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Old 09-07-2010, 03:32 AM   #1
marauder13
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Along the Path Yet Revealed

[OOC: This thread is closed to Britwitch and myself. We hope you enjoy it.]

Soren paused by the sprawling roots of the enormous tree. He looked around hurriedly, making sure that he didn't have a near run in of the kind he had with Starsh. The young lad was almost forever following Soren around. It was mainly due to Soren's appearance. Somewhere in the background of his parents, they both had Northmen marry into their families. Every few generations, rather than getting the normal dark hair and olive or swarthy skin on the locals, there would be born a true Northman child. With both sides having this, the chances were strong of such a showing in one of their many children.

Soren was the one. Now a full season into his manhood, he stood head and shoulders above his siblings, as well as being a rather heavily built man too. His pale skin and blonde hair just made him even more obvious to those who saw him.

But the youngster had either not followed him, or was was lost. Soren smiled as he dug around one spot. A deep covering of leaves were removed to expose the lattice of twigs that protected his prize. He lifted the lattice, removing the oilskin bag from it's resting place, carefully relaying the lattice and the leaves. He lifted the heavy bundle, and made his way deeper into the woods.

He knew his father would be angry at him for wasting his time away from his duties on the farm. He tried to explain it, but there was nothing he could say.

"You should be trying to find yourself a wife," he spoke in the gruff manner of his father. "A man of your age should be wedded by now, and hoping to see signs of a child with his wife."

"Of course, father." Soren muttered to himself as he slowed his walk to a safer pace. "I'm a second son on a farm that is too small to break up further, and no other woman who is free to marry has anything for me to take charge of. So, what woman would rightfully want to marry me?

"Plus, I don't want to be a farmer, not when I can't run a farm of my own. Oh, why am I telling the trees this?"

He kept his silence until he came to his place. It was a clearing about 50 yards in diameter, with a little creek that bubbled near one edge. The flowing water created a soothing sound, as well as helping the clearing from getting too hot in the summer months. But, it was a place where for three years Soren came to better his skills so he could sever his ties to the land. He laid down the bag, carefully removing the unstrung bow, and a quiver of arrows. He found the small loop of bowstrings and placed them beside the bow itself. He then drew out his most prized possession; a short sword.

Soren ran his hand over the scabbard. The wood and leather that made up the house for his blade were old, battered but spoke of a history that flared his imagination. There were clear cuts to the scabbard, as well as signs of general long use. But it had not been fully neglected by the owners before him. Soren also took the time to look after the scabbard too, from time to time.

He lifted the sword and housing off the ground, gripping the rough leather strips that wrapped the hilt with his other hand. He slowly pulled it clear, smiling at the clean, unmarked metal of the blade. When he found it on Haskin's farm two days after the old man had died, he carefully hid it and took it home. It was dirty, rusty and not in good shape. But he knew how to clean metal plows and leather harnesses so he set himself to work. It took months to get the blade back to being clean, and then another good month to get the blade sharp. But he took good care of it, always cleaning it after practicing. He slowly returned the blade to its home, as he was doing other practice that day.

He turned to the bow. The roughly worked piece of wood was not the best example of a bow in the world, but he knew it worked. Plus, he was used to its personality. He easily bent the bow enough to string it, finding the right place to hold it when firing it. He took out one of the arrows. It had all the signs of frequent use, but it was still good enough to do what was required of it. He found his target, a wide tree with softened wood from many arrow strikes. His target ring was still visible. He walked over to where he felt he was capable of hitting, but still testing his skill.

"Now, just as old Fallin said. Feet shoulder width apart," Soren said as he positioned himself. He softly recounted all the words the man who gifted Soren with the bow in the first place. He drew the bow correctly; the arm holding the bow was kept straight as the bow was brought down to aim. He took his breath, releasing just a little before releasing the arrow.

"Damn!" Soren ran toward the tree, passing it the same side that the arrow grazed. Fortunately, it struck another tree a few yards in. "Thank the Gods I didn't loose another one." He pulled it out of the tree, checking the head and the fletching. He sighed with relief that there was nothing damaged on the arrow.

When he reached the tree, Soren actually paced out the distance to see how far he had been from the target. He counted 35 paces when he dropped his arrow, and went to get the quiver. He spent the next few hours slowly and steadily putting his arrows into the tree. As the sun reached the point in the sky that announced he needed to return to his family's farm, he was getting quicker with his shots, and hitting the target with nearly every arrow.

"I just hope that the little lessons I picked up from the passing mercenaries serve me as well as Fallin's archery ones." Soren carefully returned all his supplies to the bag, with the exception of one now headless arrow. He tried to removed it from the tree slowly and carefully, but the tip broke off, leaving the arrow head buried deep within the wood.He made his way back to where his cache was located, carefully restoring the bag to its hiding place. He continued his walk from the woods towards the cleared lands that bordered his family's farm. From the small rise, he could make out the village that supported all the farms and the families that worked them. Soren hoped that his father would let him go into the village on some errand, letting him have another chance at learning more about the world he wanted to see.
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Old 09-09-2010, 11:51 AM   #2
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The sun was still warm even though it had already begun its slow, graceful descent towards the distant horizon. Althea hurried through the village, the skirt of her dress gathered in one of her hands so she would not trip and fall, a wide basket of fruit balanced on her hip and supported by the other hand. Apples, pears and plums rocking back and forth as her boot heels kicked up the dust beneath them. Nodding a greeting as she passed friends and acquaintances and smiling to herself as their conversation turned to her as she walked away.
“She’s a good girl.”
“There aren’t many who’d put up with him.”
“I’ve heard he has an awful temper.”
Then you’ve only heard half…” Althea murmured to herself as she left them behind.

Althea was on her way to the house on the edge of the village. She went there every afternoon and most weekends, to tend to the extensive gardens and do any housework that was needed. Its owner was something of a mystery. The most popular rumour was that he was a once successful merchant, now retired, who had bought the house and the land around it, in which he planned to enjoy the autumn of his life in the idyllic surroundings of their peaceful village and the countryside around it.

The truth was far more interesting and Althea was the only one, the only person in the whole of the village, who knew it. While it was true she tended to the gardens and the house, that was not the real reason she visited.

The name of the mysterious owner was Dagda and at one time he had been a merchant but he had led a far more interesting life. He was a sindra, a magic user in the common tongue.
And Althea was his student.

Originally she had intended to simply clean the house and tend to his laundry, run errands and so on at the suggestion of her mother but one day he had caught her curiously flicking through an ancient tome in his library. Instead of being angry, as she had expected, he had questioned her. Whether she could read, her knowledge of local plants. It had all seemed very strange. He had sent her away and told her to return the following day.

When she did he told her his story, of his adventures and travels, advising foreign kings and facing dangerous beasts. Most of what he told her she dismissed as the ramblings of an aged mind. Every one had grown up hearing legends of monsters who hid in the depths of the forest, who snatched children who strayed too far from home, who lured grown men and women to their demise. But they were legends, bed time stories. Nothing more.
He told her he wished to teach her, to train her. To pass on the knowledge that had been passed onto him. She had laughed at first, certain he’d made a mistake.
She was nothing special.
Just an ordinary girl in an ordinary village.
“And I was an ordinary boy…” Dagda had smiled back.
“Patience, curiosity and determination. That’s what it takes. Patience you have, or else you couldn’t work for an old fart like me!” He’d joked.
“Curiosity’s what made you open that book in the first place and determination…” Dagda had tipped his head to the side slightly, appraising her with a twinkle in his eye. She’d stood straighter, her long, black hair falling down her back almost to her waist, her bright green eyes shining with barely contained excitement.
“That you’ll just have to show me in time…”

She hadn’t said yes, but then he hadn’t really asked her either.
They had just started right there and then and now it had already been over a year since he had started her training.

The house was large, easily the largest in the area. Its gardens included a large decorative pond and several manicured lawns. There was a large library, Althea’s favourite place in the house, a large dining room and huge kitchen. She had yet to see much more of house than that. The rooms upstairs he kept locked and kept insisting that one day she’d see inside them.

The sound of regular snoring met her ears as she pushed open the door to the kitchen. Dagda was asleep in a chair by the range, his beard rising and falling with his slow, steady breathing. Putting down the basket of fruit as quietly as possible, she crept back out into the garden. It seemed a crime to be inside when the sun was shining so gloriously.

Heading over to one of the many flowerbeds Althea lowered herself onto the soft grass and took a moment to inhale the sweet scents around her.
Ah well, might as well make myself useful while I’m here…” She deftly plaited her long hair and flicked it back over her shoulder to keep it out of her way as she worked. Her fingers sought out the unwanted weeds and gently removed them from around the delicate herbs and flowers. She pruned dead flowers and leaves, encouraging new growth. She worked steadily for almost an hour before brushing off her hands and returning inside with some of the herbs she had collected.

The fruit is from my mother,” Althea explained as she washed the dirt from her hands.
“She is a good woman,” Dagda’s voice was still a little heavy with sleep but his eyes were as alert as ever.
I shall tell her you think so, sir,” She carefully rinsed the herbal leaves she had brought in with her before standing them in a jug on the worktop to drain. She poured them both a cup of tea before sitting in the seat opposite his as he indicated.
“We shall work in here today, I don’t fancy being stuck in the library. At least here we know the garden and fresh air are not far away.” His eye sparkled when he talked and lent his wizened face a youthfulness that was almost inexplicable.
“Come now, we shall review your herbal knowledge…let’s start with an easy one, mint…”

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Several hours later they were still discussing herbs.
“Thyme…?” He repeated.
Sir, why won’t you let me try some of the spells?
“Thyme..?” He either didn’t hear her or was choosing to ignore her. She knew it was the second.
Sir, I really think I could do some of it now…I’ve read everything you’ve asked of me, I’ve studied the blending of oils and the use of crystals…
“Focus. It is all about focus. If you will not focus your mind then you will never achieve what you’re capable of Althea,” His voice was edged with impatience.
This was a debate they had several times a week.
But if you’d just let me try
“No.” His tone was final. “You are a good student Althea but you must remember you are still a student. Don’t forget you have much still to learn…” His tone softened slightly before he added. “Now then, let us finish, I’m sure you will need to head home soon. Thyme…?”

Althea sighed heavily.
Thyme, it can be burned to attract good health and can also be worn for the same purpose. It is also used in healing spells. It is also carried to give energy and courage.” Althea recited the uses for the herb smoothly and with obvious ease. “Thyme can also ensure peaceful sleep and keeps away nightmares when placed beneath the pillow. It is also a purificatory herb and its frequently burnt before magical rituals to cleanse the area.

“Very good, Althea…I think we will leave it there for today, I will see you tomorrow, yes? Thank your mother for the fruit…” With that he rose, squeezed her shoulder for a moment and then shuffled out of the room.
With a sigh, Althea blew out the candles and let herself out of the door. The night was softly falling around her and the air was rapidly cooling.
She pulled her shawl around her shoulders and headed home, gazing up at the stars on her way.

Last edited by Britwitch : 09-21-2010 at 06:59 AM.
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Old 09-14-2010, 02:06 AM   #3
marauder13
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Soren made sure that he came out of the woods from a spot that was not the closest to his family's farm. To make sure that he covered his tracks a little more he came out near the road that led to the farm. He made sure that he walked, and didn't run. For reasons he had never figured out, if he ran home, he would get into trouble for doing something he shouldn't.

Like most of the wood bordering farms, the one where Soren lived was a little walled community. Sturdy twelve foot high logs made up the walls, which had only one gate. Several buildings were also a part of the outer walls, but their height was greater that the walls they were attached to. Soren always wondered what it would be like to be inside when bandits or raiders struck. The farms were designed to hold off the robber bands that used to hide out in the woods. But since the Baron had been given control over the village and the surrounding lands, his soldiers have made the woods a lot safer.

