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Preparations For Battle


Post by Julen on

Julen nodded as Uluki described her experience aiding the refugees. Once again, Aorle had found someone who needed help, and while giving it he’d gotten a valuable asset in return. A poor farmer, a neglected warhorse, a lost orc, and now a homeless fairy -- the pattern was undeniable. Julen had heard wicked men endorse evil as a way to make themselves more powerful. But it seemed that acts of kindness were not incapable of amassing their own strength.

However, one thing puzzled Julen. Uluki spoke about all this happening where she used to live. But surely she didn’t mean the Fairy Realm? That was supposed to be a land of eternal summer, untouched by war or strife. “The place where things were bad, was that somewhere else in this world?”

“Dream Kissed...no, it doesn’t mean to sleep. In a way, it means just the opposite.” Julen wasn’t surprised to find Uluki unfamiliar with the term. The Fair Folk were renowned for their skill as bards and tale weavers, so they probably spent very little time listening to human efforts. “Dream Kissed was what my mother’s stories called someone who fell in love with one of the Fair Folk. It means to be touched by enchantment, to have your soul moved by wonder. In the stories, it was a very grand thing to be, but a very sad thing as well.”

Meanwhile, Rosemary had moved even nearer, carefully lifting the baby from his mother’s arms. “I would like to hold him, thank you. Hello, Martin. You’re a handsome baby, aren’t you?”

Julen never thought it was possible for his wife to look any more beautiful. However, as she bent her face close to the baby’s, cooing softly to it, her expression revealed happiness and strength that he’d never glimpsed before. And those emotions made Uluki’s innocent question feel even more like the cold blade of a knife. Involuntarily, Julen met his wife’s eyes, although he didn’t truly see her. He saw the guest bedroom in his farmhouse and the shelf where a menagerie of hand-carved animals patiently awaited the day when they would be passed on to a new pair of small hands. He didn’t know what Rosemary saw. But after a moment, her gaze broke away from his.

“We...we want to,” Rosemary admitted. “We’ve tried. But it never seems to work out, and now...so much is different now.”

Rosemary didn’t want to burden some complete stranger with her problems. But she was still struggling to come to terms with what Julen had become, along with all it entailed, and this was her first chance to talk to someone in a similar position. After a moment’s hesitation, she asked the question preying on her mind. “You said that your husband...Martin’s father...you said that he can teach archery. Does that mean he’s a warrior?”
Shim -- where the men are men, and the livestock are scared.

Post by Lylessa Uluki on

She was surprised by his certainty the bad things had happened somewhere in this world, not where she used to live.

"Yes, the place I was talking about was in this world, on the far side of it, I think. But bad things happened sometimes in the other world, too. I don't think it was better than this one, really. It was just different." So very different, and that's why people in this world sometimes found her strange.

Uluki had assumed the issue of enchantment might come up. She'd certainly heard such concerns whispered often enough when people saw her with Rollick. Humans sometimes assumed Uluki had bewitched him, while Fae thought that Rollick had taken her by force. It was no surprise to her that Julen shared his fellow humans' belief about such relationships; reverence and wonder like that he'd shown were often mixed with fear.

"I don't think Rollick--my husband-- is what you said. I don't think he's Dream Kissed. He loves me. He loves me because I'm me, though, not because of magic." She wasn't sure if Julen would understand that, that such a thing was possible for one such as her, that she could just be loved. "He's not under any spells. He just sees me as a person. The person he wants to be with." It would be better when they'd seen Rollick, seen he was happy but aware. She felt there was little more she could do to explain herself. "He's sleeping now, but I'm sure you'll meet him soon."

Uluki felt horrible, however, for the pain she seemed to have caused them by her question about children. It was clear they wanted them... badly. She tried to answer Rosemary's unspoken questions as well as what she'd actually asked.

"Yes, Rollick is a warrior. I suppose it seems strange, that we have children. Warriors lead a difficult and dangerous life-- as you know, being married to one as well." She acknowledged Julen. "Rollick is quite a bit older than Julen, however, and our baby's birth was good timing for him to seek pursuits other than direct combat."

She'd been glad, honestly. She worried so much every time he fought, not about his skill or his resolve, but about how his body would hold up against much younger warriors. He had never lost his heart or his drive, but even she could see his reactions becoming just a fraction of a second slower, his movements just a hair less easy. Such small things could mean life and death in battle.

"We'd been married quite some time before we had the baby. The girls are adopted; Martin is the only one I bore." That would be obvious enough when they saw the daughters, who looked nothing like either parent.

