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'Rain is always relaxing' thought the boy as he huddled under the sail hung up between the ground and a big tree like a lean-to. He always came here when it was supposed to rain. When he was younger he would play in the rain just like all the other children. But after his father was killed by Imperial troops he had stopped playing. To feed his mother and younger brother he had quit school, and even quit playing like the child he really was, to work in the rice fields. But on rainy days like this, when he couldn't work in the field he would relax and watch Mother Nature as she brought clean water and clean fresh air into the region. Even the lightning was beautiful in its own dangerous way. The way it zig-zagged across the sky and lit up the darkened world was truly a sight to behold from his little hill overlooking the village and the river.
He sighed, thinking he would have to head home soon before it got too wet and too dark to see. Taking a last long look at the light rain that swept the valley he turned and began to gather his cloak and small pack. After putting both on he started down the hill along his well used path. Few people actually used it, but he made a point to keep it clear of debris so that on the few occasions he himself used it, such as now, he wouldn't have to worry about tripping.
As he reached the bottom of the hill he turned to look at the river again. It was slightly swollen from the valleys run-off, and the current looked faster. Small tree limbs floated by as the ever moving water carried it down stream.
'Best not go near the water' he thought 'I might get washed away by accident.'
Turning down the path, but staying away from the water, the boy walked towards his small village. It was bigger than the few other villages near the valley, but from the maps he had seen of the trade city by the river at the end of the valley his home was very small.
As the river went by his village it flowed around a small bend, creating a shallow bay that was used to store the few fishing boats the village had. The clam water was only disturbed by the falling rain. The boy walked along the shore looking across the small bay. The light from the lightning created a kaleidoscope of color every time it flashed. The boy stopped as he was mesmerized by the swirled colors.
As he stood waiting for another flash he noticed something in the water not far from their small pier. He squinted his eyes trying to see it more clearly, but he couldn't figure out what it was. After looking at for a minute more he decide to go out on the pier to see if he could get a better look at it.
As he walked it looked as if the thing was floating closer and closer to the current. Just as he reached the end of the dock a big flash of lightning lit up the bay. The boy gasped as he realized what he was looking at. It was a body! He turned and started running back to shore. 'Salty can help!' thought the boy as he ran to the fisherman's house right across from the end of the pier.
He started banging on the door as he stopped in front of it.
"Salty! Help! Hey Salty I need some help! Please!" he yelled as hit hit the door several more times.
The door swung open quickly as an older man with salt and pepper hair stepped out.
"What do you need Patu?" he asked as he finished pulling on his cloak.
"Somebody is in the bay! I think the current is about to take them!" said the boy as he turned and pointed to the figure in the bay.
"Go get Grandda, we might need his help!" said Salty as he ran towards the water throwing off his cloak.
Patu raced off down the lane as he headed for the village's healer.
'Please be awake!' he thought as he turned down another lane towards the healers home.
Salty swam as fast as he could, trying to reach the body before the current took it. As he got closer he was confused. The body was clearly man sized, but it was covered in dark fur!
'What the hell?' thought salty as he finally reached the creature and grabbed its arm to catch it.
'Its the size of a man, but its not a man!' he thought as he pulled the body closer while trying to turn towards the shore.
'It sure is heavy whatever it is. Must weigh over a few hundred pounds!' he thought as he struggled to the shallows and tried to drag the body out of the water.
Patu slowed down as he reached the steps to the healers door. Everyone called him Grandda, though Patu didnt know why, as far as he knew the man had no family in the village. He reached out and knocked hard on the door a few times.
"Who is it?" asked a tall older man that opened the door, "Ah, Patu, what can I do for you youngster?" He stepped out onto the small covered porch with Patu as he looked out at the rain.
"We found a body in the bay! Salty told me to come get you Grandda." Patu said as he turned to look at the rain again. It was starting to rain harder, Soon it would be a severe storm he thought as lighting flashed again.
"let me grab my cloak and my medicine bag." Grandda turned and walked back in to get them as Patu continued to watch the rain. He shivered as a small gust of wind blew under the porch roof.
Grandda came out and shut his door before heading down the stairs. He stopped and looked back at the boy.
"Go on home Patu. I'm sure your mother and brother are worried about you by now." he said as he continued on down the lane.
'But I want to see the body' he thought to himself.'There's no harm in sneaking a look at it is there?' he asked as he headed down a different path that wove around the village but went back by the bay.
Grandda was deep in thought as he walked towards the bay.
'I have not felt right since this storm started, and now this. Something is disturbing the magic in the valley. But it normally never feels bad like this.' he thought as he turned onto the lane that lead to the bay. 'The imperials must be in the area, but why? They hardly come here, and when they do they never disturb the flow of magic. Something has happened, and now the valley will be disturbed for a while.' He cleared his thoughts as he neared the bay.
Salty was kneeling over a dark form by the beach, so he headed towards him.
