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Siv Drakryttare

Either conquer, or die.

0 · 474 views · located in Eytherghymn

a character in “Ruyn Chronicles: The Winds of Fate”, as played by Sylwyn

Description

Image
Name: Siv Drakrytarre
Age: 32
Race: Human
Occupation: Nomad
Class: Warblade
Alignment: Chaotic Good
Weapons: Broadsword, dirk

Appearance: Eye level with most men, if even a little taller, she has long red hair mixed with braids and beaded strands per the culture of her clan. By no means slight, she wears her strength with the grace and raw power of a lioness.

Personality: A no-bullshit, drink-any-man-under-the-table woman with a spitfire attitude toward those unfortunate enough to get on her bad side, she has a loyal heart and strong sense of duty that impels her to keep moving forward, never stopping to look back or reminisce on days gone by. She is a lone wolf by choice, but leadership runs deep in her blood, and her drive to get things done often effortlessly draws others in. Capable of becoming fearless, ruthless and emotionless in times of chaos, she is always looking for the next fight, and the lack of something to cut down is enough to leave her itching for battle. The many beads woven or braided into her hair as is fitting for her culture, are rumored to represent the number of enemies a man or woman of her clan has killed.

History: Siv was born to a poor family in the mid-west under a divided clan which were all that remains of their ancestors known as the Drakryvon [Dragonkin], the only humans known to worship Drakrelib. Once riders of great dragons of legend, the Drakryvon were divided by warring factions long before the Empire existed, and lost all hope when the dragons of the world were slaughtered out of fear by foreign nations. Siv was given the title "Drakrytarre," or "Dragonrider," for a prophecy foretold by the ancients. Passed down by their ancestors, the prophecy spoke of a child born during a solar eclipse who would bear the mark of Ka, a golden scar on the baby's chest believed to be a claw mark, the promise that somewhere, a powerful dragon yet lived that would reunite the scattered Drakryvon clans under the might and leadership of the Drakrytarre.

Raped by marauders who killed her family when she was a teenager, Siv vowed to someday find their murderers and avenge their deaths. She sought purification under the dragon god's sacred temple, swearing to "either conquer, or die," because she could succumb to fear and anguish, or lose to her enemies in battle unless she conquered them. Vowing only to lay in body and spirit with the man who could best her in a sword fight, she has remained celibate since taking her oath, since no man has ever faced her and lived to tell the the tale.

So begins...

Siv Drakryttare's Story

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#, as written by Sylwyn
Chapter One


Accursed Inn
6th Gysse Aril, 3485


Harding ‘The Ferret’, a ginger-haired, rat of a man, was one of the inn’s less savory patrons. He made a living by stealing everything that wasn’t nailed down, and subsequently took everything that was, and the nails, as well.

When he ‘accidentally’ brushed up against one of the new arrivals, the words, “Oops, sorry Ma’am,” escaped his mouth even as his hand lifted the stranger’s purse from her belt and tucked it away.

He’d not gone three steps before a hand clamped down on his shoulder and wheeled him around. Craning his neck, he sized up his would-be victim clad in leathers and fur, bared skin painted with tattoos and woad; long, fiery, unkempt hair cascading around her shoulders. The thief could see the hilt of a broadsword slung across the warrior’s back.

The barbarian grinned savagely. Ferret let out a frightened squeak before her fingers caught him hard under the chin, lifting him clean off his feet, and dumped him into a heap on the stained common room floor.

The woman turned over the unconscious pickpocket with the toe of his boot and retrieved her coin purse from inside the man’s cloak. Jingling it once to check its weight, she returned it to her belt and looked toward the barman, lifting an eyebrow.

The landlord, a large, burly man with a face like a bulldog’s, shrugged and produced a large tankard from behind the bar. “He was new here, Siv, he didn’t know.”

“Ya? Well he can consider that a valuable life lesson,” she answered roughly as the barkeeper filled the tankard from one of the mead barrels behind the counter and slid it across the scarred wooden surface.

A silver coin changed hands. “Still tipping well, I see,” the barman noted. “Business good?”

