Roguehaven: Short Stories of Kharis
(Author's notes: These short stories are taken directly from short story exceprts, scribblings, musings, and adventures played with friends over the course of three decade. Thank you for your time in reading them)
Episode : Thorns and Brambles
- The Coldest Way
The cold and harsh winds blew down and into the cave ledge, as Megar watched across the canyon, his hardened eyes scanning the snowy drifts through a bone-carved snow-shield. The thin slits of the eyepiece kept his eyes from being blided by the shine of the snowy drifts and ice, reflecting back at him from the bright sun that only a day ago was covered by thick and unforgiving clouds.
“No sign of the Cyrevi, the pracks won’t journey this far out on a day like this. No, they’ll sit over in the cedar groves, and fatten themselves on elk and muskrat…”
“And wait for us to invite ourselves to dinner” A voice chirped its way into existence from the long and lanky man. Cloaks thicken a man during wintertime, but this man’s cloak only gave the slightest girth to an otherwise gaunt frame.
“Vrain, I told you. Guard her and guard her well. I might have the outcropping, but we still don’t know who, or what is sleeping further in this cave. It could be the entrance to a whole Reydi stronghold for crying out loud.”
“Don’t you think that if this was a Reydi stronghold, there’d be flags, or shields or some cave writing? Look, there’s nothing!” Vrain hissed, toppling his satchel to the ground.
“Nothing! No food, no warmth, no women, save the tart who so nicely told me to check on you while she bathed herself near the fire. I swear, if she wasn’t royalty, I’d.. “
“You’d sit there and show her the right respect, princess or not, Vrian” Megar continued “… but a princess she is, by blood even, and the Sharistan throne wouldn’t take too kindly to her escorts causing any harm to her.”
“Don’t get me wrong, not too anxious to be drawn and quartered between the thoroughbreds of the Silver Vanguards any time soon, but… maybe it’s just the harsh cold and the warm bodies that’s messing with my mind.”
Megar grumbled and then struck his hand out towards the opposing canyon wall, his leather-cloaked hand forming a point. “There! Beyond that line of trees, there’s the vagrants… those pracking cowards! It looks like they’re taking the old Reydi paths through the canyon to the East. That’s fine. Cyrevi hunters always try to take the easiest route, even if it is the longer way around. We’ll take the western pass and be out of the this canyon and in the warm woods again in less than a night”
At this, a feminine voice spoke serenely from the rear of the cavern. “I see our traveling arrangements have been arranged by the Creator? I have finished packing my belongings, and am ready to depart.”
Megar chortled. “Did you pack them in fashion for the blizzard? the Ice? Let me see, Csarisa.”
The auburn haired woman, just shy of two decades old spun herself around for the inspeacting Megar.
“Bindings, are good, hooks in the back of the boots, alright, rope and a pck at the ready just in case. Alright. Snow blinds and scarf?”
Vrain popped his head into view. “Allow me, your highness”, as Vrain reached down and began to bring the snow-blinds to her eyes.
Csarisa hissed. “I can do it, I just didn’t want to stifle under a scarf in here while you fumbled around with your own packs. Oh, and another thing. Even If I weren’t royalty, you still wouldn’t have any more of a chance of conquering me than you would in conquering a legion of bloodthirsty Reydi. Shall we Megar, I mean, can we?”
Megar paused for a moment, as if he was recollecting something from either his own past or Csarisa’s and then slowly nodded his head. “We need to get to the woods by nightfall, let’s go. Vrain, you’ve got the rear, I’ll take the front, and may the Creator accept all who dare to stand in our way.”
- The Ladies of Court
“Prack!” Sileon cried out as the thick cards fell down on the table all around him. His last five silver crowns, the meager portion of pay that he had worked hard as a caravan guard to earn was slowly scooped by blood-red hands. Yellow eyes peered up at him through maroon bangs. This was her game, and he had fallen once again to a Reydi elf named Vyona.
“How is it that every time, the jesters smile for you but I can’t get one Knight in my hand? Not even a Squire?” Sileon groaned, looking down as his dismal four cards, one depicting a wild bear, another depicting the two cross swords, and the duo of cards that he thought for sure were going to be his winfall, two Ladies of Court.”
With a heavy and sharp accent, the Reydi smiled with her eyes, and with a slight sneer. “Apologies, pale heart, maybe a better game for you at… another table. The Orcbreed in the corner doesn’t look to have a lot of wits, but… from the look of the All-Spirits in his glass, his coinpurse might match his intelellegence. Then of course you want good game with those palehearts in the corner… “
“No, no. I’m broke anyhow. At least I got my provisions for the next week.”
“Ooh, adventure, paleheart?” the Reydi’s eyes lit up. It seemed one thing she enjoyed more than taking a man’s money, was learning how he had earned it in the first place. For Vyona, it made the money worth more to her, like ‘she’ had earned it. She lived vicariously through each person she defeated at ‘Kings’, the gamblers game of choice, offering fortune and ruin to all who played.
