Man, I'm loving all the snippets so far! And I've got a couple of my own to contribute (finally).
First off, Abigail makes her triumphant return!
Well, It Seemed Like A Perfectly Reasonable Idea at the Time
(or, Threatening Half-Orcs for Fun and Profit)
Well, this certainly wasn’t what I expected. The shop had been completely out of herbs. In fact, all of the shops had seemed to have been pretty much out of everything.
According to the herbalist, all of the town’s shops had slowly been losing goods over a long period of time. Then all of a sudden, everything had just vanished! I found that quite peculiar! After all, items weren’t supposed to do that! At least not mundane ones. It almost seemed like magic! Maybe it even was magic! At the very least, it warranted an investigation! That, and if I didn’t get those herbs to Gramma… Well, that just didn’t bear thinking about!
And so I found myself wandering about the town, searching and searching for any signs of residual magic. I was just getting frustrated, when suddenly I was interrupted by a voice.
“What the hell are you doing?” It was a little Halfling. It was the first time I had ever seen one up close. She had very short hair, one part blonde, the other dyed black. Or maybe it was one part black and the other dyed blonde. I couldn’t really tell. Either way, it was largely covered by a raggedy pale blue bandana that she had tied around her head. On her back was a tiny little bow and a quiver filled with arrows, and around her waist was a big, thick belt that housed a variety of daggers, lock picks, tools, and pouches. Her large, bright blue eyes seemed to watch my every move.
She was so cute! I just wanted to cuddle her!
“Hi there!” I was so excited to meet her. “I’m Abigail. Right now, I’m looking for magic! You see, all of the goods in this village have disappeared, and I’m trying to find out where they went so that I can buy some herbs for my Gramma,”
The little Halfling lady just stared at me for a while. Finally, she asked me a question.
“How old are you…?” she stared at me quizzically, her eyebrow cocked high. She sort of reminded me of how Gramma looked when I said something stupid.
“Eighteen,” I replied, confused.
“And you went out to buy herbs for your grandma, but since there are no herbs, you‘re looking for magic that may have stolen the herbs?”
“Yep, that‘s about right,” I answered proudly.
“What are you, stupid? Magic residue dissipates within minutes. Considering how long the stuff has been gone, there won‘t be any of it left,”
I was completely taken aback. I had thought that it was such a good plan too. And just like that, this little Halfling had completely torn it to shreds. And she wasn’t even dressed like a witch!
“Oh…” I was getting very upset. “Oh, Gramma is going to be so disappointed in me! I can’t do anything right!”
“Hey, hey, don’t get worked up!” the little Halfling lady said agitatedly. “Geez, if you want to get those herbs so bad, just ask the half-orc who’s tied up in the square! He’s supposed to be the one who’s stolen all that stuff,”
Oh, that just made me so happy. I gave the little Halfling lady a great big, grateful hug. She yelped in shock as I lifted her off the ground and spun her.
“Ohthankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou!” I squealed. “You’re a life saver! Thank you, Ms….?”
“Cass,” the little Halfling lady mumbled. “And if you let me down, I’ll even take you there! How about that, eh?”
Soon we found ourselves in the town square. And there, in the pillory, was the half-orc. He looked like he was sleeping. I shuddered a little when I saw him. His broad, bestial face was covered in scars, and his head was covered in long, dirty, white hair. His hands looked like they were as big as my face. He was the first half-orc I had ever seen, and he was a lot scarier than I thought they were going to be. Cautiously, I approached him.
“Um, hello?” I squeaked. No response. Warily, I poked his stubby nose.
Suddenly, his eyes burst open. I screamed.
“UGH! WHAT DO YOU WANT?!” he bellowed. “HOW MANY TIMES DO I HAVE TO TELL YOU DAMNED PEOPLE THAT I DIDN’T STEAL ANYTHING?!?”
“Sorry!” I whimpered. “I thought you did! I apologize! See, I’mnewtotownandsomeonetoldmethatmaybeyouwerethethi efandIthoughtthatmaybeyoucouldhelpmefindsomeherbsa nd-”
“HEY!” he interrupted me, as he shifted his attention to someone else. “WHERE DO YOU THINK YOU’RE GOING?! DON’T THINK THAT I’VE FORGOTTEN ABOUT YOU!”
