Castle Roland

Sands of Time

by Roland

In Progress

Chapter 6

Published: 8 Apr 14

Sands of Time

Copyright © 2014-2017 by Roland
All Rights Reserved

Xavier woke well before dawn, sweat dripping off his forehead. He had once again been reliving the final days before he was sent here. Silently he stood up, and dressed, before moving out of the room. The Royal Blade, now never far from his hand, was slipped over his shoulder, easily resting with its hilt sitting above his right shoulder.

His first stop after he exited the room was to go outside, and check on their wagon. It was still dark out, but that didn't bother the Halfelf very much. He dunked his head into the water trough and pulled it back quickly, flinging the cold water way behind him. It felt good, the sleep being blasted away by the very cold water in the trough. He walked into the barn, and nodded to the soldier that was guarding the wagons.

He did a quick check on all the horses, and War Steeds, then moved to the wagon. He checked his glyphs and saw none of them had been disturbed, so he wandered off, outside. He could already see and hear the people setting up for the days trading. He was so deep in thought that he didn't hear Mablin step up beside him, until the man spoke. "It should be a good day for trading."

Xavier jumped slightly, quickly readying a spell. He sighed deeply as he let the spell go, seeing who it was. "My apologies, I was lost in my own thoughts."

"I noticed." Mablin said with a grin. "Your mind seemed to be thousands of miles from here."

Xavier absently nodded. "You could say that." He looked to the man, trying to figure him out. He could easily have used his mindmaster abilities, but he tried to limit that to when he needed to, and right now, Mablin was not someone he needed to use them on.

"Well, I may not be the best person for this, but it's often said that sharing your troubles halves them. If you would like a friendly ear, I would be happy to give you one." Mablin placed a reassuring hand on the boy's shoulder giving it a bit of a squeeze.

Xavier choked back a sob, turning towards Mablin he let a tear fall. "My father used to say something similar."

"Sounds like a wise man." Mablin said softly. He couldn't be more curious about this group of children had he tried, but he also knew that, if he wanted the truth, he would have to let them come to him.

"He was. And one of the greatest beings I ever knew." Xavier turned and looked out over the marketplace once more. He was torn. Deep down he liked this man, even though he had only known him for a few short days. But... "I would like to share my troubles, however, I do not know if one, you would believe them, and secondly, I do not wish to put you in more danger than our mere presence brings." He said very softly.

"Son, I know there are some strange things about your group, things that you, for reasons of your own, feel you need to keep to yourselves. I will respect that, and only hope that one day you would be willing to share them with me. However, if there is something that places me or my caravan in danger, I need to know. If for no other reason than to make sure my men know about it, and know to protect you." While he words were hard, his tone was anything but.

Xavier looked up, then met the man's eyes. "Sir, I do not wish to insult you or your men, but, if trouble find us, it will be us who do the majority of the protecting."

Mablin's eyes narrowed as he spoke. Yet his voice never became harsh. "Xavier, I know you all carry weapons, and just by the way you carry them, I know you know how to use them. However, Some of my men are trained, and Drathmore is a Secondary Echelon Swordsman. As for myself, I am a Teaching Echelon Mage."

Xavier stared into the mans eyes for several seconds, before he spoke, his voice so soft that only Mablin could hear him, and then only barely. "Mablin, three of us will be testing today, with the rest of us testing when we reach the town of Junsac. Every single one of us will pass the tests that we are given, and none of us will be tested true. Lew felt it would draw too much attention to ourselves if we tested true."

Mablin looked surprised, but not angry. He lowered his voice to match Xavier's. "And where did Lew say that you would rank if you tested true?"

For several seconds, neither one said anything, as Xavier searched the man's eyes. Deciding he needed to find out just how well he could trust the man, Xavier decided to tell the truth. "If I have converted the Ranking system that I know, to the one that is used here correctly, Olpha would receive the lowest Echelon level, of Secondary Step 1." Mablin's eyes went wide, so Xavier quickly continued. "Both myself, and Garnet should rank around the Teaching Echelon, Step 1 or 2."

"Remember, no matter what is said to you, you are not to respond. They will try and come up with a reason to say that you are not fit to be tested." Lew warned Syth softly as they stood outside the Druid Guild Hall.

