He missed his friends. He had wandered away to think. There were so many new ideas, confusing ideas swirling in his tiny mind. Things no longer made sense. He had to get away to think. It was the first act of freedom he had really ever done on his own, and it scared him. He had delivered the message to Freewind Post, and now he was here, sitting in the inn lost in thought. All his thoughts revolved around the friends he had abandoned a couple nights previously. Things were so much easier, when he was leashed or caged. He had a purpose then, now his purpose wasn’t so clear. His friends had grown to rely and count on him, a burden that he enjoyed and yet at the same time loathed in case of failure. He knew the consequences of failure, he knew them all too well. He had already failed them once, and much like the man that taught him, the back of his skull bore the brunt of his failure. Well, that and a frown, the frown was etched in his mind, a nagging reminder of failure. He had to learn, to improve himself to make her not frown at him again. These were the words she used. Learning things was hard, it was an alien concept to his already strained mind. He knew a few things, but they were dark and best left untouched. He could kill and he killed well.
He sat in the middle of the inn floor, lost in thought. Well that wasn’t entirely true, he had nothing to really focus his thoughts on but his missing friends. So much so he hallucinated that they were here. Outside the inn standing and talking as a dry wind howled past the entrance to the inn. Blinking his eyes that would make his “fake” friends go away, it didn’t. Had his friends found him?
He boldly strode out of the inn, when his hallucinations refused to yield and go away. Now his mind was tormenting him as well. To his own amazement his friends had indeed found him. Keishe and Tatimitzi had come looking for him after all. He didn’t deserve such friends. Keishe was looking towards the elevators, talking about the various tasks they pair had been given. Tatimitzi was facing the direction of the inn, but she was currently lost in the task of situating the gear in her packs. Listening intently on Keishe’s every word, she glanced up as she saw someone approaching them.
“Kranny!” She yelled happily. The interruption stopped Keishe in mid sentence. Tatimitzi stood up, a bundle of wool cascading from her knee to the ground. “Kranny we have been so worried about you.” Tatimitzi continued. He looked at the ground, then bowed deeply before Tatimitzi and Keishe. Keishe glared at Kranik from underneath her goggles. They had indeed been worried about him. He left without word, without notice. They almost didn’t come to Freewind Post so that they could wait for his return. Keishe even doubted that coming here without him was the right thing to do, yet here he was. She had the urge to cuff him on the back of the head. The urge would have consumed her had it not been for Tatimitzi hugging him. Seeing the compassion in Tatimitzi made her anger dissipate. “Come h’ere Kranny.” Keishe said. With that she hugged him as well. “Ju shoudn’t be runnin’ off like dat Kranny.” Keishe chided.
“Kranny sorry, Kranny no du dat agan.” He looked at the ground.
“Well now dat we are all togetha, do ju have dese tasks to do aroun’ here Kranny?” Keishe asked. As Tatimitzi went back to fumbling amongst her packs. “Yeb yeb.” He nodded vigorously.
“Well den lets get started” Keishe spoke confidently as she marched off to the elevators. She hated wasting time. As the trio had made it a few paces on the walkway to the elevators, Tatimitzi spoke up. “Kranny did you see the new crystal ball Shahkra has. It foretells the future, your wildest dreams and desires, and the impossible.”
“It all be hogwash, Tati. Der ain’t no power in dat ball.” Keishe retorted.
Looking at the ground, “Kranny no see no ball. Da loud witch docta lady...no like da Kranny.”
Tatimitzi looked at Keishe with a hurtful glance, but Keishe was tapping her foot gazing out over the canyon waiting on the slow elevator. So she didn’t notice it. The uneasy silence broken by Kranik, who still hadn’t averted his gaze from the ground. “ Kranny tink, not many peple like da Kranny....cept ju two an bren-bren.”
