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Messages - Harmen

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1
The Southlands / Re: Due Payment
« on: October 11, 2017, 08:41:30 AM »
Baron pulled Harmen down hard, smashing his face into the wooden shindles beneath him. The teenager’s vision went dark for an instant, and his face felt ragged and torn. Lying on the ground, he began to taste and smell copper as his injuries wept blood. Several heartbeats passed, and then he felt the frame of the building shudder as something took thunderous steps toward him.
He was barely conscious when he decided to roll down the roof, carrying himself nearly to the edge. The footsteps were uneven, and drew closer along with sporadic sounds of crumbling wood. Harmen looked up through his one good eye and saw the blurry outline of a hulking form silhouetted against the fire. At that moment, Harmens mind waged a battle between the version of him that was fighting his enemy and the profound fatigue in his limbs. That monster, one that took everything from him, was going to be his end.

Despite the fire, he felt cold.

“You have ruined everything!” Baron yelled, the edges of tears on his voice. Harmen couldn’t pick out his face through his blurred vision and the shadows, but he saw the muscles on the top of Baron’s head tense and relax as though he were clenching his teeth. Moments passed, and Harmen used the time to reposition his legs under him. Baron’s chest heaved with his breath. There was the smell of burnt meat.

“I have,” thought Harmen. He could have been at peace, mourning the loss of his family, but he had rejected that life. He had risked so much, even the lives of others, so that he could have his revenge. The could just lie there, and go to sleep. But the anger at his own loss and the violence done to helpless people came flooding back into him. He felt the tingling resolve of yet more adrenaline shoring up his body for the seconds to come. He was terrified, but that fear would not hold him back.

“I was meant to be immortal!”

Mid-sentence, Baron threw himself at Harmen, arms outstretched, but Harmen was already prepared. He felt the weight shift under him, and immediately pushed off the roof to send him sharply sideways. Still smoking from his burns, Baron flew screaming off of the roof onto the ground with a heavy thud.

Harmen rose from his landing spot, nursing a bump on his head from colliding with the railing of the balcony from which Baron had delivered his speech. His limbs felt heavy, and his right eye still refused to open, but he didn’t allow himself time to rest. The fire had continued to build inside, and some of the larger columns had caught. Flames were beginning to reach out onto the roof and devour the structure.

Teenager limped on his good leg towards the doorway on the balcony, determined to find some piece of burning debris to heap on Baron’s head. He must have been injured in the fall or he would have been shouting his rage like he was before.

But on the heels of that thought, came a firm hand on his shoulder.

“This has gone on for long enough.” Baron said, and with that he grabbed Harmen with both hands and hurled him into the debris on the street.

Splinters rained from the sky and one of Harmen’s gaulet’s landed far away, torn from his hand with the force of the impact. The fire continued to burn, cracking the wooden pillars inside like the bones of Harmen’s broken body.

“It is time you returned to your family.”

2
The Southlands / Re: Due Payment
« on: September 26, 2017, 06:05:05 AM »
Blinding light erupted into the darkness as the oil caught flame on Baron’s arm. Harmen shut his eyes and tried to turn his face away from the heat and light, but the senjii stubbornly held him. Baron was hysterical, screaming garbled words and nonsense far louder than Harmen though physically possible.

The teenager could feel Baron shifting his weight from foot to foot as the fire grew. Tongues of flame lapped about, catching Harmen’s arms and Baron’s body alight. It was chaos: deafening sound, blinding light, and growing pain.

Desperately thinking of how to escape, Harmen gripped Baron’s arm with both of his hands and pulled himself up to take the weight off of his neck. He lifted his leg, slowly testing that he could connect the outside of Baron’s elbow with his shin. Harmen wound up, used the powerful muscles in his hips and back, and delivered a mighty kick directly into bone. There was a wet crunch as Baron’s arm was pulverized by Harmen’s steel shinguard. Baron’s cry pitched wildly and his grip slackened enough for Harmen to fall to the ground.

Before he even caught his breath, Harmen rolled on the ground clumsily, tearing off his burning jacket and gauntlets. He screwed his eyes shut as he did so, but he could still see the fire light. Harmen finally attempted to take in a ragged breath, but he felt the solid impact of a foot stomping just beside him.

Baron’s arm barely missed the teenager and indented the floor. Harmen hadn’t had time to move, but when he looked up, he saw that Baron’s face was smoking from recently extinguished fire. He threw himself to lie prone as Baron took up a floorboard and hurled it at waist height. It sailed across the room as though thrown by a hurricane and it destroyed a window.

Looking up through wattering eyes, Harmen fought the urge to cough. He was nearly touching Baron, but the sound of the fire was enough to hide his breathing, and he was covered in debris. The flames had started to spread. He saw that Baron’s left arm was completely broken, hanging limply at his side.

“Where are you, boy!” shouted Baron, roaring into the growing fire around him. The faux walls covered in rice paper had caught flame, and the air was turning acrid with smoke. Harmen rolled gently on the floor to avoid Baron’s foot as the senjii turned to face the other direction. “Strike me down if you can,” he bellowed, “but we both know that you always run.”

