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Archives: Cian’s Quest

Chapter 9: Camp

    Since coming to Lodoss, she had initially expected to find quite a few magical artifacts, riches untold, and allies in high places by this time. In the end, however, Silemria had come across a few jobs here and there, and few items that didn’t even cross out of the junk category. That was the thing about magical artifacts, a lot of them tended to erode and decay, or simply lose their magic altogether... yet another reason she disliked magic.

    “Falaris’ breath, I must be lookin’ in the wrong bloody places,” she grumbled under her breath, finishing the fire preparations. It was to late to be stumbling around in the dark. Besides, she was hungry, and had no interest in starving before she could reach the next town. It didn’t take take much to ignite the dry leaves and logs, even less with her sword. Striking a dry leaf lightly, it quickly burst into flames, and the mercenary sat down by it. Her horse had been fed, watered, her camp was set up, and food was roasting over a fire. She only had to wait... until she heard the clumping of hooves approaching. Looking up, even in the twilight, and with only one good eye, she could see it was a small group.

    They had rode late into the evening, trying to make it as far as they could to Khina. The fight on the road had taken up a bit of time to put them behind. Up ahead, Ciprian spotted the glow of a campfire.

    “Perhaps we might find someone to camp with,” Ciprian suggested. They had been walking the horses at a leisurely pace so Xian could keep up. Ciprian walked for quite a long distance until his feet ached, after which he started riding again. While he was strong, he hadn’t walked that far in years. Giving Agel a nudge, he rode ahead to see just who was camping.

    He halted Agel along the road and looked into the campsite. A lone woman and her horse. Her dress was that of a traveler, probably a fighter, but most noticeably was the patch over her eye.

    “Excuse me, milady,” Ciprian called. “Would you allow a few travelers to share your camp?”

    Silemria looked at Ciprian and smirked. “That depends, mate. I ’eard a few more individuals comin’, and a ’orse doesn’t make that much noise on its own, even with its rider walkin’ next to it.” Getting up, she rested her good hand on one of her swords hilts. “If your ’ere to rob me, I’ll cut ya so you’ll be useless to a woman. If all ya want is a place ta rest, I welcome ya.”

    Ciprian raised his brow when she insinuated that he might be a robber. “Madam, I’m a holy knight of Valis, you have nothing to fear from me. My name is Ciprian Tremas,” he introduced himself. “The rest of my company is coming, four others and three horses.”

    Taking her hand off her sword, Sil nodded lightly, although she didn’t return to a siting position. Just because you said that you were one thing, didn’t mean you weren’t another, after all. “Good, then we don’t have a problem.” Pausing, she gave one brief look about, just in case. “My name is Silemria, a mercenary by trade. Sorry for the comment, mate, but I ’ad a group a while back decide I would be an easy mark.”

    “Ah, well, I can assure you, we bear you no ill will,” Ciprian said, giving a charming grin to Silemria. “I’ll be back in a moment,” he said and turned his horse about.

    His companions were in sight a short distance away, and Ciprian rode up to them at a quick trot. “It’s a lone mercenary. She will allow us to share her camp,” the knight informed them before turning Agel about again. He led the way back to the campsite and led his group into it.

* * *

    Carianna had not taken to leading the group as she felt she should have when Ciprian rode off. It seemed out of place for someone like her to lead anyone. Sure, she could teach a class. That was different. The entire idea of traveling was new to her. Sometimes, it made her uncomfortable, like the situation back down the rode with that poor man who attacked them. Even then, Cari knew, it was worth it. The followers of Rada tended to hide themselves away in temples and in libraries, afraid of the outside world. How could they gain any true insight into reality if they didn’t live in it? As hard as it was, the fragile yet brave priestess knew that what she was doing was, both to her own goals and those around her, necessary.

    When they arrived at the meager camp, Carianna was quick to dismount. As much as horse riding was considered a sport, she still didn’t feel at ease on a saddle. It felt much better to stand on two feet. The circumstances of arrival confused her, though. Should she approach and greet or wait to be introduced? Doing or not doing either could be seen as rude. Since the mercenary was gracious enough to allow them to sit by her fire, she hoped not to give insult. So, instead, she hurried herself to deal with the horse she rode. Hopefully, it would appear more like her simply tending to the needs of her mount than stalling to see which she would need to do first. Then again, Carianna rarely avoided her emotions, so she was no actress...

