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A Better Way

I knew I should have stayed at the Spire. That was Faolan’s first thought as he came to. As his breathing starts to quicken and his heart races, I need to stay calm and stay in control of myself. He purposely focuses on his breathing in an effort to bring his heart rate back down. When he opens his eyes, the darkness that surrounds him makes it impossible for him to tell if his eyes are actually open. As the rest of his senses start to return, he can feel some sort of hood over his head. Well, the good news is, I’m probably not blinded. Then he realizes that his hands and feet are bound, with his hands behind his back. He tries to get enough movement in his wrists to channel a bit of mana, but the ropes are too well tied. Damn it! There goes the easy way. He uses his shoulder to push himself up off the cold ground and finds what feels like a wooden wall to rest his back against. The air filtering through the hood smells musty, like the wall he is leaning against is suffering from some kind of rot.

So, I probably wasn’t attacked my Mordok. I think I’d be dead or worse by now. Who the hell then? Ok, let’s retrace our actions up to this point and try to figure this out:

I started out from the Spire with the Magi Tyrannus on a mission to recruit more citizens for the settlement. I wasn’t keeping track of the days, but judging by the last phase of Luna I remember seeing, it must be close to a month that we’ve been on the road. We had just stayed the night before (I hope I haven’t been out for more than a day) in a village, and the rest of the expedition had headed out early in the morning with some new recruits while I stayed behind to talk with a few more prospects. The villagers seemed quite intrigued by the ideals of the Archons and I was privileged to guide of few of them through their first meditation, yet they were still hesitant when it came to learning how to manipulate mana. I did my best to explain that they didn’t need to become mages or any sort of mana users to be welcome at the Spire. We welcome any and all to wish to improve their expertise in any skill.
Damn it! Which clan’s territory was that village in? I need to get better at picking out the finer details that show which clan an Ulven belongs to. Well, we obviously didn’t head towards Grimward, but I don’t think we were still in Nightriver. Were we in Watchwolves or Goldenfield? Why is Squallborn sticking out? There was a posting in that village from the prince of New Aldoria about joining Stormjarl in what sounded like was going to be an attack on Squallborn. Sound military tactics that is, announcing your plans to all the world, giving plenty of time for your enemy to prepare. He is going to restart the damn war! I believe I can understand Stormjarl’s frustration with outcome of the truce, but there has to be some way to improve their lot without spilling more blood and risking more war. Back to figuring out my current predicament. I had left the village just before Sol reached his highest point in the sky, my efforts with the prospects seeming to bear only buds and no fruit, and made my way down the road to rendezvous with the Magi Tyrannus when I felt a sharp pain in the back of my head and Gaia seemed to rush forward to meet my face. Who was it that knocked me out (and kidnapped me?)? How many of them are there? What do they want with me?

Faolan’s thoughts are interrupted by the creak of a rusty and primitive door hinge followed by the sound of steps shuffling through the dirt and a number of logs falling to the ground.
“Ah, you’re awake finally”. The voice of whoever was there was gruff like someone who has spent too much time out in cold during the winter.
“Who are you? What do you want?”, Faolan asked of the voice.
“Who I am doesn’t matter. What I want doesn’t really matter either since you seem to not carry any.”
“I don’t carry any what? Were you trying to rob me? Well, what the hell is your plan now?! Where have you taken me?”
“Some place where they will never find you, or your body if it comes to that.”, explains the voice while it sounds like logs are being stacked and arranged on the ground some feet away. As the ominousness of those words sink into Faolan, his anxiety begins to creep back into his mind.
“They? You mean the Magi Tyrannus? They are more capable than they might appear. If I were you, I would pray to whatever gods you believe in that Vazra and the Archons don’t find you‘if it comes to that’.”, with Faolan laying as much emphasis on the “you” as possible in an attempt to sow some uncertainty in his captor.
“Is that your name for the group you were traveling with? Strange, but I’m not too worried about them. I was able to slip into their camp and deliver my message to their leader without being noticed. I doubt this Varza or these Archons would have much luck finding me.” The voice carried confidence almost to the point of hubris, but also a slight hint of desperation? Then the sound of a knife being struck against stone punctuated the voice’s assertion. That was followed by a few quick huffs of breath and weak wave of warmth, though Faolan could see no light through the hood covering his face.
So this person has been following us or stalking me for at least day before he attacked me. If this is a bandit, where are the rest of them? He seems to be working on his own?