Siv nodded. “The damned Legion makes a good show of strength when it suits them, but they're not above using mercenaries to do their dirty work! Still, suits me just fine. Keep ‘em coming!” She raised the tankard to her lips and took a swig.

The drinks kept coming, and so did the patrons, filling early afternoon gaps into late midday. No sooner would the landlord set a ceramic mug of ale or mead, or a glass full of scotch and return to his seat beneath the double-headed axe above the bar to resume reading, than a toothy louse seated himself at the counter, gulped down a few drinks and slammed the empties onto the counter along with a handful of coins. There wasn’t a lot of gold these days, though the few yellow Cylas heads that cropped up were from the odd sorts, the kind one did not want to run into alone in the middle of the night.

Though the inn had its share of raiders and highwaymen who would try to clean out the bar or steal money and chase away paying customers, the establishment had been unusually busy today. Even a scrawny septuagenarian took up roost on a stool near the unconscious thief, tapping his foot on the fellow’s arm in steady rhythm as he blew into a harmonica.

Everything seemed to be going so well, no one noticed the door creaking open and shut on rusty, iron hinges. That is, until the dog-faced innkeeper looked up from pouring another round and suddenly dropped the stein he’d been holding. The glass made a clink against the counter top, bounced, and hit the tiles with a loud crack, shattering into pieces.

The barman stumbled backward, crunching broken pieces beneath his shoes, his mouth agape at the entrance. As if by magic, the barflies looked up and saw what he was gawping at.

They splintered off, parting into the woodworks, whilst murmurs of, “Look, it’s Fade!”, and, “The assassin, hide!” cropped up as they all looked from the dark figure at the door to the lone patron brave, or foolish, enough to stay at the bar.

With a gloved hand resting on a sheathed dagger, the figure scanned the room, iridescent eyes raking over the patrons from right to left, black cowl seeming to shift as to never reveal the obscured features. Each man cowered in the shadows, hoping they were safe from the assassin's deadly blade, but that vacant stare came to a full stop on the woman at the bar. Fingers closed around the hilt, yanked it out with the flick of a wrist and hurled it, blade-first.

Siv calmly drained her tankard and looked to the landlord for another, raising an eyebrow when she found the man cowering behind the bar. Shrugging, she helped herself to a fresh stein and resumed drinking. That was when a knife whizzed past her ear and stuck into the counter next to her

“Drakryvon!” Fade’s voice carried across the room. “I’ve been looking for you.”

The warrior set down the tanker with a thunk, pushed back her stool and got to her feet. Meeting the assassin’s gaze, she unstuck the dagger from the bar-top and bit it in half, letting the halves hit the floor.

The assassin’s multicolored hues did not so much as blink, and in three seconds, Fade, in a swish, swish of fabric, fluidly closed the gap between them, lean hips swaying right through the legs and bringing one knee-high boot down on top of the broken dagger. There were gasps from the crowd as the slimly muscled figure met the mercenary head-on, those eyes never breaking fom hers.

A small mouth behind that mask gave the face an almost feminine quality. “You’re a tough woman to track, even for someone of your stature.”

Siv glanced toward an window by the door, and briefly wondered if it had been open when she came in earlier. Scooping up the other half of the broken blade, she assassin lifted it to see poison, black as a bruise, dripping onto the floor.

“If I had a silver piece for every assassin trained in the deadly arts who thought a drop o’ poison would be enough ta put me down, I’d be a fat, wealthy woman living out her days in some mansion… huh?”

She stooped down to pick up her fallen braid of hair that had been shorn off by the dagger. In the Midwest plains she called home, warriors braided their hair after every victory, only ever cutting it when defeated in combat, as a constant reminder not to make the same mistake twice. Her many tiny plaits had never been cut, and to touch or damage a clansman’s braids was a grave insult.

“If I needed you dead,” Fade replied, “I would have put an arrow through your heart, and you would fall to the ground before you knew what hit you, but I’m not here to make enemies. So, sit down, finish your mead, and we can talk business.”

“Well, maybe ye should have thought about that before ye came strutting in here. Ye would need more than an arrow, boy,” she growled, baring sharp white canines. “Had ye been trying tae kill me, ye would have already been cleaved in half, an’ I would now be sitting, drinking a toast out of yer skull. Now, ye want ta talk? Try yer luck, and do it quickly. I don’t have all day.”