Baron walked a step, suddenly growing angry. He reached down to pick up a thick wooden column, swinging it violently. It caught on the ceiling and exploded into wood chips, bringing down more debris from the second floor. He thrashed again, throwing the lumber like a javelin and it embedded itself into the wall.

Harmen stood shakily, one hand clutching his ribs in pain. His fingers didn’t feel wet with blood, but every breath made him wince. He could see that the fire was building, slowly devouring the walls to encircle them. He tried to speak, but tasted blood and grit. He spat onto the ground and Baron whirled to find him.

“I don’t have to run.” The teenager said through gritted teeth. He could see that Baron’s face was scarred.

“You are nothing!” Baron said. His broken arm twitched violently and then relaxed. There was the sound of breaking bone.

“If I am nothing,” Harmen said slowly, “then you are less.” His expression became angry, and every trace of fear vanished from him. He spat out his words in his native language like they were poison. “You killed your family.”

“They were never my family,” Baron replied, “They were preventing my greatness.” His arm shifted again, the fingers twitching slightly.

“You became a monster. It would be better if you had died.” Harmen shouted. The pain in his side flared and his vision blurred.

“They made me into so much more.”

“How many did you have to kill for them to take you?” Harmen said, glancing to the fire. It was still building slowly, but debris tumbling from the second floor caught his attention. The entire ceiling had begun to sag from the lack of support form below.

“I would have killed fifty had I known what it would bring me.” Baron said, finally lifting his left arm to make a fist. “I will live for—“

Harmen threw himself into a standing leap to grab at where a lantern was mounted before. When his weight fell on the iron hook embedded in the ceiling, the beams above him groaned and splintered under the strain.

Baron surged forwards to grab him, like a bat out of hell. The senjii was almost on top of him, but he was crushed under the weight of flaming crates falling from the second floor.

As the ceiling fell, Harmen dropped to the floor and shoulder rolled towards one of the remaining columns near the side of the room. The fire billowed from the collapsing debris, as if the great dragon that had swallowed them were breathing.

Harmen kept his back to the column to avoid the debris, and once it was settled, started to clamour on the pile of crates and furniture that had fallen. His hands became spintered and raw from the broken wood, but he managed to heave himself onto what remained of the second floor.

The smoke had risen and made the air painful to the eyes, but through the haze he could see that there were several windows to the ouside. A large patch of the floor had collapsed, but he found a section that was still intact all the way to a window.

Grunting from the pain, Harmen fell into a run towards the window. His feet were unsteady, and his breathing was shallow, but thousands of hours of practice had made running second nature. His strides carried him to the window at speed, and he shifted his gait. Harmen leapt at the window, meeting it shoulder first, and crashed through the wooden blinds.

He felt weightless as he started to fall down towards the slanted roof beneath him, but the slope was shallow enough that he could surely stop before he fell to the ground.

Suddenly, he felt an iron grip crush the bones in his left ankle.

3
The Southlands / Re: Due Payment
« on: September 19, 2017, 01:48:13 AM »
“Flow like water”

Harmen darted around low lying tables and potted plants, using the columns of the building to help his turns. A terrifying mixture of exhilaration and fear helped his legs reach a little longer, kick a little harder. Baron was always a hairsbreadth behind him in the same way that Harmen’s mind was only just shy of panic.

Their frantic footsteps filled the building, through the ceiling beams to the roof. Starlight filtered in through gaps in the shingles, showing Harmen the faint outlines of obstacles. A beam here, the edge of a fake wall there, something that he could trip on there. He was a gazelle already half in the jaws of a lion; one false step and he would be torn apart.

Although in this case, the gazelle had at least partially thought through his plan.

Harmen produced another vial of holy water from his belt, and shuffled his feet wide as he passed a column. He caught it with his empty hand and his momentum carried him around it blindingly fast. He let go after he rounded the other side, throwing himself awkwardly into the centre of the room. The darkness caused Harmen to lose his balance and he tumbled to a stop.

As he slowed on the ground, Harmen heard the column behind him shatter from Baron’s strength, and the sound was like nothing else. The column was as thick as the branch of a tree and when it broke, it was textured and painful to hear. Like a bundle of breaking bones.

Almost before he came to a stop, Harmen swung is arm to throw the vial, but Baron was much to close.
The vial shattered on Baron’s outstretched arm and shoulder, which was extended to grab Harmen by the neck. As the senjii flinched from the sudden pain, the pair collided and Harmen was thrown head first into a table behind him. Stars exploded in his eyes from the impact, and the rest of his senses blurred.

Harmen reached for the table to help him stand but rising made him sick to his stomach. He feebly supported himself on his hands, only vaguely aware that Baron was behind him, cursing and thrashing on the ground.

He rose to his feet, and for a moment didn’t understand. He saw that the ceilng had partially caved in from the broken column, and that there were floor mats torn up and scattered across the room. But in a sickening moment, he realized that Baron was gone.

His guts froze as it hit home, but something kept Harmen moving.

“Flow like water”

He fumbled with the last clasp of his belt, removing the vial filled with oil. He uncorked it, and started to sprinkle its contents around the room. First on the faux walls made of paper, then on anything around him. As he worked, his thoughts cleared and he moved with purpose.