Soren saw a few of the workers from the outer pastures heading in. They all exchanged waves as they got close enough. Even though he was the farm owner's son, he was treated like one of the workers when he was with them. Soren liked that. And he treated them exactly the same way in return, with the added respect of those with more experience than he had.

"For such a hulking brute with long legs, you sure walk slow." Soren spotted his older brother standing by the gate, waving his arm to get the last of the workers inside. Like the rest of his family, Sarathi was of average height, with dark, curly hair, olive skin and dark eyes.

"That's because you have little legs and need to run to get to the same places I can stroll to so we there on time." Soren smiled as his brother laughed along with the remaining workers. They all picked up their pace, quickly covering the remaining distance and helped to shut the gates for the night. The older brother reached up and clapped Soren on his shoulder. The two followed the more jovial workers as they headed to the main hall, where the sounds of people getting ready for the evening meal was clearly heard.

While it is not rowdy, meal times are always full of noise, talk and laughter. Soren's father, Gorben, always sat at the head of the main table. His wife, Kralla, sat to his left and Sarathi to his right. Beside Sarathi was Kima, his wife. They are the only people who have fixed places at the tables. Everyone else sat where they could. The children had their own table, along with a few "guardians" to help the younger ones. The food was plentiful, as well as tasty with something there for everyone's tastes.

Soren just ate quietly, his hunger greater than his desire to talk to others. He had, for him at least, a rather busy day that left him rather hungry. His allotted chores for the day, along with his time practicing in the woods, had given his normally healthy appetite a severe boost. His family at various times watched him gather yet more food and eat it all steadily. Each one of them smiled when they did, knowing how hungry the big man could get at times. It made his parent glad that they were on a farm which made it easier to feed him, but it also meant that there was less to sell too.

Once the eating was over, Soren retired quickly to his room. He learnt long ago, about the same time that running home was bad, that staying in the main hall too long had him sent to the kitchen to help clean up after the meal. His bedroom was just big enough to fulfill that function. To have enough space to have a bed and get into and out of it. He stripped down and climbed into bed, more out of habit than any real need. But soon enough, he was asleep.

~||~

Soren woke the following morning to the sounds of someone yelling, and bashing on the gate to the farmstead. He looked out his window to see one of the hands open the gate, while Gorben and Sarathi were running over. Soren was shocked to see a woman, in bed clothing, stagger through the gate. He couldn't tell if he was more shocked over the sight of blood, or that the clothing was torn and revealed one of the woman's breasts and she didn't bother trying to cover herself. Soren couldn't hear what was being said, until Gorben shouted for the men to grab weapons. The man at the gate immediately closed it rather fast, while others started calling out and running around. Kima turned up with one of Sarathi's cloaks, wrapping it around the woman, and leading her to the main hall.

"The rest of you, defend this place!" Gorben, and most of the farm hands, went through the gate, off to help out their recently attacked neighbours. Soren was excited and annoyed. Excited at the prospect of testing his skills, but annoyed that he was by default left to defend the farm.
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Old 09-16-2010, 05:08 AM   #4
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”You’re late…!” came the call as soon as Althea opened the front door.
I know, sorry Mother, lost track of time…” She hung up her shawl on the row of pegs hanging on the wall. “Master Dagda said to thank you for the fruit…” Althea swept through to the kitchen, pausing to kiss her mother’s offered cheek before going to wash her hands and face. “He said that you’re a good woman.
Althea didn’t have to look at her mother to know a slightly embarrassed but definitely flattered smile was curving her mouth.
“He’s a true gentleman, that man,” Her mother replied after a pause.
They had almost the same conversation every night. If she didn’t know better Althea could honestly believe her mother almost had feelings for the man, but she knew well enough not to say anything. Even in jest.

Althea’s father had been taken from them many years before, a bad bought of flu had turned the once strapping and impossibly strong man into a shivering weakling before eventually robbing him of his life. It had had been devastating for them both but for quite a while afterwards Althea feared her mother might follow him into the great beyond from a broken heart.
Time passed and her mother’s strength prevailed, day by day her humour returned and eventually Althea’s fears were put to rest. Although every now and then Althea was sure her mother had been crying, her eyes a little too bright, when she’d been alone.

“Have you heard about the bandits?” Her mother exclaimed after they’d eaten and Althea was taking care of washing the plates and bowls from their meal.
Bandits? What bandits?” Althea glanced back over her shoulder, “Not here, surely…
“Yes here, they’ve been attacking the farms at night,”
Mother you must have gotten it wrong, we don’t have bandits round here, not since the Baron took over…” Althea stood the plates to dry and wiped her hands on a cloth.
“I have not got it wrong,” Her mother’s tone was bordering on the condescending. “Mrs Saddleton told me, the farm next to theirs was attacked last week, and apparently the Istak farm the week before…”
Althea resisted the urge to roll her eyes. Mrs Saddleton’s heart was doubtlessly in the right place but as the village gossip, as a source of information she was hardly the most reliable.
Well if that’s true, that’s awful,” Althea poured them both a tea before joining her mother at the table. “Do tell Mrs Saddleton that if she visits the farms and they need help with anything, to volunteer me…I don’t know what I can do but I’m sure I can help rebuild fences or whatever else might need doing…
Her mother smiled, told her she was a good girl and kissed her head.
“Your father would have been proud of how well you’ve grown up…” She took hold of her chin and tilted it upwards, looking at her face appraisingly. She sighed, somewhat heavily, “I think the time will soon come when we will have to think about your future, about finding you a nice husband…but not tonight, goodnight my darling girl,” With that she took her tea and retired to bed.
Goodnight mother…” Althea called after her although her voice faltered slightly.

She knew the day would come when marriage would be discussed but she hadn’t thought it would arrive so soon. She hoped one day to marry and have a family of her own but not yet. She had dreams, plans. She wanted to travel. Thanks to Dagda’s teaching she had heard but a fraction of what the wider world held and she was hungry, no ravenous, to experience it for herself.
Marriage meant commitment and responsibility. Marriage meant staying in the village for the rest of her life. Marriage meant confinement. It would be a prison, a beautiful loving one but a prison nonetheless.

Althea frowned as she blew out the lamps and headed to her own bedroom.
I’m too young for all that…” She mumbled as she undressed and slid into bed.
As she lay in the darkness her mind went around and around.

Dagda had spoken of taking one last journey and Althea hoped and prayed he would take her with him. She thought if she proved herself a good student, a talented student, he would let her accompany him. She could help him.
Being married off would put an end to all that straight away. She doubted her husband, whoever he might be, would be happy to see her spending her days with Dagda let alone allow her to go off into the great unknown.
She pouted to herself at the idea of someone being able to simply not ‘allow’ her to do as she pleased.

She knew what she had to do.
If she were to have any chance of getting out of the village, she would have to prove herself to Dagda before her mother could find her a suitor.
Given her mother’s determination she might not have long. The woman had long days with precious little to fill them.
Rolling onto her side and letting out a long sigh, Althea closed her eyes. tiredness slowing her thoughts as she drifted off to sleep.

All she would have to do would be to prove herself to Dagda, show him she could do all he might ask.
But how on earth was she going to do that…?
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Old 09-20-2010, 04:30 AM   #5
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It only took a few hours for the excitement to die down. Gorben and the other hands had returned, their faces grim and their actions contained. Those with wives went to them, spending some time quietly while the others went to the dining hall to get something to drink. Soren followed his father as he went back to their living quarters. Kralla got her husband some drink and left him alone. Soren was a little shocked that his mother wasn't there to look after him.

"Father...?"

"Soren, come and sit down." Soren walked over to the small table where his father was sitting, joining him quietly. "The Drasi stead was struck by raiders. They didn't shut their gates like we normally do. A lot of people are dead, or missing. Plus they stole money and food too." Gorben took a long drink. "At least three women were kidnapped. A fair few people ran away, like Trista did, looking for help." The older man stared at the wall in front of him. "I hope the Baron can do something about this. The word will spread. People will get angry with the Baron. I'm angry with him right now for not dealing with those..." The metallic cup slammed down on the table. "Why, Soren? Why didn't Saladoc Drasi listen to me about keeping his gates open." Soren watched as his father cried. Not a sound was made, just the tears rolling down the weathered cheeks. Kralla had returned, her hand resting comfortably on Soren's shoulder. He knew she wanted him to leave. He stood up, briefly hugged his mother, and walked out so they could be alone.

Soren's mind conjured up all kinds of images based off the scarce information his father gave him. The inside of the stead strewn with mutilated bodies, the walls and ground washed with blood. Columns of smoke rose from various spots about the stead. He knew it wasn't that bad. But he still painted pictures that were just as terrible whenever he tried to be reasonable about it all.

He didn't even know he was doing it until he reached the edge of the woods. He was running as fast as he dared, not worrying about any trail he might be leaving. He wasn't concerned about what his family might be thinking when they found out. All he wanted to do was find the men responsible, kill them and hopefully save some of those who were kidnapped. Soren had never felt so angry in his life before. He could almost feel the rage within him as if it were something possessing him.

He reached his cache, flinging aside the cover with little concern for its secret nature. He pulled out the sword, still in the scabbard. This time he reached in and grabbed the belt, wrapping around his waist, trying to remember how the caravan guards from last autumn had their belts tied. Whether he got it right or not, the belt sat securely, so he was happy. He then lifted out his most prized possession - a hardened leather breastplate. It was something he had made for himself, so it fitted him properly. He had also been shown how to put it on and tighten the straps as well. Greaves made of the same hardened leather were strapped to his shins, and bracers were secured too. These would also serve to protect his arms like the greaves did to his legs. Finally, he grabbed his bow and what looked like a pitiful collection of arrows. He would depend on his bow skills more than the sword when the time came to deal with the bandits. A part of him hoped that he would be able to use the sword. To feel the blade bite the flesh of those that hurt his neighbours.

He set off though the woods, heading to the place where he hoped the raiders left the cover of the trees, and sought their safety again. Once he found their trail, he would follow them back, and given them the justice they so rightfully deserved.
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Old 09-21-2010, 08:00 AM   #6
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The next morning Althea knew something was wrong. There were too many people huddled in small groups all over the main road through the village. Voices quiet but urgent. Expressions worried.
“The Drasi stead? Are you sure?”
“I heard women were taken…”
“I heard they tried to light the barn before they took off…”
Snatches of conversation came to her ears as she tried to spot a familiar face in the crowds she could approach and ask them to explain.

Spotting Mrs Saddleton she fixed a bright smile on her face and walked over.
Good morning, Mrs Saddleton. I trust you’re well? Any idea what all the fuss is about…?
“Oh Althea, my dear, young women like you shouldn’t be out alone…Lord knows what might happen if they come to the village!”
If who come to the village?” Althea insisted, her brow creasing.
“Bandits!” The old woman hissed, leaning in close, as if afraid the men in question would hear her.
Bandits?!
“The Drasi stead was attacked last night, awful, simply awful what they did,” Mrs Saddleton shook her head melodramatically. “It’s the third farmstead in as many weeks!”
Althea tuned out as the old widow rambled on about what had been taken and how many outhouses had been burnt down during the attacks.
It was as if a small bolt of lightning had raced down from the heavens above and struck her mind, making everything suddenly clear.
This was it. This could be her chance.
If she could do something to stop the bandits, maybe even help capture them, it might be enough to prove to Dagda that she was the one he should take with her.
Please excuse me, Mrs Saddleton, I…I have to go…” Althea didn’t wait to hear the widow’s bemused response. She was already off and running towards Dagda’s house.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

“No!”
But Master Dagda, I-
“Absolutely not!”
But I really think I can help!
“Then you know even less than you think you do!” Dagda’s tone was one not to be trifled with but still Althea insisted.
I know more than you think I do!” Althea retorted. “Why can’t I go, just to see if there’s something I can do? A charm maybe, just something small, something that could-
“Something that could, and most probably will, cause more harm than good,” Dagda’s voice softened slightly. “I know this desire comes from the best of places, your heart, that you do truly wish to do nothing more than help but you’re just not ready. If for no other reason than because you’re letting your heart rule your head.” Dagda took hold of her shoulders and made her look at him.
“If you go charging in, following your heart, not thinking, you will get someone hurt, and what worries me is that it will be you!”
Althea pouted slightly, making a conceited effort to avoid his probing gaze.

