Cooperative Fiction

Skip to content

If You Look Like a Demon, Don't Bother Asking for Directions

Post by Sir Karsimir on

Hearing through everything that Uluki had to say, the chevalier simply listened without comment, waiting until the end before answering. Waiting until the apology, "Well, if he gave you cause to fear him I would hope to be nothing like him at all. No offence is taken. As for your diverse family, that is no problem for me and my men. Any who object have no business joining in the first place. And welcome aboard. You will be making my work far easier." While his voice was not lowered as hers was, it addressed solely Uluki, and so the chances of being heard clearly were slim.

Waiting patiently outside was the warhorse, as tall as the chevalier himself, the shoulder level with the crown of his head. Once again, as courtesy dictated, he helped the lady onto the warhorse. Despite her protests otherwise, he still thought of her as a lady. In his mind, nobility was not a birthright, it was a quality which she showed in spades.

Starting his search with the healer's, and then heading to where Uluki knew Rollick had been searching, they asked around for her husband. Most of the citizens were more inclined to speak to Aorle than Uluki, so they were able to get answers through the combination of her detailed knowledge of his appearance and him doing the talking.

Armed men were not normally common in Marn, as the average citizen does not carry a weapon, although there had been a recent influx. However, the combination of armed and unarmoured stood out slightly, so finding him was not overly long. Besides, a horse could cover plenty of ground.

Soon enough, there Rollick was. Arjen approached at a trot, stopping nearby.

Aorle let Uluki be the one to speak.
My faith protects me, my kevlar helps.

Post by Lylessa Uluki on

Rollick looked rather surprised to see Uluki on horseback with a strange young man, though he didn't seem particularly concerned about it. The young man didn't appear dangerous, and Uluki didn't look distressed.

Uluki called out a hello to him as they approached, which Rollick returned, and then when they got closer she introduced the young man.

"Rollick, this is Aorle. He helped me find Zee and Martin. They're safe and waiting for us."

Rollick looked relieved by this news, but merely nodded to acknowledge it. "Pleased to meet you, Aorle. Thank you for your help."

Then, realizing her introduction had been one-sided, and the fact she knew Rollick didn't mean everyone did, she added, "Aorle, this is my husband, Rollick. Aorle has offered us a place to stay." Anticipating Rollick's reaction, she added, "And he's working on a project we can help with, too. He wants to provide shelter for his warriors and other people." She wasn't sure how many others, or what kind of people. She'd need to ask about that. "We can help him prepare for their arrival, and see their needs met."

Rollick seemed much more willing to consider that idea than to accept a hand-out, as she'd known he would be. He was certainly not opposed to accepting help from others, but only if there was some sort of mutual benefit to the person offering. Uluki found that an interesting contrast to how freely he would give help, asking nothing in return.

"That is kind of you, Aorle," Rollick said in response. "I can assure you that Uluki in particular will be of great help to you. She's quite good at that sort of thing. Her efforts when we had to fight an evil--"

Uluki met Rollick's eyes and shook her head slightly. He looked back at her questioningly, unsure why she didn't want him to talk about it, but he allowed the subject to drop. "Anyway, she's done quite a good job organizing the community in the past, and I will help you as I can."

As kind as Aorle seemed, that was, Uluki felt, too dangerous to talk about. They'd already strayed onto thin ice. It was clear from what Rollick had just said that the "we" of her earlier story did not include himself, which would seem strange since he'd also made it clear he was present and involved in the situation at the time.

It wasn't a matter of trusting Aorle or not. That had been such a strange time, a time people who weren't there probably wouldn't understand. Even some people who were there didn't. Uluki knew what Rollick had suffered, how hard he'd fought, how brave he was. Sometimes she'd suspected the others had just seen Rollick as a body. The host to an evil god, but one who, through his unwillingness to cooperate with the god, was useful as they fought against it... but worth nothing more than that. Nothing but a future corpse, when his purpose was served.

