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The Crossroads of Power

Medieval Fantasy

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a part of The Crossroads of Power, by Spherical.

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Spherical holds sovereignty over Medieval Fantasy, giving them the ability to make limited changes.

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Medieval Fantasy is a part of The Crossroads of Power.

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Sergius Aurelius [6] He is just another peasant. At least that's what he thinks.
Karad [0] A strange boy seemingly out of his element in society.

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THE CROSSROADS OF POWER




Sergius looked up at the sky. Like all the thousands of days he had spent alive, today's sky remained blue, and cloudless, all the way from the mountains to the each to the azure seas to the west. "Stop procrastinating and help me load the boxes," shouted his father, a merchant; a trader in silver. Serguis' father was well built and was half a foot taller than Sergius who just reached six feet.

Sergius sighed and picked up a box near his father. It was extremely heavy but his old man, who was thirty eight, didn't complain so he had no argument. This is more boring than that crop harvesting work Edmond does. Sergius spat once on the ground and picked up another box. He loaded into the the cart and moved aside for his father. Ahead, the horses neighed impatiently. Why don't you do this, you dumb horse?

Sergius wiped the sweat of his brows as the last of the crates was hauled onto the back of the cart. "The town of Midwestern in Rud'bul," his father spoke and hurried back as a light drizzle started. Sergius looked up at the sky but failed to see any clouds. Great, just my luck. The cart started moving and the light drizzle stopped. Midwestern was ten days away. One of the carts made contained food and other supplies for Sergius.




As the day wore away the cart slowly moved on the main road. The road that connected two main port cities by road; Calaghan on one side of the continent and Reminis on the other. Sergius' town was built along the road. As the cart slowly moved towards its target, horses tiring in the sweltering heat, Sergius saw many carts go past him towards Calaghan.

He reached the Forest of the Monsters, as the locals called it. He crossed the halfway mark of the forest by mid afternoon. No monster, no demons and no killers. With so many merchants and soldier travelling through the road, surely monsters were too scared to attack a carriage.

For the first time in an hour there was no other cart in sight. Sergius was all alone. A chill went through his spine. The horses moved along, oblivious to their surroundings. Stupid Allegri and his stories. Allegri, their village bard and dunce, often sang about these woods and and the monsters that dwelled within. The draugr, an ancient undead who could shoot lighting from his hands. Or the grok, a large serpent who could swallow a man whole. Many men remained in its stomach for months, half digested but alive.

Suddenly a large dog appeared before the cart. As it barked furiously Sergius lost control of his cart and his horses. The horses rushed towards the dog as it disappeared into the forest that covered both sides. "You idiots, stop!" Sergius shouted as he pulled on the reigns to no avails. The cart ran from the end of the road into the trees. Luckily the trees were near enough that the horses could go no further "Idiots," he spoke with disgust as he jumped off the cart.

The wheels of the cart were stuck in the mud besides the road and the front end was wedged in a tree. Oh great. This is exactly the place I wanted to get stuck. Draugrs, here I am. He thought in disgust as he wondered how he would remove the front end stuck in the bark of a tree. The horses neighed but he spat at them.

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Memory is a strange thing. It makes one remember things that are important, both good and bad. Often it records the events with no true meaning, simple shiny baubles to adore the complexity of one's past recollections. To forget the unwanted parts, one would require more than merely willpower and, even then, the task would prove impossible. Such imprints manifested themselves in one's dreams and haunted their minds for days, the affected person, without a completely logical explanation and full of folklore, would worry to no end. Of course, there were those that would gain through people's superstition; charlatans who promised the naíve to rid them of nightmares, which were an 'obvious' bad omen... Many were drawn into these schemes, throwing their hard-earned copper and silver pieces into the pitless abyss of human greed, simply to come to a state of content that their dreams were then safe.

To someone like Karad, though, this was not so. His mind, strange and alien to the outside, worked in different ways, absorbing information throughout his life, adding to the growing pile of everything that had happened to him in the past, whether good or bad. While he was not all-knowing, nor had a perfect memory, strong emotions had a tendency of burning the events deeply into his conscience. And just one such emotion had left its mark upon him; a feeling of hatred, anger and blood lust. It had been long something he had been harbouring for a single person but, over the years, it had managed to creep its way into everything he did and anyone around him. This led to him developing a rather nasty sense of seeing everything and everyone merely as tools, even though he used none.