The assassin rested an elbow on the counter and one foot on the baseboard between the stools, leaving mere inches of space between them. Those eyes were full of raw power, devoid of any emotion.

“For a hired blade, let alone an Imperial underdog, you certainly leave a lot to luck,” the assassin responded, unblinking. “I assumed you would have grown tired of being used by the empire, instead reveling in the possibility of dying a hero in a blaze of glory to rejoin your brethren in the afterlife.”

“Ha!” Siv snorted, and shook her head. She set the tankard back on the counter and folded her arms, glaring at the assassin. “Doesn’t sound a bit like me,” she grumbled, looking the hooded figure up and down and glowering. “But, we don’t all kill for the right price, shade. We’re not mincing Harbingers of Death who would kill a child as soon as a tyrant.”

The barbarians were no swaggering knights, all pomp and codes of honor, but they shared a simple, savage view that the weak were not worth killing.

The assassin splayed a hand across the table, revealing a signet ring worn over a thin glove. The insignia, a Tyir Dark Elf symbol, was a serpent swallowing a rounded moonstone.

The figure by no means towered over the warrior, but a presence was still felt within those unwavering eyes. “Heed not the rumors that the Drenn are slaugh-ter-ers of the innocent, Drakyvon,” the assassin said, taking on a darker tone.

Siv could see pools of color swirling in those eyes.

“There are murderers all over Ruyn who wouldn’t think twice over killing or raping children, but we are not paid for that which with we have been tasked for more than two thousand years, long before Osiric Cylas and his ancestors took the throne from their predecessors, upsetting the fragile balance on which the empire once teetered.

Siv sneered. "Our clans have managed fine fer generations; the petty squabbles over the throne don’t concern us. ‘Keeping the balance’, as ye smug assassin types call it, that’s civilization for ye.”

"Pity, I had you pegged as a woman more honorable than the one before me. Yes, we know who you are, Drakryvon, as your reputation precedes you. The Midwest dragon clans have been all but extinguished, leaving the great Rider with sole survivorship of the responsibility of rallying the savages under one banner."

Folding her arms, Siv turned her head to one side and spat on the floorboards. "Either get to the point, or get out, and leave me in peace."

"I've wasted enough of your time, barbarian," Fade answered smoothly. "I only come as a messenger bearing tidings of an awakening in the far east which may be of some significance to you... The elves have long called him Ka..."

Siv's narrowed both eyes, brows furrowing into a line dividing the bridge of her nose.

"But, if I am not mistaken, the clans of the West refer to Drakrelib, god of the ancient dragonkin of myth..." The assassin took a sly bow and met her eyes once more before rising. "With that, I bid you good night."

Impossible, Siv thought, Drakrelib's temple is hidden in the hills to the far west. She gave no outward sign she cared or even comprehended the assassin's words, but her eyes followed Fade's exit like a hawk as she muttered, "T'was lovely chatting wit ye. Do let me know next time yer in the neighborhood; we can go fer scones."

The barman resurfaced, shakily, watching the door creak shut and the patrons emerge, counting their blessings or praying to whatever gods they thought had shown them mercy for hanging around a place like this. Pulling out a clean stein, the landlord filled it with ale and sat back down, lifting the drink to his mouth, and regarded the barbarian, unblinking.

“Sorry, Siv,” the barman said after setting down the now half-empty stein. “I’ve had my share of run-ins with rabble, but I ne’er saw so many bar-hoppers drop like flies in a summer drought. One day, I saw that man, woman, heck, I’m not even sure he’s human, but he sliced the head near clean off a man twice your size, if you can believe it. The raider swung a mace as thick as my skull, and the assassin... just wasn’t there no more, but there was a flash of steel, and the figure jumped back as the raider’s head flopped, still hanging, sinew and all. Those assassins don’t come into a place just to talk. Come to think, this is the first time in thirty years one left without spilling more than a drop of blood.”

Listening to the landlord, she had the disconcerting notion she might have just played right into the assassin’s words without even realizing it. Letting her anger rise, she grabbed a handful of the landlord’s grubby shirt, hauling him right onto the bar as if he weighed no more than a child.

