[RP Episode] The Flames & Frost of Faith


#61

‘‘Thats a heart warming story, truly.’’ replied Ayro, ‘‘But once you are there, then what? You are just going to stand in the snow with a smile for the rest of your days?’’ he jested.


#62

”My intention is to do exactly that.” Halatir had though long and hard about his decision. His chances of returning home were so slim that it was almost impossible. Spending the remainder of his days living alone in the mountains, which would at least look like home would be preferable to being returned to slavery or getting lost in a city. It had taken sometime for Tao to even impart an understanding of what the word meant to Halatir, who had been quite overwhelmed by his time in and around the port-city. Attempting to navigate them alone would be a nightmare.


#63

Ayro laughed, ‘‘And when summer comes, and the snow melts away, i can already imagine your devastation! If you miss home so much, then why don’t you return home?’’


#64

”It is farther north of here than you can imagine. It is a dangerous route, beset by pirates and slave ships. And the final destination might mean the death of the crew. What captain would have the mettle to try it, and for what? I have no coin, not even a sword to sell, and any ship can make far more than that through far safer ventures.”

”The mountains will still be preferable to the…jungle?” He looked to Tao questioningly. ”That is the correct word for this forest, correct?”


#65

‘‘Then take a land route.’’ Tao pointed out bluntly.


#66

Halatir shook his head. ”There are lands between here and there that my kind make war upon. The chances of slipping through their kingdom unseen, without knowing the land, is impossible.”


#67

‘‘Oh… that does make things difficult, i suppose.’’ Ayro agreed.

At that moment, one of the warrior monks, bald, young, and sporting a muscular build, entered the room abruptly and bowed.

‘‘Pardon my interruption, Master Ayro. We have concluded with collecting the tithe.’’ the monk announced.

Ayro nodded and stood up, and looked down at Halatir.
’‘If you wish to join us, you may. It will be nice to have new company around, and you can tell me more about your people in the mean time. I too have travelled a lot back when i was a general.’’


#68

Halatir tripped again while getting up. ”You were a canor?” He was shocked. Ayro looked nothing like a war-chief. ”My apologies, you led soldiers?”


#69

‘‘I did, years ago now. I was relieved of my post when things turned a bit too personal for me. I have sought peace with the faithful ever since.’’ he explained. ‘‘Goodbe Tao, hope to see you soon!’’ he exclaimed, and smiled at the bitter priest. He left the room and gestured Halatir to follow. The caravan was loaded up and prepared to leave, with villagers still around finishing up their business with the monks, asking them to keep them in their prayers, while some were handing them letters to be delivered to who knows whom.


#70

Repeating the gesture of farewell, fist to chest, Jalatir bud goodbye to Tao-Shel as well. Then he followed Ayro, taking nothing but the clothes in his back and he knife he had kept from the arena fight. He walked after the priest, leaving the village behind. That chapter of his life was over.


#71

The caravan pushed out of the village, leaving the small farming settlement to fade away behind an seemingly endless stretch of nothing but swampland and forest. The caravan passed through a few similar villages along its journey, collecting a tenth of what the peasants produced to be provided to the faithful, and those who they provided for.

Eventually, the caravan would travel through a dense forest with massive trees, through which you could barely see the sky. The light dimmed, but the few rays that did breach the canopy of these woodlands only made the shifting contrast of the lively colours of this place stand out more. They continued to travel the well paved and guarded road through this forest and passed a few hamlets, which had wooden houses built in to the trunks and on to the thick branches of the trees themselves.

Tree House 01

Along their path, they passed numerous patrols of Xia infantrymen who wielded long sabre-spears called Ji, who wore a light armour of leather, a chest of 15 layers of paper, and segments of iron, like the shoulder pads and arm guards. These were the militia tasked with mundane patrol duty, outfitted lightly for greater manoeuvrability, and with melee weapons with a long reach to make up for their lack of armour and enable them to strike at their foes without getting too close. They also had a bow and quiver on their backs, and a secondary short sword.

Night was beginning to set in again, and the caravan had stopped at another temple. This one deep within the woodlands. The settlement was bigger than Sanji, and also had an Inn. As evening approached, the entire forest shifted from bright green to dark purple, with many fire flies appearing seemingly out of nowhere to give the whole place a magical feel. The village had a river run through it and pass between the Inn and the Temple, with a small bridge connecting the two sides.

Forest Temple 01

The evening mist began to settle in as the caravan made itself comfortable besides the Inn. The townsfolk were finishing up with their chores before returning to their homes for the night, and everything was beginning to calm as the moon’s soft light began to replace the sun’s dominant rays.

