Hopeless Circumstance

Kalista, Wyanet, and I sat in the shade of an oak tree in the middle of the forest, on a sunny spring afternoon. We ate a light lunch of common field rations and listened to Wyanet tell a story about her past that Kalista had conned her into. Kalista had shed her gambeson. She sat with her legs crossed leaning back against her hands. I had doffed my cloak and sat on it like a blanket.

Wyanet took a long deep breath. She sipped on her waterskin, folded her hands and placed them in her lap. “Love is not made for my kind.” Wyanet started. She paused and took another second to collect her thoughts. “I have had many lovers. Every one of them abandoned me in some way.”

Tears started to form in the corners of Wyanet’s eyes.

“Love is a trick.”

A tear crept down Wyanet’s cheek, and she brushed it away.

“I do not wish to speak of this anymore”

Wyanet reached into her rucksack and fumbled with something out of sight.

“This is a stupid game. I do not wish to play again,” Wyanet snapped.

A mix of emotions sprinted across Kalista’s face. She reached for Wyanet’s hand, thought better of it, and pulled back.

“I’m sorry.” I hung my head.

“Why are you sorry, you did not have anything to do with their betrayals.”

“No, but it’s just what…”

Kalista jumped up and pulled her gambeson on. “Let’s get moving again.” She interrupted. “If we don’t we might not make it to the cave before nightfall.” Kalista turned away from us and replaced her hood.

I looked at Wyanet, she wore an empty expression as she rewrapped the uneaten food in linen and tucked it into her bag. I threw my cloak on and jogged after Kalista, who was already a hundred feet away.

“Where did you find her, Willow Twig? She’s just a great big ball of sunshine.” Kalista asked as she heard me catch up.

“She found me,” I replied. “I was on the road about a month back and I had a run in with some highwaymen. I wasn’t myself at the time, and there were too many of them. Wy came out of nowhere and single-handedly saved my ass. We’ve been together ever since.”

Wyanet caught up to us.

“You are both beacons of joy and happiness, aren’t you?” Kalista remarked.

I chuckled, “Why be happy all the time when it is so much easier to run away from your problems?”

Kalista was taken by a fit of laughter, “That is very true, and if I had a drink right now we would drink to that!”

Wyanet gave us a puzzled look, but nobody explained the joke. We continued on in near silence. We would stop every now and again to rest our legs. At one point, Kalista managed to shoot a hare we had startled from the undergrowth, or more accurately, insult it to death. The little creature hung from her belt, and promised to be a delicious supper.

“We should make camp. It will be dark soon.” Wyanet announced.

“The cave isn’t much further. We can camp there.” Kalista replied.

Something felt off to me. My stomach had started to twist itself and I became very aware of how quiet the forest had become. Kalista held up her hand and motioned for everyone to get down. The words to express my growing sense of dread caught in my throat.

“Merde,” Kalista whispered, “where did they come from?”

I crawled on my stomach to get beside Kalista, and Wyanet did the same on the opposite side. We laid on a small hill that helped form a tiny valley. Directly opposite us in the hillside was a narrow rocky opening just large enough to fit a man without crouching.

The entire valley area hosted a collection of crude hide tents of various sizes. The space in front of the cave mouth had several drying racks made from small trees that were sagging from the weight of dead animals on them. Across from the drying racks, was a cage made from tree limbs as thick as my wrist that had been lashed together. Inside the cage were two women, a man, an Elf who had been beaten bloody and a Gnome with twigs in his hair. All of their clothes were ragged, but the women’s were far worse.

As we watched, two Goblins approached the cage. One of the women started to wail. The Goblins, each no taller than four feet, drew their swords and entered the cage. The first Goblin kicked the gnome aside. The second Goblin pointed its sword at the elf who sat in the corner ignoring what happened. The man grabbed the woman who screamed like a banshee and held as tightly to her waist as he could. The first Goblin grabbed the dress of the other woman and started to pull her from the cage.

Kalista’s panicked whispering caught my attention. “You can’t go down there!” Kalista was trying to hold Wyanet back with little success.

“We have to help them.” Wyanet countered.

I pushed off the ground with my left arm. I rolled over Kalista and landed on Wyanet’s back, forcing her to the ground. I wrapped my arms under hers and locked my fingers behind her neck. Wyanet grunted as she tried to force me off.

“If we go down there right now we could end up in that cage too,” I whispered into Wyanet’s ear. She stopped fighting, and we continued to watch.