I turned, and there I saw Cass, trying very hard to sneak away.
“YOU THINK I DON’T SEE YOU, YOU LITTLE BITCH?! I’M GOING TO KILL YOU FOR PUTTING ME UP HERE!”
I stared at Cass in shock.
“You had an innocent man put in the stocks?!” I was horrified.
“Innocent my ass! He was trying to kill me!”
“ONLY BECAUSE YOU TRIED TO STEAL FROM ME FIRST, YOU LITTLE-”
“QUIET!” I yelled, surprised at the commanding tone in my voice. “Quiet! Both of you! Cass, let the poor man out! He’s suffered a lot because of you, and he deserves to be set free,”
“Are you crazy?” Cass was frantic. “He’s going to kill me!”
“No he won’t,” I turned to the half-orc. “Because I’ll stop him if he even tries!”
At that, they both burst into laughter. The half-orc was laughing so hard it looked like he was about to cry.
“Ahahah! I like your attitude, little witch! Alright,” the half-orc chortled. “If you let me go, I promise that I won’t hurt the Halfling,”
I turned to Cass.
“You have lock picks don’t you? Let him out,”
Reluctantly, Cass pulled out her thieves’ tools and unlocked the stocks. The half-orc threw off the stocks and stood up to his full height, massaging the feeling back into his wrists.
He was really, really, really big…
“Alright,” I smiled at both of them. “Now we can all be civil! I’m Abigail Weathers, and this is Cass,”
“Kurgan, Son-of-None,” the half-orc bowed to me. “And while I’m thankful for what you have done for me, I can’t stick around,”
“What? Why not?” I asked.
“Because I’m an escaped prisoner right now,” he smiled wryly. “Besides that, I made a promise to some new friends of mine that I would break them out as soon as I got free…”
And now, another NEW character! This is Tavor, the unluckiest lucky ex-gladiator, reminiscing about a reminiscence.
Yes, really. No not really.
Echoes of the Past
I watched his blood fall in droplets, splashing into the dirt, being drawn in by the embrace of Mother Earth. And soon, he had fallen too, first to his knees, and then face-first into the pool of his own blood. I grabbed him, and turned his face so that it faced mine.
“ISAAC! ISAAC!” I screamed as I cradled his limp body. But my cries were for naught. He was dead even before he had hit the ground. He was dead as soon as I had slashed open his throat.
The lash of the whip forced me to relinquish my friend.
“Get up, boy!” the lanista spat as he whipped me again. “He is dead, and you are alive! Now get up, before I end your worthless life as well!”
I screamed as I felt the whip against my back.
I screamed myself awake as I bolted upright, and jumped in shock as a shape suddenly moved beside me.
“Tavor…?” a woman's voice mumbled from next to me. “Tavor, are you all right?” My thoughts returned to me. Adina. My wife. My bed. My home. This was my life now.
“Y-yes,” I stammered. “I am fine, Adina. It was just a dream,”
She gave me a wry smile.
“Do not lie to me, Tavor. That was obviously no mere dream,” Adina shifted herself upright. “Now tell me, or I’ll have you put to death for lying to a noble,” she smiled teasingly.
“It was Isaac,”
“Oh,” she laid her hand on my shoulder. We sat together in the bed for a while, until she finally saw it fit to speak once again.
“You should not blame yourself for his death, Tavor,” she said. “You had no choice in the matter! You lived, and you managed to escape it all. He would have wanted you to be free, not to fight until you died! You were his friend after all! Do not chastise yourself up for living!”
I kept mulling over her words long after she had fallen back to sleep. Was she really right? I had a title. I had a palace. I had a wife. I no longer had to fight. I was alive. I was living the dream of every gladiator, but why was I still unsure of everything? Would Isaac really have wanted this for me?
Was this right?
And finally, Varen's back!
