Treasure Found Ch. 02byBarbaricIntent©
The Winter Travelers
Darith Wayam would return home from his hunt to find his hearth gone cold, his wife gone without explanation, and a small pile of silver pieces on his counter. He was quite upset that the hearthfire, the heart of any true tavern in his estimation, had been allowed too die.
Miles away, Avera clung to the neck of a horse far larger even than the cart-horse her husband had purchased two years before. She didn't have a lot of experience with riding and she was tired, sore, and beginning to regret coming along. Thedrun's men had left in the pre-dawn hour, and for most of the morning she had ridden with her head laying on the warlord's chest, feeling wanted and appreciated in a way she hadn't in too long. When they stopped for a short rest around noon, it was as if they had crossed some invisible border. Thedrun and his men were all tense. She was loaded onto one of the empty horses rather than riding with the leader, and told to keep her hood up, her cloak closed, and her mouth shut.
Avera watched for the next few hours as the men rode in silence, each of them with their hands on a weapon hilt, save for the one in the blue robes. He clutched his staff as he always did, and didn't look at all distressed. When the group finally broke again, Thedrun and a young man dressed in gray separated from the group, making their way stealthily toward the North. Confused by the change in demeanor, Avera sought out the robed man. In her experience, Wizards knew more than most.
"Edmar. You may call me Edmar. I do not approve of feigned social status. We are equals, now."
Avera wasn't quite certain what the man was talking about, but she nodded thankfully nonetheless. "I was wondering, why does everyone seem so concerned these last few hours?"
Edmar considered her for a moment. His gray eyes were kind, very unlike those of Thedrun. The orb that hovered over his shoulder shuddered, and Avera immediately recognized it as a reaction to her question... the orb was chuckling at her. "Elves, Miss Avera. After the Godfall and the Long Freeze, the elves claimed these lands as their own."
"We've had elves as travelers at the Inn, Sir... Edmar... and never gentler or more polite folk have I known. I see fear in the men's eyes."
Edmar nodded and looked out over the frozen plains. "There are elves, and then there are elves." Drawing his hood down, he revealed that, despite the fully beard he sported, he had the pointed ears of an elf. Half-elves weren't uncommon, but never before had Avera known one to hide his heritage. "The elves that kidnapped my Mother and brought her back pregnant seven months later certain were not beings of gentle nature. Neither, I'm afraid, are these. Usually they do not bother travelers so long as they keep to the road, for fear of reprisals from the Golden Knights who dwell in Daernguard to the North. But in winter... one can never tell."
Avera was starting to feel worried herself. Suddenly she saw shadows shifting all across the plains, and heard sinister whispers in every piping of the wind. She pulled her cloak more tightly around her chest, and wished they'd light a fire so she could get warm. "Can I ask where we're going?"
"You can ask, but I'm afraid I don't know, and neither does anyone else except Thedrun and possibly his apprentice, Kahmar." Edmar pointed to a small, swarthy man with a pair of scimitars at his sides. Kahmar rode without any cloak or hood, his face and hands exposed to the weather. Just by looking at him, it was easy to tell he was a man for whom appearing strong was very important. "The one Thedrun took with him is our youngest member, and best scout, Miv. The two Dwarves," he gestured, pointing them out "are twins, Ash and Grit Thunderlock. Better engineers you'll rarely meet and strong warriors to boot. My fellow half-elf is Kurwid, formerly a member of the South Port Thieves Guild. And that, Lady Avera, is us... the Blades of Wolfden."
Edmar smiled broadly and gestured randomly. "If luck be with you, you may yet see."
Thedrun stalked across the ice, axe in hand. He couldn't see Miv, and he took that as a point of pride. His people were all very skilled at their jobs, and that was why he took care of them as he did. He wasn't yet sure why he had brought the woman, Avera along. It had been a long time since he had found any woman quite as sexually gratifying, but that alone wasn't enough to make him bring along a tenderfoot on this kind of journey. While he was wrapped in confused memories of her smell and her willing compliance, he almost didn't notice the arrow until it was too late. A line of blood appeared across his cheek as he barely side-stepped on time. That damned woman was going to be the death of him. He wanted to shout out to warn Miv, but he dared not give away that he wasn't alone in case the elves hadn't yet spotted him.