He could still clearly remember that day so many years ago, could still see the face of the one, hear his voice, smell his stench, feel his fear. And the fact that this person had attempted to take his life, whether for glory or for his own amusement, at a critical stage of life was even more infuriating. Minding his own business, it came first as amusement, then as confusion and lastly as hate. Lacking the physical prowess he possessed today, the outcome of the fight was closer than he would've liked, but it wasn't long until he had driven the foul dog away.

He remembered him well... And he still had him in his mind. Waiting for the right moment. And now was the right moment. He had all the time to spare.

Having spent his previous years mostly alone, Karad had little experience of any of the civilisations that encroached the lands. If he wanted his plan to succeed, he would need to plan accordingly; learn the ruse, get close to the one he was pursuing and then - strike. Of course, it all sounded incredibly easy and quick when put into such simple context; the reality was quite different. Not only would he need to spend time amongst those he would try to imitate - something he loathed from the beginning - he would also somehow need to get close to his target. And the latter would definitely not prove to be straightforward.

But why all this nonsense with hiding when he could simply do it all his way and smash the one who had wronged him? Karad knew this man would have clearly remembered their meeting as well. Perhaps he was not flaunting about it but one thing was clear - as soon as his guards would alert him of impending danger, the man would flee and the search would begin all over again.

Yes, this man he was looking for - it was a king.

------------

Revenge was a dish best served cold - and planned. At least in this case, any way. So he had to start small. Small and careful. Any strange happenings or behaviour would raise the alerts of the kingdom's soldiers, especially now when they were preparing to go to war with their neighbouring country. So Karad picked the western-most kingdom where peace still reigned. But where to start? Would he simply stop the first man or woman he'd find and tell them of his needs? No, that would simply not work. This would require guile and patience, even if he sometimes lacked the latter.

The forest he was walking through seemed peaceful enough; the trees were providing a nice, cool shade along the road that made its way through it. A welcome shield from the blazing sun on the sky, as he found out just how hot it could be in this body of soft skin and flesh. Dressed in little else than tattered, colourless commoner clothes that he stole from a farm nearby, his leather shoes were all but almost falling apart. Despite this, his black hair looked well-kept, at least for now, and his face lacked the distinct spots of hard labour and grime a normal inhabitant of the working class would usually be found with. It was a strange mix that certainly didn't aid his ruse of trying to play the part...

While the sounds that permeated the forest were mostly those of birds chirping and the occasional gust of wind rustling the leaves, a sudden crash alerted the boy to the road ahead. Just around the corner, something must have happened - either a tree fell down or... Bah! What was the point of attempting to guess these things if he could simply walk over to have a look. He remembered how people usually fought wildlife with a bow or a sword, neither of which he had on his person; it would be something he would need to acquire...

Walking along the road, the boy, who appeared to be in his twenties, spotted a cargo-laden cart which had crashed into a nearby tree, two horses and a man. He was alone - perfect! This was exactly what he was hoping for all this time. Yet this was also the time to play his ruse, something which he hadn't practised at all...

Stepping closer, he let himself be seen by the man, raising a hand in the air to greet him. "Greetings, err... traveller." Was that it? No, no, he had to think of something, quickly! His heart picked up the pace and his mind raced to find the answers. What was he supposed to say? He wasn't even sure what the man was doing... Apparently his cart had crashed into the trees but... "What are you doing in this forest?" he inquired, quickly kicking himself mentally for the silly question. "Yes, this would definitely not arouse suspicion," Karad thought to himself, trying to remain calm.

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Part 1: The Forest of Monsters


Sergius held the front end of the cart, a large iron beam that kept the horses from straying, and started tugging at it. Come on, you stupid thing. The horse next to him, a stallion by the name of Hershey, turned his head towards Sergius. Wait till we get home, Hershey. I'll shut your mouth forever.

He stopped tugging. "Stupid tree, stupid dog, stupid life," he muttered and looked at Hershey's partner-in-crime, a smaller white horse name Albino. The horizontal iron bar that wedged far too much inside the tree for him to take it out using brute. The cart was angled downward; though it was not angled by much, it out the entire weight of the carriage on the tree.

