|Fahsterra: Tales of the Blind
Author: claiomhsolais PM
The country of Throdia is militant and oppressive, and the people have had enough. Revolutionists work in the same shadows the government operates in. But Liam Rhiel's own vendetta against Throdia goes beyond political corruption. The world of Fahsterra is husk of truth, but lies and cover ups can only hide the rot for so long.Rated: Fiction T - English - Adventure/Fantasy - Chapters: 3 - Words: 5,755 - Reviews: 1 - Updated: 03-12-13 - Published: 03-01-13 - id: 3105186
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Liam Rhiel tightened his armor, fitted his sheathed sword on the left of his belt, and left his room at the inn. He acknowledged the innkeeper's usual greeting with a nod but said nothing before stepping out on Kavra's main square. The early morning sky was dim; the cobblestoned streets were empty except for lonely markets stalls and the occasional guard or early morning worker. Most of Kavra's citizens didn't wake up until several hours later, and Liam could enjoy the quiet hours of the morning. Unfortunately he didn't get to enjoy them for long, as Murga, a fellow sword-merchant but not a friend, approached and greeted him. Murga was nearly twice Liam's age
Liam raised his right arm in the air. "The morning's young," he said.
Murga mirrored Liam and grinned. "There's work to be done." Both men grasped forearms and shook. "One of the first of us out as always. For someone young you sure aren't lazy. At least you're just tender enough for the hunt to hunt you back."
"I'm surprised you're up, Murga," Liam retorted and let go of the others arm. "Though you have nothing better but to rib me when you could have gotten first dibs on the hunt."
Murga shrugged. "You deserve a head start." And now the older man was much more serious, "A boulder came down in the night on the river's east bank, blocking the flow."
"I see," Liam said. He started to walk slowly down the cobblestone road with Murga at his side. A boulder on the each bank. Trade routes were shut off leading to the capital. "And the weather?"
"Clearing up." Murga glanced to one of the guards patrolling the city, swords at their sides and detailed visors shading their eyes. "Of course you never know with the weather. One day it's blue sky, then thunderheads everywhere in an instant." Liam stared coldly at the guard, eying the lightning emblem engraved on the breastplate, symbol for the Throdian army. "With the boulder a lot of fish will be cropping up so that's easy pickings."
"And with the price of wolf pelts going up you're more likely to get attacked, so I'd take it slow if I were you," said Liam.
Murga laughed. "I'll take it slow if you don't take all the kills!"
The two men had reached the town's main gate by now, a tall keep built of stone and whole logs which hid the northwestern road into the Bunoll Woods. Another guard, a lieutenant by the sash he wore at his neck, stepped in front of them and scowled. "State your intent."
Liam cocked his head and locked eyes with the guard, musing the guard should know his 'intent' by now as this script played every morning of every day for the three years that Liam has been living in Kavra. He then reached into his satchel and pulled out three thick documents and held them out. "I'm a documented sword-merchant of Kavra, three years veteran." The guard took the papers and flipped through them all, as simply letting Liam go through would be too easy and create amicability between the captor and the prisoner.
"It's in order," the lieutenant announced and shoved the documents back into Liam's possession. "You will be due back by midday, or else we'll get out there and drag you back in for questioning."
The usual threat. Unfazed, Liam returned the documents to his satchel as Murga waved him goodbye and went back up the road. The lieutenant remained in his position and started shouting to other guards posted at the main gate. The lieutenant's shouts echoed in the throats of his subordinates, and hidden atop the stone walls wooden gears twisted and ground together. Chains creaked as the large, metal-plated wooden door lifted open, groaning until it was raised off the ground a length and a half of Liam's height.
The way was open to a narrow pathway with a high wooden fence blocking the outside. Two more guards were stationed at the end of this path. Liam passed through the path, and repeated his "intent" to those guards by showing off his documents again. Liam Rhiel, twenty three years, green eyes and dark hair pulled back into a mid-length ponytail, licensed sword-merchant of three years, native of Throdia. These guards eventually let him pass after giving the same threat, but what use would it be when this cycle never changed.
