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. 

Lust, Rum, and Horns

Wyanet and I burst into the Crimson Snowfall. It was early in the evening and the villagers had started to filter in. “Ineni!” I bellowed as I rushed up to the bar, “I need some information.”

Ineni placed a foaming mug of ale before an annoyed halfling who’s hair and shirt clung to him with sweat. Then he turned his broad shoulders toward me.

“You’re a rude little git. I spend the entire day hoeing fields and your pale arse runs in here and interrupts my drinking.” The halfling mumbled in our direction.

Wyanet thumped her spear against the floor behind the halfling. “Is there a problem?”

The halfling glanced over his shoulder and sneered at Wyanet, revealing a couple of rotten teeth. He paused for a second and scanned Wyanet from head to toe. He mumbled something unintelligible as he slid off his bar stool and slunk to a table in one of the corners.

“Mr Applebottom isn’t wrong.” Ineni said, “Damian was just very rude.”

“He has not spent much time around civilised people,” Wyanet smirked, “but he does have some important questions.”

Ineni half turned away, leaving one hand on the bar. “That depends on the questions if I can be of any help.”

“How many spiders have you seen or killed around the tavern lately?” I asked.

Ineni looked to the ceiling and stroked his chin. “Are you asking about the little brown ones or the big furry ones from the Archipelago?”

“The furry ones, like you killed this morning.”

Ineni thought for another minute. “In the past week, I’ve killed about a dozen or so. Why is that so important?”

“It is a suspicion of his about what happened to the Baronet’s children. I do not know if I believe it.” Wyanet interjected.

“How long ago did they start appearing?” I asked.

Ineni replied immediately. “One or two normally come in when I get a shipment from the Archipelago, but the last shipment was almost two weeks ago. I think one of the spiders got out of the crate and laid eggs somewhere. I don’t see how that is connected to the disappearance of two children.”

“Have you seen any Dark Elves pass through the village?”

“Can’t say that I have. What do they have to do with this?”

“Just a hunch. Are there any caves in the forest, or maybe someone had a new door in their cellar recently?”

“I don’t know much about the woodland here. I lead the builders and settlers in after the Baronet and his company cleared out the Goblins.” Ineni pointed at a magenta skinned Tiefling sitting in an alcove near the fireplace.”If you want to know about the forest, you should talk to Kalista. She was part of the Baronet’s company, and now she works as a huntress for the butcher.”

“Thanks, Ineni.” I took a single step away from the bar.

“You’re going to want this.” Ineni placed three small clay cups on the bar and slid a squat opaque bottle across the bar.

“Add it to our tab.”

“Already did, Mr Damian.” Ineni chuckled.

Wyanet approached Kalista’s table first. She leaned her spear against the wall and took a seat. Kalista leaned back in her chair and eyed Wyanet with confusion. “You’re a bold beauty,” Kalista said, her accent sweet and lyrical, but spoken through the nose. “That’s a refreshing change from most of the other women around here.” Kalista made a sweeping gesture towards the rest of the bar.

I ambled up to the table, placed the clay cups down, and filled them all to the brim before taking a seat beside Wyanet. Kalista shifted her black eyes back and forth between us. She grinned and drank the brown liquid in a single gulp. Kalista rocked her chair up onto two legs and crossed her legs on the edge of the table.

“So, it’s business is it?” Kalista laughed, “And Ineni sent you with the good booze from home.” She snatched the bottle from the centre of the table. “This is going to be good.” Kalista filled her cup, looked at it and decided to drink from the bottle instead.

I picked up the cup and threw back my first shot. The dark brown liquor smelled of vanilla and tasted of sugar, and burned as it ran down my throat.

“Well, darling?” Kalista said to Wyanet. “Are you going to drink with us, or sit there like a priest in a whorehouse?”

Wyanet picked up her cup, sniffed it, and flinched back in surprise. She took a small sip and contorted her face in pain. Wyanet dropped her cup, spilling the rest of her rum onto the table and floor. “You people drink fire?” Wyanet coughed.

