No one truly knows who made the cavern city of Sando. The buildings had been here when the first settlers of the Exodus had come to these lands, most with light damage and completely abandoned. It had the characteristics of elven architecture, elegant and beautiful but it had a touch of dwarven ingenuity to it as water was pulled up from the massive springs deeper within the caves and caverns with massive pipes. The water, though relatively pure to begin with, was made even purer by the mages within the city and made drinkable to all. More impressive was the cool air that loomed over the city and kept all who inhabited it comfortable. Not to mention the constant supply of Aquamarine Tears from the mines in a subsection of caves.
It still amazed the man that the air underneath the scorching deserts could be cool and so pleasant. That there was running water they could drink rather than just Aquamarine Tears like some people had to settle for. The man was at work securing a large pack of supplies to the customary mounts of the runners. The environment of the world above was far too harsh for the likes of horses so those who ran supplies to various settlements often rode what the elves had called 'Boga'. Massive quadrupedal lizards with bird like beaks and feathers. They were fast, strong, and could handle the heat of the sands and the sun. More impressive was their ability to scale canyon walls with ease. The creature almost purred as the man rubbed the feathers that sprouted from the scaly beast's neck.
"Atta girl" he said. He secured his saddle to the creature as the master of the Sunrunner's Guild whistled to him. The man looked up and nodded as he approached, taking his hood off as he addressed the man. "What is it?" he asked.
The master was a barrel chested man with his long hair drawn back into a thick braid. From his hair came thick facial hair that came down his cheeks and jaw to cover his lip but not his chin. He looked at the man and handed him a scroll. "Hawke, you and Torvin have been assigned to escort a shipment heading towards the excavation site outside of Ruk, familiar with it?" the large man asked.
Hawke took the scroll and read it before giving it a moment of thought. I've been to Ruk once or twice, I know the excavation site you're talking about though. Any details I need to be concerned about? Cargo? Tag alongs? Anything?" he asked. The man smirked and chuckled.
"All the above, my friend. The excavation site is in need of Aquamarine Tears, Dried Food, Steel, and Black Powder. Their also in need of a few able bodies so a Dune Schooner is being employed to move all these to the site as well" the master said. Hawke nodded slowly and frowned as he mentioned a Dune Schooner. Dune Schooners were essentially skimmers, land boats that used the wind in a sail to move across the sand. Difference being that the Schooner was a full blown boat with a crew, large enough to haul many items across the desert. They were also juicy targets for raiders and gleekon.
"Wait...it isn't just Torvin and I, is it? A Dune Schooner CAN'T be escorted by just two of us sir. It's simply impossible" he said as he fiddled with the handle of one of his daggers. The master smirked and motioned towards the mouth of the cave.
"Doubting me son? Not to worry, you and Torvin are just the leads for this. You'll have a few with you that will follow your commands, some are recruits and some are just a bit green. You'll show them all the ropes" he said. Hawke frowned again. This was a big job and recruits complicated things. They needed to be sharp and on their game or they could die. The desert wasn't a forgiving place and had a knack for weeding out the strong from the week.
"Tajaes vyraes iar, 1" Hawke cursed quietly in fae. "Sir, you know that new ones only complicate things. Especially if they aren't trained. With all due respect, do you really think it's wise to put them on a job like this?" he asked. The man sighed gently and pat Hawke on the shoulder.
"Son, you and Torvin are among the best. You are MORE than capable of doing this and you are a fine one to learn from. The recruits aren't undisciplined either. They won't let you down. Trust me my boy" he said. Hawke sighed and rubbed his eyes.
"Alright, how many runners in total do we have then?" he asked. The master explained that including both Hawke and Torvin, there would be a total of 7 runners. Hawke scratched his jaw and nodded. "Alright, have the group meet Torvin and I at the stables outside then, we'll address them directly and we'll see where we go from there" he said. The guild master smiled and nodded as he walked away, Hawke shaking his head and sighing as he walked towards the mouth of the cave and towards the stables themselves. Torvin would be with them shortly and once there they could decide who looked after whom. Hawke and Torvin were in charge on this one and the only way this could work is if they worked as two small groups.
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Adam Rahim, the man like Birdsong, was entertained.
By the sunset, by the sounds of the children playing in the street, by his tea - by most anything he had to hand, he was entertained; though it occurred to him that entertain might actually be the wrong word, as he did not find these things amusing exactly - it's more that they made him happy. A calm kind of happy. Content.
Yes. That's the word. Content.
Adam Rahim, the man with a songbird's heart, was contented.
Gently, with a slight smile, he raised his tea glass to his lips and drank. The tea was not his - he was staying with a friend he'd made in Sando, another healer who had a practice in the city centre and a house with a spare room - but the honey he'd added was. Amara sat across from him at the table on her terrace, observing her friend and guest as he sat and drank tea in relative silence, only opening his eyes occasionally to check the score in the football game taking place in the street below them.
