemed almost excited.  As though the priest was going to tell him some marvelous story about how his entire life was some epic story of adventure.

“No, my friend you miss-understand.  But that okay.”  The priest said.  “Churches take most orphans in, and raise them in the teachings of The Host.  Some do find their ways by working in the cloth, but most do not become priests.  If that was case, we’d have hundreds of priests.  In Slaveria, where I come from there is indeed a shortage of such men.  And in Braeton it appears worse still?”

 

“I don’t understand.”  Aelfric said, suddenly feeling stupid.  A regretful tide delivered by his brothers and father.  Hearing of his ignorance like a holy mantra was one thing, but facing the barrier seemed worse. It felt like learning to read all over again.  And he wasn’t a success in reading or writing.

“Most people, who work within the church, do not simply decide such a thing.  You do not wake up one day and, start preaching on street corner.  The Host calls to those who he needs very early.  He gives signs to us.  And we as mere mortals have to take that call.  He doesn’t give us dreams such as adventuring or becoming knight.  We see signs and these signs follow us until we fall in line.  But we always know it.  And we always find ourselves going towards it.  Whether we resist or not, our lives are already in service.  He guides how he sees fit.  Perhaps if I were smarter, I would not be here with you.  I would not be armed and scarred.  Perhaps if I saw it sooner my parents would be alive and I’d be in a church in my beautiful home country.  But the host provides to us as he must.”

“Do you think, he is calling to me?  I am my father’s mistake.  I never met my mother; I was told she died during childbirth.  That is why my father felt the need to adopt me.  But I am my father’s bastard.  My brothers and their mother resent me—the mere idea of me.  And my father quickly found me as nothing but a reminder of his depravity.  I am here now because my father has discarded me.  Perhaps these things are signs?”

“It is possible,” Gerrit said his head swaying into a nod.  “I am a priest, and the host provides me with his strength and power because of the path I walk.  But I am just man, and I have limited capabilities.  He tells me what I need to know.  Whether he calls to you, to be his hand, or not; we must all live our lives as he sees it.  When the time comes for your meaning of life you will know.  Whether it is to supply food for his children, make weapons to protect against the shadows of evil, or if it is to wield his strength as champion you will know.”

Aelfric nodded his head.  “I guess I’m just looking for answers.  I feel completely lost.”  The half-elf felt the burning dryness in his eyes, and the threat of tears.  He shook his head, attempting to push it back.

“Answers come from life.”  The Priest said.  “We must always move forward, and things to be understood shall be.”

“It’s really easy for you to say!”  Aelfric spat back before snapping his mouth closed.  “I’m… I’m sorry.”  He tightened his grip on the leather reins.  Though, Father Gerrit did not appear to be much older than he was.  He felt the burden of superiority with his companion.

“It is not as easy as you may think.”  Gerrit said, in a voice that did not sound agitated or, insulted.  Only Alfric seemed angry and annoyed enough for the both of them.  But the priest once again faded into the rhythmic patterns of the clomping of horseshoes.  His steely eyes once more focused on the trail ahead.

The young lord, did feel his curiosity heighten at his companions words.  He wondered exactly what path this man had taken to deliver him to such a state.  He was sure there was a kindness inside him.  His actions had proven this twice over since they’d first met.  And yet he was hardened, and protected even to the most mindful of probing.  Aelfric could only assume that there was darkness.  Something that shook the religious man to his inner most core.

The duo pushed the workhorses up the winding summit.  The winds grew stronger, and the sun’s light fading into inky shadows as they travelled.  All around them stood the tall, leafless trees, their chocolate trunks forming into morbid silhouettes.  Even the once shimmering gems of ice, degraded into murky brown and cobalt.  But the two riders pushed on.  To both Priest and young warrior they only had the trail and their final destination.  When steel met steel everything else had to wait.