“Are ye trying ta impress me, little man?” she snapped, dumping him back in his chair, and turned in stride, heading for the door.

Harding was just beginning to regain consciousness and push himself to his hands and knees as the warrior passed him. The barbarian paused, raised her foot, and brought the heel of his boot down on the thief’s fingers with a sickening crunch. He screamed and huddled into a ball on the floor clutching his shattered hand to his chest as the Drakryvon plowed straight through the tavern door and slammed it so hard as to leave it hanging half off its hinges as she strode out into the night.

Stunned , the barman just stared, his face turning beet red as the door banged against the rickety, splintered wooden frame, while some of the men in the tavern gave the bawling thief dirty looks.

One man hollered, "Someone shut 'im up!" to which another replied, "Gladly," and silenced him with a punch to the face.

The patrons threw glances all around the room, some speaking in whispered hushes and watching as the innkeeper stood up from his chair and swept some dirty mugs from the bar into a washbasin and hauled it off to the kitchen. When he returned with a damp, stained dish rag and bucket to begin wiping the counter, one of the younger men walked up, placing both hands on the bar and brazenly asked for a refill. Even the old man had picked up his harmonica, but no sooner did he put it to his lips than the barman stopped halfway through cleaning the table and looked up from under those heavy lids.

"You want more, is it?" he asked gruffly.

The young man shook his head. "No, no, if it's going to be a problem, forget it."

"What, you think this stuff comes out of some magic spring or something?"

"Not at all, I just-"

The innkeeper slammed his hand down on the wood, the loud thwap causing the man to flinch.

"You think the Watch gives a damn about what happens to small folk like us? How in Koar's name am I supposed to stay in business, when rabble like you," he jabbed his finger at the man, "keep coming through here and wrecking up the place like you were raised up by dung beetles?"

"Look," the young man threw up his hands disarmingly, "I didn't mean anything by it, I just wanted-"

The barman picked up the barbarian's stein, still partially-filled with mead, and chucked it across the counter at the far wall. The glass sailed overhead and shattered, amber liquid splashing across the floor. Nobody moved a muscle, their eyes following him as he stepped around to the other side of the counter and glared at the nearest patron, the young man who had asked for the refill.

"Get out." The words were plain and simple.

The man looked at him, stupidly.

"Are you dumb? I said: Get. Out."

The man backed toward the busted door and turned to leave, the tapping of his shoes ceasing when he reached the bottom of the steps outside.

The barkeeper eyed the rest of the patrons. "That goes for all of you, too. You heard me, GET OUT!" he bellowed, stomping to the door and thrusting it wide open. "And take the blasted thief with you!"

Slowly, but surely, the patrons began to slide out of chairs and off stools, heading for the exit. One was kind enough to drag the semi-conscious Harding to his feet; another tried to slink out with a full mug, but the barman snatched it right as he was about to take a sip. The ceramic rim clinked against yellowed teeth, and some of the mead sloshed onto the floor as the innkeeper slammed what remained of the door.

Over the next two hours, he washed dishes, scrubbed floors and wiped counters. When he decided he had the place looking presentable, he stopped to admire his handiwork. Surveying the dustless counter, he caught a glimpse of his battle axe. The handle, carved with elvish symbols and beset with three moonstones in a triple crescent, extended into a symmetrical silver blade. This door’s going to cost near everything I have. I’m not about to let those Imperial bastards take this place from me. He went behind the bar to count down the till.

After accounting for back taxes, expenses and supplies, he sighed, shaking his head. Copper, silver... There wasn't anywhere near enough gold. Pocketing the money, he stood up, staring at the labrys for several seconds before he found the courage to grab the step ladder from the kitchen. He reluctantly set the ladder open on the floor and climbed up to the top rung, grasping the labrys with both hands, and lifted it from its wall hooks. A tear welled up in one eye. When he reached the ground, he stopped to wipe it away with the back of his hand. This is it, my lady. You served me well, but, like any hot-blooded man, I proved unworthy... He kissed the blade gingerly and laid it on the counter.