“You are an excellent student, Althea, one of the most promising I have ever known but you are simply not ready yet,” Dagda tried to placate her.
If you don’t let me try then how will we ever know when I’m ready?” She whined, tipping her head to one side and widening her eyes.
“We’ll just know,” Dagda tweaked her nose before moving away to take up his seat beside the fire. “Now then, enough of this nonsense for one day, come and sit down…candle magick today…”
Yes Master Dagda,” Althea gave in, for the time being at least.
“Oh and Althea…”
Yes Master?
“I think you can put all those herbs of protection and strength back now,” His reply came without looking up from the ancient tome he had begun flipping through, which with hindsight was probably for the best because it meant he couldn’t see the embarrassed flush painting her cheeks as she reached into her pockets and took out all the leaves she had been surreptitiously stuffing into her pocket ever since arriving.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Althea pulled her cloak closer around her as she hurried along a rarely used path towards the forest, the hood up in case she should run into anyone.
After spending the entire afternoon going over the various colours and spells for candle magick, Althea had made up her mind that she was going after the bandits regardless of Dagda’s opinion.

She had told her mother she was staying at Master Dagda’s house to help him prepare pickles and preserves for the winter months, the process being lengthy and likely to run into the early hours.
Pausing before entering the tree line, she glanced furtively around. As she expected there was no one in sight but it didn’t hurt to be careful.

She picked her way through the trees, heading towards the area closest to the farmsteads, Master Dagda’s condescending words still stinging in her ears.
I know a lot more than he thinks…” She grumbled, picking up her skirts to climb over the roots and low bushes that covered the forest floor, wishing she’d thought to wearing a pair of her father’s old breeches.
I’ll show him. I’ll show him I can do it. A couple of charms and he’ll see I can use my head and not just my heart…!
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Old 09-27-2010, 09:57 PM   #7
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Soren had no real training for tracking, but the bandits and their captives made is a little easier for him. At least the women were fighting, not going easily. There were drag marks, signs of scuffles and every now and again a small scrap of fabric that belonged to a woman's dress.

His anger had cooled a little, but he wasn't going to give up on his neighbours. He was wondering how wise it was to run off by himself to try and find the bandits. There would be many of them, more than he could probably handle. But he started this, and if he was to be branded a fool, he wanted to be a brave one, rather than a cowardly one.

He slowly walked through the woods, pausing to look at the ground to confirm that he saw more signs of their passage. The woods seemed so normal. The wind rustling the leaves. The sounds of birds high up in the branches. Signs of small animals prowling nearby. It was hard to think that this place was home to evil men who killed people he knew, and stole others. His happy place, where he would go to get away from the farm, and work, would never be the same again.

With those thoughts, he felt how fast his his heart was beating. The armour was starting to get heavy, hot and chaffed him in places he never thought would be touched. All the weapons seemed to weigh him down, trying to drag him flat on the ground. He found himself somewhere safe to sit, and hopefully cool down.

"Why am I doing this?" He whispered to himself, barely able to hear his own voice. "Be brave is all fine and good, but being foolish is not. I have no idea what I will do if I find them. I can swing a sword and shot an arrow, but I have never been in a real fight."

Further self reflection was cut short when he heard sounds of movement nearby. Gritting his teeth, he pulled the sword from his scabbard, and shifted himself around to attack the bandit that strayed to close to him. All thoughts of reason and good sense fled him as his anger stepped forth and took over. He could just make out the shape of a person moving through the undergrowth when he sprang from his hiding spot and rushed the brigand.

His anger would have killed him if it were a brigand he was charging. His sword was not well placed, which was a good thing considering that he was charging a woman. Relief swept over him as he collided with the escaped neighbour. He would be able to return a hero when he brought back...

"Althea? What are you doing here?" He looked at her. Apart from the recent dirt and leaf litter from her being knocked to the ground, she was dressed as if she were in the village. The colours of her clothing made it easy for her to be seen in the woods, unlike Soren who only had his white hair as the only drawing feature. He got to his feet, staying in a crouch looking around frantically between hard glares at the village woman.

"By the Gods, don't you know that there are bandits out here. They have already taken women, and I am sure that they would love to add another one if they got the chance. Look at you, didn't you even think about what to wear before venturing out? Are you trying to get yourself captured?"

Soren thought about Althea being in the woods, with the known dangers present. As much as he wanted to save those kidnapped, and make the bandits pay for their deeds, he didn't want to risk someone else in the process. Not even his anger could overrule that line of thinking. His duty was clear to him. He could at least save one from suffering from a similar fate to his neighbours.

"Come on, Althea. We need to get you back to the village where you will be safe."
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Old 09-28-2010, 01:35 PM   #8
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Althea refused to admit that she might, just might, be lost.
She continued to push onwards even though she had yet to find the woodland path she could have sworn should have been there.
She had yet to find any indication that she was on the right path, no signs of bandits…no signs of anyone.
Althea paused, her keen eyes scanning the undergrowth up ahead, looking for something, anything. Pushing the hood of her cloak back and listening.
Bird song.
The call of a deer.
The wind in the treetops high above.
Nothing of any use.

Althea groaned as she forced herself to carry on. She would not go back. Not yet. It was still fairly light beneath the leafy canopy and Althea didn’t reckon she had travelled that far from the edge of the forest.
Then she saw it. A flash of white in the trees up ahead. Too high to be an animal. Too large to be a bird.
Her heart stopped for a moment, suddenly realising she didn’t exactly have a plan for dealing with the bandits when she found them.
No time to wait though. She might easily lose them if she dallied. Breaking into a swift run, Althea hurried towards the last place she saw the white flash.

She was just nearing the clearing beyond the bushes and reaching into her bag for something to use as a distraction when the wind was knocked from her lungs as someone launched themselves at her from the bushes, knocking her to the ground and sending her bag tumbling out of reach.
She struggled like a wild animal beneath her attacker, trying to kick, scratch, even bite but to no avail.

"Althea? What are you doing here?"
Soren?!” Althea exclaimed, ceasing her struggles upon seeing the bulk pressing down on her belonged not to a bandit but to one of the farmers’ sons whose land bordered the village.
Get off me you great oaf! I’m not the enemy!

As he rolled away she quickly sat up and brushed the leaves from her hair and clothes.
"By the Gods, don't you know that there are bandits out here. They have already taken women, and I am sure that they would love to add another one if they got the chance. Look at you, didn't you even think about what to wear before venturing out? Are you trying to get yourself captured?"

I might ask you the same question,” She added pointedly, glancing at the sword in his hand. “One might suspect you’re out here looking for the bandits in question!
She stood up and shook off her cloak before wrapping it around her.

For your information, Soren, I am not trying to get myself captured, I’m trying to help!
Althea scooped up her small shoulder bag from where it had fallen, glancing inside at the contents before putting her arm back through the leather strap.
Shouldn’t you be helping barricade the farms against new attacks? Am not sure a farmer running around with a sword he barely knows one end of from the other is going to be much help out here!

"Come on, Althea. We need to get you back to the village where you will be safe."
The tall farmer went to take her arm but she shook it angrily from his grip.
Don’t talk to me like that. Like I’m a lost child who needs taking back to her parents!” Althea’s temper was rising rapidly, along with the volume of her voice. “Who are you to tell me what to do anyway?

If I chose to be here, it is my choice of when I return to the village and no boorish farmer is going to make me do otherwise!” Her pride was prickling as she smoothed her dress which, admittedly, with it’s deep red colouring would draw the bandits to her like a red rag to a bull. Who was he, an uneducated farmer, to dictate to her what she should and shouldn't do. Just looking at him she had already decided he had to be one of life's unfortunates with two helpings of brawn for every half measure of brain.

A harsh view, she knew, but her anger was misting her vision and clouding her judgement.
She was about to continue her tirade when a sound cut her off.
Footsteps, heavy footsteps and snatches of conversation mingling with the distinct whimpers of women.
It had to be them. The bandits.
Unconsciously Althea stepped closer to Soren and her hand gripped his muscular forearm.

Oh my God! Oh my God it’s them! What’ll we do? What’ll we do?!” Panic rising up sharply inside her and swamping her. Her heart was racing as her widened eyes scanned the trees and bushes around them, trying to work out where exactly the danger was coming from.

They’re coming this way Soren! They’re coming this way!! We have to do something, what’re we going to do…?!
Before she could utter another panicked word, she felt a hand wrap over her mouth and her feet left the ground.
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Old 09-29-2010, 11:00 PM   #9
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Soren couldn't believe what this villager was thinking. She was trying to help?!? Dressed like that?!? He swore inside his mind, slamming the sword back into the scabbard as she continued her rant like a spoiled child who got told no. On top of it all, she had no idea of what she was talking about. She continued to rant a point where he was seriously thinking of hitting her to get her to shut up, and then carrying her back to safety before anything else bad happened.

He saw her ready herself for another round of verbal abuse when she stopped herself. He heard noises. His eyes widened when he heard voices, both male and female. Althea's reaction to it almost made Soren laugh, but he did smile for a moment. Then he felt slightly worried.

“Oh my God! Oh my God it’s them! What’ll we do? What’ll we do?!”

"Be quiet for a start," Soren whispered harshly in return. He saw her snapping her head, looking for the bandits. The way she was trying to do is was not a good way.

“They’re coming this way Soren! They’re coming this way!! We have to do something, what’re we going to do…?!”

Soren slapped his hand over her mouth, staring at her with a harsh expression. Trees not only muffled sounds, but also made them appear to come from other directions. He slowly turned his head, also taking the time to look beyond the undergrowth and the trees. He tried to pinpoint where they were, and if they were indeed getting closer.

"Shit." He whispered, quickly shifting his focus to finding somewhere for them to hide. With ease, he lifted Althea off the ground enough to get her into the cover that he found. With little care or consideration, he dumped her on the ground, keeping his hand over her mouth.

"Shut up, and don't move." He started to crouch up a little when the bandits broke through into the less dense area near where the two were hiding. Soren dropped down, mostly covering Althea with his body, hoping to cover the clothing that could cause them to be seen. He looked down at Althea, trying to mentally tell her to not doing anything stupid while he listened to the group passing by.

"I don't know why they're crying so much," one of them laughed. "It's not like we hit any of them. Mind you, the oldest one was rather eager once we got going. Her husband might be bored with her in his bed."

"Well, she wont suffer from too much boredom with us. None of them will, as long as they behave. It was awful nice of them to leave the gate open for us to grab what we needed."

Soren heard the sobs of three women, along with at least one other man walking behind them. He closed his eyes, shaking with rage at the way the women had been treated. Only Althea's presence kept him from blindly charging them right there and then. The thought of her brought him back to where they were. He had her pinned beneath him, one leg between hers, and most of her body pressed under his. He could vaguely get an impression of her bust by the way the hardened leather of his armour was pressed against him. He also got a vague idea of how slim her waist was, and the firmness of her thigh and hip. She was an attractive woman, physically. Her personality made her less appealing.