"They’re still losing, Adam.” The fae spoke with her eyebrow cocked. She was an elegant, but practical and occasionally stern, woman - and she did not normally brook nonsense; a rule to which Adam was an exception.
”I know.” He said, smiling and raising his glass back to his lips, tipping the hot cavemint and honey back into his mouth as he closed his eyes again. ”But I’m not watching to see who wins. I’m watching to enjoy seeing them play.”
She found his sentimentality charming, if occasionally frustrating. Normally the men she spent her time with enjoyed looking at her, not at street kids tackling eachother, and at imaginary sunsets - which was what Adam usually did.
He would sit back, drink her tea, and picture a sunset in his mind. Sometimes she asked him which sunset it was, and somehow he always had a different answer. He made up for this kind of non-presence with his sense of humour, and by helping her in her practice whenever he was in the city.
And by keeping her company.
He was a warm kind of person to be around. It had been thirty years since the last one of his kind had been quite like that, for her - not long enough to be a lifetime for her people, but long enough that the last man had managed to die of old age.
”Are you enjoying yourself, Amara?”
She thought about that for a while. The answer was yes, but she didn’t always know why, with Adam.
One of the things she had learnt from his kind, however, was that the Why does not always matter.
”I am, Adam.”
”I’m very happy to hear that. I have a feeling that more work will be coming soon, my friend. When I come back I will see if I can bring some wine, if you like?” He almost-hummed, opening his eyes to meet hers again, his stubbly face smiling.
She grinned and nodded.
He was a fun drunk.
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E f f e c t s : Slightly drunk?
W i t h : Unfortunate Guard
“Step away from the ledge, sir!” The guard’s yell was amplified by the cavern’s acoustics.
“Kid, I’m not trying to off myself.” Vardi didn’t bother to face the man. He just stood there, bare assed, looking at the blue water swirling at the bottom of a 50 foot drop. “I was in the sun all god damned day. I just want to go in for a quick dip, that’s all.”
“This is the drinking reserve! We can’t have your filth contaminating it! The bathhouses are south from here on-”
“Those bathhouses can kiss my sunburnt ass. I ain’t divin’ in no armpit juice. Plus, none of em places got a drop like this here, boy.”
“If you don’t step back from that ledge, I’ll cut you down myself!”
Vardi finally turned, the scarred side of his face looking over his shoulder at the guard, who took a step back at Vardi’s attempt to form a smile.
“N-no!” Just as the word left the guard’s lips, Vardi cannonballed off the ledge. He yelled from the top of his lungs, his battle cry, echoing throughout the caverns of Sando.
And that is how Vardi Zaitsev of the Sunrunner’s guild ended up in jail, yet again.
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It was looking to be a beautiful night.
There hadn't been a single cloud in the sky that day. It made for a blisteringly hot morning while the sun was overhead, but most days were like that. Still, as the day wore on and evening settled upon the city, the sky remained a cloudless canvas and soon enough the first twinkles of stars could be seen on the horizon. It was nice.
Asante was settled low on one of the cliff outcrops that bordered the entrance to the cavern city of Sando. The rocks jutting out above cast a cooling shadow over the area. Even though the sun was near gone, the heat wouldn't dissipate for a short while yet. The young man didn't mind the heat so much, but he still kept to the shade when possible. In fact, Asante had been in this exact shaded spot for most of the day. Earlier, after much poking and prodding of the Guildmaster, he'd been able to discover that some Runners would be assigned to take cargo that day: a large shipment that needed a schooner to haul. Well, wasn't that just the lucky break he'd been waiting for?
Though Asante had been living with the Sunrunners for a long time now, he'd yet to be officially endorsed by the guild. Until now, of course. He'd asked to be assigned to the mission and to his surprise he actually was.
"There won't be a better teacher to get firsthand experience from," the man had said, "first official mission, huh? Good luck, son."
The master's words had spread several feelings through Asante's body at the time, excitement being the primary one. He'd let a boyish grin grow on his face until the Guildmaster playfully laughed at him - then he'd run off to pack. He had the canvas bag he'd stuffed all his supplies into with him when he came out to the cliffs, and there he'd simply waited. The young Runner - yes, he was an actual Runner now after all this time - knew the group wouldn't be assembled for a few hours, but he was more than content to watch over the city's entrance while he waited. He could see the stables from his spot, a little distance away, and when it was time he'd go to meet them.
When he spotted two people that looked just a little more important than the usual guild member approach the stables, Asante figured that time was now.
He easily hopped down from his spot on the rocks, his bag slung over his back. He lingered just a moment longer in the shadow of Sando's entrance before he pulled a scarf over the top of his head and made his way toward the stables. The sun was low enough and his skin was dark enough that he wouldn't burn, but when the cold came he'd rather have the headwrap on now than struggle with it later. As he walked, the hard stone turning to loose sand, he tried to think what other Runners might have been assigned to the mission. There were plenty of people in the guild he'd come to like that he thought he might enjoy working with. Of course, there were an equal amount he would love to push off the edge of a cliff.