"I guess it is a good thing that they are probably not intelligent enough to speak a proper language then." Syth said with small grin, and a large glint of humor in his eyes. Even with how nervous Lew was at that moment, he could not help but laugh. Honestly though, it was not Syth that he was worried about, but more Xavier who stood next to him. Hopefully he could stop things from escalating to the point where Xavier felt the need to fight or kill to defend his friends honor. Leading the way into the guild hall, Lew made sure to place a reassuring hand on Xavier's shoulder, silently tell the young Prince to let him handle things. Xavier's grim look, but nod told Lew that he would try, but try was all he could promise.

Agrona, Syth's winged Bobcat did not look out of place as they walked through the halls, towards the testing chamber. When they entered, all noise seemed to die as everyone looked at the odd group that walked in, of course all eyes fell on the Drow.

Even with his eyes cast to the floor, Syth could easily feel all the eyes on him, and none of them were friendly. If they only knew that he had faced down Dragons, and not a single one of them actually intimidate him, they might have had different thoughts. As it were, he was glad that neither he nor Xavier could understand what was being said.

Lew was also very thankful for that fact when the Guild Master walked up, looked at Syth, then spat at the group. "What is that thing doing in here?"

Lew took a deep breath, then motioned to Xavier. "His Master would like him to test for Primary Step 1."

The Guild Master, a rather rotund human, looked confused as he looked from the Pantherling, to the Halfelf, and then the Drow. Finally he settled on Lew. "What, don't neither of them speak?"

"They hail from a distant land, we have only found one common language, and I have agreed to act as their translator... for a price." Lew said, trying valiantly to keep anger out of his voice.

"I hope the price was worth having to deal with that thing." The Human said, not bothering to hide the disgust in his voice. When Lew said nothing, the man finally let out a very annoyed sigh. "Fine, but tell its master, we charge double to test one of them."

Eyes never leaving the human in front of him, Lew spoke to Xavier in the Dragon tongue. "The Guild Master insists on double price for testing Syth." Lew was finding himself to be the one that needed to keep his temper under control. The Guilds set the price, and he had never heard of a Guild Master raising the price. What he knew, that he would never tell Xavier was that he was sure the other gold piece would simply go into the man's pouch.

Xavier took a deep breath, but reached into his pouch, pulling out two gold pieces that he handed the man. With a rather surprised look, the man looked down at the coins. He shrugged when he saw a dragon pressed into the gold, but, gold is gold. The man shrugged put the gold into his pouch, and motioned for Syth to follow him into the Testing pit.

Meanwhile Tillcor was leading Malachi around the market, looking for weapons and armor. Their eventual destination was the Swordsman Guild Hall, but Malachi would not go there without proper weapons and armor. Tillcor had to fight back snickers as he was sure he was learning some rather interesting cursing, however, he was only able to pick up what his Dwarven friend said, when he spoke in Dragon.

"People actually fight wearing Bronze as Armor?" Malachi asked incredulously. "And make real weapons out of it?"

"Yes." Tillcor said simply.

Malachi was about to respond, when something caught his eye. "Ahh! Bless the Gods! Real weapons!"

Tillcor had to hurry to keep up with Malachi, as the boy practically ran to a nearby shop. A shop that Tillcor had drooled over many times, but was never allowed to even look through the open door. The reason for this stepped out of the door, and blocked Malachi's path.

A large Human man, wearing plate and chain armor, a large sword on his back, and Swordsman, Secondary Step 3 Guild pins, on his collar blocked his way, looked down at the young Dwarf with folded arms. "Move along boy, there's nothing in here for you."

Malachi looked confused for a moment before he looked at Tillcor. The young human boy ran up, and looked at the huge guard. "It be okay Dagger! He be lookin fer weapons like what's in here. He got the coin for it!"

He then looked to Malachi. "He be wanting to make sure you get the coin to pay for things. Just show him a couple of gold coins."

Malachi shrugged, reached into his pouch, and pulled out six coins. He showed it to the guard, whose eyes went wide. However, he did back up and let the two boys into the shop.

Malachi slowly walked in, looking around at the weapons with a practiced eye. He bypassed many of the lesser weapons in the front of the shop, and moved towards the back where the well crafted armor and weapons were kept.

The shop owner came out and looked confused at the two boys, before glancing at his guard. The human nodded, and the shop owner shrugged. Dagger would only let those that actually had coin into the store.