Wild Elves were experts at stalking and ambush, even in the barren winter terrain. Thedrun was equal to any warrior in the field with an axe in his hand, and a great commander of men. But he had to rely on the eyes of his scouts before he could know where to strike, so he slowed his heart rate and kept an eye out in all directions for incoming attack. Wild Elves weren't known for closing to melee while they still had arrows in their quivers. After a moment, Thedrun heard the piping of a Winter Fox to the East... Miv's signal. That was the direction of the elves. Without attempting any form of misdirection, Thedrun charged headlong through the knee-deep snow.
The Wild Elves, snow in their hair, camouflaged expertly, smiled wickedly, feeling they had found easy prey. As their sharp shooter rose to fire an arrow into the heart of their enemy, a gleam of gray bolted seemingly from nowhere, and suddenly the white snow was wet with crimson. A dagger stuck from the throat of their friend as he spiraled and fell, his life leaking out into the snow and easily marking the elves' hiding place for the charging warrior. The battle was on...
A mile away, Edmar and Avera continued talking when suddenly Edmar shoved Avera to the ground roughly. She was about to protest when she saw that an arrow was suddenly protruding from the wizard's chest, where a moment ago it might have penetrated the back of her head. Ripping the arrow out, Edmar hissed "Stay down! They've found us."
Avera could see the others spreading out, protecting the horses from incoming arrows with a near religious fervor. A moment later the rain of missiles ended. "Are they... gone?
Edmar didn't answer. Instead he grimly packed some strange smelling black powder into the wound the arrow had made, and ignited it with a whispered word and a flare of fire from his fingertip. The stuff in the wound popped and fizzled, and Avera smelt burned flesh... but the wound bled no more. His wound sealed, Edmar grasped the orb that usually hovered near him and gazed into it. "Oh hell." With a word and a gesture, he sent a ripple through the snowy field to their south, the direction the arrows had come from. It looked like waves washing toward a beach, and forty feet from their position, the wave had swelled to forty feet high and froze there, a wall of ice. "That won't hold them for long. Hide. Now."
Avera dove for a nearby snow-bank, burying herself, but she could not bear to be completely blind during the battle, so she left enough of a hole so that she could see what was happening. She had never seen a fight with anything more than fists in her life, and had certainly never seen the magic of a wizard used as anything more than entertainment!
Edmar made his way over to the others, and it was clear that the Southerner Kahmar was in charge now that there was battle. He held a scimitar, the handsome curved blades supposedly favored by the men of the Southern Ports, in each hand, and he ordered the others with a smooth confidence that spoke of his training with Thedrun. The two dwarves gripped strange devices such as Avera had not seen before, but would come to know as "crossbows" while the young thief had seemingly disappeared entirely.
The elves crested the wall of ice and snow, and Avera gasped. She had never seen elves such as these. Those she had known had been elegant, even beautiful, with flowing blond hair and glassy blue or green eyes. They had dressed in finery or silvery-metal chain armor, and carried themselves with great dignity. These were dark-haired, with weathered skin and eyes that gleamed with battle-lust. They wore animal hides as armor, and most of their skin was covered with tattoos. They shouted in a language foreign to Avera, but she understood it to be a battle-cry all the same.
The dwarves' weapons sang out, and elves died. Kahmar dashed to the forefront, engaging the lead elf in a swirl of deadly blades against the elves spear. The two fighters were both agile and lean, and their dance was almost poetic, were it not for the blood flung about by the occasional cuts they laid against one another. Even in the midst of his fight, Kahmar was shouting orders, and the others were obeying.
As the elves swarmed, the dwarves dropped their crossbows and drew out great two-handed picks, striking without hesitation. Compared to the agile Kahmar, the dwarves were all ferocity and brutality, driving the points of the picks through flesh and bone, and pulling their weapons back viciously. The two fought as mirrors of one another, protecting one another's backs as they battled. Of Kurwid, she saw only flashes, appearing momentarily to strike a lethal blow and then disappearing into the fray once more.
