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Archives: Cian’s Quest

Chapter 7: Encounter at the West Gate

    After quickly making her way back to the inn, Kylia ensured her horse would be ready by the time she was done. She got her gear packed and then headed downstairs. Passing by the counter, she flipped a few gold to the innkeeper. “This is for when I am next in town next time, can you add it to the record?”

    The innkeeper looked at the money and quickly wrote the note in his ledger, she always stayed at this inn. It was nice and comfortable, the food was good and she was close to her ports of call. “Dunno when your going to be back again. I’ll hold it but remember stabling is extra.”

    After the exchange she headed out and went to the stables, the stable attendant was already getting her horse ready for travel. Once that was finished she mounted Wildfyre and made her way to the west gate, waiting there for her companions.

* * *

    Cian and Carianna had picked out their horses from the knight’s barracks and they were provided with the necessary tack. It took a bit to get them both ready, and Cian was unaccustomed with riding. For now, Ciprian led Cian’s horse by a lead rein, but the boy would have to learn to ride fast.

    The knight was certain Kylia would beat them to the gate, and sure enough, she was there waiting with her horse when he arrived. Ciprian casually rode toward her on his warhorse, Agel. He had to keep a slow pace for Cian’s safety, since his horse was tied to Agel’s saddle.

    Although Carianna didn’t speak about her choice in steed, she was very selective in an odd way. First of all, her eye passed right by the youngest and strongest of the horses there. As a priestess of simplicity, she avoided the fancier steeds, since knights would have better use of them and she didn’t want to take their best. They were, after all, allowing her to borrow a horse at no cost. So she found an older mare. The horse had splotches of color across her and seemed to be in good condition. Following her meek selections, she also took older riding equipment and was careful not to choose anything with spurs or other forceful measures.

    Carianna smiled uncomfortably to Ciprian and thanked him as she rode the mare out. Borrowing things made her uncomfortable. It was wise to equip themselves for faster travel, but that didn’t make her feel any better about it. Not to mention she wasn’t very experienced with horses. Her temple never had any horses of their own and, before that, she was locked away in her previous workplace. She knew how, but most of it was in theory, as opposed to experience.

    The priestess made out alright. Her horse tended to stray from the straight lines that Ciprian rode in, but she didn’t run into anything.

    Kylia saw them approach and waited for them, once they arrived she looked amongst the group. She carried a more serious air about her now, with her weapons all hidden except her knives. “How many hours of travel do we have left today, I can’t really hold my liquor well.” She admitted to them finally as she rested her head against her mares neck and yawned, patting Wildfyre’s neck she whispered to her lovingly. She was going to do her best to stay awake during travel, she had hoped for some rest before they left.

    Cian was given a light brown filly, with a beautiful white mane and tail. The animal was friendly and seemed to enjoy nuzzling the new squire’s shirt probably in the hopes of finding some food or just for want of attention.

    The action made Cian giggle actually, something he was VERY unused to doing, a bit of the street smart thief that he’d been came to fore at least the discipline and he gently stroked the animal’s neck and cooed in her ear. As he stepped along leading the horse, he finally realized....he hadn’t ridden much, not much at all and he had a lot to learn and catch up on. Glancing to his companions as they continued on he spoke in the hopes that either Cip, Carianna or dark elf female could give him some pointers. “Umm...I haven’t ridden horses much. Could someone help me? Give me some pointers or the like?”

* * *

    Clutching the rounded crystal ball, the wizardess frowned. Someone had already gotten to the item, the fact that the images within the crystal showed it being held by a young man in worn clothing and a smile showed that an adventurer had already received the small, porcelain figure. It annoyed Epros, but there was nothing she could do beyond theft. Petting the grayish hued bird with a long tail, which was perched on her shoulder, she noted the sound of hoof beats. Turning around, the swirling image in the ball continued, although she seemed more interested in the party. It wasn’t every day that a party contained a holy knight and a half-dark elf.

    As they got closer, she revoked her magic from the orb, and the image abruptly stopped. Placing it in her bag, she eyed them with a sidelong glance of a bird eying a worm. Incidentally, while she blocked their path, she made no effort to move out of the way.