She wasn't sure how personal her discussion should be with these people she barely knew, but perhaps if she shared a little, it would ease their pain. "We'd been married more than eight years before Martin was conceived. Many people had told us that we couldn't have a child, that our bodies were simply too different, that the things we were made of were not compatible to produce life together. That seemed to be the case. We gave up hope we could conceive... but we also stopped bothering to do anything in terms of... planning." She blushed a little at that, how intimate the detail was, but she was committed now. "There are ways. Magic wasn't illegal in the other place. But we stopped bothering with it after awhile, and let nature take its course. And then eventually, I discovered I was going to have Martin."

She paused for a moment, afraid of sounding presumptuous, then decided to forge ahead. "Maybe you haven't had a child yet because this isn't the right time. That doesn't mean it never will be. I think you'll be very good parents when the time is right."

Post by Julen on

Julen nodded as he listened to Uluki describe her relationship with Rollick. It was odd to think that a human and a fairy might fall in love just like anyone else, that they might have a marriage just like anyone else. But then, Uluki herself was proving to be rather odd -- odd in her sheer normalness, if that made any sense. Other than her appearance, and her obviously benevolent nature, she was not at all what his mother’s stories had led him to expect. Nevertheless, Julen liked her. Perhaps he liked her even better than he would have liked a more archetypal member of her race.

Rosemary, for her part, was just glad to have met someone who really understood her concerns. Despite his angelic side, Aorle was still a typical man in some ways. His answers to her fears were always practical ones -- train Julen more, get him better armor, surround him with skilled comrades. And those were all good things, things likely to reduce the chances of her nightmares ever becoming reality. But sometimes...well, sometimes a girl just wants a little sympathy.

Listening to Uluki talk about her husband and how they’d come to conceive their son, Rosemary felt her heart warming to the couple. “I’m so glad that it worked out for you. Rollick must have been overjoyed when you told him the good news.” Rosemary wanted to give Julen happiness like that. She knew how important family was to him, how much he wanted to pass on his traditions, and his history, and his land, as all those things had been passed down to him.

“You’re probably correct,” Rosemary conceded, when Uluki suggested that this wasn’t an ideal moment for them to have children. “I keep telling myself that it will happen when the time is right. But then I think that maybe the time won’t ever be right, not now.”

“I don’t want you to think that we’re ungrateful for all that Aorle has done. Hiring Julen, training him, rescuing me from the mercenaries...twice...I can’t imagine how much worse off we’d be if he hadn’t helped us. But this life, a warrior’s life, it wasn’t supposed to be our life. We were supposed to live on Julen’s farm. Our children were supposed to be able to grow up without wondering when...or if...their father was coming home.”

Gently, Julen wrapped his arm around Rosemary’s waist, careful not to disturb the baby she held. “I know this is terrifying for you,” he soothed. “And I know you’ve had less than a week to adjust to it. But think of Uluki. It sounds as if her life didn’t turn out like she expected. She ended up in a realm completely alien from the one she’d been born in, surrounded by strangers. It must have been confusing, and lonely, and frightening. But it worked out for her. She met the man she loves, and they have this wonderful child together, plus two adopted daughters.”

Julen reached over to tickle the baby, delighted when it grabbed his finger with a tiny hand. “Maybe our lives turn out just the way they’re supposed to, even when it doesn’t feel like they’re going to.”
Shim -- where the men are men, and the livestock are scared.

Post by Lylessa Uluki on

Uluki was slightly uncomfortable being made the object lesson. She shouldn't have given such a pat answer, even though she believed it was true. Yes, everything had worked out for her, but there were so many times she'd skated on the edge of failure, so many times all had seemed lost. Could she really promise someone else the same success she'd had?

Rosemary was right about Rollick's reaction, though. "I know we should have been worried, finding out we were going to have a baby when we didn't plan to. Somehow we weren't, though. We were happy. I'll never forget the look on Rollick's face when I told him I had his child in me. It was like the sun was shining on him."

She hoped Rosemary would someday be able to give Julen the same news, see the same joy on his face.

Uluki was spared further attempts at consolation, however, by Rollick's arrival. He must have woken up again shortly after she took Martin out, given he had already washed and was looking alert.

He smiled at her in greeting, then stood by her, draping his arm lightly around her waist. "Good morning, dear one. As you can see, your sleepy husband has returned to the land of the living."

They'd really come a long way, that he could say "the land of the living" with such good humour. There was a time that would have been painful, a reminder of the storm they'd weathered. That was safely in the past now. She could only hope it would stay there... though its ripples might be becoming visible again.

Rollick's greeting had been playful, though, not intended to bring up bad memories, and she returned it with an answering smile. "It's good to see you up and about... and not full of arrow wounds. Martin and I were just making friends with Julen and Rosemary." She indicated those she was talking to. "This is my husband, Rollick," she explained in reference to their earlier conversation.