As he waited for another cart, hopefully filled by massive friendly trolls, a man crept up from behind Sergius; Sergius only noticing him because Albino neighed; he greeted Sergius. "Greetings," said Sergius. Oh great. I forgot my knife at home. Oh well. I was the one who wanted bandits. Now here they are. I'll be killed here and stupid Allegri will turn me into some monster myth- Wait, did he just greet me?

Sergius studied the man. He looked like a commoner trying to make a living and to live long enough to... Why did we live, again? He studied the man who seemed alone. Where are his bandit friends? Why does he not have a rapier? As Sergius' mind raced, thinking of a million billion question, he realized he was just staring at the man. But before he could speak the man spoke, "What are you doing in this forest?"

For a moment Sergius was too surprised to say anything. What the hell kind of question is that? What am I doing in this forest? Really? You are standing in the biggest road in the country and that is what you come up with? What am I doing in this forest? What do you think I am doing? I'm standing near a cart and there no dead bodies around. I'm a bloody merchant, you bloody dunce!

"Uh, I'm stuck here. I was travelling on the way to Ridgeway in Rud'Bul but then my cart got stuck," Sergius pointed at the cart. Sergius realized that the man may not know where Ridgeway is. In reality, Sergius didn't know either nor did have any plans to travel there. But everyone, even a dunce, knows Midwestern is where merchants go to sell silver. Last thing Sergius wanted to tell is that he had silver in the cart. If one said the word silver in the Forest of Monsters, bandits stopped doing whatever they were doing and run to the capture the man who said the word; at least that's what Allegri says.

"You know Ridgeway. It is where the castle of the King is," Sergius said and began tugging at the iron post again. He was telling the truth. It was a month from here, according to his father. It looked good from the outside; a clean and tidy place, the whole town. But his father had felt as if the town was rotting from inside.

"Hey, I could use some help," Sergius said to the man who stood behind him.

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Despite his foolish questions, the reaction of the man did not seem to be that of suspicion; perhaps only slight confusion. Karad made a mental note - he would have to practice on speech as well. What did humans actually talk about at times like these? How did they properly greet each other? What were their customs regarding those things and... Ahh, how he hated this. This ridiculous ruse he had to play, pretend he was someone he was not, be stuck in this fleshy, soft form who he had no idea if a sword would not be able to simply slice in half.

Then it hit him. Now that soft skin covered him, was that enough to defend against the blow of a sword? No, of course it wasn't. That's why civilisations invented those weapons; to kill others. So he certainly wasn't safe if this man suddenly decided he would like a trophy of the kid's arm on his cart... But such thoughts were merely diverting him from the task at hand. There would be time to think about these problems later; right now he had to concentrate, play the part, interact with this person and make him believe that--hold on. He was travelling to Ridgeway? Where the king is?

Narrowing his eyes, the boy eyed the human, trying to discern whether there were any lies in his sentences. Really, that was a silly thought in itself as there was little reason why lies would be required right now. But Ridgeway was definitely the name of the capital Karad had heard before, when he was trying to gather information... He could scarcely believe his luck - the first person he came across was going right where he himself wanted to go. With any luck, he would be able to tempt him into getting him to help him get there and teach him... Teach him how to blend in with the surrounding populace. What a strange proposition that would be; he'd have to word it carefully but, in the end, there would be no other way but to give away his intentions. It would simply be too obvious. But, when that time arrives, he would need to have a good enough temptation ready for the man, whatever that may be.

"Errr, yes. Of course," he replied, stepping closer to the cart. Looking at the contraption, it was easy to see what the problem was. The darn thing was stuck in a tree and made quite a dent in its trunk. Getting it out would be no small feat, he was sure of that. Simply standing there, Karad quickly caught on what the man was doing; trying to push the cart back, so he decided to do the same on the other side. The ground beneath their feet was soft and wet, giving way to their weight, which made the task all the more difficult. It didn't help, either, that Karad was much weaker than it looked. Although appearing to a healthy kid in his twenties, unbeknownst to others, his physical strength was below par. Not only that but he was also somewhat clumsy, it seemed, or just not used to labour. Secretly glancing at the man, he did the same and put his hands on the cart, then attempted pushing it backwards.