    Carianna wanted to go right past the wizardess, but there was no way around. “Excuse me, miss,” the priestess said politely. “Would you be so kind as to move aside for us?” She hoped there would not be any trouble...

    Eying the priestess with a side long glance, one of inspection, she returned to the rest. She nodded approvingly... until she saw Cian. Frowning lightly, she crossed her arms and thought about it. “You’ll do. For the time being, you’ll be my escorts. I’m not fond of a child being in my party, but I suppose that cannot be helped.”

    “I’m sorry... escorts? I don’t think we... umm... Ciprian?” Carianna said awkwardly, looking back to the knight for guidance.

    Ciprian clenched his jaw in frustration at the woman standing in front of their horses. She was attractive, but her attitude caused Cip to lose any interest he would have had in her. “Excuse me, madam?” the knight said incredulously. He wanted to reprimand her for making such assumptions, but he held his tongue and remained civil. “If you want an escort, you can find one at the Mercenaries’ Guild. Good day, madam.”

    Ciprian pulled Agel’s reins to the right, making the warhorse step around the woman. After the way she acted and spoke of his squire without any idea of how important he was to their quest, he had no intention of helping her.

    Carianna sighed, beginning to follow his lead...

    The wizardess took a step in front of the knight, and started at him with a chuckle. “I am not inclined to be of noble tongue and manner, knight,” Epros stated flatly, then pointed up at him, making a ‘tsk tsk’ noise in her mouth. “However, you, sir knight, are quite aware of knightly codes. I don’t think the grand master would be pleased by your lack of respect. I believe it is in your code to help those who requested it,” she said, stepping back a few steps, although still keeping within the path of the horse. “Of course, if you’re an honorless cur, I would be more than glad to leave you alone. I have no need of an honorless knight who would likely flee at any sign of danger.”

    Ciprian eyes fell coldly on Epros as she stepped in his way yet again. “Had it ever occurred to you that perhaps I am helping someone else at the moment?” Ciprian replied. “I don’t have the time to help you with your burdens. I’m certain you can find yourself another knight, if it is a knight’s help that you require. You are in the Holy City, after all. If you will excuse me, I have duties to attend.”

    Again, Ciprian turned his horse aside to walk around her. The woman was definitely a nuisance and he was in no way inclined to help her when he had Cian’s problems to worry about. Even though at the moment he couldn’t care what became of her, in honesty, allowing her to travel with them would put her in more danger than simply traveling the roads alone.

    Kylia looked to Epros and shook her head before giving her an icy stare, she did not like her and would not travel with her. “I will not help you even if you paid me in Raiden pieces, you have no manners and you have no right dumping such a task upon us. Move along old woman, you have no business with us and being in our way does not bode well for you.”

    Kylia moved around her as well and looked back with a warding glance, she would not harm the woman unless she tried to force her way into their ranks. Only then would she find out that she picked the wrong group, but then she could turn a profit if she played it right. Her voice did veil a hint of a threat, although she was still feeling the effects of the alcohol, and she would be for a while.

    Carianna was already having second thoughts. What if it is important? Then she shot back at herself, Isn’t the mission we are already on important too? Of course it is. Ciprian was right. There were plenty of knights with nothing to do in the city. She knew it first hand. After all, they had the time to teach her how to deflect attackers, which took too long as it was. Why shouldn’t they be able to take the time she left them to help?

    Carianna stopped her horse. “I know of a very nice knight with little else to do, miss. His name is Sir Tarmen. He should be at the barracks. I’m sorry, but we are in the middle of very important matters, so check back there,” she said, pulling the horse awkwardly away from the woman. It was hard enough to maneuver the steed as it was without someone trying to get in its way.

    This time, however, Epros didn’t move in his path. Instead, she stepped aside, and watched them passively, reaching up and petting the light feathered bird on her shoulder. Throughout the whole exchange, it had remained seated, cocking its head slightly if it detected raised voices. When Kylia spoke, however, her sharp gaze fell upon her. “Be silent, wretched fool. I should strike you down where you sit,” she said, raising the palm, swirling it in the air lightly. Her voice remained low, and then she said something. “For your remark, I place a curse on you. Let the mana of all creation become a pox, disfiguring your flesh to all who look to gaze.”