He saw iron lanterns hanging from the ceiling by long chains and tore one from its hook. After scattering some of its oil around him, he turned on his heel and threw it on its side to roll along the length of the room.

He saw a shadow blur at the edge of his vision, but there wasn’t time for him to react.

The wind was forced out of Harmen’s lungs when Baron’s kick hit home and he was thrown across the room. His arms and legs twisted awkwardly as he rolled on the floor, crashing through a faux wall that landed on top of him. He tasted blood, and couldn’t move.

Harmen numbly thought that his breathing was painful as Baron lifted him by the neck and held him.

“You should never have followed me, boy,” Baron spat into his face.

The teenager strained to hold his own weight with his arms. Seconds passed, and Baron held him at arm’s length with no effort. He was the monster strong enough to break the bones of giants.

Harmen blankly stared at Baron, all the while scrabbling for purchase with his hands. The joint of his neck was straining badly and he could barely breathe. He kept fumbling his grip because the oil from the lantern had made his hands slick.

The senjii walked into the centre of the room, into a shaft of starlight coming from the window on the second floor. His features were illuminated, and Harmen could see that he was pale and clammy. Baron’s nightmarish red eyes were just feet in front of his face, but they were different this time. This time they were angry, like a child that hadn’t gotten its way.

“Do you really think you could have defeated me? What I am?” Baron shouted into Harmen’s face.

He would have remembered those eyes for the rest of his life, but Harmen only saw that oil covered most of Baron’s arm.

There was no conscious thought, no weighing of options. Harmen the individual was gone, and what was left was a will to survive. That will was backed into a corner and desperate. It reached for something, anything that could help him. It was very far away from home, fighting for its life and scared out of its mind. Harmen the individual was gone, but some part of him reached to his goddess, Faelyn, for her favor.

And it came in the form of a spark.

4
The Southlands / Re: Due Payment
« on: September 12, 2017, 09:01:07 AM »
All he could hear was his own breath, and his heart beating in his ears.

The room was unnaturally dark and still. He couldn’t even see his hands, pulled in front of his face in his fighting stance. Seconds passed, and he shifted his weight, uncertain where Baron would come from.

“This is really your plan?” Baron asked, sounding genuinely insulted. “You made it this far, and this is what you choose to do?” He talked deliberately, slow, like something wet and rotten.

Harmen hadn’t heard footsteps, but Baron’s voice was moving around him. He breathed slowly to slow his heart.

“I mean, don’t get me wrong. Making it through the jungle was quite a feat.”

Baron had moved again. Instinctively, Harmen scanned the room, although he still couldn’t see anything. He shook out the tension from his shoulders, and slowed his breathing even more.

“But now that you’re here, don’t you want to rest?”

After his sprinting heart had slowed down, Harmen took a tentative step. The floor was uneven from the wreckage of the door, but underneath it was the typical bamboo mat he had seen so often. Further into the room, Harmen stopped to listen again. He had heard Baron’s voice echo on the walls faintly while he was circling him; Harmen was in the center of a room, probably. He could feel something, maybe a low standing table, on his left. Baron was in the room with him, somewhere.

“After all, I’ve been so careful about leading you here. The least you could do is visit.”

There. Baron’s voice muffled as he moved behind something, and became clear again once he passed it. That was something Harmen could use. He opened his mouth, uncertain. A silent moment later, he nodded to himself, and spoke.

“You’re... not very good,” he said, careful to be quiet, “at... lying low.”

The feeling in the air changed from smug to affronted. It felt thicker.

“The military has yet to find me. Me. Someone strong enough to kill two orphans without it ever reaching the outside world.”

No, not far enough yet. Just a little more.

Harmen felt the table with his left hand, eventually finding a vase. He gripped it by the neck and lifted it gently off of the table. But he needed to keep Baron talking. Should he goad him? No, that might risk him attacking too soon.

“How long,” Harmen said, struggling with his dry mouth, “Did that horse last, from Miriel? Did you run it into the ground?”

Baron made a sort of scoffing sound. “You make it seem like I rode hard to get away from you.”

“Didn’t you?”

“I hired Aurn to kill you. He couldn’t even do that.” Baron said, his voice finally becoming muffled. “I don’t think I need to be worried about either of you.”

Harmen threw the vase as hard as he could at Baron’s voice. In the same motion, he picked up the table and threw that too.
The silence was thoroughly and completely broken in the sound of cracking wood and shattering porcelain. Baron grunted as the table apparently struck him, and the blackness that fileld the room was frayed into layers of shadow. The shadows became smaller and smaller, and torchlight flickered from the doorway again, showing Baron and Harmen surrounded by debris. Baron had been circling behind a flimsy dividing wall when Harmen had attacked, catching him unawares. Baron rose from his daze and thrashed against the wreckage piled on top of him; the table was destroyed under a blow from his fist, and was thrown savagely out of the way. He stepped blindly towards Harmen.

Without hesitating, Harmen delivered a heavy kick to his ribs and then a punch to the side of his head. Flow he heard himself think, Be like water,

He dove past Baron and ran further into the house, the enraged Senjii roaring behind him.

