She rolled over, and stared across the room. She simply couldn’t sleep no matter how she tried, no matter what she did to try and get the thoughts to quit drumming in her head. It was no use, she would have to seek out the source, and deal with it there.
She stood up and dressed in her armor. She slid her short bastard sword under the bed, and grabbed her sword and shield. Slinging the shield on her back, she quietly slipped outside. Everyone else was sleeping.
She made her way from her balcony room, down the winding outside walkway leading to the main room. She leapt off the side to the grass below. She took off running as fast as her feet would allow. She would get to the bottom of this.
Fairbreeze Village. She paused a moment to catch her breath. She looked angrily at the inn, the man inside Adreyn something or other, the man that was wooing her friend Kaie. He had another motive, she was sure. He worked for the same organization, that employed Kaldorei and Dwarves for some nefarious purpose.
She couldn’t do what she wanted to do with him, inside the inn. She would have to lead him away. She knew exactly what she would have to do. Taking a moment to look haggard, and worried, she walked inside the inn.
Her prey, was there fluffing pillows and arranging them just so, for the morning crowd. He didn’t see her walk in, and if he did, he wouldn’t want to see her. She walked up close to him and coughed lightly to get his attention.
He looked up from his work and met her worried look with one of contempt and anger. He went back to work, ignoring the young paladin.
“Excuse me.” she said softly. “I wouldn’t be here, if it wasn’t important.” she continued.
“What do you want?” he snarled back.
“I have come with grave news.....” she let her voice trail off with a small crack.
“Grave news?” he asked with a raised eyebrow.
“About...” she gulped in worry. “Kaie” she managed to squeak out.
His eyes nearly bulged out of their sockets. Without much more, he nodded to the innkeeper, whether she saw it or not, Chuthulia didn’t see. “Follow me, we must speak.....away from prying ears” he whispered.
He led her out of the inn, through the back door. He stood by a fire, near an outside table. “What has happened to my Kaie?” he demanded with a near wild look in his eyes.
She fought hard, not to begin pummeling right then and there. Kaie was not his. She would never be his, she would make sure of that. “Well...” she started.
“Out with it woman.” he croaked with worry.
“She and a companion went into the Amani troll village, to aid the retreat. I came across them both. She has fallen ill. Whether it’s a vile troll curse, or a poison, I do not know. Her condition, is far beyond my or our priest’s capabilities. We have sent someone to Silvermoon, but I fear she won’t make it through the night. I came here, because she asked me to fetch you.” she managed to say.
“Well then let us go, no time to waste.” he nearly shrieked. He almost reached down to grab her hand but stopped.
Chuthulia turned and ran off towards the retreat. She smirked to herself, men were such fools. She listened to him crash behind her through the foliage and undergrowth. She slid down a rocky outcropping and paused, as he nearly tumbled on top of her.
“Shh. Did you hear that?” she whispered.
“No, shouldn’t we just keep going.” he protested.
She looked forward, they were near the Dead Scar. They had traveled far enough. She didn’t need to try and protect him across it. It would be just her luck that one of the marauding ghouls would rip him apart before her questions would be answered.
She slid the shield off of her back and gripped her sword tightly. She took a couple steps forward. Dutifully he followed. She glanced over her shoulder. He was very close to her.
Spinning around she brought her shield up and slammed it into his face. He stumbled backwards with a yelp, and fell down to one knee. She thrust the point of her sword into his throat, but didn’t pierce it. She lifted his chin up with the blade.
Blood flowed from his nose and mouth. “What is the...” he began to stammer.
“You will answer my questions.” she stated.
Shakily he rose to his feet. “Like hell I will.” he spat. He started to turn, when the shield impacted the back of his head causing him to stumble forward and he fell to the ground.
She moved forward, and slapped him with the flat side of her sword as he rose to his feet. He collapsed to his knees again. She kicked him to the ground. Placing a boot on his chest, she put the sword to his throat again. “You will answer my questions, and then I will go away.” she stated.
“Fine.” he muttered.
“Who do you work for?” she asked angrily.
He stared blankly at her a moment, as if she was an idiot.
“What organization do you work for?” she asked again.
His eyes went wild, when the stark realization hit him what she was truly asking. “Do you think I am fool to tell you that.”
Angered, she ground her boot into his chest. He wheezed in response. “Why did you give Kaie your medallion, what do you want with her?” she growled.
“Her love.” he stammered out.
She stomped her foot down onto his chest in response. He coughed and wheezed again in pain. “You know, the Order is quite heavy handed when it comes to treason. You are affiliated with a group that is using Kaldorei and dwarves. I can have them at your door and dragging you away in a heartbeat. You would be incarcerated for the rest of your days, while Kaie carries on with another man. Leaving you pining away for her.” she stated.
He looked at her before a smirk appeared beneath his bloodied lips, moments later a chuckle erupted from within him. “You are no Blood Knight.” he chided.
