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Kaidman Lheyr

"Don't ask a question unless you're prepared for the answer."

0 · 220 views · located in Reclaimers Universe

a character in “The Reclaimers”, as played by Redred33mer

Description

Kaidman Lheyr

Image
- (All rights belong to Azeltas on deviantArt)


Age: Said to be 21 by the time keepers

Gender: Male

Physical Description:

Having spiky blonde hair and blue eyes, Kaidman stands taller than most of his human race at 5'11". His muscles have been built and toned from surviving out in the desert, digging wells, building shelters, fending off bandits and such. Surprisingly though, he has paler skin. He keeps his facial hair shaved, and usually travels in a breastplate and leg plating made of Xth metal.

Biography:

Kaidman was born and raised in the deserts around Protectorate City, taught how to live off the land and fend for himself. He never knew who his mother was, and he was told she was killed by bandits by his father, and he was too young to remember. His father, Romathie Lheyr carried a longsword with a particular crystal set in its hilt. Very few times Kaidman ventured into the city, and he known now why not to. Often, for a period of two days or so, Kaidman would find himself alone at home when he was young while his father ventured off to see his friends, he was told.

At the age of ten, his father introduced him to the secrets of Khelalis Magic. It's an odd enough magic that it can still affect the Drakyvarian's Xth armor. He was taught to use the magic only against someone he knew for sure he would kill. His life suddenly became enshrouded in mystery as he became a skilled swordsman and mage, as well as coming to know two other keepers of magic. Later, when he was 16, Kaidman and his father resided in the outskirts of Solaria to evade hostilities with the disgruntled of Protectorate City. However, the two came into binds with some Solarian Sunfires on patrol in a rather shattered city from war that had never fully recovered. Outnumbered and faced with skillful combatants, the two were forced to use their forces of magic and returned to Protectorate City territory.

After the events at Solaria, Romathie left all responsibilities of safeguarding the Khelalis magic with Kaidman and abandoned his son. The two have never saw each other since, and Kaidman questions whether Romathie is even alive. Trying to gain some additional security, perhaps from Solarian agents trying to track him down or organized crime members among the land, Kaidman has stayed in contact with a lawman named Jolo Grossman. In some cases, as he nomadically wanders the deserts, he's helped the Rangers in maintaining order. He's never really tried to get into the Rangers, but still keeps in touch with Jolo.

Equipment: Xth armor breast and leg plates, a three liter flask, tempered steel longsword with a set crystal in the hilt, as well a one and a half inch thick book said to be written in Rathyl, an ancient humanoid language.

Abilities/skills: Khelalis energy waves, swordsmanship, chess, and reasoning are all things he's quite well at. Reasoning is especially important when trying to manage feuds. Additionally, he is not quite heat resistant, and carries a three liter flask to try and manage with the heat.

Being more explicit with the Khelalis energy waves, his most powerful waves have only been able to stream a force of six hundred pounds at a distance of thirty five feet for about twenty seconds, and a concentrated wave of energy can wield approximately 1,200 pounds if shot for a distance of forty five feet. However, it is quite inefficient to sustain these sorts of techniques as it drains energy quite a bit.

So begins...

Kaidman Lheyr's Story

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Mox Ierba Character Portrait: Kaidman Lheyr

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90th Day

Dunes outside Protectorate City


The sun scorched the deserts of Protectorate City. One could often wonder why people fought so hard in their revolutions to secure a rather useless field of desert and a trading hub. But the Solarians with their oppressive loyalty to their monarchs and the Drakyvarians with their rather snide look upon all others didn't offer many better choices.

A figure stood upon a long canyon wall which split into two ravines, one leading towards Solaria, the other acting as a sort of boarder with the country once you went out far enough. The canyon seemed to be carved out by an old river which has thinned increasingly more over the centuries. It was only about knee deep and ten feet wide now, and is said to be tainted with mysterious Solarian substances to kill the Protectorate population. But Kaidman had relied on the source for some years to come, and knew this was only myth, like his secrets are said to be.

The long road Kaidman stood by a road that went along the canyon wall from the depths of Protectorate City. A large cloud of dust was kicked up by some animals rushing along the open land. Squinting at the horde, he could see large rugged animals carrying their mounters. As they came closer, he could finally see someone they had taken hostage, and the insignia the animals and had carried seemed to be indicative of a bandit group.

Finally, the group began to pass him, animals stampeding. He saw the beast in which their prisoner had sat on, near the back of the group. Keeping his technique rather discrete to the band, a shock wave concealed by the dust kicked up by the blast was aimed at the rider carrying their prisoner tipped the animal as it ran. With a some sort of grunting as it fell to the ground only some feet up the road. Running to where he had fallen, Kaidman reached for the bound man, pulling him back and noticing he was unconscious.

Looking up, the group had rounded about to notice their fallen companion who struggled to his feet.

"I wouldn't mess with people that aren't yours," he told to the bandits as they approached. "Having lived out here my whole life, I'm quite interested, where are you taking him? There's nothing interesting around these sands." The question was designed in such a way it could only incriminate them, so Kaidman thought. Perhaps they were trying to tie up loose ends with mysterious deaths or assassinations in Solaria, or were organizing a sort of slave trade. About ten of them encircled Kaidman.

"Listen kid," one of them said to the warrior, "I wouldn't bet on you getting out of here alive... you chose the wrong business to but into."

"You'd be surprised."

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Mox Ierba Character Portrait: Kaidman Lheyr

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The Deserts of Protectorate City

The bandits gathered in a circle all on their mounted beasts, some got off and drew blades while a few remained on their mounts. Noticing the two behind him drawing handguns, Kaidman crouched down with his foot going out to the side, as if a sort of low fighting stance. Almost instantaneously, the two riders seemed to be caught by a shallow sinkhole. The animals screamed as they fell suddenly, their necks just sticking out of the ground with their riders panicking as they were helpless.

"Charge him!" one of the bandits yelled, and five began to swarm him. One still remained on his mount, picking up a rifle and trying to pick his shot carefully as Kaidman parried the bandit immediately in front of him quickly stabbing his opponent's wielding shoulder and stepping around him. Now, instead of being surrounded, he'd be able to take all of them from one side, and his longsword had longer reach than either of their sabers. One went to stab Kaidman, but the blade was deflected to the side by Kaidman's weapon. Soon enough, three of them were on him as a fourth tripped over the wounded body.

Swiftly, Kaidman turned so that his back took the blade of a weapon, which was rendered useless by his armor. His blade lifted up to block a strike aimed for his head and he jumped back, luring one forward and bringing his sword into the third bandit's neck. An explosion sounded, and the clashing of metal could be heard as a heavy caliber rifle hit the side of the mage's armor with a grunt, and his body fell and slid across the sand a small distance, but his sword was still in hand.

"I think you got him," one of the swordsmen said to the shooter. The three still standing casually walked over to the body.

"At least he died by the blade," the rifleman said, going to put his rifle away.

"Agh!" one screamed. The fight wasn't over yet, as Kaidman swung his sword into the leg of the nearest target. The others scrambled in surprise that someone had even survived that shot. Concentrating on the gunman still mounted, a sort of light green pillar of light struck him down and pinned him to the sand, the beast beneath him hollering in fright. Being in the back, the magic wasn't noticed by anyone. Quickly, he rolled to his feet.

"Wat the hell is this?" the shooter shouted, but it was in vain as Kaidman began dueling the last of his enemies. The pinned shooter's sternum was quickly crushed after his words, but not to the point his innards showed, and the fighting picked up once again. Blocking a strike on his left, he spun out of the reach of the one on his right and slashed forcefully into the back of the next bandit. His blade was opposed, as there was an attempted block, but his strike was still strong enough to dig into the flesh of the bandit. The last one noticed he was the last one standing, and stood in surprise.

"You're just one man... how did you...?"

"I suggest you give me your prisoner and you tend to your... colleagues. I should have killed all of you, since all of you had the intent to kill me. Remember that before you do something this stupid again," Kaidman told the bandit. He then left the bandit still in the sand, and picked up their captured body. Sheathing his sword on his back, he used both his hands to pick up the man over his shoulders, and rested the body across them. The fallen still groaned in pain.

"You fool... now you're open," said the remaining bandit, approaching Kaidman with his saber drawn with devious purpose. As he got into striking reach, Kaidman reached his hand out, his palm open. The same light green energy that struck the rifleman down flared up around his arm, channeling into a ball of energy, and the bandit froze once again, amazed at the display.

"Now you know too much." A booming cracking of energy sounded as the ball was perpetuated forward, and the same sound could be heard as it came in contact with the bandit's throat. It sent him skidding across the sand, a dead man now. Without another word, he turned away and began to walk down the road and to the canyon entrance.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Mox Ierba Character Portrait: Kaidman Lheyr

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[Co-written with VindicatedPurpose]

92nd Day

Dunes Outside of Protectorate City


The sun beat down strongly on Kaidman and the body he carried. For a mile, he limped as a sharp pain dug into the side of his chest, and eventually he stopped, quickly dropping the man on his shoulders and sitting down. By now, they had reached the entrance to the canyon, the rock walls surrounding a river flowing northwest.

