The Pull of Destiny

Started by Tsibi Ka, October 11, 2017, 08:02:56 PM

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Tsibi Ka

With one swift motion, Gath tilted the book and the pendant began to slide down the wrinkled parchment page before falling off the bottom and slipping a little haphazardly into the hand that he placed at the spine.  Feigning interest in a couple of the other books on the shelf, Gath gave a cursory look around before going back to join his traveling companions.

The gods had turned their back on him for long enough, but they certainly knew when to sit up and take notice and had delivered no less than two drow into his lap!  Not only had he had an armed escort to the city of the elves but the two drow women were quite the anomaly there, and thus quite the distraction.  Not that he really needed it; the library itself was deserted and there didn't seem to much in the way of guards around either.  In fact the whole thing almost seemed suspicious, had it not been for the fact that the few elves that he met seemed so aloof.  The two drow women were nothing like he had imagined; well one of them wasn't at least.  One was friendly and seemed fairly open, although she still retained the cold grace of her kind.  She also seemed to be fairly naive and have a death wish, although as long as she yet lived she proved him wrong.  The other was humorless, sour and seemed temperamental but crossing her would have made the death wish his.  So he smiled and save for one small misunderstanding regarding spiders, tried to stay on her good side, or the side that was the closest approximation to it.

Back in Buccaneer's Den, Gath strolled leisurely out of the tavern before sneaking around the back and shaking the pendant out of his glove, allowing it to softly land in the palm of his hand.  It was the strangest piece of jewellery he had seen and in many ways it looked more like a rough piece of a shattered mirror or some kind of polished chunk of ore.  He had the strangest feeling looking at it, similar to the feeling when he first laid eyes on the book that housed it.  Not quite like being lightheaded, but as if everything around it seemed to blur or distort, or fade away.  He had been told what the book looked like in fairly exhaustive detail but as soon as he saw it, he knew that he had the right tome.  Something in it seemed to draw his attention, not exactly calling to him, but making it difficult to focus on anything else.  As he stared into it more deeply he could just about make out some symbols that wove and trailed sinuously across the surface of the jewel.  As he squinted harder, he could make out that they were elven in origin and he absent-mindedly walked toward the flickering torch that was propped up outside the tavern, moving the gem around in his hand to let the light bounce off it.  He knew a little elven and as he began to try to decipher the runes, twisting it around in his hand until the shapes became more distinct in the torchlight, he instinctively knew that the gem predates the runes and that they were inscribed much later on.  As to the meaning...

Then the world seemed to twist, warp and blur.  The gem that made the rest of the world seemed dull and lifeless became the world, and as the land seemed to lurch beneath and around him, Gath felt a deep stinging sensation in his head.  He was outside the gate to the Den, and the men who had hired him were there, yet they somehow seemed small and unimportant.  The roads that led away to the big cities seemed muted and indistinct, yet the side of the road seemed clearer and yet more inviting.  He could feel his eyes run along the runes on the crystal and yet he was also somehow here, by the road.  Each step he took forward and each rune his eyes ran along, not understanding their meaning and yet feeling his knowledge become deeper, he began to realise what he would find there.  In this strange half-world that realisation, as horrific as it felt, also felt somehow reassuring, as if something here was meant to be and solid.  As he reached the lip of the road, as his eyes restlessly flickered across the crystal, he saw the body in the ditch, he saw the body in his mind.  The hidden secrets under the skullcap, the dirt that kissed hair of the same hue, the gloveless hand that drew his eye even now, tightly gripping a tiny gem with a delicate chain.  Dead, dead, dead.

Gath gasped in a deep breath and staggered back, almost losing his footing and slamming up against the wall of the tavern.  His eyes flashed down to the gem, wiping the back of his forearm across his nose by instinct, knowing that it had bled as his will was elsewhere.  It somehow seemed appropriate that the gem was speckled red, a bitter laugh catching in his throat before it escaped.  Questions died in his mind almost as fast as the laugh had sunk in his throat.  He wasn't usually the sort to be taken in by fancies, but when it concerned his life he was willing to believe it to be true and to question it later.   His mind felt thick and heavy and his runebook like a dead weight.  Magincia felt so close and yet leagues away as the words to reach it escaped him.  Through the gate it was then; with a little luck he would be one step ahead and leave the Den and the roads around it in his dust.  If the gods favoured him still, he sent up a silent prayer that they saw fit to send him a couple more drow.

Gath was silently thankful that he was outside the tavern, as his shaky legs made him lurch forward toward the gate, a couple of locals giving him an encouraging cheer as he staggered off, totally unaware of the stakes.  He shot them a stilled grin, before ploughing straight into someone on the path.  "Been celebrating a little too hard, friend?"  Gath looked up to say something and his blood ran cold.  It was his employers.

All three of them were covered up in dark brown robes, with strange metal masks that obscured their faces.  In many ways they were like the gem; distinctly there and yet unknowable.  The masks muffled their voices and the robes made their forms almost unknowable.  The ringleader placed a hand on his arm and helped him up slowly.  "Do you have it here?", they whispered.  Gath pushed himself up and took a step back, instinctively searching their faces for their intent, being greeted by nothing more than cold, hard metal.   

