Vithar had been riding for close to two days, stopping only to rest and relieve himself and the horse, and then only for a small amount of time. He had a general bad feeling about the way things were going in Arsencia. It'd take him the rest of the week to reach the mountains.
The rest of the week had been almost as eventless as the the first two, and had passed quite quickly. Vithar, dismounted, stared up at the Mountains before him. Grey against the sky's blue, the Mountains looked uncivilized, but, somewhere, there was a place where practitioners of mental magic and bladeskill resided, away from the prying eyes of the common people. Vithar headed towards an odd-looking area in the mountains, guiding the horse. The path he was on appeared in ancient and unsafe, disguised by a spell that alter appearance, but not shape.
An hour's walk brought Vithar to a simple gate, not unlike those in many towns. The gate opened silently, and Vithar walked quickly, greeting some people he knew. He was soon at the main doors of the Hall of the Council, where he'd report his mission a complete and successful. The guards admitted him without taking his weapon, as he was on of the Order's most renowned warriors, exempt from having to leave his weapons.
As Vithar walked into the long hall, dark, even for the many torches, he was greeted by a strong voice, "Vithar, I see you have returned, your mission complete according to Laegiol."
Vithar genuflected before the armoured figure, saying, "I have, Lord Damas. As you requested, I retrieved Winter Vayu's brooch."
"Hand it to me, then," commanded Damas, accepting the brooch, "This is it. Very well. I have one...inquiry."
"Ask, and I will answer as best I can, milord."
"Why is it, that when the party you were with had trouble with the enemy, that you did not arrive when they needed you most?"
"I...I...I don't know."
"You have improved, against the various enemies you fought before joining the party. That shows me that your Musha-shugyo was not a complete waste. Never again. I will raise your rank to grandmastery, but you will give me an oath."
"Very well, I assume you will continue with the same path you've been on?"
"Very well, Master of Battle. Now, your oath: You will put forth everything you can, barring your life, to protect the party."
"The party, but I thought--"
"You will return, on a Takeru-Michi, to the party, although, your path will not lead you directly there. For now, you will be practicing the skills which set you apart from your peers until you can blend mind and blade artfully. Rise."
When Vithar rose, Damas had Vithar's old equipment removed, leaving Nyrsavai at Vithar's feet, and Vithar in grey and blue reinforced robes. Initiates flowed in and out, measuring Vithar up and bring in various pieces of armour. Soon, they had Vithar re-equipped in scale mail of the same metal as Nyrsavai, with a simple spell woven into the materials to reduce the sound and weight of the armour. Vithar got a new long bow, and an elaborate shield. He put Nyrsavai on his back, along with the bow and then the shield. Over his hands where gauntlets, and new boots protected his shins.
* * * * * * * * *Two weeks passed, and Vithar had been doing various exercises around the Castle in the Mountains to improve his skills. At the moment, he was doing such an exercise, to enhance his blend of blade and mind.
"So, you still remain, despite the fact that you've been allowed leave two weeks past," said Laegiol, from within a spar-circle.
"I don't not yet feel that I am done here. I feel that there is something more to learn here," replied Vithar.
"Ah yes. So, you have put yourself on a quest for knowledge and skill, and not just strength then? Wise indeed, much like your mother..." said Laegiol.
"Is there anything to learn this day?" inquired Vithar.
"Oh, there is quite the large amount of content to the art of binding the blade and the mind, boy," said Laegiol, "All of which you know about. Today, you shall not be learning, but doing. And beginning to master."
"Good. Enter the spar-circle," commanded Laegiol, "Now: Attend!"
Battle commenced. Vithar drew Nyrsavai, and instantly shifted to a battle-trance. Laegiol struck, fast as a serpent. Vithar raised his shield, as though he planned the attack. Laegiol's longswords rang off of Vithar's shield. Vithar sidestepped to the right and struck, but Laegiol's blades intercepted Nyrsavai. The duel continued likewise, Vithar moving to parry and block with expert precision, Laegiol striking faster than any human. An hour passed, and Laegiol's strength began to flag, whereas Vithar's own strength didn't seem to be even lessened. Vithar struck, pulling the would-be killing blow before it hit. Laegiol dropped his blade in surrender.
"Good, very good. It seems that battle-trance or not, you can claim victory with ease," said Laegiol, panting,"Now go and rest, though you do not seem to need it. I don't think that you can fight me and improve your skill. It might be time that you go about finding harder battles and the like. Most of us can not hope to challenge you, though the honor of dueling you would be great."
"I see. Thank you master."
"No, than you, Vithar, No, go and rest."
* * * * * * * * *Vithar had stayed a month longer in the Castle in the Mountains. Despite the rest the ancient citadel provided, Vithar was feeling restless. At the moment, though, Vithar was sitting in a solar with Laegiol, recounting recent events for the Order's Archives.