"Don't worry to much, ladies," the first voice said, "we'll take care of you, as long as you take care of us. Just like you did a little earlier."

"You sure that the Baron's men wont find us?" The voices were getting softer as they moved on.

"Hhmmpf. Not likely. Anyway, the others a laying down false trails. The Baron wont waste too much time on just a few farm women. No, we'll be enjoying these ones for a long time yet."

A fresh round of crying was answered with a slap. The silence was deafening. Soren looked through the bushes, but he couldn't see anyone. He got off Althea, but he remembered how she felt underneath him.

'Maybe she's not so bad after all...'

He looked at where the bandits went, and back at Althea. He had a chance to help his neighbours, but he couldn't just leave the nearly useless villager alone in the woods. But she was one of his people too, and he had to look after her, even though she had put herself in danger. For all her talk of knowing what to do, she panicked quickly.

"You listen to me, Althea. You have no idea of what things are like at our farms near the forest. They are different to the others that you have probably seen. I am going after the men. It would be wise for you to go home, but you probably have no idea which way to go, and I can't waste any more time dealing with your foolishness. At least if I keep you with me, I have a chance of keeping you safer than if you were left alone."

Soren crept out of the hiding place, carefully checking that no one had been left behind. Their trail was easily seen, and he knew that he could follow it. He was scared, but he was going to try. He looked at Althea, beckoning her to follow him as he slowly followed their trail.
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Old 09-30-2010, 04:01 PM   #10
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Althea barely had chance to register that she was being carried as if she weighed nothing at all, before she was all but dropped onto the floor without a scrap of ceremony. Soren’s hand still clamped over her mouth.
"Shut up, and don't move."

Althea watched through angry, narrowed eyes as Soren moved back and started to rise up, clearly looking around for those approaching. Just as she was reaching up to pull his hand from her mouth, he dropped like a stone on top of her.

The resulting groan as the air was driven from her lungs was muffled by his palm. She looked up into his face, sensing from his expression he wanted her to stay quiet. Part of her wanted to make noise just to prove to him she was not someone he could command but she thought better of it and just in time.
She tensed as she heard people breaking through into the clearing where they had been standing moments before.

The conversation of the bandits was a little hard for her to hear, leaves around her head and Soren’s arm blocking most of what was said. She heard snatches of sentences and could hear the frightened whimpers of the women.
Althea tried to calm her breathing, trying to swallow the anger from before. Glancing up she noticed, for the first time, the strength of Soren’s jaw and the sheer immensity of his build. Especially when compared to hers.

His body was laying heavily across hers, his thigh between hers, his chest crushed against her own. Her cloak had fallen open as he’d dropped her to the ground and in their current position, the pressure of his body on hers was emphasising the cleavage within her dress. She felt her cheeks flush a little as she considered just how close they were. The firm, constant pressure upon her frame, feeling his every breath.

Her heart was hammering inside her chest and she found herself trying in vain to regain control of her breathing which had become inexplicably shallow in the last few minutes.
Althea wriggled for a moment, trying to dislodge a stone that was digging in the small of her back and get a little more comfortable but she stopped instantly when it dawned on her that in doing so she was rubbing her body against Soren’s. Her hips pushing up against his in what she realised could be seen as a very lusty motion.

The relative quiet of the woods was broken by the short, sharp sound of a slap. Making Althea tense under Soren momentarily as a result.
After a quick inspection of the clearing, Soren finally removed his body from hers. Althea lay amongst the leaves and grass for a moment or two, trying to focus her mind on the task at hand and banish the sensation of his solid, warm body pressing against hers. There were far more important things to be concerned about and his body, attractive or not, was not one of them.

"You listen to me, Althea. You have no idea of what things are like at our farms near the forest. They are different to the others that you have probably seen. I am going after the men. It would be wise for you to go home, but you probably have no idea which way to go, and I can't waste any more time dealing with your foolishness. At least if I keep you with me, I have a chance of keeping you safer than if you were left alone."

Althea felt her pride prickle anew as Soren began slowly walking away, eyes fixed on the ground and his hand raised behind him, signalling that she should follow. She wanted to tell him exactly what she thought of him and which one of them she thought was the fool in this situation. To tell him she wasn’t a hopeless and helpless as he believed her to be but she doubted someone of his background would even believe in magic users let alone realise the power they could summon and control.

Instead Althea forced herself to focus on the reason why she had been in the woods in the first place. She wanted to prove herself to Master Dagda, she wanted to get out of the village before her mother had her paired off. In order to do so she wanted, needed, to find the bandits and she knew that despite her desire to do so, she wouldn’t be able to get close to them without Soren’s help.
Fine” Was all she trusted herself to say in response without lapsing into another angry rant.
Taking a deep, steadying breath, and wrapping her long black cloak tighter around her to try and disguise the brightly coloured dress beneath, she stalked after the farmer.

Holding her tongue against a curse as she tripped not once but twice over roots in the process.
Sending up a silent prayer that at least the stumbles had happened behind his back where he couldn’t see, she carried on behind him, now trying to focus less on how infuriating he was and instead on looking where she was going.

Nevertheless, along the way she couldn’t help but let out a little grumble now and then.
Just to keep her temper in check.
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Old 10-07-2010, 10:36 AM   #11
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Soren found it hard to balance his desire to concentrate on following the bandits, and making sure that the villager didn't get herself killed, and him in the process. He heard her venomous agreement to his orders, and he knew that she would have words with him again. He frowned. Why did women argue when they were in the wrong? She was not prepared for such a task, and yet she thought she was better for what they were doing than he was? He knew there were times when he was wrong, but he was wise enough to know those times and not to make a fuss. Maybe that was due to his father not being afraid to clout his sons when they were not behaving as they should. Didn't fathers strike their daughters when needed?

He paused when he heard Althea stumble, waiting for either her or the bandits to make a loud noise that led to a nasty fight. Fortunately, neither did as he feared. He finally was starting to understand what he was getting himself into. He was out looking for a group of men that he would fight and kill. Soren's heart was thumping in his chest, his mouth kept getting dry. There was a sheen of sweat covering him.

Each step was hard. The amount of energy and concentration it took to take each step, not making any noise, was enormous. It was fine when it was in a game, or when he hunted the few times he tried. But he knew he wouldn't die if he made a mistake. This time, he could. And so could Althea.

Soren turned his thoughts, those he could spare at the time, to what Althea was doing out there trying to help. She carried no weapons. She was not dressed well for the woods. She panicked too quickly. What was she hoping to achieve? How was she going to achieve it?

Soren dropped that line of thought, and focused on trying to follow the trail. For whatever reasons, he found the trail to be easy enough to follow. The thought of nothing else but keeping on the trail, and listening for signs of others closing on them. When he wasn't looking at the ground, he was looking into the woods and the undergrowth. Soren was certain that they would have some people keeping an eye out, and he wanted to make sure that he saw them first.

He had little idea of how long they had been walking when he heard the faint noises of the women crying. He held up his hand to Althea, indicating that she stop. He waited for his pulse to slow enough that he could actually hear what was going on, rather than the booming of his heart. He took out his bow and strung it quickly. A moment later, he had an arrow nocked, and he was slowly scanning ahead.

Not seeing anything, Soren moved forward towards where he thought the sounds were coming from. Each footfall was carefully made to make sure he made no noise, and to not make any sudden moves. It felt like each step took an hour to make. He continued to move as fast as he felt was safe, constantly searching for the picket he thought was there.

He reached a point where he could make out some movement, as well as hearing the cries of one of the women. Soren caught a brief sighting of one of the men dragging one of the women around by her hair. Someone else started to laugh, cheering his fellow bandit on.

Out of the corner of his eye, Soren saw a movement. His first thought was Althea had followed him. He turned his head slowly so he could tell her to get back when he saw someone hiding in some undergrowth. Fortunately, the man had his back to Soren, looking intently off into some other part of the woods. Soren prepared himself just as he did when shooting at the targets. He lined up the man, thinking of him as just another target. He drew the bow, sweating profusely at the knowledge that this was the real thing. He steadied himself, then released the arrow.

It all happened faster than when he practiced. The arrow seemed to just appear in the man's back. The bandit slumped against the tree, the noise sounding like a thunder clap. But he continued to slowly fall to the ground, not moving at all. Soren stood stunned. He killed one of the bandits. He did it without risking anyone's life. His shaking hand pulled another arrow loose, nocking it as he moved to get a clearer line of sight on the bandit's camp.

"I'm going to relieve Gareth." One of the bandits stood up, walking past the man who had one of the women struggling beneath him. Soren panicked when he saw the direction the man was walking. He quickly drew the bow, taking aim as the man continued to move. He prayed as he let the arrow loose. Just as before, the arrow seemed to just appear embedded in the bandit's thigh.

"Arrrggghhh." He clutched his thigh around the protruding arrow. "We're under attack!" Soren knew that when the bandit looked up, he had been seen. "Right there! A Northman!" Another of the bandits ran over to the wounded one who was finding some cover. The unwounded one rushed into the trees, going straight for Soren. Soren quickly turned to get away from the oncoming attacker. He hurriedly pulled at the shortsword while trying to think of what to do with the bow.

He forgot about Althea in his haste to make sure he wasn't killed.
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Old 11-06-2010, 05:30 PM   #12
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Althea tried to move as quietly as she could through the undergrowth, although she would be damned before admitting that her clothing was less than suitable for the pursuit she had undertaken. She had picked up her skirts to halfway between her knee and ankle, figuring Soren’s attention would be on the trail of the bandits and not on her exposed limbs.

Without warning Soren stopped, holding up a hand which she presumed meant she should do the same. She kept her mouth closed against a retort that she was a human not an animal and responded better to words than hand signals and simply stood where she was. Once she had stopped moving she became aware of the sounds coming from ahead of them in the trees.

Before Althea could do anything she watched Soren arm his bow and creep off into the trees. She pouted momentarily at being left behind but reasoned that without Soren’s over protective gaze she might finally be able to be of some use.
Althea deftly picked up her skirts, tucking the sided into her belt. It revealed her legs in their entirety until her knees but when she moved, flashes of thigh could clearly be seen through the bunched material. She didn’t care. She could move so much easier, quieter and quicker without the hindrance of hanging cloth. Althea crept forwards, following the path she assumed Soren had taken.

She heard shouts and a rush of feet somewhere in the distance and assumed the bandits had either run off or run off after Soren, she hoped it was the first. The screams of a woman drove Althea onwards and within moments she found the source of the screaming.
The woman under the bandit was screaming loudly, her arms flailing useless and the movements of his hips left Althea in no doubt as to what his intentions were.

She knew she had to try and stop this obscenity and, for the first time since entering the woods, she actually felt fairly confident that what she intended to do might work.
Her eyes never leaving the appalling scene before her, her hands went to her bag, rifling through it’s contents until her fingers found what they were searching for, a small glass vial. Wetting her lips and focusing her energy on the man before her Althea approached, her voice quiet but firm when she spoke.

Evil be gone, and do not return,
The horses have fled and the bridges are burned.
Cease what you do and get out of my sight,
As I wish it, the fates make it right!


With her final word she opened the vial and threw the contents over the bandit. Vinegar, steeped and infused with various herbs, rained down on his head.
Althea held her breath. For a moment or two she worried that it might not have worked, her keen eyes looking around the glade, she began seeking out a fallen branch or rock she could use to try and fend the bandit off.

Then, all of a sudden, the bandit stopped. His pawing hands froze and his eyes became glazed. Without a word, he scrambled to his feet and fled. His voice mumbling something about horses as he disappeared into the trees. Althea was so busy watching with pride as he vanished that she almost didn’t notice his victim scrambling away.

