Posted Nov 05 2011 - 08:08 PM
With a vague wave goodbye, Elisia gave a skeptical glance down at the sheet. Try as she might to give up her hangups, she just wasn't happy with the thought of signing into the service of some royal. It was nothing more than her own stubborn pride, Greycliffe knew this well, but pride was really the only possession she still had left. She quickly scrawled something close to her name at the bottom of the sheet, then turned back to the tables. Suddenly, she could use another drink.
Gauvik glanced through the drizzle towards the warm glow of the Refectory hall within, the people chatting about within. Gauvik was never really one for conversations. He could go on for hours explaining the balance and heft of a claymore blade, but what else did he have to talk about? He'd never set a foot outside the Kruenbaulc until he'd first left on his journey here, he had no common frame of reference with most of these adventurers. Even that kruewn in Athiah's employ felt like a stranger to him; he'd grown up in some lush palace in a distant land, not on cold, merciless slopes that sought any sign of weakness and dragged it down to the bottom of some jagged ravine.
So he'd taken the excuse to step outside, obstinately to practice and get fresh air. Then, the rain came down. Rain. That was another thing that Gauvik was still getting used to. Up in the Kruenbaulc rain was a scarce thing; the summers were short and dry, and raging snowfall consumed the rest of the year. The only times Gauvik had really seen rain were on his trips to the barter towns of the lowlands, the closest merchants from neighboring lands dared come to the hungry slopes of the Kruenbaulc. But here, it seemed to rain all the time; at first Gauvik welcomed it, letting them cool him off. But they were beginning to test his nerve; snowstorms were windy and chaotic, a battle for survival, but rain was just dull.
Still, he didn't have anywhere else to practice - he doubted the adventurers in the hall would enjoy him swinging a massive axe dangerously close to their limbs and necks - so he and the rain would have to put aside their differences for the moment. His armor safely stowed under a nearby awning to prevent rust, Gauvik stepped forwards and gave a few experimental swings with his blade. What should have been a heavy, unwieldy slab of metal flowed almost like an extension of Gauvik's own arms, spraying droplets of water in shimmering arcs as it sliced the sheets of pouring rain asunder. Gauvik knew this axe like an old friend; he knew its weight and balance, could sense every imperfection where he'd had to repair it, and could feel the smooth grooves his strong hands had left in the handle.
Two more powerful swings against the storm, a parry to block an imagined foe, then a sharp thrust forwards to set him off guard. In his head, Gauvik tried to imagine fighting the undead and golems said to reside in the Citadel, but his mind drifted back to the old familiar scenes as hard as he tried. This time it chose to go the pass at Neauburn; it might not rain in Kruenbaulc, but when the snow melts it pours down those ravines with all the force of a hurricane. He saw himself, clear as the day it happened, slogging knee-keep through a river of mud as war raged around him. The spray of water left him half-blinded; a fortune, as it was impossible to tell if the bodies drifting past were the rebels or his own comrades. A shape appeared in the downpour, whipping a flail through the air. Gauvik brought his axe to bear, forced to assume he must be an enemy - to this day Gauvik still had no idea if he'd dueled a rebel or simply another comrade, both to blinded by falling water to tell whose side they were on. The flail struck Gauvik in the shoulder and he dropped to the mud, but not before he caught hold of the attackers other arm and pulled him down as well.
The two were sucked down by the mudslide, dashed over and over against the sides of the ravine as the plunged down the mountain. Gauvik at first thought the soldier was still beating him with his flail, but soon realized he was instead striking boulders washed down by the flash-flood. Even if he was still under attack, it was far from his biggest concern as the wave of mud threatened to suffocate him. He lost track of how long they drifted, until finally they were dumped down a tributary into a shallow, murky pool. Both warriors rose; by some miracle the rebel had kept his flail, and Gauvik wouldn't have dreamed of losing his axe. The rebel wasn't fast enough and fell from a swift strike of a heavy gauntlet, his helmet tumbling off into the muck. The rebel rolled, groping at the mud for his weapon. Gauvik wasted no time, raising his axe over his head, and with a thunderous roar-
The loud crack of splintering wood brought Gauvik back to reality. His axe lay embedded in the earth, the shattered remains of a hitching post around it. Gauvik rubbed his rain-soaked face, forcing the memories away. While the battle hadn't been real for years, his shout almost certainly had; the best he could hope was that no one in the Refectory could have heard it over the pouring rain. With an irritated grumble, he pulled his axe back out of the ground and gave it a few more swings, struggling to get back into focus.
No one in the world ever gets what they want,
and that is beautiful.
Everybody dies frustrated and sad,
and that is beautiful.