"You have been quite the wanderer, Vithar. But you are again restless, I see."
"It seems that if I am not...forcibly removed from a place, I'll remain until wanderlust takes me..."
"It is probably far past time you leave. Fare thee well, Vithar."
"Same to you, master."
Vithar left the solar and made his way to the Castle's armoury. He looked for a particular sabre, mainly as a decorative sword, but also functional. He found one with a perfect balance and a unique basket hilt. Tying it to his belt, Vithar left the armoury, and heard his name called.
Vithar scanned with his mind while he spun around, seeking the source of the voice. The person who called him, turned out to be Sehlys, whom he had left behind last in Elmharrow.
"Sehlys? How did you get here?"
"I was brought here by Laegiol for my safety, he said."
"Who gave him the order to even find you?"
"Lord Commandant Damas, I believe."
"Ah...Then you were brought here for good reason. I seem to have a good reason not to leave yet."
"No. You should leave. Last time you spent too much time in one place, it didn't do you much good."
"I can stay another week."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes. Perhaps I can take some time to unwind before heading out again."
"I'm glad that your back, at least for now, Vithar."
* * * * * * * * *Despite the wanderlust, Vithar's last week in Vyl'Daer, the "Castle in the Mountains", was enjoyable, but all good things must come to an end, and so he left, knowing that he'd come upon the party eventually.
Vithar spent most of the next few months roaming around, sometimes participating in arena battles and fights, most of which he got through every tier unscathed. More often than not, though, Vithar was out in the open, riding, sometimes fighting off the occasional bandit troupe. One such day, Vithar was riding through a forest, enchantments upon his cloak rendering him near invisible. He saw a group of bandits attacking travelers who had the misfortune of being in the open road at the wrong time. Vithar weighed his options. The bandits were far too close to the travelers for Vithar to safely attack normally, so Vithar tricked them. The bandits walked toward the forest, unknowingly to their deaths.
Vithar quietly slew each bandit, using his sabre, which had no glow, to cut them down one at a time. He mounted and left, deciding that going to a town wasn't a bad idea after all.
* * * * * * * * *A week after defeating the bandits, Vithar found himself in a town, resting. A week later saw Vithar roaming the plains, with no intended destination. Vithar began thinking about the party. It had been quite some months since then, but he still wished he didn't leave them so...unceremoniously. He probably could've been more courteous, but the past was done with. Now he was curious though. What had the party done is his absence? Had they too gone their own ways? Or had they stuck together? He seriously doubted the latter. They didn't seem...woven tightly enough. There was trust enough, but nothing truly held them together. Perhaps there was something he wasn't seeing, though. All Vithar knew was that, as a member of the group, he wasn't exactly the most trusted.
<I think it would be wise to change that perception of me. Of course, assuming that we ever meet again.>
Vithar's thoughts where broken when he had to dodge an arrow.
<Apparently, I'm not alone.>
Vithar looked and saw where the arrow had come from...And saw what must have been a band of mercenaries off duty. Some where on horseback, some were on foot. Those on horseback had lances and shields. Those on foot, numbering about twice to the men on horseback, where preparing another shot.
<Not the most accurate...,> noted Vithar, seeing the arrows lying around him.
Drawing Nyrsavai, Vithar brought the horse to a gallop, faster than the archers could aim and shoot. Arming his shield, Vithar met the first horseman, Nyrsavai cutting a red line across the man's side. He fell screaming. Two of the archers had the fortune of standing in front of Vithar's horse, and didn't live to see sunset. Vithar turned the horse at full gallop around and charge back at the mercenaries. One of the horsemen charged, losing his lance to Vithar, who grabbed it as he passed by. More archers were trampled. Vithar spun his horse, and charged again, this time with Nyrsavai in it's sheath and the lance ready. The horseman whose lance Vithar carried soon found that death was swift. It wasn't long before Vithar had slain every mercenary, both on foot and mounted. The horses ran off, though to where, Vithar didn't know. He looked upon the mercenaries.
"Mayhap you'll find the eternal rest welcome..." Vithar muttered, and threw the lance down. He could probably get a lance if he wanted in a town. He rode off again, with no clear direction. Soon, he found himself heading east. He didn't know why, just that something drew him that way.
* * * * * * * * *Vithar had come across a rather large town, straddling a river. The walls were quite high, enough so that a fall would would be painful. Vithar joined a road leading to the town, figuring to get supplies and possible some arrows and a lance.
<Although, I'd class this with a small city, not a town...>
Vithar rode to a fine looking inn, and checked out a room, intending to stay for a few days. He dropped most of his gear into the room, except for Nyrsavai and few knives. He ordered a meal and sat down at a corner table, hoping not to attract attention. As he was looking at a hand-drawn map, his meal came. Putting away the map, Vithar began to eat, not removing his gauntlets. People walked by, usually staying away, except for one. Obviously a noble, He sat down, without asking Vithar if he'd mind.