Malachi noticed the shop owner, a Gnome smith, wearing Teaching Echelon Guild pins. He spoke quickly to Tillcor. However, before the boy could respond, the shop owner actually responded in Dragon Tongue. "Thank you for your word of our skill. I do have the bestest of quality in Gnomish Steel to be found in all of Welleger. You may locate some Dwarven and Elvin steel goods on and in our display as well, but alas, it only be thing repair here, not make. However, my apprentice and I take pride in our craft."

"As well you should." Malachi said as he looked at a Stone Steel Dagger. "I have spent much time in a Forge, and this is some very good quality work."

"Ahh, so you be a Metal Worker?" The Gnome asked. "I see no Guild pin, you be guilded?"

Malachi was still very interested in the weapons, and responded while looking over a very well made Stone Steel broadsword. "Not as of yet. It was my intention to go to the Swordsman Guild after getting some appropriate equipment. From there I was going to inquire about testing in Metal Work, as well as Gem Work."

"Well, you are indeed a fortunate lad. You be looking at the being that tests both Metal Workers and Gem Workers." The Gnome said with a satisfied smile.

Malachi grinned as he looked over at the Gnome, and nodded. "Perhaps after I finish my business here, you could test me on my two subfields."

"I am sure such a thing could be arranged." The Gnome said with an equal smile. Obviously this lad knew what he was talking about, and since he knew to take care of equipping himself and others, before he did anything else, also told the Gnome, that Malachi had his priorities straight.

As he watched Malachi look over the weapons, Tillcor saw an opportunity to learn something new, learning something new was an opportunity he would never pass up. He pointed to a dagger that Malachi had set aside, meaning he would purchase it. "What makes this better than the Bronze Dagger you said was worthless?"

Malachi stopped, looked at Tillcor, then the shop owner. The Gnome smiled and motioned for Malachi to go ahead. "Consider this the first part of your test. Any Metal Worker needs to be able to explain the differences between the different types of metal.

Malachi nodded, smiled, then took a deep breath. "Okay lad, let’s start with the basics. The different types of metal that there are. Even though I would never consider using Bronze for a weapon, since those around here seem to prefer that, I will start there. Bronze is one of the easiest metals to work with, it is not very hard, which means that it will break easy. This does mean that it will sharpen rather easy, but it will not keep an edge very long." Tillcor nodded knowing that it was true.

"From there you have Iron. Iron is stronger than bronze, but it also has the problem of being poison to all Elf blooded. While it is stronger than Bronze, it does not hold an edge very well, and it is rather heavy."

Malachi walked over to the front of the shop, and picked up a plain steel knife. "Then you have Steel." He handed it to Tillcor to look it over. "Steel is made by smelting Iron, thus making it much stronger. It will hold its edge longer, and is much harder to break than Bronze or even Iron, which Steel is mostly made out of."

Malachi went over and picked up three more knives, and laid them out on the table, motioning Tillcor over to look at what he laid out. "Then you have the Racial Steels. Now honestly, none of these are actual Steel, but it is the name that is given to them. First you have Gnomish Steel, Dwarven Steel, and finally Elvin Steel. They largely act like regular Steel, but were developed in different ways, by the different races."

Malachi then drew one of his daggers. "Then we get into the Special Steels. These were again developed by Gnomes, Dwarves and Elves. Each of the races created a 'Super Steel' if you will. The way they are made is rather complicated, and for now, not something that I think will benefit you. However, if you choose the learn how to work metal, we can discuss that in greater detail." Tillcor nodded with wide eyes.

"First lets talk about the Super Steel that this fine master craftsman forges. Gnomish Stone Steel. It is extremely hard, solid, and will hold its edge very well." Malachi handed Tillcor the dagger he had drawn. "However, the downside to Gnomish Stone Steel is that it is very heavy. That is why, if you look around the store here, you will see mostly chopping and smashing weapons, as well as some of the heavier slashing weapons. You will see very few light and fast swords though, since Gnomish Stone Steel is usually too heavy for someone who prefers those sorts of weapons."

Tillcor was entranced by the lesson he was getting, but even more so was the Gnome. He would have sworn this mere child could be a teacher, that is of course if his work in the forge was as good as his knowledge and explanation of the different types of metal.