"It's a pleasure to meet you both." He nodded politely in greeting. "I see you're a bowman, Julen?" Rollick asked, indicating the bow and arrow he had set down.

Post by Julen on

Julen watched Rollick’s arrival with interest. Would he be like the men in his mother’s stories? Would he be Dream Kissed? As Rollick wrapped his arm around Uluki’s waist, and murmured a few friendly words of greeting, Julen could see that he treated his fairy bride with obvious affection. But there was no madness in his eyes. His speech was not an outpouring of passionate poetry. And he didn’t appear to be wasting away, consumed by the rigors of loving something mortals were not supposed to have. He just looked like a man who adored his wife.

Very puzzling.

Rosemary, too, gave her full attention to the entrance of Uluki’s husband. But her thoughts were of a more practical nature. Despite Rollick’s athletic build, his grey hair betrayed a somewhat advanced age, and it gave her hope to see that some warriors did indeed live long enough to grow old.

“A bit of a bowman,” Julen admitted, in response to Rollick’s question. “Although until yesterday, I only used archery for hunting. I’d certainly appreciate any instruction you might be able to give me.”

Rosemary, however, caught hold of something that Uluki had mentioned with disturbing casualness. “Not full of arrow wounds? Were you attacked on your journey to Marn?” Perhaps they’d tried to pass through Shim and run into the same mercenaries who had attempted to assault her.
Shim -- where the men are men, and the livestock are scared.

Post by Lylessa Uluki on

"Julen, I can think of few better ways to get your start in archery than by hunting. It certainly leads to more appreciation of the skills needed than does shooting endlessly at stationary targets. Any help I can give you will merely be refinements of the techniques you already know," Rollick said with a pleasant smile. If he was aware his arrival had inspired particular interest in Julen and Rosemary, he gave no indication, and seemed quite comfortable.

Uluki responded ruefully to the question about arrow wounds. "Yes, we tangled with some bandits on the road. They ambushed us. They had crossbows. We got hurt." She indicated her upper chest and her belly, where her dress still showed small holes where the arrows had pierced her.

"Unfortunately..." Rollick seemed unsure where to begin. "As you can see, we are strangers to this place. We were brought here by magic. It was not something we intended. We were relaxing at home when an enemy attempted to banish Uluki from the Material Plane, and sent us all here by accident when his spell went wrong. Because of the circumstances, we arrived here with nothing but what was in hand at the time. I had taken up my sword, hearing a disturbance outside the house, but I was without my armour or any other weapons... and so was still without them when we arrived in this place. When the bandits attacked, they stayed hidden and used crossbows, so there was little we could do but flee." He seemed unsatisfied by this; his inclination, his training, was to fight back.

"Rollick got hurt too," Uluki said quietly, leaning against him, glad for his arm around her. "I was unconscious. He could have gotten away faster, but he was carrying me."

"Of course I was," he replied, as though such a thing was not deserving of particular notice. "I wouldn't just leave you there."

"You were very brave," she insisted gently. Then, to Rosemary and Julen, "So that's why I said he was full of arrows. I wonder if those bandits are still out there?"

Rollick shook his head. "I doubt it. They were tangling with the Guard as we were entering the city, and I think it's all but certain the Guards prevailed. Though... I'm sure the world isn't lacking for other bandits to take over for them."

Post by Julen on

“Hunting prepared me for a lot of it,” Julen agreed, after Rollick had finished his assessment. “Although not for having an orc bellow in my ear.”

Seeing the puzzled looks on the faces of his audience, Julen hastened to clarify. “Krarug. Aorle asked him to do it, as a way of preparing me for the chaos of battle. The experience certainly was...instructive. And a little bit deafening.”

“Oh, Krarug.” Rosemary gave Uluki a reassuring smile, on the chance that the mention of an orc might make such reassurance necessary. “He looks very fearsome at first. But really, he’s very gentle when he’s not on the battlefield. He risked his life to help me when I was in danger.”

Then, talk turned to Uluki and Rollick’s own narrow escape. Rosemary was horrified by their tale. “How terrible! And you had your children with you. Thank goodness they weren’t hurt.” Neither Rollick nor Uluki had actually stated that, but Rosemary could tell that the couple were loving parents, and she knew that if one of their children had been injured during the attack, that fact would have held a prominent place in their story. “Still, it must have been terrifying for them. I hope the guards make sure those outlaws never harm anyone ever again.”

“I imagine they’re doing a pretty good job.” During his stay in Marn, Julen had developed a healthy respect for the City Guard. “Especially if Aorle was helping them. Is that how you met him? While you were escaping from the bandits?” The holes in Uluki’s dress hinted at how recently her injuries had been received, and the fact that those injuries now appeared completely healed made Julen think that Aorle must have used his gift on her. He was a little surprised that his friend’s powers had worked on a being as radically different as a fairy. Then again, they’d worked on an orc.