Rollick knew about that-- of course he knew-- but it was Uluki who had heard the words, Uluki who had seen the lack of concern in the eyes of those who spoke them. There had been the paladin, who had told her calmly that Rollick would be too tainted to live after his ordeal, that he had lost his honour, that he deserved to die. On the opposite end of the spectrum, there had been the Tiefling, who had followed Rollick around for days after his return, demanding for him to say that he'd enjoyed the experience and had felt powerful, in spite of his truthful insistence that it had been hellish, and something one should try to avoid. Rollick himself had been unable to avoid it, and it made Uluki feel a little ill to hear someone ask over and over if he'd liked his trauma.

No, better not to tell Aorle anything about it, not just yet. It was hard to know how people... even good people... would react. It could put Rollick's life in danger, if people knew, and she was unwilling to risk losing him. She couldn't help imagining armed men with shadowy faces circling him, surrounding him...

Uluki shook her head, suddenly aware she'd been visibly lost in thought... and she'd no doubt looked troubled. Her mind returned to the pragmatic, and she smiled again.

"As I don't think even Aorle's wonderful horse can carry all of us back, perhaps Rollick and I should walk and meet you. I assume Dash is flying above, trying to spot Zee..." Rollick nodded his confirmation of this. "...So we'll keep an eye out for her on the way and signal her when we see her." They could hardly join her in the sky, after all. "Aorle, I'm sure you have a great many other things to attend to today, and I hate to delay you more than we already have."

Post by Sir Karsimir on

"Perhaps the story can wait until I have done more to earn your trust." And then he shrugged. Shrugged, as if paying no thought to what he had done already, and not begrudging their caution on the matter. In his short experience with them, he felt sure that they were good people, that they would now be happy and safe, those were the parts most important to him.

Then, Aorle did something really unexpected, he dismounted.

"Arjen knows his way, and will return with you all once you have found your daughter. As for the delay, I call it time well spent."

There had been gratitude so far, mostly the disarmed gratitude of those surprised and slightly confused by the kindness extended to them. With no need to press the matter, he allowed the couple to use the charger, laying a comforting hand on the silky white mane, before stepping back.

While he certainly trusted this family, and already felt something of a soft spot for them, leaving Arjen with strangers was little concern, if any. That said, were someone to make an attempt to pinch the horse, it would be thoroughly entertaining to watch. Arjen had made up his mind concerning where and how he wanted to live, and few people ever won an argument against a horse that size.

"So I shall see you back at the base?"
My faith protects me, my kevlar helps.

Post by Lylessa Uluki on

"Yes, we'll see you back there. Thank you for the loan of your horse. I don't think I could remember the way back to base." Uluki petted Arjen, allowing him to sniff her hand. She'd seen two handsome horses in the last two days. That was fun. Uluki liked horses.

"And I..." She looked at the horse, not at Aorle. "I want you to know that I do trust you. You've been very kind to us." So how could she explain her reticence? "I'll tell you the whole story when we have time, I promise. But you need to hear the whole thing. Telling a part of it will make it seem different than it was."

She only hoped that when the time came for the telling, he'd understand.

"But that doesn't matter now. We'll see you back at... at home."
Last edited by Lylessa Uluki on Tue Jul 24, 2007 7:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Post by Sir Karsimir on


That was perhaps the best thing that she could have said. It meant that he was able to offer something more than a roof. A safe place for her and her children, where they could feel welcome and secure, and that their lives had purpose and meaning. If just for their own sake.

Arjen carefully rubbed his face against Uluki's hand draped overhead, craning his neck towards her, he seemed more than comfortable with a fae.

Before Aorle left, he stopped still for a few moments, looking at Rollick with an evaluating gaze, as if suddenly aware of something.

That was it.

He knew it.

Reading his stance, his posture, the measured steps and manner, he could pick up the signs of a veteran warrior. Contrast between the straight back and weary joints hinted that he had worn armour in his youth, and few warriors lived this long without a gradual fading of the signs from disuse. This man had been a fighter for most of his life.