Malachi looked around, found another weapon, pulled it down off the shelf, and handed it to Tillcor. Tillcor took it while handing Malachi back the dagger he was holding. "What do you notice different about this blade, than the one I handed you a moment ago."

Tillcor looked it over for a few moments then spoke carefully. "First it has a bit of a blueish tint to it. It seems somewhat thicker, but not as heavy."

"Perfect!" Malachi exclaimed. "You are exactly right lad. That is Dwarven Blue Steel. While primarily made for chopping weapons, it is light enough to be used for almost anything. However, for younglings, or those beings who are smaller of stature, it may still be a bit heavier."

Malachi grabbed yet another dagger, and handed it to Tillcor. The boy put the Blue Steel dagger down, and took up the new one. "This one is lighter, and slightly silvery." Tillcor said as he looked the blade over.

"Very good. That is Elvin Silver Steel. Very light, and almost as durable as it's heavier cousins. It's primarily used for slashing and stabbing weapons. Out of all the Super Steels, it is almost always used for thrown or fired weapons, like arrows or crossbow bolts. That is not to say that the others could not be used for such, it is simply that it is lighter. The other advantage to Silver Steel is that it, unlike all the other metals, can damage creatures normally only damaged by silver."

Malachi started to return the items to the shelf, when the Gnome Teacher decided to test this boys knowledge a little more. "There is one metal you missed."

Malachi looked at him for a moment before he nodded. "Yes. There is also Eldwar Steel, but since I did not see any here, I did not think to bring it up."

"You have seen Eldwar before?" The Gnome almost gasped. "I have only seen it once. An axe wielded but a young Elvin Watch member. I would have paid many coins to be able to see it up close, or even hold it, but the lad was not in town long enough for me to do so."

Thinking quickly, obviously now not wanting to tell the man that he not only had seen Eldwar Steel, but knew how to create it. Two different times he had attempted the Trance to allow Edlwar steel to be made. Only one of those times was a success. Thankfully it did not require a trance to repair it, which he had done many times. "Like you I have seen it, yet I had to ask my Instructor what it was. That is when he told me about Eldwar Steel. I have not seen it since then though."

The Gnome got an almost wistful look on his face as he spoke softly. "I would be willing to give up almost everything I own to get my hands on a single Eldwar Steel weapon..."

"How is it made?" Tillcor asked.

"Lad..." The Gnome said sadly. "I have heard rumors of Legendary Metal Workers that know how to make it, but that is only rumors. I am almost afraid that the art of creating the 'Metal of the Gods' is lost.

Malachi had to turn away to not allow the Gnome to see him grin. A plan starting to form in his head. When he turned back, he looked at Tillcor and spoke softly. "Go back and get the wagon, I do believe I will be making enough purchases here to need the wagon."

Tillcor nodded wide eyed, and rushed out of the building. When Malachi turned to the Smith, the Gnome was grinning broadly. By the time Malachi and Tillcor left, they did indeed have a wagon full of armor and weapons, but Malachi had two new Guild pins on his belt, both Secondary Step 3, where Xavier had told him to test, one in Metal Working, the other in Gem Working. He also had a plan on how to learn something new. It seemed in this time, the only real way to make a magical weapon, was to enchant a gemstone, and then work it into the weapon. He would have to find out how to do this.

The one who had the most fun that morning though, was Garnet. He was without a way to speak to the people here, and had to ask one of the slaves at the inn to show him to the Warrior Adept Guild Hall. Finally, he decided to bring the Bronze Dragonling with him to translate for him. Garnet did not like the idea of his words being translated into Orcish speak, but he figured since he would not be able to understand what the little Dragonling was saying to whomever they were talking to, he would handle it.

As they walked down the street, Garnet decided to try and get to know the young one better. He sighed as he knew he would have to do it, no matter how much it hurt his ears. "Young one. I would like to speak as we walk. Please do your best to speak properly, but I will not hold anything against you so long as I can tell that you are trying. Okay?"

The Bronze Dragonling looked up at him, and Garnet was reminded of his younger brother. The only other one in his family that also was born with the Dragonling shape. He and his brother were close, his brother trying to be much like Garnet. What Garnet saw in the young Dragonling's eyes was the same hero worship that he saw in Sordian's eyes, almost every time that Garnet would begin the lad’s training. He sighed to himself as he rubbed one of his horns. Like it or not, he was be drawn to this child.