One thing Rollick said made a particular impression on Julen, and it wasn’t about the bandit attack. Instead, it was about how he and Uluki had ended up near Marn. Someone had cast a spell potent enough to transport her far from the home she knew. It seemed that the fairy had powerful enemies. Hopefully, they’d been left far behind her -- but if not, it was good that she and her family were now under Aorle’s protection.
Shim -- where the men are men, and the livestock are scared.

Post by Lylessa Uluki on

Uluki was intrigued by the mention of the Orc. She'd met quite a lot of Orcs, and in general had liked them. They weren't scary like paladins, at least one of whom also seemed to live here.

"I look forward to meeting your Orc friend. My Orcish could certainly use the practice." She'd been afraid she'd lose it, not speaking it here. She wondered where the Orc was.

Before asking further about him, though, she should answer the questions they'd been asked. "Luckily the children weren't with us when the bandits attacked. They were hidden in the forest. If they'd been there..." She didn't want to think about it. "It could have been much worse. I'm afraid they were quite frightened to see the two of us injured, though."

"We didn't meet Aorle till after we'd been healed," Rollick explained. "They took us to the infirmary. Uluki was unconscious, obviously, or she could have--" He stopped himself abruptly. For a moment he'd forgotten the rules against magic, which were so new and apparently arbitrary to him, and he had nearly gotten her in trouble. Frustrated with himself, he nodded to her to pick up the narrative.

She tried to gloss over the mistake by ignoring it. "Zee took Martin outside while the healers were working on us. Zee is our daughter," she clarified. "They got lost, and some of Aorle's men..."

Uluki wasn't sure what to say about that. She didn't want to worry Julen and Rosemary, but they'd see for themselves soon enough. "Zee looks a little unusual. They mistook her for a demon and brought her here. Aorle came and found us, and then he offered to let us stay here. He thought we could help."

She wasn't sure how to ask, but there was something else she needed to know. "Aorle seems like a good man. He seems like he would be kind. Is that true? Is he fair in his judgments? I don't mean to pry, only... you probably know him best."

Post by Julen on

So, she spoke Krarug’s language. Uluki was full of surprises. Julen tried to imagine the immense orc and diminutive fairy engaged in conversation -- it was difficult not to envision Uluki being blown back against a wall by the sheer force of Krarug’s breath. “Krarug is out front, sparring with another warrior. I’m sure he’ll be pleased to meet all of you.”

Perhaps it was just because Julen harbored a similar secret, but Rollick’s slip didn’t escape him. There were few enough things that Uluki could have done which her husband would be reluctant to mention. Actually, Julen had already assumed that Uluki was magical -- that’s what fairies were, wasn’t it? But now he saw the dangerous situation that her nature put her in. If he’d made the assumption of magic, others would too. It was best that Aorle had brought her here, where she could be safe and momentarily out of sight.

Uluki’s question regarding Aorle confirmed Julen’s suspicions. Of course, anyone would want to know about the man offering them shelter. But something in the way that Uluki chose her words sounded like she was trying to determine if Aorle could be trusted to show compassion and good judgment in the face of a risky revelation. Julen wanted to assure her that, yes, he most certainly could be.

“Since I’ve been with Aorle, I’ve watched him show great kindness. Even towards those who other men might judge to be undeserving of such consideration.” Julen thought of Effie, with her abrasive manner; and Krarug, who Julen himself had unfairly assumed was an enemy; and that poor prostitute they met in the shanty town. “When other men claim the ability to see into the hearts of those they meet, it’s usually an excuse to indulge in their own petty prejudices, to persecute those that they dislike or fear. But Aorle really does see your heart -- it’s all he sees. How you look, where you’re from, none of that matters. If your heart is good, he’ll be good to you.”

Julen glanced sideways at Rosemary, who was once again fussing over the baby. And he decided to risk giving Uluki a hint. “I know that if someone has a secret...something which isn’t their fault, something which they’ve never used to do intentional wrong...he will be most understanding.” That was as specific as Julen dared to be in front of his wife. Later, when he and the fairy had more privacy, he could explain in greater detail.

As it turned out, Julen didn’t have a chance to see if Uluki picked up on the allusion to her magic. Because at that moment, Krarug entered the room, herding five people along in front of him. “There,” he grunted, pointing at Julen. Then, without another word of explanation, the orc turned and departed, leaving the group behind.