Hey! Hey wait…!” Althea ran after the woman, picking up her skirts once more. Cursing as the woman ran faster. The other kidnapped women appearing from among the trees and joining her in fleeing.
Hey he’s gone! It’s ok…you don’t have to run, you-!” Althea rounded a bend and found herself alone in a clearing. No sign of anyone. Anywhere.
The women had to have gone to ground. Althea frowned as she scanned the bushes and plants that carpeted the forest floor.
Hello…?” She called, walking slowly through the clearing.

You can come out, he’s gone. It’s safe.
The woods had gone oddly still and despite her calmly spoken words, Althea felt anything but safe. She wanted to find the women, find Soren and get out of the trees as soon as possible.
I’m not here to hurt you, I’m from the village. Please, come out and let’s go…before they come back…!
“Well, well, well…what have we ‘ere?” Althea froze, the hairs on her neck standing up with rapidly growing panic. The voice that came from behind her was gravely and thick and anything but friendly.

Turning slowly Althea found herself face to face with a thick set man, probably around ten years older than her, who hadn’t washed in days going by the stubble on his chin alone. His eyes were beady, greedy and, at that moment, roaming without any attempt at discretion across her body. Sparkling with undisguised pleasure as they found her bare legs.
“You look like you’re a long way from home girlie,” The man took a step towards her. Althea glanced around, looking for a potential weapon. Using something from her bag would take lightning speed from her and the reactions of a snail from him, something she knew would be nigh on impossible.
“All sorts of things can happy to a pretty face out here…” Another step forward, his booted feet eating up the ground between them.

I’m not here on my own…!” Althea exclaimed, backing away and cursing quietly as she bumped into a tree blocking her path. Her voice level but her throat feeling suddenly tight.
“You look like you’re on your own to me sweetheart,” The bandit’s voice was oddly loud in the silence of the glade.
As he lunged for her and knocked her to the ground, large sweaty hands quickly pinning her down and starting to pull at her dress, Althea ruefully thought that Soren and Master Dagda might have been right.
She shouldn’t have gone into the woods.
She couldn’t help anyone, she couldn’t even help herself.
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Old 11-14-2010, 08:38 AM   #13
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Soren ran through the undergrowth, dropping his bow in the rush. He gripped the sword, trying to remind himself of why he came out there. He reached a small clearing, and skidded to a halt and turned to face the bandit chasing him. Soren had little time to prepare as the roughly bearded fellow charged out of the trees. Soren felt the blood drain from his face as his sword moved to parry the blow. His arm was almost jarred by the impact, and he managed to deflect the blade enough to not be wounded by the blow. Soren briefly thought that farming wasn't so bad after all.

He returned his focus to the fight, as the bandit made another swing. Soren was more confident in his ability to stop the blow, doing a far better job the second time around. He made his own attack, that was easily stopped, but he left himself open in the process. The bandit struck near his left shoulder, cutting through the leather breastplate and cutting his flesh. Soren cried out in pain, feeling the blood flowing beneath his armour.

He reverted to farmyard scraping as well as using the sword. He lashed out with a kick, hitting the inside of the bandit's knee. He heard a popping sound, and the bandit dropped to the ground. Soren hesitated for a moment before striking at the back of the man's neck. Soren was sprayed with blood, but hit him again, hearing the crunch of bone and the man fell flat to the ground. Soren watched as the man quickly bled to death, if he was still alive.

Remembering why he was there, he ran back towards the bandit's camp. He had survived his first fight and he was going to save the damsels in distress. He ran past the body of the sentry he killed and past the other bandit his a shot. The camp was empty, but he heard sounds of a struggle. He saw one of the remaining bandits trying to rape one of the women. With a loud cry, he charged across the clearing to the attack the other bandit. The man stood up, and turned to face his attacker. But he moved too slowly. Soren reached out, grabbed the man, and rammed his sword through the bandit's chest and out his back. Soren limply let the man fall to the ground, the sword stuck in the dead man's chest.

He heard nothing. He saw no other bandits near by. The adrenaline wore off, and the pain kicked in. He saw the blood over him, and felt his own flowing warmly down his torso. It was then he saw Althea on the ground where the bandit was going to rape...

"Gods! Althea, are you alright?" He went to reach for her and felt dizzy, dropping to one knee, and using his left hand to brace himself. The impact caused him to call out in pain, his face draining of all colour, as fresh blood came out through the rent in his armour.

"Althea," he gasped, "one of the bandits managed to hit me." He fell into an awkward sitting position, watching the world spin and tumble before him.
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Old 11-16-2010, 07:51 AM   #14
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Althea scratched and clawed at any part of the bandit that came within reach. Dragging her nails down the side of his face earned her a swift slap across her own which shocked her enough for him to quickly grab both hands and hold them high above her head. She screamed, trying to keep her legs pressed tightly together against his knee which was jabbing painfully between them, trying to prise them apart. She was determined not to give in without a fight.

Another cry as his free hand made light work of ripping her dress. First the neckline suffered, revealing far more of her soft round globes than any man, or any other, had ever seen of them besides herself. Then her skirts fell prey to his tearing strokes. The outer layer of her dress then the underskirts. Althea screamed once more as his knee finally worked between her thighs and was swiftly followed by the rest of his body. Falling heavily onto her and making her groan as the air was driven from her lungs. As his hand shifted its focus and frantically began pulling at his own clothes.

Althea was about to give up when suddenly a noise broke through the air and the weight of the bandit lifted from upon her. Althea pulled at her ruined dress and sat up in time to see the point of a sword appear through the middle of the bandit’s back. As he dropped to the floor Althea felt like crying as Soren came into view. Relief, the like of which she’d never before experienced, washed over her and made her whole body feel limp.

"Gods! Althea, are you alright?"
As she reached towards the hand he held out to her Althea noticed the strange expression on his face moments before he collapsed onto his knee and she suddenly saw blood oozing from a slash in his breast plate.
As he dropped onto his behind and his eyes met hers unsteadily, she scrambled to his side.
"Althea…one of the bandits managed to hit me."
Just sit…sit still and try to keep calm…” Althea whispered, although she wasn’t sure who the last part was truly aimed at.

With shaking fingers she found the straps that fastened the breast plate closed and eased the armour from his front. She winced as his blood stained clothing came into view. It was sodden, almost black. Tossing the breast plate aside, Althea began to try and ease the bloodied shirt over his head but the hiss that followed her initial attempts made her stop instantly.
She reached into her small bag and withdrew a short, sharp knife. She used it for cutting herbs and plants but now it would have a slightly different purpose. Lifting up the shirt, she slipped the blade beneath and pulled upwards. The knife slicing through the fabric like butter. She peeled the material back and off his shoulder.

She swallowed back the gasp that rose into her throat and instead settled for saying softly,
It’s not that bad, I need to clean it up a little so I can take a proper look but here…
Another item was pulled from her bag, a small glass phial within which were some tiny black seeds. She pulled out the cork and tipped it to his lips.
These will help with the pain…” Making sure no more than a few passed into his mouth, Althea put the stopper back in and replaced it in her bag. More than a few and he would be unconscious but a few should help take the edge off the pain in his shoulder.

Leaning closer she tentatively pressed the wound. It was smaller than she thought it would be but was obviously deep. She needed something clean to clear the blood so she could see it properly, and check that there was nothing else hidden underneath it, another wound to deal with. Reaching into the shredded mess that was now her skirts, she tore off a strip of her shift. It was the cleanest thing to hand. Gently she began wiping away the red liquid that was staining his chest.

It was only then she realised how close she was, how close they were. She could feel his breath on the back of her neck where her hair had fallen to the side. She could feel the warmth of him, the heat radiating off the flesh, in front of her. Realising how much of her body was on show, the ripped neckline of her dress and the position she was in provided a more than partial view of her breasts. Her bare legs curled under her and were revealed in places up to her thighs through the shredded cloth. She tried to focus on the task at hand, attempting to ignore the worrying feeling that had sprung up in her stomach. The dried blood would have to remain as she had nothing to ease it off his skin with.

Once the wound was relatively clear, Althea placed her hand over the top of it pressed gently. Applying pressure to try and help it to close, her lips murmuring the words of an incantation to do the same. Her eyes were closed and the glade was still, she focused all her energy on Soren and his wound. After a few moments she pulled back slightly and smiled with a touch of pride to see it had stopped bleeding and the sides of the wound were decidedly closer than they had been.

Sitting back on her heels, she reached into her bag once more and swiftly found the things she was looking for. She combined some comfrey leaves and garlic, smashing them into a paste like substance, in her palm.
She began pressing the crushed concoction carefully onto what was left of the cut, trying not to cause him more pain than was necessary.
It smells, I know but…but it will help the wound heal and keep it clean…
Another few strips of cloth from her shift and she made a makeshift bandage and dressing.
You’ll need to change that when you get home but it’ll get us back to the village,

Althea wiped her hands and looked a little awkwardly into Soren’s face.
Thank you…thank you for saving me,” She pushed some of her hair behind her ear shyly. “If you hadn’t have come when you did I don’t want to think what might have been my fate. I…well, I’m in your debt.

Before she could say anything else there was a sudden rushing sound and the glade was no longer silent. Althea was knocked back as the women from the village appeared beside them and promptly fell on Soren with whimpers of thanks and gushes of how brave he had been, fawning over his injury.
Althea put everything back into her bag and rose, trying unsuccessfully to make her dress a little more presentable and ignore the new feeling that had sprung up inside her. She didn’t like it one bit, it was hot and prickly and, perhaps what was much more worrying, it felt like jealousy.

We should get back, shouldn’t we?” She asked pointedly when it became clear Soren wasn’t going to move them of his own accord.
Soon enough they were heading back through the trees towards the village. One of the women appeared next to Althea for a moment, her eyes wide and dewed with amazement as she looked at Soren walking ahead of them.
“Isn’t he brave…imagine facing all those men single handed…” She gushed before hurrying to catch up with the other women who were walking as close to the farmer as they could.

Yeah…single handed…” Muttered Althea bitterly as she followed a few paces behind the fawning group and the white haired man in their centre. Without me he’d have bled to death and one of you would have been savagely raped…but yeah, he’s very brave…, she thought to herself as the trees began to thin ahead. The village wasn’t far away now and Althea couldn’t wait to get home, get out of her ruined clothes and as far away from Soren and his 'fans' as she could.

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Old 11-20-2010, 09:28 AM   #15
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Soren was dimly aware of what was happening to him. Althea was talking to him, doing something with him that was painful at times. He was vaguely aware of more skin that normal being seen, but the importance didn't register. He felt something touch his bottom lip, and small items hitting his tongue. He rolled them around, before resting them between his teeth and crushing them. After a few seconds, things started to change and he was feeling not quite so bad.

He became acutely aware of Althea as she tended to him. His foggy mind remembered seeing a lot of Althea's natural assets being displayed in a rather provocative manner. He was also aware that there was something wrong about the reason for her doing it. When her breasts disappeared from view, his eyes found the exposed length of leg, which helped him deal with the pain of what she was doing.

But when she placed her hands over his wound, that's when the weirdness started. The skin and flesh under her hands warmed up, hotter than from the press of her hands. He was sure that the wound and blood loss was effecting his mind. There was no way she would have been able to do that. By the time he had worked through that line of thought, Althea had placed some foul smelling concoction on the wound, and was tying it in place.

"Thank you," he whispered to Althea.

“Thank you…thank you for saving me. If you hadn’t have come when you did I don’t want to think what might have been my fate. I…well, I’m in your debt.”

"No." He gently shook his head. "I am -"

There were others around him, and he felt panic rise in him. Then their voices cut through to his brain and he realized that they were the farm women he had come to rescue. Their words were a jumble.

