Part III. “Sweetwater”
The town was called Sweetwater in the human tongue. It was a nice town that maybe had a couple thousand inhabitants protected behind a sturdy wooden wall that created a half moon shape around the lip of the valley the town was nestled in, with each end of the wall being anchored in the green waters of the Brinewater River. In the space between the walls and the town was a decent greenbelt. Most of it was filled with flowers and a few edible fruit shrubs, but no trees. Further inside the little town the buildings shifted from thatched wooden homes to stone structures. The streets were muddy and reeked of manure coming from the numerous horses that lined the streets in what Jaun came to understand as the commercial area.
Towns were nothing like Jaun had ever imagined. He had always thought they were as clean as the forest was, except with weeds and spiders exchanged for buildings and people. It wasn’t until he got into the town that he realized how wrong he was. Not only were there still weeds and spiders, but there were all kinds of vermin that he’d never seen before in such quantities; namely flies, roaches and rodents. In addition, the smell of both horse and human waste that ran down ditches on the side of the street was wholly offensive to every sense. It was like chaos had been organized. Everything that was beautiful about nature was twisted, or absent entirely. It was like a corrupt hive of bees that instead of collecting honey stored up useless goods. Gone were the pleasant songbirds, replaced by crows and pigeons. What was strangest of all the sights came into view as they approached what Fel referred to as “the docks.” Moored on most of these docks were small river ships that he had seen in diagrams Vulden had drawn out in his journals; wooden masted vessels with rolled up sails and some with holes along the sides for oars, but he saw a few that were different. They were the same size as the masted ships, but flatter on all sides with a wheelhouse that was placed at the front of the ship. In the back was one or two plumes of metal, and when the vessel was in motion these columns of metal spit black smoke into the sky.
“What are those?” Jaun asked as they made their way through the streets. His good leg was starting to give, but he couldn’t help to stop and wonder at it.
“Those are steamboats. One of the marvels of enlightenment Mazaroth brought back with him when he decided to conquer the world.” Jaun could taste Fel’s sarcasm.
“That smoke smells awful. What is it?”
“Honestly, kido, I have no idea. I just know how to make them go boom.”
“Why would you blow them up?”
“Mazaroth uses them to transport things that are important to him, and things that are important to him are things I want to see destroyed.”
“Fair enough,” Jaun replied as he winced. He had put too much weight on his injured leg. “Where are we going?”
“We have a safe house here.”
Fel rolled his eyes as he came near a solid stone building. “The Marauders. That’s what we call ourselves.” Fel knocked on the wooden door. When he knocked he ignored the metal knocker that hung in the center of the door and instead rapped on the wood itself. He struck with four solid notes in quick succession, and then paused before he delivered two more knocks. The door quickly swung open and in the stone archway was an elderly gentleman, probably nearer his seventies than his sixties, with short white hair and a clean shaven face.
“Fel, you look like shit, and who the fuck is this boy?”
“Can we get off the street, Aldred?” The old man moved to the side and motioned that they come in. The sun had finally settled just under the horizon, and the many lamps in the house had been lit up bringing a luminescence to every room. Each room had wooden floors, and most of the rooms on the bottom were connected with open archways, however there was a singular staircase that flew up to the next level of the house which was blocked by a door. Fel brought Jaun over by the fireplace and laid him down on a empty couch. Jaun used the arms of the couch to prop himself up and keep his leg level. Fel immediately went to the kitchen, returned with bottle of wine and began drinking.
“So,” began Aldred, his back facing Jaun, “Can you explain to me why the fuck you’re here and where’s the rest of your company.” Fel didn’t answer him at first. He just poured himself another glass of wine and guzzled it down.
As Aldred began to issue another torrent of profanity laced questions, Fel snapped back, “They’re dead! They’re all dead you old asshole!”