By this point, with nothing but a smooth dirt path and masses of fat-leaved deciduous trees before him, Liam was removed from Kavra. The sky grew brighter as time passed and Liam entered the thicker part of the surrounding woods. Soft distant cries of monsters, beasts that attacked any wayward traveler regardless of human station, lead Liam to their new nests. His sword was drawn and his body crouched low as he darted through the trees and shrubs. He slowed once he got closer and peeked over the bushes to find a group of forest wolves feasting on the carcass of a Great Glade Elk. Liam glared. That elk would have been a great find, especially its antlers which grew and split like wood and smelled of fine sap to be turned into perfumes. At least the wolves would have no need for the antlers, just the meat. Liam would wait until the wolves dispersed before taking the antlers. Liam quietly retreated from the area, and ran off to search for more to hunt.
He was back toward the main path through the woods where there was less to find but more time to rest. The calls of rustling movements of monsters sounded so distant from where Liam stood, almost as if something was scaring them away. "The soldiers, I'd bet," Liam muttered, thinking back on Murga's warnings earlier in town. Something happened that made Throdia cut off trade to the capital, and the price of wolf pelts actually meant suspicions of lone travelers was up among the soldiers. Liam was protected because he had his sword-merchant permit with him, but he couldn't use it as an alibi forever.
Liam gasped quietly after taking a deep drink of water from his canteen. He was screwing the cap back on when he noted a rustling on his left. It grew louder, closer, but it wasn't irregular like any other stalking monster. Liam dropped his canteen, pivoted, and drew his sword to face it.
The rustling stopped and two widths away another blade was drawn as well, a short and curved dagger held out in defense. Behind the dagger was a young woman with blond hair tied up on the left side of her head. Her bangs were thick and cut straight and framed her pale blue eyes which flicked around before coming to rest on Liam's gaze. They locked eyes and slowly began to circle one another. Liam stopped circling and began to lower his sword and straighten up, holding onto the sword with only one hand as it stayed on his side. The woman stopped as well. She seemed to relax but kept her dagger pointed at Liam.
Liam planted his free hand on his hip. "Who are you?" The woman smirked and raised her eyebrows. She did not answer. "Okay, what are you doing here?" Besides a playful snicker, still no answer. Liam sighed and thought to try at least one more question. "Why are you still pointing that thing at me?"
"Gives me the upper hand, of course." The woman chirped and the dagger was lowered slightly. Her voice was higher than expected, which
threw Liam off of his guard. "It's tough for a woman out in the wilds, right? I've got to be careful."
"If you put that away, then I'll sheath my own sword and I'll let you on your way."
"Oh, no, I can't do that." The woman backed up a few steps and glanced around her. "But I do have to get going or else I'm caught by worse people than you. Uh oh."
Footsteps through the forest approached in a terrifying magnitude, the same direction where the woman came. Clinking swords mixed in with the hacking of tree limbs to be heard even from here.
"Get off the road," Liam said before dashing to the left, back in the thicket of trees where he had just come from. The woman followed him without his saying so but there was no use to shake her off now. Liam ran a fair ways into the woods and ducked down behind a tree, twisting in order to fit in behind a bush as well.
"Don't mind me!" The woman crouched down almost on top of Liam and peered out to get a clear view of who was coming.
"What are you doing?" Liam hissed urgently. "Hide!"
"I am, don't worry."
Liam groaned and shifted to the side to avoid being sat on. The woman stayed put, staring out into the open woods with little of what Liam would consider proper cover. The noises grew louder as they approached while silence settled on the two hidden. After a moment the woman ducked down, but immediately came up again. Liam peeked around the other side of the tree's trunk.
"Throdians." At least seven or eight soldiers. Low-ranking except for their commander, who wore more intricate armor and had the large insignia of Throdian armed forces on his helmet.
"These are just the scouts. Once they find some clue of me I suspect we'll see the real army out here soon."