"Salty, Patu said you sent for me. What have you found?" Grandda asked as he stooped to look at the figure.
"You tell me Grandda. I've never seen anything like it before." said Salty as he moved back a bit from the body.
"Well that's not normal." Grandda states as he reaches out to touch the fur covered body."It looks like a man, but also doesn't." he said as he stood up.
He held out his hands and let the light magic flow over the body.
"He has a broken arm, a broken leg, and many bruises and cuts. But this gash on the side of his head worries me. I can heal the bones and damage, but if his brain was hurt I cant help him." said Grandda.
"Well I hope hes not hurt to bad up there. I'd like to know who and what he is." said Salt as he watched the slightly glowing body at their feet.
"As would I, Salty. I have heard rumors of a sea faring race of furred people, but have never heard their name or even heard of anyone having met one here before." said Grandda as he sets the bones before letting go of his magic. "Let me wrap his arm and leg. Then help me get him to my home Salty. Best if no one else sees him for now'"
"Easy for you to say. This guys almost as heavy as my nets get when I fish, maybe its the wet fur." said Salty as watches the man wrap tight cloth over the injured arm.
"I can't help you there. I only have the gift of medicine, not strength." Grandda says as he begins to wrap the leg as well. "The gash and cuts aren't bleeding anymore so I can treat those at my home. Lets get him out of the open." Grandda helps Salty lift the body.
"I've got him. Just lead the way." Salty hefts up the body, careful of the arm and leg.
Patu silently watched with amazement as the two men lifted the dark gray body. It looked different from a man. But not so much that it didn't resemble one.
'What is it?' he thought to himself as he quietly sneaked away from the house he had hid beside. 'It is not a man, but it looks much like one. I wish I could see it up close.'
He trudged home through the mud and rain contemplating the body. 'If it wasn't a man, where did it come from?'
He had never heard of anything that looked like a man but wasn't except for Imperial Golems. Which from what he was told, this body looked nothing like those. He glanced up and realized that he had almost gotten to his home without being aware of walking there.
As he came in and closed the door he removed his cloak and hung it up beside the others on the wall. It was dark so his mother and brother must have already gone to bed. He felt around to find his small lantern that he kept for situations like this. It wasn't the first time he had gotten home to find them both asleep and the lights all out.
When he passed by his mothers room he stopped to listen to her light snores. She was normally still awake, always giving him that "Mother hens don't sleep till all their chicks are accounted for" lecture before asking where he had been. Oh well, he was out a lot later tonight than normal. He kept moving and put the light out as he reached his and his brothers room.
'No need to wake him up' thought Patu as he opened the door quietly and moved to his bed.
"Where were you? Mom was worried." asked the little boy laying in the other bed across the room.
"I was watching the lightning a little too long Mateo. I didn't realize I was out this late." Patu said as he slid under the warm blanket and laid down his head.
"Go on back to sleep. Nothing to worry about."
"Okay Patu, but you know moms not gonna be happy in the morning." said Mateo as he rolled over to go back to sleep.
'Yeah I know. But what am I gonna tell her? Grandda doesn't want people to know what I found. I heard him tell Salty that very thing. Man what am I gonna do tomorrow?' Patu tossed and turned with his thoughts until sleep finally claimed him
After Salty brought in the body he bid Grandda good night and returned to his own home.
'I wonder what he is?' he thought as he reached his own home. 'He looked like an animal, but also a man. i have never seen anything like it. And the rumors Grandda talked about. I heard those too, but i thought they were some youngsters overactive imagination making up stories. Course when I was a sailor some years ago I had also hear tales of strange folk far to the north. Maybe this is one of those?'
He went back to his room after hanging up his cloak and securing the front door. He peeled off his soaked shirt and trousers before finding a soft pair of night pants to sleep in.
'Ah that's better. Now that I'm dry again I can lay down. Its been a long day.' he thought as he lifted his blanket and slid onto his bed. 'I will have time to think about it tomorrow. For now I'm tired and need some sleep' he rolled over and cleared his thoughts as sleep began to claim him.
Grandda looked at the figure lying in his guest bed. He was unlike anything Grandda had seen before. He resembled a man in shape. But was covered head to foot in dark gray fur. His face was almost cat like with whiskers and a dark gray flattened nose. his ears were shaped like those of a wolf or big dogs. And when he had pulled back the eye lid the eye was like a cats. it was as if the creature was part man and part animal.
'How did you get all these wounds? The small cuts and bruises are from the river bed I know. But to break your arm and leg? I don't think the current was that strong. And your ribs, all of them are bruised or fractured. Its as if you had been trampled by a crowd or hit with something large. I guess we will have to wait and see.' thought Grandda as he turned and left the room.
'I wonder if he will be able to tell us anything. That wound on his head was deep, but at least it only needed a few stitches. If the wound had been any larger I would have had to use more magic. And that would have tired me out as well.'
