The Footsteps of Evil - Chapter 1
The smell of death and rotting flesh was overpowering. To all but the most inexperienced traveler, it was clear that the wreckage of the inn was caused some time ago, and the corpses were many days old. However, the age of the site did little to calm the racing hearts and the churning guts of the merchants who had stopped to examine the site. And the fact that they were the first to discover the site attested to the dangers of the roads in recent times, and how this danger had affected the amount of traffic that the roads now held.
Arcsaur deQuester knelt beside a particularly gruesome corpse. The body was severely burnt, and the burns that featured all over his body marked the agonized visage of horror fixed on the poor soul’s face. Though his palm was firmly clamped over his mouth, hiding his expression of loathing, Arc was no stranger to the sight of death. His eyes traveled down then body to the upper torso. Barely visible on the body due to the burns, was a deep slash. This man wasn’t killed by the fire, but by a sword.
“Hey, Arc! C’mon, let’s go, I have no wish to dawdle here, and I want to press on, see if I can’t reach the Rogue’s camp by nightfall.” The voice belonged to Warsthon, the leader of the merchant train. Though Warsthon was not his boss, Arc stood to follow out of respect for his position. Arc and Warsthon were travelling in same direction for the moment, and so Warsthon allowed Arc to travel with them. Arc was grateful for the numbers when it came to resting at night, and Warsthon never minded having an extra sword to travel with his train. You can never be too careful in these dark days.
Arc walked away from the burnt out inn and fell in step with Warsthon. Just earlier this morning they were joking with the others in the train and saying how they were hurrying towards a certain inn near the Rogues camp.
“Ahh, I can’t wait to get a fair nip of ale at that inn,” Warsthon had said. “Maybe we’ll even stop there for the night if I get too comfortable. A nice feather bed wouldn’t go astray, if they have one.”
But now no one was thinking or talking about ale or hot stew or beds or even friendly barmaids. There was little talk, as all minds where thinking the same thing. The world has been steadily going mad for some time now, and this is just the latest of witnessed atrocities.
After a time, they approached a small hill in the distance. Warsthon pointed. “There, just on the far side of that hill is where this supposed Rogue Camp is. I want to be there before we break tonight. God knows w don’t want to be camping out in the open again after seeing that.”
Arc nodded his agreement. “It’s another foul deed to lay at Diablo’s door.”
Warsthon snorted. “Bah, so yer one of those believers are you? Always goin’ on about Diablo this and Lord of Terror that. The reason the travel is so bad is cos the King has been lax the past couple of years with his border defense and his duty to destroy monsters where they be, inside the borders and out. This here trouble is heralding an invasion of monsters, hungry for spoils. But don’t give me any of that Third Prime Evil rose from Hell to take the world in a war of unholy fire garbage.” Though his tone of voice was derisive, it was also bantering. Despite his bold speech, Warsthon was honestly at a loss to explain the rise of atrocities. However, he didn’t believe the stories of Diablo rising, perhaps because he was scared they may be true.
Arc rolled his eyes. They had had this conversation before. He knew that Warsthon was not arguing for the sake of the argument. He was arguing to try and lift the topic away from the carnage seen that day. “The king has been slack in his duties because the king is dead, Warsthon. King Leoric fell against Diablo’s own hands. Trust me when I say Diablo has risen and it is his influence that is spreading across the land.”
Though all the points of the debate had already been exchanged between the two, they still played out the verbal dance to cover the time and occupy the mind.
They made good time. It was late afternoon when they reached the crude gates of the Rogue’s camp. A woman armed with a bow stood on top of a wooden palisade and called down to them, demanding to know their business. Warsthon replied, “We are merchants, and we are wondering if we might share and contribute to the security of your camp.”
“You may come in, though we already have a resident merchant here at the moment. You are lucky to even reach here. Forces or darkness surround us and I fear that once you come in it may be a good while before you can leave again.” Warsthon started to reply, his eyes wide and his hands trembling at the thought that he may be stuck here and not able to leave. The woman cut him off. “Quickly come in. you can ask questions of Akara, our leader.”
Warsthon lead the train inside and then demanded to be taken to this Akara. Arc quietly took his pack from one of the wagons and took his leave of Warsthon. He knew Warsthon was preoccupied and would be busy probably until later that night and so Arc left, hoping to find some food.
Arc wandered around the camp, noting the general layout to familiarize himself with the place. If the woman at the gate was to be believed, he may be here longer than he expected. He chafed at the delay of getting to his destination, but he knew it could not he helped. In the northeast corner, he noted, was a makeshift blacksmith, so if his long sword needed repairs, he knew where to go. He noted also a strange square stone that seemed to have circular carvings on it to his left, and wondered at the significance. He turned to his right and then headed towards the center of the camp. At the center was a collection of campfires, bright against the fading light, and the smell of roasting meat was rich on his nose as he headed towards them. He passes a solid looking woman dressed in chain mail. As he walked past he felt her eyes follow him. He decided to ignore her. He decided that she was most likely the leader of the warrior women that guarded this camp. Arc wanted nothing to do with her. He had his own path he must travel.
Arc approached one fire with only two women sitting. Both had their meal already, but only one was eating. The other woman, a young woman, who could be no older than twenty winters, was heatedly arguing with the other. “Don’t you see, if we just sit here than we passively wait for the enemy to come to us. We are no use to anybody sitting here, allowing the enemy time to gather their forces until they can overrun this camp.”
The other, an older woman replied. “The simple fact is that we are too weakened. If we strike out we draw attention to ourselves. Better to wait here and hope for aid, conserve our strength.”
