• Solo • 1. Signs of Passing

26th of Cylus 720

Beyond the city of Rharne lies the Stormlands, which is home to a number of farms, forests, fields, Lake Lovalus, and the River Zynyx. This subforum also includes the Stormwastes to the south.

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Kasoria
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1. Signs of Passing

26th trial, Cylus, 720
The Stormlands



"What the fuck'm I still doing 'ere?"

The wind and the sky did not answer Kasoria. Nor did the trees and the grass. The relentless darkness of Cylus remained silent, cloaking, inscrutable. Even dramatic convention seemed to scorn his question, for there was no fellow hunter happening upon his whispering to give an answer, or voice an opinion. He was alone, leaned up against the same tree as he'd been for breaks, form broken up and hidden by shadow and gloom and thick trunk and dark clothes. The only sign he was even there was the occasional spurting of tobacco juice from his lips, smacking wetly onto the soggy ground.

That and you talking to your-fucking-self, of course.

The mercenary sighed and scanned the woods around him for the thousandth time (at a minimum). He could hear things moving out there, but nothing that sounded like what they were looking for. Things that crept warily, cautiously, afraid of larger predators stalking them in the darkness. Listen closer, and one could hear the soft, occasional padding of those predators. More than once Kasoria heard the scrambling rush of a lunge, the sudden chaos of branches breaking and leaves rustling and, yes, the unfinished screech of some poor creature becoming dinner. But much as he listened, and watched, and waited... he didn't hear what they were looking for.

"Karim? You there?"

The Etzori answered by stepping out from the shadow of the tree, once he'd ascertained who was whispering for him. The younger volunteer stiffened briefly as the little man seemed to appear from the very shadows. Eyes black as a Cylus noon looked up at him, impassive as a resting lion's. Kasoria waited patiently while the boy collected himself, before gesturing back the way he'd come.

"S'my turn. Nearly dawn."

Kasoria grunted and started walking. All he needed, he carried, at his belt or in his pockets. "How can yeh tell?"

"Um, Sir Fredrik has candles, sir. They're for use in Cylus, they count the breaks and-"

"Sounds fascinatin'," said a man who was longing for food and sleep more than enlightenment. "Keep 'em peeled."

"So, ah... no sign?"

Kasoria rolled his eyes and lamented the fact he was gaining a reputation as someone... paternal. No, that was too much. Someone that cared, at least. About the wretches he trained and the wastrels he'd commanded in combat more than once. Now instead of hesitation and fear, they treated him as if he were some wise man who's mind was ripe to be picked. The change did not well suit the Etzori, and he spat a stream of foul juice between the boy's feet.

"If'n I 'ad, y'think I'd nota' told yeh? Or not come runnin' into the camp screamin' like a maniac?"

"Um... good point."

The killer, the mage, the murderer, the mercenary, all of them looked at the boy. Sammy. Rharnian. Had a young son and a dead wife. Barely a man and already so much pressure. Yet still he'd come to Storm's Edge, to fight for and defend his home. Watched friends and comrades die to the claws of monsters, and not broken. Not fled. Not bad with a sword, either. Just... a little unpolished. Kasoria sighed and rubbed his tired eyes. Fuck. It was fucking infectious how people got you to give a shit.

"Look, they've got glowin' blue mouths an' they ain't suited t'woods an' foliage. They're from the Wastes. They don't want to be up here, they were forced up, after we drove 'em away from the castle. An' there's a bunch of 'em. Trust me. When they show up, yeh'll know." He started walking and growled over his shoulder before the inevitable could be said. "Don' fuckin' thank me. Jus' do yer job."

"Y-Yessir!"
word count: 661
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Kasoria
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Re: 1. Signs of Passing

"Anythin' new?"

"Nothing that we can spy."

"I meant fer dinner."

Sir Fredrik cast a disapproving look Kasoria's way, but it was no more than that. A mild, measured thing. No the scorn, suspicion and outright contempt he'd been subject to at the start of the season. Yet another sign of his increasing status at Storm's Edge... despite there being more than a few there who still remembered the last time he'd come traipsing through their gates.

With a mule-load of rotting heads, looking for bounty money. Aye. Not going to forget that quickly, were they?

"Some mushrooms, I think," teh Knight said, brushing his mustache briefly, as if straightening it. A little tic Kasoria had noticed of the man. He nodded to the bubbling stew pot. "You're welcome to it."

"Anyone else tried it yet?"

"Why would..." The Knight was admirably quick on the uptake. Kasoria couldn't help but grin as a frown crushed the man's eyes and she shook his head. "They're not that kind of mushrooms, Karim."

