Killian looked up as the door to his room opened. He shuddered when he saw the man, his new master, a merchant known as Mablin, walk into the room, shutting the door behind him. It only took him a moment to remember what he needed to do. He scrambled to his feet, and stood his head low, tears of shame falling from his eyes. "What may I do for you... Master?" The last word was forced out through his tears.
The man sighed, moved to the only chair in the room and sat down. Killian stood still where he was, and waited for the man to speak.
"Sergeant Drathmore told me this was a bad idea, but I am the Caravan Master, so I will do as I wish, and as I feel is right." Killian was confused by what the man said, but knew better than to do or say anything. He may have only been a slave for a week, but the welts on his back and backside had taught him some of what he needed to do.
"Killian, please sit." The words were a surprise. No one had used his name since he was sold to this man, they simply called him 'boy' or even worse, 'slave'. The boy looked up, and when the man nodded to him, Killian went over and sat on the small bed. "I know this is difficult for you. However, you must deal with what Fate has given to you. Right now your fate is one of a slave. Whether it stays that way it up to you."
Killian wanted to ask what the man meant, but was too afraid to speak out. Mablin saw this and nodded. "For now you may speak your mind. Nothing you say till we leave this room will be held against you."
It took Killian almost a full minute before he could speak, but when he finally did, the words tumbled out of his mouth. "I cannot do this!" He cried out. "I cannot be a slave! How could he do this to me? How could he sell his own flesh and blood?" He seemed like he was about to go on, but the fire just left him, and he slumped back onto the bed crying.
Mablin sigh as he stood up, and moved over to sit on the edge of the bed. Softly he stroked the boy's back as he cried. After almost five minutes, Killian's crying slowed down enough to where he looked up into the man's eyes. "What... What did you mean about fate? I'm a slave, and will always be one, thanks to that bastard..." Even though his voice was soft, the fire in it spoke with more volume than his words could.
"Worry not about the man that sold you. He will find out that he has made an enemy that he should not have." Mablin said softly. Killian looked at the man in complete confusion.
Mablin simply smiled, stood, and walked back over to his chair. When he sat, Killian moved back to where he was seated before. "Would you indulge me to tell you a story?" Mablin asked, to which Killian just nodded. This was not anything like what he had expected.
"You know that I am a Merchant, but I am also Guilded." Mablin paused and flipped up the corner of his collar which held two guild pins, the first one was the Teaching Echelon Mage pin. The second was of the same rank, but this one a Ruinseeker pin. Mablin saw the shock in Killian's eyes and smiled. "Being a Ruinseeker, I like to tell stories."
He said the joke with a bit of a laugh, which got him a smile out of Killian, a small smile, but still it was there. "According to your father, you are about to turn eleven years old. Is that correct?"
"Yes...Master." Killian said softly.
Mablin smiled and continued. "I was only slightly younger than you are now, when my parents were killed in an Orc raid. I spent a week in an orphanage, before I was sold. A Mage child was just too valuable to pass up, so the local Magistrate signed the papers, and I was sold off. The man that bought me was a Merchant, just like I am now. He promised to complete my training, but I would have to act the part of a slave until I passed into the Secondary Echelon. It took me till I was well past the age of ascension to do it, but I did. It was then that I took over his Caravan. He still receives part of the profits from my sales though. Many people thought it was either extremely foolish, or a touch mad, some said both. But the fact is, that man became the man that I call father."
Mablin sighed as he stood, walked over next to Killian and then sat. "It was not easy, and at times I had to do things that I truly did not want to do, but I remembered what would happen if I held up my end of the bargain." He patted Killian gently on the thigh and smiled down at the boy. "Taking his lead, I make the same offer to you. Will you act the part of a slave, work hard, and train even harder, and when you reach Secondary Echelon, I will set you free. At which point you will take over as Caravan Master, and allow me to retire in the comfort that my former master now lives in?"
Killian looked at the man in shock. Finally though he was able to speak. "And if I say no?"
Mablin roared with laughter as he stood up and crossed the room, almost falling to his knees laughing hard. "My, boy, you do have some spunk in you!" He exclaimed as he sat down. When he looked up though, his eyes were hard, and the laughter gone. "You really have no choice. You are a slave, but your future is in your hands now. That is why I mentioned fate. What you are fated to be, begins right now. If you accept my offer or not, your life over the next several years will pretty much be the same, although if you choose to accept it, you will spend time studying when you are not seeing to my needs, or what I want of you. But truly there is little difference over the next several years."
Killian knew the man was right. He really had no choice. His father had sold him, whether or not he liked the fact, it was still a fact. The only thing within his control right now was his future. Did he fight against being a slave, knowing full well that he would lose the fight, or did he take this man's offer, willingly do Gods know what, for the chance that he reach Secondary Echelon?
Killian knew well that, just because someone is trainable, does not mean that they have the ability of reaching Secondary Echelon. He was already a rare being indeed to be a teachable being, let alone a Sorcerer. But that was by no means a guarantee that he had the ability to reach Secondary. But then again, what choice did he have? None really. This was pretty much his only chance at ever being a free being. When he looked up and met the man's eyes, Mablin smiled when he saw the tears, but it wasn't the tears the man saw that made him smile, it was the fire behind those tears. The fiery determination that made him smile. When Killian finally nodded his head, Mablin smiled and nodded back. No words need be said at that point. Both of their courses were now set in stone.
The Pantherling woke to the screams of the Dragonling child. He rolled, barely noticing that his hip had been healed, only to see the halfelvin child, with hands glowing brightly, push his hands onto the base of the Dragonling’s tail. The light moved into the tail and the Dragonling screamed again. Lew knew the pain of getting a bone magically healed. That’s when it hit him. This young child was Teaching Echelon. Only Teaching Echelon beings could heal broken bones with a spell.
The Dragonling with the Halfelf pulled some herbs out of his Healthman’s pouch, and handed them to the Dragonling child. "Take these, it will reduce the pain, and aid in your recovery."
The child did so, as the Halfelf turned to Lew and smiled. "You are awake, good, I was afraid you would sleep for some time. I was able to heal your hip; however, you will need the assistance of a trained Healthman to finish the recovery of your muscles." The fact that the small Halfelf spoke in perfect Dragon tongue was only one more surprise to the Pantherling.
