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Festival of Friendship - Writing Contest (Ends 2/26)

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Festival of Friendship
Writing Contest

(Ends 2/26)

 

Throughout our days, we experience and grow alongside friends and loved ones. Such encounters are ones that we often wish to keep with us and reflect upon frequently. Thus, we turn to stories and tales to recount exciting battles, haunting journeys, and joyous occasions with friends.

 

 

dark-quill-paper.gif

 

 

The Festival of Friendship is a time where such tales can earn you some coin and more!

 

So grab your quill and fresh parchment, for you only have till the festival’s close to submit your entry!

 

 

Rules

Spoiler

 

The story must be submitted to this forum thread as a reply by 2/24 Midnight EST.

The story must be an original work.

The story must focus on an scenario involving your character and a friend.

The story must be factual and have occurred upon Atlas.

The story has no limit on pages. However, quality over quantity.

The story must be written in standard English.

The story must be appropriate and follow all conventional rules of Lord of the Craft.

One entry per player.

 

Judging

Spoiler

 

Upon closing hour, all works will be reviewed to ensure they followed the above rules and are valid entries.

 

The Cloud Temple Monks will then take, roughly, a week to review all entries and select their top three favorite pieces.

 

The works will then be awarded the appropriate prizes below.

 

Prizes

Spoiler

 

First Place

 

1500 Minas + Parrot Egg + Artwork of the Story’s Pair by Numyria

Example:

1f50693854aee3668c1b548af6704e2d.png

 

 

 

Second Place

1000 Minas + Parrot Egg

 

Third Place

500 Minas

 

All Entries

A unique participation item that will leave your mark on Atlas forever!

 

How to Submit

Spoiler

Make a reply to this post with your story inside a spoiler that follows the above rules by Midnight EST on February 26th.

 

Remember, one entry per player, so make it count!

 

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At the Library of Draugr it happened, when I finally found out that you stood by your oath to die for me. It was a glorious feeling for me, you fed both I and my younger brother the knowledge that we needed to progress, then you flew away like a beautiful daemon. You came to make me love you with little regard for how much I knew, but you ended up falling in love with me so much that you couldn't resist. When you flew over those rails into the portal of blood that immediately appeared, I was quite jealous; you were allowed an audience with the creator before me..I was jealous, but I was happy for you. You deserved it Skylar,for all the knowledge you fed me; the best way I could repay you was to give you that extra push into the afterlife that you needed so desparately. Love is a poison and I would never feed such a poison to my friend. You fed it to me but poison is something that I've grown accustomed to daily. I am grateful for you, I promise to live my life and yours. These are the words I should've told you my friend, but I hope you aren't too mad that I substituted such a lengthy paragraph with a few words that I hope you will understand and remember in the new life you are given.

 

These words were : "True friends stab you in the front."

 

 

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Wait can it be two lovers or does it have to be just friends?

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f4c4c2c3ba365f04ab290f3571d2c381.png

 

yo where the contest at

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Spoiler

Hyrja

 

My return from undeath has been a violent one

I spend each day hating myself, hating what I am required to do.

With you, life in undeath has been worth living.

 

 

There is nothing worse than being alone, except being alone with the sole drive of collecting and killing. With you, Hyrja, I found solace. I found comfort in knowing that there was another beside me, another who was unable to stop themselves from doing what we were. I needed fifteen. Fifteen souls and I could be freed from the 'mortal coil' I had been placed in. The first few came easy, dispatching wandering individuals with only my mind for companionship, but with you Hyrja I had fun. Fun, can you believe that? Having fun was an activity I'd long since given up on, but standing there with you, Graven and Darkstalker, consigned to this collection until it was complete, I was able to enjoy myself. 

