A Few Friends Wander Online...

Gavin's Journal - Stranger on the road

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Stranger on the Road
The day had dawned clear and the sun was breaking in through the canopy above casting light down on the ground. It was a welcome change after the previous three days of rain. I hung out my wet socks to dry on the edge of my cart and others did the same. Our waterlogged boots began to dry out with the heat of our feet and dryer air. Spirits were on the rise after the sleepless night.

An hour before noon Felinor caught scent of a wood-burning campfire from not far away. Halting the progress of our little band of adventurers we sent Bromi forward to scout the area for threats. Bromi shortly returned describing a heavily armed and armored man dressed in black cooking over a fire. He had a horse and a pack animal for his equipment. He appeared alone in the camp.

Delph quickly hatched a plan to have Bromi pretend to be sick, displaying his constant irritated skin condition, and to use this as an opening for conversation with the man in black. Bromi reluctantly agreed to play the comatose, boil ridden patient of Delph and made a bed in the back of Gavin’s cart. We began our nonchalant approach with Felinor in the lead, Clouswitz (the horse) pulling Korzan’s cart with Korzan atop, Gavin leading his donkey and cart with Bromi inside and Delph tending the patient and watching the rear of our element. It was a well-thought-out rouse.

Tsen.pngAs we began to emerge from the woods into the small clearing where the man had made his lunch camp he looked up and saw us. He did not appear to be threatened by the appearance of four armed travelers but he was himself well armed. As we neared I could see that he was dressed in a southern style favorite of the Samuari warriors from Qadira or Osirion. But elsewhere too. It brought up memories of training with my old friend in Absalom who had taught me the style of swordsmanship I now practice; but I digress from the story.

Delph, our group’s undisputed spokesman, worked his way to the front of the line and made first introductions. Tsen (pronounced zen) introduced himself and welcomed us to share his small cooking fire for our own lunch. Tsen was interested in Bromi’s condition and Delph filled him in on the near-constant wasting sickness that had struck our friend. “It comes in waves,” Delph explained, “Sometimes he is up and about but then some days he is in this comatose state and we must carry him along.” Tsen expressed interest in trying to understand the conditions of the disease and asked after Bromi’s home and places he had visited.

As we sat down at the fire Tsen finished his cooking and Korzan began the preparations for our own meal. Tsen was a pleasant but enigmatic man. I took notice of his weapons that I had seen from a distance with the obvious hilts of the katana and smaller wakizashi. He also had the naginata strapped to the saddle of his horse. From up close the weapons looked incredible. The outsides were works of art and I could only imagine the blades were equally as powerful. I voiced my appraisal and asked after the weapons’ lineage. Tsen appreciated the notice but did not offer to share the history simply saying they were stunning works of craftsmanship and did have a storied past but it was not the time for it now. We agreed to spar after lunch.

During the meal Tsen shared an account of his time on the road. He said his friends, three members of the Dragon’s Talon had been beset upon by a pack of Leucrotta several days earlier killing all three while he was scouting the road ahead. He had returned at the noise of their battle to find only blood and equipment dropped after their bone-crushing defeat by the beasts. They had not bothered him further as he hurried on his way toward Fairhill. Tsen said his party was on the way to help villagers deal with a problem out of their ability. Delph shared in the horrors of his loss and told of our own near fatal encounters with the two beasts that were now named.

After lunch Tsen and I sparred with the wooden training swords typical of the practice. We went two rounds with Tsen winning both. His command of the katana was indeed better than mine. I attribute this to my scholastic study taking up more than half of my training. But I enjoyed the lessons. I attacked time and again to have him deflect my blows. While we exchanged over a dozen blows I only landed one. It was a good lesson for me on maintaining my own defense as he landed two back to back blows that knocked me out. I came to a moment later and I bowed to him acknowledging his mastery and he bowed back thanking me for the practice. His courtesy was very formal and left me thinking that he had perhaps been raised in the culture and should have had a future in service to a noble and not roaming the wild woods so far from home.

In all the time of sharing the fire and sparring I never saw his face. His deep cowl left his face shaded fully. He also wore gloves and close fitting armor that covered all of his skin. It was an odd approach for a man who seemed open to questions and sharing but clearly he was hiding something. Or maybe like Bromi he had his own skin disease.

As he was putting away the swords I noticed the emblem of Sarenrae, Goddess of the Sun, embroidered on his horse blanket. Assuming the horse was his it was a good sign as Sarenrae is a good god who favors healing, honesty, redemption and the sun. She was a Keleshite god and perhaps our friend, being the same, did not want to stick out in the north with his dark skin.

Bromi this whole time had been laying in the back of the cart cursing Delph for his lie that meant he would not get lunch today. He was not going to let it go on forever and took the moment before Korzan threw away the food to “wake up” and ask for food and water. Delph proclaimed it a wonderful turn of fate that our comatose friend had woken and was strong enough to use his own legs. I picked up on a lot of eye twitching winks back and forth between Delph and Bromi as I am sure Tsen did also.

Being that this road was rather remote and we had come from the opposite direction, Tsen took a chance and asked if we were heading to Fairhill and if we would like to travel with him. A few quick glances around our group and we agreed to travel with Tsen. Tsen was traveling lighter and faster and soon offered to scout ahead and report back as was often his role with the Dragon’s Talon. I could see the question marks in Bromi’s mind and Delph also felt a bit uneasy. But we let him go in hopes he would return with useful information and not that he would set a trap for us.
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Zandu Zandu

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