Arn Callindraes: Various Journals
He knew he was in trouble. He should have never come here alone...
He thought that he could find his way around anyplace. But as he wandered the caverns of Deglos without direction, not knowing how many wrong turns he'd taken, Arn bitterly rued his foolishness. "Even worse'n bein lost, is bein lost with yer food all out" he observed darkly. And the beasts here... each of them twice or thrice as mighty as their cousins outside of Deglos. From the Umber Hulks there could be no hiding, and though he'd fought them off more than once now, as he grew weaker without food he'd be easy prey.
He could have sworn he'd been through this exact passage before... and yet the bits of rope and leather he'd been leaving behind were nowhere to be seen. He sighed, and self-pity welled up momentarily in his eyes as he contemplated being trapped in Deglos forever, far from the sun, the wind, and the grass, away from everyone and everything he cared about.
Forget finding Waynbleck Pass. He just wanted to make it out of here alive.
For generations his family had suffered hardship and disappointment. Perhaps it was from there that he drew a new strength from the stoicism he encountered within himself as the self-pity faded away. He would get out. Or he would die. One or the other.
The clarity of being faced with death opened new options for him. Digging through his pack, he found several of the claws that he had harvested from the massive Umber Hulks. To most of them was attached a bit of gore, which he quickly licked off. He forced himself not to taste it...
"Hrmm. I've had worse" he said aloud, the forced sentiment echoing along the rock walls. In answer to the bit of nourishment it had just received, his body screamed out a silent Yes. He knew where he could find more....
"Aye, definitely had much worse than that" he lied again, even louder, no longer caring if the Umbers heard him.
Let them come. He was hungry.
He turned and walked back the way he'd come, with purpose and danger in his stride. As if reading his thoughts, his stomach let out a loud grumble that echoed in the hallway nearly as loud as his voice had. "Soon... he murmured, patting his belly.
Arn paused a moment, as if remembering something. Unsheathing the magical dagger he'd got in LeOr so long ago, he carefully scratched one marking at eye level on each side of the passageway before continuing along, the faint glow from his ring fading behind him on the letters he'd scribed.
Sounds of battle carried down the road... from the direction of the guard outpost... bandits again? He broke into a run.
"Dang bandits.. aint they never heard of doin an honest day's work.." muttered Arn under his quickening breath. He'd little love for bandits, having nearly been made their victim on more than one occasion.
Of course.. the war might have something to do with the path they'd chosen. Or been forced to. A lot of problems could be traced back to this never-ending war, if a fellow really sat down and thought about it...
Close now. Arn drew his longsword and readied his shield, and slowed to appraise the situation. It didn't look good. Five guardsmen fallen, amid twice that many slain bandits, all joined now in a testament to life's potential cut short. But there- off the road a bit- the battle raged on. A lone warrior, clad in gleaming plate armor and matching helm, held off two greataxe-weilding half-orcs and a roguish-looking human. It wasn't too late... Arn rushed forward, not bothering to announce his presence to the busy bandits. Honor was best savored by the victor, after all.
It's much harder to fight when you're on your back. Using that logic, Arn slashed at the lower legs of the largest half-orc, just above the heel, causing the bandit to crumple with a howl, which ended soon enough as the ranger used the weight of his body to force his longsword through the prone half-orc's torso. Now it was two on two... The warrior in gleaming plate looked to Arn in surprise, and they met one another's gaze for a brief moment before turning their attention to the remaining bandits. "Not a scratch on him.." was the thought that lingered in Arn's mind even as he matched blades with the roguish looking bandit, then cutting the criminal down just in time to see the plate-clad fighter's bastard sword end the remaining half-orc's life in a grisly display best left undescribed.
Arn, breathing heavily, turned to face his ally with a smile. "Well, I reckon I got here just in the nick of time" he said, grinning even wider in the flush of victory.
The warrior, his plate mail still shining though now flecked with blood, was still for a long, uncomfortable moment as he regarded the man who had rushed to help him. Finally, he spoke. "If I had needed your help, sir..." He paused then, letting his sarcastic emphasis on the last word take full effect before continuing. "... I'd have asked for it. I'll thank you to mind your own business, and not to be so quick to interfere when your intervention is not desired."
Arn's grin quickly faded to a look bespeaking incredulity, and the beginnings of anger. He had no words. The warrior in the shining plate was not finished, however.
"The situation was under control, and victory would soon have been mine without your tainting it by catching my foes unawares."
Another uncomfortable pause, during which Arn's jaw slowly dropped in total befuddlement, before the warrior spoke again.
Finally Arn found some words willing to leave his mouth- "Uh.. well what?"
The palpable aura of annoyance thickened around the man's shining helm. "Well, I should at least expect an apology."