There were five of them, all dirty and dressed in the tattered remains of what might have once been clothing. The oldest of them was a man who looked to be in his sixties, his body bent over like a tree branch weighed down by heavy rain, and the youngest was a little girl clutching a headless rag doll. However, neither the oldest nor youngest spoke. Instead, a boy of about fourteen, strong in appearance despite the leanness of his physique, addressed Julen. “You the one who said he had work?”

“Yes,” Julen confirmed. “I’m Julen. Welcome to Lightsword Hall.”

“I’m Ian. That’s my grandpa and my mom.” Ian gestured at the old man and the woman standing beside him. “Grandpa’s past doing any work, and mom’s too sick, but we couldn’t leave them alone. They won’t get in anyone’s way. And me and my brother, we work real good.” This time, Ian pointed to a boy of about ten.

Julen waited, until he realized he was waiting for Aorle to start telling him what needed to be done. Except that Aorle wasn’t here. So Julen would just have to do his best in his friend’s absence. Turning toward his allies, Julen began making suggestions. “Let’s get them settled in first. Rollick, could you take this family to an empty room?” Since Rollick had just come from that part of the mill, Julen assumed the warrior was more familiar with it than he was. “Uluki, maybe you could see if we can do anything to make the mother feel better? There’s clean water in the barrels for them to drink. We already have some food on hand, but it wouldn't hurt to see about getting more.”

Obviously, Julen would have been surprised to learn that Uluki was supposed to be in charge while Aorle away.

“Ian,” Julen called, beckoning the boy over. “Are you a brave lad?”

“Mister, I ain’t scared of nothin’!”

“Good. Just what I wanted to hear. I have an important mission for you. There’s a bakery on the south side of the downtown area, owned by a woman named Effie. I want you to go there and ask if Railtus’s order is ready yet. If it is, bring it back to us here -- if it’s not, I still have some credit with her, so bring back whatever she’s willing to let me buy with that.”

Ian looked disappointed. “That’s it? What’s so scary about talking to some lady baker?”

“Ask me that again after you’ve met Effie.” Shaking his head, Julen gave Ian a friendly pat on the shoulder. “Well, go on, and good luck.”

As he watched the boy depart, Julen got the sense he still wasn’t alone. Since his companions were all busy elsewhere, this puzzled him, until he looked down and saw the little girl standing beside him. “Well hello,” Julen greeted, offering his hand to her. “Let’s get you back to your family.”

“They’re not my family.” The girl sounded indignant that Julen could even think such a thing. “I just met them on the way here. You’re the one I need to talk to. That’s what Kaydee said. Talk to Julen, Julen will help.”

“Kaydee? Who’s Kaydee?”

“Kaydee is my friend. She made this for me.” The girl held up her headless rag doll. “Only, it looked nicer when she first made it.”

Julen, who was familiar with the rambling habits of small children, remained patient. “Do I know Kaydee?”

“She said that she’s your friend, too. She said that she helped you last night and now you’d come help her.”

Abruptly, Julen understood. The girl in the tattered white dress. Remembering the bruises on her face, Julen experienced a surge of panic and urgency. Someone was going to try and hurt her again. He hadn’t been able to protect her before, but by the gods, this time he would. “Where is she? Can you take me to her?”

Nodding, the girl finally accepted his hand, and began pulling him along.

“Julen?” Despite the chaos surrounding the refugee’s arrival, Rosemary still noticed her husband being led away by a little girl. “Julen, what is it? Where are you going?”

“Just a quick errand in the shanty town. I’ll be back in no time.” Briefly ignoring the constant tug on his hand, Julen kissed Rosemary’s cheek. Then he allowed himself to be dragged out of the mill.

If Rosemary hadn’t still been holding the baby, she might have grabbed him, or tried to follow. But as it was, she watched him go with worried eyes.
Last edited by Julen on Wed Aug 01, 2007 3:53 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Shim -- where the men are men, and the livestock are scared.

Post by Lylessa Uluki on

Uluki couldn't help feeling relieved as Julen described Aorle's compassion and understanding. She hoped that was true, that Julen's judgment wasn't clouded by his obvious admiration of the man.

Uluki suspected Julen thought it was her own magic she was worried they faced condemnation for. Better for him to think that. She felt vaguely guilty about the deception, Julen seemed kind, but she couldn't take the risk.

She nodded her thanks and comprehension... and then the conversation was cut short by more people arriving. Uluki wasn't surprised by this. Aorle had said more were on the way. These new additions looked dejected and worn, as though they were near the end of what they could take... but they were alive. That was the biggest battle. Maybe now she and the others would find ways to help with the rest.

Uluki indicated her agreement with Julen's plan, but addressed Rosemary. "I need my hands free, could you...?" Rosemary merely nodded agreeably, and continued to cuddle and play with Martin. "Thank you."