Ayro scooted off the caravan and began making his way to the temple to pay his respects to the priest there, leaving Halatir alone for the time being.


#72

Stretching from the long walk, he took a look about the place. Strangely enough, it was eerily similar to the northern lights of his homeland, though the colors were darker. The constant patrols were likewise familiar, although in Helegeron they would have been fighting each other and the caravan would not have made it 20 miles.

Unlike Helegeron, the trees were taller, their roots far bigger. As he had walked, Halatir for once felt cooler, sheltered from the sun’s blazing gaze. It was beautiful, the light shimmering through the chinks in the jungle canopy, the confined path through the trees a far cry from the empty wastes of the north. Halatir had never seen so much green before, such bountiful forests.

The river in particular held his attention. He’d gathered a series of long vines, and cut himself a long pole while walking, and now he sat down on the edge of the river, pulled out his vine and pole, and fashioned a rough fishing rod. The hook he made from a thin piece of iron, found in the wayside bag he’d bent into a curve, and the bait was several large worms.

Halatir finished his assembly, cast back the pole, and began to fish. He sighed with contentment. All was still.


#73

Everything went quiet, except for the inn, where music was played. Suddenly, a ruckus was heard, and the village guards were called inside to drag an overly intoxicated customer out in to the street, where he vomited. Evidently, this Inn had alcoholic beverages, such as ale, which was more to Halatir’s flavour than tea.


#74

Halatir thought for a moment. As he thought, there was a tug on his line.

Expertly guiding the fish to shore, he pulled it out of the water, and holding it by the tail, killed it by striking the head against a rock. He then proceeded to the gut the creature, and piling the remains by his rod, which he stuck into the bank, he took his prize to the inn. Perhaps he could trade the fish for a drink.

Pushing the door open, he headed inside.


#75

When he entered the Inn, the second floor where the rooms were located could be seen from the middle of the ground floor, which was a wide area with tables, a central carpet, and a fireplace at its left wall. At the fire, a basket hat elf wearing a white robe and with a katana was sat, drinking his tea. The tables around the space were occupied by a variety of patrons. One was occupied by a young elf gentleman playing it cool with two ladies, another had three gnomes with elf-like short pointy ears and pointy hats who were concentrated on playing a card game, a third was occupied by a single young and finely dressed lady with two personal guards stood beside her, who’s face was powdered as white as Halatir’s hair, with only her lips being coloured blood red with lipstick, and a red circle on each of her two cheeks. A fourth table had a big brawny lad sat behind it, also an elf, but with very few teeth remaining, a bald cap, and a fat nose. Behind the counter was the innkeep, who was currently washing one of his glasses, with a pirate character sat behind the counter, telling him a story the innkeep didn’t look too interested in.

When Halatir shoved the doors open wielding his fish in one hand, the majority of the lot gave him an odd glance, but quickly returned to what they were doing.


#76

He moved over to the innkeeper.

”Mind if I borrow your fire?” He gestured to the flames.


#77

The inkeep nodded to Halatir and continued rubbing his glass while the pirate continued his story.

‘’…and then the law broke in to the Arena! It was a nightmare! Our boss died, and we lost the slave, but i managed to slip away with most of my coin…’’


#78

Halatir, who was in the motion of chopping the fish into little pieces and skewering them on the remainder of his metal rod, froze. His ears perked up, and he was now glad his hood was over his hair. After a moment, he continued his arrangements, paying close attention to the conversation behind the bar.


#79

The innkeep passively nodded at the pirate, pretending he gave a damn.

‘‘So then, a fight broke out!’’ the pirate declared, waving around with his hands liberally to stress each individual point he made, ‘‘They came in with smoke, ya’hear? Couldn’t see a damn thing! They cut through our guys like butter, and then the gladiators broke out of the ring! It was a slaughter house. The law fighting us, us fighting the gladiators, and then, in the confusion, the gladiators came to blow with the law too! I got knocked out mid fight and woke up in their med camp outside the arena later. Apparently, they mistook me for one of the slaves. Insulting, but if it means i get to keep my head, i’ll take it! That white hair elf also survived i heard, but he fled the camp before i woke. The guy was a beast, lemme tell ya…’’


#80

There was a clink. Halatir set the rod over the fire, letting each individual cube sizzle over the fire, set his knife down on the stone, and walked over to the pirate, throwing his hood back as he did so.

”Are. You. A. Slaver.” He spat the words out through clenched teeth.