5
The Southlands / Re: Due Payment
« on: September 10, 2017, 08:32:22 PM »
Harmen stood dumbfounded, his facial expression somewhere between confusion and anger. Too much had happened too quickly, and his thoughts were trying to keep up. Aurn wasn’t his ally, no wait, he was, but Baron wanted to keep him alive? No, that wasn’t right either.

Surrounded by enemies jeering and laughing, he clenched his fists and turned to face Aurn.

"I will clear a path for you," Aurn whispered, meeting Harmen’s gaze with stone grey eyes. Aurn meant what he was saying, sure as the tide. "He is your fight."

Harmen reflexively brought his hands in front of his face as Aurn unleashed his magic. His clothing and hair were buffeted by wind, and he could see very familiar streaks of glowing green cut through the darkness. He should have sprung, like a set trap, but he didn’t. Harmen hesistated, caught flat footed with what was happening around him.

In the next few moments, panicked cries and the rippling, crackling sound of ice banished whatever was left of the calm in Heien. Harmen looked to see Aurn back in his element, and remembered all the times that he had seen it before. In Miriel. In the Steppes. Through the Quegan jungle and into Nijon.

Something stirred within Harmen at the sight of his mentor and friend: Baron had something to be afraid of.

And Harmen was part of it.

Baron was shouting over the din, saying things like ‘cowards’ ‘hopeless’ and ‘impotent’. He gestured grandly over the balcony, occasionally accenting his beratement by pounding on the railing. A few times, the wood split under his fist, adding the sound of breaking bones to his speech. But Harmen wasn’t paying attention.

With newfound courage, he didn’t hesitate. The teenager drew a vial of holy water from his pocket in a smooth motion. He turned and threw it as hard as he could at Baron.

“I never thought you would try somethi-AGH!” The crystalline sound of breaking glass was altogether lost in Baron’s cry. It was inhuman, and carried through the village like a nightmare. The senjii clutched his face where the water had hit him, staggering from the shock. His composure was completely torn away, and the monster that Harmen knew fully showed itself, growling and searching the night frantically for the source of his pain.

“Kill them!”

Shapes and flickering lights started darting towards Harmen and Aurn in earnest; some of the bandits had dropped their torches in favor of drawing steel. The circle that had enclosed the pair was broken when Aurn sprung his attack, and the brawl in the street devolved into a melee.

Harmen dodged a vertical swing of a bandit’s longsword, jumping fowards to bring his elbow in sharp impact with his enemy’s head. Harmen swept the legs out from under him, and turned to find Aurn.

It seemed like Aurn the individual was replaced by a force of nature. Striking with water and air, he was a blur of motion from one opponent to the next. The moving water reflected the torchlight, occasionally breaking on a bandit’s body or weapon. Harmen heard the muffled impact of the aegis striking home, along with breaking voices and clattering weapons.

“Don’t kill the kayael!” He shouted into the fighting. “They might go back to normal after Baron dies.” Harmen exhaled sharply, and turned to sprint towards Baron like a bat out of hell.

I am the reason Baron is afraid. He slid to avoid a horizontal slash of a blade. I am the reason Baron is afraid. He ducked his head and pounded down the street, towards the wall of a house. I am the reason Baron is afraid. He kicked off hard from the ground and ran along the wall to circle past a group of kayael. I am the reason Baron is afraid.  He flowed onto the ground, rolled along his shoulder and delivered a kick with his heel to the neck of an archer caught unawares.

The last few steps carried him shoulder first into the front door of the down hall. It broke free from its track and shattered feebly as Harmen barreled into the entryway. His shadow danced in front of him from the torchlight behind, accented with faint splashes of neon green. He slowed to a stop and took several ragged breaths.

Suddenly, the doorway behind him was blocked; the room was filled with darkness. Harmen heard a sinister cackling somewhere in front of him.

6
The Southlands / Re: Due Payment
« on: September 10, 2017, 02:12:11 AM »
Harmen tried to blink away whatever haze Baron had cast over him. Something wasn't right. When Baron had looked at him, Harmen's body seemed trasnparent, that Baron wasn't looking at him, but through him. If that weren't unsettling enough, the Senjii's speech seemed to speak to his heart directly, rather than filtering through his mind. Baron had said 'family' and Harmen felt 'family' in his blood. He struggled to think clearly.

"Look around you my azure knight. You know I have the power to do so. Fulfill our contract." Baron had said, no doubt with the same sickening weight that had been directed at Harmen.  Aurn seemed to listen.

At that point, where Harmen's only ally was apparently entertaining an offer to kill him, he should have broken and run. In that flickering firelight, Harmen should have broken down. The only rational course was to feel afraid and somehow angle to survive. Bargain, or beg for mercy. But having been pulled and twisted between extremes so often, Harmen's mind was more preoccupied with reconnecting to his body. He shifted his weight back and forth, screwing his eyes shut in an effort to regain control. His senses were muddled, but on some subliminal level, he understood that he was in grave danger. Through the roiling mass of nausea and dizziness, Harmen's mind found a horizon beyond the waves. It was overpoweringly present, something that he somehow knew in his bones.