Family Reunions Are Always Awkward
(or No, I honestly can't write a story without someone crying in it)
She said that she loved me. But after she had said so, it felt like our relationship had regressed. She hardly spoke. She never came close to me if she could help it. I was used to her shutting me out, trying to keep alone with her thoughts. But this was different. It almost seemed like she was trying ignore me, to forget that I existed, and to forget that she ever admitted to caring for me.
It seemed that the closer we came to our destination, the farther she got from me. And now we were finally there. We were waiting in the Emperor’s castle, surrounded by guards, just waiting for him finally to show. And Natalia wouldn’t even look me in the eyes.
I guess she didn’t have to, as the door suddenly burst open, the Emperor entering with long, confident strides. The guards snapped to attention, but the Emperor looked just as easy-going as ever. Smiling widely, he approached us.
“Varen! Good to see you!” he grasped my hand and shook it vigorously. “How long has it been? Three years? Good gods!” He laughed warmly, then suddenly cut himself off upon seeing Natalia. He stood and stared at her for what seemed like ages, my hand clenched tightly in his. Finally, he spoke.
“…Is that her?” he released my hand and approached her, still looking as though he were inspecting her.
“I am Natalia, your highness,” Natalia smiled at him. It seemed like the first time I had seen her smile in weeks. It probably was.
“It is lovely to finally meet you, Natalia,” the King took her hand and kissed it. “We have heard so much about you from Varen. My little daughter Sadia has been praying for your safety every night, for the past three years! I daresay that she will be incredibly excited to meet you,”
“You are very kind, your Highness,” Natalia curtsied.
This was too weird. Natalia wasn’t acting like herself. She was far too polite, too demure. As the Deathwind, she had never hesitated to curse the Emperor’s name, and now she was practically kissing his feet. And Natalia was never, ever, one to do anything like that.
Was she trying to make a good impression, so that when we told the Emperor about her previously being a Crownbreaker, he would still heed her warning? Was there something he had that she wanted? Did she think he would only respond to polite behavior? Had she had some sort of epiphany while she had been keeping to herself? What was going on?
“Ah! Please, do pardon my rudeness!” the Emperor said suddenly, as though he had just remembered something. “You two must have been traveling for ages! Come, we will talk more in my study. There are plenty of seats where you can rest there,”
The King led us through the enormous, stone halls of the castle, surrounded by his retinue of heavily armed guards. For some reason, he seemed incredibly interested in Natalia, and chatted with her ceaselessly as we walked.
“So tell me, Natalia, from what family do you come from?” the Emperor asked when we finally reached his study. It was an innocent enough question, but Natalia’s response was far from ordinary. Her demure little smile transformed into a devious grin.
“I’m glad you asked, my lord,” she seemed like she had been waiting for that question all day. “I come from the Sen’Gowran family. My father was Adam Sen’Gowran, and my mother was Dawn Kolne. My uncle is Emperor Acton Sen’Gowran. Perhaps you’ve heard of him?”
The Emperor stared at her, dumbstruck, for what seemed like ages. Then he suddenly burst into a fit of hearty laughter.
“I knew you looked familiar!” the Emperor caught her in a tight embrace. “You look just like your mother! Hahah! And that joke there! Leading me on like that! Ahahah! Such a clever girl! Aha…”
I realized with alarm that in between his fits of laughter were wracking sobs. Soon, he was crying openly, tears flowing down his face. Natalia looked completely stunned. Whatever she was expecting, it certainly wasn’t that.
It certainly wasn’t what I was expecting either. I could scarcely believe my ears. Natalia, Tali, my oldest friend, my love, was royalty! It seemed like too much to believe. But seeing her there, next to the Emperor, there was no doubt. The familial resemblance was uncanny.
“I thought you were dead,” the Emperor bawled. “I thought that my brother’s bloodline had b-been gone f-for good…”
Natalia stood there silently. Then finally, she patted the Emperor’s back gently.
“I… I understand,” her voice sounded choked. She seemed like she was about to cry as well. “But, I’m afraid that this is not what we came here for.
“You see, my lord, we have come to warn you,”