"Aye, I have it."  There was a brief pause before the one who talked took a step forward.

"Why Gathalimay, you're bleeding."  Raising their hand up toward his face, Gath just about suppressed the urge to flinch as they gently ran their gloved thumb underneath his nose.  It was a woman.  It wasn't much to go on, but it was more than nothing.  She stepped back toward her comrades and stood their, waiting.

"Thank you."  Gath looked between the three of them, still unsure of what to do.  They blocked his exit, but as long as he had the gem, their was hope.  Wasn't there?  "Are you going to kill me?"  There was a pause.  One of the silent ones who flanked the woman looked at her before shifting his attention back to Gath.  The woman stood stock still, not a single dicernible muscle moving. 

"We just want the gem."  She said finally, before slowly raising her arm, her hand open.  Gath took a moment, his legs becoming stronger at last as the adrenaline kicked in.  He shook his head as if to shake away his paranoid thoughts and let out a small laugh as he took a step forward.  He took no pleasure in fighting a woman, but given the stakes...

Gath pushed off from his left foot and shot his leg out in front of him, yelling as his foot connected with her stomach.  If she was wearing armour it was thin and his foot was none the worse for it, and as she crumpled to the side he just caught her gasping for breath as he tore off through the space that she had vacated.  The two others recoiled for just long enough for Gath to make as clear a getaway as he could have hoped for and he sped off toward the gate.  Their cries mingled with the locals as he left them behind, dashing over the footbridge and only a few dozen footfalls from escape.  Too late, he felt the hairs on his neck rise and the tingle of sorcery as a magic arrow slammed into his back.  He screamed in pain as he could feel it burn through his doublet and singe skin, but he was free.  The force propelled him forward and he fell through the gate.

As he charged through the brush and foliage of the Den, so too did he race forward into the cobbled road and trees surrounding the crossroads before his legs became a tangle and he pitched forward, a tangle of limbs and sound rolling off the road and into the brush.  Despite the danger, despite his mind and body screaming at him to move, he felt rooted to the spot.  Was the flesh weak, or was he surrendering to destiny?  Loud voices filled the air, their tongue a foreign one, and Gath instinctively held his breath.  He could hear them moving about the road, their speech frantic and their footsteps fast.  A wave of pain blossomed from his back and Gath rammed his hand, still clasping the gem, into his mouth and bit down hard.  It felt like an eternity before the voices became more measured and then fainter, their footsteps more distant and Gath dared to hope that he might well survive.  Letting out a sigh, he stared up into the sky, a canopy of leaves slightly blocking his view of the dark and starry sky.  He had no idea what this gem was for, what it could do or what his would be murderers intended to do with it and he had no idea who he would rather have possession of it.  Being alive was enough for now.  Staying alive could wait a moment. 

As Gath began to contemplate getting up, the pain in his back beginning to subside, he heard the rustling of foliage and a figure loomed over him.  A figure with brown robes and a metal mask that gleamed dully in the scant moonlight.  Gath felt his heart race and he began to instinctively squirm away.  The figure raised its arm slowly before slowly removing the mask and staring at Gath.  He was a human, with streaks of silver in his hair.  Gath cried out, his body going limp as hope deserted him.  He had been so close!

"You cannot go back, only forward."  Gath looked up, his eyes bulging in a mix of shock and confusion.  Was he to endure death by monologue?  "Take it to an elf, but not one from the city whence it came.  You will find no quarter there."  The light played off the man's face for a moment, his features hiding and appearing like shadows at the mercy of the flame, before he slowly turned on his heel and walked away.  Gath waited a moment, before letting the muscles in his neck go limp and his head slumped to the forest floor.  He knew what he had seen in the gem.  His death, with the three of them gathered by him - and yet here he was, bowed, cowed, defeated, yet still living.  Everything felt wrong but as he turned his head and looked at the hand that still clasped the gem, he felt that this was somehow right.  He was destined to die here, of that much he was sure.  He was also certain that it was his destiny to survive.  None of it made any sense, but then nothing had since he had laid his eyes on that delicate little gem, so in a twisted way it seemed fitting.

Gath slowly dragged himself toward a nearby tree and rested his back against it, the pain in his back becoming much duller with each passing moment.  His mind could not settle, so he let it wander and he was transported to the sea, the spray of water and the cool winds whipping his face, the loud voices ringing through the air mixing with the creaking of timber and the cry of gulls.  The sounds of his father's voice, one moment quietly proud, the next strongly chastising.  What would he have told Gath?  Not to have stolen in the first place probably, for all the help that advice would have been.  How he missed him.

But that was the past and he could not go back; only forward.   For now he would rest a while, take stock and then try and find some dry lodgings for what remained of the night.  When tomorrow came, he would decide what to do next.  He wasn't sure what to do for the best, who he could trust or where he should go but he was alive.  If destiny decided that that should change, so be it.  But until that time came he still had a fighting chance and that was all he ever expected.


What an intro! This should be an interesting story to follow!