The wet ground did its job, however, and the man he was trying to help slipped, fell down and kicked one of the horses in the process. All their effort was in vain at first, since the cart was far too heavy for them to move. But, the side effect of the kick was that the animal neighed angrily, reared its head and forcefully moved back, pushing the cart and the pole out of the tree along.

The sudden movement of the entire thing spooked Karad and he jumped out of the horses' way. Clasping his hands together, he got rid of the dirt that had gathered upon them; not that it mattered, really, because his clothes were in much worse condition. "There. I have helped you," the boy said, stating the obvious. He almost wanted to explain how, after gloriously allowing the man to bask in his presence and even receive his aid, it was now his turn to repay him. But he didn't; it would be too suspicious, too strange. He didn't even know whether this person would get him anywhere or would be willing to help him! Still, every person could be broken by the promise of riches, he was certain of it...

"Since you are going to Red--" Karad paused, thinking of the city's name again. "To Ridgeway, may I uhh... Join you?" It felt ridiculous asking the man for permission. Usually he simply took what he wanted but now... Now, he had to play it patiently. There were a thousand questions gathering in his mind, a lot of them regarding the king he had mentioned, but one thought had quickly taken over. The human customs! He was supposed to tell this man his name!

"Karad." Pausing, he realised this was not enough. "Er, my name is Karad."

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"Stupid horse. Couldn't you have done that earlier," he murmured at the horse. The cart was out of the edge of the road. Hershey neighed at Sergius as he got up. Wow... that was interesting. I'm amazed of how powerful Hershey is. No wonder his father used him instead of an ox. He spat on the ground and turned his attention making sure his cargo was not damaged, and remained hidden.

As he inspected the cargo he noticed all he dirt on his pants. Oh great, exactly what I needed. What else is on offer today, dearest God? He brushed off as much dirt as he when someone spoke, "There. I have helped you." Sergius looked at the man. Seriously? Did you help me? Or was it this bloody horse here, angered by me? Luckily, the horse decided against trampling Sergius. Most likely Hershey just wanted to enjoy Sergius' bad luck.

Albino was looking at the other man, with an uncertain glint in his eyes. He helped, Albino. No need to look all suspicious. I am sure he just wants me to give him some money for his help and he'll be on his way-"Since you are going to Red-- to Ridgeway, may I uhh... Join you?Or not. That was a interesting proposition. Help a man who helped him. Would Sergius do that? More importantly he didn't even know where Ridgeway was. Just his luck that the man wanted to go the town he named out of his ass. That's what you get for lying, dear Sergius.

"I would have helped you but I don't enough food for the both of us, nor enough blankets to keep us alive at night," Sergius said. It was the truth. His father had given him just enough for the travel to Western. How was he supposed to help a man without putting himself through all the trouble?

As he waited for an answer, maybe some kind of offer, Sergius thought of his mother. Many years ago she had give him a locket, which he has worn everyday, without fail. One day when he was playing outside she had called him inside. When he came inside, he noticed she had a tense look on her on face. She gave him the locket, "This will keep you safe from the monsters."

Sergius felt the locket; it was weird. It did have a proper chain but the main part of it was cut in half. It looked like a gemstone of some kind. Old Allegri had told him how many of the natural caves near the old mines had these gemstone. The gemstone on the locket was cut superbly except where it was crudely cut in half. Oh mother. What monsters do you speak of?

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This was not the response he was hoping for - not at all. Perhaps he didn't present his questions correctly, did not behave like one of them would? No matter; now that he had a human all alone here, he was not letting the opportunity simply slide away. "Food is not an issue. The forest is here and many wild creatures roam about, all quite edible," he explained, as if an expert on hunting, which was not far from the truth. However, what he perceived as 'edible' might have been something completely different to one such as Sergius. "As for blankets, I need none." The latter was a bold statement as, in all truth, he had never experienced the cold of night as how he was now, so he had no idea whether these blankets would be actually needed or not. But, in his permeating arrogance, he had decided such devices were useless to him and that enduring the elements would be but a small feat, quickly forgetting how the hot sun felt uncomfortable against his soft skin just hours ago...