Xavier nodded his head in greeting towards the Pantherling. "My name is Xavier. It is an honor to meet one of your kind."
The Pantherling frowned deeply as it ran its right hand over the blood matted tan fur of its hip. "You... you are too young to be a Teacher... What magic device allowed you to heal me and the Bronze I was trying to defend?"
Xavier looked very confused for a moment before he spoke. "I used no device, but you are right, I am not of the Instruction Echelon. However, healing a broken bone like that is something I had to do before I could reach the Skilled Echelon."
The Pantherling grabbed a handful of snow and used it to start cleaning itself. "Instruction Echelon? Your words make no sense to me, young Halfelf, but your magical talents... You... you wouldn't happen to be of the bloodline of the killer of King Blathamort, would you?"
Xavier looked around to his friends, seeing if any of them either knew the name, or had a clue what the Pantherling meant. Getting shakes of the head from each of them, Xavier spoke. "I am sorry warrior, we have no idea whom you speak of."
The Pantherling thumbed his Primary Step four Warrior Adept guild pin and forced a smile, which was difficult since he was looking at one of the oddest group ever assembled. Still, they had saved his life so he even forced himself to make eye contact with the Drow, but could not help but narrow his eyes as he did so.
His eyes then fell on the Dragonling, it was a hideous looking thing and he instantly felt sorry for it. The scale color was all wrong. It must have been an outcast hatchling and had a very hard life with such an odd coloring. It was strange, however; most mis-hatchlings were disfigured and were killed out of mercy. This one however, looked perfectly healthy other than the muted brown speckled scales. An off albino, he thought as he forced a much warmer smile since he had no way of knowing what its true race was.
It seemed strange the Halfelf was doing the speaking for the group, but since it was so the Pantherling returned its stare to Xavier, "I am Lew, of Clan Dark Creek. I didn't realize the feats of the young Halfelf has not reached here. If I had not heard the retelling from the court Ruinseeker, I would not have believed anyone, let alone a young Half Elf could have killed the King of the Black Dragons either."
Xavier's eyes went wide in shock. Had he not been using his Mindmaster abilities, he would not have believed what the Pantherling said, yet, as far as the Pantherling was concerned, he was speaking the honest truth. However, even more troubling was the fact that a Black King had fallen. Xavier sighed heavily almost wanting to sit down. "The wars have not ended yet then. Although this King Blathamort must have been not of the Royal line. Before we left, the Black King was Bnardert, and his eldest son was named B’Vardt."
The Pantherling eyed Xavier with a mixed look of shock and confusion. "Bnardert died over 9500 years ago, after finally hunting down and killing the Red Great who ripped the throat out of B'Vardt and left the young prince's head stuck to the top spire of the Obsidian Fortress. This left the red's without a royal line male heir and ultimately lead to their losing their homeland!"
Xavier was stunned. So shocked by what the Pantherling had said, he didn't even realize it when he felt his legs give out on him, and suddenly Garnet was helping him to the ground. "9500 years...." Syth breathed out in utter shock.
After getting over his shock, Xavier's face clouded in anger. "I knew B’Vardt. I have visited the Obsidian Fortress. Place his head on the top spire... I would not have even done that to the Brown who killed my father!" He spat.
Lew slowly turned his head as the reactions of the group was of such utter revulsion it was palatable. Even more astonishing the young Drow seemed to smirk some, which was totally the opposite reaction he would have expected of one who should be loyal to the Black Dragon homeland.
It took several seconds for the words of Xavier to register, when they did the Pantherling forced himself to stand and even as the pain of the still not totally healed soft tissue damage ripped across his hip, he forced himself to stare straight into Xavier's eyes. "Young one, I owe you my life and am honor bound to repay this debt, however, I will not, cannot allow you to make up such tall tales. As much as I despise the Black Dragons and their homeland, to pretend you know of a Dragon Prince who was so defiled is not funny, not proper, and totally unacceptable."
Garnet started to growl, and the others moved in to protect Xavier's honor. Xavier though, held up his hand to stop them, knowing, through his Mindmaster gifts, that no true insult was meant. This Pantherling's Honor was so strong that, even though he hated the Blacks with every fiber of his being, he would not, could not allow someone to tell lies about them. That was something to be respected.
"Honorable Warrior, the fact that you hate the Blacks with ever fiber of your being, yet would still jump to the defense of their Honor, speaks much to me. However, I assure, I am not telling a mistruth here. I know it is hard for one such as yourself to believe, to be honest, I hardly believe it myself, and I am living it. Please sit down, and let me tell you what has happened to us, and perhaps you will understand better."
Lew thought for a moment, then sat down with a wince and hiss of pain. “Fine, but understand, Dragons, all Dragons, need to be spoken of with a degree of respect.”
Knowing Garnet the way he did, Xavier looked over at the Bronze Dragonling to make sure he was paying attention. He was, so Xavier started to spin his tale, the way only a Ruinseeker was able.
"What to me is recent history seems to be ancient history to you. First off, my name is Prince Xavier Seandra. My father was King Rathort Seandra, King and Master of the City and Kingdom of Seandra. The capital City was set in the mountains that bordered the Great Draslik Desert. We were at war with the Brown Dragons and their minions. My father was wounded during the last battle that I know, a battle where we had no hopes of winning, when he cast a spell to send us forward in time. It was his hope that we would be safe, and perhaps be able to recapture the city from the Browns. However, I do not believe that he foresaw us going this far forward in time. As far as Prince B’Vardt goes, I did meet him, as he came with his father to our city, offering to help us defeat the Browns, as long as we allowed ourselves to become subservient to the Blacks. Even though I was somewhat fond of Prince B’Vardt, The Sand Dragons are subservient to no being, especially the Black Dragons." The last part was said with such conviction and vehemence, Lew found himself leaning back even though this provided a new round of discomfort to his hip.
Lew grimaced as he rubbed his hip again, “Sand Dragons? Seriously... You really want me to believe the King of Sand Dragons would send kids through time to recapture a land they were about to lose? Where is your Dragon support then? Where are your Warrior Dragons? Furthermore how is it you can be a Prince of a Dragon Empire and be a Halfelf...” The last words seemed to stick in Lew’s throat. “Are you sure you are not of the linage of the Slayer of King Blathamort and the Great Green female?”