Both of them looked at their downtrodden friend. “Dat jus because dey dun know ju like we know ju Kranny. Dat is all.” Keishe said in a reassuring yet soothing voice. Tatimitzi hugged Kranik again and whispered. “You are a great friend Kranny. You can always make me smile”
The elevator finally arrived. The trio walked in and huddled together, in the center of the elevator to prevent any of them from spilling out of one of the empty sides. As they scrambled from the elevator onto the ramp to the canyon floor. Keishe double checked her notes about the centaurs. She looked at her companions first to Tatimitzi and then her gaze shifted to Kranik. Both were very capable, but neither paid the greatest amount of details to what they had to do. She glanced back down at her notes, then began to look around the canyon floor to get her bearings.
“Well that ball was weird” Tatimitzi interjected as the silence was a little eerie.
“Ball?” keishe asked glancing back up from her notes back to Tatimitzi with a raised eyebrow.
Tatimitzi looked at the confused Keishe, and whispered “Shah’s ball”
Keishe shook her head at Tatimitzi. “Oh ja..it was. But it is complete and utta garbage. Der is no powa der Tati. Ju should not believe wha da ball told ju.”
Tatimitzi looked away from Keishe and turned her eyes to Kranik. He was just looking around to and fro around the canyon. His vision was not settling on any one thing for any length of time. So neither of them saw the hurt in her eyes. “So it’s ok Kranny, you didn’t miss anything?”
His shifting vision, finally settled on the priestess in front of him. Keishe was putting her notes away. Waiting to get them moving again. She walked off the ramp causing her two friends to follow her. “Ju dun haff to lie to Kranny ta make Kranny feel betta purty Tat” he mumbled back to her.
As they started infiltrating the centaur camp. The first of the centaur scouts fell under the brunt of Keishe’s spells and Kranik’s quick blades. “I’m not. It was odd and made me feel weird.”
The conversation stalled again, as Kranik vanished from sight. Neither Keishe or Tatimitzi could find him. Only to be spotted moments later with his blades flashing and burying themselves deeply into a poor centaur scout’s flesh. Moments later the struggle ended and the centaur collapsed from the barrage of blades. “How does a ball make ju feel weird Purty Tat.....it’s jus a ball”
Keishe had learned to ignore the normal chatter of her trusted companions, usually her only concern was to get the job done at hand and continue to the next one. The conversation of Shahkra’s new crystal ball and all its powerless lies, ebbed and flowed in her mind. She paid more attention to the conversation of her friends at this time. For some unknown reason Tatimitzi was placing way too much faith in the accursed bauble Shahkra possessed and that upset Keishe.
Tatimitzi looked at Kranik as he walked back towards her, then her eyes shifted to Keishe who was summoning the powers of ice and cold to crack and break a centaur before her. Tatimitzi smiled both of her friends were so powerful and capable, sometimes she felt inadequate but not today she felt powerful and lucky. She was able to keep Keishe and Kranik healed and up to slay to vile centaurs. Tatimitzi looked at Kranik and said “It showed me things, and they were something I’d thought...and it was odd..just odd”
Kranik raised an eyebrow, and glanced over his shoulder, surveying the movements of the centaur vermin. Making sure that Purty Tat and Keishe would be safe if he took the moment to speak as it would require more effort then killing. “Like wut kinda tings?” Kranik asked in hushed tones.
Tatimitzi looked at Kranik and his pleading eyes, then to Keishe who had just finished with blasting a centaur with frozen shards of death and destruction. “Um..things about people” she whispered. She was beginning to feel flustered and began to fidget. She couldn’t look at Kranik in the eyes. There was something about his look, familiar and yet at the same time not, like a puppy or child.
Kranik’s eyes grew bigger, he became excited and began to bounce around Tatimitzi, “Like da Kranny?”
She reached out to him and placed a hand on his shoulder. “No sweetie, not you.” The weight of her words and hand stopped him in his bouncing. She glanced to her left, as she heard the clanging of a pickaxe on stone. “Keishe what did you find?” she said over to her. She wanted the conversation of the ball to be over. She knew what she saw but she couldn’t say, she wanted to.