She growled and stomped her foot into his chest again. This time even harder then before, she thought she heard a bone break. “I am too a Blood Knight.” she bellowed back at him, like a defiant child.
“Then you...” he coughed. “Then you will know soon enough what it means.” he chided again.
She could hear in the distance people shouting his name.
“Who do you work for?” she asked again, panic creeping into her throat.
He didn’t answer, he looked at her as she began to fall apart.
They were getting closer, she could see the torches. He began to chuckle at her. The voices were getting louder, they were chanting his name.
She dropped to her knees, and in the same motion, slammed a fist into his face. Not once, not twice, but several times, until his chuckling stopped. She grabbed her sword from the ground, and glanced back at his bloodied face. She accomplished what she wanted, when he would be found, he would be unable to talk. She bought herself some time until morning. With no more hesitation she fled into the Dead Scar.
She found herself back at the retreat far quicker then she anticipated. She stopped by the river outside to wash her shield and her gauntlets. Not all of his blood came off the gauntlets. She walked inside. She looked around, no one was around. She went back to the balcony where she had been sleeping.
She tried to lay down and sleep but she couldn’t. Her whole body shook. She could hear voices creeping up from below. She walked to the edge of the balcony and looked down. Daln was there by the fire, quietly coughing and dying.
Below her, just inside the doorway she saw Kaie. She was talking with Razsha, Melvannik, and someone she didn’t know. She stared at Kaie a moment. So pretty, lively, and the center of attention. She looked down at her hands, she was none of those things. Her hands started to tremble. She collapsed to the ground, at the edge of the balcony.
She began to recite the words her first teacher taught her. “I am a Blood Knight, defender and protector of the realm. Guardian of her people. I am a Blood Knight, harbringer of justice and truth. I am a Blood Knight, I will do what is necessary to get the job done. I am a Blood Knight I am above the law. I am a Blood Knight and I am beyond reproach.” her whole body began to shake.
“If that is true, then why am I scared?” she murmured to the darkness as the voices carried up from Kaie’s room. She wrapped her hands around her knees and began to sob.
Voices filtered up from the common room. She opened her eyes, and withdrew her head from her knees. Her body ached, what a horrible way to finally sleep. Huddled in a corner, her eyes were puffy and red. Any idiot could tell she had cried herself to sleep. So she waited.
She joined the others, as their breakfast was almost done. She was tardy, but no one seemed to notice or care. Daln broke into another coughing fit as she walked towards the breakfast table to grab the scraps they may have left her. Kaie smiled at her warmly, she forced herself to smile back.
She picked up her plate, when a voice cut through everyone else’s murmurs. That of the Lieutenant at the retreat. “Orders have come in, you were a great help fending off the trolls, but you are needed at Fairbreeze Village.” she said.
Chuthulia froze, the plate dropped from her hand back onto the stack she picked it up from. She swallowed hard and clenched her fists so she wouldn’t start to shake again. “But...But what if the trolls re-double their efforts? Someone should be here.” she squeaked back.
The lieutenant looked at the young paladin. “You did a great job, don’t get me wrong. I would love to have you stay here. But orders is orders, you are needed at Fairbreeze.” she stated back.
“You heard the lady. Letsssss get walking.” Hadrath said. Chuthulia stood frozen next to table as they filed past her. Her heart was pounding in her chest. She tried to steady her breathing, silently she began to pray that she was right, and that she was beyond reproach.
Kaie walked past her, and smiled again. “Act sick.” Chuthulia blurted out to her.
“What?” Kaie asked in surprise.
“Just act sick, like him.” she pointed to Daln who had made it ten more feet before breaking down in a rasping coughing fit.
“Ok...but why?” Kaie asked.
“Just do it. Trust me.” Chuthulia almost growled out at her. She closed her eyes a moment, and wished for just one instance she was back at the old mentor’s place. Practicing her sword skills, while he carried on with one of his dozen women. Somewhere, other then her being short with Kaie.
They walked into the inn, much to relief. Adreyn was nowhere to be found. She sighed and walked to the breakfast buffet to pick over what may have remained here. She had just gotten to the table when the shrill voice of the innkeeper cut through the silence. “Guards!! Seize her.”
Chuthulia turned around to see the innkeeper pointing at her. The golden hued guards began to pour into the inn from both entrances. She looked in horror as they began to close in around her. Some of her companions began to ready themselves to fight the guards on her behalf. This stunned her just as much as the guards closing in around her.
She drew her short bastard sword and prepared to defend herself. “What is the meaning of this?” she managed to bellow out.
The Guard Captain walked forward. “You are under arrest.” he stated.
“For what?” she snapped back.
“For murder.” he bellowed back at her.
Her breathing and her heart stopped. Her sword suddenly weighed hundreds of pounds, her wrists and arms went limp. The tip of the blade plunged towards the ground. She looked blankly at everyone, tears forming on the edge of her eyes as she looked at the terrified look etched on Kaie’s face.