 

Do you remember? That day? We snuck into the Dominion, and a guard noticed us. We ran like children to the gate, but it was closed. You took one look at me, and barrelled for the door to the gatehouse, blowing the thing off its hinges. I wanted to make the break for it immediately, we had access to the gates! We were free! But you took a different approach, beckoning me inside. When enough Virarim finally showed up to combat us we'd already barricaded ourselves inside! Personally I found it hilarious, for a while. Their feeble attempts at removing our barricade proved fruitless and we laughed and laughed from the safety of our own prison. There were citizens looking for entry on the outside of the gates, but we had them closed. There was a particularly irate cervitaur, who did end up succeeding in tearing down our small defences. The way we spoke to each other, knowing we were briefly coming to our temporary end of undeath, there was no fear. There was no anger, it felt like we'd known each other for years; you drew your sword in your left hand and readied your soul drain in your right, while my flail began swinging and shield came up to serve as our only defence. We put up quite a fight, don't you think? I would argue we did. Seeing you in our fight for our 'lives' inspired me, and when you shouted to run out and take them head on rather than sitting waiting to be overrun I felt courage. In the end, it was simple. We were outnumbered significantly, something the zeal that your friendship inspired in me could not compensate for, but I don't regret a moment of it, because since that day I have known that regardless of all other circumstances, you Hyrja are my friend.

 

 

- Daine, Helmet wearer of the Dominion, Ruiner of slow days at work for Virarim

 

 

(In all honesty, I understand that the ooc issues caused by this charade were largely our fault, and I do want to make it clear to anyone , if I have yet to I apologize to you, I apologise for any grief or simple annoyance we caused in doing so. I wrote this to try and put a positive spin on it, since the bottom line is we're all here to enjoy ourselves on LoTC. Given that, I'd like to think that even though they died in the end this specific event was what cemented their friendship.)

 

 

 

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14 minutes ago, MickMeist said:
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Hyrja

 

My return from undeath has been a violent one

I spend each day hating myself, hating what I am required to do.

With you, life in undeath has been worth living.

 

 

There is nothing worse than being alone, except being alone with the sole drive of collecting and killing. With you, Hyrja, I found solace. I found comfort in knowing that there was another beside me, another who was unable to stop themselves from doing what we were. I needed fifteen. Fifteen souls and I could be freed from the 'mortal coil' I had been placed in. The first few came easy, dispatching wandering individuals with only my mind for companionship, but with you Hyrja I had fun. Fun, can you believe that? Having fun was an activity I'd long since given up on, but standing there with you, Graven and Darkstalker, consigned to this collection until it was complete, I was able to enjoy myself. 

 

Do you remember? That day? We snuck into the Dominion, and a guard noticed us. We ran like children to the gate, but it was closed. You took one look at me, and barrelled for the door to the gatehouse, blowing the thing off its hinges. I wanted to make the break for it immediately, we had access to the gates! We were free! But you took a different approach, beckoning me inside. When enough Virarim finally showed up to combat us we'd already barricaded ourselves inside! Personally I found it hilarious, for a while. Their feeble attempts at removing our barricade proved fruitless and we laughed and laughed from the safety of our own prison. There were citizens looking for entry on the outside of the gates, but we had them closed. There was a particularly irate cervitaur, who did end up succeeding in tearing down our small defences. The way we spoke to each other, knowing we were briefly coming to our temporary end of undeath, there was no fear. There was no anger, it felt like we'd known each other for years; you drew your sword in your left hand and readied your soul drain in your right, while my flail began swinging and shield came up to serve as our only defence. We put up quite a fight, don't you think? I would argue we did. Seeing you in our fight for our 'lives' inspired me, and when you shouted to run out and take them head on rather than sitting waiting to be overrun I felt courage. In the end, it was simple. We were outnumbered significantly, something the zeal that your friendship inspired in me could not compensate for, but I don't regret a moment of it, because since that day I have known that regardless of all other circumstances, you Hyrja are my friend.

 

 

- Daine, Helmet wearer of the Dominion, Ruiner of slow days at work for Virarim

 

 

(In all honesty, I understand that the ooc issues caused by this charade were largely our fault, and I do want to make it clear to anyone , if I have yet to I apologize to you, I apologise for any grief or simple annoyance we caused in doing so. I wrote this to try and put a positive spin on it, since the bottom line is we're all here to enjoy ourselves on LoTC. Given that, I'd like to think that even though they died in the end this specific event was what cemented their friendship.)

 

 

 

 

It's all good dude. At least role-play came of it.

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Is the contest still on, and will the deadline perhaps be extended?

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I haven't legitimately written anything for so long, so apologies for my rusty abilities!!!