"So that's a 'no', is it?"

"No. Now bloody well eat, damn you."

When's the last time anyone cared if your belly was full?

The question festered while Kasoria hunched down and got himself a bowl of... actually quite mouth-watering soup. He peered into the bowl and studied the white bulbs with little black spots on them. He filed the memory away, sure it would come in handy. Knowing which fungi to eat and which to avoid was always a benefit. He inhaled and picked out the seasoning and ingredients. Same as the last night, apparently. Rabbit, carrots, garlic, sprouts, mushrooms... and some flour to hold it together, dashed with parsley and pepper. They were in a new part of the woods now, looking out at the Stormwastes to the south, with Storm's Edge a blazing, towering concentration of light. Even from half a day away they could tell it was fully-manned, every tower burning, walls patrolled and secured.

They don't need you anymore, his mind whispered again, as he chewed around a stubborn lump of fat. You could Cross back to the boy and never come back and they'd be fine. So why stay?

"Bread?"

Kasoria's blinked a few times, turning stupidly to look at the outstretched roll. Ripped in half and offered to him. The fact it was being offered at all was... enough to make him pause. But after a few moments he just gave his customary grunt and took it. Soaking it with soup and chewing thoughtfully. There might be a place for... no, that was stupid. He could never stay. He had a son half a world away, waiting for him. He had duties to fulfill and none of them were on this side of the Orm'del Sea. There was no hefty purse awaiting him for this job; no gold or gems. Mathias had lied superlatively about that but Fates, he couldn't even bring himself to hate the boy for that anymore.

Shit. Maybe you're just getting soft in your old age.

"Wait... does anyone else see that?"

Kasoria blinked, and as if a candle had been snuffed or a key turned in a lock, doubting voices were silenced. His mind shifted smoothly to a pose of action, observation, evaluation. Keen black eyes looked out into the Wastes and saw-

"I see 'em."

A constellation of stars had crashed to Idalos and were rushing through the darkness. At first Kasoria thought his eyes were deceiving him, but the lights did not vanish and the voices around him rose. Yes, he could see them, too. But they were not the white and silver of stars. Those... yes, seven points of light were an eerie, baleful pale blue. He remembered the last time he'd seen that sort of light: whenever one of the Heathounds had opened their toothy maws, the first trial he'd been at Storm's Edge. Now he could see a whole pack of them, open mouths betraying them whenever the barked or snarled at each other, loping across the broken land to-

"What's... is that a-"

"Caravan," the old Etzori said, deciding not to add that he knew the telltale lights of a trading procession at night from more than a few contracts as a raider back across the ocean. Slow but steady, the line of orange lamps crawled across the darkness, like a line of ants towards their nest. "An' they're headin' for it."

"Break camp! Everyone to their mounts!"

Sedate stillness turned to uproar in a moment. Mouths still full and soup leaking from their cheeks, a dozen men and some women rushed for their horses, their weapons, their bedrolls, their food, everything and everything left behind. But Kasoria did not move. His eyes were on the blue dots working their way towards the thicker, slower orange line. Even when the campfire was hurriedly put out, he didn't move, and Sir Fredrik noticed. But instead of barking orders or growling at the man's impudence, the seasoned Knight instead strolled over to the... foreigner.

Not a stupid one, him, the Rharnian reminded himself, remembering all he'd seen from the small, lithe, quiet man who was among the best killers he'd ever seen. Brutal and immoral, yes... but clever.

"What are you thinking, Karim?"

How often has anyone really valued you, old man?

Kasoria bit down on the question, wetted one finger with his tongue, and tested the air. After a moment, he turned. Before he spoke, before the Knight heard his words, they both seemed to understand.

"I think they're movin' downwind, an' there's uneven but passable land 'tween us an' them."

Sir Fredrik smiled. A predatory thing in the face of a noble hero. Kasoria knew he liked him for a reason.

"And they won't be looking behind them."

The Raggedy Man smiled back. Then he went for his horse.

Continued here
word count: 1011
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Re: 1. Signs of Passing

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Kasoria:

Knowledge:
Cooking x2
Fieldcraft x2
Hunting x2

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Renown: 5
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Skill Review: Appropriate to level.
Points: 10
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Comments: I don’t think I’ve read a single bad thread from you yet. This solo was, as always, quite well-written, and what more, it offered an interesting insight into Kasoria’s psyche. I wonder why he seems to have a problem with being perceived as someone who cares and being treated as some sort of wise man though. Anyway, I look forward to reading the sequel!

Enjoy your rewards!

word count: 94

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