    Giving a slight ‘hmph’, she started away. Kylia hadn’t changed, although anyone who looked would notice something odd. Her face was, indeed disfigured looking. Several scars and blotches of sores and boils now spotted her body. “I do not take kindly to being refused, sir knight. I would have easily forgiven you for your transgression, but your compatriot should have kept her mouth shut. If you want that removed, I expect an apology. I refuse to be threatened. I did not study sorcery for years to become some timid creature,” Epros’ words this time, however, were far from what they had been. Before they had simply been confident, and firm. Now, she was angry. Turning back to the group, the anger was evident in her eyes. “If you wish fear, you’ll not find it in me. Understand, cur of an elf?”

    Carianna sighed. This was getting out of hand. “Kylia, please dismount,” the priestess asked calmly, looking over the rather ugly appearance of her friend. As Kylia did so, the priestess turned to the wizard. “My name is Priestess Carianna of the Temple of Rada here in this city and I kindly request not to become offensive to my companions, for I will be forced to clean up the damage you create.” She recited it as her masters once had to help her. With that said, the priestess turned around and laid her hands on Kylia’s face. “Oh Rada, God of wisdom and pervayer of peace, grant an innocent woman repair against the offenses done to her and relieve the burden that has been laid upon her...” she whispered. Light flooded her hands, creating a soothing sensation across Kylia’s body. As the light fell away, the curse was purged from her.

    “You are fine. Rada has smiled upon you this day,” she said with a smile. Carianna turned back towards the wizard. “Perhaps I am unaware of the complete truth and wisdom of justice, but I believe it is you that owes this woman an apology for placing a curse on her simply because she, and the rest of this group, have exercised their own free will in a way that left you many options in which to solve your problem without us.”

    Ciprian’s jaw dropped as he watched the spell effect Kylia. Her skin broke out into pox, and Ciprian truly became angry. How dare she! Luckily, Carianna stepped in and broke the curse.

    “Kylia, mount your horse,” Ciprian ordered, fearing the half-dark elf’s wrath against the arrogant mage. “Do not sink to her level,” he warned.

    “You keep thinking I want help, why is this?” she said dryly, slight annoyance showing on Epros’s face as her spell was broken. A flow break, she believed. Unfortunately, white magic didn’t work on principals that her own abilities were based on. “Is it not logical for those who are traveling to the same place to travel with each other? Expenses are cut, the chance of getting attacked is less likely, and I find the mana from the ley lines increase my scrying ability slightly. There is nothing more to my initial request.” Looking out on the river, the bird flew off her shoulder. “I mentioned that a child was most unfortunate primarily to dangers faced on the road. Why you take him is beyond me, as it exposes him to more danger. If you have misconstrued my words, that is your own concern, not mine.”

    Turning back to the now unmounted priestess, but keeping an eye on the still mounted possible opponents, Epros frowned. “If someone insults you, or your patron god, do you now respond in an aggressive tone? Things are not always as they seem, and I am a master of such. That so called ‘curse’ I casted is far from. Dark sorcery is alien to me, although an illusion spell allows the whelp to learn a bit of humility for a few moments until it wears off.”

    “No. I do not respond in an aggressive tone,” Carianna replied swiftly and calmly. “I keep in mind that no one person is perfect and that the person’s opinion is just that: an opinion and is probably not based on any fact worthy of note,” she said, looking the priestess down. She spoke smoothly and disarmingly, as most priests of her order tended to do. “Now, allow me to explain something. Your original choice of words were that we were going to be your escorts. This denotes a few things. First, it denotes that we have no choice in the matter. Just as I am sure you do not appreciate being pushed about, we do not. Secondly, it denotes that we are helping you get somewhere. In an escort situation, there is no exchange of protection. Those that do the escorting do the work. Those that are being escorted do little to no work in the protection arena. Therefore, you never asked us if we wished to travel together for safety purposes. You demanded that we take you along for your own protection. Your choice of words were inaccurate for the message you were trying to convey, if this new choice of words is, in actuality, what you mean.”

    Carianna was a teacher by profession. This was a lesson that she had given to many a business student. Tone was a dangerous skill should it remain unmastered, she often said. It can get you into more trouble than it can success. “So, should you wish to come along and share the burden of travel equally with the rest of us, that could be discussed. If you wish to be escorted, however, I believe you have stumbled upon the wrong group.”