Aldred refused to relent, “That answers one of my questions, but a week ago you dropped by for a month’s worth of supplies for some mission into a damn elf forest where you think they’ve left a treasure hoard. Then you come back with no men, an injured boy, and no mention of what happened?” Fel sat his cup down so violently the table shuddered for a moment. As he turned to face Aldred, his eyes were full of anger, but his voice quaked with fear.
“The Avatars were there.” Aldred slipped into the nearest seat he could find and ran his fingers through his thin hair.
“By the Gods that’s terrible news. How many of them?”
“All twelve of them rode together.” Fel replied as he filled up a cup and gave it to Aldred.
“They’ve not all ridden together in twenty years. You must have found something very important to Mazaroth in that forest.”
“That or he’s finally making his move against us.” Fel sat down on the other chair in the room. “I found this boy in the wood when I was on the run from them. He too just barely escaped them. They killed his father. I was wondering if you could mend his leg. I used the arathka balm on it, but I don’t know if that will be enough.”
Aldred got out of his chair and knelt down next to Jaun.
“What’s you name, son?” Aldred asked as he came near.
“Good strong Anarothian name.” Aldred removed the splint and began to unwrap the gauze. Jaun could see that the hole in his flesh had not healed, and that all the skin near it was white, except just on the edges of the wound, which were still covered in the green balm. Jaun looked away almost immediately. “I had a cousin named Jaun. He was a nice lad; ran a vegetable stand in the Dragon Quarter. When he got too old to run it he gave it to one of his boys.”
“What happened to him?” Jaun asked as he felt the man’s fingers run across his leg.
“My cousin is dead, but his boy still runs the stand in the Dragon Quarter.”
“So he didn’t die during the siege?”
Aldred raised a quizzical eyebrow as he finished the examination. “What exactly do you think happened when he captured Anaroth?”
Jaun returned with an equally surprised stare. “He sacked the city.” When he responded, Jaun could hear the uncertainty in his voice. There was never a question in his mind that the homes of his fathers had shared the same fate. It was an understood fact and something that underpinned the reality of his existence, that Anaroth had to have been pillaged and burned. That was why he was an orphan. That was why he was raised in hiding. It was the tone with which Aldred spoke that turned all those misconceived thoughts into dust.
“He didn’t sack the city. We opened our gates to him and his allies. We had no other choice. In return for our surrender we didn’t have to watch our loved ones be mutilated in the streets. We didn’t have to try and survive for a week as the Berin were unleashed on us. We were spared the fate of the elves.”
Jaun had no idea how to respond. He had always believed that his father had died in the siege, but this would indicate he suffered a different fate. He wanted to ask if they knew his father was alive. He wanted to know what happened to the remaining paladins, but to ask would imply he had an interest, and to have an interest would mean his identity could be discovered, and years of conditioning caused him to bite his tongue. He still didn’t know these people. They had to earn his trust, and they had not reached the high standard Vulden set.
“Everyone knows that story. How do you not know?” Aldred asked as he began soaking a rag in soapy water.
“I don’t know. I was just a baby when he took Anaroth.”
“Shame. She’s a beautiful city.” Aldred wrung out the rag and just before he touched it to Jaun he said, “This may hurt at bit.”
Pain shot through his leg all the way to the base of his skull. He tried as hard as possible not to scream. The old man took the rag and washed off the salve from his wound, along with the dried blood. The minute it took to clean felt like it would last forever, but it didn’t.
“Fel, come with me to fetch splints from the supply closet,” the old man said as his creaky knees brought him to standing.
Fel, who had settled quite nicely into chair by the fireplace, grumbled back, “Why do you need my help you old bastard?”
“Because I do.” He said it with a snarl, like he wasn’t used to people ignoring what he said, but surely, and slowly, Fel rose from the chair and followed Aldred into an adjacent room. He heard the door shut. Over the silence and over the throbbing of his multitude of injuries, in the relative comfort of the couch, he felt his eyes become weary. It was the first time he ever felt this worn out and thin. There was never a hunt or a training session this intense. Not even when Vulden forced Jaun through survival training had he been this tired, this broken. He had nothing left, nor any reason to understand why he’d needed to heed the last few words of a dying elf. It was as Vulden always said, adventures are for stories.