In the storeroom downstairs, he picked out some boards and a satchel of tools, and strapped the labrys to his back. Minutes and nails later, with the Accursed Inn boarded up and the sign flipped around, he headed south down Old Forest Road, stopping at his house to find a torch and saddle his horse. The hour was late, and it was going to be a long, dark journey.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

"It seems the warrior's burden is too great."

The phasing moons, hanging low in a violet sky, cast their spectral light over the hooded form of a woman standing in the road before him.

"My Lady," the innkeeper murmured upon glimpsing the auburn tendrils framing graceful features beneath her cowl. Crumpling to his knees, he pressed his fingers to the dirt and kissed the insteps of her small feet. "Forgive an old man. There is no name in all of Ruyn for the treachery on my hands."

"Is there?" she asked, extending a slender, upturned palm. "Look into me, and you will find a tongue icier than the North Winds still calls your name, Bruno of the Rising Dawn."

Clasping her fingers with his, he dared to gaze up into her penetrating green eyes. He saw love, lost, hopeless, fading away into darkness, cutting him deeper than the sharpest blade, for, in seeing the face he knew he would never forget, he found he could not bleed.

"No," he gasped.

"Yes, right under your nose, fool. How would your precious Anael feel if he knew the salvation of Men was at your fingertips and you let it die at the hands of a mere assassin?"

The innkeeper shook his head. "No, it can't be... Then you're..." From the corner of his eye, he caught the glint of cold steel reflecting in the moonlight, and shuddered.

The woman laughed, a smile playing on her soft lips. "Keen is the mind of a grave man when hindsight brings to light the poison fruits of his mistake."

"He bowed his head, resigned. "Please, end my torment."

The steel edge kissed his throat, and he shut his eyes.

"No," the woman answered simply, pulling her hand away. "You knights were all soft. No wonder Anael had the temple sealed. A true warrior never begs. I have no desire to put you out of your misery, old man."

Afraid to look up, he instinctively winced when she thrust the blade toward him. Palms braced against the ground, he waited for the shock of pain, but heard only the snap of leather before she lifted the weight of his sin from his shoulders.

"The stars may shine, but you... just as He cast me to this dark and desolate place, so too, shall you awaken, by morn, in darkness, and so shall you live, until your days upon this world are utterly spent."

"No, no... kill me please!" he shouted, his voice lost in a whirl of wind, and the woman was gone.

Bruno collapsed. At last, After all those years of searching, waiting, the Bearer was right at my doorstep. Now, She is dead, and I let the Arabimitore fall into Enemy hands. How could I have been so blind? Burying his face into his arms, he wrung his hands and began to sob.

In the early, predawn light, when he finally ceased convulsing, he heard a faint flutter and glanced up. Three inky black shapes circled above, their feathery wings beating a rhythm against the paling sky. One opened its toothy beak and let out an inhuman screech. Cowering, Bruno could only let out an anguished cry as the creature swooped down toward him to peck out his eyes.

The setting changes from Old Forest Road to Eytherghymn

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#, as written by Sylwyn
Chapter Two


Outside Blood Fang Caves
Crimson Blades Encampment


The Drakryvon always slept with one eye open, for the sole reason there wasn't really anyone who was not out to make a quick coin, herself included. One could say it was human nature, but, well, these were dark times. Her journey on horseback through Gorgon's Pass yesterday had dumped her onto the legendary Road of Mirrors, under the blistering summer heat. Weary and sunburned, she found her only reprieve in a tankard of honeyed mead, and the sweet, cool, starlit night. So, when the morning light crested the west mountains, causing her to squint, Siv realized only just before both eyes fell shut that she had not slept a wink. The intermittent crackle of dying embers of the fire in the mercenary encampment faded, until she slumped against the wooden marker behind her and slipped into unconsciousness.

In the flicker of torchlight burning dim inside the temple, she could see three outlines of the bandits who had chased her from her family's tent. She held her breath as the biggest man, standing between his comrades, searched for her, his eyes like a hawk's seeking prey in the gloom. Columns of dry stone cast long, crimped shadows along the floor, offering stretches of darkness through which she could-

"There!" she heard one of the bandits shout, his voice reverberating in the open space. "She's headed for the statue. Get her!"