"Ufh," the unconscious man let out as he fell onto the sand.

Some sand went into his throat causing him to cough. Mox tried to wipe it from his eyes, his face was bruised and scratched in various places. His hair had become sandy black, and his throat was dry.

He continued coughing to clear his throat as he surveyed his surroundings. He looked around, unfamiliar with this landscape. He was sure he was no longer within the city. He spotted another man who was on his knees with his back toward him.

Mox got up, stumbling, his legs were bruised. His torso felt battered, he grunted when he stood up. He felt as if he had been through a fight, but he remembered nothing. He was at his forge and then...as he thought about it, his head began to ache.

He coughed up some spit, which tasted grainy because of the sand. Some unnatural coughs followed before he finally reached the kneeling man.

"Hey," he spat some more. He felt like shit, he tasted like shit, he smelled like shit. He rubbed his wrists which felt like they had been grinded against something.

"I'm glad you're awake," Kaidman said, holding his head with his hand. The pain seemed to be greater than usual, not just a bruise, but perhaps even his bones were broken. It hurt even just to wear his armor now, but the river wasn't far now, they could stop there.

"Are you going to be able to walk? I'm not sure I can carry you anymore, I had quite the fight with your captors," the man told Mox.

Captors. Mox looked past the man, he had been captured. Now he remembered. He squinted at the canyon walls, there were bandits. Well, he had been rescued, so it did not matter. At the same time, he realized that he could not possibly trust the man yet.

"Yeah. I can walk, where are we?"

"We're at the Bane Canyon, that leads North and West when it splits, one passage leading to Solaria, the other going around

Protectorate boarders like a buffer zone," Kaidman answered. Finally, he stood, the broken armor on his side didgging into the skin, making it difficult even to do that.

"There's a river not too far from the entrance, you can see it from here," he explained to Mox. "Let's get some water there, and we'll figure out what we'll do about all this."

Mox had never heard of this stream before, it was pretty far out from the city perhaps. He made sure to make a mental note of this location if he was ever stranded. He would have to figure out how far from Protectorate City he was to begin with.

Water, it was reasonable. He was unarmed, perhaps he was lucky to be alive thus far.

"Mox, and you are?" Mox began walking toward the entrance ahead of the other man.

"My name is Kaidman," the man replied. "C'mon now, I know a place a little upstream where we can get out of the heat."

With that, he began walking into the canyon.

"Where are you from?"

Mox moved with a sort of limp, trying to shift weight from one leg to the other and back, "The City."

"You have a long way to go, my friend."

-

On the 92nd day of Jeytelh's Ride, the sun rose just over the horizon. It seemed a bit frigid outside, but nevertheless, Kaidman and Mox proceeded along the desert's vast expanses.

"My friend shouldn't be too far out from here. She's very touchy about people who come into her dwelling though, you may have to wait outside while I speak to her," Kaidman told his new-found companion. "She's what some may call a witch doctor."

Although the distance was relatively short from the canyon they were at to the city, it was long enough not to be able to survive without water. To follow a survivable route took some time.

Kaidman only wore a tan shirt with dirtied pants, with bandages under his shirt on his wound. He carried his longsword still, as injured as he was, though it was sheathed on his belt.

"We're lucky we've made it this far without any... interference."

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Mox Ierba Character Portrait: Jolo Grossman Character Portrait: Kaidman Lheyr Character Portrait: Portia Latisse

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[Co-written with Redred33mer]

93rd Day

Bane Canyon


The two men wandered for a time in the underbelly of the winding canyon. Mox followed behind the other man, who moved at varying paces. The orange rocks and grey sand were nothing new. The wind picked up occasionally and sent some bits about.

Mox noticed the man was dragging the sword against the sand, carving against the grain. They were going to meet a "witch doctor." The term was used for healers who had unorthodox methods of treating injuries and sicknesses. The manner by which they dealt with sickness was a mystery to many, ergo witch. Some claimed that they were healed, and thus these witches earned the label of doctor. They were far and few, and because of this, not many people trusted them. They were unsure whether these people engaged in other practices aside from curing the sick. Some rumors circulated that they would feast upon the patients they failed to cure, cannibalism. They would then be granted immunity to the sickness that had consumed the fallen. And from their blood they would concoct, through alchemy, a cure. Others said that they made blood sacrifices which created the plagues that had devastated the cities years ago.

There were few stories that made Mox comfortable with the idea of visiting a witch doctor.

"How much farther?"

"We should be there in about twenty minutes. However, I'm afraid you will not be able to come into my friend's house. She's quite picky about who she lets in as guests," Kaidman explained to Mox.

Mox wondered if he wasn't walking into some kind of trap. He still wasn't sure he could trust this man, even though he had saved his life. Or maybe he didn't actually rescue him from bandits, after all Mox was mostly unconscious and did not recognize the faces of his captors. He decided to come up with a plan to escape once he reached the witch doctor's dwelling. Perhaps he could wander upon some traders and they could point him in the direction of the City.

Mox continued to watch Kaidman waver with each step, as if he was losing against the heat.

It was a bit difficult, the journey; every step he took ached his body, weighed down by himself and his sword. But every step he took would ensure his safety, Kaidman thought to himself. It'd be difficult to survive otherwise.

"After we make a stop here, there'll be an oasis about two miles Southwest, and we'll be thirty miles away from the city. We'll get some water, hopefully find something to eat, and we have another... six miles or so until we get to a river." It was a bit awkward traveling with someone else along his path; it wasn't something he had done in years.

An oasis, water, food. It all seemed very altruistic of the stranger. Mox wanted to lower his guard, but he wasn't sure of this man's capabilities or motives. For the time being he would watch and wait.

"Your friend is by that river?"

"No, we're almost to my friend who has a dwelling somewhere among the sands and rocks over there," Kaidman pointed out. "Do you know anything about a man named Jolo Grossman? I've been trying to find him."

"The ranger?"

"That's him. You got any word on maybe his ugh... recent business?"

"No. I stay in the city. Business?"

"Yeah... I'm just trying to track him down, see what I should be looking out for among these deserts," Kaidman explained. The warrior took another few steps before stopping and going onto one knee. Clutching the side of his chest where he was shot, he looked down and closed his eyes.

"Whoa hey," Mox rushed to his side. He saw that the man was clutching his chest. Perhaps some sudden pain had just struck him.

"Are you alright?"

"Yeah... I think my ribs are broken. It's been quite difficult to walk with it, and still carry my weapon, but we're almost there," Kaidman said. He pushed himself to stand, and stiffened his posture. He took a deep breath in, then let it out. "Let's not get stuck out in the open, Sun's strong."

If this stranger had really saved his life, the least Mox could do was offer some aid, "You want me to carry your sword for you?"

"If you could, it'd be nice." Kaidman then took the sheath and blade off his belt, going to hand it to his companion. If Mox were to be as devious as most others he met out here, he would've thought Mox would've tried to take advantage of his severely injured state. If he wasn't able to rely on... unconventional means, Kaidman would've been dead already.

Mox took the blade, hefting it upon his shoulder. It was a simple sword, a bit heavy for someone who was wounded like Kaidman. It could use some reforging. His own personal blade, which was perhaps somewhere else by now as thieves must have taken it after he was knocked unconscious, was not as heavy as this sword. However, it was just as useful, perhaps even more so than this particular sword.

He grasped the blade with both hands and swung it around in the air, testing its weight and handle. It moved with strength, not grace or anything fancy. It performed its job, nothing more, nothing less.

"A fine sword. Could be better though," he chose not to say more.

Kaidman was wounded, Mox knew it wasn't really an appropriate time to talk about swords. He returned the blade to his shoulder and continued.

"Yeah, I know. I haven't refined it so much, even though I've had to use it quite a bit. The blade's getting dull and I think I have a way of lightening then handguard, but I'm not so sure," Kaidman went on. He chose to talk about it, keeping his mind away from the pain.

"I could give it a look, I'm a smith," he massaged the hilt, letting his thumb wander along the bottom of the guard's engravings.

"If you could, it'd be nice."

-

Jolo and his accompanying ranger had found a group of traders who were stranded in some dunes overlooked by a number of canyons and plateaus. Upon closer inspection, they weren't really traders, nor were they stranded. They were bandits, and they were dead. One had been pinned down by his mount at the time of death. The Grelb beast was dead like its rider. The rider was crushed and he probably retched blood as evidenced by the pool of dark red that was now dried into the sand, stained on his cheeks, and washed across his crooked incisors.

Two others were hacked and sliced apart, they laid on the dune bed letting the wind bury them slowly.

Another body was found separated from the rest, it looked as though he had been flung backward. His throat had been cauterized, and his eyes remained dead opened. His blood and flesh were dissected into bits upon the sand.

Were these the same bandits that had attacked Protectorate City several days ago?

They checked the bandits' belongings, for they had not been looted by other rogues as it seemed. There was nothing interesting to be found, just a few pieces of rocks, pouches of dust, and supplies for the desert such as canteens filled with water. Nothing out of the ordinary, they were expecting weapons, the kind that could have cracked the city's wall with a loud boom and smoke. But it was unusual to find rocks and dust.