"It's... it's ok. I'm... I'm fine. Or I will be." He smiled wanly. He was weak, but found that he was strong enough to stand. He was helped by the three farmers which made him a little self conscious. He staggered over to where his sword was still buried in the bandit's corpse. He gripped the handle, and placed a foot on the body before pulling the sword free. He almost fell over, but the two younger women caught him, and steadied him enough not to fall over completely.

“We should get back, shouldn’t we?” Soren nodded, ripping some cloth of the dead man, and he started to wipe down the blade as he walked off in what he hoped was the right direction for the village. Again the words of the rescued women washed over him as he divided his attention between two things. Getting them back to the village, and wondering what exactly Althea had done to him. He looked back at her, his confusion was evident in the way he looked at her. He knew that there was more to her than she was letting on, and whatever it was had saved his life. He had misjudged her.

"Marci, I know that Soren is without a wife. You would make a perfect wife for him. It would be a good match being wed to one as brave as him." Soren looked back at the path they were walking, blushing furiously as the two married women continued to sing the praises of the union of the two young farmers.

When they reached the outskirts of the forest, the village was within view. The small group wandered towards the buildings. A cry went out, and people came running to greet them. Soren felt sore, and cold. He remembered that his shirt was back at the bandit camp, soaked with his blood. He stood amongst the women, towering over them with his broad shoulders and powerful chest exposed for all to see. Normally, he wouldn't mind, but for some strange reason, he felt that it was wrong.

Many voices asked questions that blurred into a meaningless noise. The effort to get himself back to the village was almost too much for his wounded body. Some of the elder members of the village saw he needed rest. The Elder made a room available for him to rest, until he could return to his family.

As Soren was led away, the elders focused their questions on the women who were saved. The three farm women explained what happened to them, confirming that they had been raped though spared people the details, along with the daring rescue by Soren. The spoke of the two they saw him kill, and that there was at least one more that died at his hands. They spoke of Althea's tending to his wounds once the fighting was over, and how Soren led them back to the village.

One of the senior men of the village looked at Althea, noticing that she had not said much while the others spoke. He leveled an inquisitive look at her.

"Is it true, Althea? You healed Soren? Did you see other bandits that either escaped or were slain? Were you hurt too?"
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Old 11-25-2010, 02:44 PM   #16
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“Is it true, Althea? You healed Soren? Did you see other bandits that either escaped or were slain? Were you hurt too?”
Althea had lost herself in her own angry thoughts, watching an unsteady Soren being escorted away to rest, when she was suddenly aware she was being addressed by an elder.
What…?” She replied sharply before remembering just who she was talking to. She bowed her head slightly and quickly changed her tone. “Forgive me, sir, I think the stresses of the last few hours have taken their toll…
“It is to be expected,” came the response, nothing short of patronising. “Now, Althea…the others who were kidnapped have told us of the vile crimes they suffered at the hands of the bandits, please tell us you escaped unharmed…”

I wasn’t hurt, have no fear,” A sigh of relief rose up from the large mass of villagers gathered around to watch and listen, realising how she must look with her dress and underclothes in the tattered state they were in. She tried, in vain, to cover up a little. Sighing with gratitude as one woman appeared beside her with a shawl to wrap around her shoulders and preserve a little of her modesty. “And all but one of the bandits are dead. The last ran away and I doubt he’ll be back anytime soon. But, look, I wasn’t kid-

“And you helped Soren…?” A different voice rang out. Althea sought out the owner of the familiar voice and felt her cheeks turn a little pink. Dagda was stood in the middle of the crowd.
One of the bandits stabbed him, in the chest, I…well, I cleansed and dressed the wound…” Althea replied quietly, before one of the breathless farm women cut over her.

“Oh it was awful, there was blood everywhere…!” As she gushed on about the severity and goriness of Soren’s wound, Althea spent the time trying to avoid Dagda’s piercing gaze, her emerald eyes fixed on the dust road at her feet, pulling the woollen shawl closer around her body.
As a rush of questions rose up from the gathered crowd but one of the elders hushed them.
“These young women need to go to their homes, to recover from their ordeals, there will be plenty of time for questions tomorrow…”

The crowd dispersed, the farm women being escorted to a wagon which would take them back to their farms. Althea turned to head for the other end of the village and her home when she found her path blocked.
Dagda was stood, leaning on his stick, face furious. By the time he spoke they were the only two left out in the road.

“Just what were you doing out there in the woods, after I told you not to go…?” He demanded quietly.
I thought I could help,” Althea replied bluntly.
“And did you?” Dagda’s tone was no different to hers.
Actually, yes, I did. I used a banishing charm to send one bandit packing and saved one of those simpering twits from being raped. And I did heal Soren.” Althea tilted her chin towards the darkening sky. “So yes, I think I did help…
“And your dress, might I ask what happened to that?”
Well, I…” Althea’s cheeks coloured once more.
“I think I can guess. Do you realise what could have happened to you if Soren hadn’t been there?” Dagda’s tone had softened slightly but the impact of his words was just as strong as if he had yelled them in her face. She looked down at the ground once more and tried not to cry.

I made a mistake, alright, are you happy now? I’m a big failure.” Althea raised her green gaze to meet his, the motion allowing a tear to glide down her cheek.
“No, I’m not happy. I was worried when I realised where you’d gone.”
But how-?
“Your mother came by to drop off some food for us and that’s when I realised what you were doing. That you’d lied to your mother and gone against my wishes.”
Every word dealt another blow, her stomach aching with remorse for what she’d done.
“You could have been seriously hurt Althea and no, I’m not happy you failed but neither am I happy that you went at all. I asked you to wait, until you were ready.”
I’m sorry…
“I know you are, now run along home. Your mother has been sick with worry. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Thank you Master Dagda,” Without another word, Althea walked dejectedly towards her home. The slight relief that Dagda was going to continue her training was of little consolation when their small cottage came into view and the strained face of her mother in the window.

Lowering her head once more, Althea walked slowly up the path and through the front door. She’d barely set foot inside when her mother enveloped her in a crushing hug and pressed a damp cheek to hers. She’d been crying and Althea felt the worse guilt of all to know she’d caused those tears.
“Oh thank god, thank god…I thought, I don’t know what I thought…” The relief swiftly turned into motherly anger. “What on earth did you think you were doing…?!” She gently but firmly pushed Althea back, holding her shoulders and looking determinedly into her face. “You could have been killed, you could have been…” Her mothers’ eyes fell and caught sight of the remains of her dress. Sagging slightly and going pale, she released her daughter’s shoulders.

“Oh dear, dear god, no…they…they didn’t…?”
No Mother, they didn’t…they tried but they didn’t…” Althea insisted quickly. “And I’m sorry, I just…I just wanted to help…
“I know you did, but you have to learn dearest, there are just some things we can’t do…no matter how much we want to…” Her mother’s tone grew gentle. Although the anger had passed, an echo of disappointment remained. “Now, go and get out of those rags and I’ll draw you a nice bath…”

Thank you…” Was all Althea trusted herself to say before heading to her room. Quietly she closed the door behind her and sank onto her bed. She glanced down at the ruined clothing and the flesh revealed beneath it. Angry hot tears began to fall down her cheeks and for a few minutes, she did nothing to stop them.

She was angry with Dagda for not believing in her, angry with herself for not being able to prove to him that she had helped, she really had. But mostly she was angry with Soren. He could have told everyone the part she played. He could have made it known he didn’t do it alone. But he hadn’t. He’d kept quiet and let everyone believe she was just another helpless victim. At that moment, as she peeled off the dress and let it fall to the floor, there was no one she hated more.
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Old 11-29-2010, 09:15 PM   #17
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Soren was in a daze as the villagers led him to the Elder's home. He remembered that Althea had done something special to help him. She felt different somehow. Whatever she had given him, it was starting to wear off and his shoulder was starting to flare in pain.

He was taken into a room, dimly lit and cool. Hands helped him lay down, and no sooner was he comfortable, he was asleep.

His dreams were reruns of what happened in the fights with the bandits. He saw it all in slow motion. The track of his arrows as they flew through the air striking the bandits. Seeing what he did right and wrong. The same with the sword fights. But what surprised him the most was the visions of Althea. He saw her with her skirts hitched up, showing her legs. He saw how fine they looked. She was one who walked everywhere, and that made her legs very appealing. He felt the time he had her on the ground. The softness of her body under his, how good it felt to have her in such a way.

Then there was her in her torn dress. He had seen parts of a woman that were normally kept private. He lived on a farmstead, and certain practicalities in courtships were different to those in the village, or so he gathered. He had seen the bare chest of a woman who was interested in him, until someone else with better prospects ensnared her, and got to see even more than he did. But the tantalizing glimpses of what the Gods gifted her with was stirring his blood in ways he hadn't felt in a while.

He also remembered clearly how he felt when he saw the bandit upon her, trying to rape her. He felt a deep burning anger that someone was doing that to her. That he had failed her in the moment she needed him.

His dreams then dissolved into the normal fare of a young man thinking about an attractive woman. It all revolved around the variation of the general theme of the two of them and sex. Positions, locations, and other minor details changed but the two of them enjoyed it regardless of the changed details.

Over the space of a few days, he did little more than eat and sleep. His parents came to see him, more proud than angry at his deeds, rejoicing in the fact that he was alive. He was asked about what happened, and he told them the truth. Yet, it seemed that his version of what happened with Althea seemed to not be heard, or merely dismissed as some delusion from his injuries.

One thing that everyone agreed with was that her skills at healing were truly gifted, and that he healed well and quickly. His shoulder still ached, but it felt much better than he thought it would. He still clearly remembered the feel of her hand over the wound. How her hand was warmer than it should have been. And there was something else strange about the feel of it too.

He dragged himself out of bed. He groaned a little as his shoulder once more reminded him of its state. To his surprise he found clean clothes waiting for him. He put them on, and went out to find Althea. Once he was outside, he realized he had no idea of where she would be.
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Old 12-01-2010, 05:07 AM   #18
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The next few days were relatively calm for Althea. True she was stopped wherever she went and questioned about the events in the woods. She heard Soren’s name more times than she cared to count and each time met it with a forced smile and an admission that yes, he was incredibly brave and strong and yes, she didn’t know what they would have done without him.

She tried to ignore the oddly jealous sensations that rose up when the other young women of the village pined for him and his injury, wondering if perhaps they should visit with fruit and homemade dishes to aid his recovery. Ideas she was unusually quick to dismiss, saying almost before they could finish their musings that the elders were not allowing anyone to visit him. Why should she care who visited him, or cooked for him. It was all so confusing.

Thankfully Dagda let her work in the garden for the majority of her visits, allowing her time with her thoughts and giving her space to work out her frustrations against the weeds that crept amongst the carefully tended herbs and flowers. He made no attempt to discuss what had happened and for that Althea was incredibly grateful. He didn’t scold her or punish her by taking away the opportunity to learn he just gave her the time she needed to clear her mind so she could dedicate herself properly to what he was willing to teach her.

Basket in hand she was walking slowly back towards her home one afternoon when her usually steady step faltered. Up ahead, clearly looking for something or someone, stood Soren. His build and hair meant he stood out in a crowd at the best of times but in the fairly empty road he stood out more than ever. Althea hesitated, her path would take her where he stood and somehow she sensed she might be the one he was looking for. She wet her lips, letting out a long breath. She didn’t want to cause a scene. He had saved her from a terrible fate at the hands of the bandit who attacked her and dealt with the others just as effectively. She tried to tell herself that it wasn’t his fault that the villagers who stopped her and farmers who had passed through believed her to be nothing more than another victim, that at least her healing skills had been recognised but the prickly anger at being dismissed as she had been had already begun to build in her stomach.

