The Edge of Empire

Cold Musings

Indifferent winds rushed over what little cover lay atop the mountain before breaking against the wall of the dimly lit keep. The scattering whistle threatened to overwhelm the sound of grim, yet relieved, words that could be heard within the cracked stone structure. Tonight this newly fate-forged band would all mourn the loss of a kindred spirit. “Companions.” The word tasted strange on his tongue. It wasn’t one he had used in quite some time. Arakos found himself thinking on these new relationships that had been thrust upon him as he sat, his back against the rock face slowly leeching the cold from the ageless stone.

“Spirits, bless these arrows with your divine guidance. Grant me the ability to seek out the unseen, to travel the road that will find my people’s justice at the end, and the strength of soul to do what must be done.” Even now as he gazed across the shadowed landscape in the distance, watching as fires etched out new constellations beyond the gates of Borodin’s Watch, the sounds of the Irregulars slowly died down as each weary warrior found solace and rest in their own way. The heavy cacophony of metal against stone signaled Augustus had found some peace within. A humorless laugh drifted softly down the mountainside. “Peace within…”

Turning his mind away from the past, Arakos focused instead on this band of folk whom had overcome the Serpent Folk and Shadar-kai in the vent tunnels below. Fate truly was unpredictable. Never would he have thought that he would be sharing rations with a group as diverse as this, having just arrived in the city this afternoon. Even now the gravel-laced guffaws of the dwarves inside could be heard. Each had shown courage and decisiveness in the rocky depths.

“Augustus is an interesting fellow. His mannerisms bespeak an almost noble upbringing. Something about the way he carries himself seems to eek out the suspicion of cultured-blood. Maybe it’s the breed of horse or the cadence of speech…ah, but already I find myself suspicious of these new ones. Regardless of my own thoughts, he’s a valiant fighter who has shown his resolve. Spirits, steady his arm.”

“Thurgoth I’m sure is already known to you, if the force of his voice is any indication. I don’t pretend to understand dwarves in the least, but one would think they might shy away from the stone tunnels they traverse, lest the stone shake down upon them from the intensity of their conversations. One can’t deny that Moradin hears his requests, however. The healing energies he commands are quite impressive.”

“Kirshakru on the other hand couldn’t be any different. I’m still not sure what it is. Whatever animates this entity is beyond my understanding. It seems to have the ability to communicate without speaking, a voice just appearing in my mind. It’s a rather unnerving experience. It indicates that it shall not intrude upon our thoughts. One can hope the same goes for memories. I can not honestly say, Spirits, what I think of it yet. Is it truly like us?”

“Of them all, I feel a kinship closest with the one known as Faegin. Aside from our close heritage, his fighting style is impressive. He seems to strike at critical points, darting within a foes defense before they can react and only appears to take the barest of hits even when they connect solidly with his armor. A strange technique, yet quite impressive. We spoke briefly of why I was in the city and I found myself offering my story before I knew what words passed my lips. I don’t think he, or any of them, understand what happened far from here. He cautioned me against revenge, saying it might burn the hand of the one who pursues it.

They’ll never understand me until they realize that I welcome the fire, if it brings an end to this journey. I hope that I might be able to return back to the man I once was, but I fear that the path I’ve traveled has already left deep scars that cannot be filled. Fire may be the most fitting end when this journey is complete. Great Spirits, I leave my end in your capable hands.”

The darkness firmed its grasp on the frigid heights. A shiver rolled thru Arakos as the cold reached his core. Giving one last look at the ominous host in the distance below, he stood and turned toward the light seeping from beneath the door. Pressing his fingertips against the crevasses of the stone, Arakos paused briefly. “If fire truly is my end, so shall it be. For now I choose this fire and I’ll find what comfort I can beside it. When the time comes we shall see if the sins of the past can be scoured clean.”

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Harwood

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