Xavier sighed as he stood up, and removed his cloak. He then started to take his armor off. Syth was right there to help him. While he was doing that, he spoke to Lew. "My father had to use his death gift to send as many of us as he did. As far as my support goes, I have my Bonded Brother, a Warrior Dragon of the Sands, and my friends. By the time we left, every able bodied warrior was fighting and dying to give my father the time he needed to cast such a spell." By this time he was in nothing more than a loin cloth. He moved out into the woods some to give himself enough room to do what was needed. He held his arms out to the side and concentrated. He frowned for a moment as the change was taking longer, and more effort than he was used to, but finally he felt the magic take hold, and allowed himself to return to his natural form.
Before he knew it, a scream of pain ripped from his throat as the bones very slowly started to move. This was certainly not normal. Even as his eyes shifted, he could see the fear and concern on his friends faces, as well as the shock and awe on the faces of the Pantherling and Dragonling. Finally though he felt himself in his natural form. That of a Great Sand Dragon. Stretching his wings out far, and his tail out even farther, Xavier shook himself, then tucked his wings, and looked at the Pantherling. "What do you believe now?"
He looked Xavier over with a bemused look on his face. However as he stared hard the movement in his Adam’s apple showed a clear gulp, although no sound was heard. Finally after a bit of contemplation, he spoke, yet his voice had an edge of fear to it, “No disrespect meant, but I have seen illusions and I have seen dragons. And you look like neither yet both. Permission to touch you and feel your tongue, for the saliva of dragons cannot be duplicated by any spell or spell like ability.”
Everyone in Xavier's group stood up in shock. What the Pantherling just asked was not something that was even remotely proper for one of Xavier's position. Before any of them was able to speak a single word, Xavier spoke for them, knowing full well what the Pantherling was going to ask before he spoke the words. "Step forward, and do as you must." With that said, Xavier dropped his head down to a level that Lew would be able to touch, he then opened his mouth, and let his tongue hang out slightly.
Lew took a deep breath and moved forward. Even as he did so, two things occurred to him and neither was even close to comforting. First was the fact the Dragonling had the same color markings as the 'Dragon' he was now moving toward. Second, and just as disturbing he had seen only one other creature act like the 'Dragon' and this being seemed to know in advance what he was going to say, which meant the thing in front of him was a Mindmaster, a good one.
As he got a little closer, two other things struck him. First was the hot breath, it was too hot for an illusion, way too hot. Even worse, the breath had enough force to move his fur, all his fur, which meant this being was taking in copious amounts of air and exhaling the same. Still, he had to be sure. He reached out and put his hand slightly inside Xavier’s mouth and touched where he knew the saliva glands of most dragons were. Moments later spittle rolled down his arm. Before the first drop hit the ground, however, Lew’s knee was in the snow and his head was bent in a deep bow befitting any member of royalty.
Knowing that the Pantherling now believed him, Xavier decided to deal with the young Bronze Dragonling first. Since the very young one was clawing at the ground, with tears running down its face, and trying to decide if it had a chance to run. With a simple nod of his head in the direction of the Dragonling, he silently told Garnet to deal with him.
Xavier could not help but snicker at the reaction of the Pantherling. To see a creature go from great disrespecting of Xavier, even though it was done with as much respect as possible. He decided to make the Pantherling wait for a moment. First thing he did was reach out and take a large mouth full of snow to counteract the sudden release of saliva. He then took the time to shift back down to his Halfelvin form. The one he was comfortable in, when he wasn't in his natural form. The pain of that shift was even worse than the pain of shifting into his natural form. He couldn't stifle the roar of pain, that turned into a scream as he finished the transformation. He fell to his knees, and immediately Syth was there to help him to his feet. Finally though, he pushed the pain far enough away to where he could stand on his own. He nodded his thanks to his friend, before moving off.
Lew remained bowed low as Xavier walked over towards Garnet and the Bronze Dragonling. "Please mister. Me's no wanna be ate! Me's no wanna be ate by a Great 'specially one that wears the skin of Great!" Xavier couldn't help but cringe at the words spoken. He turned his head to fight down the urge to slap the young Dragonling. However, Garnet acted for him. The sound of the slap brought his attention back. "You do not speak like that in front of a Prince! Have you no pride in being Dragon-Kin?" He scolded the Bronze, which only made the child cower more.
Xavier though just shook his head, and got dressed, before going over and standing in front of the Pantherling. "Please rise Honorable Warrior."
The Pantherling stood, but still kept his eyes downcast. "You show me great respect, and for that I am thankful. However, I now ask if you would be willing to assist us. Obviously we are not from this time, nor know the customs of this place. We find ourselves in need of a guide. Would you be willing to do so?"
Lew forced himself to look up. As he did so, he could see the clear shock on the faces of those with Xavier. He knew they all felt, rightfully, he had just gone far beyond what any being should do to a Dragon, any Dragon. Yet he knew enough to know all Dragon-kin could see the aura of Dragon magic around other Dragon-kin and the Bronze Dragonling boy had clearly stated the Dragon was a Great.
Suddenly the rest of what the boy had said also entered his brain, “Lord Dragon, your armor... it is the... I mean it is from the scales of a Great Brown? This cannot be, there are no more Great Browns!”
Xavier could not help but snicker. "Pine cones? Who ever taught you to block a Mindmaster, did so extremely well."
At the same time, Lucas spoke up. "Well at least one thing is good in this time then. There being no Browns left, well that is not something I will feel sadness over. However, I can say with certainty that his armor is indeed that of a Brown Great. One that he fell."
Lew glanced over to the human boy, clearly surprised the youngster was allowed to speak so openly in front of a Great Dragon he was in servitude to. However, the words of the boy required a response, “Young human, I did not say there are no Browns. I said there are no Great Browns. They are a lesser Dragon race now, but still very dangerous and mean. At this time my Prince believes there are two True females and up to five female Warriors, but they remain well hidden.
“It is now somewhat of a sport and rite of passage for Greats of every race to hunt down and kill at least one True Brown or two Warrior Browns before they can be considered for any spot in any Dragon Court. Even their former White Allies hunt them down for such sport now.”