    Ciprian was ready to ride off, but Carianna had more to say, so he waited. He would have just ignored the wizardess and continued riding if he had a choice. However, no matter what Epros said, he did not want her to come with them. Her arrogance disgusted him, and he wanted nothing to do with the wizard.

    Kylia looked pissed now, she was not in a good mood and ready to attack but held back enough to move somewhat forward before replying to the wizard. Her voice was strained as if she was holding back from something worse, she was not going to stoop to her level. “I do not want her traveling with us, as it stands she has earned my total ire. If she comes along with us she will only endanger our lives, anyways I would rather keep myself from losing it as well.” She got back onto her horse. Wildfyre who seemed nervous right now, she was angry and needed to do something to get rid of the tension in her mind.

    Cian said nothing the entire time, but the young boy was fuming. Whomever this woman thought she was she’d gotten on his bad side with her first comment about “child”. The young squire readied his horse and watched the entire scene unfold as she cursed Kylia and the spell was broken by the priestess who dealt with her in an extremely smooth and calm fashion.

    While he was trying his best to be quiet and stay out of the way, Cian was not a passive young man and finally spoke as he moved over to Cip. Still trying to bet used to the fact he had an animal larger than he was to care for and ride. “Cip, if this ‘lady’ is done with her high and haughty antics, we need to go. If nothing else maybe some of her hedge magic will be useful on the way. That’s if she comes with us, though I’m in strong agreement with Kylia. I’d rather she go find others to make miserable.” Having nothing more to say the young man went silent and waited on the knight and other’s final decision as to letting her come along or not.

    The wizardess watched as Kylia stepped forward, preparing a spell that was not an illusion. Normally she was fairly nonviolent, but she wasn’t about to take that to the extreme. “No choice? We all have a choice, unless under a spell.” She shook her head at the escort. “Thats not entirely true. An escort of knights with soldiers will still mean the soldiers will fight. Although I suppose ‘reinforce’ would be a better term for it.”

    Well, at least the priestess was an intellectual. She could care less for the knight or the half-elf, but it didn’t surprise her that this one was at least somewhat her equal. “Then, lets discuss it. For the time being, I need to change locations, I can’t find any information I need at the moment. Valis is more about religious relics not related to my study. As you know, I am a wizard of the 7th rank in Alan’s Mages’ Guild.” She held her tongue when Kylia spoke. Later she would have to turn the woman’s boots to snakes. “This is not long term, but I do need to travel. If its acceptable, I will travel with you all, and provide my services.”

    “It is not acceptable,” Ciprian snapped back at the wizard. “You are not welcome with us. Once you cast that spell on my companion, you ruined any chance you had. Find someone else to escort you. Carianna, let’s go.” He wheeled Agel about and began riding toward the gate, leading Cian’s horse behind him. The knight was seething, and utterly uninterested.

    With a half smile and a muttered “I’m sorry,” Carianna remounted her horse and began to follow. The wizard had made the wrong choice and she tried to help solve it, but it wasn’t going to work out. Secretly, she wasn’t sure she wanted another person who was willing to hurt others to gain what they wanted around her, but that was self-centered. “Have a nice day,” she said quietly before following the others away.

    The priestess hung her head low. She wished the situation could have been disarmed better. It was a testament to her inexperience that she didn’t handle the woman better.

    “Whelp, you should bite your tongue. I am not in the mood to accept your venom,” Epros spat at Cian, glaring daggers at the boy. When the Knight declined, she pursed her lips, and shrugged it off. “That is most unfortunate, Sir Knight,” she said in a rather cryptic way, and heading the opposite direction. At this point, she had more will to hurt them than to help them. It disturbed how how much lack of respect they held.

    Once Carianna joined them, the foursome rode on through the gate. Ciprian clenched his jaw shut, hurting his teeth, to avoid a retort to the wizard. His mind ran over all the things he wanted to say to her, but he knew it was a waste of time to say any of them. Falaris cursed arrogant wench. I wish I could slap that smugness off her face, Ciprian thought. He never used such words, or considered being violent against a woman, but she just begged for it. He hoped someone would knock her down a few pegs, but it wouldn’t be him.

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