She felt every bone in her body jar as she slammed into the crook of the stone statue's shoulder.
Drakrelib, hear my plea, she silently begged, her gaze falling on the dragon's giant bloodstone eye with swirls like scarlet flames set in a black jewel.

"Grandfather of the White Flame, Master of the Black Flame," she whispered quickly, clasping her hands, "I invoke thee; By the power of the ancients, and the blood of my ancestors, hear m-"

She let out a startled shriek as she was yanked by the hair and jerked back, being forced to stare up at her captor.

"Here she is!" he yelled, and dragged her struggling form over the hump of the statue's shoulder. The bandit leader turned her around and roughly pushed her up against the statue, digging studded leathers into her exposed flesh. He stroked her cheek almost tenderly, in a gesture of mock affection.

Glancing down, Siv saw the bloody gouge in his armor where she had stabbed him with her father's knife during her escape, and dared to meet his eyes in one final look of defiance.

"Well, looky here, boys, we got ourselves a real spitfire," he cooed as his men surrounded him. He drew his right arm across his chest, and Siv flinched before the blow connected, his backhand sending a hot stinging pain down her jaw. She braced for another swing when he raised his arm again, but he only grabbed her by the throat and sneered. "I'm gonna show you what I do to break little bitches like you..."

Fighting tears welling up at the corners of her eyes, she clutched at tufts of grass sprouting between cracks in the stonework floor and bit her lip, even as the taste of copper grazed her tongue. Her heart pounded angrily to the discordant tune of desecration, but she refused to cry out. It was all she could do to drown out the animal sounds of the bandit's grunts and the two pairs of eager eyes watching hungrily, like those of dogs awaiting the last scraps of their master's meal. Somehow, in the corner of her eye, she saw the dragon looking down, unseeing; and yet, there shone a glimmer of empathy in those sightless flames.

With her last ounce of resolve, she shut her eyes and uttered two words in a single prayer, "Take me."


A voice, strong with a sonorous timbre, suddenly filled her head. Not this day. Opening her eyes again to the great jewel, she saw the dragon's eye begin to glow...

"You awake?"

The gruff sound of Captain Kefir's voice mentally jolted Siv out of sleep, but she merely inhaled sharply, glancing up from under fiery strands at the leader of the Crimson Blades and nodding in acknowledgement. "Aye."

"One of my scouts returned from the north passage this morning," he said, crouching in front of her. The Blades Captain was a lean, lion of a man with sun-bronzed skin and a hungry gaze that always seemed to be searching for his next prize, be it coin or his next kill with the iron rapier at his hip.

She followed Kefir's gaze over her shoulder to the array of tents and bedrolls where men and horses stirred under the approaching dawn.

"He gave me a funny look when I told him what you asked for last night, but he did manage to bring back this. Here."

Siv looked down to his outstretched hand in which he had a torn piece of tanned hide. Taking it rather gingerly, she rubbed the stiff material between her fingers, held it to her nose and sniffed.

"Tenche hide," she announced at length, and turned the scrap over to reveal a smudge of violet on the skin, "Worn by the lower ranks. It's stained wi' goblin's blood."

"What about it?" he asked, puzzled. "Orcs kill those little bastards all the time."

"Only for fun, Captain, never in combat. Goblins are to orcs what mages are to yer Legionnaires, and they're rarely seen on the frontline of battle."

"Nevermind that. Right now, our only priority is pushing into the north tunnels to wipe these guys clean out of their cradles. Besides, I thought you were going to use that Drakryvon... mind thing, or something."

The Drakryvon turned briefly and spat before shooting him a dirty look. ""Utlän!" she swore, rolling her eyes. "Do ye want my help or not?"

"Yeah, sure. Excuse me," he answered quickly, and cleared his throat. "Go ahead."

Returning her attention to the item in question, she closed her eyes, allowing the distractions of her surroundings to fall away. The clans of the midwest were well-known for what was considered witchcraft by some, while scholars across the land tried their best to explain away the mysticism with science and logic. The Drakryvon, believed blessed with the innate gift of psychometry, saw everything in existence as interwoven threads in the tapestry of life. From but a single thread, their master sages could retell entire stories, capturing moments in vivid detail as though reliving their own past. Sadly, the wise woman of Siv's tribe had passed long before she was born, and such positions of duty bestowed upon someone by his or her people were not easily replaced. Still, when all the world was quiet, and she easily shed the worries and cares of the day, freely giving herself to that wanting stillness, she, herself, could almost reach out and grasp those binding threads.