Lew then turned his full attention back to Xavier, “As for you, Lord Dragon, I did not know for sure a Sand ever existed, although I have heard in the Court of a time where the Sands ruled from the Sands of the Tidal Marsh of Odin to the great City of Sand Storm and the surrounding Deserts of Ba’Thalt where the Blues now rule. The Great Desert your kind once called your homeland is now a wasteland of death and undead.” He forced a small smile, “As for defending against Mindmasters, Lord Dragon, not even you can compare to whom taught the scouts of our Court to counter the effects of a mind scan.
Xavier nodded in thought. After a moment he nodded to himself then spoke. "While I have no idea what the Tidal Marsh of Odin you speak of, however I am aware of King Odin, the first Highman King. Sand Storm was the capital of his Kingdom, and later, what was left of it, became part of the Kingdom of Seandra." He nodded to Lucas as he next spoke. "Lucas's family hailed from Sand Storm before they moved to the Capital City." He trailed off then spoke more to himself than to anyone else. "Then I must raise an army somehow to reclaim Seandra." He then looked back to Lew. "But such things are for the future to figure out. What of my offer? Would you accept to being a guide for us?"
Lew took a deep breath, “To the best of my knowledge, no one or nothing has been within five hundred kilometers of Sand Storm in a millennium or more. Rumor says it is a waste of undead and horrors. The Blues even avoid the area. As for your offer, I will help, but I cannot pledge full allegiance to you. It would go against my core to serve another Dragon Race. I can, however, repay my debt to the... Drow...” The word was all but spat out of his mouth, “By being your guide and guard for a set period of time, say sixty-five cycles of the moon?”
Xavier nodded his head. "I would never ask you to forsake to your oath to the Silvers. However, I would like to know why you have such hatred for my Drow Friend?"
Lew took an involuntary step back, “You know of our pact... our bond... to the Silvers?” Before he could get an answer he nodded, “If you are really from when you say you are, then you know the Silver’s saved us from the Greens.”
Lew then let out a long breath, “As far and the dark one goes, his kind are sk...” He halted his words and held up both hands while going back down to a knee, “Lord Dragon, I mean no disrespect, when I say this about one in your party, but the Drow are the scum of the humanoid races, a step down from even an Illorc or Halforc and barely a step up from an Orc. He will not receive any respect and will be a major detriment to your status by having him unless he is in a slave collar. He will be spat upon, kicked at, and followed by town guards from Junsac to Silverton all the way to Eagleonia. Gate taxes for larger cities will go up for you, having him with you unless he is a slave, and he will never be allowed to carry a weapon bigger than a dagger in any walled city.”
The entire party looked completely stunned. It was Xavier that found his tongue first. "What could the Drow have done that would make them fall that far. In our time they were highly regarded due to their actions during the Mythling war."
Lew let out a long breath, "The Drow did horrible things during the Elvin Dwarfish war, horrible, unspeakable evils. Exactly what, you would have to get with a Ruinseeker to find out, but I can tell you this much, it was enough for the Alphar and Garm to set aside their hatred and lock up Under River forever! Under River is now a city of Demons and Devils, of Vampires and Ghosts. Every child who has ever done anything wrong has been threatened with being sent to Under River..." Off to the side the young Dragonling simply nodded.
Everyone stood there in stunned silence, not wanting to believe what they had just heard. Under River was a city that was highly respected, the Drow were on par with the Alphar as far as respected Elvin races go. The words Lew just spoke were beyond incomprehensible. Just as Syth was about to say something, Xavier raised his hand, cutting of any further question. "Information, even if we do not like what it says, is valuable to us right now. However, let us leave this area of death, go back to our camp, so that we may eat, and your injuries be further tended."
Xavier offered his arm to the Pantherling, which shocked Lew to the core, a Great Dragon was offering to help him walk. For a moment he hesitated, but to not allow the Prince to help him, would be more than disrespectful. He nodded his thanks, and wrapped his arm around the Halfelf's shoulder. "Please bring Lew's gear with us." He said to no one in particular, then Xavier pointed to the Dragonling child, and spoke to Garnet. "He comes with us. Unless he was captured on the field of battle, which I highly doubt due to his age, he should not be a slave. It looks like it will be up to us to educate him so he speaks properly."
He then pointed to the Human. "Cut his clothes off, wake him up, and make him clean himself. Then bring him to the camp. Do not allow him to refuse our hospitality." Getting nods of agreement, Xavier started off towards the camp, the injured Pantherling hobbling alongside.
Garnet snarled at the Bronze Dragonling and pointed to an area near his tent, and next to the main fire pit. "Sit there. Do not speak, unless spoken to, and listen to how we all speak. Try to learn how to speak like a proper Dragon-kin."
The poor child shook in fear, but did as he was told. When Garnet was satisfied, he moved into his tent, and began to take his armor off, just as the rest of the group was doing.
Xavier helped the Pantherling to the fire pit, sitting him down on one of the logs set up as benches. "As soon as we get out of our armor, we will start the fire up. You and the young one need to eat if you are going to heal up fully. Later I'll ask Olpha or Garnet, our two Healthmen, to give your hip another look. I am sure you know that magically healing on the same person, on the same day, does not work very well."
Lew nodded his understanding, "Thank you Lord Dragon." He said in obviously relief, as his hip was really beginning to bother him again. While the bones may have been fixed, there was still a lot of soft tissue, and muscle damage around the hip that would need to heal.
Lew sat there for only a short period of time, trying to really understand what was going on around him now. This was certainly a time where strange things were happening. First the death of two Great Dragons, one of them being the King of all Black Dragons, and now this. He was trying to figure out how it all fit together, and what the Gods were doing.
"Master Warrior, I brought your gear." A soft feminine voice said. Lew looked over, and saw the smiling face of the Halfling looking back at him, his gear held in her hands, as she held it out towards him.
"My thanks." Lew said with a small bow as he took the offered gear. "However, I do not believe you need to call me Master. It is rather apparent that almost every one of you, if not all of you, outrank me in the Guilds."
Olpha cocked her head to the side in question, but shrugged. "I am sure we will speak of this later. For now, I would like to check your wound, if you would allow."