But it was Edmar who was most fascinating to watch. He gestured and called out in myriad arcane tongues, his voice growing ragged and harsh from his conjurations as the elements themselves became his servants. When he was attacked, ice, dirt, and rock from the earth itself would leap up to block away blows. Fire and light cascaded from his hands and his floating Orb, lashing out at anyone foolish enough to get too near to him. When he had a moment, he would turn his attention to his allies, using magical force to turn aside a potentially deadly blow, or knocking an elf to the ground with a well timed burst of lightning. The way the men worked together was a testament to their brotherhood and long practice.
So intent was she on watching the battle that she didn't notice the pair of elves who, attempting to flank the adventurers, had stumbled upon her hiding place. Her first inkling that she was in danger came when she heard an elven voice cry out, and suddenly the snow she had buried herself beneath was gone, exposing her. This pair of elves looked much like the rest, armed with spears and daggers, but one of them had many scars crossing his body, and tattoos on most of his face. He gestured, and his companion grabbed Avera by the hair, pulling her to her feet. She screamed, but knew that no one would hear her or come to help. The elf circled her, speaking to his companion in a twisted form of elven. She caught some words she knew, including "ugly" and "sow", so she spit in the tattooed elf's face. Better to die with pride.
The elf wiped the spit from his eye, and then spoke to her in a broken version of the common Tradetongue. "I will have you. Make half-breeds. Serve me. When done, give you to my men for sport."
Avera glared at him, and he cocked his hand back, slapping her across the face hard enough to rattle her jaw. She felt pain and shame filling her, and mingling with terror that this man would make good on his threat.
The war-cry that rang across the frozen fields brought terror with it. Avera fell to the ground, unsure what was happening, knowing only that she was suddenly wet with the blood of the elf that had been holding her hair.
Thedrun, arriving at the battle, had scanned to see where he was needed most... and saw the Elven Warchief trying to claim Avera as his prize. With a cry like a Gods' own wrath, he leapt through the air, bringing his axe down in a single stroke, cleaving the elf warrior holding Avera's hair from skull to groin. As soon as his feet touched the frozen ground, he spun, driving his foot into the Warchief's gut, pushing him back. Avera fell to the ground and cried out, but he didn't have time to comfort her now. He could see her out of the corner of his eye as she tried to scramble, still on her back, away from the confrontation. The elf, with a movement like flowing water, flung a dagger, catching the girl in the shoulder and pinning her to the icy ground. "Stay" he snarled, as if he were talking to a dog.
Thedrun brought his axe high, sweeping it downward, and the elf countered as he had expected, by bringing the shaft of his spear up to block the blow. But Thedrun was the wiser warrior. Against the wooden haft of his axe, the spear could hold... but as Thedrun swung, the hilt of his weapon was sliding between his hands, lowering the heavy blade so that instead of striking at the elves head, it drove through the spear haft, splintering it. Surprised, the elf jumped back, but Thedrun would not give him a moment's respite. Lowering his shoulder he charged forward, knocking the air out of his enemies lungs. The elf had no time to recover before a wide swing of the warlord's axe took his leg off below the knee. A follow up blow buried the lethal weapon in his heart before he had even hit the ground.
Avera lay crying, and Thedrun knelt at her side. "I am sorry. We were ambushed; I couldn't get here any sooner..." But his words were lost in her pain and fear. Thedrun grabbed the dagger roughly, yanking it free of the wound, and Avera cried out once, and then fell unconscious...
Fragrant warmth surrounded Avera, and for a moment she dreamt she was back at The Hog & Horse, in one of her beloved petal-baths. Her eyes flickered open, and she saw that the reality was much more wondrous. She was in an ice cave, but she felt no cold. Steam rose up around her as she rested, naked, in a shallow pool of bubbling warm water. Someone had gathered Wintergreen and sprinkled it in the water, providing the sweet fragrance. With a sudden start, she remembered the wound to her shoulder, but just as quickly realized that she felt no pain. Looking to her bare flesh, she saw only a tiny mark where the wound should have been.