Keishe was listening intently on the conversation, perhaps Kranik could get to Tatimitzi in a way that she couldn’t. If she knew what Tatimitzi saw, she could help her and tell her how much credence was or wasn’t in that infernal bauble of Shahkra’s. “IRON!” Keishe yelled back.
Kranik looked down at Tatimitzi’s hand and whispered to her “Den whu Purty Tat?” then he glanced over to Keishe. “No Kranny!” he shouted back to Keishe.
Tatimitzi sighed, she didn’t have a clear and cut way to get out of the conversation she started. So she decided to do the thing she dreaded and hoped no one would find out what she was about to do. “I mean my friends and things.....and people I used to know.”
“IRON!! This is IRON.” Keishe shouted back, while pointing with her free hand at the greyish hunk of rock before her. She looked over at the pair, as she placed the hunk of iron in her bags. Tatimitzi was fidgety and her eyes had become shifty, she looked uncomfortable. Something was amiss with her. “Tati, joo’r a terrible liar. I dun know wut it showed joo, but joo dun hide it very well” Keishe said back to her. She went back to work with a smirk on her face. She knew Tatimitzi was close to breaking if she had to resort to lying.
Tatimitzi looked shocked for a second and looked away, her face turning crimson. Keishe had discovered her lie. She didn’t want to lie, she didn’t want to hurt Kranik and Keishe, but the visions in the ball were compelling her to protect them no matter what. One little white lie wouldn’t jeopardize her friendships with them. If she thought it would, she wouldn’t have lied. She continued to fidget and worry.
Kranik looked at the uncomfortable state Tatimitzi was now in, and listened to what Keishe had said. Kranik glared at Keishe again who was busy putting her tools away. She had teased Tatimitzi and now she had hurt her feelings. Keishe was being mean. Kranik could feel it in bones, she had been mean to Kranik before. “Keishe dun be mean again. Purty Tat wun lie to da Kranny, would ju Purty Tat.” he whimpered.
Tatimitzi sighed and played with her hair. The moment she dreaded was here and she couldn’t look at Kranik. She was about to let him down, and it burned in her. With a small sigh she mumbled over her words “I don’t mean to lie...it’s just....um personal”
Keishe moved closer to the pair and sat down. Taking out a bottle of melon juice she began to drink. The previous battles had left her mentally drained and nowhere in the condition to continue. She noted the devastated look on Kranik’s face for the brief moment he was still visible. Tatimitzi also saw the defeated look in Kranik before he vanished from before her. The look burning deep within her, she didn’t want to hurt him.
Tatimitzi opened her mouth to say something, anything to Kranik to make him understand. As she did so, a scream escaped from Keishe. An arrow had lodged itself into her shoulder. Standing up to confront her attacker, a second one buried itself deep into her chest. Stumbling backwards she collapsed to the ground. Tatimitzi startled began to cast her holy magic to help her friend. Concern etched on her face and hanging on every syllable of her words.
The two centaurs that had attacked the young mage, came barreling at the priestess a net held in between them. Before Tatimitzi could finish her spell she was scooped up like a fish out of water, tangled in a net and now being dragged at high speed across the centaur camp. The two centaurs stopped dragging the priestess after several yards. One raised his spear to lance the helpless priestess. Tatimitzi screamed and closed her eyes, there was something familiar about this like a sense of being here or living it once before.
Kranik erupted from the shadows, blades flashing angrily at the centaur about to end the life of his friend. The second centaur went to stop Kranik but was lanced by a frostbolt. He then stumbled slowly towards the mage that didn’t have the proper sense to die. The first centaur collapsed heavily on the ground. Kranik wasted no time in burying his blades into the back of the second centaur, killing it well before it had the chance to attack or kill Keishe. Afterwards, Kranik aided Tatimitzi from the confines of the net.