Hmm, there was more he should've said. More he should've offered, made the human get interested in his offer, spice up the 'deal'. Of course, being blatant and direct about it was an option, but he wasn't sure this man would be willing to parley with what he really was. No, he would need to whet his appetite for greed first. It was there in every human, every dwarf, it just sometimes needed a bump to be started properly.

"I see you are a mere merchant of some kind," Karad suddenly asserted so confidently. In fact, he wasn't completely sure what the man was doing with the cart of what he was transporting, but that mattered little. If he wasn't living in a large mansion with servants and guards, chances were he would be willing to listen to his deal. Actually, even nobles were consumed with greed; but they were difficult to approach and would pose a risk of revealing his secret before the time was right. A commoner, however - well, nobody would believe a young man of the stories of meeting a dragon offering him riches in the forest.

Before letting Sergius respond, the boy continued: "On my travels, I have seen many a large mansion and castle in which powerful, rich nobles live. Surely not a life you would ever touch, nor see." All of what he was saying was most likely the truth, but it didn't seem like he cared whether this would anger the other or not. Commoners usually despised those who would make fun of their lives, but Karad was neither a commoner nor a noble. He simply did not care for the common courtesy and was wholly submerged in his feeling of superiority and arrogance.

"But," the boy added, eyes narrowing and finding the man by the cart, "would you ever wish for a life of such luxury and abundance?"[/i] It was a bold statement, more obvious than not that he was planning something. Were it merely a psychological game, it surely was a cruel one, for the lives of common people were usually harsh and full of hard labour, while the nobles enjoyed the leisure of being served and never truly having to worry about gold and silver. "If it were at your fingertips?"

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Sergius wondered why he thought the man would offer him something. Or importantly he wondered why he was still talking to the man. He was truly the weirdest man Sergius had ever met. His clothes were in tatters and did not fit but then which commoner/ peasant, much like Sergius, could hire a tailor and did not use hand-me-downs. One side glance while they were removing the cart had revealed how the man did not know what to do. Peculiar indeed.

Karad? What an interesting name. For a moment Sergius thought where he had heard that name. Then it struck him; the town next to his own, a sister town, was called Karad. The man spoke again, "Food is not an issue. The forest is here and many wild creatures roam about, all quite edible. As for blankets, I need none." Sergius smiled a little.

This man was the worst actor ever. Surely he was a bandit acting like a normal guy. But where were his friends? Probably they were like Hershey; sadists. They were enjoying his bad acting. The moment Sergius made a movement to get out they would strike. Suddenly, Sergius was aware of the noise in the forest; turns out it was only birds scared most likely by that idiot dogs. Or where they scared by the bandits? Or by the Draugrs?

"My good friend, you seem to be new," Sergius played along, "i understand it is mid afternoon now and we are all warm but the nights are cold." Sergius hoped he could drill some sense into the man. But the guy seemed so out of place. As if he didn't belong here... Why did he not ask any other carts for help. He did seem of the type would need information spoon feeding.

The man continued, "I see you are a mere merchant of some kind." Sergius looked at himself. Did he look mere? He did not know. The man changed his tone from confused to arrogant, completely catching Sergius off guard. He was in a forest he was scared of; a man stood before him who was most likely a bandit and still Sergius was caught off guard. Great. I should have expected lunacy when I expected Draugrs

"Yes, my friend Karad. I'm merely a merchant. And what might you be?" he asked Karad. "On my travels, I have seen many a large mansion and castle in which powerful, rich nobles live. Surely not a life you would ever touch, nor see." Ouch! Did he just stab me in the heart? The man's words stung, more so because it came from a man who looked more haphazard than him (except for the hair), but Sergius realized that they were the truth. He would never really see any such riches. One had to be born into riches.

"But, would you ever wish for a life of such luxury and abundance?" asked the man. So here it was. The offer. Sergius did not expect this. He was hoping for a few silver coins in exchange for getting the man to the next town. What now? Of course, every man wishes for luxury and riches; and women. But what should he do now?

Sergius got in the driver's seat of the cart and got it into position to leave and spoke, "My friend. I will leave you to the next town. If you can do have money or something worthwhile, buy some blankets there and some food that might last. Else I will be forced to leave you there." Ya right, like some commoner would know the secret to riches and give it away...