Wine is one of the Gods greatest gifts. It’s tasty and it’ll numb every feeling, whether it be physical or something else. When Fel didn’t know how to feel, he’d drink until he figured out exactly what he should do about it. That was why, mid bottle, he was so confused by Aldred. Sure, the man was ancient, but he was sturdy enough to carry a couple of wooden splints and some gauze by himself. Besides, he was quickly creeping to a state in which him walking was detrimental to everything that was fragile around him.
As he walked past Aldred into the hallway of the townhouse, he heard the old man close the door behind him.
“Can you not carry-“
“How fucking stupid are you?” Though he’d been asked many times that very same question, it was a rare day Fel let someone live after uttering it.
“I’ve given you a lot of liberties, old man, but don’t make me pin your jaws together with my knife.”
“Do you even know what you’ve carried into my house? Do you?” Aldred wasn’t angry, which was not normal for his temperament. There was something else to his mood. If Fel’s lips hadn’t become so tingly he might have been able to suss the emotion out, but he’d ceased caring how or why the old man felt the way he did.
“An injured boy. What of it?”
“Did you even bother to think of why he was in that forest?”
“It might have crossed my mind after hour three or four of this stranger breathing on my neck and moaning every two minutes about his leg.”
“And the boy had been living there, apparently for a long time with his father.”
The old man raised an eyebrow. “Did he tell you his father’s name by chance?”
Fel had to think, and he didn’t like that. He was sure the boy had said something, that he’d given a name, but it was an unfamiliar elf name and for the life of him he could not remember. “I don’t know. He said he was an elf or something. He had an elf blade and all.”
“Yes, but did he tell you his real father’s name? I’ve known half-folk before, and he is not one. His father was human. Did he give you a name?”
More thinking. More remembering. “No.”
“Did you notice the other blade on the boy’s belt?”
“No, I was too busy carrying him.” It was then that Fel finally understood that Aldred wasn’t angry. He was afraid. “Why do you care so much?”
“You’re such a damn fool, Fel. You spent months trying to hunt down and elf blade, yet you pay no attention to quality human craftsmanship.”
“I know where to stick the pointy end. That’s about all I need to know about blades.”
Aldred seemed to ignore Fel’s words at this point and continued to talk, “That sword the boy has is a paladin’s sword.”
And like that, with a few harshly hissed syllables, Fel’s world changed forever. There never was an elf hoard in the woodland. There was no treasure or weapon that could be used to thwart Mazaroth. There was no ancient secret. There was only this boy. This boy and a paladin’s sword.
He had spent a year searching for a way into that woodland. Elves didn’t use ironwood idly. It was powerful magic, and powerful magic has it’s costs. At least, that’s what his father always said.
“But the whole damn forest is surrounded by ironwood,” Fel mumbled in disbelief. “There has to be something there. The Avatars were there, dammit.”
Aldred slapped Fel across the cheek so hard he nearly fell onto the floor. “The Avatars were there for the boy.” It was plainly clear. How had he not seen it earlier. Well, Fel knew why. It was because he was trying too hard not to get run down by Mazaroth’s assassins. After all, Mazaroth had cause to want Fel dead, and it was his greatest dream to have the ire of the Dark Lord. He wanted to be such a thorn in Mazaroth’s side that he would send his assassins after him. But he was nothing. He was a two bit freedom fighter, and could hardly draw the attention of a Prefect, much less the fallen paladin himself.
Quite dumbly, Fel looked over to Aldred after he caught his balance, and asked, “What should we do?”
“Get that boy to Razon as fast as you can, before the Avatars find him.”
The Oracle. He would know what to do, but in that moment Fel was not certain he wanted to go through the trouble of dragging the boy through the barren valley of Drogoth, past all the various dangers with the distinct possibility of death. It would be running away from the fight, away from the insurrection against Mazaroth. It would mean spending time on a meaningless errand to get a boy who didn’t seem to know he was in danger, out of danger.