We? Liam shook the thought and listened close. The footsteps stopped for an instant, a murmur of voices, and then more footsteps. The soldiers were spreading out through bushes and trees with raised weapons.
"They're looking for us," said the woman.
"They're looking for you." Liam ducked back to avoid getting spotted.
"Well sorry, you're hiding here too."
A snapping twig silenced the two. A soldier had to be closing in, even the woman finally hid to Liam's immediate left. The steps were slow and growing louder. The soldier spoke, "This is stupid. We're better off to just burn these whole woods down. No one will miss it…"
Liam's fists tightened and he swallowed his hate. Close enough to hear meant close enough to being found. Eight soldiers were too much for him to hold off even with the adrenaline pulsing inside him to fight.
The woman expelled a slow breath and began to look out in the open again. Liam held out his hand in front to halt her. She gave him a quick glance and gently pushed it away. His hand grazed her body before she pinned his hand with her own against his thigh.
The woman had her head in full view of the soldier. Wouldn't she be seen? The steps started to soften as they went away. Soon all the faint shuffling of foliage muted, and silence pierced the air like birdsong.
"They're all leaving now." The woman turned back to Liam with a gentle smile. "Go and look." Liam looked down at their hands on his thigh instead. "Oh!" The woman jerked her hand back and grimaced in embarrassment. "Of course, sorry."
Liam sighed and twisted to peek out again. The soldiers were walking off in the direction of Kavra, probably to inquire about this strange woman. He got back up on his feet and dusted off his pants from sitting on the forest floor, his hand poised on the hilt of his sword.
The woman got up as well. "That was close, but we're okay for now. Isn't that grea- Whoa!"
Liam pulled out his sword and pointed it again at the woman. Her hands flew up in protest. She didn't even try to reach for her dagger.
"Excuse me? I thought we were over this!"
"Who are you?" Liam held the woman's gaze with cold eyes. "And why is Throdia after you?"
"Again with the questions…"
"Answer me! Your being here is putting Kavra and these woods in danger and they sooner you talk the safer we'll all be."
Whatever confidence this woman had earlier was gone as she swallowed and sweated under the point of Liam's blade. She appeared younger because of it. "My name," she muttered nervously, "is Jolie. I have no intention of hurting this 'Kavra' place or these woods. So, please, put down your sword! Your stare is sharp enough to keep me in check anyway."
Time stilled for a moment. Jolie wetted then gently bit her bottom lip. Liam lowered his sword and returned it to its sheathe. They both let go of the breath they held without realizing and Jolie mouthed, "Thank you." Liam nodded in hopes to reassure her, but failed to meet her eyes. He hated the thought he'd have to control her through fear like some Throdian.
But it seemed Jolie wasn't permanently fazed. She rolled her shoulders and coughed to regain her composure "Now then, you've had your questions and now I have my own. First of all, what are you doing around here? You mean you live somewhere nearby?"
Liam nodded. "There's a town called Kavra a ways to the east. I'm a sword-merchant there; I hunt the beasts nearby and take the stuff to the refiners there for profit. I was just in my morning's hunt when you brought in those damn Throdians with you."
"Hey, watch the hostility. I hate those guys just as much as you do." Jolie crossed her arms and muttered a few words. Liam couldn't recognize the language, but realized Jolie had a slight accent, one he couldn't place. "It would be easier to forgive you if you had a name, by the way. You know mine already, so at least make it fair."
Jolie nodded and digested this unremarkable piece of information. She repeated it under her breath, her slight accent emphasized its syllables melodically and granting it more gravity than it was worth. Liam almost asked Jolie to repeat it again.
Jolie clapped her hands with finality. "Right, best be off then." Her hesitant tone betrayed her words. "Since they didn't see you they don't know you're with me, so…" She took several steps past Liam, carefully watching to see what he'd do.
Jolie stopped and turned, but Liam wasn't looking at her anymore. He stared forward toward the town then around the woods and towards a nearby hill. "They're still out there looking for you."
"But if I leave they won't find me."
"True," Liam said grimly. "But they'll find something else."