"Of course." Lew said as he stretched out allowing her access to his injured hip.
Gently she poked and probed at his injury, all the while keeping up the conversation. "By the way, my name is Olpha. I know we did not have a chance to be properly introduced earlier."
With a slight grunt of pain, Lew spoke. "It is my honor." He paused for a moment as another hiss of pain escaped. Olpha shook her head slowly, and sat back. Reaching behind her, she pulled a small satchel over, one that Lew had not noticed before. He could tell my the symbol on top of the bag that it was a Healthman's kit, but it was smaller than he was used to. Without even looking into it, first she pulled out a small mortar and pestle set, then some herbs, and oils. As she crushed up some of the herbs, and added a bit of oils, he started to talk.
"I guess it would be best to let you know who everyone is. Is that acceptable?" Lew nodded as he watched her, as she again blindly reached into her bag, pulling out a few more herbs, and adding them to mixture. "You already know Prince Xavier, so I will tell you who the rest of us are. The Dragonling is named Garnet. He is actually a Warrior Dragon who is Blood Bonded with Xavier, per an ancient custom of the Sand Dragons." Lew's eyes grew wide at that. He had heard of the Blood Bond, but had never met anyone who was a part of such a magical and powerful bonding.
"The Drow that saved your life is named Sythranel, although he prefers to be called Syth." Lew nodded, not able to keep his face neutral when the Drow was mentioned. Olpha's face grew dark as she leaned in to speak very quietly to Lew. "I know what you said about the Drow, and while I have a hard time believing that the Drow would do such things, I have no reason to not believe you speak the truth. However, Syth is a trusted friend of ours, and any single one of us would kill or die to protect him. Keep in mind that we are all from before the time of this fall of the Drow. To us the Drow are on equal footing with the Alphar as far as honorable races of Elves go."
Lew sighed deeply, but nodded. "I will attempt to keep that in mind, but please understand the hatred of Drow goes so very deep in almost all people, that it will be difficult for me to see past the Drow, and see Syth. However, I will do attempt to do so. My Honor demands no less."
Olpha nodded, and sat back. "Please see that you do." She paused as she added something else to her concoction, then lifted and inhaled deeply. She smiled to herself as she added a bit more oil to the mixture. She looked around and spotted Malachi over at the pack horse, pulling out his traveling metalworking kit. "The Garm is name Malachi."
"Garm?!" Lew gasped, causing Olpha to stop and narrow her eyes.
"Yes... Did the Garm fall from grace as well?"
"No.. not at all. The Garm and the Alphar were responsible for sealing Under River, and then they both faded from the world. Legend has it, that neither race had been seen since they imprisoned the Drow."
"Well I will be sure to tell Both Malachi and Thane that they should not reveal their true heritage." When Olpha said Thane's name, she nodded over to the Elf that had just emerged from his tent.
Lew's eyes went wide. "He is Alphar?" Olpha simply nodded and Lew sat back again in shock. This group became more and more strange.
Olpha sighed and began to spread her mixture over Lew's hip. He couldn't help but suck in a deep breath, and let it out in a hiss. What she put on his hip burned for a few moments, but then it settled down, and his hip seemed to relax by itself. He almost missed her next words though.
"What of the Highman?" She said as she pointed to the boy who came out of the same tent that she came out of earlier.
"Nothing much is known about the Highman. Some say they are simply legend, but I know that not to be true. However, what few that are left, keep to themselves, passing themselves off as their Human cousins."
"While Lucas may not like it, I will make sure he does not mention his heritage either." She paused, almost afraid of what she will find out with her next question. "And what of the Warman Tribe of the Halflings?"
Lew was able to give her a small smile. "Few if any would know of the Warman tribe. Most people just see Halfling. However, Halflings as a whole are widely accepted. I mean no disrespect when I say this, however, out of your entire group, you would be the one most easily accepted to the common man."
She nodded with understanding as she sat back. "I will want to apply that again before the sun sets, and then again in the morning. After that it will simply take time to heal. Within a week at most, you will be running around as if you were never injured."
"My thanks to you." Lew said as he stretched out his leg, and only winced slightly. "Please understand. I owe all of you a life debt. My own Honor demands nothing less. I will do my best to guide you through these lands, just as I said to the Lord Dragon. However, just as you all must adjust to being in this time, I will have to adjust to being with you. I will try my best, and I am sure it will not take me very long to accept you as you have accepted me. I just ask that you give me time to overcome a lifetime's worth of knowledge and upbringing."
Olpha nodded and was about to say something, when Malachi and Thane sat down around the fire. Malachi pulled out his axe, then opened up his traveling metalworkers kit. Wordlessly, both of the new arrivals began to go over their weapons.
Seeing this, Lew knew he should do the same. While his weapons were of good quality, they always needed attention. Especially after a fight. He decided to do his daggers first. He grabbed his pack, and pulled out his whetstone, and some oil. He got a smile and nod from the Dwarf who was doing the same thing. Lew stared at the blade at Malachi's blade. It looked like no metal he had ever seen before.
In all actuality though, that should not have surprised him that much shrugging, he pulled his two daggers, and started to look them over. He sighed seeing that one of them had a nice sized ding in the blade. That would take a bit of work to work out. But it would allow him time to think, something he needed badly to do.
He hadn't drawn his blade across the stone one full time before he heard Malachi's shocked voice. "Is that BRONZE?" He exclaimed, almost causing Lew to drop his blade.
"Yes..." Lew said in complete confusion. "Most weapons are made out of Bronze, well unless you have the money to afford real steel."
Malachi looked completely scandalized. "You don't use bronze for weapons. Bronze is for statues and other things that you want to look pretty. Bronze can't stand up in a fight!"
Malachi stood up, and walked around the fire till he stood in front of Lew. "May it?" He asked as he held his hand out for the weapon. Lew nodded, and handed the dagger over.
Malachi looked it over, and almost held the dagger with utter contempt. Wordlessly he handed it back, then went back to where he was sitting. He dug around in his kit, and pulled out his small forge hammer. He then looked around, found a rock. He picked it up, then set it on another stone, and smacked it with his hammer. The rock cracked into many different pieces, most of them rather sharp edged. He picked one up and tossed it to Lew. "There! Now you have a better quality Dagger. It's sharper and will hold its edge longer!"