But then again, Jaun was in certain danger of death if he didn’t make it to Drogoth, where Mazaroth’s minions couldn’t tread. The boy was also in possession of a Paladin’s sword. A Paladin’s sword is a powerful weapon, originally forged thousands of years ago during Anaroth’s golden years, as a gift from Unidor. Only five swords were ever made, and were passed from knight to knight as one generation rose up to replace the next. Until now, only three swords were known to still exist. Though it was not the endgame artifact Fel was hoping for, it would help in the fight. It would still be easier to kill the boy and take the sword than to drag him through Drogoth, but he didn’t have the strength to do that. He was sure Jaun was far from innocent, as he seemed to claim, but it was still wrong. Even he had lines that couldn’t be crossed.
“Fine,” Fel finally uttered. “I’ll do it.” As soon as he said it, Fel was sure he would regret his decision.
Jaun woke up in the blackest part of night. The shades were drawn, so there was no light coming through the windows in the living room. He was still laying on the same couch he had fallen asleep on, but his leg didn’t hurt. He sat up groggily. There was something, a noise, in the faintest memory, like trying to remember a dream. The noise had roused him from sleep, the first real sleep he had since the forest. He let his eyes survey the room. It was empty and black. Fel’s decanter of wine still sat on the table by the fire, just barely visible from a sliver of moonlight reflecting off the brass surface.
Nothing. There was nothing here, just empty space. Right as he closed his eyes, Jaun heard it. It was the slightest creak of wood, like a warped floor plank had pressure placed on it. Immediately he felt fear clutch around his throat, squeezing out all breath in his body. A shape moved out of the darkest shadows and into the room. It had skin as white as porcelain, hair that looked as if it had been drained of all color, and a slender frame. It was a frame he’d seen before. It was Vulden.
He lurched toward Jaun out of the darkness, speaking with a voice that sounded all too alive. “Jaun, my son. You left me. You left me in that forest to die.” He shambled closer, like he was constrained by some invisible force. Jaun wanted to scream, he wanted to grab the dagger from his belt and defend himself, but he was frozen, paralyzed on the couch. It wasn’t fear either, it felt like a great weight laying on his chest.
Vulden was in reach now. He leaned over Jaun, with his knee pressing down on his chest.
“You left me there to die.” That was when Vulden changed. His skin shifted to the color of coal and his eyes glew bright red. As he shoved his clawed fingers through the flesh of Jaun’s throat, the room became blindingly bright.
Aldred stood above him, with what appeared to be a mug and a piece of bread.
“You look like you’re having some issues boy?”
His heart was pounding out of his chest, so much so that he tried to sit up too fast, putting weight onto his bad leg, which sent shoots of pain up his body.
He would have cursed, but that was not how Vulden raised him. Vulden cursed, of course, but he never allowed those course words to pass Jaun’s lips for any reason. He said it was improper for a man of honor.
After the initial pain subsided, he felt confident enough to speak without vomiting.
“It was a bad dream.”
“Eh, I’ve had those myself,” Aldred replied, with only the slightest trace of empathy. “Here’s some breakfast for you.” Aldred handed the mug and bread down to Jaun. It was a fine lump of hard bread and what appeared to be a watered down mug of red wine.
“Thank you,” he spoke as he sipped the wine. It was bitter, but the water cut down on it’s tang.
“After you’re done I’ll examine your leg, make sure the bone’s set.” As Aldred turned to make his way out of the room, Jaun felt his lips moving.
“My father, Vulden, used to make wine. He planted the grapes long before I could remember. He’d made a clearing so the grapevines could get a good view of the sky. The canopy in the forrest is so thick it’s hard to see the sky in most spots.” What was he doing? He didn’t know these people. He didn’t know if he could trust them? How could he just blurt out something very personal to someone he’d just met. It would have appalled the old elf. Had he not been scared out of his wits the last two days he would have been appalled by it himself.