 

Spoiler

NOTE: This has been translated from traditional Distorian. 这是一个翻译。

 

When I inquire of my origins, I am often met with hushed and indistinct words. I know very well the role I am supposed to take to ensure my family’s integrity is preserved.

 

However, as I neared my fifteenth birthday, I consulted the primary fatherly figure in my life, a trusted confidante to my mother who I shall henceforth refer to as Laoshi. He was admittedly reticent to indulge me in the details I so desperately wanted, but after unremitting pleas he capitulated to my demands.

 

Sometime during her young adulthood, my mother abandoned her responsibilities back home and went to Cathant on holiday, which she overstayed by almost two years. Utterly dissatisfied with the course her life seemed to be taking, she became increasingly negligent with her duties of homemaking and ultimately ditched the monotony. Only the guilt that continually plagued her conscience impelled her to go back; had it not been for her dear relatives, I am fairly certain she would not have returned. Laoshi allowed me to read some of my mother’s journal entries from those times, which she typically safeguards as though it was a family heirloom.

 

Troubled by culture shock upon her arrival, mom kept to herself for the first few days. A chance encounter with a friendly face brought her to her senses, and, entranced by his exotic charm, she eagerly befriended him notwithstanding the language barrier.

 

Over the course of a few months, my mother adjusted to her surroundings and became increasingly conversant with the language and culture. Her attachment to her friend Yaozu was evident, but gradually she was less reliant on him to be an interpreter and could speak fairly well. Well enough that they could express their innermost emotions for each other.

 

“我爱你,” he confessed one time to her, forming a heart with his hands to convey the message better by means of charades. There hadn’t been much talk of love beforehand, apparently, but she reciprocated the affection.

For several months, they traveled across Cathant as tourists, and then visited Oyashima on the way to the ultimate destination of Huinan. Neither of them spoke the language in Oyashima, but the writing was similar (thanks to the pictogram characters) so Yaozu could understand the bare minimum to get by.

 

I was born in Changzi, which is a hilly urban center not far from Huinan’s coast. My parents declared me a blessing, and  they proudly showed me off to all Yaozu’s relatives, who were equally thrilled.

 

“What will we name her?” My mother inquired some time after my birth, whilst cradling me in her arms.


“Jieru. Sui Jieru."

This realization came as a shock to me, and with joyous tears in my eyes, I embraced Laoshi -- my father -- ever so tightly. That evening in Presa de Madera, Laoshi and I feasted on some stir fry and celebrated the occasion. The first day in which I regarded him as my father.

 

Edited by Manatee
elaboration: the recounting of events in Aeldin occurred in Atlas! so technically valid.

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THIS IS STILL GOING ON! The rest of ET Mangement are picking it up! But today is the last day for submissions

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...Sometimes, you find yourself facing your fears. You can avoid them,...Spoiler

...Sometimes, you find yourself facing your fears. You can avoid them, you can deny them. And you can just confront them.

 

It wasn't the first time we were here. Just Robin and I, sitting in his little house, drinking from a bottle of cheap mead. Those were the luxuries of our life; a dry, safe place, friends, and booze. We weren't the most responsible drinkers, so my head wasn't as clear as it could've been. But we were having a good time. Talking about our life- specifically, complaining about it- was nice. We could vent, and nobody would throw us in jail for it.  

...But, it got pretty personal.

 

I started talking about religion. Robin's a canonist, but he was a nice one. The first one I ever got to know. So I went on to rant about it- we were both half elves, so it wasn't hard to find something we didn't like. I suppose, with all the drinking, I may have revealed too much about myself. I trusted Robin like a brother, I still do, and admitted to him that I was attracted to men. Then, I admitted that I'm attracted to him. It was terrifying, and exciting. I wanted to die, I wanted to disappear, I wanted to laugh, do anything but sit here, with this dreadful silence between us, and wait for him to react. I'd guess that he was in the same place, because he probably did the first thing that came to his mind.

 

He gave me a kiss.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This was one of the best moments I've had roleplaying Daniel, a character of mine. Hope this is a good read.

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-=(x)=-

 

He gazed at her, a faint smile persisting on his scarred lips, and in response simply uttered:

 

"I do."

 

His words resounded across the majestic hall of Cloud Temple, spoken firmly and with utmost determination, voice echoing within the sanctuary's dome, but to him, the world had fallen silent.