The first Goblin had pulled the woman to the centre of the camp. Eight other Goblins had come out of their tents and were cheering on their fellows. The woman fought the Goblin as best she could, but it only ignored her. Even more Goblins had started to slink from their tents. The woman had stopped trying to slap the Goblin. She grabbed the frayed collar of her dress, summoned all of her strength, and ripped her dress open. The Goblin who had had a firm grip on the dress, tripped, and fell face first into the dirt. All of its compatriots laughed. The woman scrambled forward and snatched up the Goblin’s fumbled shortsword. She turned the point of the blade on herself, and plunged the jagged rusty blade into her chest. All the Goblins went silent.

A moment passed.

All twenty of the gathered Goblins burst out in a unified, high pitched, cackle. The other woman in the cage screamed. The first Goblin picked itself up from the ground, looked at the woman bleeding out, shrugged, and started fighting with the rope that served as a belt.

Kalista squirmed beside me, Wyanet put her face to the ground, and I felt her body go limp beneath mine.

“WHAT HAPPENING!” A very deep and harsh voice cut through the cackling.

A seven-foot-tall humanoid covered in coarse fur with a crushed bear-like face emerged from the largest tent. All the Goblins went silent again. The fury Goblin lumbered through the rabble. He got to the middle of the circle and saw the dead woman with the Goblin’s sword in her chest. The fury Goblin smacked the first Goblin with a paw-like hand. He then grabbed the smaller Goblin and hurled him across the camp with little effort.

“SLAVES FOR SPIDER LADY! NO KILL SLAVES!” The fury Goblin bellowed before lumbering back to his tent.

The story will continue, April 25th

Written by: Sweeney

https://ko-fi.com/sweeney

Creating original content in an online space is a time consuming process. If you find it in your heart, please donate a few dollars at the link above. It will help keep me producing content for time to come. Thank You, you are appreciated. 

Leap of Faith

The moon had set, and the sun hadn’t yet risen. The world bathed in the dark blue wash of twilight. The chill of the spring air pierced like a knife. I had been awake for nearly an hour. I had already gone through my katas, and now I sat on my knees in the centre of the small room waiting for Wyanet to wake. My hands sat folded in my lap. I took a deep breath through my nose, filling my lungs, then slowly let the air escape through my mouth.

A wave of darkness rushed over my tranquillity and I stood on the shore of a small lake close to where I spent my childhood. The air was hot and sticky. The sun scorched flesh without mercy.

“I didn’t expect to find you here,” A voice as deep as the ocean and more beautiful than a harp said from the trees.

I didn’t reply.

I stepped through the sand, almost losing my sandals. I placed my hand on the surface of the lake, sending ripples across its placid surface. The water was cool, and begged me to dive into it face first. I looked up from the water. On the opposite side of the lake sat a tiger as white as snow with stripes the colour of blood. It had emerged from the forest and come down to the water’s edge.

The tiger lowered his head and lapped at the water. He never took his eyes off of me. The ripples from the tiger’s tongue met the ripples from my hand and tossed the surface of the lake. He beckoned me to him without speaking. I strode into the lake. Before long the water rose up to my chest. The mud on the lake bed sucked at my feet, begging me to stop.

The sun hid itself behind angry grey clouds. The lake surface before me had started to freeze over. The heavy warmth of the air was gone, and massive snowflakes drifted down. The vibrant summer foliage of the trees vanished, leaving only frigid skeletons in their place.

My mind screamed for me to go back. I pressed onward. The tiger grinned.

A blinding flash of light cut through the clouds, banishing the cold. “He is not yet ready to learn your truth!” A woman declared, her voice sweet like honey and comforting like a mother’s embrace.

My head got pulled under the water, I gasped for air.

I opened my eyes. Wyanet stood in front of me with an empty water bowl in her hands. She had already bound her chest and braided her hair.  Icy water ran down my face and dripped off my chin. It was still twilight but the horizon had started to glow with the threat of morning.

“We need to leave.”

Wyanet set down the water bowl and tossed me a towel that I snatched out of the air.

“We’re skipping our bill again?” I inquired.

Wyanet finished stuffing a rucksack, pulled on a simple white shirt and strapped on her leather breastplate. She looked at me and sighed. “Yes, but when we get paid, we are going to come back and settle our debt.”

I pulled on my shirt and tightened my sash. “We’ll need to avoid Ineni.” Wyanet handed me my sword which I tucked into my sash and covered it with a black travelling cloak.

“How are we going to do that?”

I looked out the window to the muddy ground thirty feet below. “Are you afraid of heights?” I asked.

“No, why?” Wyanet replied.

I turned away from the window. “Do you trust me?”

Wyanet gave me a worried look, “Why do we not go out the front door?”

“Ineni is more than likely already awake and working in the tap room. This is the only way.”

Several seconds passed every one of them excruciating.  “I trust you.”