Aldred moved closer taking a seat close to Juan and leaned in resting his elbows on his knees. “There is a bluff in the Dragon Quarter on Neun’s Road just before the walls of the Carsca, where if you stand at just the right spot, you can see almost the whole of Anaroth, from the city through to the mountain pass. It was my favorite place in the city, until the royals were hung from the gibbet there. I still think of that place from time to time. No need to let one bad memory erase all the good ones.”
It was true. Jaun had spent his whole life hating the woods and wishing to be somewhere else, anywhere else, anywhere except there. He was chained to the woodland through no fault of his own, a prisoner from birth, but in fact, it was his sanctuary. It was his kingdom. It was his home, and it would never be his home again. That paradise had been sullied, but as Aldred said, there was no reason to let one bad memory sully the good ones, which in light of his broken body and flight from the woods, appeared to make every memory of the woodland a good one.
Jaun heard a knock at the door. Once again, it avoided the metal knocker at the door and followed a specific pattern. Aldred stood up joints popping and shuffled to the door as Jaun continued to eat at his breakfast. He had eaten bread on a number of occasions, but never had he eaten bread that tasted this terrible. It was stale, soggy, and hard all at the same time. There was no telling where it had been stored or how long ago it had been made. It reminded him of the times Vulden taught him how to survive in the woods for days on end, with nothing but a loaf of hard bread and a skin of water. At the time he thought it excessive, but now he was seeing where the training would come in handy. He’d learned how to live off the land, to forage, and to not complain when every bone in your body ached and your stomach constantly reminded you of your hunger.
Jaun saw a clump of fabric fall over the top of the couch onto the seat next to him. It appeared to be a weathered cloak. Bundled inside was a cuffed white shirt, which appeared weathered as well, a dark leather doublet and matching pants. Jaun looked up and spied Fel leaning against the couch.
“I see Aldred is giving you the guest treatment. Can’t remember the last time he brought me food.” Fel, in the light of day, looked like a different person. Gone were the furs he sported in the woods, as well as the stained and torn travel clothes he wore underneath. He wore the same sort of clothes that he’d tossed onto the couch, except his sported polished brass stitched into the shoulders of his doublet. His hair was also different. It was cut short and his beard brought to a more respectable shape. It was still long, and jutted out some four inches from his chin, but it was no longer as shaggy, nor sported the rogue pieces of grass or other various debris. His face, too, was changed. His face no longer appeared as weathered, though there were still deep creases around the edges of his eyes and brow, along with a few prominent scars that invited the eyes attention. This affect had no doubt been created by a bath. He can change from a rugged mountaineer to what appeared to be a military officer with a mere change of clothes. The thing that worried him the most was how comfortable Fel looked in both garbs. This only served to underline a point to Jaun; Fel is dangerous. He is a chameleon.
“What are these clothes for?” Jaun asked while picking at the garments adjacent to him.
“It’s our disguise. Inside Mazaroth’s empire weapons are outlawed. The only thing common folk are allowed to have is a blade no bigger than the palm of your hand and a bow. The only exceptions to this are licensed bounty hunters and his troops.”
“Why did no one stop us yesterday?”
“Most of the troops have been transferred to the front, so there aren’t many of them in Sweetwater,”
“So what’s changed?”
“Nothing,” Fel quickly replied. “We were lucky yesterday, but I try not to rely on her too often. She’s a fickle mistress.” Fel moved a few steps toward the kitchen. “Besides, you look like shit. You needed new clothes anyway.”
After swallowing another bite of bread, Jaun said, “So, who are we posing as? Bounty hunters?”
“Trust me, kid, you’d have an easier time posing as a potato than as a bounty man.” So that left only one other option. “No, you will be my squire. I will be Sir Carter Bisbane. He was expected in town today.”
“I take it he never made it?” Aldred interrupted as he made his way over to Jaun. Fel responded with nothing but a toothy smirk.
Men like Fel have their uses, but in peace time Jaun didn’t know if there would be a place for men like him. How could a person turn off the killer inside them, and become a regular man. How does one suppress it?