 

The gathering stood still as if in an enchanted slumber; her beloved sister and his battle brother, their friends and the towering cleric, all present within the hall, but to him, the world was empty save for her.

 

Stood before the elfess - his friend, companion and lover, lost within her charming gaze, Sigmund found peace. Within the moment, so magical in time and forever cherished, nothing mattered more than his beloved Laethesia. Relieved of his mask, the burnt man stood tall and proud, the spirits of his past silently watching over their surviving comrade, as youthful and cheery as they had been in life before the cursed forest of Elba; before the crumbling walls and scorched fields of Lorraine.

 

The fires kept their distance; the inferno of Metz forbidden and barred from disturbing the sacred union of two, and to himself, Sigmund stood in his prime, auburn locks flowing down his visage untouched by the searing flame, the Bloodraven of Lorraine proudly soaring in the skies. Retrieving the rings, he recalled the joyous moments spent with Laethesia; but ever since the pair sailed on The Revenant to Atlas, hands held together upon the horizon of the new world, he knew with utmost certainty their wedding would bear the crown. With her, he found a reason to press on, the encounter shaping his damned existence into a life worth living, worth spending with her in laughter and in tears, until the very end.

 

"Now, with the exchange of rings being complete, I pronounce the two of you husband and wife," the cleric announced, concluding the ceremony with a bright smile. "May the Lord of Light watch over this newly wed couple, and ensure that their marriage is long lived." After the kiss, hand in hand, Sigmund and Laethesia stepped forth - now united as one. 

 

-=-     

 

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-|-

[The following roleplay encounter took place in the final days of Johannesburg prior to the Courlandic siege and the Thanhium explosion]

 

 

 

As he stood in Johannesburg's square, Floris closed his eyes, and slowly exhaled.

 

Laughter, shouting, cheering; a thousand voices at once, all intermingled into one deafening tide of noise. He could envision the townspeople thronging the paved streets, from the gentry and burghers in their silken doublets to the beggars in their rough-spun cloth. He could imagine each of their faces, sneering as they bumped into an unwary pedestrian or smiling as they spotted a friend through the crowd. He could smell the alluring smell of the baker's latest batch, and the stench of smoke that wafted from the Highwind forge and stung his nostrils. 

 

   "Steward General, good day to you!" people called to Floris as they passed. Men tipped feathered caps in greeting, while women cast him smiles and, sometimes, they even batted their eyelashes. That always made Floris blush. He could feel the colour rising in his sharp cheeks at the very thought of it. He returned their greetings, and he could not help but smile as the sunlight flickered between the chimneys and crimson rooftops of Johannesburg, and incandescently lit the city; his city. 

 

   He sighed slowly through his nose, and opened his eyes.

 

   In the place of an unmarred blue sky, a swathed vale of bleak, lifeless grey clouds blanketed the sky and obscured all sight of the sun. Instead of the torrent of voices and people at work, the only sounds Floris could hear was the whistle of a bitter northerly wind that swept through the city's abandoned streets and prompted dead leaves to scrape along the pavement. Where once hawkers and merchants would have lined the streets' sides with wagons and stalls loaded with goods, now there were only wooden barricades mounted with barbed iron wire. The scent of smoke remained heavy in the air, but it was not accompanied by the sound of the smith's hammer singing as it beat the anvil; Floris knew this smoke was from the raided farmsteads just a few miles away, and carried to the city by the lonely wind. 

 

   "Floris," came a low, gravelly voice from behind him. "Floris, come, it's time to go." 

 

   "It's gone," he breathed as he stared down John Frederick Avenue, at the city's front gates. The Horenic banners that streamed from flagpoles atop the gatehouse's towers like black-and-purple flames began to blur as tears welled Floris' eyes. "Everything's gone, Laurens." 

 

   "This is no time for moping," the other voice urged with scorn. "The Coalition is less than a day's march from here. We must leave, now." 

 

   Unconsciously, Floris balled his hands into fists. His eyes remained on the gatehouse's banners, silhouetted in the lifeless sky, as tears slowly began to roll down his face. "What's the point? Where will we go?" He had to force the words through the growing lump in his throat, and his voice came out hoarse and strained. "What do we have left?" 

