The Alliance (cont.)
The Wild Plains, banks of the Silver River:
Thessa stood on the western bank of the Silver River staring at the deep flowing water. At least, it felt deep to her. Thessa shivered. She’d never felt fear like this before. The water seemed alive, calling to her. To feel its embrace again.
“Thessa,” the little gnome priestess startled at the sound of Bactra’s voice. “Are you all right?”
“Y-yes… no,” Thessa closed her eyes saying a silent prayer to Baervan. “I don’t think I’ll ever be okay again.”
“It’s just water, Thessa.” It was as if Bactra could sense her fears. “It’s not alive. Not the way you’re thinking.”
“It’s time to go.” Bactra knelt down next to his small friend. “Dabuk has picked up the trail already and has set off after them. His father’s with him but they’ll need our help.”
Thessa wasn’t surprised. Dabuk had insisted on only waiting long enough for everyone to dry out and get a good night’s sleep. Thessa had slept soundly enough but she now felt unsure of herself. Her faith taught her to approach each new day with the joy of the unexpected of the journey for that day. Today, she dreaded traveling anywhere where there might be more water.
“I’m coming,” Thessa said one last prayer to her God, hefted her pack, and walked with Bactra towards Mesik, Hougwarth and Kellin who had been waiting patiently for her.
Bactra mounted his gray mare taking up the lead position while Kellin took the rear.
Hougwarth helped her up onto her pony, which was as afraid of the water as much as his mistress was. Hougwarth would walk next to Thessa’s steed, now feeling responsible for the little gnome’s safety. They had become good friends overnight; they all had, except Kellin and Dabuk, of course.
Mesik’s mount had fared better and it calmly trotted next to Thessa’s, as the group rode off after Dabuk and Garth. None spoke of the fear troubling the gnome priestess’s mind.
Moments past as they rode away from the waters of the Silver River. A toad was startled by the sudden appearance of a little gnome dressed in traveling garb holding a fine walking stick. He wore a troubled expression on his face, as he stood where Thessa had been standing a moment before.
“Do not let the fear take you, traveler’s daughter.” He dug out a finely carved weed pipe filling it with tobacco. “I am with you child, don’t ever forget that.”
Then with a puff of tobacco smoke the little gnome vanished with a wink of an eye. The toad went back to its croaking.
* * *
The edge of the Wild Plains:
Dabuk had insisted on tracking ahead on foot. His father had insisted on going with him. They had argued, but Garth had won out in the end.
“You need me to watch your back, son. You know how you get when tracking ogres.”
Dabuk looked at the tracks in front of him as he crouched with his elbows on his knees. It had been sound advice. Bactra had used that same logic on him while in the Merewood. Dabuk turned his head towards his father standing several feet away tending to the horses. Garth had rode while Dabuk tracked, keeping Dabuk’s horse’s reins attached to his saddle’s pommel.
Dabuk had relented unwillingly.
Dabuk stared back at the tracks. They were nearly a day old. But he knew he’d track them down eventually. Then he’d kill them, plain and simple. He’d kill Kellin too eventually. His father wouldn’t be able to protect the big brute forever. Eventually the beast would show its true colors.
“They went northwest,” Dabuk stood up looking into the distance hoping to catch a glimpse of his prey. “Convenient, wouldn’t you say father?”
“Too convenient,” Garth surveyed the terrain surrounding them, looking back to see if the others were any closer to catching up with them. “Ogres are stupid, but not as dumb as you think.”
“So you keep telling me about what’s-his-eye back there.” Dabuk’s father didn’t want to talk about it, but Dabuk felt like forcing the issue. “You know you’re crazy to trust him.”
“I don’t expect you to understand, son. But watch your tongue. Kellin is different than ogres.”
“So you keep telling me, but I’ve yet to see any real proof.” Dabuk stared at him, as he started forward following the tracks.
Garth sighed. He motioned Hindle to trot just behind his son letting him lead the way. He tried to think of a way to tell his son the truth without telling him. There wasn’t any real way to say it without more questions needing answers.
“Well,” Dabuk noticed his father’s silence. “Are you going to tell or aren’t you?”
“I can’t,” Garth looked skyward thinking of his father and mother. There hadn’t been anyway to tell them either. “It’s not my place to tell you why Kellin is my friend and where he comes from. He has told me that I have to wait until the time is right and then he’ll tell you himself.”
“Hades to hell,” Dabuk shook his head in disbelief. “You always find a way to say nothing, don’t you. I don’t care who he is or where he came from. You can’t trust an ogre.”
“You’re right,” Garth stared at his son’s back reining in Hindle. “You can’t trust an ogre and that’s all I’m going to say.”
Dabuk stopped. He turned and looked at his father, not believing his ears. He had this perplexed look on his face that would have made even Bactra think his father was nuts.
“Are you telling me that you really don’t trust him?”
“Boy, you are so clueless.”
“What in the Nine Hells does that mean?”
Garth groaned in frustration. Just tell him, he thought. Just tell him. But no, he’d made a promise on his oath as the Justiciar.
“Never mind, I’ve already said too much.” Garth waived his hand towards the horizon. “Go on, find the buggers already.”
“Don’t order me around,” Dabuk didn’t move an inch. “I’m not one of your lackeys. I’m your son, by Rillifane! Now tell me what that meant.”
“Don’t push me, son.” Garth bent down staring Dabuk in the eyes. “Don’t forget who leads this expedition. I have the authority to send you home if I like or even string you up by your toes if you get out of line. Now do your job, or I’ll do it for you.”
Dabuk returned his father's stare refusing to move.
“You also promised my mother once that you’d never lay a hand on me, as part of any punishment. Do you remember that?”
Garth sat up laughing. “Oh come on, son. I made that promise when you were two. I can’t believe you even remember that.”
“So your promise to a despicable creature like Kellin means more to you than a promise you made to your own wife. A promise you made on your oath, if I remember correctly.”
Garth looked at his son and knew the boy had won this round.
“Have it your way but don’t use your mother’s memory again me or anyone else ever again, or I’ll make a new promise to her that you won’t like.”
“Agreed,” Dabuk turned picking the trail up again with ease. “We won’t talk about this ever again.”
Dabuk started to sprint, looking down at the ogre tracks ever once in a while to make sure he was still on the right course.
“Damn,” Garth wrapped the reins of Dabuk’s horse around Hindle’s saddle horn and spurred the warhorse. He had to make sure his son didn’t face the ogres alone.
He looked back to see the other coming over a rise several miles behind them. Kellin was waving trying to get his attention. All Garth could do was wave back and hope they would increase their speed and catch up to them before his son’s anger drove the young man into a frenzy.
The homebrew world of Knightfall.
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