Malachi's outburst had caught everyone's attention, and they had been watching the interaction with some interest. Malachi muttered to himself in a language that Lew didn't know. However from the shocked looks and the giggles coming out them all, told Lew it probably wasn't flattering.
"Malachi! I did not know you even knew such words!" Thane said laughing outright, which only caused Malachi to glare at him.
The Dwarf then looked over at Xavier who was giggling madly. "You said he's gonna be with us for like five years right?"
Xavier sobered up quickly, and nodded. "Yes, his debt will be satisfied after five years."
"We can't have him using Bronze if he's gonna be with us for even a month. Gods only know what we might find in this new and strange time." Malachi said, mostly to himself as he rummaged around in his pack. "THERE YOU ARE!" He cried as he pulled a sheathed Dagger out of his pouch. He drew the blade and smiled at it. "Garnet, do you still have the other dagger I gave you. The one we took off the Orc Shaman?"
"I do." Garnet said as he went to his own pack. Meanwhile Malachi stood, walked back over to Lew and handed him the dagger. "Here, use this one. I pulled it off a dead Orc Shaman. It's not the best quality, but it is better than what you have now, by leagues."
Lew nodded, still dumbfounded by what was happening. He gasped in shock as he pulled out the blade, with steel that was slightly blue in color. "Dwarvin Blue Steel?" He gasped out in shock. "I cannot accept this. It is too costly!"
"Use it!" Malachi almost commanded.
Before Lew could say anything else, Garnet came up and held out another dagger. When Lew drew this blade, he almost fell over in shock, not only was it steel, but it held a slightly silver tone to it, meaning it was Elvin Silver Steel. But even more shocking was the fact that it had a slight glow to it, meaning it was magical in nature. "It is... magical!" Lew gasped in utter shock.
He looked up expecting to see that this was some sort of joke, but the serious nature looks they all gave him, told him it was not. "I... I am sorry. I will honor these weapons."
Xavier spoke in a soft voice. "I noticed you also wear a sword, is it too Bronze?"
Lew hesitated, then nodded without saying a word. Xavier sighed, then turned and walked back to his tent. A moment later he appeared with a longsword in a sheath. "This was the first sword that my father gave to me. I no longer need it, however, I do expect it back if you find something more fitting."
Lew didn't know what more disturbing, the serious look on Xavier's face, or the shocked look on everyone else's face. Clearly they knew something that Lew did not. Garnet was the first one that found his voice. "Xavier..."
Xavier looked at his friend and nodded. "He has shown that he has Honor, and is willing to fight to protect others. Right now, we need every able bodied warrior to be as well armed as possible." Lew saw that no one was about to argue with Xavier over this, so Lew nodded stood up with a wince, and then dropped to his knees in from the Xavier.
"Dragon Lord, I will honor your blade as much as I am able. I am neither a great warrior, nor a spell caster. However, I shall do my utmost to bring honor to your gift." With a shaking hand, he reached out and wrapped his right hand around the hilt, his left going further up to support the blade as Xavier let go and stepped back.
Fighting the pain in his hip, Lew stood, and drew the blade. The first thing he noticed was that the blade was heavy, heavier than any blade he had ever felt before. The blade was made of a very dull metal, one that he had never seen before, but even he could feel the magic coming from this blade. Not like the Elvin Silver Steel dagger that Garnet has given him. That one, the only way he knew it was magical was because of the very slight glow he saw and the runes carved into the blade, not that he could read what they said, or had any real idea what the blade did.
This one though, he could 'feel' the magic, almost like it was calling out to him. Wanting to be used, wanting to... to draw blood. "What... what kind of blade is this?" He asked, his eyes never leaving the dull blade, he could easily see the very sharp edges, and could almost feel it slicing through his enemies.
"Eldwar Steel." Xavier said softly.
No... He could not have heard correctly. "Did you say.. Eldwar?"
Xavier only nodded, and Lew's astonished eyes were drawn back to the blade. In a reverent whisper he spoke. "The metal of the Gods." Thats when he remembered something. He looked over at the Axe that Malachi held, the one he had been sharpening. It was the same dull metal.
"Do you all have weapons of this metal?" Lew asked, almost too afraid to speak the words, not sure if he really wanted to know the answer.
One by one, they all nodded. Lew felt his knees give way, finding himself sitting on the log again as he stared. "By the Gods..." He said softly as he looked his new sword over one more time. Raising his eyes, he met Xavier's, silently pleading with the Halfelf to tell him this was actually true. Xavier simply nodded, and Lew closed his eyes, trying mightily to get himself back under control.
"Okay everyone, let us get back to what we were doing. See what we got off the dead, and make sure to question anything you do not understand. Remember, just because we may not like what we find, does not mean that it is not important." Xavier said, and Lew quickly found himself alone, still staring at the new blade.
"Killian! Come up here!" Mablin said in a shout, and moments later the small brown haired human boy scrambled up and sat next to his new master. Ever since they had their talk two nights ago, Killian had been doing his best to follow the rules. It was not easy at times, since he truly did not want to do some of what he was forced to do, but he kept in mind that someday, he would be able to escape this.
"You called Master?" Killian said as he sat down next to Mablin. The night before, Mablin had informed everyone that they would be leaving at first light, and Killian, like the rest, barely got any sleep as they made sure the Caravan was ready to move out. It was somewhat exciting to Killian, as he had never before been outside the city of Silverton, save for the woods close by. Now though, if what he heard was true, they were now heading to the city of Welleger, and the large open air markets they had there. While the city was no where near the size nor scope of Junsac, the Welleger Market was a draw for those from all over.
"Yes. I wanted to talk to you about what we are doing, and find out how far along you are in your studies. If what your father said is true, you are a budding Sorcerer. Is that correct?"
"Yes Master." Killian said softly. Sorcerers were rather feared, mainly because they did not need training like the other fields of magic did. Sure there were certain spells that a Sorcerer could learn, but those had to be taught to them by one who knew them. However, for the most part, they just needed to learn on their own, pulling magic right out of the air, so to say. They did not need a book like a Mage did. They did not need a connection to an animal like a Druid did, or access to the spirit world like a Shaman.
