Hidden 7 mos ago Post by Calle
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Calle Rainbow Writer

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Winner of RPGC #35: There's no camp like...

A camp for the night

The sun was on its way down as a man dressed in simple clothes made his way through a thick part of the forest. Simon had left the village in the morning and had been travelling the entire day. There should be a clearing ahead and if his memory served him where there was a good place to rest for the night at the edge of the forest.

The bard followed an animal track uphill and ducked to go under a thick branch. When he stood straight again, he had a good view of the area ahead. Instead of an empty field, he saw rows and rows of tents and the flags of their kingdom.

After a moment of hesitation, he went to the camp. The soldiers looked up as he approached and one of the lower officers came towards him.

"Civilians are not allowed," he told him.

Simon took in the camp as far as he could see it; the tents were put up in neat rows, but the soldiers seemed pretty laid back. "Are you at war?" he asked.

"No. Training exercise and equipment check."

"Ah…" Simon paused. "And… would you guys like some entertainment this evening?"


He opened his cloak and showed the lute he always had with him. "I'm a traveling bard. I can tell some stories or sing some songs when it's time to eat."

The officer let out an amused sound. "And join us for the meal, I reckon."

"A meal and a dry place to sleep is what I ask in exchange for my services," Simon replied with a bow.

The officer promised to ask his superiors and asked Simon to leave the camp for now. Simon retreated to the hill he had stood before and sat down between the roots of the tree. He nibbled on some dry fruits he had purchased in the previous town and watched the camp below. It was possible he wouldn’t be allowed to enter, but if they felt he was far away enough, this was a suitable place for tonight. Wrapped in his cloak he shouldn’t be too cold during the night.

He heard people shouting orders and witnessed a group of soldiers doing marching exercises, but nothing seemed urgent. He noticed a soldier leave the camp and come in his direction. He remained seated and waited patiently for the soldier to reach him.

“My superior wants to know if your offer still stands.”

“Of course.”

“Then you are welcome to stay the night at our camp, bard. Fires are being lit; pots will boil soon. It’ll only be a simple soldiers stew.”

Simon got up and brushed off some twigs and leaves from his cloak. “My meals are rarely lavish.” He extended his hand. “My name is Simon.”

“Steve,” the soldier said in reply as he shook it. “Come, there’s a place at my fire.”

“Am I supposed to bring entertainment to the entire camp?”

“Only to south quarter.” As they walked to the tents, Steve explained the camp was always divided in four groups; each group had a commanding officer, who had a couple of lower officers under him. And then there was a camp commander who had his tent at the centre.

That evening Simon joined Steve and some of his fellow soldiers for a meal and told them a story. After that the south quarter gathered and he sang a couple of songs for them. He was allowed to sleep in the tent where the supplies were kept; the tent was there because it was a part of the camp, but because it was just a training exercise there were barely any supplies kept inside. It was much better than sleeping outside, and Simon praised Lady Luck this had been on his path.
Hidden 8 days ago Post by Calle
Avatar of Calle

Calle Rainbow Writer

Contest Mod Seen 13 hrs ago

Winner of RPGC #36: Change is upon us

The Doom Blade, by @POOHEAD189

It plummeted.

Whistling through the air, spinning slowly as the wind batted it back and forth into a clockwise roll. Where it had come from was unimportant. Its destination lay before it, rapidly approaching as it fell through the clouds with all speed.

Far below, the fields of Gossenland spread across the land like a flood. Wheat and cotton and breen grain was ripe for picking. Peasants tilled the fields and picked them clean for harvest as lords oversaw their progress. But not all serfs worked the fields. Some scraped from a living off the rocks, finding flowers or loose sediment and salt to give to the local manorial tithe. Gaul was such a man, and on this day, he crawled amid the wild brush and crags, bending down and moving roots and kicking aside stones.

