Author: ThatBlackMage PM
Nathan is an inexperienced paladin who has been assigned the task of bringing the only person to steal from the Palidian Order in centuries to justice. And, of course, nothing is going to go as expected.Rated: Fiction T - English - Chapters: 4 - Words: 4,476 - Reviews: 1 - Follows: 1 - Updated: 10-12-12 - Published: 06-12-12 - id: 3031630
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
The morning rose too early for Nathan's preference, but he pulled himself up and got ready. He started tracking the thief, the Amulet's pull strong on his mind. After riding east for a few miles he was stopped by a ravine. He looked back and forth, trying to figure out how to get over it, until he felt something strange. He dismounted and looked at a rock. It was a large rock, not abnormal in any way. He looked around the rock and was rewarded with the sight of two footprints. Stooping over, he carefully followed them as they wound through the underbrush. A few times he thought he had lost the trail, until he found a crushed leaf, a broken twig, or some other fresh indication of a passerby.
He found it odd that an elf would leave such a trail. From what he knew of elves they were supposed to be impossible to track, another reason that caused him to wonder why they had chosen someone with as little skill as he had. Even stranger was how this was not just an elf he was trying to find, but one that didn't want to be found. The trail should be invisible to practically everyone. How odd.
He followed the trail along the edge of the ravine for almost an hour. Then the trail vanished again. He scoured the area for tracks, but he couldn't find any. He looked closer at the tracks. They were closer together, as if she had been standing. They were also deeper, mainly at the toes, as if there had been extra weight put on them. He looked even closer and almost laughed when he figured it out. She hadn't vanished. She had jumped. Taking a chance, he glanced over the edge of the ravine. There was a small ledge along the side that ran down in a steep zig-zag to the bottom. A hidden path.
Taking a chance that his horse would be alright, Nathan quietly climbed down the path. One thing that he had always been amazed by was how quietly paladins could move in full armor when they needed it. Normally, when it didn't matter, they were as noisy as everyone else. But at times like this, or at the pub, when he should have been making a lot of noise, it was quiet. He had a good idea of why, and smiled slightly in gratitude.
He made it to the bottom of the ravine. There wasn't much to look at, just some brush and a few boulders. He knelt again and searched the ground for tracks. There. Very faint but there. He followed them to a wall covered in vines, which looked like several others nearby. He had to give her credit, this was excellent camouflage. Had he not found her tracks he would have missed it entirely and would have been wandering back and forth trying to find out where the amulet was calling from. Pushing away some vines, he found a door. He took a deep breath, then opened it.
Ariali smiled as she looked over the amulet again. The silver was as fine as any she had ever seen, and she had seen plenty. The gold was also exquisite, a beautiful white-gold that she had only seen rarely. The gems, though, confused her. When she first saw the amulet she could have sworn that she had seen four gems embedded in the gold. But now that she saw it, there were none to be found. There wasn't even an indent to tell her where they had been. How curious.
No matter though. She put the amulet back into the case she had saved for it and slipped it in her getaway bag. She never assumed that she was safe, and that had saved her several times from serving prison time, or worse. She shuddered to think about what might have been her fate if she had been caught stealing from the Gorboviches. They were violent enough when they were calm, but to have their rubies stolen, especially the Star Ruby, well, that would have ended in a torture chamber at best.
The Star Ruby. What had she done with it? Oh, right, she had sold it to some rich guy that frequented the black market. A noble who couldn't leave things alone, especially things that weren't his. Money, jewels, woman, it didn't matter to him. And she didn't care either, so long as she was paid. Which he did, after much talk and a few threats to find a different buyer when he tried to shortchange her.
Still though, she had never been so rich in her life. She happily strolled down the street that day, with gold in her purse, thinking about what she could buy with it. It was then she saw the little beggar girl.
She was emancipated, sickly and worn. It was obvious that she had not had a meal in a long time. Instead of hurrying past like she normally would have, she reached into her purse and pulled out several gold ten dratin pieces. She handed them to the stunned girl and kept going, not looking back.
Why had she done that? It didn't make sense to her, she had never given charity to anyone before. Perhaps it was because...
The door had been locked from the inside, so Nathan did the only thing he could think of. He kicked down the door. There was a mighty crash as the door fell in, and he was rewarded with a stunned thief staring at him.
"I have you now. Return the Amulet and come with me. My offer still stands. If you come willingly, the Council will go easier on you. If I have to drag you in by your toenails, then it won't be pretty." he said, hand resting on his sword.
"Oh dear. What ever will I do." The thief said, a mocking lilt to her voice and a fake worried expression twisting her face. "A big scary man is blocking the front door. Maybe I'll have to find another way out." And with that she bolted through a tapestry and into a hidden corridor. Nathan dashed after her, discovering a hidden exit only a few hundred feet from the door he had gone through. He saw the thief take off down the ravine, and he knew there was no way he could keep up in his armor. He sighed, then began climbing up the ravine walls and went back to where his horse was. He mounted and took off, following the ever-present pull towards the Amulet.