Aldred had begun work on unwrapping Jaun’s leg as Fel scrounged for something to eat. As Jaun finished the mug of wine, he heard just the slightest audible gasp from Aldred. Aldred had wiped the balm away from the wound to see there was none. The bruising had almost entirely dissipated and instead of their being a break in the skin there was a noticeable scar in its place.
Jaun watched as Aldred wiped the shock off his face. “It looks like you’re a quick healer.” He sat up, taking the medical debris as he stood. “In another day or two you may be able to walk out of here.”
Where, then, would Jaun go? Vulden had told him to find this man, Berethor, in Unidor, but how would he do it? Just from the few hints that had been dropped by Fel and Aldred, this world was far different than what was in Vulden’s books. In that world there were monsters and there were heroes. In that world there was a clear right and wrong, but Mazaroth had changed that. Now a murdering highwayman was the closest thing to a hero Jaun had seen, while at the same time the ones in power were the perpetrators of evil. They had murdered the elves. They had hung the royal family, the same family that opened their gates to spare their people. Unidor was leagues from where Jaun sat. There was no way, without a map and without help, that he was going to make it there alive. The only question was whether Fel was up to the challenge, or if he intended on taking Jaun elsewhere.
Fel didn’t trust the kid. He was too quiet, too observant. Fel was the one stupid enough to talk about elf magic first, back when he thought this boy wasn’t a threat. He had probably picked up on the cue and then ran with the story of being raised by an elf. Like that was believable, yet beyond reason, he had bought it. Now he was sharing the same house, the same food, the same air, with a boy with not one, but two, magic weapons. Now that Fel had come to this realization, it was impossible to believe that by chance he had run across a boy with a sword of a paladin. Only two were in the hands of people who could be trusted, the other three had not just been assumed lost, but in the hands of Mazaroth. There was no reason to think any differently. Mazaroth still had his own blade, and the other two belonged to dead paladins. No doubt there was still something powerful in those woods, powerful enough to send the Avatars to prevent him from finding it, but Mazaroth’s assassins hadn’t stopped there. They had planted one of their own in his midst. Fel had never suspected, but once Aldred came to him, and told him about the boy’s miraculous recovery, he knew. He had seen the bone jutting from his leg. Even with the arathka balm, there was no way a normal man healed from that injury in less than a month. Now, within a few days Jaun was nearly healed, and would be ready for a journey by morning. He was sure the boy was one of Mazaroth’s avatars.
After all, he had always heard stories about them, ever since he was a child in his father’s home, about the Avatars of Darkness. They were creatures of myth, from a bygone era when demons roamed the face of Verold. They had not been seen or heard of in thousands of years. Then, at the head of Mazaroth’s armies, they came again. It had always been said the Avatars could take the form of man, or that at one time they were men, but the whole idea of them was straight out of legend. Few believed that, if they existed at all, that they still did. Now, one sat on the couch looking as innocent as a dove, waiting to make its move.
There was not a doubt in Fel’s mind that Jaun’s chief goal was to follow him back to Haven and take out the whole camp in their sleep. That would be one way to end the resistance, and Mazaroth was a keen thinker after all. If there’s one thing Fel knew how to do in this world, it was to let his foes underestimate his skill at killing. He’d allow this assassin to follow him, and give him every opportunity to take him out, only when this Avatar made his move, he’d make sure it was Fel Brook to come out of the fight and no one else. After all, the stories may have said there was no way to kill an Avatar, but the stories also said they were all dead. If they were wrong about one thing, Fel’s logic stated the stories were wrong about everything else.
As Fel sat in a chair by the fire plotting, Jaun spoke up in what Fel was discovering to be his annoyingly youthful tone, “What is our plan once I’m well enough to travel?”
“I haven’t quite decided on a course. Do you have any thoughts?” Lets see what he comes up with?