The Guard Captain boldly strode forward and slapped the blade from the paladin’s hands. “Take her away.” he commanded.
Her head was swimming. She was having trouble breathing. She murmured words, but they could barely be heard and if they were, they were unintelligible gibberish. The armed cadre of knights had marched her to the bridge of Fairbreeze Village. When she found her voice again.
“I did not murder anyone.” she stammered.
A metal backhand slammed off of her cheek. Bruising it and forcing blood to form at the corner of her mouth. “Silence! Save your feeble excuses for the Lord Magistrate.” one of them commanded.
She sat on the rug provided to those citizens found guilty of crimes. Near one of the gates, armed guards mere feet away. A young man was with her. Public ridicule and humiliation were the order of the day. This was the way things happened before sentences were to be carried out. It amused the noble houses to see the criminals, the low-lifes, the degenerates humiliated one last time, before they were publicly executed.
She looked up as she heard the guards talking. A man with flowing black robes had joined the guards. The Lord Magistrate. He was a looking at a piece of parchment, and speaking with a guard. His flowing blonde-white hair striking a contrast to his voluminous black robes.
He took a step forward, sandwiching himself between the guards. “What do we have here? A pity, one of our own, fallen so far. I will be brief child. Make your confession, and I will ensure your death to be quick and painless. I do not have all day.” he croaked out with feigned sympathy.
“I did not murder him.” she stammered in protest.
He nodded to the guard on his left. The guard lurched forward and hauled the girl to her feet, and in the same motion slammed his fist into stomach, forcing the wind out of her.
Reeling and gasping she coughed, looking up at the Lord Magistrate. “I will tell you again. I came here for a confession. That is not negotiable.”
She looked up at him defiantly. “I did not murder him.” she spat.
The Lord Magistrate sighed. “Child, with or without your confession, charges of murder have been accepted against you. The only thing we are dealing with now, is the mode of your execution. Confess and it will be quick and painless.” he leaned closer to her. “Do not confess and it will be slow and torturous.” he paused a moment to let it sink in. “The choice is entirely up to you.” he finished.
“I did not murder him.” she said again, her stomach was tying itself in knots, she was on the verge of tears.
He nodded to the guard. He grabbed her roughly by the hair and marched her off to the chains. The guard locked her wrists into metal cuffs, which was hooked to a chain. The chain was pulled hauling her arms high above her head. She didn’t see nor hear the whip until it bit into her back the first time.
She resisted the urge to squeal in pain. “Confess child.” came from behind her.
“I did not..” she began to say. The whip biting into her flesh a second time stopped whatever she was about to say. Tears began to slowly creep from the corners of her eyes, down her cheeks. She lost count of the number of times the whip slashed into her back. Somewhere, pain overwhelmed her and against her better judgement began to scream in pain, fear, and frustration.
They unlocked her and slammed her back into the wagon where she collapsed on the ground. The Lord Magistrate looked at her a moment. “You should have confessed when you had the chance.” he said and walked away.
She looked at the ground, as she could hear people ridiculing her. She was just too weary and beaten to look up.
She lost track of time. She could sense another gaggle of onlookers had assembled to ridicule her, and possibly throw things at her. She didn’t look up. She wouldn’t give this group that satisfaction of seeing her whipped like a beaten down dog.
“Chu....” a voice broke from the crowd, twinged with sorrow and pain.
She glanced up meekly to see it was her companions. Kaie was there close to tears right there, mere feet from the guards. Chuthulia looked down at the ground before one of the guards caught her gawking.
She found herself in the Ghostlands. Sitting in the inn with her companions. Melvannik had conjured a sweet roll for her, since she hadn’t eaten all day. Most of the escape and their subsequent run was but a blur to her, a painful blur.
She wasn’t sure how they had escaped Silvermoon in one piece or eluded the guards on their forced run. Daln surprisingly only broke down once in a coughing fit, that was a new record. She was amazed at her own fortitude, running through pain, and lack of food. The wonders never cease when self-preservation kicks in.
Kaie hugged her, she tried hard not to wince in pain as she was embraced. She wasn’t sure she was successful or not. She stared at Daln and Miriele exchange glances or subtle touches.
She opened her mouth to ask the question that had burned in her lips since her escape, but she was cut off by Kaie.
“Chu....did you murder Adreyn?” she asked.
She looked at Kaie, and said the same words she had been saying the entire day. “I did not murder him.”
The others nodded and murmured amongst themselves. Content in the answer or finally the fatigue from the frenzied run, they began to drift off to sleep. Kaie stayed close vigil over Chuthulia as she tried to get comfortable. But the question still burned in her head.
- Why? Why did the risk everything for me? Kaie, she could understand. Melvannik and Halinth, she could see possibly going along with it. But Miriele, Daln, Hadrath.....they she figured would be the ones sitting in the front row of her execution.*
She shifted again, tears forming in the corner of her eyes again. *He was alive, when I left him.*