    Kylia followed Ciprian’s lead into the camp. Finally, she could rest and recover from their earlier experience. Dismounting once she arrived, she looked to the mercenary. She seemed quite harmless to them. “Thank you for allowing us to share the camp, I’m Kylia Shadowstorm. I am an apothecary and merchant, tis a pleasure to meet you.”

    Kylia tied her horse off to a sturdy branch and then took off her the saddle so Wildfyre could rest too, she deserved it as much as her.

    Ciprian was waiting to introduce his companions once they had dismounted, but Kylia took the initiative and introduced herself. Facing Silemria, Ciprian introduced the rest of his party, pointing them out.

    “Well then...the rest of my company, Carianna, priestess of Rada,” the knight introduced Cari. “My squire, Cian. And Xian.” Cip turned toward his companions to introduce Sil. “Everyone, this is our gracious hostess, the mercenary Silemria.”

    Carianna turned and gave the mercenary a smile, not really knowing what else to do.

    Hungry and weary, Xian plopped down near the fire. He had no food with him, and there was little he could do about that until he got to the next town.

    Cian was relieved when Cip returned and the news that it was a single mercenary was good as well. After the day they’d had, he didn’t relish fighting, especially as it was growing late. There was nothing worse than fighting in the dark. The young boy put all such thoughts away then gave the warrior woman a nod and spoke to her when Cip introduced him, “Milady, a pleasure.”

    Cian was exhausted, but there was still much to do. As a squire, he had to see to Cip’s horse being tethered, fed and watered, and then to the knight’s gear being stowed safely and checked. He didn’t mind, it was all part of the journey to learning humility and what it meant to serve others. Cian smiled as it hit him, that’s what knights did, in a sense; they served others and they protected the common good, defended the weak, and performed other duties to lord and land. He hadn’t thought about it in depth before now, but it made sense. Looking at Cip when the knight had finished speaking, he spoke, “I’ll start putting your gear and all away if it’s alright, Cip.”

    Ciprian nodded to Cian and patted the boy on the shoulder, “Go ahead, Cian. I have a package of rations in my saddle bags, bring those to the campfire.”

    Reaching into the fire, Sil inspected the meat, and sighed. Still not done yet. Bloody meat. “Aye, nice ta meet ya all.” A single eye studied Cian oddly. Well, the boy certainly had manners, and it surprised her a bit. Noting a scraggly looking man sit down by her fire, she looked at him. “Well, you look outta place with this group, mate.”

    “I look out of place?” Xian shrugged. “I guess I am. I was a bandit until a little while ago. Then I fell in with this group and became a mercenary.” He lifted his big hands in the air in an exaggerated shrug. “Other than that there’s not much to me.”

    The scarred mercenary surprised Carianna, inferring that anyone seemed out of place compared to her. She looked like a clean beggar, in her opinion. The only out of place item on her body was the set of bracers, but they weren’t that noticeable. And even if the mercenary did recognize her as a priestess of Rada, wouldn’t it be strange for a follower of non-violence to be marching along with an armed group of travelers? This person sure did have an odd view of what was normal.

    How to approach someone like this? There was no book to tell her. It was probably best to simply remain quiet. Besides, it was time for praying, she thought to herself as a quick excuse to solve her problem. So the priestess sat apart from the others and leaned back leisurely.

    In her mind, she opened the way to the heavens and reflected on the day. Oh Rada... You would not smile on me today, for I entered combat again. Surely, your love would feign for someone like me, but I have seen no evidence of your thought yet. Perhaps the reasons for making a stand is acceptable? I do not strike others. Is that really the way it should be done, or am I merely cheating with this loophole, like the others say? I hope you don’t hate me for this.

    I come to you this night with a request, though I understand that I have no place to demand of you anything. My friend, Cian, has a sister out there. He cares for her so much, but they have been separated by those evils you stand against. Please, keep this girl in your thoughts and watch out for her. We wish to find her and save her, but it will take time and losing her would be worse than death to Cian. Place this boy and, in effect, this girl into your charity, if you could.