"Do not hang your head young one. There is nothing wrong with being a Sorcerer, all it means is that it will take more effort on your part to learn what you can do. Have you figured any of it out yet?" Mablin said once again patting the boy on the thigh as they rode in the lead wagon of the large Caravan.
The boy warred with himself for a moment. On one hand, even though he was a slave, and should tell this man anything he wanted to know, the man had also been kinder to the boy than Killian had thought he would be. The man was hard, there was no questions about it. The man forced Killian to do things that he would not otherwise do, and he did have more than a few marks on his backside from when he did not act as fast as his master thought he should, but in all actuality Killian knew very well that he had it better than most slaves.
On the other hand, he had kept his progress secret from everyone, especially his father. He always tried to pass it off as he was not learning very fast, knowing that if he let on, bad things would happen to him. He learned very early on that Sorcerers were feared, but there was one type that was feared more than any other, the Elemental Sorcerers.
Mablin was about to say something when Killian did not answer, but a glance at the boy told of the internal struggle going on inside the boy. It also told the man that Killian had at least figured something out, and now was trying to decide if he should tell. This was something that only the boy could do, and a decision that would help shape the relationship they had for many years to come.
The slave master relationship is something of a tenuous one, at best. Most slaves are simply beaten down until they will do what their master wants, no matter what it is. Simply because they know that whatever it is that the master wants, cannot be as bad as the punishment for not doing it. Those slaves are mere shells, simply existing, but not really living.
Then you had the slaves that still hold onto a bit of their own freedom. They will do what they are told, but in the backs of their minds, they know they are not doing it for any other reason than they have no choice. They have submitted to their master, but have not truly become a slave. These kind do not last long. They either do something that gets them killed, or they are finally beaten down enough to where they become part of the first group.
Then you have the proud slave. These beings are very rare, and should be cherished. They, like any other slave, need to be molded, shaped into the design their master wishes, but without breaking them. This is incredibly hard to do, but well worth it if the Master wishes a slave that is more than just a shell. This master slave relationship is based entirely on trust. Trust that the slave will do what the Master tells him to do, and trust that the Master would not put the slave in any more danger than is needed.
The latter type is the slave that Mablin wanted Killian to become. But again, trust was the basis of the relationship, and right now was a critical point. So, patiently, Mablin waited as the boy warred with himself.
It took almost five minutes before the boy started to speak. His voice was so soft that Mablin had to strain to hear it. All around them it seemed as if all sound vanished allowing Mablin to hear the words that Killian spoke.
"It was just after my ninth birthday. Carter, my best friend, and I went to buy some sweet sticks with the coin I got. We were walking down a back alley way when a man stepped out in front of us. We quickly tried to turn and run, but another man blocked our path from the other way. When we turned back around, the first man told us to give him all our coins and he would let us leave. He had a huge dagger in his hands, and was pointing right at both Carter and myself.
I was so scared I didn't know what to do. I guess we didn't move quick enough because he suddenly lunged and just missed cutting Carter in the stomach. I really don't know how or why, but my hands reacted, as if by themselves. I brought my hands together, and pushed them at the man. Sand shot out from my hands, and almost peeled the skin from his face. Everyone said it was the Autospells, but, well I know that one now, and it doesn't do what I did that night.
Since then I have been practicing every chance I had, usually I went outside the walls, and practiced in the woods. Everything I can do deals with the earth. I can do things like making small spikes rip out of out the ground, and even make the earth tremble slightly." The last part was said in such a soft voice, Mablin didn't know if he had heard correctly, but he knew enough of the rest of his story to believe he had.
"An Earth Sorcerer?" Mablin asked in a voice tinged with awe. This boy as becoming even more amazing by the moment.
He nodded, and Mablin slightly squeezed his thigh. A moment later, as the pressure from Mablin's hand was increasing, Killian spoke softly. "Yes Master."
Instantly the pressure was released. "Very good Killian. I will not punish you for forgetting this time, but you must remember, a slave is never allowed to just nod when he is asked a question.
"Thank you Master." Killian said uneasily.
"Now, would you mind if I asked to see what you can do?" Mablin asked just as quietly as Killian had been talking.
"Now Master?" The boy was shocked that Mablin seemed to be taking this so easily.
Mablin just nodded, and Killian sighed. He knew he had to do something, but he wasn't sure what. It took him a few moments before he looked back up at Mablin. "Are you ready?" The man asked
Killian started to nod, but quickly spoke. "Yes Master."
Mablin smiled a kind smile at Killian's quick correction of his actions, then nodded to the boy. Killian took a deep breath, then held out his arm. Normally the boy had somewhat pale skin, however, as the boy concentrated, his arm took on a darker hue, very much the color of rock.
Mablin's eyes raised as he reached out and touched the boy's arm. While it felt almost normal, he could tell the skin itself was considerable tougher. Almost like the hide of a horse, or something similar. Mablin didn't know that much about an Earth Sorcerer, but could only imagine that, as the boy grew in ability, that particular skill would become very useful, and his skin much tougher than it was now.
"I think when we get to Junsac, after Welleger, we will have to have you re-tested. I have a feeling you are no longer simply Training Step two." Mablin said with pride in his voice. Something Killian had never heard before from an adult, when it came to his abilities. Fear, possibly hatred, and obviously awe, but never pride. Even though Killian was drained after letting the skin change fade, he still grinned like the boy that he was. Mablin couldn't help but reach out and ruffle the boy's hair, earning him a small giggle. "First though, we are going to take a quick side trip to check on rumors I heard of a battle that the Gods supposedly took a hand in." That was enough to wipe the smile off Killian's face.
It was early the following morning, when Xavier went out to find Syth. Ever since Lew had told them of the history of the Drow, and how they were regarded in this time, Syth had been very quiet, and keeping to himself. Xavier could only imagine how bad this was affecting his friend. Even though Syth had been born a slave, he always kept to the Drows highly respected nature, and took pride in that fact. Now though, even that had been taken away from him. Hearing that he would be treated better as a slave, than a free being, was something that Syth could not easily handle. None of them could.