'I will make a healing poultice in the morning. For now I will sleep though. There are bound to be sick and hurt villagers and passerby tomorrow, and I need rest for my magic to build up.' he thought as he slipped into his own bed. 'Either way, tomorrow will be interesting.'
"Sir the village of Narvest was leveled! Our scout reported that the Imperial troops arrived just after sundown two days ago. Every building was burned and the bodies of the townsfolk were piled in the village square." said the runner as he watched his commander intently.
This was something that had surprised them all. Normally the Imperials just ransacked a village, occasionally they would press some of the men into service. But flat out destroying it was something that earned surprised cries from the few officers around the table.
"Thank you. Send for Telos on your way back." Said Warren as he turned back to the table. "We must figure out a way to keep these villages safe. The Imperials have always just taken what they want, but this destruction was for a reason. They must suspect our location. Prepare your men. We are leaving the area. I will not cause the deaths of another village. We will move here" ,he tapped a valley with a large river running down the middle, "it is very hilly terrain and with mountains to the north and south. With only two real entrances, here and here, we can post units of scouts to keep an eye out for Imperial troops."
"Sir if they find us there our options of retreat will be extremely limited. Not to mention this village, ah Frethos, will also be destroyed." said one of the men.
"True. But it is an area that the 'Imps' usually avoid. these mountains have a natural ore that interferes with magic. Making them a perfect place to hide from the enemy's seeking spells. The village will have to be warned of course, and if need be we can evacuate it." Warren looked at each man "This is our best option. If the enemy suspects we are here it is only a matter of time before they find us. This valley is 90 miles from here, and perfect for our needs. The distance will keep their snoopers at bay while we get re-established. You have your orders gentlemen, we break camp tomorrow." he stood as they did and turned to leave.
'Damn it. Another village pays the price while we have to run again. We aren't the only ones fighting, but if we cant find a solid base to operate from then we will all remain scattered and never get anything done.' thought Warren as he stalked to his tent.
He used one just like his men. He would never treat them any different than he would treat himself. Many of his men were survivors from prison camps and slave pits. And not one he considered lower than himself. Still he had to make decisions that sent them off to possible death every day. Regardless of how he felt, some choices had to be made. Every man he lost was another that haunted his dreams.
"You sent for me, sir?" asked Telos as he silently slipped up to walk next to Warren.
"Yes. Are you familiar with Amagic Valley?' Warren asked he he looked at his cloaked friend. No one but himself knew what Telos really looked like. He wore a full body black silk suit. Even his eyes were covered by a pair of dark glasses.
"It is a rather large valley that is to the east of here. I have never been there but I have heard tell that the mountains contain an ore that hinders magical abilities." said Telos as he looked around the camp. He was always uncomfortable in the open. That's why he chose to be a ranger, as he was normally on the sidelines only being seen when he eliminated an enemy.
"We are preparing to move the camp there. It will take a week at the least to get there. I want you to go there and act as our scout. I need someone I trust in the area, to warn us of any Imperials and to keep the village safe until we arrive." Warren turned as they reached his tent. "If you see any Imps you can engage at your discretion. But remember you are there to help the village not get it slaughtered. If you deem the valley as dangerous you can send a message to me here." he hands a piece of folded writing paper to Telos.
"I will leave as soon as I get some things from Heavy." Telos turns and stalks off towards a bigger tent with a few wagons near it.
"Good luck Telos. And watch your back, I have an odd feeling as of late." Warren yells at the retreating back of Telos.
'That man is so different from anyone else i have ever met. Hes so silent that if he doesn't talk you don't notice him. Just like a cat.' thought Warren as he entered his tent. 'But in many ways that is what makes him so deadly and even a good friend. Although he was quick to anger sometimes.' he smirked at that. 'Well considering who he is that's understandable. Many cats do have attitudes.'
As darkness began to settle in Telos reached the Quartermasters tent. He was a big bear of a man. Hence his name. But many a man had mistaken him for a slow behemoth and then paid the price as he took them with his twin war hammers.
"Heavy did you find those things I asked for?" Telos stepped into the firelight opposite the big man.
"Aye I did. Took a little work, but got the last item this morning." the big man looked at Telos. "It only cost half of what you thought. I called in a favor for the, ah 'special', you wanted." he stood and lumbered over to the nearest wagon as Telos waited by the fire. He lifted a wrapped bundle from the wagon and returned to the fire.
"Here you go. Its lighter than I expected." he said as he handed the bundle to Telos.
"It was meant to be that way. It will be stronger and reload faster than a normal one, guaranteed. Watch your back Heavy I'm heading out." Telos turned and disappeared into the shadows.
"Spooks the hell outa' me when you do that. Watch your own back, we have too many troubles as of late." the big man looked back into his fire. 'That cats gonna get caught in a tough situation one day. Wonder if he knows I know what he is?'
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