As she began to walk towards him Althea tried to clear her mind, focusing on the places she felt most calm and at ease. In the woods, amongst natures, the plants and wildlife she knew and understood. But instead of calming her, thinking of the woods created new, confusing feelings. The more she focused her mind on the trees and woodland paths that had offered her an escape throughout her youth, the more Soren permeated her thoughts.

All at once she could smell the rich earth and the leaves beneath her as he pushed her down, the feeling of his strong, broad frame on top of hers. She could feel the warmth of his skin and his breath. She shook her head as if that would help but doing so only refocused her eyes on him as she drew nearer, sending truly astonishing images racing through her brain, his body and hers, entwining again and again.

Good day, Master Soren, I’m glad to see you’re recovering. I am sorry to say that I can’t stop, I am on my way to an appointment and I am already late,” She lied, making sure to avoid his eyes as she attempted to step around him, just in case the thoughts that had recently been running wild through her head were shining in hers.

If you’ll excuse me…” Gasping louder than she intended as his hand moved to block her way. He didn’t touch her but he might as well have grabbed her for the effect it had, stopping her dead mid-stride. Her heart began to pound in her chest as she looked up into his face. All the feelings of resentment and frustration she’d been trying to ignore since their return to the village were sent rushing through her veins as their eyes met.
Let me pass…please…” Her voice was quieter than usual.

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Old 12-06-2010, 06:50 AM   #19
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Soren tried to think of how to find Althea, but he didn't know where she lived, or what she did around the village. Part of him was afraid to ask others in case they got the wrong idea for the reason he was asking. He had heard snippets of the talk in the village, and he was now viewed as a worthy husband. He had even heard the Village Elder say that he wanted Soren to continue his weapon training, and they were looking for someone to help him train.

But he needed to talk to Althea, to find out what she did to him when she healed him. He also wanted to talk to her about how he felt about her. He was confused when he thought of her. She ignored him when he told her to go back to the village. He remembered the way she felt pressed underneath him. How she looked at him after she tended to him. And how she looked after they left the bandit's camp. It was totally different to the one before.

He was about to give up and return to the Elder's home when Althea came into view. He felt his stomach clench at the sight of her, and he was reminded of the glimpses of flesh from her torn dress. He felt his temperature rising as well. He had heard more than one tale from Sarathi about when he courted his wife, and how she made him feel. Was he feeling the same thing for Althea?

“Good day, Master Soren, I’m glad to see you’re recovering. I am sorry to say that I can’t stop, I am on my way to an appointment and I am already late. If you’ll excuse me…”

"Mistress Althea," he replied with a polite nod. "Thank you for your kind words, but we need to talk." He put his arm out blocking the exact route that Althea was trying to take. It was easily avoided, as the road was wide enough for her to pass even if he stood with both arms extended. His eyes had been on her face the entire time, trying desperately to avoid looking at her bountiful body again. When she finally looked at him, there was something odd about her return gaze.

“Let me pass…please…”

"No." Soren wasn't normally so impolite as to ignore a request put in such a manner, but he really needed to talk to her. "Come with me, Althea. We need somewhere... quiet to have our talk. Unless you want the villagers to hear what my suspicions about you are."

His arm went behind her, again not touching her as he guided her to the edge of the village and just into the outer edges of the nearby woods. They went deep enough to stop their voices carrying too far as they talked, but not too deep as to be caught by anything troublesome.

"What did you do to me?" He hissed, as he closed the distance between them to almost nothing. "When you laid your hands on my wound. What happened then? What did you do? There was something more than just a touch.

"And by the Gods, Althea, what were you doing in the bandit's camp? Apart from being an unwilling bedmate?" He couldn't bring himself to say the proper word to describe what was going to happen.
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Old 12-07-2010, 03:37 AM   #20
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"Come with me, Althea. We need somewhere... quiet to have our talk. Unless you want the villagers to hear what my suspicions about you are."
Althea felt some of the colour drain from her face at his words, panic about what these suspicions might be making her walk without question towards the tree line bordering the village. Her heart was thudding ominously in her ears and her throat suddenly dry as they picked their way amongst the trunks until they came to a halt just out of earshot of the village.

"What did you do to me?" Althea found herself taking a half step back as Soren suddenly moved to stand before her. His frame towering over her as his voice demanded as loudly as he dared. "When you laid your hands on my wound. What happened then? What did you do? There was something more than just a touch.”
I…well, I…” Althea stammered, craning her neck to meet his curious eyes while her mind raced to think of a suitable explanation.

"And by the Gods, Althea, what were you doing in the bandit's camp? Apart from being an unwilling bedmate?" The colour flooded back onto her cheeks at his last words.
For a moment she debated lying, saying his pain must have clouded his recollection of what happened. That all she had done was clean and dress his wound the best she could in the circumstances. But she knew that simply wasn’t an option. He obviously remembered enough and given the way he was holding his arm her attempt at healing him seemed to have worked too well for it to be dismissed as something mundane.

I…I’m a…I’m a sindra…a magic user, or at least I’m learning to be one…” She blurted out after a moment’s hesitation. “I’m studying under-” She hesitated again, not wanting to reveal Dagda as her tutor. That was his secret to reveal to whomever he chose, not hers. “Studying under a very experienced sindra who has travelled all over the land. He chose me out of everyone else and thinks I have a gift.” Her chin tilted a little proudly at that.

I used a healing charm to help speed up your recovery, that’s all,” Althea’s gaze dropped from his face, almost bashfully, falling to his chest and for a second the sight of it bare and warm before her flashed into her mind’s eye, a strange desire to lean into him and press her cheek to his chest pushed its way into her thoughts. She forced herself to look back up into his face, eyes a little wider than usual. “Please, please don’t tell anyone…my own mother doesn’t know about my lessons…

His second set of questions then repeated themselves in her head and she frowned a little.
And I was at the camp trying to help. There was a bandit trying to…force himself on one of the women and I, well, I used a banishing spell to send him away. But when I ran after the women to tell them it was safe to come out that’s when the other bandit found me…
Althea stepped away from Soren slightly, her fingers flexing back and forth, forming fists and then releasing as she tried to fight the indignation rising sharply inside her.

So you see you didn’t do it all by yourself, not that anyone here will ever know that. They think I’m just another hapless victim of the bandits who was saved by the ‘big brave Soren’” At these last three words she steepled her hands under her chin and fluttered her eyelashes in an over the top impression of a swooning damsel before wrinkling her delicate nose in disgust.

I notice you were in no hurry to set the record straight either and why would you? After all, now you can have the pick of the village’s women, everyone loves you, everyone thinks you the conquering hero!” Althea stood before him, hands on her hips, eyes flashing with anger and chin still tilted upwards almost challengingly. “Meanwhile I’m thought of as being no better than the simpering fools that got themselves captured in the first place! And that’s all thanks to you! But I’m sure you’ll understand if I don’t grovel at your feet like everyone else!
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Old 12-11-2010, 08:57 PM   #21
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Althea's reply stunned Soren. He had never even thought of what the answer could be. So when he finally got it, he was ill prepared.

'A sindra,' Soren thought. 'They are... were just people of stories, they aren't real.' He looked at Althea in a new light. He remembered how he felt as she healed him with the... magic. He couldn't easily dismiss that.

But then her words and attitude changed. She was angry at him, accusing him of things he didn't do. He was left confused, and getting somewhat angry himself.

"What?!?" He shook his head, the prior thoughts about her being a Sindra being swept away. "What are you talking about? I had no idea that you did anything to any of the other bandits. I am not like you! I can't," he wriggled his fingers at her face, "cast some spell and read your mind. All I saw was that you were in trouble. It scared me more than anything else, until the fighting was over, and I felt the pain.

"And don't blame me for what other people choose to think. Even when I told them that you had not been captured like the others. By the time I could actually be well enough to talk, the people had made up their own minds and weren't really listening to me. Did I go out there to get attention from the local women? No. I went out there because I wanted to save people that I knew. I had the ability to do something about it."

It took him a moment for something about what she had said to click in his mind.

"Anyway, why are you so angry about the other women talking so well of me? Are you afraid that I will look at someone else before I look at you? Is that it? Are you jealous of all those women grovelling at my feet? Oh, please show me where they are, because I have not seen a single one yet.

"And as for those simpering fools who allowed themselves to be captured, don't be too quick to call names on those who got themselves captured by a bandit. Since... you... were... caught... too. Remember?"

He found himself standing right in front of Althea, looming over her, full of anger that was becoming more a rage.

"Yes, I am grateful for your saving my life. Yes, saving my life. I am sure that I would have died if not for you. That is something that I will always remember, Althea, even if no one else does. But if this is the way you are going to thank me for stopping someone from... violating you, then I will not ever think of doing so again."
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Old 01-06-2011, 05:14 AM   #22
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"What?!? What are you talking about? I had no idea that you did anything to any of the other bandits. I am not like you! I can't…cast some spell and read your mind.” Althea felt herself recoil slightly as he waved his fingers in a childish imitation of someone casting a spell.

As he spoke of the villagers making up their own minds about what had happened with the bandits Althea folded her arms over her chest and tipped her face towards the sky. There was probably a grain of truth to his words, she knew it in her heart, but her anger was such that she couldn’t admit it. As least not yet, her anger was in fact waning but it hadn’t yet left her completely.

"Anyway, why are you so angry about the other women talking so well of me? Are you afraid that I will look at someone else before I look at you? Is that it? Are you jealous of all those women grovelling at my feet? Oh, please show me where they are, because I have not seen a single one yet.”
Don’t be ridiculous!” Althea almost yelped. “Have no fear on that score, farmer. Jealous? I doubt it!” Her anger rapidly returning to the boil as an unexpected rush of embarrassment came upon her. Her mind taunting her with confusing images once again, his bare skin and her bare skin, hands stroking, exploring…

"And as for those simpering fools who allowed themselves to be captured, don't be too quick to call names on those who got themselves captured by a bandit. Since... you... were... caught... too. Remember?"
Althea was snapped out of her mind's confusing thoughts when she realised Soren was not only stood in front of her, he was standing over her. His large frame towering over hers and his own temper clearly on the rise given the reddening of his complexion.

"Yes, I am grateful for your saving my life. Yes, saving my life. I am sure that I would have died if not for you. That is something that I will always remember, Althea, even if no one else does. But if this is the way you are going to thank me for stopping someone from... violating you, then I will not ever think of doing so again."

Why you…you…” For the first time she could remember, words failed her and Althea was left with her mouth gaping at Soren like a fish out of water. “How dare you…

For a second, she wasn’t sure why she felt so insulted but the feeling was there all the same and it was rapidly spiralling out of her control. She felt her arm moving before she could do anything about it. Her open palm rushing up towards Soren’s face. Whether she hoped to slap some sense into him and snap him out of his rage she didn’t know but either way, the slap never connected. Strong fingers caught her wrist and held it tightly.

Let go of me,” Althea said quietly, eyes now burning with a furious fire. She waited, glowering up at him as he continued to hold her wrist with little effort, holding back her arm as if there were no force on her side at all. “I said, let go!” As she finished speaking her free hand flew skyward, aiming this time with nothing but intent towards his face.
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Old 01-15-2011, 07:49 AM   #23
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The blow was hard, even though it was delivered with a flat hand. Soren's head turned under its passage. He parents had delivered worse to him, even in recent times. He was not so much hurt, but surprised by the delivery. With the interception of the first blow, he thought himself safe from further attempts, but he was proven wrong.

"You ungrateful bitch," Soren spoke softly. "Fine, I will let you go." He put all his strength behind the push he gave her, using the arm that held hers. He watched her sail backward, falling to the ground in a less than dignified manner. He stalked over to tower over her, his anger loose from its reigns.

"Fear not, mighty Sindra. This mere farmer will not lift a finger to save you again in future, since it offends you so greatly. Your secret is safe with me too, Althea. I will not sully your reputation as a potential wife by telling others of your fullest abilities."