Uluki took the sick woman's hand in hers, and the new arrival didn't resist as Uluki guided her over to a quiet corner.

"Hello, I'm Uluki," she said softly.

"Fairy?" The woman asked the question without interest, mostly because she seemed to feel she was expected to speak.

Uluki nodded. This confirmation provoked no reaction at all, neither to her name nor her odd appearance, nor even her species. The woman seemed beyond caring who was talking to her. "What's your name?" Uluki asked.

"Martha," she said after a pause. Her mind seemed to be elsewhere.

"Martha, you're very sick, but I have medicine. I can make you better right away. Do you want me to?"

Martha seemed skeptical. She'd obviously been ill for a long time... and had seen the writing on the wall. There was little hope in her eyes. And yet... in spite of her situation, it was clear Martha didn't want to die. "Yes."

"Hold out your hands."

Martha did as she was asked, and Uluki took a small skin bottle from the pouch at her waist and poured some clear liquid into Martha's cupped palms.

"Drink that very slowly. It's medicine. Try not to spill it. By the time you're done drinking it, you'll start to feel better."

Martha did so, with utmost concentration. She didn't allow even a drop to escape from her hands. Uluki was impressed... though she knew it was only water the woman drank.

Uluki laid a hand gently on the woman's upper back. She concentrated as the positive energy built up in her own body, warming her, and then she allowed it to flow into Martha. Martha, distracted by the water, seemed not to notice the real source of the healing. With the positive energy Uluki generated filling Martha, there was no more room for the sickness in her body. Uluki felt the negative energy, the disease, flow out and away, like a chill as it ran between her fingers.

Uluki felt a bit drained. Disease was harder to cure than wounds. Wounds were fast and ferocious and painful, but illness was cold and lingering and hungry. It was harder to persuade disease to leave its victim. Still, it was no more than Uluki could handle. She waited till her voice sounded normal, not tired or winded, before addressing Martha.

"Is that any better?" Uluki knew it was. She'd felt Martha heal.

Martha herself seemed quite surprised. "Yes, yes. I feel..." There seemed to be a spark of light in her eyes. It was faint, but it would grow.

"I'm glad, but you should rest now. You've been sick for a long time and it's taken a lot out of you, even if you can't feel that right now. You need to go finish recovering. My husband is settling your younger son and the grandfather into a room while your older son does an errand. Shall we go meet them there?"

"Yes. Thank you. I mean, thank you for..." She seemed not to know what to say. She stared at Uluki as if finally noticing her strangeness, but with the confusion of realizing the strange one seemed to have spared her a lingering death.

"You don't have to say anything. Let's go find your family."

That didn't prove difficult, as Rollick had settled the family into the room next to their own. About the same Uluki and Martha arrived, he was helping to set up beds for them using more padded armour and cloaks... they would need more bedding soon, Uluki noticed... and had brought them some food and water.

Uluki saw Rollick pull the old man aside and hand him a palm-sized jar. "It helps a great deal with the arthritis," he explained quietly. "I have an extra jar, so perhaps you should see if it will ease your discomfort a bit."

Uluki smiled, though Rollick didn't notice she'd seen what he did. There was an extra jar... in her bag, which Rollick wasn't aware of... and he had given away what as far as he knew was the only one. She would be sure to remember to give it to him later, as his hands hurt him fiercely sometimes without it.

"We should leave you to settle in," Uluki said quietly, wanting to give them some privacy. "We'll go back out and meet Ian when he gets back, and tell him where you are."

She smiled at them, trying to reassure them that everything would be alright, then she and Rollick left, headed back toward the main entrance of the building.

Post by Lightswords on

Men bearing blades and spears came forth, with shields slung over travelling packs. Armsmen all, their approach was received far more warily than that of the refugees. Greeting distance among warriors was far beyond a spear-length, so that groups of armed men could not use the pretence of greeting in order to engage.

Attracted by the commotion of the first set of newcomers, Darir and Triarius were now downstairs to the great indoor space on the ground floor, a room suitable for a great hall or something similar. Industrial buildings required plenty of open space to work in, but were less generous on the subject of private rooms.

Three men entered the building, having left their spears outside at Krarug's insistance. One was dark-skinned and dressed in a long coat of full maille armour, wearing a helm the black of pitch. A broad bladed chopping sword was at his belt. The other two were pale and bearded, one a large man clad in thick leathers and with a double-headed axe hanging from his belt, the other man short and stocky, carrying both bow and quiver of arrows, and wearing an overlarge wolf pelt, that a canny eye might recognise as having once belonged to a shifter.