Tatimitzi ran to Keishe’s side and was horrified at the pain the arrows were causing Keishe. Carefully she placed her hands around the arrow wound, in Keishe’s shoulder. With a small incantation she deadened the pain there long enough for her to remove the arrow, trying very hard not to do more damage upon its exit. When she had finished with her shoulder, she moved her hands to the second arrow wound in Keishe’s chest. She did the same thing to this arrow wound as well, however it was embedded deeper. It was causing Keishe great discomfort and pain as it was being removed. Tatimitzi was becoming flustered as her friend groaned in pain, she was trying very hard not to hurt her. Tossing the second arrow aside, she began to cast her healing magic, her voice dripping with concern for her friend. Her mind racing with questions best left unanswered. As the her spell finished, she watched the flesh knot itself back up closing the wounds. She whispered to Keishe “I’m sorry they put me in a net. Are you going to be ok?”
Keishe smiled back at Tatimitzi, “I’m fine. Dey’re bad people Tati” she whispered back. They were looking into one another’s eyes, both having the urge to hug each other, and would’ve done so if it weren’t for their third companion startling both of them. Kranik came over beside them and began bouncing and bounding and screamed “Kranny safe!!!” at the top of his lungs. It made both women jump.
“Kranny kill gud. It da ting Kranny gud at.” He then said to both of them. As they began to regain their composures. Keishe, the first to pull herself together, began to gently pat Kranik on the head.
“Yes joo’r good Kranny” she spoke softly to him. “And betta still we be done h’ere. Let’s get back to da post” she spoke triumphantly to her companions, they had bravely assaulted the centaur encampment and survived. This had been a great day.
Once the trio were back in the inn at the post, they sat in the center by the fire. It was dark outside and it was getting cold. Keishe was gathering and looking through her notes for the next big adventure in the morning, Tatimitzi was busy making bolts of cloth so when she had more free time she could sew in earnest and make newer and better things. Kranik was the only one not occupied by any type of endeavor.
“Why ju tink no one like da Kranny bu ju two an Bren-Bren?” Kranik whispered as he began looking all about the inn, as if looking for something unseen to his companions. Keishe looked up from her notes. Tatimitzi paused her needle amongst her cloth and raised her head to look at him.
“I t’ink dey’re all crazy” Keishe responded, before glancing back at her notes one last time. She had catalogued the next days adventures and began to lock them down in her memory.
“I think others don’t understand you” Tatimitzi added, then began to continue her creation a few more pulls and her last bolt of cloth would be made.
“Joo’r like one of de best friends I have” Keishe continued.
Tatimitzi didn’t look up from her work this time but added “They just have to get to know you.”
Kranik listened intently to his friends, the confusion he had been feeling began to slip away. He still had a lot to learn.
“Joo kill tings wit me....and joo hang out wit me....and....” Keishe began to stumble over her words.
“An Kranny safe ju dun forget” Kranik chimed in.
The pair added the acknowledgement of his statement. Tatimitzi had finsihed her last bolt of cloth for the night. With that done, she stretched she was tired. She looked around the room. Kranik basking in the glow of the firelight, as was Keishe. The fire’s reflection dancing off the lenses of her goggles. She simply stared at Keishe for a few seconds longer then was necessary, before interrupting her own rapture “We sleeping here?... There isn’t much room.”
Keishe held her notes in her lap and turned her gaze from Kranik to Tatimitzi. “Ya, dis is de smallest inn I’ve eva seen.” she whispered back.
Kranik finally gave up on just glancing around the room, chasing shadows with his eyes that didn’t exist. He jumped to his feet and then jumped onto a basket near the back corner of the inn. The basket held under his weight so he stooped there, proceeded to bellow out to his companions “Kranny gots da dibs on dis ting here”
Tatimitzi stood up and laid down in the back corner of the inn. Just to the right of the thing Kranik had claimed. Keishe stretched and yawned. Looked at Kraink and Tatimitzi and then proceeded to lay down next to Tatimitzi in the far corner.