Jolo decided he would hold on to the pouches of dust, bandits did not carry pouches of dust without a reason.

"Hey, chief!" the other ranger called to him.

"What is it Portia?" he replied in a smooth rasp.

"Tracks, wandering into the canyon."

"Bandits?"

"Not sure."

"Be on guard then."

The two followed the trail into the twisting canyon.

-

Eventually, Mox and Kaidman came to a a large rock wall, extending for miles it seemed. The two walked along it slowly until they came upon a large wooden door braced with metal binds.

"This is my friend's house...

Mox's eyes scaled the wall for a bit until they returned to the wooden door.

"She...lives in here?" he asked.

It was unexpected, how could anyone possibly live in such a place? He had to take a couple of steps back to survey the rock wall once more before he took Kaidman's sword and let it rest against the wall by the door. Rather than directly answer him, Kaidman decided to knock on the door, rather loudly as the door seemed to be thick. A moment passed in silence as the wind rustled against the scarce brush and sand, and the door finally opened. An elderly woman stood, only a little over five feet, dressed in a manner so that most of her body was covered, except her hands and face.

"Seems like you've been out and about, Clara-"

"Kaidman?" the old woman said shortly. "What sort of banditry are you practicing bringing people I don't know here?"

Her tone was a bit crass, as many older people were.

"I'm injured... I need your help," Kaidman told her.

"Well I'll help you, not... whoever that is."

Mox's eyes went wide, she was addressing him.

"Mox," he decided to introduce himself. He saw she was a bit frosty, ironically.

"Anyways... you know your friend can't come in," the woman spoke.

"He knows, now let's go inside, before it gets later, I have places to be," Kaidman pushed.

"You and your desert hermit whatever it is you do these days? Come on in..." she finally said. Kaidman made sure to pick up his sword before walking into the woman's home. The door shut behind him, leaving Mox standing in the sand.

-

At least he took the sword, Mox wouldn't need to resort to thievery. He walked around for a bit, before he began to wander away from the dwelling etched into the canyon wall. He often looked over his shoulder to make sure no one was following him.

He had never been to Bane Canyon, for all he knew, he could have been wandering in a circle around the old crow's home. Each rock formation seemed to look like one that he had previously passed. There were large orange boulders, jagged and solid. They were stacked atop each other in all manners. Some of the stones had old markings of ancient script that no longer had any meaning to those presently living. It was possible that some ancient and intelligent race put these stones together as path markers for their travels, choosing to erect monoliths at key forks in the canyons. Perhaps it was ancient Drakyvarian script, as Mox often recalled that their kind would often make claims as to being the oldest race on M'Sal.

This was all wandering thought for Mox. The average human, however, would have fallen under worse hallucinations and delusions for going without water as long as Mox had.

He came upon another rock formation. It looked familiar as if he had seen it before. No. He had seen it before.

He looked around, swallowing what little saliva he had.

"What...the hell..."

He decided to go off to the passage on his right. He had to get out of the canyon, but it seemed every two steps he took forward was always one step back to the original point. At a certain fork he realized he didn't even remember the way back to the witch doctor's home.

The afternoon sun began to beat down on him.

He decided to fall into the shade of the overlooking canyon cliff to recuperate.

-

The door to the woman's home opened, and Kaidman showed himself as ready as ever.

"Now I don't want you getting into those meak scraps you get into," she told the swordsman.

"You know I had to," Kaidman responded. "There's something weird going on with the bandits lately, maybe it's connected or not, but I have every intent to break it."

"Ugh... where's your friend there?"

"What do you mean?" The question made Kaidman look around frantically. He saw footprints slowly fading away in the sand as wind blew grains of ground rock all around. "Thank you for your help, Ayleth, but I need to find Mox now."

The man took off in a sprint, following the faded path. To find the smith dehydrated and dying would be something he'd rather not have to face. He ran for some time before he finally reached a shady part of the canyon. Mox was laying in the sand, dehydrated as Kaidman had thought.

"I'm not sure what you're doing wandering off. I could leave you here to die, and not a bad thing would happen to me. You know that, right?" Kaidman asked, with all intention to make the smith reflect upon his futile wandering. "For a few days we've been walking among the desert, where most would die. I haven't let you down yet."

Mox gazed in the direction from where the voice came, his eyes wandering up until it reached a gleaming countenance.

He was sweating profusely, but not as bad as had he been out of the shade. So he felt a bit of guilt for wandering off from the stranger, and he had his reasons.

"I was...just...going for a walk. You have any water?" he wiped his forehead.

By now his hair was as soggy as his tunic.

"Here," he said, taking a flask from his belt. Tossing it in the air, it landed on Mox's stomach. "Now I have to find out where exactly we need to go from here. If you want, you can come along."

Strangely enough, the man began climbing the canyon wall; no safeties, no spotters, he began putting hand over hand to climb what seemed to be a forty or fifty foot cliff.

"We should be able to see the city," he told the smith. Perhaps he wasn't convinced he was getting anywhere he should, and the man should see for himself the path they were set on. Reaching for a grip, he continued to climb, regardless of whether Mox was coming or not.

Mox took the flask and took some earnest sips, quenching the dryness that lingered in his throat. He watched as Kaidman grappled and tried to find grips along the various little ledges and outcroppings that jutted from the wall. He watched with widened eyes, for he had never seen anyone try to climb a rock wall without harnesses, ever. Not even in his days as a miner.

"Are you out of your mind?" he called out, see the city? Is this guy serious?

"Hey! Hey!" It was no use, the other man seemed intent on climbing.

It seemed the man could handle himself fine as he continued to climb steadily. Mox took another swig, feeling that he needed to down a bit of the soreness in his throat.

It was not but twenty minutes until Kaidman reached to top of the cliff. There was a small plateau in which Kaidman could stand and observe his surrounding. In front of him, in about twenty miles of open desert was the city. Looking off to his left, he could see not too far was the river he wanted to get to after meeting Ayleth, and from there, some rock formations lead to a five mile stretch between canyon and Protectorate City. Maybe two or three more days of travel, and Mox would be back to the city.

"It's too bad you didn't decide to come up, you're missing a lot!" Kaidman yelled down. His words echoed in the rocks below.

He stood above all other nearby surroundings, some mountains way off to the West. In fact, turning around, he could see one of the bordering Solarian posts eighty or more miles away.

This guy's fuckin' crazy. Mox shook his head. He looked up to the cliff, Kaidman had disappeared beyond the edge.

"Hey!" he called out, hoping the man might have heard him.

He resigned himself to a sigh and just sat back into the shade, taking another swig to satisfy what he had lost in sweat as he waited for Kaidman to come down.

If only the layman were more interesting," Kaidman thought. But he had accomplished what he needed to do; he knew where he was now, and knew where he was headed.

"Wait there, Mox," he called down. Looking on the other edge of the cliff he looked down; there was a a surface he could simply slide down. His boots could surely handle it, and no one was around for him to expose his magic to on this side of the cliff. Planting one foot on the rock wall, he lifted his other and let himself begin to slide down the rockface. Locking his arm out, he prepared his strength as he plummeted towards the ground. A wave of energy shot out from his hand, spiraling from his shoulder. It slowed his fall enough that he was able to catch himself in a standing position. Soon enough, he walked the distance around the cliff and returned to the smith.

"Ready now? We got another two or three miles until the next water source," Kaidman said.

Mox sighed, "Alright, let's-"

He was cut off at that moment by the voice of an older man. It was a hoarse and dry voice.

"And where do you think you're goin' boys?"

Mox turned in the direction of the voice, to see a man of average height in a dark coat, with a scabbard holstered and hanging loosely from it. An emblem rested on his wide brimmed hat. His eyes were dark beneath the brim, as dark as his skin, only his graying beard could be seen stretched by the smile on his face. One of his hands held onto a pistol loosely, as though he was just about to raise it at Mox and Kaidman, but declined in doing so once he recognized them.

Behind him was another figure, a lady as evidenced by her long brown hair. Her boots were heeled and she stood with a hand on her hip. Her coat was very much similar to that of the man in front of her, but shorter in length, running only to her knees. She was clad in grey inside the coat. Her face was one that had seen much. It was as dry as the desert sand, no makeup, nothing flashy or alluring. She carried a sword just like the man, but she also had a rifle strapped to her back.

"Jolo! I was looking for you. I was afraid you stopped doing your job," Kaidman sprang.

The bearded man rolled his eyes and shook his head.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Mox Ierba Character Portrait: Jolo Grossman Character Portrait: Kaidman Lheyr Character Portrait: Eian Karimi Character Portrait: Shari Character Portrait: Portia Latisse

0.00 INK

[Co-written with VindicatedPurpose and Kuroe]

93rd Day

Protectorate City


"You're not seriously thinking of doing this, are you?" Shari's question was met with a blank look from Eian. The kind of look that assured her of his complete seriousness.

"This is... This isn't the smartest idea you've ever had, Eian..." Shari mumbled. Talking to Eian was like talking to a wall. "We're damned if we do and damned if we don't, I suppose..."

