he caravan road to Alanha used to be safe--but no longer. Once the caravans came bearing their loads of spices and rare woods, metalwork and hand-painted prayer beads. Their guards were no less expensively outfitted, to protect the caravan's treasures; they wore tunics of silk over their leather and jazeraint, earrings that glittered like captured fire.
[GM's note: Alanha is a major trade city in Sorevv; Sorevv is a theocracy and small empire just northwest of Avrezin.]
Once, but no longer.
Now the caravans are "escorted" by silent men wearing red-trimmed white and carrying polearms. The roads are quiet even when crowded, and while bandit attacks have notably decreased, some whisper that the soldiers in white are worse. Sorevv's priests have spoken of holy war, of bringing the bordering realms into the true faith; it is their temple-sworn who have suddenly begun patrolling the roads.
It is some distance from that road where Tonar has made his camp for the night. Sometimes news travels slowly from east to west, from that wraith-haunted land called Qenar and her neighbor Avrezin. And not so long ago, the minstrels and itinerant traders spoke of a second war between the two lands, of Avrezin's loss. Time to see if an opportunity exists to strike against One-eye; surely the Qenaren are no friends of hers.
The evening is dark, and only the shrilling of cicadas and crickets ghosts through the wind. But the shrilling stops, and moments later footsteps are heard through the underbrush.
It has been a nerve-wracking journey for Caeric, who is now attempting to evade the soldiers hard on his heels. Never a moment of safety, of certitude. Wherever he goes, *they* follow--and whether or not the white-uniformed soldiers have any connection with *them,* they caught him with a simple, innocuous magelight. None of the hearsay further west suggested that the Sorevvan had suddenly been afflicted with an aversion to magic-users. At least now he knows.
[Sorevvan = people of Sorevv. It's a slight variant on the "-en" found in Qenaren, Ezinen, etc.]
The broken foliage tells him that may be approaching someone else--but the soldiers behind him, unnaturally quiet, aren't giving him much option.
Let's see how this odd stranger reacts to *that*, Tonar muses over the intentionally-snapped branches. He slips out from behind a bush with the silky movement of a big cat. The scabboard that has rode on his back for so many years rests along with its beloved charge in his right hand. Likewise, the knife normally found on his left hip, rides his right tonight. Being left-handed is sometimes a tactical advantage.
Before Caeric stands a wall of a man, with upper arms as big as the waist of a fine woman. He almost appears out for a relaxing walk, dressed in leggings, fur-lined boots and vest.
[Scott's note: Caeric cannot determine the true length of the sword in the massive hand because he is viewing it virtually pommel-first.]
Caeric's head bows slightly as he hears the branch snap from behind him, the faint sound echoing in his ears, his lips pressing together to a tight, thin white line. That he was followed he knew, that the Zealots were close he suspected, but this close? Again. Another snap, this one louder, almost deliberate. The thin line loosens slightly, the edges curving up into a bare smile.
He reaches over with his right hand, grabbing at the loaf of bread that rests against the bedroll, his left drifting idly inside the pack by his side, quickly returning with a rather plain knife, the small steel mirror resting easily inside his cuff. Still looking down, he drops the bread into his lap and easily switches the knife to his right hand, the left slipping the mirror out and turning it quickly until he settles momentarily on the large shape approaching from behind. A large, pale form, but to his relief not white clad, and to his joy, not black.
Caeric nods slowly to himself as he picks up the bread again, momentarily struggling to keep his face plain as he listens intently. His blade flashes in the dim light as he cuts two large chunks from the loaf, spearing one and raising it casually to offer to the form which materializes in front of him.
"You might want to put one of those away if you'd care to join me for a bite. A tad hard to eat while holding *that*." With *that* he glances up, smiling thinly at the fellow towering over him, offering the chunk of bread again.
Tonar looks down at the mirror and allows a smile to spread across his broad face. "Expecting someone?" he asks. While he waits for a response, he shifts the scabbard to his left hand as plants it like a walking stick as he reaches out to accept the bread with his right.
Flame image provided by Clipart Castle.