Just a note though about the next challenge, the theme is done (I'll post it tomorrow if I remember) but this week has been busy with me doing NFL Draft research (I geek out majorly over it every year) and I'm on holiday next week so will be busy toddling off to random places with the other half, I'll try to write it up but no promises.
The challenge though for was as follows
The theme of this story: epic quest. The main character: ambitious murderer. The start of the story: journey. The end of the story: smuggling.
And this is the end result..'Enjoy'
Kurz sat on a log staring absent mindedly into the flames. Oh what a fine tale this would have been he thought as he looked at his fallen companions - John the priest, Louella, Brandon and Jugati lay motionless. It was only a days trek to the city where they could have sold the Lich Gem for a kings ransom. Jugati and Louella had set off with two other companions a few years prior to look for a gem and over the months into years the group had changed. Friends had fallen, some had left in the night and others retired to a whore house or tavern. Kurz had been hired a year ago, back then he was on the run from the Robed Storm and when they learned about his skill in picking locks he was brought on board for 10% of the sale of the Lich Gem. But now they lay dead, scattered in the forest, one day away from riches, the end of an epic journey. Kurz looked up as the sun began to rise and daylight started breaking through the darkness, it was time to move on thought, the Gem wouldn't sell itself. Standing up, Kurz the Dworn wiped his bloodied blade on Jugati, had one final rummage in the companions’ pockets for any coin he'd missed and set off back to the road for the city and his riches.
The road was paved this close to the city of Dit Mere and Kurz stopped by a small stream running along the side, splashing cold water over his scarred and stubbled face. Half Orc - Half Dwarves weren't appealing to Dwarves or Orcs and it was rare for one to survive past infancy but Kurz had a knack for surviving. His mother had called him a curse on her and the name had stuck, she tried to love him but it only went so far for a child that made her an outcast. She had died when he was young and since then he had brought himself up, before moving to the city where he drifted between jobs, guilds and taverns until he found himself here.
Dworn were blessed by an unworldly constitution, able to survive in the harshest of climates, under the most extremes of stress and pain they always emerged stronger and more bitter towards the world. Persecuted and hunted from town to town, hated by all they met it was a solitary life, those that survived into adulthood often became mercenaries or bounty hunters hunting those that would cast them out.
It was past midday when Kurz reached the city gates, he was able to make good pace on the roads, needing little to drink or eat as he focussed on getting to the city, only when he came to a halt at the gates did he realise he needed a drink. Taking a water skin out he took a long drink before pouring the rest of it over his shaven head. His head was covered in lumps and scars, wounds from countless battles,he had small tusks, much shorter than a common or hill Orc would have, rough stubble covered his chin, he would never get a full Dwarven beard but Dworn could grow them out to try to cover the face if they wanted to hide themselves more. His skin was was a leathery brown, a combination of the dark Orc skin, the pale Dwarven skin and years living in every climate known.
He noticed the local stables as he entered the city, the stable master and a young child looked over at him as he made his way in, the thatched roof of the house stretched and covered the stable itself, twelve horses stood in the stable including ten pure white mares, the sign of a Whiteblade presence in the city.
Dit Mere was an ancient city within the lands of Bruto, built hundreds of years ago upon the ruins of a long forgotten town. Streets winded and would suddenly stop and alleyways would loop around leading back onto themselves with no reason. One thing that stood Dit Mere out from other cities in the region however was the merchants. Being on the coast Dit Mere was a central trading port for different kingdoms, from the Gul to the North, to the Six Cities far across the ocean and south the Valun Khur, the Snakeman kingdom. Kurz knew that there would be merchants here but to get a good price he needed to find a specialist.
After an hour of walking through the city and asking locals Kurz eventually found his way to the Diamond District; a series of merchants all tightly packed together dealing in various gems and jewels. Kurz took the gem out the pouch, rubbed it on his jerkin and walked into the first shop.
Kurz could smell perfumed air as he walked into the shop, he passed two Automatons at the entrance that were on an eternal silent vigil. Kurz felt the tension in the air as patrons, all richly dressed stared at him, as he went to the counter where an old man looked at him.
"We do not serve your kind here not leave before the Automatons force you out" the old man croaked
"I have an item of interest to you" Kurz brought out the gem showing it to the merchant
The old man coughed and quietly spoke "You either stole this or found it. What ever one it was you do not own it and I will not buy it and neither will anyone else in this city."