    I know not what I am going to do from here, but I hope wisdom comes out of it somewhere. Right now, I’m not sure anything but pain has appeared. Maybe things will get better...

    The knight walked away to let Cian do his squirely duties, but he glanced over his shoulder often. He didn’t like making Cian work, but he couldn’t be any softer on him as a squire. He was willing to do the work after all, and he would be rewarded for it. One reward would be the reading lessons he so desperately wanted.

    Ciprian walked over to the campfire and sat beside Carianna. He wanted to ask if she was willing to start Cian’s lessons, but she seemed to be in prayer.

    “Thank you for sharing your camp, milady Silemria,” Ciprian thanked the mercenary courteously.

    “Eh, a bandit eh? Strange profession ta switch from...” Sil said a bit absently, watching as several other members sat down and made themselves more comfortable. She wasn’t quite as wary as she had been before. If this guy wasn’t a knight, her certainly played the part well. “Its no problem, mate. Don’t sweat it too much.” If he was a knight, maybe he was high enough to grant her an alliance. It would certainly make her revenge plot easier, to say the least. “So, what brings ya all out ’ere?”

    Ciprian often glanced over his shoulder to watch over Cian. He still felt bad about making the boy work, despite how diligent Cian was doing it. Besides, he also was worried about the boy’s safety and to make sure he was doing everything right.

    Ciprian turned back to answer Silemria’s question. “Well, my squire’s previous life has left him some enemies. We’re bound for Flaim to try and end the problem,” he explained, rather vaguely. If she wanted to know more, he was willing to explain, but he wanted to see if she even cared.

    “Enemies?” This could prove interesting. If the knight owed her a favor, it would make bargaining that much easier. Even if it was the squire, eventually a squire became a knight as well. Sil took a log and laid it on the fire, the heat didn’t seem to bother her all that much. “I ’ope its not the kind with a lotta money.” Leaning back once more, Silemria showed an indication of moving, although one eye studied Cian lightly. “Well, no need to worry ’bout me, mate. I ’avn’t taken many jobs since commin’ ’ere ta Lodoss. Don’t think I’d take one fer killin’ a kid either. Tempted ta kick this bastards ass meself...”

    She mentioned she had recently come to Lodoss, which caught Cip’s attention. It sounded like perhaps they could get another fighter to help them. “Oh? Well, if you’re serious about that, we could hire you on for further protection,” Ciprian suggested.

    “Not interested in money, mate. Made more then me share in Alecrast...” Sil chuckled, turning her attention to Ciprian with an amused look on her face. “I came ta Lodoss fer two things. The first bein’ Kastuulian artifacts, like me sword,” she said, motioning to her blade. “And the second, was fer an IOU from higher ups. I’ll likely take the job, even if ya can’t fulfill the second, but... well, maybe discuss that one later, eh?”

* * *

    Cian remembered everything Cip taught him about brushing down the horses and storing their gear. The boy also made sure to remove the saddles and whatever other gear from the animals needed before brushing. Doing so also meant checking them over carefully to make sure they had no injuries, sores or bruising—and his job was just beginning. He had a lot more work to do. He’d have to inspect Cip’s gear in a once over very carefully. The knight would sharpen and do any repairs to his weapons as necessary, though it was up to Cian to make sure that straps to his armor, weapons and guards were in top condition.

    He worked for a long time, making sure to do the best that he could. Cian was still new to the job of being a squire, and doing good hard work was a lot different than being a thief. He was learning some of the hardest lessons of all; the value of good hard work.

    Cian worked diligently, making sure the gear was stored and examined. He could make small repairs on the scabbard or leather straps to minor things, any major repairs would be left to Ciprian. As a squire, he was not allowed to directly touch a knight’s sword—he could take the sword to his knight, but not touch the blade or draw the weapon. However, he could notify Cip of any blemishes or notches in the blade, or damage to the hilt or pommel.

* * *

    Rada offered no clear response, but she expected none. The wisest response would probably have been silence. Carianna smiled as she opened her eyes. The priestess whispered a thank you to the sky before glancing over at Ciprian. He was such a nice person. She secretly wished that the priesthood didn’t keep her away from finding a love. She couldn’t help but stare at him, but, if he noticed, she would simply toss her head away in the hopes that he thought she simply glanced his way...