“First time with rum darling?” Kalista clapped Wyanet on the shoulder and fell back into her chair. “Don’t worry, you get used to it.” Kalista laughed again, “How about you, Willow Twig? You want some more?” Kalista offered the bottle back.

I pushed my cup forward and Kalista filled it back up, wincing when she spilt a bit more on the table.

Kalista took another swig from the bottle. “Now, let’s get down to business. What do you want?”

“How do you know we want something?” Wyanet demanded.

Kalista shrugged. “Darling, people only buy me things if they want to have sex with me, or they want me to do something I would rather not do.” Kalista trailed off, “then again most of the men who buy me things I don’t want to have sex with.”

“We aren’t here for sex,” I interjected.

Kalista humphed, “speak for yourself, Willow Twig.”

“We need to know if there is a cave entrance near here,” Wyanet stated.

“You two don’t look like the spelunking types.” Kalista put her feet back on the table. “Don’t get me wrong, you’re a lovely couple, but you look like the types who avoid real danger.”

“It’s for a job, we need to know if we can get into the Underdark.” I declared.

“We think it was the Dark Elves who took the Baronet’s children,” Wyanet added.

Kalista choked mid drink and fell forward on her chair, her flamboyant attitude had vanished. “If that is true, then they are already dead.”

“We still have to try,” Wyanet said.

Kalista sighed, “You’re just as stubborn as that Elf girl.” She leaned back in her chair. “If you two are insistent on getting yourselves killed, there is a cave mouth roughly a days hike from here.” Kalista kept speaking but she became distracted by something behind us. “I’m heading out in that direction in a couple of days on a hunting trip.” There were shuffling footsteps behind us. “I’ll show you where it is, but I’m not going down there with you.”

“Kalishta.” An intoxicated man slurred.

“Merde,” Kalista whispered in Infernal.

“Kalishta,” The drunk man shoved me out of the way and forced his way to the table, spilling his drink on Kalista in the process. “Kalishta, I’m –hiccup– in love with you –hiccup– I nefer want to be away from you.”

The drunk man was violently pulled away from the table by another man in his early twenties who was rippled with the muscle from life on a farm. “Kalista is my girlfriend!” The farm boy shouted in the drunk man’s face. “And I’m going to marry her!” The farm boy turned to Kalista, got down on one knee, and produced a ring of tarnished gold with a poorly cut diamond on it from his roughspun trousers. “Kalista, you are the love of my life and I want to spend every moment possible with you for the rest of it.”

Kalista looked at Wyanet. “See what I mean? They only buy you nice things if they want to have sex with you.” She turned to me, “Have sex with a man once and this is what you have to deal with for the rest of your life.”

Kalista grabbed the bottle of rum off the table and sauntered around to the two men. Kalista snatched the ring from the farm boy and opened her arms in a welcoming gesture. “Gentlemen, we’ve been over this. I’m not ready to settle down yet.” She pocketed the ring. “Now come closer, we still need to learn some manners for addressing a lady.”

The two men stepped closer to Kalista, the drunk man on her left and the farm boy on her right. When they were close enough, Kalista headbutted the drunk with her horns. The drunk stumbled backwards, blood gushing from his cockeyed nose. When he was far enough back Kalista took the rum bottle in her left hand and smashed it against the farm boy’s head, sending him sprawling.

Kalista glared at the drunk. “Don’t spill beer on a lady, especially when she’s wearing white!” She shouted, and turned to the farm boy. “And don’t interrupt a lady when she is talking!” Kalista stared at the neck of the broken bottle in her hand, a single tear ran down her cheek.

“Damn it, Kalista!” Ineni roared from behind the bar.

“What!?” Kalista hollered back, “They started it, and the little chatte made me waste the good stuff.” Kalista turned back to Wyanet and I. “Change of plans, we leave at daybreak.”

The story will continue, April 11th

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.