Eian shrugged in response. "This is the best way to find Mox. Leaving and going back with the letters without looking would be far worse than not."

They had been about to do just that, actually, when Shari had read the poster aloud. Now, much to her dismay, they were headed out to kill bandits and a man that may or may not even be alive anyways. Shari even knew that Eian hated these odds. Normally, he wouldn't even bother finding a target like this, or ask to be payed extra by their employer. What made this assignment different? Eian flat out refused to tell her anything about the damned thing. So here they were, going off to fight bandits in the middle of the desert. Maybe there had been something in the stew Eian had ate the other night...

"Eian, do you even know what this Mox guy looks like?"

"No."

Shari waited for him to continue. He didn't. It was obviously a sign for her to be quiet and wait. Or something. She couldn't really tell what he was thinking right now.

-

Noon quickly came upon the Dome, but much more than that was the crowd of people assembled to take on a little bandit hunting in return for rewards. It was an assortment of various peoples and species. There were humans, Drakyvarians, Vaul, lizardmen, and so on. They were dressed in all sorts of garb, but most were adventurers as evidenced by their weapons and armor. Others were simply lured by the prospect of bezants thus one could see those who were beggars, others who were merchants, and others who were simple folk.

They came to hear information that was to be crucial to their objectives. Each man had their own motives; they conversed among themselves for a time.

The surrounding streets were empty, save for the shopkeepers standing outside their businesses to watch the commotion. In front of the Dome, there was an elevated platform from which the council members often gave public speeches, whether it was for political reasons or they just wanted to hear the sound of their voices, nobody knew and nobody cared.

"Thank you, one and all for coming here this day," spoke Nabis Alaunte, one of the seven council members present that day at noon.

He spoke with a firm and dignified voice, one that might have belonged to a man of wisdom and honor, one that was almost unheard of from a council member.

He was the oldest of all the council members with a white beard and a mane of white hair separated into short and straightened rows of pony tails streaking backward in a manner that almost looked like he was wearing a bunch of feathers. He was also taller than the rest, and his sharpened eyebrows and hawkish eyes lent a dark and calculating air to him. He wore a bronze cuirass over his tunic and his arms were protected by bronze vambraces. He stood before the rest of the seven on the platform, as the rest of them had conferred onto him the role of leading the council perhaps due to his age. Nabis had been elected to the council two times before already, the only council member to have been re-elected mainly because he has been on good terms with nearly everyone.

He was in his villa when he heard of the attack on the 90th, he immediately asked if any of the other council members had been harmed, then he set about fortifying his territories in case the bandits were aligned with any of his rivals. Then he went along with the proposal to have freemen go after the bandits because it was a more convenient solution to what appeared to be a perpetual bandit problem that was not being handled correctly by Jolo and the rangers.

Nabis continued, "By now, I am sure all of you have heard of the attack on our great and prosperous city on the 90th day of the 514th year of our Sun Lord's ride. They attacked without warning, and several of our citizens have been kidnapped," the old politician paused.

"We believe it is very likely that they may have sold them into slavery or killed them already. Whatever it is, we expect you to hunt them down and either kill them or take them prisoner. If you come across any survivors, bring them back to the city."

"The perpetrators are extremely dangerous as we have already seen. We advise you to take caution before accepting our call. However, if you do indeed rise up, then you have our permission to confiscate whatever personal belongings they have, weapons, bezants, and so on. The hunter with the highest number killed or captured will receive the reward of 300 bezants from the city. If you kill, you will have to record where you found them and bring back the heads for us to count. You are also free to work together with others present here today," Nabis concluded.

"Is there anything else that my fellow council members wish to add?" he turned to the rest of them, they looked to each other and shook their heads.

"Very well," the old council member returned to the crowd, "Happy hunting."

The councilors descended from the platform and returned to the Dome.

-

Around Bane Canyon

The sun beat ever stronger than before in the day. Jolo followed by the woman, Kaidman and Mox walked through the rocky sand as they approached a more open area where two saddled animals stood awaiting for the Rangers' return. They were a pair of Yakolas, four legged creatures of yellowish orange skin, a skin that was very thin because they had no need for insulation.
They were even toed ungulates with long upright necks. It wasn't long before they returned and mounted them. Kaidman sat behind Jolo and Mox behind his partner in justice, and the animals began heading off through the open sands.

"Is there any trend in bandit activity out in the deserts now, Jolo?" Kaidman asked as the animals' run concealed their words.

"I wouldn't suppose I know too much about it, but a trend? Seems a bit disturbin'," the Ranger answered. "What do you think you've found?"

Kaidman gripped the frontiersman's shoulder tightly as he almost lost his balance in the gallop. Straightening himself out, he opened his mouth to speak again.

"I think some group of people are planning to bomb somewhere; there's been some exchanging of gunpowder and canisters you'd use for the sort of thing out in the desert. I've done my best to get close without giving myself away, but I could only see and hear so much."

The Ranger could only smirk at the comment, "You're a bit late to the party, son."

"What do you mean?" The thought of letting a horrific event such as that occur made Kaidman tense.

"A couple days ago, an explosive went off near the City, took out a portion of the wall. We had some wounded and others missin'."

"That's funny, a couple days ago, a group of bandits came barreling out of Protectorate City with a hostage on the back of one of their grelbs. And that's how I came upon Mox, sitting with your friend there. He's from the city, apparently a smith."

Jolo was silent for a moment, connecting the dots in his head.

"You killed those bandits."

The fact left Kaidman dumbstruck, "How do you know that?"

"Three days later, I find some bodies on a main road leading to Solaria. Looked like they might have carried hostages too. They had weapons, so they weren't traders. They hadn't been robbed, so whoever killed them, obviously wasn't after their possessions. The only skilled warrior, that I know of in that part of the desert, who would be willing to take on bandits like them would be..." The old ranger let that sink in.

"Kid, didn't I ever tell you to leave that shit to the rest of us?" Jolo asked as he reined his mount forward with an increase in pace "Not that it matters anymore since you're still in good shape."

The old man was unsure how he managed to survive the confrontation, but he was glad that Kaidman did.

"And since those bandits are dead. The trail's pretty much gone cold. Funny."

Mox took everything in as he sat behind Jolo's accompanying ranger, Portia, his hands were wrapped across her stomach.

"Try anything funny and I'll chop both your hands off," she had warned.

"Don't worry, I need my hands to make a living. I'm just gonna hold on so that I don't fall off," Mox replied.

"Chief, what are we gonna do with him?" Portia referred to her passenger.

Jolo looked over to the bearded blacksmith but said nothing.

"Alright, so I killed your bandits, and I have someone you might be interested in. We're headed to the city, and I suppose I can hang around until the morning; but I don't want to be around here long. You know how I am, being a caveman and all."

Jolo scoffed at the smart aleck response, "Don't worry kid, you'll be back in your cave pretty soon."

"Hey, don't take it personally. Maybe some day you'll learn," Kaidman told the Ranger.

The group rode off through the sands toward the city.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Mox Ierba Character Portrait: Jolo Grossman Character Portrait: Kaidman Lheyr Character Portrait: Eian Karimi Character Portrait: Shari

0.00 INK

[Co-written with Redred33mer]

Ninety-Fifth Day

They had ridden for two days and taken several stops. It would not be long before they returned to the city. No news escaped the city as they were told by other travelers they came across.

There was a little trade post consisting of various tents and fluttering banners, walled off by large rock formations. It was secluded like many others, and it was located along the main trade routes. These trading posts had a mix population of people, whether they be the city folk, or the peoples that wandered the desert. Most often, the trading posts were jointly guarded by people of the cities. Some posts retained a level of autonomy as they were able to hire sellswords instead of relying on city guards, thus saving manpower needed elsewhere.

Jolo and the others found themselves at that trade post after their long ride out of Bane Canyon. The yakolas needed food and rest, mirroring their masters' own particular needs for survival in the desert. The night had been cold, but trade posts were never one to be scarce on sheets and covers.

The morning after the ninety fourth day, as they could recall from memory, heralded a calm sun. They were sitting on mats inside a food tent as a server delivered them bowls and spoons of hand-molded clay. The server went to retrieve their portions with his ladle from the pot that steamed of soup.

"We should reach the city by noon," Jolo said, as he checked his coat to ensure that nothing had been pilfered from him during the night.

He was sure that they recognized him as a ranger, and perhaps they recognized he was the head of their unofficial order. He had made many enemies over the past several years since the group's founding. He knew that much, and he was never sure when he would meet another who bore some hardened grievance or aged hatred against him. That was the price one paid to uphold the law. He had not died in his sleep, that was a good sign he thought.

Kaidman sat with the group, as they all ate their meal. It was nice for once to not worry about getting food and cooking it, especially with scarce resources in the desert. But at the same time he felt guilty. He was essentially a sand hermit, and didn't rely on modern currencies of the world. There wouldn't be anything he could do to help Jolo take care of his bills here.

"Hey, ugh, I might need to delay that arrival time," the young man said, interrupting his own thoughts. "I think its a league or two down the road I'd like to pick something up from one of my shelters. You know, armor. I can only imagine what trouble I might come across, travelling with you guys," he said half-jokingly with a smirk.

