It’s Dangerous to go Alone

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It’s Dangerous to go Alone

I walked ahead of the women. Silver and Gazer, my Fae companions, lounged on the cratered top of my rucksack. Neither of them had turned invisible after we left the glade. They revelled in the attention poured on them by Phebes and Wyanet.

“I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Did you kidnap them and kill their parents, so now they don’t want to leave you because you’re the only thing know?” Phebes gasped. “Did they kidnap you and kill your parents?”

I stopped dead in my tracks. “What? No, no one kidnapped or killed anyone.” I started walking again.

“How do I know you’re not lying? If you’re in danger, blink twice.”

“Phebes, if Damian does not wish to tell you anything, he does not have to.”

“My mother died giving birth to me, and my piece of shit father ran off before I was ever born,” I replied. 

“How do you know the faeries didn’t kill her?”

“Death during childbirth is not uncommon amongst humans,” Wyanet interjected. “Even amongst the First People, there is no guarantee a woman will survive the ordeal.”

“Ceannaire,” Gazer stood up and braced his arms on my back. “We should just tell them. What can it hurt? We’ve been with the dark-skinned one for months, and I don’t think the Elf girl is a threat to anyone.”

“Rude. I can be a threat if I want to.” Phebes grumbled. “Wait! You speak Common?”

“It is a common language.” Gazer chided.

“I don’t remember what happened,” I replied to Gazer in Sylvan. “If you want to tell them, I won’t stop you.”

Gazer sat back down. “Ceannaire saved our lives.”

“How did he save you?” Wyanet asked.

“I was out on patrol with my partner. We heard someone pleading for help in our language and went to see what was going on. A group of boys had caught Silver. They tortured her. My partner flew back to our settlement to get help. I tried to stop the boys, but one of them caught me.”

Silver hugged her knees to her chest.

“I thought we were doomed, but a bright light streaked past us from dayward. The light sang in a beautiful, ethereal, language. The boys ran away, the light vanished, and Damian appeared. We’ve been with him ever since.”

‘What power did you use to save them?” Wyanet pondered. “I have never seen you use it before.”

“I don’t know.” I scooped a rock up from the narrow path. “I don’t even remember saving them,” I whispered an arcane word into the stone. The stone glowed with a cool white light. “After that day I knew how to do this.” I held the stone up. “It scared Sweeney. It scared him so much he sent me away to live in a monastery.” I tossed the stone back into the woods, the light dimmed as it flew.

“Sweeney? As in the Mad Druid?” Phebes whispered his name. “You were raised by the Mad Druid?”

“He found me in the woods after my mother died and took me in.”

“HO THERE TRAVELERS!” An old man in travel-worn clothes called out to us. Lumpy bags hung from his shoulders and he lead two laden mules blocking the path.

“Well met, Wanderer,” Wyanet called in response.

The Fae slipped into my rucksack. The four of us stopped when we got close enough.

“Well met, my friends, well met, indeed.” The Wanderer clutched a wooden holy symbol that hung from his neck. “The Everlight told me I would meet two beautiful women and a man on the road today, and indeed I have. The Everlight is kind to people like me.”

“I’d say you met some travellers, old man, but the Everlight certainly isn’t kind to you.” Another man with a shaved head and ratty armour stepped out of the forest. “But she decided to bless us today.”

Five more bandits wearing mismatched hide and leather armour emerged from the forest, armed with simple farm tools. They surrounded us.

“I think we’ve been here before don’t you Wy?” I shifted my stance and inched my hand closer to my sword.

Wyanet shrugged her rucksack off and gripped her shield. “Except last time I was outside of the circle.”

Phebes looked around at the bandits. “What’s going on?”

“You’re being robbed, honey and that sword on your hip is our first prize.” The bandit captain extended his hand. “Give it.”

“Do you not know it is bad luck to steal from a Wanderer? Even my people know that.” Wyanet lowered her spear point and hid behind her shield.

A teenage girl wearing snug boy’s clothes stumbled out of the trees. She carried a slender bow in one hand and half a dozen arrows in the other.