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"Yes..." The boy paused, thinking slightly about how to approach the subject. "Yes, I am new in these lands," he admitted finally. Perhaps honesty about some things was best for now. He knew little of the customs, the rules and the behaviour of these civilisations, so he'd need to lie as little as possible if he were to keep his cover. "But I know how cold it can get, it shall not be a problem," Karad insisted, ignoring the fact that he would probably feel very cold at night like this, no doubt.

"Me?" Well, there it was now. What was he? In fact, he had never before thought of building his ruse to be a more convincing one by thinking of a back story. His arrogance had prevented him from doing so, instead making him believe human greed would take care of the rest. "I am..." He stopped talking, looking at the empty road up ahead, his mind scrambling to find the correct answer. What if he could combine a lie with some truth? Yes, that could work! "I am a... mage. Of sorts." Karad had heard very little about human or elven spellcasters, all he knew was that they were extremely rare and important. This worked as a double-edged sword for him. On one hand, the man would know nothing of what kind of spells these supposed mages cast, so the draconic magic would go past without scrutiny. But, on the other hand, he might also become suspicious as to why there is a mage roaming the land like this; in tattered clothes, no less. If nothing else, he might simply disbelieve him and think he's jesting or lying.

As soon as the merchant got up on his cart, it was obvious very little of what was said had sunk in, so the boy had to become more blunt, take matters more directly. Stepping closer, he looked up at Sergius, whose name he still didn't know, and spoke: "I see my words fall flat. You do not believe me, human. But I shall be blunt - I require your help and, should you choose to aid me, what I have told you about can be yours in return. People like you are destined to a life of labour. If you are even slightly tempted by the riches and power of the nobles - and I know you are, like every human - then you shall take my offer. It is a fairly simple matter and the result shall be that I shall get what I want and you shall change your life around." Narrowing his eyes, he gazed straight at the man in expectation.

It was unclear whether any of this would be taken seriously, but Karad was clear enough in his demands and promises, although he told him little of what exactly he wanted the man to do. "I seek a certain man, you see... A king. You, having lived in this society for your entire life shall know how to go about getting close to this person. That is what I need you for."

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Instead of getting on the cart, the man insisted that Sergius should help. "I'm a mage," the man said. A mage, eh? I wonder what great you have? I'm sure you can blast me in the air, or burn me away, or whatever Mr. Tattered Clothes Sergius wondered if this Karad had been touched by the God; if the man had been touched by the Gods.

"Yes, good for you," said Sergius. He was seriously thought whether to allow this man to travel with him. But then the man spoke again, ""I see my words fall flat. You do not believe me, human. But I shall be blunt - I require your help and, should you choose to aid me, what I have told you about can be yours in return." Wow, this guy is seriously out of his mind

Sergius felt something. It was his locket. For some reason it managed to cut him near the chest. It was a fine cut, hidden under his shirt; unseen by anyone. But it did stung. Sergius wanted to rub it but that would only aggravate the whole thing. How come suddenly after so many years of wearing it did it sting now? Stupid locket, stupid man. For the second time in a few minutes, Sergius found himself cursing about his life.

Karad continued, "People like you are destined to a life of labour. If you are even slightly tempted by the riches and power of the nobles - and I know you are, like every human - then you shall take my offer. It is a fairly simple matter and the result shall be that I shall get what I want and you shall change your life around."

Sergius was really at patience's end here. One sentence he insulted him, he talked about. What is up with the guy? He really didn't need hear this nonsense. All Sergius wanted was to get back home to Sarah. Oh well, this will take sometime, wouldn't it?

"I seek a certain man, you see... A king. You, having lived in this society for your entire life shall know how to go about getting close to this person. That is what I need you for."

"Listen friend, I don't think you have any idea what you are talking about. Do you realize what you are saying? You want to talk with a King? Never going to happen" said Sergius guiltily. He waited for a while and then said, "Fine, get on. And while we are moving tell me what you plan to give me." How could he leave a madman on the middle of the road?