"My devotion to the war-god has given me some healing abilities. Humble, but enough to remove slight wounds such as you suffered." The soft but stern voice of Thedrun echoed softly in the cave, and she turned to see him sitting on a rock nearby, watching her.
"Slight? I could have died!"
"Of infection, yes."
"But... the pain..."
"Yes, most daggers through the shoulder are quite painful. But that one would have only been lethal through blood loss or infection. Either way, you may thank my god for his healing touch, and not worry about the wound at all."
Avera nodded slowly, lowering her eyes to the water a shame filled her. "I... I'm sorry. I shouldn't have put you in that position."
She could hear Thedrun's bare feet as he walked across the icy ground before removing his cloak, revealing his scar-crossed naked form as he slid into the water with her. "I will teach you how to defend yourself. I shouldn't have brought you... it is so dangerous out here."
Avera bristled with anger, and it burned away her shame. Her eyes snapped to his, and this time, she managed to keep her eyes locked on his without losing herself in his silent command. "Don't you say that! I wanted... needed... to leave that place! I would rather die out here than live another day... there."
Thedrun nodded and moved toward her, pulling her body to his. For the first time, she felt affection in his touch along with his desire. "Still, I should have started teaching you to defend yourself immediately. I just don't like the thought of having to put a weapon in your hand..."
Avera felt confused. She knew deep down that she should learn to defend herself and be strong for him, but another part of her wanted to bath in his protectiveness, to be forever something soft and needful in his harsh world of violence and necessity. Not wanting to talk about it right now, she craned her neck upward, trying to kiss him, but she found herself being lifted out of the water instead, her bare breasts steaming now that they were exposed to the cool air. Sitting her at the side of the pool, poised between her legs, Thedrun looked at her body like he might a piece of fruit he longed to devour.
Avera was shocked to notice that his eyes were drawn to her thighs, and the space between. She felt his unspoken command, and slowly spread her legs apart, allowing him a fuller view. Her husband had never so much as glanced at the flower of her womanhood, much less taken the time to admire it like it was a fine piece of art. She found her body reacting to the scrutiny, her blood rushing through her body, her pussy growing wet with more than just petal-sweetened water. Thedrun leaned forward, kissing her open slit as if it were a pair of lips. The tenderness of it almost overwhelmed her, but she grabbed his hair and pulled, trying to get his face away from her pussy.
"Sir! Don't! Its... improper!"
Thedrun looked up at her, amusement dancing in his eyes, but the amusement once more turned to command. Even before she released his hair, Avera knew she would, she must, obey. "I desire it," was all that he said, and she found herself relenting, burning with shame as she felt his lips once more pressing where before she had only felt her own fingers. The nectar-honeyed nub of her clit was soon between his lips, and he suckled as if her growing lust were mother's milk. She gasped as she felt teeth, biting at it, tugging and pulling. She felt no fear that he would hurt her... no more than she would enjoy at any rate, and her shame faded as she let herself fall into the sensations taking control of her body. Cold air on her hot skin, his hair in her fingers, his lips and teeth working lovingly on her body... and then she felt his finger penetrating her. One alone at first, but soon joined by a second, and then a third to fill her. Expertly he manipulated her, rhythmically timing his suckling on her clit with his digits' insistent motion on that spot deep within her pussy that she had found gave her deep, rocking orgasms. She distantly heard him growling with animal lust, and could no longer contain herself. Her orgasm washed of Thedruns face, and she felt the shift as he began licking her, cleaning her dripping cum hungrily.
As he finished and looked back up at her, she once more felt deep shame, and her face flushed. She threw herself down into the water, to hide herself from him.
"What's wrong? Didn't you enjoy it?"
"Yes, of course, but... a man should never..."
Thedrun pressed a finger, scented suggestively of her own lust, to her lips. As he removed it she licked her lips and found that her own juices were just as sweet as they had smelled, and it sent a tingle through her body. So this was what had been driving him... the desire to taste this godly nectar.
"A man should have what pleases him, and a woman should take pleasure in knowing that she has provided."
Avera nodded silently, giving more of herself over to this man.