Alefric had finally succumbed to the silence of the path.  He began to feel the nervous butterflies starting to swarm his fit stomach.  His breathing got increasingly deeper as they rode.  The panic rose in his throat in the form of dry gulps. As they escaped the trees and fell onto the stony ridge; he knew they were getting close.  And the true dread of the coming fight began to weigh significantly onto his shoulders.  The crone did not give them exacts as to the number they would face.  There was much he wished he’d asked.  But thinking on his feet was never a virtue the young lord possessed.

“We are close.”  Father Gerrit said, this time he was breaking the silence.  “You must remain calm.”  He said in more of a whisper.

“I..I’m calm.”  Aelfric said between deep swaths of nervous breath.  “This is not the first time I have swung my sword.”

“I mean nothing of zeal or fright.”  The priest continued in a low murmur.  “These things will be made or undone by what lays ahead.  I talk of loud breathing.  They should know of us before we are ready.”

“What does that matter?” Aelfric asked his voice growing louder.  “What does it matter if they know of us, are we not here to fi-” His words came to an abrupt closure as an arrow swished through the air.  The blond adventurer raised his head.  His gaze rose to see the shaft rush at him as a bronzed thread.  The metal point slammed into his shoulder.  The razor-sharp point imbedded into the chocolate leather.  The bow’s punch sent him tumbling out of his saddle.  His broad back slammed– with an audible crack– against the stony caprice of the mountain’s ridge.

“You have another question?”  Father Gerrit asked, tossing his head over his shoulder for a glance of his felled companion.  Satisfied, Aelfric was breathing; his large hand pulled the bow from his saddle in a singular tug.  “By his will, we will see.”  The priest remarked, gripping the cherry varnished long bow with his right hand.  His left plucked an arrow and carefully notched it to the blond bowstring.

Gerrit felt his face go numb as his sight zoomed with defined precision.  His head turned as though he was a puppet guided by strings.  His sight flew past the bald sprigs of tree limbs.  The world rushed past him in a radial blur of motion.  “There” he spoke neither he nor his mount having moved an inch.  His imbued eyes zoomed further towards a single form.  Though the aggressor was more silhouette than man, the answer to his prayers made spotting the vitals unburdened.  The Priest released the arrow with a flare of his long fingers.

Aelfric felt the anxiety of horror seeing his companion’s eyes having filled into ebony black bores looked up towards the trees.  He was sure Gerrit had made some sound, before he raised the bow and fired.  He only saw the bronzed blur of the wooden missile for a second before it sliced audibly into the crowds of trees.  This was followed by a loud grunt somewhere in the distance.  The young adventurer tried to look in the expanse of bald trees to see what had occurred, but even the eyes of his elven heritage saw nothing.  Only his ears picked the finality of a bone shattering thud amidst the forest.

Gerrit turned his gaze towards Aelfric.  The black filled void of the human’s eyes faded and returned a steely glare back to his eye sockets.  “I only saw the one.” Gerrit mentioned.  “We should get moving.  Surprise may already be ruined.”

Though he’d seen magic plenty of times, in his life the way the Priest’s eyes had unclouded in front of him like the coming of dawn struck him with fear.  It was one thing to see the man heal with his hands, but his morbid eyes just felt wrong.  It felt like something from the old ones.

Rising to his feet, his eyes watched with a silent concentration.   The priest slipped the large bow back onto his saddle bag.  Aelfric’s almond shaped eyes studied the brown bandages that neatly coiled around the priest’s fingers and up his large forearms.  He hadn’t noticed the small symbols neatly drawn against the wrappings.  In the coming dark, the black ink seemed to dimly glow against the old looking cloth.

“Hurry or I leave you here.”  Gerrit said a second time.  His gaze merely passed over the noble.

“Right.”  Aelfric called back.  His right hand gripping the saddle’s horn lifting his body with the balance of his left foot in the stirrup.  “But if we make it through this I want some explanations.”  He warned, as righted himself into the saddle.