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It was becoming fairly apparent this man didn't believe a word of what he was saying. Sure, it was strange and promising riches to someone just like that would raise alarms, but still. Karad was hoping that distinct feature - the grabbing for gold - would kick in sooner. Yet if the man didn't think something like that was possible... Then it occurred to him; why was he trying so hard to get this person to believe him, to aid him? There were thousands and thousands of them around and many would probably wish the king dead. But no, that was not someone he wanted; such people would be too eager to proceed, too quick to draw conclusions and, in the end, possibly destroy the entire plan with their carelessness. No, it was someone like Sergius he wanted; someone who would be hard-pressed to believe him yet still want the riches promised. He only had to make him believe it was all possible...

Pausing for a moment, the merchant offered him a place on the cart and the transport to the next village. This was not exactly what he was hoping for, but perhaps it was a start. As soon as the 'plan' was mentioned, however, Karad grinned ever so slightly. Yes, there it was; greed. This would work out just fine.

Hopping onto the cart, the boy sat down next to the man held on as the ride was quite bumpy. They were still alone and now was time to explain his promises in more detail. "I have already told you. If you aid me, you shall have gained a powerful ally. And I can make what you want come true." Glancing at the man, he continued: "Is it riches of gold you desire? I am sure the nobles have large coffers of them somewhere. Is it someone in particular you want? I shall bring them to you. Is it power? Well, power can be... arranged. All you have to do in return is show me where this king I seek is and get me somewhere I can see him. I do not necessarily wish to speak to him, you see. But a gaze will suffice, as long as he is nearby."

The road kept going through the forest until it brought them to its edge, a large prairie spanned before them, thick green grass covering most of it. There, in the distance was a small village, plumes of smoke rising from the chimneys of its houses. It was certainly no capital and had no castle of its own, so it was not the destination Karad was seeking. Still, he thought it but a momentary obstacle in the road; the merchant probably wanted to sell his goods...

Before they arrived closer, though, shouting could be heard from the town. Terrorised screams of women and children as well as men fighting. A group of ragtag people were running across the prairie towards the village from the right, holding swords and axes in their hands. The boy knew little of what was going on and cared even less, remaining calm on the cart, but, unbeknownst to him, the village had become the target of a group of thugs and bandits who wanted to fill their coin purses with the blood and toil of others. Not only that but there was a real danger of fire as bandits sometimes used flaming arrows, causing even more devastation than a mere raid. It was unclear whether the village had a large post of guards available to fight these criminals or if the inhabitants were on their own, but one thing was clear - it was a lot of bandits for such a small settlement.

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Character Portrait: Sergius Aurelius
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"What I want?" wondered Sergius. Why was he even thinking of this? This retard who sat besides him was nothing more than a scammer. But if we could get anything he wanted what would he want? Riches? Power? Women? Eternal life? Or something mundane? Eternal happiness, maybe. What was so important in this world that he would place it before everything. What was the thing heart would love him for choosing? Love probably. Or maybe friendship?

For the second time today he thought of his mother. He hadn't seen her today. She had gone to the market in the next town over to buy vegetables for the entirety of the next week. It was his father who had cooked the meal for him today and given him enough money to survive the journey. Until now, he didn't even think about his father. Why? Why was he so attached to his mother, who would become sad whenever she saw his face? Had he done something wrong?

"My friend," he started but something stopped him. The road kept going through the forest until it had brought them to its edge, a large prairie spanned before them, thick green grass covering most of it. There, in the distance was a small village, plumes of smoke rising from the chimneys of its houses. They had reached the place Sergius was going to get rid of this man. Now, that seemed unlikely.

This was a disaster. They had come to far before noticing the plume. Any second, some bandit who was busy killing and raiding would look their way. Oh! Sergius was royally screwed. He had precious cargo in the back of the cart. The mines near the village had yielded much silver this year. This was the entire yield his family had managed to gather. Easily worth enough to keep them alive for a few week. Life in the mines was never simple. Actually, life in general was never simple. And now life was going to go away from Sergius.

One of the bandits signaled his friends and a group of four came towards the cart. So this is the reason no cart had passed them in a while. He saw some burning carts from the corner of his eyes. "Kid, what are you carrying?" asked a burly man. "Time to do your magic," Sergius said quietly to Karad. Somehow, he found humor while taking his last breaths.