"This is worth a fortune!" Kurz hissed under his breath
The merchant spoke quietly and drew in closer to Kurz "And this is a Lich Gem and the Whiteblades will execute anyone that owns one and keep it for themselves"
"There must be a buyer somewhere!" Kurz replied
"I can arrange something for you. Go to the Sharksfin tavern tonight, I will send someone to you by dusk with an offer. Now go and do not be seen with that gem and do not draw any more attention to yourself half breed" the merchant whispered
Kurz stepped back, pocketed the gem and seeing the richly painted faces stare at him made his exit as he heard the old merchant claim he knew how to handle half breeds fine.
The tavern was thick with smoke and Kurz sat back on a chair, at least here nobody cared what he was and he drank from the mug of ale on the desk. He looked around and inhaled his pipe weed and thought over the day. He had tried other merchants in the diamond district but none of them would accept the Lich Gem despite his best efforts. He was blunt and straight forward, not used to buttering up merchants but even he was disheartened at the lack of interest. His ambition, his goal of living the life of a fat, drunk, spoilt Dworn had come crashing down and he had fallen back on the first option, the old merchant in the first store.
As the day darkened and the night came in Kurz drank and smoked. Close to midnight a hooded figure moved closer to the table and sat down beside Kurz, instinct made him place his hand at his side, ready to pull the black blade out at any moment before he recognised the old merchant beneath the hood.
"Give me good news or leave me be" said Kurz
"I have a buyer for you if that counts as good news" replied the merchant with a sly smile on his face "However.." the merchant quickly added "The buyer is not here. But in Valun Khur lands"
Kurz took two large mouthfuls of ale and a puff of his pipeweed and sat forward, his face directly at the merchants
"Why?" he asked
"You have a Lich Gem, half the city knows about it now, the Whiteblades are looking for a Dworn that has arrived in the city. And might I add on the the same day he arrives there are four murders on the Broken Way. You can either hold out for a better offer or you can get out this city and get somewhere that will buy it" the merchant replied
"The Valun Khur are at war with the Bruto, what would they want with a Lich Gem?" questioned Kurz
"You know very little of the power of these but there is a buyer. Ten thousand gold scales they offer" said the merchant
Kurz converted the offer in his head, it wasn't ideal but right now it was better than being put to the axe "It seems I don't have much of a choice right now" sighed Kurz as he realised the gravity of the situation “Who and where?”
“Can you read common asked the merchant and Kurz nodded.
The merchant stood up and passed over a parchment with the details on it before leavingquickly. Kurz finished his pipeweed and signalled for another ale, he sat back and thought the situation over. He would be smuggling both the gem and himself out the city, the Whiteblades would have the city on lock down by now so getting out wouldn't be as easy as he got in.
As the hours went passed Kurz finished off his pipeweed and had drank more than enough ale to knock a man unconscious for a week – another benefit of his constitution. He had a plan and now was the best time to take care of it. Throwing a copper bit down on the bar he paid for a torch to light his way through the night. Stepping into the darkness he lit it up on the embers left outside for patrons to use and as it burst into flame he caught sight of a pure white jerkin under a dark cloak on the opposite side of the street, the figure kept its head down but Kurz knew a Whiteblade when he seen one and started moving down the street quickly.
Full of zealotry the Whiteblades were dangerous foes, the law keepers of the Devout they searched out perceived troublemakers and sought to bring back artefacts for the Devout to use. Kurz ducked down an alleyway and came to a dead end, hearing the unsheathing of a blade behind him he turned to see two Whiteblades standing preventing his exit. Kurz grinned at them and reached into his pocket as they drew closer, throwing down three glass beads that shattered immediately spilling liquid on the ground he touched the torch onto the ground quickly and flames erupted immediately up. He looked back to the deadend and with the extra light seen a way up it, quickly scrambling and jumping up he could hear the shouts of the Whiteblades below him as he ran along the wall and jumped onto the rooftops. Kurz knew the light from the torch gave his position away clearly to the whole area but he had a plan in mind and kept on running over the rooftops as he seen more and more Whiteblades gather around shouting and screaming at Kurz as he made his way to the city walls and lept off the last rooftop and onto the city walls.
Kurz sprinted along them until he seen the gates below him,leaping off the walls into the darkness he fell onto the straw roofing of the stable and let go of the lit torch. Rolling off the roof and onto the ground he seen the building erupt into flames. Pulling his black blade out he ran back under the blazing roof where the horses were panicking and cut the rope around the halter of one of the horses and quickly mounted it, kicking his heels in the horse took off with Kurz on top. He looked behind him and seen the city gates open as the Whiteblades burst through before stopping unsure whether to save the horses, go after him or rescue the innocents trapped in the fire.
A child screaming for its parents was the last thing he heard as the horse galloped south... Sacrifices had to be made in this game of life thought Kurz and if it was the blood of innocents that fell in his way then it was to be. He started at the bottom of the pile and he knew one day he would rise from it to be known through the world.