"Me... I understand... Master." The Dragonling said.

"No." Garnet said with some force in his voice. He pulled out his dagger, and before the Dragonling could move, he quickly reached in and slit the collar off of his neck. "I am not your master. However, if you agree, I will be your teacher."

The Dragonling stopped and rubbed his neck in wonder. When Garnet stopped and looked back, he saw the beginning of tears in the lad's eyes. Not wanting to see the boy cry, Garnet stepped up and spoke softly to him. "The first thing you need to do is pick a name. A free being is not simply called lad, boy, or Dragonling. Nor will I pick one for you, that is how a slave is treated. You need to decide on a name."

The joy that crossed the Dragonlings eyes was almost enough to drive Garnet into a rage. No Dragon-kin should ever be so excited about simply having a name. Yet he kept a tight control on his emotions knowing that the boy could easily misunderstand the target of his anger. The boy was silent for a few moments before he spoke softly. "Braki. Me like the name Braki."

Garnet grinned, for once it was not forced. The happiness and pleasure in the boys eyes was enough to make Garnet grin. "Then Braki it is." He wrapped an arm around Braki's shoulder, and started to walk again. "Come we have much to do this day."

They continued to walk with the Inn slave leading them further into what was now known as a city, even though to Garnet it was barely a hamlet. Braki could not keep his hand away from where the collar used to be. He simply as not used to it not being there. "Braki, how was it that you became a slave?" Garnet asked gently.

Braki just shrugged. "Me always be a slave." He said simply. Then seeing the look in Garnet's eyes, he continued, thinking before he spoke. "I... My first memories were being slave. I not know where me come from, or nothing. Just know I be a slave."

"You must be close to thirty years of life, and all of them were spent in slavery?" Garnet asked, somewhat shocked.

"Me guess so. I... I don't know fer sure."

Garnet wanted to ask more, but the slave stopped and pointed to a large building in front of them. Garnet nodded, pulled out a copper coin, and gave it to the kid. He was still having trouble grasping how someone, even a slave child could get so excited by a simple copper coin, but the lad bowed deeply and spoke several things, that Garnet could only guess were 'thank yous', before he ran off.

"When we get inside, please make sure that the Guild Master understands that I do not speak the language, and that you will need to accompany me throughout the test. I also want you to watch what happens. And do not worry, no matter what happens, I will make sure you are protected." Garnet said then began walking into the Guild Hall.

Even though he was not wearing any armor, nor did he bring his favored weapon, the Chained Sickle, he was still heavily armed. Off his belt hung a smallish Crossbow, he wore a bandoleer full of Elvin Silver Steel Throwing Daggers, he had two Gnome Stone Steel Daggers held within his boots, and carried a large Scimitar slung across his back.

When he walked in, he held his face neutral, and his head held high, as only befitting one of the Dragon-kin. Not arrogant, much, yet confident.

He saw a small line of people waiting to be taken into the training pit. Garnet figured they also taught classes here, which would make more sense than he gave those from this time, credit for. Almost immediately, a human female rushed up to them, with two others that were obviously guards. Braki spoke softly to Garnet. "The woman is wearing Teaching Echelon Guild Pins." Braki then went into a deep bow.

Garnet followed his lead, and listened as Braki spoke to the woman. After several moments, Braki stood straight, and Garnet followed his lead. "Teacher say we follow her to Testing Pit. Also she say if you wanna test for Secondary Step 3 it cost two gold sixty silver. She be worried that you not be prepared for such a big test."

Garnet nodded, and held out a small pouch to the Guild Master. Lew had told him before hand how much the test would be, and Garnet felt it would be better to already have the amount counted out, rather then do it in front of other people. The woman took the pouch, opened it up and looked inside. She closed the bag, shrugged and turned, saying something to Braki. "She say we follow."

Garnet nodded and followed the woman into what he earlier thought was the training pit, however, from the looks he got by those waiting, it became apparent that this was where the first part of the test would take place. When they got in there, Braki made sure to stay out of the way, yet close enough to translate when needed.