When Xavier found his friend, he was sitting on a rock looking out over the hills, the village in the far distance. Xavier saw that the boy was staring at something in his hands. When he moved close enough to see it, Xavier saw it was the slave collar that Syth used to wear. Without even looking up, Syth started to speak. "Do you remember the day you took this off of me?" When Syth looked up, Xavier saw the tears that were falling down his dark face. Xavier could only nod, not even able to begin to comprehend the pain the boy must be feeling.
"It was the happiest day of my life. No longer was I just a Drow Slave, but I was a free Drow. Something deserving of respect. I vowed to myself that day that would I be the best Drow that I could be. Honorable, truthful, kind... Everything that the Drow stood for and were." His words failed him as the tears started to stream down his face even faster.
Xavier moved up and wrapped his arm over his friends shoulder, and pulled him into his side. He may have been a Prince, but Syth was a friend first and foremost. It took almost a minute before Syth could again speak. "I never thought there could ever be a time when I would ask this." He moved out from Xavier's embrace, moved to stand in front of him, then dropped to his knees, while offering the collar to Xavier.
"My Prince, would you please take me into your service, once again as a slave." Syth kept his eyes to the ground, while holding the collar out. Xavier was stunned to the point that he could not speak. Behind him, he heard several gasps, and didn't need to turn to know that everyone had gather behind him, all of them just as worried about Syth as he was.
Xavier then did something that he would not do often. He used his Mindmaster abilities to read his friends surface thoughts. It was hard to push past the pain and confusion to get to what his friend was truly thinking, but when he did, he knew the reasons, and that made this even harder. Finally though, Xavier knew he had to say something. No matter what Syth was thinking, Xavier just could not bring himself to do it. "No Sythranel. I can not, will not take you as a slave."
Syth looked up quickly, the tears flowing like rivers form his eyes. The pain Xavier saw in those eyes was something that would haunt him for many years. "But my Prince, you must. Me being anything other than a slave will endanger what needs be done. The most important thing is what you must do. I can not endanger that! Please!"
Never in his life could Xavier had imagined anyone begging to become a slave, yet here Syth was doing just that. One of Xavier's closest friends was begging him to become his slave, even after being granted his freedom.
"Lord Dragon..." Lew spoke from behind him, amid the rest of the small group.
Xavier did not even turn, his eyes still locked on Syth's. "Speak." Was all that Xavier said.
"I find myself in a very difficult position. I had never thought I would see such an honorable action from a Drow, but I can not disregard what I am seeing before me. However, the Drow... Sythranel... is correct. His being seen as a slave would make your travels much easier."
Xavier rounded on the Pantherling with murderous rage in his eyes. "I will not allow Syth to be a slave to ANYONE, even myself!"
Lew immediately went to his knees again in a perfect court bow. "Forgive me Lord Dragon, however I do not believe you understand what I was saying."
Xavier snarled, the rage inside of him begging to be let loose and to taste the blood of the creature that suggested he enslave his friend. "Then enlighten me, and make it quick!"
"My Lord, I simply meant that Sythranel being SEEN as a slave would make your travels easier, not that he had to actually BE one." Memories of hot breath and the large teeth that Lew saw less than a day ago, made him tremble slightly at hearing the anger in Xavier's voice.
The hill was silent for many long moments, even the creatures of the woods seemed to know to be silent at that moment. Had it not been for years of practice, Lew would have peaked up to see what was happening as the silence continued.
Finally Xavier spoke, the rage in his voice no longer present. He had turned and was looking once again at his friend. With his own tears in his eyes he nodded. "You may wear the collar if you wish, and I will even allow you to act as a slave if we are in the company of others who do not know different. However I will not actually allow you to be a slave. Is that satisfactory to you?"
Syth looked up in shock. A smile slowly spread, Xavier had come up with a way to allow Syth to keep his honor and dignity intact, yet not allowing his very presence to endanger what must be done. He could only nod, not being able to trust his own voice. "This collar means nothing to me, to any of us." Xavier said as he took the collar from Syth, and slowly, gently placed it around Syth's neck. It took some adjustment, since the last time Syth had worn it had been many years ago, but finally Xavier had it in place. He then reached over to the rock, and picked up the small but well made lock. He held it in his hand for a moment looking at it, before he looked Syth in the eyes. Softly he spoke, pain deep in his voice. "I am sorry my friend, I simply can not place this lock on..."
Syth nodded as he stood up. Gently he took the lock out of Xavier's trembling hand. With his head held high, Syth opened the lock, and fed the end through the loop in the collar, then with a deep sigh, he closed it. He closed his eyes and sighed one more time. Even though the collar felt the same as it had when he was younger, deep down he knew that it did not mean what it used to. Now this collar was a testament to the devotion he felt towards his Prince, and friend.
He opened his eyes and smiled at Xavier before taking the smaller boy into his arms, nearly crushing Xavier with a hug. "Thank you my friend." No further words were needed. By calling Xavier his friend, and not his master, Syth showed Xavier that he would respect his decision. That in itself was enough to Xavier to know he had spared his friend great torment. Life would not be easy for Syth in this time, but, knowing that he could keep his head held high, and his honor intact, was enough to make anything bearable.
Syth released Xavier, then moved over to stand in front of the Pantherling who was still kneeling. "Please Lew, stand."
Lew cautiously looked up into the face of the Drow, and then over towards Xavier who nodded. Carefully Lew rose to his feet, fighting every instinct in his body to try and attack the Drow that stood before him.
Syth held out his hand towards the Pantherling as he spoke. "I know at this time, I can not truly call you friend. I hope, however, that day may come swiftly. Until then, please know you have my gratitude for coming up with a solution to my dilemma."
It took Lew a moment, but finally he grasp Syth's forearm in a warriors handshake. "I apologize ahead of time, but I will have to fight a life times hatred of your kind. However, the honor I just witnessed is something I have rarely seen in a being not of my race. I will attempt to overcome my own biases as quickly as possible. But please do not hold my upbringing against me."
Syth did not need the Mindmasters gift to know the sincerity of Lew's words. He nodded as he gently squeezed Lew's forearm, before he left go. "Come, let us eat our morning meal." Garnet said, breaking the moment. "We have much to do today, and we must decide how we are going to do it."