“Kranny watch ober ju an keepses ju boff safe” he whispered to both of them.
“Okee good” Keishe responded before rolling over.
Kranik startled himself awake. He nearly fell over from his perch. His eyes unblinking in the darkness. He began to pitch forward, he threw his arms out to catch himself on the bars he had always known....but they were gone. It took him a moment to regain his balance, but it was too late he ended up in a heap on the floor. He was agitated, fitful and concerned. Springing to his feet he glanced to see if he had awoken anyone else. He hadn’t. He took a deep breath, shaking his head. He was having trouble sleeping again. He decided he would talk to Keishe about it. He turned to where she had been sleeping, Keishe had inched her way closer to Tatimitzi and had an arm draped over her. Occasionally a small shiver would escape from Tatimitzi. Kranik cocked his head to one side, not fully comprehending what he was seeing. A happy smile found its way across his face anyway. There was something pleasing in the sight before him, something right. He wasn’t able to understand it but he knew it was right. Staring at them with a huge grin on his face, his friends were happy.
A heavy hand found its way to his shoulder, turning to face it. He was surprised to see an orc beside him. The orc also smiled, but not a happy smile, more of an evil, hungry smile. Its breath reeked of alcohol. “My my you cer...certainly have found your...yourself a lil treasure...sport” The orc whispered in between hiccups and trying to draw breath in at the wrong time as he spoke.
The smile on Kranik’s face began to dwindle. He knew he didn’t like this green-skin, in truth he didn’t like many green-skins. They all spelled bad news and trouble.
“Tell you....what....sport....you can hav....have the one on the left.....I’ll take” the orc stammered. Pausing long enough to take a huge gulp of the festering brew he carried, before continuing. “The red head....it...takes a real....man to tame....one of them....huh sport” he finished and slammed his elbow into Kranik’s ribs.
Kranik was not sure what he meant, but he damn well knew he was speaking about his friends and he didn’t like it. He began to squint and glare with pure hatred at the orc. The orc oblivious to this swallowed more of the horrid concoction he carried. He then glanced at where the lanky troll, had been but the troll was gone. He turned and looked around the inn, but there was no sign of anyone being awake but him. Shrugging he began to make his mental preparations for what he was about to do.
Kranik vanished from sight, he was not going to let this thing harm or tame his friends. His vision was cloudy. He saw the orc take off his chainmail vest and deposit it on the floor next to him. Kranik’s retribution was swift. Slamming the handle of his dagger he held in his left hand into the back of the orc’s thick skull. The force was enough to cause him to stagger forward, the orc’s eyes rolled back into his head. Kranik latched onto the orc’s throat with his right hand and proceeded to drag him out of the inn.
Most of the post was asleep or their attention was turned elsewhere. No one saw what transpired next. Kranik dragged the now groggy orc to the very edge of the post. The orc standing, tettering on the very edge over looking the canyon. “Ju no hert friendses” was all Kranik whispered as he drew his curved dagger in his left hand across the exposed abdomen of the orc, leaving a visciously deep gash. In the same motion he spun the orc around with his right hand and then slammed it into his chest. The orc catapulted off the edge screaming briefly before slamming into the ground below.
Kranik leered his head around slowly looking for witnesses, there were none. He skulked his way back inside double checking for anyone or anything else that may need to be slain now. Satisfied that there were no other victims this night he returned to his place in the inn. Picking up the orc’s vest he stuffed it into one of his packs. He stood over both of his friends. Tatimitzi let out a moan, she shivered she was having a bad dream. He gently placed his thumb to her temple and rubbed it until her shivering stopped. With that done he returned to his perch, sat down with his back to his friends. His eyes staring coldly into the darkness, tonight no one would hurt his friends.