“Before my father died, he instructed me to go to Unidor. He had a friend I was to meet there.” The Front, Fel thought. No doubt the boy is a skilled liar. If Fel was not already suspecting him he never would have been able to spot the truth from the lie. Let’s see what his problem is. “My problem is, I don’t know the world outside the woodland very well, and by very well I mean only what I’ve learned from maps. I couldn’t navigate my way there by land or sea. I need someone to help me get to Unidor. Can you help me with this?”
He’s trying to throw me off his scent, or into the waiting paws of the Berin. “You aren’t quite aware of how the world looks outside your quaint little forest are you?”
“As an elf, my father wasn’t apprised to current events.”
“For the last ten years Mazaroth has been laying siege to Unidor. Over time he’s slowly slipped the noose around them. At first he blocked the Pass of Gorinth, then he placed camps on the Incantian and routed their armies in the open fields. Now he’s crushed their navy with his new steamships and is slowly strangling the city. It’s only a matter of months, or weeks, until the city falls.” In truth, Fel didn’t know the disposition inside the city. No one had been inside Unidor since Mazaroth took the seas a year ago, but there was no need for Jaun to know that. Making the situation seem more dire would hopefully encourage the Avatar to make his move more quickly.
Jaun seemed to slump in his chair at the news, digesting what exactly to say next. He does choose his words carefully.
After much thought, Jaun spoke again. “I do not know what I should do. I feel honor bound to obey Vulden’s last wish, but I know if I do it by myself then I will surely die alone in the wilderness.”
“As you probably would,” Fel quickly replied. “Back before the wars, the wilderness was safer. Between the armies of Marui’r, Unidor, and Anaroth, there were enough troops to keep the peace between civilized and uncivilized folk. Now, even with Mazaroth controlling half the continent, he doesn’t have enough men to patrol the roads as well as garrison his cities and stock workers in his navy and shipyard. The Berin, also, are terrible at doing anything but fighting, and they’re not natural sailors. It requires too much patience.”
“So where will you go?”
It seemed an honest enough question. Jaun asked in the most earnest way possible, which in normal parlance made it okay to ask someone what their next move was when you really didn’t know the person you were asking. It reeked of desperation. In truth, Fel hadn’t given much thought to what he would do next, and he never did. He always went whichever way was expedient, or whichever way suited his going taste at the time. It had been that way as far back as he could remember, but when could people really see that definitive formative moment that changed them into what they were today. It was often never one thing, but a series of things that had made him into the drifter he was today. The loss of his family home in the High Quarter not being among the least of those reasons, but even before then he had left that very home in search of fame and glory, and found nothing but ashes in return. He knew better now. He knew fame and glory were for better men, if there was still such a thing as good men.
“I supposed I’ll return to Haven. I’m good at killing, mind you, but taking out the whole of Mazaroth’s legion one man at a time will be too much for me, I’m afraid. I need to go back home for a spell, find some more recruits willing to hurt the bastard as much as I am.”
Jaun seemed to nod as Fel spoke, “What is Haven? Your home?”
Sure, play ignorant. I’m onto you, you coy bastard. “Haven is the home of the resistance. If I had a home, I’d say it was there.”
“Is the road there dangerous?”
“Very. You have to pass through the forbidden land of Drogoth to get to it, and in Drogoth, if the heat don’t kill you, then the things that live there will.” Drogoth was the main reason he never traveled to Haven. It was a godforsaken desert in the heart of Elvernor, in the central pass linking eastern and western portions of the continent full of things that wanted to eat you or wear your skin for clothing. It was a perfect opportunity to get yourself killed if you were by yourself, which he was going to be, come to think of it.
“If I come with you to recruit more men, can you then get me across the mountains into Unidor?”
It seemed an honest enough question, if Jaun were an honest person.
“Sure. I’ll do it. Getting through Drogoth is going to be hard enough with a company of men, but two should do the trick, I reckon.” Two was still going to be nearly impossible, but at least it would provide him with ample opportunities to see what this kid was, and if he was an Avatar, he wouldn’t have to worry about having to bury a body.