“We may pray that we will speak later,” The priest said, turning on his saddle and loosening the grip on the reigns.  “But for now let us go.”  Gerrit said urging his mount.  The horse seemingly understood as it pushed off in a gallop.

“As you say.”  Aelfric said, nudging his horse’s ribs.  “Come on!”  He said in as low a voice as he could manage.  His horse dove into a full run.  The heavy hooves sent dirt and ice after its footfalls.  His slender fingers carefully gripped the leather reins.  But his gaze was fixated on the priest who seemed stranger with every passing moment.  In his heart he knew something was off.  He just wasn’t sure what it was.

****

The deepening night came quicker than either Gerrit or Aelfric were ready for.  Aelfric never had problems with the darkness of night.  One of the few gifts of his twisted linage was his elfin eyes which made his sight much more adept than humans.  He could see almost as well at night as he could during the day.  The difference being his gaze didn’t transform into icy muted tones of steely blues like humans.  As the light began to thin, his gaze took on a ruddy crimson overtone.

Aelfric urged his horse to slow as he neared the strange priest.  For most of their journey Father Gerrit had urged his horse to a quick pace.  But as they began to ascend the narrow incline he had slowed.  The young half-elf wasn’t sure if it was the rather thin rocky path they took now, or if it was the dark, but more than likely a bit of both.   “How far are we?”  Aelfric asked, nearing into the ear shot of his companion.

“Very close.”  Gerrit said, his voice a harsh whisper.  The cave we seek should be above this summit.

“How do you know?”  Aelfric asked his own voice lowering in timber.

“You have much better ears than me.”  The priest said, “Can you not hear the footsteps just above us?”

Aelfric concentrated on the airy sounds that surrounded them.  He could easily take in the cupping of heavy wind against his ears.  And the rhythmatic steps of the horses easily drummed out their continued movement.  He could even hear the scurrying of animals against the rocky grounds below them, but nothing sounded remotely human.

The young half-elf was about to question his companion’s knowledge when he saw the priest reach an arm towards the back of his saddle.  Silently removing the large bow, he’d used earlier.  He wondered if this was his weapon of choice.  Or if he favored the clean looking Morning Star that hung across his broad back.

“I can’t hear anything.  What makes you so sure?” Alefric said in a hoarse whisper.  The chestnut saddle’s leather squeaking as learned forwards over the horn.

Father Gerrit gripped the smooth grip of his composite bow, not bothering to turn his head to his companion.  “It could be nothing.”  He said in a voice not much louder than a well-intentioned sigh.  “But smell of burning wood is also in the air.”  He shrugged his stout shoulders.  “So I prepare.”

“I don’t smell anything, nor do I hear these footsteps.”  Aelfric said inching his horse closer to the priest’s.  “Have you grown mad, Father?”

“Like I said it could be nothing.”  Gerrit said pulling a slender arrow’s shaft from his saddle and notching it against the bow string.  Wedging the bow against the saddle with his knee he held the arrow in place with his off-hand.  His right hand pulling the brown leather reins from his teeth.

“You seem awfully sure.”  Aelfric said.  His head turning towards the slender rocky path that coiled in front of them, like a slate serpent.  “Do you divine these phantoms from The Host, or are you just toying with me?”

“A craven man listens to every warning that is given to him, for he expects it.  A confident man ignores every warning because he knows he can overcome them.  But a courageous man listens to every warning, and waits to decide.”  Gerrit recited his own eyes returning to the forward trail.

“I don’t get it.”  Aelfric said sitting back into his saddle.  He let his left hand slide to the handle of his long sword. “And the longer I spend with you, the more I doubt you, and your piety.  That is the only warning that comes to me.”  He spat his voice rising in anger.

“Keep your voice down.”  Gerrit hissed.  But it was much too late.  A single arrow whisked across the priests face.  He caught the bronzed thread in the corner of his eye.  His squat body bent back in his saddle.  The arrow sped less than inch from his nose.  It was only the first, as the tranquility of the chilled ride ended with the sky opening up for a sea of arrows.