    It was much later when the boy finally finished. Cian stepped over to Ciprian and spoke in a tired voice, “I’ve finished everything, Cip. You can inspect the horses and gear when you want. Is there anything else I need to do?”

    When Cian returned, Ciprian looked up at the boy, then back at their horses. Everything seemed to be in order. Except food. Ciprian was hesitant to order the tired kid to run one more errand, however, he was holding a discussion with Silemria. “We’ll need our rations for supper,” he said softly to Cian, then turned back to the mercenary.

    Cian was tired, but knew this was all part of his duty and training, and getting rations wasn’t that bad of a chore anyway. The young man nodded, then headed back to the gear he’d packed up and began removing a few rations of bread, beef jerky, and some trail fixings neatly stored away. The boy gathered everything needed and prepared a plate for Cip, himself, and had a bit extra for Cari and Kylia. Xian and this new woman, he figured would have their own stores and rations to deal with. She mentioned she had recently come to Lodoss, which caught Cip’s attention. It sounded like perhaps they could get another fighter to help them. “Oh? Well, if you’re serious about that, we could hire you on for further protection,” Ciprian suggested.

    “Not interested in money, mate. Made more then me share in Alecrast...” Sil chuckled, turning her attention to Ciprian with an amused look on her face. “I came ta Lodoss fer two things. The first bein’ Kastuulian artifacts, like me sword,” she said, motioning to her blade. “And the second, was fer an IOU from higher ups. I’ll likely take the job, even if ya can’t fulfill the second, but... well, maybe discuss that one later, eh?”

    After gathering everything he had needed, the boy returned with the plates and water sack, then handed a plate and a water sack to Ciprian. “Here you go, Cip. Anything else?”

    Kylia watched Cian work, he seemed to be an industrious lad. As she pulled out a meals worth of dried meat and hard bread she passed it to Xian, taking another portion for herself. “No need to thank me, I’d do the same for anybody traveling with me. I’m sure there’s enough food between the group for everybody now, so it’s fine.” She then took a swig of water and started eating, this new mercenary was interesting and she had to ask. “So what’s Alecrast like? I’ve never really heard much about it besides passing mentions of the name.”

    “Alecrast? Not much different than Lodoss, really,” Silemria said, eying the half-elf with a sidelong glance and a smile. “Its a whole lot flatter, though. More plains than mountains, and I’d say we ’ave more grassrunners than elves.” Thinking about Lodoss, there was another difference as well. “Not as much peace, but... well, not many great wars, eh? Mostly just disputes between nobles. I ’eard Lodoss had a couple o’ huge ones in the last century, but seems pretty peaceful now. Fine with me, gives me more chance to explore Kastuulian ruins.”

    Kylia listened and wondered what they had for demons. If they had so many petty feuds, she could make a killing selling her poisons. Though, she would not see the place in her life, but then everybody could dream. “Too peaceful sometimes. I worry that something terrible is on the horizon. It always seems to happen when we all least expect it, but then that is life here,” she replied with as she continued to eat, now they had more people to help. This was good, though it also meant more supplies. Hopefully she would find some materials in the area, so she could make some more goods.

    Ciprian took the plate that Cian brought to him. “Thanks Cian. You can have a seat and enjoy your meal,” he said to his squire.

    Turning back to his conversation with Sil, he replied to the mercenary; “Lodoss is certainly no longer the accursed island. I don’t know how long peace will last, but I hope for a long time. I may be a knight in service to Valis, but I am not fond of going to war. Besides, if we were still at war, I wouldn’t have the chance to help Cian and others like him.”

    Cian nodded to Cip, then the boy took his plate, sat down, and began to eat. It was true what they always said, a good bit of work always made a body hungry, and the boy was famished. Gray eyes roved over the mercenary Cip was speaking to, and he decided the conversation was best left to itself without any comments. He was too tired to start up a conversation with anyone anyway, and as soon as he finished his plate, he cleaned it and waited until Cip finished. He would clean Cip’s plate and utensils, as well then place everything back in the packs. And then he’d get his bedroll and sleep, as it called to him greatly. The boy fought sleep as much as he could, doing his best to stay awake. Even turning to look at Kylia while she spoke, Cian’s eyes were so heavy his head listed once or twice only to jerk up slightly as he opened his eyes. He was exhausted from the day.