Where the Gossenland fields ended, the stout Daggerfork Mountains began, wheat fields shoving against the stony slopes like crashing waves. Gaul had lived here for ten years, having been released from his service to his old manor-lord in a trade, being leased to the local lord of Hrufken in exchange for an old mare, with Gaul's consent and writ. He lived a hard life in the small mining town, but he preferred it here. The man had found love, wedding a local girl named Mary. Together they made a home and had a daughter they named Trinity in honor of the triarchy of Gods that watched over their kingdom and had blessed Gaul's home with warmth.

The toil had reduced his fingernails to naught but stubs, dirtying his face and giving him the smell of soil. But it was honest work. He knocked aside a fallen branch with his staff, peering through the jumble of leaves to see if they hid any slate or travertine for the miners to dig at. Instead, the limb revealed a viper. Gaul blanched and stepped back, but the creature hissed, coiled like a spring. As Gaul stepped back, he tripped on what must have been a stone and hit the ground, the snake's hiss loud in his ears. His skin felt clammy as he anticipated the bite that would freeze his blood and kill him in moments, until something strange happened.

Gaul flinched when a flash cut through his vision; a glint of the sun on something smooth. He heard a queer noise, like a knife running along the edge of another, and he gasped when he beheld what stood before him. A sword, glimmering in the sunlight. Its blade, polished like a mirror and made of glass or a deep, scarlet crystal, had sliced through not only the snake, but the stone! It stood aloft, cobalt iron hilt absorbing the light like a pit of endless nothingness. He looked to his left and right, and then upwards.

"Hello!?" He cried, wondering who threw such a dangerous thing. No answer came, and he wondered where it had come from. Silent moments passed, but eventually he realized he would get no answers. Rather, he got to his feet and brushed the leaves and dirt from him, regarding the weapon and the bisected snake. He knelt down and gingerly picked up the front half of the serpent, knowing its venom would fetch a fine price with the apothecary. But the sword? He did not know what material it was truly made of, but it looked very expensive. He did not own a sword, but as there were wolves and cave-beasts in the region, he knew he needed something to protect his family.

Gingerly he reached forward and grasped the hilt of the sword. It felt somehow familiar, comfortable, and yet somehow deathly cold. He pulled at it, wondering if the action would break the blade. To his surprise, it slid out of the rock like a sheath. The blade was razor sharp, so sharp he wondered if it could pierce the veil between worlds.

He simply had to show Mary.

Gaul opened the door, careful to keep his hands from the keen edge of the blade. As he heard the raised voice of his daughter, he kicked the door closed and called out.

"Mary! I've got something!"

"Hmmm?" Came the reply. Her voice was like honey to his ears, as if the last seven years had been only a week. Walking through the hall, he stepped into the dining room. The fact they even had one was a miracle. The house had belonged to the alderman until he was given quarters in the local lord's estate, and Gaul had bought it cheaply, though he had a few debts to pay even to this day.

Mary busied herself, placing plates down for later that night, shimmying between the chairs and a cabinet. She had long brown hair, tied at its end, with a smile that could warm the coldest heart.

"You're back early," she commented.

"Look what I found," Gaul said, presenting the sword in front of her. His wife's eyes glanced his way, and then they locked onto him and the blade. Her jaw dropped.

"Where did you get that?" She asked incredulously.

"I found it in the brush. Don't look at me like that, I looked for the owner. There was no one out there but me, it... it fell."

"Fell?" She asked, blinking.

"Maybe from the tree, I don't know. But just look at it. It's gorgeous. How do you think it would look on the wall?"

"The wall? Gaul, you need to sell that thing. We need money, not a sword." She reminded him with a shake of her head, though a smile was still on her face. Gaul sighed and hesitated. He knew she was right, but still. It pained him to part with the thing.

"I don't know, finding a sword? Made me feel like I was one of those men in the tales. But you're right, of course. I'll grab a bite and head to town. I love you."

They shared a quick kiss, and she placed a tender hand on his cheek.

"And I you."

Hrufken was technically the entire area, ranging miles around. But the town itself was located at the center; a crossroads between the outer fields of the Gossenland estates and the mining camps up on the foothills and crags of the mountain base.