“Well. Actually… not sure if I should tell you.” Sileon’s eyes darted around a bit, just to make sure no one was listening, or worse, a lip-reader from across the room. “But, we’re going in a coach across land to pick up a Sharistan princess and escort her the rest of the way to the Meredian Raven’s Court.”
Vyona laughed. “You lie, Paleheart. You’re making a joke, right? “ Here eyes went from the jovial to the serious. “Paleheart, that is no country to travel in without a legion behind you and in front of you. There are strange things in those mountain passes. Abominations. I think it’s better to lose your money to me in ‘Kings’ than to lose your life to the Dreadlands.”
“First off, there’s no such thing as Dreadlands, at least not on any parchment map I’ve ever seen. There’s three paths that go from Sharistae to Merede, Three roads. Secondly, I am a trained caravan guard, trained by some of the best in this kingdom, and thirdly… I need the money, they’re paying close to 50 gold Crowns for the trip with a boon at the end!”
“A boon? What boon?” Vyona’s questioning continued.
“They didn’t say, but they said that all we had to do was arrive with the carriage, flying the Meredian flag, and we would get our reward.”
“Palehearts, never looking before jumping, I will pray.” Vyona shuffled the cards again. “Play again for your cufflinks?
- The Meadow
They were on him too quickly, like locusts, their chitinous armor deflecting blad and spear alike. Sileon dived underneath the carriage, just as three serrated arros jabbed into the rich mahogany molding. Two other mercenaries ran forward to attempt to tackle one of the invading warmongers, riding in on a horse like beast.
With a swipe of a scythe, the two mercenaries fell, their halves littering the ground as the figure cried out an unholy roar. Sileon began to crawl under the carriage to the other side, only to see the head of a third compatriot roll by. This caravan was being overtaken… the Reydi was right, the Dreadlands were real.
With Sileon the last, the other six members of his team dispatched. The figure dropped off of the riding beast, its long fangs dripping with foamy ichor, its tail twitching back and forth like a lizard.
The figure was tall and slender, and as it removed its helm, which looked like a stylized skull of some inhuman beast, a pale-skinned woman with straight black hair looked around at the devastation, not as an onlooker would, but as someone proud of her work would.
“Come now, are you going to lay there, in the puddle of your own excrement? I am sure your father would not wanted his son to die as a coward, or maybe a son, learning that his father, lowly caravan guard, never made anything of his life, beheaded while hiding from the Darkness. Come out, be brave for once n your miserable unaccomplishing life.”
Sileon knew he was doomed, but hiding underneath this carriage didn’t supply nearly the amount of shelter he had hoped for. Slowly he rose to his feet, looking around at his attackers. Each of their visages were alien to him, depictions of abominations and beasts.
“So, how did you find out about this?” Sileon shouted. “Who sold their soul to the Darkness?”
“I believe her name was Vyona? Reydi elves are so devios aren’t they?”
Sileon closed his eyes for a second gritting his teeth. “She wouldn’t have told you PRACK!”
The black-haired woman sighed. “Oh you’re no fun… no she didn’t. I even offered her gold, and silver, even precious gems, just to find out which one of the three roads you would take. But, when I offered her… her life, and release from the continued torture I caused her, she told us. She cried it out between gasps for air, please for mercy, and tears of overwhelming sorrow. But don’t flatter yourself Sileon. Your fate was sealed far sooner than that liitle red-haired piece of Dharga. Who do you think arranged for the carriage in the first place, from Sharista? Now man. Come and taste my blade, with courage, and with honor, Fight like the Raven that you never were… “
Hours later, a small procession began to make their way towards the meadow, as a black-haired woman waved from her carriage, her caravan guard armor only slightly marred by blood and stains.
“Yes young one,” Megar stated “I served with your grandfather, and I served with your father, but that doesn’t mean I’m old, that means I’m seasoned. “
Csarisa replied “Yeah, but you’re old enough to remember the Reydi revolution in Merede, the City of Stars underneath the Sharistae, You remember the Crusade against Adra! You’re old!”
Vrain chortled “As old as dirt.”
A swift punch by Megar to Vrain’s shoulders sent Vrain back three feet. “I’m not that old! Listen, you two, you need to realize that…”
“OY! Shariste? I have your carriage!” The caravan driver shouted as she began to wave a Meredian flag.
“Well Megar? We’re here, we made it, and your highness…” Vrain spoke, and made a motion for Csarisa to continue forward in front of him.
Csarisa lowered her cloak, revealing her face. She looked around the setting, to the calmness, as Megar began to approach the carriage. Meanwhile, just behind them, Vrain grinned with a seemingly knowing sneer…
TO BE CONTINUED in "The Dyranesti's Gold"