At that Arn's mouth finally found a way to start moving normally again and he began to laugh loud and heartily. "Well, don't that beat all! Here I come a-runnin to help ye, riskin me own hide, and I'm s'pose to APOLIGISE fer that??" Arn continued to chuckle, shaking his head in disbelief, as his ally of a few minutes ago tilted his head curiously.
"Excuse me?" spoke the helmed warrior with some incredulity of his own.
"Ye heard me-" replied Arn, his laughter fading. "If ye think I'm gonna go apoligisin fer doin ye a right and proper FAVOR, ye musta been into too much o' Deputy Tom's Moonshine!" The observation regarding the moonshine drew a last chuckle from Arn, who considered it quite the clever retort on his part.
"What... what is wrong with your speech?"
"Are you some sort of peasant?" At this a new line of battle was drawn, and the mood darkened considerably, as well as Arn's demeanor. He pointed a finger as he replied heatedly- never a good sign.
"Err... pardon me, mister fancy plate mail, so sorry that the real folk of M'Chek have some actual HARD WORK to be doin, and dont have all day to be lazin around practicin their pretty pronouncin's. Sheesh, ye really got some nerve, ye know that?"
At this it was the plate-clad warrior's turn to laugh from within his helm. "Why.. you're just a farmer!" He continued to chuckle as Arn glowered, before growing more demanding in his line of questioning. "Why don't you tell me then, farmer- who has armed you?" He then took a step towards Arn and gripped his bastard sword a bit tighter. "What house's land do you work? Do they know that their peasants are out pretending to be soldiers instead of working to feed the nation? Were your arms... stolen, perhaps?" He took another step towards Arn, with enough menace that Arn felt his instincts begin to flare, and gripped his own longsword more tightly. He angrily replied through gritted teeth to this man he had helped, who it was now clear was among the sort of folk who he despised most in the world.. even more than bandits, maybe.
"Now look ye arrogent basterd, I aint gotta answer to ye or no noble, army, or whichever, I'm a free man and by gods I sure as hell ain't no THIEF!" Arn raised his blade horizontally and made jerking motions toward his antagonist, perhaps for emphasis, perhaps as a threat. Perhaps a little of both. Whatever the intent, it seemed to both amuse and please the warrrior in the shining plate mail.
"Oh... I see.. the farmer means to intimidate me... oh dear, I'm quaking in my boots. After all, who knows what advanced methods of combat they've been practicing out in the pasture?" It was now Arn's adversary's turn to enjoy his own wit, and the turnabout did nothing to improve the ranger's disposition.
"I can do more than ye know... there's more to this world than a blind and daft fool like yerself could ever dream of, so don't test me, fancy-boy." Arn's eyes were bright with fury as they gazed upon the personification of so much of what he loathed.
"Oh, is that so?" The plate-clad fighter quickly advanced two more steps forward, his blade a blur in the air before him. Arn, surprised, held up his longsword before him defensively. This seemed to play right into his foe's plans, as in an instant the warrior's bastard sword struck Arn's weapon on one end, then quickly slid its length underneath, catching the reaction to the force it had just initiated, and with a quick circular twisting motion ripped Arn's longsword out of his hand. Arn watched with wide eyes as the sword that Kegnar had given him those long months ago flew away from his grasp and landed several feet away. Those same wide green eyes were quickly refocused, however, on the point of the bastard sword that was now poking through his leathers into the center of his chest.
"Now understand this, you ridiculous peasant. You may think that you're quite the hero when ridding the countryside of a few drunken brigands. But I have spent my entire life becoming what I am... Look at me when I am addressing you, damnit!" Arn looked up slowly... through the slits of the helm he thought he saw a pair of piercing, hawklike blue eyes. "You can never be like me. You can never equal me. You. Will. Always. Be. What. You. Are. And. Nothing. More." The last sentence was accentuated on each word by a light but painful jab into Arn's chest with the tip of the bastard sword. "Understood?" Arn wanted to scream, wanted to cry, wanted to tear this.. horrible thing... before him, limb from limb. He would trade a thousand agonizing deaths over answering 'yes' to that question. The sword pressed painfully harder into his chest. Still he remained silent. He set his jaw, closed his eyes and waited. A long moment passed.
The silence was broken by the laughter of the warrior in the gleaming plate and Arn's sigh of relief at having the sword taken off of his chest. Arn opened his eyes- the warrior was still laughing, walking away now, shaking his head with amusement. "Fine, have your small victory then, farmer. I'm no murderer. Just remember that small victories are all you'll ever have." Arn, furious, looked to where his sword lay, wild thoughts rushing into his head. Without even looking at him the warrior added smugly "Don't even think about it. Next time I might not let you have it back."
The warrior in gleaming plate sauntered off towards the road, the occasional chuckle still audible. Arn stood there as if paralyzed, trembling with a rush of emotions, and watched him go.