    Carianna noticed that she seemed to be the only one without a meal before her. It would be rude to point it out, but is it not the wisest who understands human frailties and knows when to ask for something that is necessary? What is more important, Rada? To reassure love or to forgo it and speak for necessity? A tough question. Silently, the priestess of peace decided that it was better to do what was needed than to carry on pleasantries in the end, but how to ask it so as to minimize any possible offense? Surely, this dancing around the subject might make another dizzy, but Carianna was expected to consider everything before acting.

    “Uhh... Cian? I was wondering if perhaps... I mean I don’t want to be rude but... is there... could I... I think I will...” She stuttered through her choices, trying to find the right way to say it, but each found flaws. So she simply dropped it.

    Cian found his bedroll and a flat area not far from the fire, then settled down to rest. He was truly spent from the days ventures. He bid the group good night and not soon after, he was upon his bedroll. The boy fell asleep and was soon in the land of dreams.

    Xian nodded at the favor of meat and bread and ate with vigor. He was at three quarters strength when he tore the arms off of the man whom hired him. It felt good to eat again, he was starting to forget what food tasted like. He stuffed his face full and chewed only a little swallowing the mash of food mostly whole. “Thank ya for the meat and bread, now I’m full I’m off to bed.” He said without thinking. “Oh, hey. I rhymed.”

    Kylia laughed a little at the rhyme, it came out a little humorous sounding to her in the end. “You’re welcome. After today, I think we all need a good nights rest.” She had seen a lot, from Jeriah, to the woman who cast the illusionary curse, to the ambush. After finishing her meal, she laid out her blanket and bedroll, falling asleep rather quickly as if she was truly exhausted.

    Carianna looked about, now that Cian had headed towards sleep. She swung this way and that, wondering where food was and if it was alright to take what she found when a careless hand ran into a plate. “Ohh...” she muttered, looking down at her food. Immediately, she wanted to run away and hide. She had sputtered like a fool only to have a plate by her side the entire time. How embarrassing! The High Priest of her temple always told her that embarrassment wasn’t something priests did in his temple, but she couldn’t help it. “Sorry...” she whispered to no one in particular and picked up the plate. With a bright red face, she began to slowly nibble at the food given, like a bashful rabbit.

    Ciprian gave a small smirk at Xian’s comment. “Goodnight,” he said to the mercenary. He heard Cari’s mumbling and looked at the priestess next to him. He didn’t know what was wrong, but she seemed embarrassed. She seemed utterly adorable, but he held back a chuckle.

    “Miss Silemria, I’ll take the first watch of the night, if you don’t mind,” he offered to the female mercenary.

    “Eh?” Sil eyed him, considering the offer for a few moments before shrugging, and waving at him. “Yer call, mate. Don’t expect to many brigands or monsters’ll be around. Just wake me in a couple o’ hours, and I’ll take next watch.” Getting up, she moved a bit away from the fire to where the rest of her camp was, and laid down on the roll she had set up. She took off her gauntlet, underneath was a heavily bandaged limb, and who knew lay underneath. Resting her hands under her head, she closed her one eye, although if she was asleep or not was unknown.

    Ciprian nodded to Sil. It was only polite to offer, since he was imposing in her camp. Though she didn’t anticipate trouble, with what Ciprian and Cian had dealt with so far, he wasn’t taking any chances.

    “Heading to bed soon, Cari?” he asked the priestess.

    “I suppose,” she said, looking down at her half-eaten plate. Carianna didn’t really feel like going to sleep. She wanted to stay up with Ciprian, but there would be no point. “It is the wisest thing to do, isn’t it?” The young priestess gathered her food and tucked it underneath her arm. Unlike the others, she had no money for such things as bedrolls. Her traveling supplies consisted of rations and other small things. So, she laid down on her pack and continued to munch on the rest of her dry food. Sleep came quick after that...

    Ciprian frowned when he saw Cari had no bedding, so after she fell asleep, he got his own bedroll and laid a blanket over her. He then returned to watch and kept his eyes and ears open until he was too tired to keep it up. Luckily, none of Emir’s spies had tracked them. The mercenaries who escaped obviously had no more connections to him than being hired by the assassin.

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