He walked away from Althea, feeling deeply hurt by what had happened. Soren was confused by what he was feeling. The words she said were painful, but the wounds of her words cut deeper. He was grateful for her saving his life. He was also going to keep her secret for her. But her anger at the attention he was receiving from other women hit him harder. He knew that there had been some of the village women, and indeed a few farmer's daughters that had started to take some attention in him, but he wasn't interested in them.

"Does that mean I am interested in her? I mean, she is a nice woman and all, when she's not being a stubborn mule in her thinking. Althea does have a good body too from what I saw of it." The memories of her torn dress, as well as exposed legs made his face heat and his heart race. He also recalled how she was under him when the bandits first passed. How soft she felt, and how good it seemed to be with her like that. His face blazed further, and he stopped to allow himself time to let it cool down.

"Well, given how she was just now, I don't think that she will want to join her house with mine. I need to get home. Mother and father will be worried I'm sure."

Soren went back to the Elder's house where he had been recovering. He found the house to be deserted, so he gathered all his possessions, and started to walk back to his home.

~||~

Soren laid down in his bed, sore, tired, drunk and thoroughly confused. The farmstead held a huge feast on his return, congratulating him on his efforts for saving the women taken by the bandits. The Drasi had sent over a barrel of ale as thank you for Soren's efforts. During the feast, Soren's mug never even got close to empty as someone would fill it as soon as he took a drink from it. His injuries were still a little tender, and whatever had happened after his drinking, he was not too sure. He knew that a couple of women of the stead were unmarried, and they all spoke with him at length about his prospects. He remembered them all looking unhappy when they finished talking to him, though he couldn't remember a single word he said.

He dropped onto his pallet, sitting still for a moment or two while his body caught up with where he was, and what was happening. He swayed a little while his stomach settled. His eyes fluttered closed and he dropped down onto his sleeping spot, completely unconscious before his head hit his pillow.
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Old 01-21-2011, 04:11 PM   #24
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Even though she struck the blow, the sound of it shocked Althea. She jumped a little as his skin cracked beneath her palm. She was sure she hadn’t hurt Soren but the fact that she’d actually done it, that she’d actually been so angry as to strike him, confused and worried her greatly.
"You ungrateful bitch. Fine, I will let you go."

Althea gasped as he shoved her backwards, then made a slight huff as her rear connected roughly with the ground. She looked up from her position among the leaves and dirt, craning her neck to meet his furious gaze. Her behind smarted but she refused to show it on her face as his own anger bubbled over.
"Fear not, mighty Sindra. This mere farmer will not lift a finger to save you again in future, since it offends you so greatly. Your secret is safe with me too, Althea. I will not sully your reputation as a potential wife by telling others of your fullest abilities."

Althea remained on the ground, watching as his back slowly disappeared amongst the leaves and branches. Her body trembling with a combination of rage and, surprisingly, despair. She pulled her knees up to her chest and wrapped her arms around them. Sitting in silence she tried to calm herself, to reason with herself that there was simply no reason to get so worked up about everything that had happened since her path had crossed with Soren’s.
Hot tears leaked onto her face as his words echoed in her mind. He had been so furious and yet if he’d only been angry she was sure she wouldn’t have cared. It was that tone of…disappointment in his voice that had stung her so painfully. The idea that he somehow thought less of her hurt her more than she could begin to explain.

Furiously brushing non-existent debris from her dress, Althea stood and headed back towards the village. Although she found herself stopping every few steps to kick angrily at a stone or just to catch her breath and stop the confusing feelings from rising up inside her. She hadn’t gotten far when she found herself sinking down onto a fallen tree trunk. Althea rested her elbows on her knees and laid her head in her hands.

What’s wrong with me…?!” She groaned to the forest.
She shouldn’t care, she knew that. Whatever Soren’s opinion of her might be, it shouldn’t concern her. Their lives were on separate paths and if they hadn’t have crossed by chance, then she wouldn’t be sat in the trees feeling so awful. But she was.

Althea frowned. Could Soren have been right? Was she really jealous? She chewed on her lower lip for a moment as she played back their encounters in her mind’s eye. She remembered him pushing her down, to save them both from discovery, remembered feeling his strong, broad frame on top of hers, the heat of his closeness. Then she thought of healing him, of exposing his muscled torso, of leaning close, feeling his breath upon her neck. She shivered as the memory replayed, a hand absent-mindedly rising to hold the back of her neck. Then came the anger when the women had returned, how they had pushed her aside, how her conversation with Soren had been interrupted. The inexplicable panic that had followed that he might not want to continue talking to her once there was prettier company, fawning company, around.

But…how? Why…?” She murmured, rising from the tree trunk and continuing along the path. “I barely know him and yet…” Althea blushed as her imagination finished her sentence for her. She shook her head and picked up the pace a little. Being among the trees seemed to make her memories of their adventure seem all the more real, she wanted to get back out into the open. “It’s not even as if we have anything in common,” She reasoned aloud, the path coming into view beyond the tree line.

Although, her mind reminded her cruelly, that wasn’t strictly true. They had been both in the woods with the same purpose. They had both been trying to help. They had both clearly been keeping secrets from those around them.
With her mind and heart still confused but her mood somewhat lighter, Althea headed home. She would go to Dagda’s in the morning to continue her lessons and she would try to put Soren out of her mind.

Althea had just set foot onto the path leading up to the front door of their home when the door opened and her mother walked out followed by a young man. Althea frowned slightly when she recognised him as the son of a local merchant, wealthy and not a family they had much to do with. She forced her face into a smile as her mother waved her over, almost too enthusiastically.

“Althea, dear, look who called round,” Her mother was beaming with excitement.
I can see, Mother, good evening Jameth,” Althea acknowledged him with a slight incline of her head.
“Good evening, Althea, you’re looking lovely as always,” He nodded his head, eyes not quite meeting her face as they swept over her dress, lingering a fraction longer over her décolletage than elsewhere.

Thank you, Jameth, I hope you are well?” She murmured quietly, pulling her shawl a little closer around her. “We don’t often see you around here, have you been trying to sell things?” Her smile became a tad mischievous. Jameth and his family didn’t sell their wares door to door, they considered themselves far above such things, and to see his reaction to her mild insult made her smile.

“No, not exactly, this was more of a social call,” Jameth’s smile faltered but was positively cat like when it returned.
Althea managed to keep her smile in place but the slightest of creases marked her brow. A social call?

“Thank you, ma’am, I look forward to seeing you soon.” He bowed over graciously to her mother before tipping his head towards Althea once more and stepped around her. As he walked away down the road the crease on her forehead grew more pronounced.
What was that all about?” Althea groaned, leaning against the doorframe, watching him as he disappeared around a bend in the road.

“He came round for a talk. He’s coming for dinner in two days’ time. You can wear your blue dress.”
For a moment her mother’s words didn’t register and Althea simply nodded her agreement.
Then they filtered into her mind.

Pardon?” Althea turned a wide eyed face towards her mother. “What do you mean, he’s coming for dinner? What on earth is he doing that for?” A nervous feeling in her stomach began to build.
Her mother reached out to stroke her cheek, nothing but affection and pride in her eyes.

“Althea, dear, you’re of an age when you should be thinking of your future. Ever since that business in the woods you’ve, well, you’ve attracted some attention to yourself. Jameth has seen something he likes and, let’s be honest, he’d be a very good match for you.” She leant closer to kiss her cheek. “I’m going to put the kettle on, bring in some mint will you dear and please, be polite when he comes to dinner.”

She disappeared through the door leaving Althea, open mouthed and beyond shocked, on the doorstep. Her mind a whirl of confusion, her stomach a knot of fear. Her mother’s hope, whilst admirable, was terrifying. She couldn’t seriously hope to marry her off, and not to someone like Jameth. He was so self-obsessed and greedy and… Althea’s nose wrinkled in disgust just thinking about him. She didn’t think she’d be able to make it through a meal with him, let alone a lifetime.

Angrily she snatched at the mint her mother wanted, crushing the delicate leaves accidentally against her palm. Between her mother’s planning and the fight with Soren, she’d be exceedingly pleased when this day was over.
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Old 01-26-2011, 09:52 PM   #25
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The three weeks that followed were a bit of a blur for Soren mostly. The elders of the village discovered that he had lost his bow and meagre supply of arrows, and organized to get them replaced. At the end of the first week, he had been given a new bow the like he had never seen before.

"Tis a recurve bow, my lad," Fallin said as he watched the younger man examine his newest possession. "And not a bad one from the look of it. Of course, tis a little harder to string, but then tis a stronger bow too."

Soren watched the gnarled hands that he had only seen working farm implements as well as the occasional tankard worked the bow with relative ease. He gave the bow a tiny test, smiling broadly as he handed it back to Soren. Soren tried to draw the bow, finding it to be more difficult than he expected. Fallin laughed at the expression on Soren's face.

"Not to worry too much, lad. Same way as you would draw the other bow, but use a little more muscle at the start. That'll hit targets up to twice as far as that other bow would."

Soren was getting archery lessons openly, with the blessings of his parents. He found it a little unsettling at the number of people that would come along to watch, applauding his hits and supporting him when his missed. Of course, the number of single women that watched was a source of concern, as well as some strife. Some of the free men of the village were getting frustrated at the attention Soren was getting, and they weren't. Soren did his best to ignore all of them, but at times it was rather difficult.

But the moments he saw Althea were even worse, and a great deal more puzzling. There last time together was one full of anger, frustration and confusion. He felt his chest tighten every time he saw her, and there were a few times when they walked in opposite directions, passing each other in the main street. He wanted to speak to her, but when the time was right to do so, the words were not there. This added to his confusion and frustration.

By the end of the second week, Soren was hitting targets more often than not at twice the range of his previous bow, as well as being told that the village had hired a swordsman to come and teach him. Soren was surprised at the generosity of the Elders, and was very appreciative of that.

"Master Fallin! Master Fallin!" Both Fallin and Soren turned to look at the source of the call. A red faced youth slowed down his run as he approached the two. The sandy haired boy took a few deep breaths while hunched over.

"Master Fallin, the river. There's... there's no fish in the river."

Fallin looked puzzled for a moment, then smiled and ruffled the boy's hair.

"Lad, everyone says that when they have had no luck."

"Not just me, Master Fallin. Everyone. Not even Master Peck's nets has a single catch."

The village was one that survived on the ability to have surplus food to sell to the merchants, as well as a few other small goods that some others would make. The village was lucky to have a river nearby, that they tapped for it's life bearing water. Fishermen also caught fish to supplement the diet, but they were careful to limit their catch so the stocks remained healthy. The Elders also spoke of an agreement with the River Spirit, though few people believed that such an agreement actually existed.

"Hmmm. Peck was a man that always came away from the river with at least one fish. I will go and speak with the other elders about this. Soren, you continue practicing what I have shown you today. It will help you hit target's better. Soon, we'll practice against a moving target."

As the third week after Soren left the Elder's hut continued, there was a growing concern that started to edge on panic for the villagers. Not only had the river's fish stock disappeared, but the river level was dropping. Farmers had started to approach the Elders to deal with the matter. One day, a large gathering of villagers and the farms supported occurred in the heart of the village. Fright and anger were the main emotions of the people who demanded that something was done to fix the problem. People feared that the river was dammed further upstream or something else happened to block its flow.

"Enough! ENOUGH! We have heard all of your concerns. There is no need for panic. We are working on something to help deal with the river problems. Just return to your work as best you can." The old man stood patiently, waiting for the people to move away before returning to the Elder's Hut.

Soren watched from the practice field, seeing most of the people looking his way. The question on his face was practically the same as on theirs.
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