“Get down!”  Gerrit managed to say as he dove from the saddle of his horse.  He carefully turned before his body painfully slammed into the iced rock.  His beefy hand still gripping his Composite bow as his body came to a stop.  Above him he could hear the shrill of his horse.  “Please give us divine protection in hour of need.”  He said in a short prayer, thinking more about the horse than Aelfric.  He hoped despite all proof the contrary that the lordling wouldn’t stand in the middle of the hail of arrows swinging his arms about in fright.

Father Gerrit, pushed his offhand forward at the arrows, that littered the sky like never ending rain. The ruby signet ring he wore over the yellowed bandages lit his fist with a violet aurora. His prayer ignited the golden cross that encapsulated the ring’s crimson rock.  The energy snapped forward like a jagged arm of lightening.  The godly energy manifested in a swirling disc of lavender soup.  The saucer of grape syrup caught the flung arrows like a glue pot.

“Get off your mount or charge through!”  Gerrit spoke above the swishing of arrows against the sticky barrier in front of him.  The priest lay flat on his chest pulling an arrow from the canvas quiver that clung to his broad back.

“Maybe I should charge!”  Aelfric spoke his beautiful nimble nose scrunching into thick lines of agitation. He felt flustered as his heart hammered against his narrow chest.  He looked at the grape disc that floated a few feet in front of him.  “I can’t charge through this thing though, nor lob an arrow.  So I’m unsure… WHAT THE HELL YOU WANT FROM ME!”

Calm your heart, and harden it like warrior.  This we can get through, you just must not let fear sour your mind.”  Gerrit said.  His icy voice had a kindness to it.  That aspect of the strange priest never changed.

“Like a warrior…”  Aelfric repeated back, feeling Gerrit’s words well up inside him and into his spirit.

“Yes just like warrior.”  The priest repeated.  “We have many opponents, but we can make it through.  Though it’s best not to be making yourself target.  Now get off the horse.  It would be best to not charge.”

“Why would it be best to not charge?”  Aelfric asked turning his gaze from the barrier, and back towards the priest.  He did however feel his anger and more importantly his fear was starting to settle into something else.

“It is quite obvious,” The priest said, his head moving back and forth trying to keep his attention between the sticky disc that floated in front of him, and his most unlikely of partners.  “You haven’t much experience in mounted combat, and will surely be marked with quite a few arrows.”

“I have armour and shield!”  Aelfric said.  “I can do this!”

“But even if you manage to fell some enemies, and protect your own flesh against harm, the poor horse is not so well equipped.  This battle is not the horse’s to fight.”

“I hadn’t thought…” Aelfric said as he dropped from his horse.  The horse looked at him, her large saucer like eyes nodded slowly to him.

“I can’t maintain this barrier…”  Gerrit said in a grasped voice “Get your horse out of here and prepare yourself!”

Aelfric slammed his hand into the large mare’s backside.  The horse let out a throaty breath of air turning its head indignantly to the young warrior.  “GO!”  He yelled, as though the horse could understand him.  The large workhorse seemed to nod its head.  Then it took off in a gallop.  Its large hooves beat against the hard rock as it ran at its full speed.  “It’s done!”  Aelfric said his hand moving to the hilt of his sword.

Seemingly the strange priest didn’t hear him.  As Gerrit let out a pained grunt as the purple jelly shattered in front of them like a splash of water.  The sticky substance splashed against the twosomes’ faces and armour.  In front of the young heroes the threat of death rained on them from ahead.  And Aelfric felt his heart again lurch.

As the arrows ran like rain passing across his nimble body he felt cold.  The icy grip of fear chilled his very bones.  He closed his eyes hoping it was all a dream.  It was the first arrow that caught his shoulder that reminded him.  The burning pain bringing the grave domain he stood fully inside of.  He wasn’t in a dream, and he was going to die.

Continue to part 4

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