The other ranger, Portia, kept her eyes on the other travelers, who were not as conspicuous of their creeds through their dress as the rangers were.

"Sure, we can make a stop. It might be best if we finish up quickly here," Jolo chewed on a piece of roasted Paragis meat.

While the others talked, Mox thought of his home in the city. By now he could have guessed that squatters had claimed the place, and thieves had already melted down his forge and other tools. The only belongings he had left was a cache of bezants buried somewhere in the desert. Such was the life of a Protectorate citizen. He felt his hair, which had been roughed up by sand and wind. His beard was beginning to itch, for then he realized that it had grown past where he usually began to trim.

"Who else was taken?" he asked.

The ranger turned to him and paused for a moment to consider, "The count is up to twenty. If you're talking about the attack on the city, not counting you, they took two people. I'm guessing they split up to try and lose us."

He took a sip from his teabowl.

"Well that's just enlightening," Kaidman added in. Taking a few spoonfuls of soup, he scraped up the last bits of the food in his bowl and put his utensil and dish down. "I'll collect my things from the tent, and I'll be ready whenever you are."

Jolo finished his sip and nodded toward Mox, "By now you would have been a slave, consider yourself lucky to be alive at least," then he stood up, "We'll get the yakolas ready."

The group dispersed with Mox following the rangers. He did not feel lucky. He brought nothing with him when the slavers took him, but he hoped that there was something left when he returned.




The riders had left the small trading post out in the desert, setting their trailhead towards Protectorate City once again. The winds and the sand in it made each mile seem longer than the last, and the day had only just begun. They were finally at a stretch of seemingly endless sand dunes flanking them, with little spires visible far off on the horizon.

"Stop right about here, Jolo," Kaidman directed. The command seemed a bit odd.

Jolo released the reins and eyed the surrounding hills of sand, "Where's the cave?"

"Don't worry about it, just stay with the yakolas so we still have a ride to the city. Give me thirty minutes and I'll be back."

"You need someone to go with you?" he looked to Portia.

Mox noticed how raspy Jolo's voice was, and there was a certain soulfulness to it. He did not seem that old to have such a voice, the blacksmith thought. Perhaps he had spoken alot through his lifetime, giving orders to his fighters and negotiating with bandits.

"No, save your energy and water." Kaidman answered. Jogging off into the distance, across unmarked sand dunes, the swordsman travelled further until he began down a slope, out of the sight of the rangers. Looking back, he became conscious of the fact.

Once again, the characteristic pale green energy flowed from Kaidman's body, and trailed behind him to smoothe the sand he displaced, covering his tracks. His pace slowed, careful that he didn't spot anyone perhaps stalking him. Further and further he strayed from the packed sand that was designated a road. The wind still whistling amongst the land, the sun felt stronger out here, causing Kaidman to sweat profusely as he usually did in his lonely, and justifiably aimless journeys. Having a purpose and some travelling companions was refreshing.

Kaidman darted his eyes around from one place to the next. It was as if he was searching for something. Perhaps a plant, a rock, a cave, or a door to his shelter, but there was none adjacent to his position. Sighing, he brought his hands together, joined by finger tips pressing on each other, the palms some small distance apart. One could only guess that he was summoning some amount of his magic, but for the reasoning was not apparent.

The ground under him began to shake, as his footing became uneven. A wave of sand mixed with his energy came up in a circular fashion from beneath his feet. A mound of the displaced soil began forming around the ground level where he initially stood, and he began to sink as the mound's height concealed what exactly was happening. It wasn't until six or seven feet down a metal gate in the ground became apparent.

Bending over, he began unlatching the gate from a bar lodged in the sand. As the gate was unlocked, it swung open on a hinge, giving way to what seemed like a walk-in closet. Jumping down, Kaidman came between a wall of armor, made for men and women, and another wall with swords and various weapons. All of the larger weapons had a common characteristic; they seemed to be able to have some type of crystal set in their handguard, much like Kaidman's.

However, it was difficult to see, the only sources of light being Kaidman's glowing stone and the open roof. Shooting his arms out on both of his sides, Kaidman solved the problem, as his signature pale green energy extended rapidly both ways, lighting and giving the room a tint. The pillar that were etched in the walls gave the greatest support to the subterranean structure, carved ornately with designs of stems and leaves of a foreign tropical land. The walls were made of a clay brick, like many primitive structures in the desert.

There were only four plates of armor, each set in their own pedestal; two to each end. Kaidman stepped to the one closest on his right; armor congruent to what was broken when he rescued Mox from his kidnappers. The armor was thick and heavy, like a knight's breastplate. Lifting it over his head, he lowered it onto his body and pulled his arms up and through the sleeves. Silently, he looked around the room, checking to see if anything was out place. Nothing seemed to be, or felt to be. Kaidman's eyes closed as the room grew dimmer, becoming as dark as it was when he initially entered.

It was time to leave; standing under the hinged door, he jumped up, pulling himself up. His hand extended towards the gate once he stood, and the gate closed and latched itself. With the definitive banging of the latch on the bar that held the door closed, he looked up into the blue sky, out of the dry well he dug himself into. Raising his hand, he formed a staircase, but it only had three stairs. It was then he began climbing up the stairs, two at a time, and as he stepped over one terrace another one formed in front of him. Minimal use of energy was ideal, especially out in the desert.

Spiraling up the hole, he eventually resurface above the mound of sand he had created before. Now Kaidman had to cover his small shelter, and return to the yakolas. Jumping out beyond the burrow, he turned to face his entrance. Glancing among the dunes, he checked for any potential observers, and concluded there was not a being around to see his next act. Extending his arms upwards and outwards, his energy enshrouded him as well as the sand before him. It seemed to involve a great effort, moving hundreds of pounds of sand at once into one hole.

His arms quaked tremendously, until finally the mound had become little more than a bump in the desert. Dropping one arm to his side, he used the other and waved it side to side, a wisp of the energy he had used prior. Smoothing the terrain, it was as if nothing ever touched the land. Spinning around, he set his eyes on the blank path he had used to get where he was. In the manner he had arrived, disguising his trail as he went, he would leave the area.

"Hope they didn't leave me in the sand out here to dry," Kaidman said to himself. He walked, as if he now towed a wagon along the sand and up to the hill he had come down before. A feint wave following him to hide his footsteps. Finally, he summited the slope and was relieved to see Mox, Jolo and Portia awaiting his return. On with the journey they went.





Their spirited mounts carried them across the washing scarves of sand and past the wind that parted the hair from their eyes. The sun was quiet this day, still shining, but the strong winds and the pace of the yakolas ameliorated the usual scorch from Jeytelh's sphere.

"We're almost there," Jolo called out as they reached the crest of a dune.

The wind was blowing off the sand beyond the slip face, forming neatly patterned ripples that was reminiscent of water. Beyond several more dune crests, clumped plateaus, and a few mountains, they could see the characteristic dark outline of the city against the great blue sky. Structures stacked up and up on top of each other, the tallest structures were the wind towers, where the great sails spun at a managed rate. They were the only structures that Mox could determine as he squinted, they were still a league or so away.

If only they could ride forward along a straight path, they would be there in an hour or so. There never was a straight path though. The land was treacherous, and no straight path was ever free of danger. A few balmora trees stood resiliently among the dunes before them. Wind brushed the small patches of yellow grass that dotted their view. They could see packs of travelers and merchants as miniscule little creatures from their distance. Mox could not remember the last time he had left the city and returned to such a sight.

The only thing that kept the city from reaching its true potential was the distrust, they were only united in times of crisis. Each lived for themselves in that city. He supposed in a sense that there was more freedom for the individual as their was less obligation to the group. Mox inhaled sharply and exhaled slowly, he would be coming to see if his forge still stood. Hopefully his neighbors were good enough people to tell him what happened, if their stores still stood that is.

For Kaidman, it had been quite some time since he was in the city. More than months, but years. It was entirely unfamiliar territory, and the idea of navigating through entangling streets made the young man nervous. Perhaps it was simply an overreaction. But, having been out in the desert on his own for so long, dealing more with the shoddy sort of man than its antonym, skepticism and cynicism permeated his mind. His more knightly figure may even draw unwanted attention. He kept it in the back of his mind, the thought.

"So once we get to the city, what exactly are we doing?" Kaidman asked Jolo.

"Getting him home," Jolo gestured with his thumb toward Mox.

"If my home still stands," Mox replied, the wind kept his hair in constant motion.

Jolo remained silent to that comment, "We'll probably also be checking the damage and the section of the wall they tore a hole in."

It was possible that the bandits had done much more damage than the rangers originally thought. Jolo took only a glance at the wall before he trailed the raiders on the 90th day, for his responsibilities often kept him far from the walls.




Eian and Shari were returning to the city after they finished cleaving some bandit heads. They were no closer to finding their target than they were days before. They began to fear that their target was already dead amidst the sands, which meant they would have to return the letter to the person who asked them to deliver it. If they did not deliver the letter, they would not receive payment for completing their duty. That was not how the Cron Suil did business.