“It doesn’t matter. I’ve got mouths to feed, and you lot will keep our bellies full for awhile. Now hand over everything you’ve got.”

“Are you sure you want to do this?” I took my hand away from my sword. “This isn’t going to work out the way you think it is. If you let us all go, no one will get hurt.”

The other bandits shifted where they stood and glanced between us and their leader.

“What are you going on about? Bog, Vestili, take the old man’s mules. Kill them if you have to.” 

The two men flanking their leader came toward us.

Wyanet hurled her shield at one. She charged at the other twirling her spear above her head. She cracked it against the second man’s skull and knocked him off his feet. She rounded on the first man, thrusting the butt of her spear into his abdomen. The first man gasped and doubled over. Wyanet spun her spear around and smacked the first man in the jaw with a swift blow.

“Can’t we find a more peaceful solution to our problem?” The Wanderer pleaded.

The bandit captain grabbed the girl by the arms and shook her. “Nika, you have to shoot them. Like Daddy taught you.” He pointed at me. “Him first, shoot him right in the chest.”

“I don’t want to.”

“DAMN IT! Shoot the bastard!” 

Nika knocked an arrow on her bowstring. Tears glittered in her eyes as she pointed her bow at me.

“Nika, you don’t have to do this. You can all walk away.” I raised my hands and took a step towards her.

“Don’t think you can talk to my baby. She will only listen to me.” The bandit captain pointed his rusty sickle at me. “Shoot him, baby. Shoot him now!”

Nika locked eyes with me. Tears rolled down her cheeks. She drew back her bowstring. “I’m sorry.” Nika loosed her arrow.

The missile whizzed towards me. I snatched it out of the air and threw it into the ground. I rushed the bandit captain. I smashed my elbow into the side of his head. The bandit captain’s eyes rolled back and he crumpled to the ground.

“Does anyone else wish to make a bad decision?” Wyanet demanded.

The three remaining bandits tucked their weapons into their belts. One of the bandits put his arm around Nika while the others collected their fellows.

“We didn’t mean any harm.” The bandit with Nika offered. “We lost our wives and most of our children. My brothers and I wanted to get our niece away from the horrors around Crescent Moon Bay. It’s been a longer journey than we expected, and we ran out of food a day ago.”

Wyanet moved to my side. “A few days north of here, there is a farming settlement called Bauerndorf. Speak with the tavern owner there. He will help you all find honest work.”

“I understand. Thank you for your mercy.”

Wyanet turned to Nika. “Do not let others tell you what to do. It takes courage to stand for what you know to be true, more when you have to defy the ones you love. Do not lose that part of yourself, child.”

The bandits drug their unconscious companions away and disappeared into the woods.

“The Everlight told me I would have a great service done in my favour.” The Wanderer started to rummage in his packs. He pulled out a basic longbow and two dozen arrows. “Saving my life is indeed a great service. As a thank you, I want to give each of you a gift.” He handed the bow and arrows to Phebes. “This might be a better tool for you than that sword.”

“I, um, I don’t know, I um, didn’t do anything, okay, thank you,” Phebes mumbled.

“You are welcome child, although, if you have left home, you are likely older than I am.” The Wanderer winked at Phebes and went back to his packs. He pulled out an elegantly carved Ghost Nation war club. “A kind man from the Third Nation traded this to me some time ago. I must admit, I’ve never been much of a fighter, but this seems suited for you.” He handed the club to Wyanet.

“You are too kind, Wanderer.” Wyanet slid the club into her belt.

The Wanderer stared at me and tapped his chin. “For you, let me see.” He dug through the packs on both of the mules and pulled out a heavy wool cloak. “My best cloak. Crescent Moon Bay is a cold and rainy land. This will serve you better than that linen one you’re wearing.”

The Wanderer made sure his packs were secure and started down the road. “Oh, I almost forgot.” He turned back to me. “Hide who you are Damian. The servants of evil will stop at nothing to corrupt you, and many on the Astral Ocean still seek your Sifu.”

“How do you know my name?”

The wanderer smiled and walked away whistling a happy tune.

The story will continue, October 31st.

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Written by: Sweeney

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