Baron was his enemy and Aurn was his ally. Nothing else registered. Everything was a ripple. Every discomfort and earthly sensation could not hold a flame to how important that was to Harmen. The countryside could had been ablaze, or hail could have been raining from the sky, and Harmen would have still been held captive by his focus. It took some time, but his senses resolved.

Baron's men were shifting their weight casually, some glancing at each other with knowing grins. There had been stunned silence for a while, and it seemed like Aurn and Harmen were speechless.

"You have killed my family." Harmen said, his voice cracking slightly at first. But as he spoke, it became more bold. "You are honourless."

Speaking and projecting his voice gradually brought the full weight of reality to bear on Harmen's nerves; it was hard to ignore an adversary you were speaking to. With each word, his eyes had gone out of focus, and by the end of his speech, he was breathing heavily. He looked at Aurn expectantly, but found him rooted to the spot in silence.

Harmen screwed his eyes shut and clenched his hands, letting the anxiety build, and ebb away. When he looked at Baron directly, he saw that the senjii had risen to his full height. Baron seemed perplexed.

"I could order them to kill you at any second." Baron said, crossing his arms in front of his chest. Grips were tightened on weapons and arrows were drawn back. "But I think I need to teach you a lesson first." A self satisfied look crossed the Senjii's features. He turned to pace back and forth along the balcony, opening his arms in a grand gesture that would accompany his monologue. However, he was cut short by Harmen.

"You're trying to get him on your side again. Even after you hired him to murder a kid." Harmen said. He spoke much more deliberately than normal; his words needed to strike home. "We remember that you lie. I remember that you kill. Any deal with you would be fatal."

7
The Southlands / Re: Due Payment
« on: September 09, 2017, 07:37:07 PM »
The sweeping darkness stirred Harmen’s blood to a boil. His mind had been a crucible for a myriad of emotions, and somehow, the result was anger. All of that pent up frustration and fear tried to escape constantly; he shifted his weight, he clenched his teeth, he flexed his hands, but this sent him over the edge into stillness. Harmen’s mind wanted him to be afraid, but his gut told him to be angry.

Of course Baron had the audacity to make people stand and wait for the sun to vanish.

He eagerly awaited the end of his journey to be over, whatever the outcome. He was waiting for the moment that had had months to build in his mind. He would see his enemy, and somehow, he would try to kill him.

“Welcome,” Baron said, gesturing magnanimously.

The voice hit him like a punch to the gut. It felt like the bottom of his lungs had somehow disappeared and the heat of his body was sleucing through his bones into the dirt below him. Apparently, there was always fear lying in wait to reveal itself given the proper introduction.

 “Welcome, my guests, to my humble town.”

No, that can’t be right. Baron had walked onto the second story balcony right in front of them. His form was imposing, even in the deepening shadow, but Harmen was numb to it. Time didn’t slow, sounds didn’t grow faint, and the moment had already past.

Why wasn’t it more important? Everything had been leading up to it, so why was it unfolding so casually? A destructive creature with legendary power had simply walked forwards a few steps, and had put its hands on the railing. There was no grace, no ceremony to it. It just happened. Harmen flexed his hands again.

It never should have happened.

“Boys, I think we should be courteous to our guests and give them a glimpse of what this place has become.”

Torches began to sputter to life all around Harmen and Aurn. Some were held by soldiers, others had been mounted in the facade of the town hall. The light revealed that the crowd around them in grim monochrome. Even the clouds had smothered whatever life was left in the night sky. Harmen glanced around and shifted his feet, trying to see everything.

Too many torches. Too many enemies. Too many details for him to take in. It all left him in a daze. His frustration was faltering as his mind tried to decide what on earth to do. Run? Fight? Maybe everything would work out for the best if he just closed his eyes.

“You look lost, boy.” Baron called, and rested his weight on the railing of the balcony.

He wore fine clothes, all black or shades of grey and speckled with some kind of jewelry that sparkled in the fire light. Against the color of his shirt, his skin was a ghastly, milky white. He had no hair. He was tall and broad shouldered, but also heavy.

Harmen had turned to face Baron when he had called out. He became a helpless prey animal, frozen in the horrifying moment that they realize a predator was watching. The young man’s arms were still slightly out to the side, not daring to move.

Baron stood tall and straightened the ruffles of his shirt.

“You look like you’ve... seen a ghost.”

Gritty laughter spread around Harmen and Aurn, although some of the crowd kept quiet. Their faces were blank and their eyes were sunken, casting deep shadows down their faces. Even if it was only a trick of the mind, they seemed to draw in the heat around them. Harmen recognized them as kyael, servants of a senjii. They might have been a small fraction human, but only in the same way that scattered bones are a body.

“So tell me, Harmen Corredan and Aurn Novak: why have you come to see me? Do you wish to join my growing cult? Maybe I can offer my services and help you disappear from the world to hide your past crimes.”

Harmen tried to pull his gaze from Baron’s eyes. Distant as they were, they glowed a terrifying shade of red. As he listened, Baron’s voice became languid, like blood slowly clotting.
“No. Well good, because I have work to get to. I wouldn’t want to work with someone who had slaughtered his own village.”