Garnet looked around, wondering where they were going to send him, and what he would find to test his skills. He did not see a gate stone, nor a Mage able to portal him somewhere. That would probably come later. What he did see was a large pit ringed with weapon racks. Almost every conceivable weapon was shown there, although Garnet saw that many that he knew how to use were not there.

"Teacher say you need to cast your autospells." Braki said from behind.

Garnet became a bit confused, knowing that he might need his spells when he got into what ever combat that was to come, but he did as we was told. One by one he went through the spells, making sure to put no more force than needed to make them go off.

Finally the woman held up her hand to stop him. Garnet stopped wondering what had happened, he still had a few more to go through. The Teacher spoke, followed moments later by Braki's voice. "Master say you do well. Now it be time to test your weapons skill."

The Master walked over to a weapon rack and pulled out two long swords. She walked over and handed one to Garnet, when she stepped back, she brought her own wooden sword up into the ready position, while speaking. "Teacher say you need to show you know how to use what ever weapon she hand you."

Now thoroughly confused, yet knowing better than to argue, Garnet moved in on the Teacher. He felt rather foolish as he 'spared' with the Teacher, just like he did when he was in the Preparation Echelon.

Over the next hour, the Master handed him weapon after weapon, and made Garnet 'spar' with the Teacher. Garnet was actually getting a bit aggravated as he was handed his tenth weapon. He very much wanted to just get the test over, so he could get back to his friends.

In the middle of the sparring, the Teacher called out. Immediately Braki shouted down. "Teacher say you increase strength!"

Garnet growled in aggravation, this was just more force he would have to take away when he finally got to the real test. WIth a mighty blow, and his strength increased a bit more then he should have, Garnet's wooden sword impacted with the Teachers sword, shattering it. Not only did her sword, shatter, but so did Garnet’s, when it impacted her shoulder.

The Teacher was driven to her knees, one hand on the ground, the other holding her shoulder. All around them the Pit was eerily silent. Garnet was breathing deeply, but quickly stepped back. It only took a moment for the Teacher to get back to her feet, shaking off the effects of Garnet’s blow. She looked at him for a moment, before speaking, then turning to leave the Pit. "Teacher say we follow." Braki said in a hushed tone from above.

"Finally, I get to the actual test." Garnet said to himself as he followed the Master out of the pit. However, instead of going anywhere else, once out of the pit the Master simply turned, handed him his Guild pin, and offered her uninjured hand for a shake. More out of instinct than anything else, Garnet shook the woman's hand in a traditional warriors handshake, grasping forearms. She spoke to Garnet, then turned and left, obviously searching out the Healthman.

Braki came over and said softly to Garnet. "Teacher say you have exceptional teacher!" The boy was almost bouncing. "She say you do better than most higher Echelon beings!"

"That was it?" Garnet asked in complete confusion. "But... When do I get tested?"

"That be the test." Braki said, now as confused. "You be tested to make sure you have spell. Then she test you, make sure you know how to use weapons. What else be tested?"

Garnet shook his head, then moved outside, not liking how many people were staring at him. He took a moment to affix the pin to the bandoleer of daggers, before he started to walk back to the Inn. Braki stayed right next to him, and was silent till Garnet spoke, his voice still full of disbelief and confusion. "That was not a test of skill, anyone can know how to use a weapon in a training pit. The real test is when they gate you to someplace, and make you fight something that is at the level you wish to test at. If you survive, you pass, if you do not, then you were not ready to test."

Braki looked at Garnet wide eyed, yet neither one said another word as they walked back to the Inn.

The market place was a chaotic place to say the least. People seemed to set up on a first come first serve basis with no rhyme or reason. The tax collector moved around the market collecting a fee per wagon being set up of a single silver while those who came in with packs were charged a copper. A couple of times fist fights broke out as two merchants tried to race to the same spot close to a main street entrance.

The interesting thing was Mablin’s location didn’t look ideal. In fact it was along the back edge with only one smaller street coming into the main square. However, after nearly an hour, Lucas suddenly realize this was a prime spot. It was, in fact, the best spot since anyone doing serious shopping had one need above all others, water. Mablin’s set-up location was closest to the only well in the town square.

Another thing Lucas noted was Mablin’s distaste for the town guard. Any guard member who came up found prices well higher, in some cases double what others were paying. Another thing Lucas tried desperately to figure out is the whole trade thing. Many, maybe even most bought goods with other goods. Since almost everyone was open for such trade, Mablin was actually refilling his wagon with different goods. It was almost impossible to figure out what things were worth with such a wide variety of goods being traded for other goods. It was almost like coins were a privilege to have instead of a necessity.