Which was quite handy really.

"Well met Rollick. We have some spare gear in the armory if you would like. Fit yourself with an aketon, some leather armour pieces, a dagger, and the scutum shield. Metal armour is reserved for my warband for now. Get some food and rest, and make one of the storerooms into a private room for you and your family. We only have the one bedroll spare however." Aorle neglected to mention that it was not spare - it was his. "If you want to help, once you are all fed and rested, you can aid in training the warband. If you know anything about archery, that would be best."

With that covered, he turned back to Uluki, still on the destrier. "Most local fighters know to seek me out at House Anstrun, so I will be there for most of the day. House Anstrun may not react well to you," he warned, "but if you need to find me there, ask for Railtus. They will not acknowledge the name Aorle." True to form, he did not explain himself or his background, only the matters of concern.

"Farewell for now!" he called as he turned to march away.
My faith protects me, my kevlar helps.

Post by Lylessa Uluki on

Uluki froze when she saw how Aorle was scrutinizing Rollick, though Rollick himself didn't seem bothered; he simply returned the appraising look openly but not rudely or aggressively.

Her heart began to beat wildly in that brief moment. How much did Aorle know? Had their words revealed too much? Had he been able to see signs, somehow? And how would he react to it? After her reflections of a moment before, it didn't occur to her that he might be sizing Rollick up for any other reason.

Ten years had passed. They'd been happy years, for the most part, as happy as a life can be. Uluki had thought about the dark times only infrequently, and spoken of them even less. They had moved on.

Or so she thought. Seeing someone who reminded her of the past-- even if only as an initial impression which had quickly proven incorrect-- had brought it all back. Maybe you can never really get over an experience like that, you just learn to live with it, and accept that it will have repercussions at unexpected times and in unexpected places.

She wished it hadn't come up quite so soon. Better if Aorle had time to get to know Rollick, to see what a good man he was, how much he cared for others. To see that he was forthright and not at all secretive. You couldn't spend much time around Rollick and believe there was any darkness in him. That hadn't always mattered, though. To some people, what Rollick had suffered through no fault of his own was sufficient grounds to condemn him. Sometimes what others called "goodness" struck Uluki as completely arbitrary.

So exactly how much did Aorle know, and how would he react to it? Uluki tensed her body to move quickly, ready to put herself between him and her husband should his sword be drawn. That should at least give her time to explain things, to try and smooth them over...

Uluki relaxed visibly when Aorle offered Rollick the armour. She could see no reason for him to offer such protection to someone he intended to kill. Still, she was unsure quite what it meant. Had he seen, or hadn't he? It confirmed to her that they needed to talk to him about it as soon as possible. Better for him to find out from them than some other way.

Rollick thanked Aorle for his offer of armour, explaining that he had been without his when the magical mishap had sent them to this place. Uluki was barely listening, still mulling over how much Aorle had figured out.

Her focus returned when he mentioned the matter of accommodations, and then addressed her directly. "Thank you. We'll find you there should an urgent need arise." She wanted to make it clear they didn't intend to bother him for every little thing. Also, though she was a little puzzled about the name, she thought it best to save her curiosity for another time.

She took a deep breath. Something else needed to be said. She didn’t think there was any way Aorle could have failed to notice her strange behaviour, how protective she’d become when he’d stared at Rollick. “There’s something else you should know about us, before you decide…” She couldn’t bring herself to say it. “Before you decide anything.” If they were living and working with him, they couldn’t have this hanging over their heads. She glanced over at Rollick, who nodded his agreement. “I know you’re busy and have many things to do today, and it’s nothing that requires your immediate attention. But perhaps sometime we should talk.”

Aorle seemed agreeable to that idea, so Uluki and Rollick bid him their farewells.

When he had departed, she said quietly, "One bedroll? And he expects guests?"

