On the road between Armstead & Selenica (9 Fyrmont 997 AC)
The sun was high and the road to Selenica was pleasant, as the group travelled without a word in a particular moment of quiet. Mills noticed Gotryk steer his horse closer, with an intent that could only mean a talk was coming. Gods, there’s goes the peace, he sighed.
Mills used the few precious moments of silence left to brace himself for the noises that would soon be forcing themselves out both their mouths, adamant on their righteousness.
“Mills, about what happened back in the caves… with you, me and the drakes… I feel I need to apologize for going off at you like that.”
The staccato pace of the mighty warhorse’s steel shod hooves upon stone road slowed down as Mills matched speed with Gotryk’s slower, much cheaper horse. Luckily the halfling’s mule was not much slower.
Mills did not turn his head, he shrugged, “Perhaps you were a bit rough….but it happens. That’s one of the reasons I stick around. At least you’re straight forward…….” he trailed off, then adding at a much lower volume, “…even when yer wrong.”
Gotryk threw a grin up at Mills, shaking his head. “For once you’re right, old friend. The things I said about being the leader and you following orders, well, in the heat of the moment I suppose some of the old army mentality crept back in. I just wanted to say that I don’t expect any of us to follow orders. We’re not some brain-dead military unit.
“Well, not anymore anyway” he added with a grin. “I know you did what you thought was best, but see where it got us? We could have made a lot more gold selling those drakes if you hadn’t killed them.”
Mills paused. Gotryk could see disappointment play across his face at the mention of that fact.
“…Sure, we would have…” Mills agreed, “but I don’t have a dragon god telling me the future” he smiled at his taunt. He reached into his saddle bag and pulled out a pouch of dried brownish slice-flakey looking things. He offered some to Goytrk.
“Got these at the fair. New preparation of potatoes. Tastes nothing like potatoes, but they good.”
“All I knew was what we knew at the time. We were in a humanoid lair, with no knowledge of numbers, arms or layout. An invisible….something was causing us trouble with some decently powerful magic and now we were going to leave a bunch of drakes, at least trained enough to likely be set upon us at our backs. And then….” bitterness rose up in Mills suddenly, “a goddamn spell pushed us into the pit…. like a bunch of stupid jesters!” he hissed, wanted to keep his anger from showing.
… He munched his potato slices in the abrupt sullen silence that followed…
Gotryk sighed, stared at his strange potato slice and tried a bite. He had never heard the veteran warrior refer to himself in the context of anything stupid before. He chewed thoughtfully in the silence.
“You’re right again” he said, “tastes nothing like potato…”
“That spell caster really did a number on us, didn’t he? Good thing we got him when we did. Your gauntlet in his gob was quite a sight!
It all worked out in the end though, ‘cos we all worked together. What got me the most was that you cut me off and put yourself at risk. Why do that?
What if those drakes had proven to be tougher and I couldn’t get a healing on you…?” Gotryk sighed again, frustration in his voice.
“You’re like a brother to me, you great metal-clad lummox, and I’d put my life on the line for you and I know you’d do the same. So when you jammed that door, I panicked. The spell caster was still at large and I was having something of a crisis of faith about the drakes…” he trailed off uncomfortably.
“I got any number of reasons why I did what I did. We always do, don’t we…. People,” Mills said critically. He paused to allow their emotions to subside. Easier to do when not in the heat of conflict. He knew that about people, and knew that about himself.
“My most immediate reasons were, in no particular order…I don’t like to run, I don’t like to be toyed with by an invisible fuck, and I don’t like leaving the enemy at our backs…..and for the record, again, I didn’t know about the dragon-love your order has….I mean who could have guessed that? I’d have pulled my killing blows if I’d known…”
Then he added almost apologetically, “….and I left that last one didn’t I? I’m not a drake butcher… I just wanted them out of the risk equation.”
Gotryk knew he’d sooner develop the ability to piss vintage wine than get Mills to admit there was any fault in needlessly killing the drakes, so he moved on.
“Ka does not speak to me, Mills, though I admit it might be nice if He did at times. The only guidance I have is the members of Company Fourhire, my own instincts and the principles of my faith, which I try to interpret as best I can and guide our group to success.
I’ve not shared details of my beliefs with any of you because none of you ever asked. You all seem to appreciate the healing gifts I am able to provide and for me that was enough.
“Besides,” he added wryly “I know well your views on religion since you told us all at precisely just what you thought of priests, religion, orphans, Halflings and Specularum in general after Aidan’s Incident… Look, my order holds all life sacred, and the protection of life and culture is the biggest part of the teachings.”
Gotryk looked up directly at Mills, his eyes suddenly glowing amber, his voice taking on a reverent pitch.
“My drinking and womanizing are my expressions of the celebration of life. There is a depth and honesty of culture in a good brothel that you will find in no temple anywhere, not to mention an ample amount of creation of life I tell you! But, er, I am getting side tracked.”
He held up his hand to interrupt before Mills could derail his wagon of thought. He realized belatedly that he needed to hurry, as his friends eyes were already starting to glaze under this barrage of religious fervor.