By the time the sun had warmed the air to the point where breath’s were no longer seen, the irritation of the guards were starting to show. Several glared and a few even tried to steer people away from Mablin’s spot, but the well placement prevented this. Several times Mablin sent a guard a smirk, as if taunting them. Finally, one guard had reached his breaking point. He stormed over to the man's trade wagon and slammed his fist down on the table, “How dare you treat the good guardsmen of this town like beggar scum!”

Mablin snorted, “I am only replaying the guard contingent for the treatment I, and those who came with me, received when we entered the gate. Now, I have paid for the day and if you do not remove your hand from my table I will say you bought it, which... well, that sword and your buckler would be a fair exchange, don’t you think?”

The guard quickly pulled his hand away and started to puff out his chest. Mablin grinned, “Oh, you wish a stint in the arena with me? I promise to only cast primary and secondary echelon spells.”

This caused the man’s face to lose a great deal of color as he took a couple of steps back. He shook his head wildly. “No, no spell throwin’!”

“You’re a Swordsman and can use your preferred weapon and I am a Mage and can use my preferred spells. Such is an even exchange, don’t you agree?”

Lucas snickered, he really couldn't help it. When he saw the rather irritated guard approach the main table, Lucas slipped behind a wagon, and cast the spell on himself that would allow him to understand what was being said.

"Teacher." Lucas said, not able to keep himself out of this. "If he would like, I would be happy to take your place. Perhaps he would fair better with one of your students?"

Lucas really thought the guard’s head was going to pop off or explode. He had never, even in the heat of the worst fighting, seen a man turn the shade of red he saw in the guard’s face. The guard took half a dozen breaths, but it didn’t calm him, if anything it only made his face redder and the veins on his neck could actually be seen pulsing. After another attempt to control his temper, the man utterly failed he moved toward Lucas, “Boy! You... You little snot nosed squatter class, piece of goblin snot! You and I, in the arena! You challenged me and I accept!”

Before more could be said a large man in full chain armor and carrying a steel flail on his hip moved up and gripped the man’s shoulder. At first the guard didn’t notice, so the larger man made a snarling sound and the muscles in his arm rippled visibly. Suddenly the grip he had on the guard’s shoulder got the guard’s full attention as he let out a hiss followed by a gasp of pain.

The larger man’s face told all those looking on he was far from happy, “Guardsman Jorpal! You will cease and desist at once! You do not call any member of a caravan a squatter, no matter what was said! Now you apologize to this lad before I remove a section of your collar bone!”

"Good Warrior Adept. If your self righteous, overly haughty, underling, has his heart set on meeting me in the arena, I would be more than happy to oblige." Lucas said with a small grin. "I promise I will not hurt him so badly that he could not resume his duties on the 'morrow, assuming that you have a skilled Healthman nearby."

The larger man’s voice boomed with laughter. “Oh, young one, young one, young one, of this I cannot wait to see! Let it be knowing you are probably about to get your butt reddened in a way capable of matching Guardsman Jorpal’s face... Almost.” The man laughed again. As he literally lifted up Jorpal by his shoulder and tossed the man over a meter behind him. “Fine, young one. Let us set this match, but as the Captain of the Guard of Welleger, I will set the rules. First, no real weapons, wooden ones only. Second, this is to submission. Death or serious bodily injury is grounds for fifty lashes and three days in the stocks. We shall see you tonight, sunset in the pit. Be prepared."

The Captain of the guard then turned to look at a wide eyed Mablin, “And you, you have a beef with my guards, huh? Well, let us find a way to make this right, here and now so this matter is dealt with and my guards able to buy goods the likes of which are not often carried through our gates with snow still on the ground!”

Slipping into the Dragon tongue, a now somewhat pale and sweating Lucas spoke to Mablin. "That is a bit extreme I think." He then forced a smile onto his face. "I will have to make sure I do not hurt him too badly." Mablin looked at the boy and could easily see the nervousness behind the bravado.

Mablin rolled his eyes, and shook his head, "Well, Captain, I think the boy is about as nervous as you could make him, since fifty lashes is scaring him worse than any Dragon-kin could. But just to set the record straight, I am putting 250 silver on the boy.