Searching gazes swept the room, with recognition upon identifying Uluki's blue skin and bright dress. From the dark one to the others was an intense stare, turning his head towards Uluki as if pointing her out to his companions, despite the fact that they had obviously seen.

The largest of the three men approached, head partially bowed in respect. "Lady Uluki? I am Gaelm Ordwygar, warrior. The archer is Merohl, and the dark-skinned warrior is named Numidar. Aorle sent us here, and told us that you were in charge. What do you wish of us?"

Post by Lylessa Uluki on

The sight of the warriors threw Uluki for a moment, as she'd expected the arrivals would also be refugees. But no, both Aorle and Julen had mentioned that more members of the warband would be there soon.

She waved a greeting, and moved to join them. "Welcome. I'm Uluki-- as apparently you already know-- and this is my husband, Rollick. It's a pleasure to meet all of you."

As for their question... she wasn't quite sure how to respond. They said Aorle had left her in charge... but why had he done so? Shouldn't the person in charge be someone who actually knew what needed to be done? Why would they think she'd wish anything of them, and what credentials did she have to issue orders? She was nothing more than a refugee herself. Would they next be going upstairs and asking Martha how they could do her bidding?

Still, they were here, and she would need to do something with them.

"I suppose we should eat first. No doubt you've had a long journey, and will need something to sustain you. After that we'll..."

She improvised wildly. What had they done last time, when they'd moved into the library? There had been refugees there... many more than the few who lived here... so maybe it was similar, and Uluki, raised in a nomadic tribe, had few other points of comparison.

"After that, we have a lot to do. First and foremost, fortifications."

She wondered if that even made sense. Fortifications? In the middle of Marn? Still, they'd fortified the library, and that had proven useful. Besides, how much could they realistically get done before Aorle got back? He'd stop them if it was the wrong thing to do.

"As you can see, this building has become a base only recently, and there has not been time to move past the very basic in terms of securing it. That needs to be done as quickly as possible."

She looked over at Rollick-- he was the warrior, after all-- and he nodded his approval of her suggestion.

"Aside from that..."

She knew Rollick spent time in weapons practice and in exercises to maintain his strength and dexterity; she'd seen that often enough. Surely these warriors did the same?

"Aside from that, training would be a good use of your time, either individually or together, as you prefer. As you can see I am no warrior, but Rollick can provide any assistance which you may require."

Again she looked at Rollick, and again he nodded. Whether he actually thought her ideas were good or was merely being supportive, she felt more confident having his approval of her plans.

"Before doing any of that, however, we should eat. Come sit down, and we'll have a meal together."

Post by Lightswords on

Clearly enough, the invitation for a meal was a way to stall for thinking time. Seeming hesitation from Uluki gave them that much clue, it was as if she was uncertain. However, a good soldier is never one to pass up an opportunity to eat, so they all sat down in a half-circle for their meal, facing Uluki and Rollick and the others.

Eating from the hospitality of others was espescially favoured, and made the start of demonstrating that the lord they were joining would indeed take care of them.

While the paler men were more enthusiastic about the matter, the dark one simply sat down calmly and steadily, denying the appearance of humanity.

Gaelm Ordwygar kept respectfully silent, as if waiting for leave to speak. Numidar, the darkened man with skin like deep bronze and a helm like pitch, spoke first. "What are your goals for here?" he inquired slowly, his accent poor, as if one knowing the words but unsuited to the sounds. "We would build our fortifications around them." Moderate care was taken with each word, working through them slowly, almost clumsily.

Merohl scratched at his beard and pulled the wolfs-head helm free from his own head and set it upon the ground. "I could set traps or snares, but open ground is not the best place for them. Enemies could easily pass around them, or people here could blunder in to them. I don't want to cost any of us a leg." He scowled at the notion.

Witnessing the pattern of suggestions, Gaelm contributed his own skills to the discussion. "I work with wood." he announced, "Boarding the lower windows can give us arrow slits. Or I can make a small catapult. Only I would need to gather wood, and the local forest is haunted."

Neither of the other warriors mocked him for his caution, or suggested that he was scared. Perhaps a sign of respect between the group. Or a sign that they really did take the forest seriously.

Triarius, sitting on Uluki's side, providing a discreet reminder to any strange warriors here that she was protected, added his thoughts as well. "We had best start with the building, until we know how we are going to use the land around it. We also need to see what more we can do for Metellus. Aorle's healing has worked wonders, but he's got two broken limbs, we need to see what more we can do."

From somewhere within the beard, the dwarf commented. "He can walk though."

"Yes, but he took those injuries defending me. We have to do more." insisted Triarius, "It's getting better, but I doubt they'll completely heal without a physician."

Darir shrugged. "Tell Aorle when he gets back, he'll get one." For speaking of someone he had known less than a day, he seemed awfully certain.