“Good, then you’ll need to do exactly as I say.” I grabbed Wyanet’s spear and threw it through the open window. It sliced through the air and buried itself in the middle of the road. “Next, I’ll jump. When I land, toss down the other gear. Then you jump and I’ll catch you.” I climbed onto the window sill and pushed off.

The wind whipped my hair and cloak about. At the last second, my training took over. My feet squished into the ground, I shifted my momentum, and rolled forward onto my shoulders. I was back on my feet a second later. I pivoted around and caught Wyanet’s Rucksack and shield as they tumbled through the air. I placed the rucksack on the ground beside me and braced to catch Wyanet. She had climbed into the window and clumsily pushed off the sill. Wyanet flew as well as a chicken.

I rushed forward and caught Wyanet before she hit the ground. She collided with me like a stone thrown from a catapult. We both tumbled to the ground. I gasped for air as what I had was forcibly removed from my lungs by a 120-pound woman using me as a breakfall. There was a laugh from the shadows beside the tavern. Wyanet pushed off my chest driving me deeper into the mud, and sprinted to retrieve her spear. I scrambled to my feet and got in a low defensive stance.

“That was a pretty amazing show.” Kalista’s nasally voice half whispered as she detached herself from the shadows. “I’ve skipped out of Ineni’s before, but I’ve never jumped from a third-floor window.” Kalista came close enough for us to clearly see her. Instead of the scandalously low cut shirt, she had been wearing the night before, she now wore a dark green tunic that hugged every curve of her body. On top of that, she had on a dark leather gambeson that, when synched up, would be just as tight as the tunic. Kalista’s entire head, with the exception of her eyes, was wrapped up in a dark green hood and muffler.

“We are going to come back and pay,” Wyanet replied, still tense.

Kalista pulled down her muffler. “Don’t worry about it, darling. I owe Ineni at least a hundred dragons, and that’s just from the winter. He can’t make you pay.” Kalista pulled her muffler back into place. “Let’s get going. There is an angry farmer looking for a sexually devious Tiefling who had sex with his daughter last night.” Kalista brushed past us. Wyanet gave me an annoyed look. I shrugged my shoulders.

We walked through the town in silence. When we entered the forest, the sun had started to crest over the horizon and cast long shadows. We continued on in silence for another hour, birdsong keeping us company.

“How much did old Clas hook you for?” Kalista asked as she pulled her hood and muffler down.

“Who is Clas?” Wyanet responded.

Kalista stopped dead in her tracks and stared at us in disbelief. “How do you not know who you are working for?”

“He never gave us his name,” Wyanet said.

“We don’t actually even know where we are,” I added.

“Merde!” Kalista exclaimed. “How do you not know where you are?”

“We’ve been on the road since we met. We don’t stay in one place for too long.” I answered.

“We avoid the paths that the colonizers make. It is faster and avoids their settlements.”

“Anyway,” Kalista insisted, “how much are you being paid?”

“Fifty dragons.” Wyanet interjected, “We should keep moving.”

Kalista let out a long whistle. “Old Clas must be getting desperate. He only offered the Elf girl twenty-five.” We started hiking again. “That’s a tidy sum. What are you going to do with it?”

“I don’t know. I guess we’ll pay Ineni, but after that.” I shrugged, “We haven’t really thought that far ahead.”

“You’re welcome to spend it drinking with me, eh?” Kalista winked at Wyanet.

We fell back into silence and continued to hike until noon. We stopped in the shade of an oak tree and sat down for lunch. Wyanet pulled a loaf of hard crusty bread, some chunks of elk jerky, and a few handfuls of dried berries out of a small pouch that hung from her rucksack. Wyanet offered some of the food to everyone. Kalista threw off her gambeson and plopped down excitedly producing a deck of playing cards. A massive grin split her face.

“Let’s play a game while we eat.” Kalista shuffled the cards and fanned them out to Wyanet and I. “Everyone draws a card. The person with the highest value card loses, and they have to tell a story based on the suit of the card; If you draw a heart, you tell of love, a diamond for a story of fortune, clubs for a story of victory, and spades for a story of loss.”

Wyanet and I gave each other reserved looks, then each drew a card. Kalista drew a card for herself and set the rest of the deck aside.

“On the count of three, reveal your cards.” Kalista smiled like a little girl. “One…”

We all held our cards close to our chests.

“Two…”

Kalista’s dark eyes flickered with mischievous intent.

“Three!”

We held out our cards. Kalista held a two of clubs. I had the seven of spades, and Wyanet held the queen of hearts.

The story will continue, April 18th

Written by: Sweeney

https://ko-fi.com/sweeney

Creating original content in an online space is a time consuming process. If you find it in your heart, please donate a few dollars at the link above. It will help keep me producing content for time to come. Thank You, you are appreciated.