Gaul walked along the dirt road, tradesmen, fishwives, and day laborers passed him by. He kept a good grip on the sword, now swathed in cloth to hide its shiny and ornate appearance. Not to mention it was illegal to be armed inside the town save for men-at-arms and those of noble blood.

He didn't know where he would take the thing. Perhaps the smith, or a traveling merchant selling exotic goods. He wished he could take the weapon to Grimaffen and get a fair price for it. Gaul didn't want to go back and argue with Mary, however. He clutched the sword tighter, sad to see it go.

Caught in his contemplation, he didn't notice the clear threat walking through the crowd. Suddenly Gaul felt a shove and a snicker, the man stumbling back and catching himself roughly on the side of a cart.

"Sorry, I didn't see you there." The scoundrel said, Gaul recognized him as Adrian.

Gaul didn't speak. He simply continued to move up the road, before three men barred his way. They were big men, one in particular. Gaul stepped back, only for the sword to get ripped out of his hands from behind. He cried out, but Adrian yanked it away and opened the cloth.

"What do you have here, Gaul?" He asked before his breath was taken away. Adrian whistled, shaking his head in awe. "Where did a deadbeat like you find this?"

"I'm...I'm bringing it to Harmen, to square my debt." He lied, though perhaps it was best if the sword went there. He didn't want his wife to know he had borrowed from a local cartel to pay for their home.

"Smart man," Adrian admitted, admiring the blade. "This might be a good payment. Why don't I take it off your hands and see what Harmen says, yeah?"

"I want to give it to him, myself. Good faith, you know." Gaul reasoned, holding his hand out. Adrian didn't hand it over, rather he shook his head and clutched the blade himself. Fortunately, before he could protest, he yelped and dropped the sword. Blood dripped from his palm into the road, courtesy from gripping the naked steel.

Gaul went for the sword as Adrian did, Gaul grabbing its blade while Adrian took the hilt. Gaul felt the bite of the blade, but he kicked the leg of the footpad and yanked it out of his bleeding hand.

"Get the sword!" Adrian called, and the street toughs took out cudgels and knives, advancing on him. The crowd that noticed parted, but most didn't, too preoccupied with their own errands. Gaul could not look at all four at once, and when his head swiveled to the other three, Adrian drew his own long knife. Gaul stepped back, looking for a way to run, but he stepped in line for the thrust Adrian launched with a deftness born of practice. The other three closed in as well.

Gaul twisted and cried out, and his blade flashed like the glare of the sun. Crimson and brown and screams followed. Blood curdling screams that rent the air like a scythe through wheat. Gaul didn't recall what happened, really. But when he came to his senses, he noticed a small boy looking at him from across the road. A woman grabbed the boy and moved him along, her eyes wide with fear. Other eyes watched him, and the calls of the marketplace were replaced by hushed whispers of fear and awe. Gaul looked down slowly, and saw Adrian and his men. Some parts of them were at his feet, and others were strides away.

Gaul felt bile rise up in his throat. He didn't know what to do, and he couldn't even find the cloth he had brought to clean the blade. Instead, he had only one option.

He ran.

Gaul had never been so scared in his life. He felt exhilaration, but it was mixed with horror. How had that happened? He remembered none of it, he... he had never used a sword in his life. He let the miles under his feet pass under him as he ran, going home. He knew of nowhere else to go. It was likely going to be a justified defense of his life, but he should not have had a sword. And even so, Harmen would bribe the magistrate and make sure Gaul's home was taken before the winter. Yet somehow, he didn't feel crushing anxiety about the future. He just felt adrenaline.

He rounded the corner of the road, passing by a mule-led cart loaded with ore and ran up to his door. As he reached for the handle, he noticed a bright gold sigil glinting in the light of the day, going northward up the road. He recognized it, but didn't quite comprehend its significance. He walked into the house, calling for his wife.


No answer. Gaul walked past their empty room and passed by Trinity who played with two wooden toys on the floor Gaul had carved himself. He went to speak to her, but up ahead he heard soft weeping. He stepped into the kitchen and found Mary wiping tears from her eyes on the floor, lifting her head off her legs.