 

   "Floris," the voice hissed. A hand clamped itself on his shoulder. "Look at me, brother." As he vainly tried to blink away the tears, Floris slowly turned to Laurens. He still dressed as if he were the Imperial Magistrate, with his fine blue-silk doublet lined with golden threads and his hair as white and pristine as a judge's wig. His cold eyes were narrowed into a hard glare, and he was scowling. "We have to leave before the army gets here. We must keep going."

 

   "Why?" Floris almost spat the words as he slapped his elder brother's hand from his shoulders. "This city was my entire life! I ... I had a purpose here, I meant something, I belonged here! This ..." The vigor fled his voice. "This was ... my home." Pain stung Floris' face as Laurens hand flashed forward, and slapped him. He staggered backwards and raised a hand to caress his slapped cheek. "Agh! What the f-" 

 

   "Floris," Laurens cut him off in a steely voice. "Is this what you want? To end your life here and be forgotten in the ruins? Is that the legacy you seek?" 

 

   One hundred emotions surged in Floris at once, from rage to fear, but it was simple sadness that answered. "How can we rebuild what we've lost here?"

 

   "So you just want to give up?" Laurens' nostrils flared as he took a step towards his younger brother. "You don't even want to try? Tell me, little brother, how can we rebuild our lives if we just sit here and choose to die? What kind of fool would do that?" When Floris' lips moved wordlessly, Laurens puffed up his cheeks and sighed. "I did not pull you from the ashes of Riga and watch you grow into a happy man here only to watch you choose to throw it all away. Only a coward chooses to sit and cry." The older man extended a hand to Floris. "And my brother is not a coward." 

 

   His face slickened with tears and his cheeks stinging from Laurens' slap, Floris reached forward, and took the hand. Laurens pulled him into an embrace and in that moment, his brother felt like a pillar of bedrock that would yield to no force. "I won't be a coward," he whispered. "I promise." 

 

   "I know you won't." Laurens clapped him on the shoulder, before he turned and began to walk to the edge of the square. There, two horses awaited, saddle and reined, with overflowing saddlebags hanging from each side. "Come on then, brother. We have a long ride ahead of us.

 

   "Where ... where are we going?" Floris asked as he followed him.

 

   Laurens placed a polished boot in the stirrup, and hoisted himself onto the saddle. "God only knows, brother. God only knows." 

 

  Oddly, that brought a sense of comfort to Floris. A moment later, the sound of horseshoes clopping against the pavement echoed through the abandoned streets of Johannesburg as they took the imperial road leading north. As they left the city, and their lives, behind them, a golden fracture split the sky as the grey vale of clouds began to part. As Floris watched it cast away the dull, pale light, it did not fall on the stone towers of Johannesburg, but instead on Laurens, and the road ahead.

 

   With loose strands of his white hair glowing in the sudden burst of light, Laurens glanced over his shoulder from his horse, and smiled at his brother.

 

   For the first time in months, Floris smiled back.

 

   

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Spoiler
Spoiler

 

 

14th of Snow's Maiden, 1638

The County of Bar, Imperial Crownlands

 

The night felt warm - very near humid, even - in the depths of the bygone estate. Pepin de Bar had spent countless hours alone at the cluttered, oaken desk that furnished his room, tapping dry quill against drier parchment, squinting amongst the pale candlelight, trying fiercely to think of the right words - something, anything that would put his prism-like mind to ease. As the night went on, steadily did he add to his disorderly menagerie of chimerical thoughts, lips pressed into a thin line, restless fingers tapping, thicks brows furrowed in thought.

 

Only then did he discern amongst the chaos of his arrangement the half-empty bottle of Savoyard Fireball Whisky, which, by its lonesome at the edge of his desk, coincidentally appeared in dire need of some company. He took it by the neck at once, popping the cork off with a deft flick of the thumb and up-ending it. Stray amber liquid missed his lips and trickled down the coarse, unshaven bends of his throat; some droplets even made their way down so far as to seep into the rich ebony of his finery, though he didn’t care. He had a story to write, a tale to pass on, and the whiskey seemed to do the trick in helping unearth it, he thought.

 

It was then that, resisting the compulsion of a curl of the lips, he steeped his quill in the black of an inkwell thrice, setting tip to parchment, his inebriated mind running wild in the dead of night.