With that, the anger within Harmen drew its weapon and hurled itself back into the fray.

“You are a monster.” Harmen said. His words struck like the stroke of a hammer, leaving a ringing silence behind them. “You have no place here.”

The thugs shifted awkwardly, some of them glancing to see if an order would come from their boss.

“Are you so sure?” Baron said, resting his chin in the heel of his hand. “I seem to have a family.” He gestured gradiously to the array of armed men surrounding Harmen and Aurn.

“Unlike you.”

8
The Southlands / Re: Due Payment
« on: September 07, 2017, 07:17:23 AM »
For the third time, Harmen rolled his shoulders back impatiently and shook his head. His gauntlets were still dirty from crawling earlier, but he ran his hand through his hair all the same. The tension had steadily risen from his gut to his throat. It was getting unbearable.

Standing in the middle of the broken circle of thugs, Harmen couldn’t understand why Baron hadn’t ordered them to be bound or injured. He and Aurn had been forced to wait at the intersection, nothing to restrict them but the implied promise of violence should they try anything. Occassionally someone spat, or muttered something that sounded like a complaint. Aurn stood still, as far as Harmen could gather out of the corner of his eye.

He shifted his weight again. They had been standing for far too long, and in Harmen’s case, he didn’t dare attempt to pace or turn around in anyway. Every few minutes he would almost forget the circumstances as his mind wandered to darker things, and he would manage to take just the smallest amount of weight off of one foot. Then, the feeling of watchful eyes returned, and Harmen sank back into his spot.

The sun had long since begun its final descent past the horizon, lengthening the shadows to macabre proportions. Harmen glanced around again. Everything had slowly lost its colour as the evening past, finally settling on brown. The buildings, the churned up dirt, the tools, and the thugs. Everything was brown, dirty, smeared with some sort of mud that probably couldn’t be cleaned with anything but light. It seemed... weary.

In the past few minutes, his mind had started to break the pattern of thoughts. Instead of cycling back from thugs to Baron to running to Aldealcan to pain, he managed to take note of his surroundings. In particular, Harmen had enough energy to sense what was going on beside him. He never turned to look at Aurn, but he felt something unmistakeable building.
It was like he was standing next to a wave that towered above the shore, but had yet to break.

He scarcely knew what was holding it back. Aurn didn’t have his weapon, but Harmen knew that the mercenary could fight like a typhoon even without it. At least that was something Baron couldn’t take away.

When they had been taken captive, Harmen had lost his sword. At the time, some of the bandits found it hilarious that one would approach Baron so underequipped. Although, he was somehow allowed to keep his gauntlets, and holy water; they probably seemed insignificant to anyone that didn’t know to look. In stark contrast, Harmen couldn’t fight well even with a weapon. Just by keeping him there in that circle, they had taken away his mobility, and he felt helpless.

Fine. Their mistake.

Harmen closed his eyes and furrowed his brow. –That- was new.

Let’s just get this over with.

He wanted to shout, he wanted to kick and scream and roll on the ground. The tension in his body had filled it to the brim, and after his fear had time to settle in his bones, Harmen started to get angry.

 “I can’t stand this,” he managed through his teeth, crossing his arms in front of his chest. He let a shudder go through his shoulders; drunken laughter and mocking gestures soon followed. Harmen sighed raggedly. “I have a feeling he’s going to make us wait until dark...”

9
The Southlands / Re: Due Payment
« on: July 27, 2017, 03:37:05 AM »
Harmen lay prone to see beneath the cover that blocked the village from view.

“He’ll have set himself up in the largest house.” He said, muffled by his arms crossed in front of his face. Quietly as he could, he shuffled himself back through the leaf litter and stood. “There’s no way he would pass up the high-class option.”

Harmen stood, brushing the bits of plant matter from his hair and off of his clothes. It had been enough time since the patrol had passed that the forest’s ambient noise had returned. Leaves settled, trees swayed in the wind, and a few birds passed overhead. Harmen leaned against a sturdy tree trunk with his arms crossed.

The rice paddies would make the best route for an escape. In the streets of Heien, it would be much more likely to be cornered and overwhelmed, but the raised paths between the paddies would be difficult to block off. From the center of town, all he would have to do is skirt the blacksmith... Harmen shook his head and screwed his eyes shut.

“No, no running away this time.” He said faintly. The shudders had stopped taking hold since the patrol passed them by. Maybe his body had reached the limit of its nerves, and beyond was apathy.

He opened his eyes and stared vacantly at the forest floor in front of him, when he heard a sharp swooshing sound somewhere deeper in the forest. With a jerk of his head, Harmen narrowly avoided the sling bullet that cracked into the tree next to his ear.

Indistinct shouting masked Aurn surging from his post, out of Harmen’s field of vision. A soldier, armored in what seemed to be a random assortment of scraps was charging him, wielding the distinctive Nijonese curved blade. Harmen reacted to the familiar silhouette of a charging enemy, steadying himself on the balls of his feet. He faked left to draw an underhand swing of the sword, and stepped right. There was a hearty thud as his attacker’s head met the tree trunk, and Harmen set upon him, pinning him to the ground.

He looked up from his opponent to find Aurn, but the azure wave of a fighter was nowhere to be seen. Almost.