Eian chose not to let up. He asked around, or rather, Shari asked around for him of a blacksmith by the name of Mox. Their search proved fruitless thus far. They still needed coins to survive though, thus they killed bandits wherever they could find them. Eian's logic was that the letter's recipient had been kidnapped by bandits. If they found bandits, they might find Mox. If they did not find Mox, they would still find bandits. Those bandits would be killed and added to their growing head count for the bounty award.

That worked against them as they found themselves surrounded by a group that had been watching them from afar, waiting to strike back for their fallen brothers. Since the two traveled on foot, the bandits made sure to surround them on mounts. Just before noon as the pair made their way back to the city, the hooves at the gallop thundered down behind them like a sandstorm.




Jolo and the others were quick in their descent from the sloping dunes and winding rock formations toward the city. They made their way around one last bend that would lead them straight toward the city.

Just as they rounded the rock wall, they could hear the sounds of metal clanging and blades hissing through the air.

"The sound of battle," Jolo stated, he reached for one of the axes within his coat.

"Yeah... how do we know we want to join this fight?" Kaidman asked. His hand sat uneasily on his sword as he tried to look down the road.

Jolo replied with a raspy chuckle before he struck the reins and let the yakola take them. Portia and Mox followed behind on their mount. While the Ranger found the question humorous, Kaidman was a bit wary of battle, especially with companions. While he was a competent swordsman, dealing with outnumbering enemies often called for the young man to rely on his innate magical abilities. The discovery of his powers by more average people had unknown implications; magic was thought to be only an object of the history books.

They rounded a rockwall to find a group of bandits atop yakolas circling two stranded but armed travelers. Mox saw one to be a man, probably a desert nomad based on his appearance and garb. He had two blades steadied at the heads of the rogues before him. His surrounded companion was a woman, she seemed to be less covered than the man, as though perhaps she were a city dweller and not a desert walker. She too was armed with a pair of knives that were about two and half hands long.

The crowd of bandits hollered and undulated shrieks, Mox could see two pirate corpses with their heads covered by the sand as though the battle had started long ago. They were probably knocked off their beasts before the it even began. The nomad seemed very calm, these situations appeared to be natural to him. The woman on the other hand, her face displayed some semblance of the only emotion that mattered for a person in her position, raw and primal fear.

Mox could see his rider unsheathe a kopis from her black coat with one hand, while her other hand strangled the reins. He had never forged such a blade before in his life, for they were relics. Almost figments of legend themselves, yet there he was sitting behind a rider who held one that gleamed when the light of the sun struck the metal. Before he could request to dismount, he felt a web of wetness shot at his face. A decapitated man's blood dripped off of Portia's blade, while also splattering onto his face. The bandits had spotted them making their way around the canyon and immediately sent several raiders to intercept.

Another sword would have maimed Mox's left eye and face had Portia not swung her kopis in a forward motion to deflect the blade away, nearly wringing the bandit's arm with her sweep in the process, if only she had such superhuman strength though.

"Do you know how to ride this thing?" Portia referred to the beast they rode on amidst the clashing of swords.

"I haven't ridden one in awhile, so I don't know," he said aloud above the wind and the cries of the bandits.

"Do you know how to use one of these at least?" she held a pistol in one hand, while she parried an incoming scimitar with the kopis in her other hand.

Mox took the offered weapon just as a blade forced Portia to weave to the side and him to lean backward to avoid the blade lopping off his neck. His first reaction was to swing the weapon right at the rider's face as he passed by and pull the trigger. The gun cracked and the bandit flew from the saddle. His head whipped as blood popped and sprayed red.

"Good shot," Portia said as she returned to her earlier posture and wrung the reins, sending the yakola back around to the two travelers.

Mox had never before used a firearm in his life, pulling the trigger seemed almost instinctive to him. His reflex surprised even him as he was not normally that quick, especially with a weapon he had never used. He chose not to dwell on his little success as the bandits came toward them.

Jolo's axe flew upward and clawed an intercepting bandit's face, almost crushing his skull. The upward blow was enough to push the bandit from his mount. Kaidman had remained silent in their charge, as he gripped Jolo's shoulder tighter. As they neared their targets, the young man pulled his right leg over one side with his other. He then leaped from the back of the yakola towards the pair in the center. Eian and Shari were no longer surrounded in a tight pocket. The formation of bandits broke and scattered in various directions as two more riders were slit in their throats by the rangers and knocked from their mounts, ending the confrontation quicker than it began.

"Well met," Eian said to their rescuers.

"Don't think too much of it," Kaidman said modestly. Brandishing his sword, he bore it pointed upwards at the bandits. Perhaps there was something on them or about them that would give way to a connection in the recent bombing, or disappeared civilians.

"It might be a good idea if we got on one those," Shari's knife pointed in the direction of a yakola with a rider, "And maybe get out of here."

"Just hold your ground and fight the footsoldiers!" Kaidman commanded. "They should know by now the road goes around the quicksand!"

That was his excuse for whenever his foes came from off the road to charge him, and he used his abilities to sink them in the desert. Twisting his body to the right, his arm sweeped down and across, keying the sand below to move. Twenty feet in front of him, as the cavalry stepped forwards, the saddled animals seemed to just slide into the ground as the threat was neutralized. But his gesture caused the nearest bandit to step forwards and rise to the opportunity to strike. Jerking violently back to his left, he swiftly lodged the blade of his sword into the attacker's rib cage. Spinning in the opposite direction, his blade dropped to hack a leg off the bandit.

Those that dodged the sinking ground came at them with even greater force. Eian took two quick steps before he leapt with his blade into the air, springing at a rider and striking him down in the neck. The beast trotted by Shari, who sheathed her knives, grabbed hold of the saddle's pommel, and swung herself over to mount it. Then she rounded the beast back toward Eian and Kaidman.

One rider charged up toward Kaidman with his spear readied. The young man took his weapon in his left hand this time, and pivoted his hips to get leverage into the hip of the mounted beast. The swing of his blade broke the neck of the spear and batted it away, and cut into the flesh of the animal. At great momentum, the beast slowly buckled its knees and fell into the ground. The other bandits on their beasts generated a storm of sand as their ring of riders expanded to envelop the six of them.

"They're trying to surround us," Portia rode up to the group, "There's too many of them," they skipped past two other raiders. Mox fired a round that clipped the knee of one of the mounts, sending the yakola reeling over.

"Get on!" Shari yelled as she passed by Eian who swiftly reached for the saddle and pulled himself up.

Jolo motioned for Kaidman to remount the beast, they were breaking out. Kaidman sprinted to the yakola, faster than one might expect with his armaments. As he neared the beast, he jumped through the air, aiming for Jolo's rear. Swinging his leg over, and pushing up with his hand, he landed roughly behind the Ranger.

"Get us out of here!"




After the confrontation had passed and the group was within the safer outer limits of Protectorate City, Eian and Shari dismounted from the beast that they stole.

"Many thanks friends," Shari spoke for them, "I'm Shari, and my companion here is Eian."

"Jolo Grossman," the ranger then sounded off the others "This is Kaidman Lheyr, Portia Latisse, and he's..." the ranger pointed to his third companion whose name he had forgotten.

"Mox Ierba."

Ierba. Ierba The name sounded familiar to Eian, as though it had rested away in some crevice of his brain. Then it struck him. Shari's thoughts were aligned with his as they both turned to each other.

Eian spoke this time "Mox Ierba?"

He paused with a quizzical expression painted on his face, "By any chance, are you a blacksmith?"

"The only blacksmith in Protectorate City by that name," Mox replied dryly.

Mox was about as common a name in the city as water in the desert.

"You have not been home for days, I suppose," Eian spoke.

"I know," Mox said.

"We were looking for you, but your forge is no longer.." Eian trailed off.

Mox nodded, he understood what the man was trying to say about his forge, "Wait, why were you looking for me?"

Then Eian reached into his undershirt where an important message had been tucked away for safekeeping.

"I'm just a courier, but I believe this is for you," he held an envelope before him.

Mox looked to the others before he dismounted from Portia's yakola, which snorted as he got off. Then he took the letter from Eian and proceeded to open it.

The contents of the letter read as followed.


“To my friend Mox Ierba,


If that is even your real name. How has it been friend? We must catch up some time if you and I get the chance. However, I suppose I do not have as much time as I used to, and I am afraid that chance may never come. If you are reading this, then that must mean that they did not get to you or the messengers who delivered this letter. That news is good. It also means that I am already dead by the time you read this.

I suppose I always could foresee the future. ‘Twas never a gift, but a curse. You remember well enough do you not? The mine that collapsed? To my ill-fortune, I have no power to change what is fated for me this time. The people whom I regretfully worked for…tie up loose ends quickly.

You were and I suppose you might still be one of the few people that I considered to be good company during my days as a miner. I have no relations; you already know that much from me.

After we parted ways, I decided to bury my treasure cache in a safe place like you said you would do with your earnings. I traveled to Solaria, made some acquaintances and acquired a good station. I suppose I made a name for myself. You know me as a scholar; I get my hands on anything I want to read. I came upon this one little story that possessed me. You will know more of this eventually. An outside party had a special interest in this story as well, and things became sort of a mess from there. I shan’t digress into those details, they will die with me.