Blood. Dark blue and violet intermingling in sprays of death. Shadows, slithering like black serpents along the cavern walls. An incorporeal white light slashing through creature and darkness alike. The glimmer of a lone, crystalline rotating eye inside a metallic husk moving toward her on segmented limbs.

Siv's eyes shot open to find Kefir staring down at her, expectantly.

"Something else killed those goblins, Captain," she started to answer the unspoken question no doubt on the tip of his tongue, but he merely cut her short with a curt nod.

"Thank you, that's all I wanted to know."

The Drakryvon warrior shook her head. "Your funeral, utlän," she muttered, but he'd already walked away.

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#, as written by Sylwyn
Siv rose from her post and lingered behind to put a little distance between herself and Kefir before slinging her broadsword across her back and heading toward camp. The only woman among an established, unspoken hierarchy, she knew she had already made an impression as one of the Captain's new favorites, and the mercenaries' equal distrust for barbaric tribes showed in the way they stared at her, their voices dropping to whispers when she walked by. And Kefir thinks I should jump at the chance to lead this lot into battle. Bunch o' bairns, they won't last a week. She passed a row of tethered horses, the sweet smells of hay and manure intermingling in the air, to where a white mare stood patiently at the end of the block, tail swishing at a persistent fly.

"Good girl, Athdara," she murmured, stroking her stiff mane as she produced a dull green apple from her purse.

Athdara snorted softly and nosed her hand, exposing large brown teeth as she pulled back her lips to ensnare the treat. With her free hand, Siv pulled a bristle brush from her bag and calmly began brushing out the horse's hair. The resounding, intermittent whack of an ax striking wood reached her ears, and every now and then she glanced over her shoulder at a black cloaked figure with its back to her splitting logs into firewood.

In the dim light, the act itself would seem no more than an early morning chore but for the dozen piles of cuts scattered around the chopping block. She had not seen anyone else at the block the night before, save a couple men who gathered leftover bark and twigs to use for kindling. What kind of fighter spends his morning at the ax instead of readying for battle?

The loner appeared disinclined toward ceasing the tiresome task, however. Siv had returned her attention to Athdara when she heard the sound of tramping boots, and three burly men pushing a rickety cart between them passed her. One of them nodded in the woodcutter's direction as they approached, stopping at one of the piles a fair distance away from him.

"Oy, were taking this early," the shortest of the trio called out.

He momentarily looked up from his work, and Siv caught a glimpse of the steel slotted heaume concealing the man's face. The cutter merely acknowledged the other men with a broad shrug and drew back for another swing.

"See, I told you it would be the same guy," muttered one of the two taller men as he bent to grab an armful of wood. "He was here yesterday, too, an' he's still wearing that helmet. Ain't no one else been at that block since Rev dropped off that wood we got two days ago."

"Eh, Rev, didn't Kefir tell ya to cut this yourself?" asked the third man, sounding doubtful.

"You don't get paid to ask questions, Dekard," Rev retorted, Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out a few long green leaves, stuck them between his teeth and set to chewing while the other two men loaded the fresh cuts onto the cart.

As they finished clearing their pile, Siv spotted the Blades Captain emerging from one of the larger brown flap tents on the opposite side of the encampment.

"Stiff up, here comes the captain," Rev mumbled, hastily biting off half his chew and stuffing the rest into his pocket.

Upon his arrival, Kefir met the shorter man with a raised brow. "There a problem here?"

"No, no problem, no problem. Just getting the last of this here firewood. " Rev gestured with his thumb toward the full cart.

"That so?" the captain asked, his fierce gaze passing between all three men and their load.

"Yep, we'll just get this over to the main camp." Rev started to walk away, and motioned for the others to follow.

"Hold up." Kefir stopped him, laying a heavy hand on his shoulder. "You sure you gave me back all the extra coin you had from that unwanted wood you picked up the other day?"