The body of a hapless enemy sailed through the air, trailing green strands of wind before crashing through the branches of a tree.

In the clamor of the body settling to the forest floor, Harmen noticed the moving shapes just beyond the trees. They moved into view in groups, gesturing at each other and barking back and forth like a pack of coyotes.

Steel scraping steel rang in the air, and Harmen and Aurn were surrounded.

10
The Southlands / Re: Due Payment
« on: July 26, 2017, 11:44:59 PM »
Harmen held his breath, worried that even the slightest noise would somehow bring the world crashing down around them. He lowered himself to hide behind the log, putting his hands under his arms to prevent his gauntlets from clattering.

The voices had moved, muttering things intermittently. They appeared to be skirting the area in which Harmen and Aurn were hiding. Their footfalls betrayed a casual stroll. A few of their words came through the trees.

“......getting tired.....damn leaves.........village...........”

Harmens brow furrowed. It was strange hearing common spoken so casually. Baron’s men must have made their way to Heien after all. The shudder came rolling, like a wave through the teenager’s body. His enemy had been made real again, and part of him wanted to run. He clenched his teeth hard and tensed his back to keep himself from making any noise. An ache was growing in his legs, having been crouched in a strange way while the patrol had walked past.

A short while later, the voices faded from earshot. Harmen breathed deeply, as quietly as he could, and relaxed. He then turned to Aurn, and waited expectantly.

The encounter had begun.

11
The Southlands / Re: Due Payment
« on: April 23, 2017, 08:12:18 AM »
Dissatisfied, Harmen dropped to his knees and crawled beneath the shrubs that were blocking his path. It seemed as though every time he moved, there was a cacophanous noise; like the whole forest was trying to give away their position. He rose again further on to gain his bearings. Aurn wasn't far, but the paranoia of getting separated was palpable. The pair had been travelling like this for some minutes, trying to make as little noise as possible while still traveling at something more than a snail's pace. Harmen had discovered he was frighteningly bad at being quiet.

While looking around, he had seen more of the village as they approached. Each time he saw more or the thatched roofs and dirt roads, and each time a deeper shudder went into his body. When he returned to following Aurn, some of the anxiety left him as he focused on creeping forwards. However, each time he remembered that they were getting closer to their quarry, it flashed through his blood anew. He was reminded of the Katta on the Steppes of Valanthia that they had fought months earlier. They had moved with such skill and grace, the first things that the caravan heard of them was a primal roar as they attacked. As he crawled through some leaf litter, Harmen couldn't help but feel he was on the opposite end of the spectrum of stealth.

Gradually, the vegetation changed and thinned as the ridge sloped differently. They shifted from submerging themselves in the foliage to using trees and thickets of bamboo as cover. Progress was faster, but Harmen noticed just how badly they stood out. Details like the rattling of his gauntlets and the shine of any metal became all the more apparent; he used mud to dull the reflection and tucked his hands under his arms to prevent the metal plates from clinking.

Loping from one piece of cover to another, Harmen controlled his footfalls. There was no thud, no rustle of grass, and his breath was quiet. As he slowed to take cover behind a gnarled fallen tree, but like so many novices before him, he took a single casual step.

The snap of a dry twig seemed to echo through the forest like thunder.

12
The Southlands / Re: Due Payment
« on: March 16, 2017, 06:22:57 AM »
Harmen loped alongside Aurn, still experimenting with his gait.

"I'm running like this," he said, "because it's familiar." The teenager dove into a shoulder roll as his path took him over an inconsequential branch that had fallen on the ground. He dusted some stray blades of grass from his hair. "It helps calm me down, because I've been running like this for years."

A feeling in the pit of his stomach had been building since they left, about half an hour earlier. Every time he reminded himself that they were going to meet Baron at Heien, the feeling grew. It felt tense and cold, like some void feeding on his fear. However, perhaps in an unsurprising way, Harmen's running served to fill that void. The confidence with which his placed his footfalls and the authority with which he ran were building him up while he was being worn down. Although he was becoming increasingly tense, he had so far managed to keep his focus.

Strangely, Harmen found himself worrying whether Aurn would tire himself out before they made it to Heien. He curtly shook his head at the idea, batting it away like he was swatting at a fly near his ear. The weight and sound of his gauntleted hand were still unfamiliar.

Long shadows crossed over the pair as they neared the village, alternating light and dark. The rooftops returned, having been obscured by the trees for a while. Harmen caught the sight of a spear, reaching up besides a building as its bearer was standing guard, or patrolling. The void in his gut grew, sending a shiver through his body.

The distance was still great, but seeing a weapon borne by an enemy made everything feel all the more real.

13
The Southlands / Re: Due Payment
« on: March 03, 2017, 07:19:12 AM »
Breathe and move forward.

Harmen had to hold himself back continually, more often than not outpacing Aurn. He sighed raggedly, shaking his head and fell back alongside his partner. He couldn't afford to run off on his own, not this time. Not when he needed Aurn's help most. To Harmen's perception, they could have been traveling for days, one of them the picture of calm, the other erratic as a sputtering fire.