 


 

Spoiler

 

 

8th of The Amber Cold, 1518

The Sleeping Bear Tavern, Petrus, Orenian Crownlands

 

Autumn’s gentle hand had descended slowly upon the realm - gradually at first, and then with terrible vengeance. Even during the warm spell of the breaking day, the fog was so thick and damp that it was strenuous to venture to make out anything a few yards away from one’s person. Wistful days in the tender sun had finally puttered out to their last. To the south, amidst noble rivalries between the banners of de Sola and Vladov, the well-oiled machine of war began to rouse from its slumber, threatening to shred the very fabric of the nascent, newly-reformed Kingdom. After all, it was Vydra who reestablished the supreme reign of Humanity on the continent, not the green de Savoie who sat on the throne now, despite all his ambition. In the north of Athera, at the outermost reaches of His Majesty’s power, from the once-Dwarven hold of Eastpoint to the Ebunad river, the snow had begun to fall. Slowly in the beginning, though only in such a way that nature affronts so brusquely a cruel winter to come. Warm, domestic havens and late nights by the fireplace were simply ways to divert people's attention, to put off the reality of what’s to come a little while longer. Though all knew it would not stay away forever, nor would the promise of peace - not for any man, woman, or child. Grey clouds and smoke were the people’s canopy; a deep, impenetrable fog their shroud.

 

He walked along the sunken cobble quite like a drunken man, jostling against passer-by, refusing to lift his gaze. The airlessness in the street was insufferable. The bustle and construction, the omnipresent dust, and the all-too-familiar Orenian stench, more likely than not the product of the armed soldiery which had just returned to the city after repelling bandits at a nearby village. All of this worked dreadfully on the young man’s already overwrought nerves, casting a most sickened expression on his elegant physiognomy. He was, by the way, devilishly handsome, standing at a balanced height, slim, well-built, with catty emerald eyes, dark brown hair, and hollow cheeks. In fact, much to his discomfort, this young man looked quite like the one on the promulgations around town, which advertised a bounty of some five-thousand. He was so badly dressed, however, and with his cloak swathed so tight around him that he dare thought it to be a marvel were someone to recognize him - let alone cast him a stray glance. After much walking he found himself standing close to a tavern, with plumes of smoke billowing from the chimney and plenty pleasant chatter inside. With little hesitation did Sammy descend the few steps inside, his mouth longing to be sated with the cold taste of ale. He removed his hood at once, and, still with his downcast gaze, exchanged brief words with the tender, set a handful of coins upon the counter, and eagerly drank his first glassful. Almost at once his nerves came to soothe.

 

Once he took the time to look around, he noticed that there were indeed some few people in the tavern. A group of two frisky maids and a burgher, dressed all up in fine silks and jewelry, conversed very near to the counter at a low-set table, and two terribly drunken and boisterous men sat playing cards not too far off. As his eyes lingered still, he caught sight of another man, seated in the corner - one he thought he recognized, even. He was older, broad-shouldered and deep-chested with brawny hands, a shaved head, fiery, beady grey eyes, an unruly beard, and a well-scored line of flesh memory that ran from the top of his forehead to one of his eyes, searing it shut.

 

“‘Ey,” Sammy said.

 

“Hey.” Replied the beast of a man which sat before him, a near-empty tankard in hand.

 

“I’ve seen you with that sword. You’re pretty fuckin’ ****, pal.”

 

“**** off.”

 

“Now, now, moody - what’s with the attitude, eh?”

 

Wem let out a frustrated grumble, and Sammy took it as an invitation to sit. He knew where he recognized the man from now, memories of the mercenaries clad in blue steel coming to the surface - Dunamis, did they call themselves? Surely he, too, was unwelcome in this town.

 

“You got that tankard all t’ yourself then?” The younger of the two men was reluctant to meet the gaze of the sellsword, exhibiting some sort of odd bashfulness despite the bravado which carried in his words.

 

“Damn right I do,” The one-eyed man replied. The tone of his voice suggested he meant to go on after a pause, though instead his articulations hung in the air like mist, vicious and stiff as the storm which threatened to brew outside.