"Mary, what's the matter?" Gaul asked, kneeling down and placing a comforting hand on her. She looked at him in confusion.

"Honey...No, what? Why do you have that sword still?" She asked breathlessly.

He hesitated. "...There was a problem in town..."

"You need to sell it, Gaul. The tax collector he...he just came by. He took double what we were meant to pay. Said its interest for the lord. Some new law, I don't.... Gaul, we have nothing." Mary looked distraught, shaking her head. It was physically painful to see her so lost.

"I'll go see the meaning of this," He told her softly. "And I have a few things to sell to the apothecary. Don't worry, things will be different. Things will change. Why don't you get dinner ready, ok? Keep yourself busy."

When she nodded, he helped her up and, gripping the sword in one hand, stalked out the door. As he moved, he heard Trinity marveling at the sword as he passed her room. He hadn't even noticed there was no longer blood on the crystalline blade, and could not wonder where it had gone.

Gaul made his way up the road, passing by another three homes before reaching the tax collector a few dozen strides from the crossroads leading to the mines. The gold sigil shined proudly, and when he called, the collector turned. He was a weaselly man, with a thin mustache and a sharp nose. His eyes were heavily lidded, and they did not make him seem the agreeable type. They widened when he saw an armed man waving him to stop.

"What is the meaning of this new law!?" Gaul called out to him.

From under his robes, the tax collector produced a loaded hand-crossbow. Gaul skidded to a halt just a few strides from him, holding a hand up to stay the man's ire. He wondered why he had felt so threatened, and then glanced down at his left hand holding the sword. Why had he even brought it?

"Do not halt me in my duties, serf. Go back to your home and be happy I did not take that as well." He sneered, looking down at Gaul passed his piercing nose. "The lord wages war, and sometimes he is in need of more coin to protect this realm. Are you questioning our liege?"

"We should have been warned," Gaul replied gruffly, taking a step forward. "We need to feed ourselves and prepare for winter. We have heard no missives of this."

"If you had properly prepared, you would not be in such wanting as to threaten me."

"I am not threatening you," Gaul said evenly, taking another step. "Even so, I wish for an extension. Take the normal tax and we will double it in a month." His tone was even, but the tax collector's eyes were on his feet.

"No! And do not take another step or I will end your life. No leave me!" He warned, showing rat-like teeth.

Gaul nodded, knowing that to challenge a gang was one thing. The lord or his representative was an entirely different matter. The iron bolt was aimed just at his heart, and if he died here, who would take care of Mary or Trinity? He thought of them, of his wife weeping. He would go to her empty handed all because of this wretch. Gaul looked down, and wondered why he stood frozen, and the words of the tax collector were coming back to him.

"Leave and begone!" The weaselly man ordered. The words fell heavily from his mouth, as if an unseen force had kept them from carrying across the air. Gaul looked at him, anger in his eyes. The money this man had. Stolen money.

Gaul was caught in a whirlwind of emotion, and he knew what he should do. But all of his ire broke through, and he took another step forward despite his judgement.

The crossbow clicked, and the bolt flew straight and true. Gaul pulled at his sword, and there was a loud clang that rang in the air like a gong. The two men looked aghast, the crossbow bolt bouncing harmlessly off the flat of the sword blade. Somehow it had intercepted the missile. An impossible block.

Gaul's eyes were wide with shock, and the tax collector, as flabbergasted as he was, moved first. Hastily he began reloading his crossbow, placing his foot in the front pedal to help pull the string back. Unfortunately for him, his movement caught the attention of Gaul, stirring him from his shock as well. Gaul knew he couldn't let the man reload.

He took another step forward... and another.

Then he raised his new sword.

Mary hummed to herself, rolling the flour with her trusty rolling pin, flattening it across the table. She had lost herself in her cooking, the worries not leaving her entirely, and those that did ebbing out slowly. Still, she felt better. Gaul was a dunce sometimes, but he was a good man and more capable than many gave him credit for. He would get them through the winter, and she smiled at the thought. Despite it all, she was a lucky woman.