Rev waved him away and laughed nervously. "Oh yeah, of course. That was all they had, ya know. Bastard gouged the shit outta me."

Kefir looked unconvinced, but after a second or two, he relented. "All right, just get that where it belongs. We'll be moving out soon, and nobody wants to be out playing Fetch after a fight. Unless, you'd like to volunteer?"

"Gotcha, Captain," Rev answered, and hurried past, his comrades with their cart in tow. Once he was out of Kefir's line of sight, he hocked a sloppy brown mess onto the ground near the horses.

Siv met the Blades Captain's eyes from across the footpath as he strode away, exasperation tensing his tanned features. Not my problem, she thought, certain Kefir would see the words in her steely expression. She finished brushing her mare and treated her to the last apple from her purse. Only as she turned to leave did she notice the stranger at the chopping block had not once looked up from his task.

By the time she reached the center of camp, several men had already gathered near the barricade. Splintered boards cobbled with thick nails, iron posts and logs of varying lengths lined the walls erected outside the caves, and, Siv noticed, the sole entrance, a makeshift gate of rusted bars, lay much too close to their encampment. And, just what does the captain think to do, lose the orcs inside that maze?

The men, oblivious of their proximity, seemed restless and eager to fight. Already, a brawl had broken out between two of a dozen mercenaries, and most were either jeering them on, though a few tried to break up the fisticuffs, until one of the brawlers, a wiry man, dodged his larger opponent's blow and ended the exchange with a swift knee to the groin. The Drakryvon just shook her head and searched for Kefir among the uneven rows of dusty crimson uniforms dividing the Legion's lackeys from the hired mercenaries. Only the Blades looked at ease in muted conversations or sharpening their weapons, silent but for the sound of whetstone scraping steel.

Siv sighted the captain near the front, engaged discussion with a late arrival. Kefir seemed generally familiar with yet another darkly clad, hooded man, even appearing to go so far as to point out his mismatched attire, a set of scratched and dented black armor. The Blades' brightly colored uniforms were typically easy to pick out in small, tight skirmishes, and If he belonged to their guild, she could not readily tell, for she saw no color or designation aside from a red linen wrap at the top of a simple halberd strapped to his back. Regardless, the captain dismissed the man toward his own hirelings and cleared his throat, summoning attention from the entire camp.

"Alright, listen up!" Kefir barked, silencing those still yammering in the crowd as several stragglers took their seats on top of felled logs.

When the only noise Siv could hear was the occasional whinny of a horse from across camp, the captain spoke, pacing side to side wih his hands clasped behind his back.

"For those of you who don't know, we've been at a six-month standoff with the local force some of you ass-kissers like to call the 'Orc Army'. But, today, we're making our final push at the north passage, and with a little luck, the tunnels beyond will lead us straight to their stronghold where we rip those scumbags right out of their cradles.

"Once we reach the passage," he continued, "you'll divide into two strike teams. Victor," he gestured toward the hooded newcomer, "You and I will lead the Blades."

Kefir halted and stared directly across the group at her. Siv turned to spit on the ground, and matched his stare with equal contempt. Ye needed to know what I thought of your barefaced attempt at convincing me to lead these idiots into battle? There, ye have it, she wanted to say, but held her tongue.

Each man looked to one another, murmurs of confusion and indecision cropping up among them, but only Siv dared shun the captain's smolder, crossing her arms and looking away in defiance. Her gaze fell opposite on two narrow black slots regarding her at length before the figure canted his massive helm toward their group. Glancing sidelong, she noticed all eyes had settled on them, being the only two people standing at the rear. Her expression soured, and she tilted her head forward to glare upward at the Blades Captain.

Kefir's angry look turned smug as a man's who had just broken his champion war steed.

"Ych," she muttered, but the captain neither noticed nor cared.

"You, and you," he announced, motioning first toward the helmeted figure, and then Siv. "You're both in charge of the mercs. First group to bring me the orc leader's head will receive a bonus when this mission is over.

"Drakryvon," he said, pointing directly at her. "Come see me for your stipend after we break camp. The rest of you get paid when every last one of those brutes is dead."