 

For a moment or two that was all - the silence, the crackling of the fire, the familiar airlessness. Wem held his breath for a moment; and with it Sammy’s lips parted as to speak to break the uncomfortableness, though Wem hastily waved him off, his eyes trained over the younger man’s shoulder. Sammy’s brow couldn’t help but loft in silent inquisition, and suddenly Wem’s expression seemed all the more pinched - at least, more than usual for a man who is missing an eye.

 

The master of the establishment came down from the upper room, apparently on purpose to tend to a new crowd of customers - a particularly rowdy bunch, too, from what Sammy could hear. Though upon spraining about, he suddenly understood the doom in the larger man’s eye. They were guards, half-a-dozen perhaps, looking fresh from the field, clad in the black and white of the Ashford Sun - the very sigil of the newly-crowned King Olivier. They ordered their rounds amidst jovial chatter and shouting, boasting of the number of rogues’ heads they amassed on their most recent raid.

 

“Follow my lead.” Said the older man in a low, surreptitious tone, and Sammy’s jaw couldn’t help but clench. The whole world seemed to crawl slowly through time in such an instance, ensnared in the thick nectar of peril. They left their drinks and stood carefully and with a certain nonchalance that conveyed they wished to be unseen. Then, feigning small talk, they made for the door, walking in accord, each footstep heavier than the next, until something caught Sammy’s eye.

 

He had seen her, and he was certain that she had seen him. Silence roared, ushering in the familiar insufferable airlessness; and then, the sharp rasp of a sword unsheathed.

 

“You two!” The guardswoman shouted to the pair, gaining the attention of her compatriots who had been caught up drinking. “I know you - the both of you have pretty little prices on your heads, huh? Go on, tell me I’m wrong.”

 

Without stopping to think, the brazen bandits moved with the pent-up aggression of a tiger, drawing cold steel in response. A muscle in Sammy’s jaw flickered.

 

“You lot have no clue what you’re getting into.” Wem sneered resentfully, his lips twitching with excitement. He did not stop to look at the younger man, squinting while he gave a perfunctory glance over the throng of guardsmen.

 

The tavern-goers, full of laughter and mirth just moments before, were now rushing for the exit, overcome with an insuppressible fear. The boy behind the counter, however, who was no more than twelve summers old, stayed to watch - not out of some paralyzing fear, but a morbid curiosity.

 

Suddenly the whole tavern lit up in the bittersweet song of steel, and in the shock of battle the outlaws appeared as a tide that could not be trounced. Firmly they stood, backs against one another, cutting wicked wounds into the aching flesh of the guardsmen and drawing deep blood. The hideous cries of faltering battle grew into one with the screaming of citizens, the tireless hands of the bandits striking down opponent after opponent until, finally, the last was felled.

 

They licked their wounds with haste, treading over the still-warm bodies of the dead to ascend the steps in search of an escape. Everywhere they looked townsfolk wept and howled for help, some taken to kneel and pray to the Lord God above for their life to be spared. An elderly woman, even, lifted her skirt to amble over to a nearby patrol of regulars, shouting and pointing at the duo. Wasting no time, Sammy and Wem unraveled the reins of two nearby coursers, swinging a leg over as to mount them in a single, smooth motion before digging their heels into the horses’ sides. The amalgamating traffic cleared like geese before a hungry fox, and the duo tore off beyond the reaches of the Kingdom’s gate.

 

They never claimed to be good men.

 

Restless with adrenaline, the two fled and fled until their horses could take no more, rounding a bend in the road and slowing to a trot. They had made sure they weren’t followed and took a moment to catch their breath.

 

Sammy broke the silence. “I take it back - y’know, the whole **** with a sword thing.”

 

Wem didn’t care to respond, instead moving to procure a leather flask from his horse’s satchel. “You know, where I’m from custom dictates a toast for every battle won,” He said, thin lips pressed into an cocksure, ironical smile. “Tell you what, this one’s on me; for friendship newly found.” He offered.

 

The flask eclipsed Sammy’s pouty lips, and some brandy dribbled onto his chin - it tasted crisp, clean, and sweet - like a sunburst over a cloudy sky. Like gold.

 

Raucous, jovial barks of laughter followed the pair as they ventured on, dark horses shedding steam as they pounded their way into the coming twilight.

 

Spoiler

 

 

Edited by mitch dharma

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