Three days. Three days of riding like the wind to catch up to the thief. Three days of pushing both himself and his horse to their limits. Three days of haste, and nothing. He could feel the pull, and he knew that the Amulet was not far, but he still had not seen the thief. He knew he had to hurry. It wouldn't be long before they were at the ocean, and if she got on a ship it could be the end of it.
He sighed and looked up the hill he and his horse had been climbing. He knew that his horse was exhausted, and he knew that he couldn't last much longer either. They reached the top of the hill and his worst fears had been realized.
Sitting at the base of the hill was a city, Terus if he remembered correctly. It was one of the larger ports on this side of the continent, and if he had to guess there were over thirty ships sitting at the port. If someone wanted to get away or hide, this was the place to do it. He sighed. This was going to be rough.
Trying to look casual, he rode into the city. As could be expected it was extremely busy, with hundreds of traders and sailors crowding the streets. He wove his way through them, following the pull as it led him closer and closer to the docks. He passed through the wall that separated the city from the waterfront and docks and caught sight of his quarry, heading towards a large ship. She turned around, saw him, and bolted for the ship as it started to depart.
He urged his horse into a fast gallop, getting up so that he could stand on the saddle. The thief had made it onto the ship, and the gangway had been pulled up. He kept going though, and right as they reached the end of the dock his horse bucked as he jumped. He flew through the air and caught hold of the railing on the captain's balcony. He struggled to pull himself up when he saw the thief drop down from the upper deck. She shook her head.
"You know, you should have given up when you had the chance." she said. "I really hope you can swim in plate armor, because I'm not going to let you up." As she said this she pulled a small vile of what looked like oil from her bag and un-stoppered it. "Should've left the fifty pounds of armor at home, huh?"
"Ninety pounds actually." Nathan replied.
"Fifty pounds, ninety pounds, same difference." she said with a wave of her hand. "It's all the same when you're swimming."
"What's going on here?!" someone shouted from behind. A man, the first mate, had stepped out of the captain's quarters and onto the balcony. "A stowaway and a paladin, eh? What's the meaning of this?"
"Well, you see..." the thief began, but was cut off as Nathan swung up and kicked her in the shoulder.
"She's my quarry." Nathan said, picking her up and holding her hands behind her back. "She has stolen an artifact that must be returned. I apologize for the inconvienence we've caused you, and I'm afraid I must ask how soon we can return to shore."
"Not until the end of the voyage I'm afraid." the first mate replied. "The tides are going out and we're running late as it is. We're headed for the Northlands, and we're not stopping on the way."
"Nowhere? Not even for water?" Nathan asked.
"Not even for water. The currents are fast this time of year, we'll get there before we run out even if the winds are poor."
"Then is there a room or two we may use? Maybe someplace in the brig?"
"We're a cargo ship, not a warship." the first mate said, "We don't have a brig, per say. We do have some extra rooms though, if you're willing to work for your passage."
"I would be honored to." Nathan said, then added, "I've always wanted to learn how to sail."
"Well, you'll be learning how pretty quickly if you're staying with us. Come, we'll have a talk with the captain over this."
The first mate took them up to the upper deck, where the captain was supervising. "Well well well, what have we here?" he asked, looking Nathan and the thief over. "An elvish stowaway and a paladin, sneaking onto my ship?"
"If I may, Captain," Nathan said, "there was nothing sneaky about how I got on board."
"Maybe, I'd like to see you sneak around in that plate armor." he said with a grin. Then, to the thief, said, "But you, I've seen you before. You were aboard this vessel last year, a stowaway that we didn't find until we were already docked. I ought to throw you in the brig, if we had one. As it is, you better not expect anything less than a locked door and an armed guard watching you day or night." He then looked back towards Nathan. "I take it she's the reason you're here?"
"That's right." Nathan said.
"Someone finally stole something from the Order then." he said, slightly sadly.
"Yes, and something of extreme value." Nathan said.
"Well, we'll take you in, so long as you'll do some work. Can't afford to have people just sitting around here."
"He's already agreed to do some work for passage." the first mate said. "If you want, I'll set him up with a schedule."
"That should be fine." the captain said. "As for you," he said, looking at the thief, "you're going to earn your way too. I've heard you have quite the voice, some of the mates say so. In return for your food, you're going to sing for us now and again. If you don't sing, no food. Make sense?"
The thief nodded surly.
"Good." the captain said with a smile. "Now, for names. I'm Captain Pollo, and this is the Outlander Sunrise. My first mate, Mr. Brocks, will be overseeing your work. You are?"
"Nathan of the Palidian Order." Nathan replied.
"Ariali." was all the thief said.
The captain smiled. "Very well, Nathan, Ariali. Welcome aboard."