“Now, as far as my complaint with your men go, there is a certain gate guard one of my young slave masters has a major problem with, and annoyed me greatly as well. Sure the slave in question is Drow, but he is a gladiator slave and charging me and the others more for bringing in a slave gladiator is simply not acceptable. If you really want to make this a good night in the pits, then let us delay this farce of a match between guardsman Jorpal and Lucas, since it will not take Lucas but a moment to fell the man who thinks puffing out his chest like he wants to display breasts, and thinks doing so is a manly thing to do.

“Instead give us a couple of days to send out runners, announce a real match between the Drow boy and your gate guard, this one a no holds barred match. Let the one where Lucas disgraces your disgraceful guard be a warm-up match to the real thing.” Mablin had noticed Xavier, Lew, and Syth walking up to them, so he had raised his voice loud enough for them to hear.

Lew quickly translated for Xavier and Syth. Syth's expression did not change, except for a small smile creasing his lips. Xavier though grinned widely and spoke to Lew. Lew then raised his voice loud enough to be heard. "The Drow's master not only agrees to the terms, but thinks it is a wise idea to hold it a few days hence, giving us time to make this a proper match, where the Drow's master can make a bit of coin off the back of your guard."

The Captain of the Guard moved up to Syth and lifted up the boy's arm, staring at the Druid pin. His hand ran up Syth’s arm and lingered over a set of puncture scars. Shaking his head he glanced over his shoulder at the Halfelvin boy with a hint of anger in his eyes, but after the briefest of moments gave Xavier a nod. He frowned deeply and let out a sigh as he detected nothing to indicate the Halfelf was concerned for his slave. Finally, he pulled the hood down off the Drow boy's head. He then ran his hand down the boy’s cheek in an almost tender way.

He then turned his full attention back to Mablin, “I can see in the boy’s eyes he has seen combat and has been bloodied. None of my men could stand up to a spell thrower and his pet. I will agree under the condition the pet stays out of it. His spells are fair game, but at least without his pet, he will have to use extra Force to cast, giving my man a fighting chance."

Xavier had been scanning the Captain's surface thoughts, and was somewhat shocked to see that this man was not seeing just a Drow, but a boy that was about to be forced into the Arena, in a fight that will most likely result in someone’s death. The requirement of not allowing Agrona into the arena was not meant to stack the deck against Syth, but more to make sure things were somewhat fair. The man seemed to know that Syth was a lot more dangerous than his new Guild pin showed.

Xavier spoke softly to Lew who moved close to the Guard Captain and spoke quietly. "My friend here would like to invite you to dine with us this evening, his way of showing thanks to the first person that we have met in this city that was actually able to see the child and not the Drow. He understand if it would not look appropriate, and you would have to delay till after the match, but the offer stands. Dinner, for you and your family."

The Captain of the Guard looked astonished, but after a few seconds nodded slowly, "It will have to wait. Besides, if I happen to lose 250 silver, my wife will demand I find more the a few free dinners!"

Lew and Xavier spoke briefly before Lew spoke again. "My friend says that he will make sure that your losses are recouped. As well as your kindness rewarded." The Guard Captain frowned slightly, but nodded, then turned and walked away.

Xavier walked over to Mablin who was looking a bit annoyed. "You had better make sure Syth wins, I just placed a large bit of money on him, and if he loses...."

Xavier just smiled, pulled the man a slight bit away, and out of the eyes of others. Keeping his voice low, Xavier whispered. "Do not worry my friend. Syth and I discussed this, and we will be making more than a bit of gold off of this." He reached into his pouch, pulled out a coin, but made sure that Mablin could not see it, yet. "To show you how serious I am, please use this to make this match as public as possible, for I am sure that many people will bet against Syth." He then opened his hand, showing Mablin the Platinum Piece.

Mablin's eyes went wide as he looked at the coin. He was fairly rich, yet he had never seen, yet alone held or owned one of there. He looked up into Xavier's eyes, who simply nodded. "Trust me, my new friend, Syth will not loose, nor will you. Consider this a way to pay you back for everything you have done for us, and what I am sure you will have to do in the future."

If you are reading this story, email Roland and tell him what you think of the story: Roland

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