"I was wondering about that," Rollick agreed. "Maybe we ought to help with the preparations."

"Yes, maybe we should," she said thoughtfully, already making a mental list of what might need to be done.

Post by Lylessa Uluki on

First, of course, they would need to rest and recover. Much as Uluki wanted to begin helping right away, she knew the family needed time to get back on their feet.

Arjen helpfully and reliably returned them to the base, and on the way they had spotted Dash flying above; she merely changed course and pace so that she would arrive to meet them.

The family had a meal combined of the odds and ends of food they still had with them and that which was provided by their new friends. Rollick collected the pieces of armour Aorle had designated for him, then they borrowed a few additional padded pieces to rest on and cloaks to use for blankets-- intending to return these after they'd had a chance to get some sleep in the storeroom they were setting up as their new home, however permanent or temporary it might turn out to be.

Tired as she was, Uluki had a difficult time sleeping. Giving up the attempt, she sat by the door knitting by the light which escaped through the crack. She'd been working only a short time, however, when Rollick sat down and joined her; she was surprised he was awake, given how tired he'd seemed.

"You should rest," he said without preamble. "You've had a long day."

"I will," she said noncommittally. "I just need to finish this first." She indicated the scarf she was working on.

"Why does it need to be done now? You can finish it when you wake up."

"Because..." She tried to come up with a simple, practical explanation, but failed to think of anything. "Because I want to show Aorle that we can be useful, so he won't regret having us here, and there's little else I can do. I'm not strong, and I'm not allowed to do magic. I seem to be dead weight at the moment." Her frustration, not with him but with the situation, was evident in her voice.

"Hardly. You're already coming up with plans. I'd be willing to bet you already have a fair idea of how you can help the people here."

She nodded at the truth of this. Uluki was, by nature, a planner, and his guess that she had already begun was correct.

"Then I don't see the problem." He did sound puzzled. "Did Aorle say you had to finish it now?"

"No. He wanted us to rest so we'd feel better."

"Then why are you sitting up knitting so fast you'd think wasps were stinging your fingers?" Rollick asked, continuing to push the issue gently.

"Because I'm afraid of losing you!" She said suddenly. "I don't want anything bad to happen to you."

If Rollick had seemed puzzled before, he now seemed confused beyond the telling of it. "And you're protecting me by... knitting a scarf?" She shook her head helplessly but didn't elaborate, so he tried a different tactic. "What makes you think I'm in any danger?"

"I think Aorle knows about the evil god. I think he figured it out."

This didn't seem to make the matter any clearer to him. "What difference does it make if he knows?"

"The paladin wanted you to die," she said abruptly, finally getting to the heart of the matter. "We had an argument about it."

"I know, and I'm grateful to you for insisting I be allowed to live. I'm quite happy to be alive. But..." The realization finally dawned on him. "Oh gods, Uluki. You're afraid if Aorle finds out he'll want to kill me too? And you think if you prove how productive you can be... how productive we can be... you'll convince him to spare me?"

Yes, that was it. She nodded miserably.

Rollick gently took the knitting from her hands, and she offered no resistance. "You need to rest, dear one. You're exhausted; I can see it in your face." He wasn't wrong about that. "We'll have plenty of time to prove our usefulness after you've had some sleep. Then next time we see Aorle, we'll explain everything to him, and then you won't have to worry anymore."

"But he might..."

Rollick shook his head. "I don't think so. I think he'll understand."

"I hope so."

"If you won't sleep, will you at least let me hold you for awhile? I'll be restless if I know you're sitting here fretting."

She knew exactly what he was doing, making it seem like something she needed to do for herself was really for him, but she went along with it. She'd rather be held, anyway, even though she wouldn't be able to sleep.

"Alright. I'll finish later."

She lay down beside him, snuggling against him, and he wrapped his arms around her. "I love you so much," she whispered to him, but she was asleep before she heard his reply.


Return to Industrial District