The younger was about to reply when Arc entered the circle of light surrounding their fire. Both immediately looked up. “Greetings,” Arc said, inclining his head politely. The older woman responded with a smile and a nod. The younger merely glared at him for interrupting her argument. “I am newly arrived to your camp and was wondering if you might spare some food? I have coin.”
The older waved away his offered coin and cut him a generous portion of the meat. She then offered him some bread and water and motioned for him to sit. Gratefully, he accepted his food and sat. As he was eating, the younger attempted to restart the conversation, but was silenced by the other. “Leave such topics for the council tonight.”
As Arc ate, he motioned towards the hunter’s bows that were placed next to the two women. “So then you two are warriors, helping to guard this camp?”
The younger of the two answered proudly “We are Rogues, and this is our land. We are defending it from the forces of darkness that has covered this land recently.” Arc nodded his approval.
The younger Rogue motioned towards his own long sword and the large shield strapped to his pack. “Are you too a warrior, come to help us in the fight against evil here?”
Arc shrugged non-committedly. “Not really. Actually, I came here with Warsthon’s merchants. We arrived this afternoon. I was merely helping to guard the merchant train.”
“Ah,” the younger Rogue replied, her stare turning even frostier. “A common mercenary. A man who sells his sword to the highest bidder without thought to honor or justice.”
Arc half smiled nonchalantly. “Perhaps,” he said. He finished his meal in silence and took his leave.
He found Warsthon again, setting up his camp and cursing like a fishwife. “So, we seem to he surrounded but the forces of evil, and now you can’t leave” Arc greeted the raging man as he approached.
Warsthon answered with a curse. “Seems so. And these Rogues ain’t telling anybody what they’re gonna do about it. They’re holding a big Council thing later tonight, but they won’t let anyone in who ain’t a Rogue.”
Arc laughed, “I don’t see you wearing one of those red leotard things, Warsthon.”
The merchant snorted. “No, and so that means no know for me, you know? And to make matters worse there is already a merchant here! God knows how long we’re gonna be stuck here, and I have to worry about competitive rates!”
“Yes, life is hard. I’ve already met your competition, by the way. Some greasy fellow named Gheed.”
“Gheed! Gheed? That ***! Faahh!” Warsthon cursed. “The perfect end to the perfect day!”
Later that night, Arc left his bedroll to wander over to the large tent in the middle of the camp. It was one of the few still lit that night, and it was the largest, so Arc guessed that this must be the location of the Rogue’s council. He remained at a respectful distance but kept an ear tuned towards the sounds coming from the tent.
Debate seemed to be running high in the tent. The Rogues were a prideful band of warriors, and it chafed them to be sitting still all day while their land was rife with the creatures of evil. But the more experienced and the wiser Rogues knew that they were woefully outnumbered and any serious loss to their number would leave this camp undermanned to properly defend the people within.
One of the loudest voices protesting the inactivity Arc recognized to belong to the young Rogue he met at the fire. He grinned at the fire and passion in her voice as she voiced her desire to take the fight to the enemy with vehemence. Yet soon the elder Rogues shouted her down, rejecting her rash suggestions. It was more early than late when the council finally broke. Arc was standing within the shadows of a great tree as the Rogues began to leave the tent. One of the last to leave was the young Rogue. She stormed off, and Arc could see from her expression that she wasn’t happy. He deduced that the Rogues would stick to their strategy of inaction. A short time later, Arc headed back towards Warsthon’s camp. But on the way, he caught sight of a figure sneaking in the shadows towards the other end of the camp. Holding her hunting bow, and fully armored, the young Rogue was heading towards the exit of the camp. Arc rationalized that she was probably on watch, or perhaps patrol, but he found himself following her anyway. However, she went not to the gate, but to a far corner of the camp, where she wiggled out from under the wall where a single log had been cut short.
Arc turned and ran back to his pack where he grabbed his shield, his belt and long sword. He hurried to the gate where he made an excuse to the guard of having lost a valuable on the road. As he left the Rogue camp, he turned to follow the dark figure on almost on the horizon by now that was the young Rogue.
To be continued...
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Thread: The Mark of the Soulstones
30-04-2006, 15:55 #1
- Join Date
- Apr 2006
- New York
The Mark of the Soulstones
02-05-2006, 18:09 #2
- Join Date
- Jun 2004
I thought this was pretty good. The setting is familiar enough: a group of travelers braving the dangerous trails of Sanctuary and arriving at the Rogue's camp, and you laid it out in a way that was easy to follow. Arc seems like an interesting fellow, and you effectively weaved some intrigue into the end of it which has me wondering what's coming next. I also got a kick out of Warsthon's reaction to the news that Gheed was the other merchant. That was funny.
I did have a bit of a problem with the way the thoughts of the characters seem to bleed over into the narration. Here's one example:
Originally Posted by Paladin of Zakarum
Originally Posted by Paladin of Zakarum
And one more:
Originally Posted by Paladin of Zakarum
What I'm trying to say is: try to keep the nice bits of personality and local flair out of the narration and instead put it into the thoughts and words of the characters, who are, after all, the ones actually in the story.
Another place that bothered me a bit was the argument between Warsthon and Arc about the source of the recent problems. It's described as one they have had before, but it didn't sound that way to me. In particular:
Originally Posted by Paladin of Zakarum
Now for my last criticism, which is perhaps the most nitpicky:Originally Posted by Paladin of Zakarum
Okay, so that's enough of the rough stuff. I hope I haven't been too hard on your story. Bottom line: it was easy to read and caught my interest. Good job!