Memories came and went, sometimes blurring together. The sights of Baron in the mountains clashed with the sounds from the Kattan raid on the caravan so long ago. It shifted to the decomposing skeleton in the pyramid, speaking with Baron's voice. In that storm of thought, Harmen fought for control. He struggled to surface from his flashbacks, taking solace in the familiar sounds of his own footfalls, and the way his hair bounced on his head. Although he was not the frightened rabbit that he had been, the teenager was certainly no fearless hero.

"... off the main road." He heard Aurn say. It sounded different from normal; it was like the slow rolling waves of the ocean as the tide came in. They were certain in their purpose, and retook the land at their own pace.

Harmen nodded and followed closely, glad to have a distraction to pull his attention. Although the terrain was by no means dangerous, he would need to concentrate at least a little to avoid rolling an ankle.

Flowing from his stomach, he felt a tremble settle in his body.

“I don’t know how your honour works,” he said easily between strides. The teenager was staggering his steps and meandered over the field, falling into the same patterns Aurn had taken him through earlier. At the time, he chose to shuffle his footwork to run backwards some distance. “But in order for me to resolve this, I need to settle this with Baron personally.” He caught the side of his foot in the ground, and twisted his body to pivot so he was running side by side with Aurn again.

From behind a thicket of trees, the first roofs of the village came into view.

14
The Southlands / Re: Due Payment
« on: February 22, 2017, 07:45:32 AM »
Harmen rubbed his wrists as his bindings came off and sighed raggedly in relief. He tried to hold his hand still for a moment, rolling his eyes when he found that it was quivering beyond his control. If he was this scared a few hours away, he may not be able to set foot in Heien after all. Looking up, he found that Entouji was watching his strange behaviour.
“Oh, thank you.” He said awkwardly, stepping back and offering a bow. He received a hesitant nod in return.

While Aurn was tending to his weapon, Harmen began to rummage through his pack. He hastily stowed his cloak, and rummaged through to find his vials. Eight of them fit into the small pockets along his belt, secure enough that they wouldn’t jostle if he moved. Some of them were filled with the holy water he had blessed earlier, and others were filled with oil from a lantern. His short sword also found its way back onto his belt, as well as a piece of flint. He packed up the remainder of his possessions into one neat bundle; he had set his money aside, on top of his bag. Aurn’s voice broke the silence, seemingly inviting the coll autumn wind.

“... It nearly ruined my honor.”

“Of course,” thought Harmen, turning from his task to face Aurn. “You are invested in this too, not just on behalf of me.” Decisively, he tightened the last strap of his shin guards, and rose. The group of them stood in a circle, the official flanked by his bodyguards.

“I won’t be coming back if we fail,” he said, fussing with his belt and jacket. “So if I don’t return to collect it,” he picked up the pouch of gold, “keep that as a payment for our dishonesty.” and tossed it underhand to Entouji.  The soldier caught it curtly, although his eyes betrayed surprise with how heavy it was. Osamu seemed impassive. “I won’t need any of my other possessions in that case either, but I don’t want to make you clean up after me.” Osamu waved his had impatiently.

“Nijonese warlords are rarely merciful. You would be rucky to survive.” The official cast a sideways glance at Hyuuma, who nodded back to him. “But in zat event, you uill find your possessions waiting here.”

“Thank you. And I’m sorry I tried to deceive you.” Harmen bowed deeply to the three of them. As trying as their experiences had been, he was a foreigner that had barged into Nijonese business. They may not have taken them along if they had known the truth in the first place, but that was a poor excuse for lying. When Harmen rose, he was surprised to see the three of them giving a shallow bow in return. Harmen turned to look at Aurn, who was a stoic as ever. They exchanged a nod and turned back to the Nijonese men. “Goodbye.”

Osamu said something in Nijonese as Harmen and Aurn turned to leave. Harmen didn’t recognise it as the usual thing to say as a farewell. He asked what it was.

“Translated literally to common it means ‘Don’t die’.”

Harmen managed a tired smile before him and Aurn set off, at last, for Heien.

15
The Southlands / Re: Due Payment
« on: January 30, 2017, 10:01:14 AM »
Harmen's hackles rose. There was no question.

Osamu translated the peasant's calm answer. "Cold. Like the warmth was--"

"Being pulled from his body?" Harmen butted in somberly. Osamu's head sharply snapped to look Harmen in the eye. For that moment, the official's features betrayed genuine surprise. Osaumu closed his eyes and shook his head slightly, casting off whatever had robbed him of his composure. His hands retreated back into the folds of his robes.

"Yes, like the warmth was being pulled from his body." replied Osamu. The crowd had gone silent, observing a conversation that none of them could hope to understand. A quiet wind rustled through, flapping tent folds, clothing, and armor as though they were quaking in fear. Or impatient.

Harmen raised his manacled hands towards Osamu with a rattle. The teenager looked determined, but he was also breathing heavily.

"I don't think there is any other option. Thank you for hearing out our story, Osamu-sama." he said in an even tone. His gaze was unwavering.

Osamu glanced back and forth to Hyuuma and Entouji, at last nodding to the latter.

"It's no business of mine if you want to die by the hand of a warlord."

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