Ignoring much of the conversation, Numidar gazed straight at Uluki. "But we need to know what the fortifications should protect."

Post by Lylessa Uluki on

Uluki considered a moment. "I must be perfectly frank with you. I arrived only recently myself. Aorle and I have had little opportunity to discuss plans. I accept responsibility for the miscommunication, but that does not change the fact I too have very little information about what needs to be done."

Why on earth hadn't Aorle left Julen in charge? Julen was the obvious choice. Where was Julen, anyway?

She'd met soldiers when she first came here. Why wasn't one of them given the task of commanding the others in Aorle's absence?

She felt small and inadequate.

"That does not mean we should sit idle, however. All your suggestions are good ones, and I am grateful for them."

"To answer your question, Numidar, this place has two purposes. First, obviously, it will serve as a base for Aorle's warband. Secondly, however, it will be devoted to the protection of the refugees housed here."

She hoped that was accurate. It seemed to her that both things were necessary.

"I think the best course of action is to take basic steps to secure the building itself, as Triarius suggested. Perimeter defences can be constructed later, but I would prefer not to see the building insecure in the meantime. My particular concerns are reducing the windows to arrow slits and making sure the entrances are strong. I think that this can be accomplished today. Of course, it means we'll need to acquire wood."

"I understand the danger the forest poses. My family spent some time camped there, and I will not pretend we did not see some odd, frightening things. Still, I have no doubt it is something that you are strong enough to face, given our need. There is safety in numbers. You can watch one another's backs in case of danger, and be prepared to fight should the need arise. My husband came to know a few of the safer paths during our time there. Perhaps, if you are willing to take the risk, the seven of you could go into the forest for the wood we will require."

Her reference to the number was deliberate-- Rollick would go along. She hoped to make clear, by saying so, that she did not intend to put them in greater danger than she would her own husband. She was confident Rollick could handle anything the forest threw at them, and that the rest of them could as well.

"I shall not be going with you as my skills are better used here. We need not wait for Aorle to summon a doctor. I have treated many a broken bone, and I think I can be of assistance to your friend. I will make sure the bones are set properly, and that he is in as little pain as is possible under the circumstances. That would seem a better use of my time that attempting to help you carry wood."

She gestured slightly as she said that, allowing them to see her thin arms, how little she could lift. "Besides, he deserves what help we can give him. Krarug and Varanghar can defend the base in your absence."

And now, the moment of truth.

"Is this plan acceptable to you?"

Rollick nodded his willingness without hesitation. Uluki was yet again grateful for his support, but she'd known she could rely on him. The question was, would the others feel the same way?
Last edited by Lylessa Uluki on Fri Aug 03, 2007 5:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Post by Lightswords on

Nods all around.

As the one who had warned against the dangers of the forest, Gaelm felt the need to justify his view. "So long as we keep to a group, and go in during daylight, it should be no risk." Assuming, of course, that everyone was sensible and did not go investigating the assorted strange sounds and noises. The forest had been long known for swallowing people up. Rather than tales of horrors or beasts within, the stories were simply of the children who went in the woods to play and simply never came out again.

Small, she was. Inadaquate? Nothing of the sort.

"We can leave our packs here." stated Numidar blankly, "Take only the tools we will need." A way to lighten the encumberance, there was no need to carry cooking tools or spades or travelling gear when wood gathering. "Begin from the outer edges. No need to go where the forest is thickest." Short statements in that laborious monotone seemed to have further weight.

Merohl asked the obvious. "Where shall we store our gear?"

Rules. Darir spoke first, because he was always the most sure of rules. "Ye find a room an' be grouped in threes. That be our barrack. We need ta fix tha roof as well."

"So we all get hatchets." Ordwygar announced.

So the troops all got to fetching their tools and barracking in one of the rooms, unfurling their bedrolls and blankets there before returning with hatchets. Some carried their shields slung over their backs, but those with spears left them behind. Ordwygar was back first, seemingly the man most aware of his tools, and addressed Uluki away from Merohl and Numidar.

"You're doing good, Lady. You're handling this well." With that he marched outside to gather before setting off.

Then Triarius took a turn. "Do your best for Metellus." he told her.

They would be gone for under than three turns of the hourglass, and would return with each carrying a small collection of the trunks of small trees, perhaps even large saplings, each trunk above the thickness of a man's fist and chopped to the length of a spear shaft. At least six to a man, along with other assorted wood pieces. Darir carried both a satchel filled with firewood, and large logs randomly collected, bound to his back with thick rope.

Some of the wood was for the suggested work, other was for further training weapons. One secret that Gaelm knew was to dry out the wood before working with it. It would not do for the pieces to warp on the door.

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