"Mommy, when's dinner ready?" Trinity called from the hall.

"Soon, sweetheart. Daddy will be back in a moment and then once I'm done cooking, we'll eat." She said warmly.

"Daddy's already back," came the reply. Mary blinked and looked up, and she saw Gaul stepping into the kitchen with the sword and a sack in his hands. He looked tired and worn, his face wizened but not far different at first glance. There was an odd glint in his eyes. He looked pleased, at least. She tilted her head, confused at his sudden appearance.

"You got our money back?" She asked, surprised.

"And a bit more," Gaul said happily, placing the sack down on the table. It was far larger than the one that had been taken from their stash. She lifted it up, and it was heavy indeed. She shook her head, laughing in disbelief.

"Wait, where did you get this? The tax man would not have given you this. You didn't promise the house, did you?"

"No," Gaul chuckled, watching his wife gazing at the coin in awe. Her eyes flicked to him as he continued speaking. "Today has been one weird day, but I'm getting happier as it goes by. I think everything will turn out all right."

"Is this blood?" She asked, noticing a stain on the purse. Gaul told her 'no,' and her eyes flickered up to him, confusion on her face. She reached forward and gently tugged at his collar, running her thumb along it. When she pulled it back, a red streak was on her fair skin. Her lips moved, but no noise came out for a few brief moments. "Gaul, what happened today?" She asked slowly.

"I had to uh, defend myself in town." He reluctantly admitted. "Adrian and his guys tried to take the sword from me. There are witnesses..."

"And the tax man? You did speak to him, right?" She asked cautiously, letting his careful wording sink in. She saw his trepidation, and there was silence for many moments.

"...At first."

Her eyes darted to the sword, the blade as clean and crisp as ever. For the first time did she really look at it, at its pommel and hilt. Something about it seemed baroque and wicked, and terribly old. The blade itself had strange, hooked waves at the weak and the strong of the blade. Had they always been there? She tried to control her breathing.

"Well, what matters is that you're home safe and sound," She said with a smile. "Why don't you put the sword down and I'll cook you something nice? You've earned it after a hard day."

He seemed relieved at that, but looked at the sword. He blinked slowly. "Put it down?" He asked.

"You can't eat with one hand. You going to use it as a fork?" She chuckled.

He chuckled back, shaking his head as if to ward off some fog. "You're right. I'm...I'm just tired. I ran a lot today, you know? So many weird things happening all day. I knew I needed a change, but I wasn't expecting so many occurrences." Gaul turned and walked over to the wall, gingerly leaning the sword against the wall, blade down and hilt by a cabinet hanging a stride above the floor that held various dishes.

"I love you," he heard Mary say, and the creaking of floorboards as she approached him, doubtless for a kiss.

"I love.." He began, and glanced at the glass that held the extra plates. He saw his wife's form, holding aloft the rolling pin just behind him.

Gaul lurched to the side, the rolling pin hitting him on the shoulder rather than the head. His hand moved and he whirled, Mary and his eyes meeting just a step from one another. Her eyes, so blue like the sea, were wide with horror. Then they moved. Not from side to side, but fell with from his level along with her head. His wife's decapitated body hit the floor with it, and it was only then that he saw the sword in his hand.

Gaul was, once again, frozen. Not out of caution, but pain, fried, and loss. Confusion and lament welled up in him, and his eyes wet for a moment as he realized what he had done. Despair took him, and his pain was replaced by a hollow feeling he couldn't fill with anything he had left.

Save the sword.

He gripped it tighter and turned, looking in the glass once more. He saw a new face there. One that looked scarred, with red and black streaks across it. Small, blunt horns had burst from his scalp, and he ran his tongue over newly sharpened teeth. Glancing down at the sword, he noticed it looked different. Sleeker, with a longer hilt and a shorter crossguard. At the butt of its hilt, another blade was even then slowly protruding out of it to mirror the first blade.

"Mommy, is dinner ready yet?" a small girl's voice asked from her room.

Gaul, or the being that was once Gaul, left the kitchen with his sword, and followed the voice.

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