"Greetings, traveler. I am Lord Telgris."
"Greetings, lord. I am Vithar."
"An odd name...Do you come from the north?
"Yes...Why did you approach me, sir? Certainly not for small talk?"
"You must be a warrior. I would like to know if you'd champion me."
<Champion a stranger? For what? A quest? Or something else...?> wondered Vithar, then said, "Perhaps, if I know the details, first."
"You are a most curious person. A tournament. I need a champion, but I need someone different. I am known for doing...odd things. So, I want to recruit you, whom know one knows."
"A tournament, you say...With jousting?"
"Yes...I will provide you with everything you may need, and you can rest at my manor until you wish to leave."
<This isn't such a bad deal. Assuming I don't get killed, I might walk away with more than I've ever had before...> Vithar thought, then replied, "When is the tournament?"
"Tomorrow. That should give you time to get ready, no?"
"It should. Well, let me get everything I need, and I'll follow you to your manor."
"Thank you, traveler. I'll pay for you meal and room, while you get ready to go."
<Most odd, for a noble. But I can't pass this up...>
The next day, Vithar looked out through the visor of an elaborate suit of armour. The heralds blew their horns, and the joust began. Vithar and the knight crashed. Vithar easily unhorsed the knight, and rounded again. He didn't need another pass. Another knight, and Vithar was ready. The first pass, both Vithar and the knight missed, but Vithar unhorsed the knight on the second pass. The next joust, Vithar was resting. a few hours later, Vithar sat his horse, facing the knight that was known for his skill with lance and horse. Vithar had managed to unhorse every knight that he challenged, usually in one pass. Vithar could tell that this knight wasn't to be toyed with. The call came and the knight charged, and Vithar mirrored him. They crashed in the middle, and, oddly enough, both were dismounted.
Drawing swords, Vithar was using his sabre. He and the knight fought. Despite the knight's skill on a horse with a lance, his swordsmanship was horrid, almost making Vithar cringe. The knight's form was sloppy, and hits that could have been fatal, missed completely. This knight was a horseman; he probably never trained to fight on foot. Vithar attacked, forcing the knight to backstep. The knight attempted to parry, but stumbled, falling backwards. Vithar brought the point of his sword right above the knight's throat. Something beckoned at Vithar to kill the knight, but Vithar held back. He stepped back, and the crowed cheered; apparently, reserving this knight's life wasn't a bad idea. He helped the knight back to his feet.
"Thank you warrior...You are the victor. I know the rules of victory. My armour and horse are yours."
"Well fought, sir knight. Keep or armour, I have no need of it. Although, if i do have some advice, you might want to train on foot sometimes. You know, in case someone knocks you off your horse."
"I think I will, warrior. Thank you for sparing my life, despite the fact that killing me was perfectly legal."
Vithar walked off the field, leading both his horse and his opponent's horse. Lord Telgris met him outside the field.
"Well fought, Vithar. As I promised, you can stay at my manor. Please do stay a few days. I would like you to rest, perhaps give you time to prepare for your journey?"
"I appreciate the offer, milord. I think I will stay, if until three days hence."
"Thank you again."
Three days later, Vithar was riding his newly acquired horse, with his horse from Vyl'Daer carrying the armour and a pair of lances, as well as provisions and whatever else Vithar might need in the wilderness.
<Not only am I leaving richer than before, but now I have more than enough provisions to last until...wherever I'm headed.>
Unknowingly, Vithar was still heading east, although a little more south than before.
* * * * * * * * *Vithar looked at the town. The place looked desolate and gritty, somewhat like some of the fringe settlements that Vithar had seen. He took out the hand-drawn map and looked. If his cartography was right, then he was near a place called Temora. Definitely not a fringe settlement, but it certainly didn't look like a good place to stay. Especially if certain rumors were true.
<Looks like a camp should be fine. I'm not too keen on going in there,> Vithar thought, and set about setting up a quick camp.
He left his camp, face covered except for his eyes. He would take a few days to learn the layout of the town, and perhaps another few to learn any possible ways of escape. He didn't want to be caught here at night.
As the sun set Vithar made his way back to his campsite. Once there, and making sure that nothing was disturbed, he set about drawing a quick map of the streets he'd seen so far. So, the rumors were more than right. There were quite few "Slave Warehouses" along one street. Vithar made a mental note to avoid that street at night. There was a large circular structure near the middle.
<Probably this slave coliseum that I've heard tell about...Seems significant...>
Edited by Vortigern, 15 February 2009 - 02:43 PM.