Now this part is very important. Read carefully. The man who will deliver, or delivered, this letter to you was referred to by an associate of mine. My associate believes he is trustworthy, but you will have to find out for yourself. I have been told he is a well-trained fighter from some nomadic people called the Cron Suil.

Within Spire Canyon, from the southern entrance, walk along the right pass until it begins to wind back to join the left passageway. Along the curving rock wall there is a stone that looks as though it does not belong there. Buried beneath that stone is something that I want you to have because I consider you as a friend, perhaps the only real friend I ever had. It contains more details about the little story mentioned above and payment for the man who gave this letter to you. I apologize if all of this seems quite convoluted, but I am attempting to throw them off your trail to give you a head start. I ask of you this final favor as I pass from this plane, please do not fail me.


Best of luck, always look over your shoulder.


And may Jeytelh watch over you.


Signed,


The Bastard, Michael Lyk

71st Day of the 514th Year of Jeytelh’s Ride

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Mox Ierba Character Portrait: Jolo Grossman Character Portrait: Kaidman Lheyr Character Portrait: Yeron Reid Character Portrait: Portia Latisse

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[Co-written with VindicatedPurpose and conor]

95th Day
Protectorate City




The winds bellowed. Mox was a rock, he had not moved for a few seconds as the words struck him off guard. He blinked, unsure if he was dreaming or not. Michael Lyk. He was dead. Mox had not spoken to the man in years, neither by letter nor in person. They had not communicated ever since their days as miners ended and they parted ways.

"Got damn," Jolo chuckled, "It don't get crazier than that."

Portia brushed her dark hair out of her eyes, and Kaidman seemed to have dozed off as his head was limp while he sat behind Jolo. Mox looked at them before he turned to Eian and Shari.

Shari shrugged, and Eian remained silent for a moment before he spoke, "I have delivered the letter."

Mox did not have a plan or a course of action. First, he was kidnapped by bandits and his forge and belongings were probably ransacked and stolen. Then he wandered the desert for a few days before returning to the city only to be attacked by bandits once more. Finally, he received a letter, the authenticity of which he doubted, from a friend telling him to venture out into the desert to find some piece of treasure. It all seemed so sudden, and unplanned. None of it made any sense to Mox. He was just a blacksmith.

"I'm just a blacksmith. Are you sure this is for me?" he turned back to the messengers.

"You are Mox Ierba, aren't you? And you are a blacksmith, aren't you?" Shari replied, "We were asked to deliver this letter to a blacksmith named Mox Ierba in exchange for payment. Seeing as how you're the only Mox Ierba who is a blacksmith, or the only blacksmith named Mox Ierba, then we've delivered the letter, so pay us."

"Shari," Eian tried to rein her in.

The past couple of days had only reinforced Mox's notion to return home and continue life as a blacksmith. It was plain. It was boring. Most of all, it was stable, but the events that unfolded had challenged that idea. He was reminded of the taste of sand in his mouth when he was being dragged along. He looked at the two desert walkers. He wanted to yell at them, he wanted to utter profanities in their faces. He was not ready to head out into the desert to find some treasure that was not even real. He squinted at the letter, hoping that maybe the words would change into something else, hoping that maybe the letter would disappear, hoping that his forge was still standing. His forge could still be standing. He wanted to check his forge, but knowing that bandits had attacked, he was unsure if he wanted to see wreckage.

"Well? What do you plan on doing?" Portia asked.

"How do I know this letter is even real?" Mox asked, disregarding the pendant seal that had been wrapped around the parchment.

"It seems very legitimate, considering the seal," Eian paused, "Then there's the likelihood of treasure to backup the claims made in the letter."

Mox raised his voice, "If the letter's not real, the treasure's not real. If the treasure's not real, then I don't need to waste my time searching for something that doesn't exist. And most importantly, I wouldn't be able to pay you. I don't have any coin. Did the two of you think that it wasn't weird that they didn't pay you before delivering this letter?"

"We were guaranteed payment by the sender, excuse me, one of the senders. He said the recipient would pay us," Eian said.

"Meaning you," Shari said.

"Who was the sender?" Mox asked.

"The letter says Michael Lyk," Shari replied.

Mox's frustration came in the form of a sigh, "I meant the person who personally handed you the letter."

The two of them looked at each other before Eian spoke, "He was Solarian."

"That narrows it down," Jolo added.

Then Eian spoke, "How about this, we will help you search for the treasure. If it exists, it will validate the letter, and you can pay us. If it does not exist, we will exempt you of payment."

"Speak for yourself," Shari clipped.

Mox stood for a moment to weigh his options. There was no harm to it, "Okay."

Kaidman had been silent for long. His eyes were heavy and closed when his body seemed to have jolted awake; the yakolas were moving again. He held his head, as if it were pained, before shivering a bit. Jolo turned his head, noticing Kaidman moving around.

"Didn't get your beauty sleep in, caveman?" he joked.

"Uh, yeah, sure, you can call it that," Kaidman answered, not taken by Jolo's humor at the moment. "Hey, can we stop in town for the night? I'm not sure going out into the desert so late is a good idea. My head is throbbing." He spoke quite casually and simplistically, his mind a bit scattered in thought.

"The boy makes a point," Jolo added.

The group resaddled and rode into the city, resting at an inn as Kaidman had requested.




Foamy clouds bathed the night sky above the towers of Protectorate City. Lit lanterns still hung in front of several stores. Even at night, people were still out and about.

Mox cupped the little bowl of tea in between his hands, his head inclined toward the table. Jolo was scratching his beard. They were in the tavern of the inn, it was a joint-establishment. They were planning on staying the night before setting out again. They figured they could at least plan before their next moves. At least they did not have to worry about other travelers and thieves rummaging through their belongings when they were in the city. It was Protectorate City though, the thieves could have been the inn-owners for all they knew.

They were in a corner, quiet and secluded from the rest of the scene. They were among many thieves in that bar, even the bard. He was sitting in one corner, dressed in a two piece, a tunic clipped over one shoulder and baggy trousers. As he strummed his quiet lyre, he watched the other patrons through the locks of golden hair that he stayed covering his eyes. The bard searched for a gullible fool and his coin.

As for Portia, she had left the men to their little rest. She had to attend to her own personal business. Though Rangers followed the same credo, they were still independent.

"I don't know," Mox sipped from the bowl. The letter was laid out in front of the two of them.

"It's hard to trust a desert walker," Jolo replied, "But those two seem like they could be trusted."

Mox nodded at that comment, "Another day in the desert," he sighed.

"You ain't got much to complain about, considering what's left of your forge," Jolo shrugged, he pulled off his gloves and began to rub the calluses of his hands.




In Kaidman's supposed slumber, he could see only black, with flames of different color and size and distances from him. It was completely silent, like it was a celestial void where spirits resided. One substantial blue flame cold be seen, as if it were three miles away. A mist of the same color seemed to extend infinitely upwards, gravitating to this one flame in the void. From such a distance, Kaidman was reminded of the trek before he had found Mox; there was a peculiar recurring concentration of energy far away. If the mage had to guess, it was probably far enough it wasn't in Protectorate lands, but Drakyvarian; this was what startled him most.

Kaidman, his void, his arms began to cross, lethargically, in a manner which gave the impression that Kaidman was swimming through jelly. His chest tightened, he didn't dare to breathe. His aura enshrouded him in his green energy, and surely his eyes opened, glowing in sync with the fog encompassing him. A wave of the pale green mist went out from him, as if it were a stone was dropped and rippled the water. One could've heard a high pitched hum, like the ringing of a bronze church bell. With the relinquishing of the energy, Kaidman's chest relaxed enough so that he could breathe once again. Slowly, it went out, only a few feet per second. It wouldn't have been difficult to run faster than the wave, as it crepped along the invisible floor of the realm Kaidman had come upon.

Sweating profusely, Kaidman opened his eyes. He sat in the center of a small room, with one bed and a dresser, his armaments by the nightstand of the bed. There was a closet, made of a dark tan, almost orange clay, and scattered on the walls were candle mounts. A gentle, underactive green ring of flames circled him though they began to dissipate as he became aware of his surroundings. He was in an inn; they had decided to stop for the night, as he suggested. He was supposed to be asleep, but he hardly could since the afternoon, when they finished with the bandits and picked up the two messengers, Eian and Shari he had recalled their names to be.

The young man took two deep breaths through his nose, use his mouth to exhale the last. He used his bland, dirtied white tunic he was wearing to wipe the sweat that accumulated on his head, lifting it so that his toned abdomen could be seen. Dropping his shirt down, he brought himself to stand up once more. Looking out the window, it was dark. But it wasn't late enough for everyone to have gone to sleep. Grabbing the room key on the night stand, he went to exit his room, but not without securing his sword with its shining gem in the handguard in his hands.

He had come exiting the room, he locked it, and dropped the key into his pocket. He headed toward one end of the hall, travelling down a staircase and back to the inn's lobby. It was a small inn, but it had a comfortable social area. Kaidman came to find Mox and Jolo sitting in the lobby.