Faolan’s thought was interrupted again, but this time the sound came from the other side of the wall he was leaning against. It sounded like someone had tripped in the dirt and fallen to the ground.
Oh, there’s the rest of them, just outside, Faolan thought, but then he noticed that there was no sound coming from where the voice had been, not even the the sound of breathing. Does he not know who’s out there? What the hell is going on? Then Faolan heard the rusty hinges creak again followed by a shout from the voice, “Who the hell is out here?”. From the other side of the wall, Faolan heard whoever had fallen get up and break into a sprint. Then the voice seemed to break into a sprint after them.
So, another bandit looking to score off this one’s work? It couldn’t be the Magi Tyrannus, they wouldn’t send a scout out alone that would run from a fight so easily. No honor among thieves, typical. Off in the distance on the other side of the wall, Faolan could hear the voice again, “What are you doing out here?!”
That didn’t take long take long, and they seem to know each other?
“I was scared, and you’ve been gone for so long”, this other voice responded. This second voice was a bit higher pitched and sounded younger than the first voice that had been talking with Faolan.
“I told you to stay in the village, and I’ve not been gone for a day yet.”
“I know, but I don’t want you to be gone like mom.”
Mom? That’s a child out there. That’s his child out there? So, he’s not a bandit? What is he doing with me then?
“Look, I’m almost done out here, then I’ll be back to the village and we’ll be moving on.”
“Ok. What are you going to do with him?”, the second voice was almost inaudible when asking this question.
“You don’t need to worry, just get back to the village.” With that, Faolan could hear light steps jogging away. Shortly then, the rusty hinges sounded again.
“What happened to your wife?”, Faolan decided to make the assumption based on what he had overheard.
“Mordok.”, the answer was short but filled with all the anger and despair that exists in the world.
“I’m sorry. Was she out gathering?” Faolan heard the voice shuffle back towards the crackling fire.
“No. I was out hunting. The Mordok organized and attacked our village like I’ve never seen before. She died getting our son safely hidden.”
“You didn’t stay to rebuild your village?”
“There weren’t enough of us left to rebuild. There weren’t enough of us left to defend against another attack like that.” The voice sounded defeated and broken. It then sounded like he slumped back against the wall opposite Faolan.
“I see. Where are you moving on too?”
“Yes, so that you and yours can come find me and mine after all this.”
“No. If you’re looking for a safe home, I can offer you and your son a place where you won’t need to kidnap and ransom for coin.”
“You’re talking about your Spire? I don’t think my son and I would necessarily be welcomed. Gaia only shares the gift of mana with her daughters.”
“You don’t need to be a mage or even gifted with mana to be welcome at the Spire.”, Faolan insists, “You just need to want to improve yourself and better those around you. It seems that the former is already true, and I believe that the latter will prove true as well.”
“You think you know me? That I want to owe my allegiance to anyone?”, the voice sounds with disgust that Faolan can make any assumptions about his intentions.
“No, I don’t know you, but I’ve know people like you that have come to the Spire. I know their motivations included providing a better situation for their children, and maintaining the honor of their name.”
“You think honor is important to me?”, the voice responds with a nervous laugh.
“Maybe. I’m pretty sure having a son proud of the actions his father has taken is at least
important to most parents, whether or not honor is a concern for their own sake.” Faolan feels that he might actually be getting through to this person. He just needs to continue convincing him that is better way to provide for his son. “If you remove this hood, unbind me, and release me, I give you my word that you will be welcomed at the Spire.”
“Why should I trust that you won’t just turn me in, bringing me to your Magi Tyrannus and have your revenge on me?”
“You’ll have to trust that my desire to see the life of another living being improved is stronger than my desire to seek revenge on those that have slighted me.” Following that, there is a long silence.
Faolan just sits there, waiting, for any response or noise of movement from the other side of the shack. After what seemed like an eternity of moments, Faolan hears the person against to opposite wall slide back up to their feet and step towards him. Faolan then feels a blade move between his ankles, cutting the bindings around his legs followed by rough hands reach behind him, lifting him up, “Alright, come on. Let’s get you up and back out to the road. Then we can pick up my son in the village and go find your Magi Tyrannus. I’m trusting that you care more about your honor right now than I do mine.”

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