He let the glow fade from his eyes and said “Ka, to my limited knowledge, is known to have probably manifested in at least three forms: an amber dinosaur, a giant amber tortoise and a golden dragon. I have my own theories as to why he chose to be associated with these creatures. I admit in hindsight that a drake is a far cry from a golden dragon, but at the time, I was more upset that you were killing creatures that I didn’t think needed to be killed yet. Preservation of life, remember?
I admit I over reacted back there. Together as a team we’re damn near unstoppable and I just want to make sure it stays that way, ok?"
Mills tried to keep a serious face, but a hearty laugh overtook his self-control. In between the followup snorts he barely managed to get out, “a dinosaur!? a tortise? Maybe don’t tell people about the dinosaur and tortise part, It just made me picture one of them with the short little harpsicord playing arms…playing the harpsicord, and a tortise on its back struggling to get back up”
He wiped a tear out the corner of his eye, and sobered up.“Those drakes were dangerous. There is no disputing that. If i had to do it over, i’d still have removed them as a threat…..tho i’d figure out a less permanent solution for your sake”, he added carefully.
“I was not impressed by the other two though. Aidan and Montano. They didn’t have any drake issues, but just stood by and took the show in. Either their threat assessment is off, which makes them a liability, or they can’t be trusted to have my back….and you know the saying, we all learned it, no matter which unit we served, “those that fight beside me are worth dying for…those that don’t…aren’t worth a damn.”
“Mark my words, sooner or later those two will run, and people will die….and they better hope I’m among the dead” he added dangerously.
Pointedly ignoring the mockery of his religion and their patron immortal, Gotryk wondered again at the wisdom of having three questionably borderline sociopaths as company members.
“Montano and Aidan were following my lead, Mills, and watching our backs in case the wizard struck again. If not for Montano spotting the little bastard disappearing into the rock, he would have caused us a lot more trouble.They’re like us. And there’s damned few like us, ‘cos they’re all dead.”’ He raised his last potato slice in a mock toast gesture and popped it in his mouth, chewing meaningfully and hoping Mills recognized the old infantry saying.
Mills knew when Gotryk was locked into peacemaking there was no reasoning with him. He smiled at the irony.
“…and maybe they thought I wanted to fight the drakes solo and were merely respecting my space…..which makes them idiots….but whatever the reason, they’re not military, and I doubt they’ve heard any of the sayings or would understand them.”
He paused to chew on some more slices. He glanced over to the halfling lounging on this mule’s huge throne like saddle, stuffing his face with plums, and Montano, almost blank eyed, composing songs in his head, both oblivious to the dangers of the road.
“Fine, you champion them if you want, but until I see otherwise…. they are what they are…. just civilians.”
“by the way, 100 yards ahead, by the “predictably fallen” tree, four bandits on the left, six on the right, two of them archers by the nearby rock outcropping….definitely amateurs……how do you want to play this?"
Gotryk grinned, relieved that Mills had spotted the bandits before he had to point them out.
“We are each brothers in blood and battle in this company, now let’s go rid the road to Selenica of some bandits!”
Later that day… (9 Fyrmont 997 AC)
“Was that you?” Janice asked, motioning with her head towards the clashing of steel in the distance as she came to sit next to him, plate in hand. “Montano caught a good one this time,” she added, as she cut a slice of the cooked hare.
“Yes. The boy needs to learn and Millington looked bored.”
Janice read between the lines “You still thinking about how things played out in Armstead?” she didn’t wait for an answer, “I’m not going anywhere. You can stop worrying. They just got lucky." She reached to feel the bruise at the back of her head. It had been a few days now and the swelling had started receding.
“Anyways, Milly is one of the finest fighters I have seen, Chord is fortunate to have him as a teacher. I saw the two of you had a talk earlier on. All good?”
“All good.” Gotryk replied almost absentmindedly.
Chord cried out fiercely as he lunged at Mills. The feint worked beautifully, as Mill’s deftly sidestepped and using Chord’s momentum knocked the boy into the dirt. Mill’s gave out a slight chuckle.
“How is he sleeping through all that?” Janice asked quizzically, referring to the sleeping form of the halfling. Aidan had gone to sleep early given his luck with the straws for guard duty.
“ Silence. Thought it might help blocking out Chord’s training,” explained Gotryk.
“You haven’t even asked me about Selenica,” she said, deliberately changing the topic.
“You’re right, I apologise. I’ve been somewhat preoccupied. Mostly thinking about Croaker and what he is up to. I’ll be honest, I’m more than a little concerned."
“I know,” she said softly.
“So why is it that we are returning to Selenica, besides for the lads to enjoy Darokin Day?”
“Two words, Hallonica House,” said Janice, with a sly look.
“Been there, screwed over – I think we should pass. What else you got?”
“Whoa, hold on a minute. Can it be that our priest has finally lost his faith?” teased Janice.
Gotryk smiled, “No. Nothing like that.” He let Janice finish her meal, while he got up to recast the ritual.
By the time he sat back down again, Janice was engrossed in her ledgers, “Well Red," finally letting curiosity get the better of him, “what is the deal with our friends in Hallonica?”