"Want a drink?" Jolo offered the new arrival.

"Yeah, thanks," Kaidman answered. He sat down on a couch and began drinking a cup of water. It had a refreshing sensuality to it, even if it was a bit warm.

"I didn't even stand a chance that day," Mox shook his head.

"Hmm?" Jolo's ears perked up. Kaidman looked at Mox, his forearm propped up at the elbow and his knucles keeping his head supported as he leaned against the arm of the couch.

Mox exhaled, "When they came, I actually tried to fight 'em off. I shouldn't have tried."

Jolo listened to the boy, in his mind he was wondering if Mox was a potential recruit. He had nowhere else to turn, nowhere else to go. Those were the hallmarks of a new ranger.

"If the treasure's not real, I don't have much to look forward to."

Jolo nodded, "Your friend, Michael. What do you know about him?"

Mox looked up at ranger. He blinked and shifted to the side, "We used to be miners together, but we parted after that venture ended. He went to Solaria, I went here."

"Seems like he made many enemies. The ending of that letter, somebody was trying to get to it before it could reach us."

"Enemies? I wouldn't know much about them. But, people coming after us?" Mox's brow furrowed, he took another glancing sip.

"What we know is that they were chasing him, and then they were chasing this letter. The letter has gotten to you, so..." Jolo scratched his chin a bit more.

"Michael is a-" Mox stopped himself, "Was a decent man."

"We don't know he's dead yet either..." Jolo's voice had deepened to a near low growl.

To speak of dead people was to invite interest from the many perked ears in that tavern. Each man there could have been in any number of trades, aside from thieving, they could have been spies as well.




Yeron pulled the bright red neckerchief over his mouth. Sand whipping past his face as the Yakola plodded through the desert. On his lap sat the rifle with which he made his trade. The beautiful dark-brown rifle with plenty of scuffs and markings bounced on his lap with the movement of the Yakola beneath him. Keeping his finger on the trigger guard he looked from side to side, keeping watch of the terrain as it passed by. He was on his way back from a ranging mission deep into Solarian territory. Tracking a small group of slavers and kidnappers. Unfortunately a sandstorm had wiped away any tracks they left behind and following them had become impossible.

Upon hearing the news of an attack in Protectorate city Yeron had decided to turn around and head back. Obviously there were bigger things at play than a group of slavers. He would get them another time. Now as the city grew closer he could see the lights flickering in the distance. In truth, he was almost glad to be coming back. He longed for decent bed, two weeks on just a bedroll really takes it out of you. And some good food. 32 years of age, not old by any means but the desert had a way of taking youth away from you. I'm sure to some Yeron looked in his forties. Not that he was actively looking to be physically appealing. No time for that sort of thing. He had dedicated his life to the desert and the people of the Protectorate city. He had dedicated himself to bringing down the kind of scum that killed his parents, and he would keep doing it until it killed him. I guess it was almost like some religious order, at least to Yeron. He wouldn't leave his rangers star behind him unless he had to. That was the way Yeron saw it, his brotherhood, his life, his family.

As the city grew nearer Yeron noticed something off in the distance. Spurning the Yakola onward he hurried to the scene. "Bandits, dead bandits. The best kind". Sifting through the remains he noticed a pattern. He knew only one person with a blade that could do this kind of damage. Chuckling to himself he looked around for any useful weapons he could use. There were none that suited him anyway. Heaving himself back on the Yakola he spurned it forward once more. Drowsiness now began to take hold as the city limits approached. Even at night the city seemed to be brimming with activity, guards moved from place to place and the taverns and inns overflowed onto the streets.

There was a warm breeze in the air, not normal for a desert night but Yeron didn't question it, and neither did the locals as they sat outside the taverns drinking the night away. They seemed happy given the circumstances. Maybe it was just the alcohol but he was glad they could forget about the attack. Even if he couldn't. Pondering why the bandits had attacked the city had been puzzling him for hours. Questions like, why now? why there? who did it? He had no answers, he hadn't been anywhere near when it happened, he hoped Jolo would have some.




Pulling up next to a familiar Inn Yeron slid off the Yakola and tied it up against the side of the building. He figured if Jolo would be anywhere it would be here.

Pushing the doors open he was greeted by a blast of warm air, the stench of alcohol and an explosion of voices and music. A small, sly grin escaped from his face.

Sitting in the corner was the person he was looking for, walking over birksly he arrived at the table. "Jolo. It is good to see you. Nothing warms a man like some friendly faces". He looked at the unfamiliar faces around the table and gave a curt smile.

Jolo reared back in his seat as he noticed a familiar face enter the doors of the establishment. His marred face, his calm disposition, his hat, his gloves, his bandana, and his stride all spoke of an ally.

The veteran chuckled before speaking to Yeron, "This is Mox Ierba, and Kaidman Lheyr," he gestured to the two younger men.

Then Jolo addressed Mox and Kaidman, "This is Yeron Reid, he's a friend of mine. So he's a friend of yours as well."

Mox exchanged a polite nod with the newcomer. He would have stood up to shake the man's head, but that could have drawn too much attention. It was by luck that nobody in the establishment had recognized Jolo, maybe he was heard of more than he was seen.

Yeron and Kaidman had seen each other on occasion. Kaidman's tendency to stalk mysterious people in the desert, whether they be bandits, wanderers, or even Rangers, had surely brought them to meeting on a couple of occasions.

"Good to see you again," Kaidman greeted, upon recognizing the figure.

Yeron politely nodded in towards Mox Ierba. He seemed nervous, but Yeron wasn't going to question it.

He then turned his attention towards Kaidman, his face was certainly familiar and after a brief few seconds of thinking he remembered some of the mettings they had in the past. "And you Kaidman, a friend of the rangers is always a welcome sight."

Yeron grabbed a chair and fell lazily into it. "So, seems I go away for a few weeks and the whole place goes to shit. What happened?"

Jolo drew them in closer for a more privy discussion, his voice fell to a hush, "Five days ago, bandits attacked the city. They managed to tear a hole in the outer wall. We still haven't figured out how yet."

When Jolo said 'we,' he meant the Council and the Guard. They had not figured out how the bandits managed to do so much damage.

"I'm not sure how is as important as who. If it's just some group of bandits, then maybe it was just a stunt. And if it's not a stunt, what are they really trying to do or say by blowing up the wall?" Kaidman added in.

"Well. We know they were bandits. It's not every day they manage to blow a hole in the wall. If we figured out how...it may lead us to the who," Jolo washed a bit of the water down his throat.

Yeron slowly stroked the hairs on his face, pulling down on the beard and then repeating the motion. "Seems like the whole world has gone to hell, theres trouble in Solaria too. I've hear rumours of a traitor fleeing the city. Although they are sketchy at best. Can't trust information like that."

"Nope. Can't believe much these days. Only half of what you see, and none of what you hear," Jolo said.

Yeron chuckled, "Sounds like you might need some glasses."

Jolo grinned, "Anyway, we're headin' out with these boys for Spire Canyon."

He slid the letter over to Yeron.

"Hmm, almost sounds to good to be true. Can we be sure no one else has read this? Sounds almost like a trap." Yeron sat back in his chair and adjusted himself.

"What exactly are Eian and Shari asking as far as pay? Is it just gold, or whatever the treasure may be?" Kaidman interjected.

"Hopefully just gold. And hopefully there's nothing but bezants in that 'treasure,'" Mox paused, "Also, where's the other lady? What's her name, uh..."

"Aha, Portia. I thought I saw some of her handiwork out on the road" Yeron smiled to himself, that woman was deadly with a blade. Sometimes he felt sorry for anyone in her way. Sometimes.

"You're not mistaken," Jolo smiled, only briefly, before he returned to reflect on the nature of the letter.

"A trap," the ranger let the words linger in the air.

"Bandits sack the city, and now this kid is being chased," he pointed to Mox, "All seems coincidental."
Jolo paused for a moment, he stared directly into Yeron's eyes, "The bandits that attacked the city. They killed D'hakem."

The news hit Yeron hard. D'hakem was a good ranger, a better friend. As it sank in his breathing slowed and cupped his face with his hands.

The sadness eventually ebbed away and was quickly replaced with anger. His breathing began to pick up again and his face scrunched up. Suddenly he slammed a fist onto the table, the objects atop of it scattering across the floor.

"God damn, I've seen so many people die in this world and I never get used to it. Sometimes you wonder is it worth it. Risking our asses out there in that wasteland only for the names of our dead to dissapear without a thanks."

Yeron rubbed his forehead slowly. The throbbing pain in his fist subsiding and his anger quelling. "I guess thats what we signed up for, gunfights and heartbreak so the people here can sleep at night. I guess me and Natasha here will just have to acquaint ourselves with some bandits." Jovially slapping the butt of his rifle.

D'hakem was the latest in a string of killings among their ranks, it seemed as though they were being targeted. Jolo had few ideas as to who was behind these motivated killings. It was up to him, though, to lead any countering moves

"Get some sleep gentlemen, it'll be a long day tomorrow," Jolo stood up and stretched.

The group dispersed to their rooms for the night.