Might as well try to look on the bright side, he thought to himself, First official job and everything.
As Asante came up to the stables, his eyes sliding over the various transports - living and constructed alike - he walked directly over to the veteran Runners. He didn't know Hawke or Torvin personally, but he did know they'd be the ones heading this mission.
"Evening," he greeted coolly, raising a hand. He'd known ahead of time about the job so he wasn't at all surprised to see that not many more had gathered.
Torvin was sitting in the Drunken Miner, the local tavern of Sando and Torvin's unofficial home. If Torvin wasn't on a run, he was generally at the tavern and enjoying some drink. Torvin drank his mead as the Guild Master came in and set a scroll down before him. Torvin raised an eyebrow and looked up to the Guild Master.
"Job finally show itself?" Torvin asked. The Guild Master nodded and smiled.
"Yep. You and Hawke are gonna be in charge on this one. Heard about that dig site near Ruk?" he asked. Torvin took out his pipe and lit it as he nodded and spoke.
"Definitely. Heard they found some Maker artifacts and started searching for more. Sounds like it's quite a find. What's the job?" he asked as he took a puff of his pipe. The Master nodded and explained that the job was simple enough. Escort a Dune Schooner with precious supplies to the site. Simple enough. It sounded like they had some help with them as well and Hawke and himself were MORE than capable. Torvin smiled and nodded. "Sounds like a good way to go, when do we leave?" he asked.
"Tonight. Hawke will meet you at the stable and you'll leave once the sun goes down. Best gather the others and form your teams" he said. Torvin smirked and nodded.
"Sounds right. Last I heard, Vardi was in the jail again" he said. The guild master scowled and sighed. Vardi was a handful and a nuisance at his worst but damn it if he couldn't fight. The master set down a small pouch containing the silvers needed to bail him out and Torvin prepared to take it before the master eyed him. "It's just to get Vardi out, I don't intend on taking your coin and I don't intend on going out there without someone who knows how to fight" he said. Torvin wasn't a push over. If anything, Torvin was about as deadly as you can get. A whirlwind of gun fire, grenades, and deadly chops with his axes and knives. Torvin took the coin and nodded before setting a gold piece on the table and standing, walking for the jail.
The guards looked to see Torvin and grunted. "Here for Vardi?" he asked. Torvin nodded and the guard grunted as he stood and grabbed his keys, leading the way towards the cells.
"Another bar fight?" he asked. The guard shook his head and explained that Vardi had jumped into the drinking water. Torvin laughed, a loud and booming sound that was unmistakable as he made his way towards Vardi. The guard unlocked the gate and tossed Vardi his belongings as Torvin leaned against the far wall. "Jumping into the drinking water, eh? That's a new one. Doesn't seem like a fitting end for someone of your caliber. How's about we get you saddled up and we chance a death defending a Dune Schooner?" he asked with a raised eyebrow.
Vardi woke up to a familiar laugh. It was loud and jolly, one he’d expect to hear at the Drunken Miner tavern, or when a good kill was had. And when the guard opened his cellar gate and dropped his items beside him, Vardi also laughed.
“They always send the very best when a damsel is in distress.” he chuckled, scrunching into his brown tunic and breeches, nodding at the dwarf’s metal cog tattoo that confirmed that it was in fact: “Torvin the Terrible. You’re one of my favorites, ya know?”
"Jumping into the drinking water, eh? That's a new one. Doesn't seem like a fitting end for someone of your caliber. How's about we get you saddled up and we chance a death defending a Dune Schooner?" he asked with a raised eyebrow.
“Oh, trust me. That skinny dip was worth it.” he whistled with exaggerated content, clasping on a black-bronze cuirass and a pair of gauntlets. “Hell, I’d rather drown in that pool of angel tears than dry up like an old man’s ball bag out in those dunes.”
They both knew that was a lie. Torvin and Vardi were like peas in a pod -- if one pea was shorter, more burlier than the other -- and they shared a thirst for bloodshed, though, addiction is a far more accurate word in Vardi’s case. Flaying open some hapless vagrant was the only reason he signed up with the Sunrunners. Well, not being jailed and executed for the crime because of his guild affiliation is more like it. But to sleep the eternal sleep, on a bed of corpses made by your own doing in battle? That's the only true way to die, and both couldn’t agree more, for they’ve discussed this topic at great length, over many kegs of ale at the dwarf’s domicile tavern. However, such a sweet surrender will have to wait, at least until he pays back The Night Twins for what they did to him; but that doesn't mean he couldn't have fun in the mean time. Practice makes perfect after all.
“This Dune Schooner must be hauling some serious candy, the kind that’ll attract all sorts of eyes, oooh, especially Gleeker eyes, my absolute fave.” Vardi said with a mischievous grin, moving each finger encased in enchanted metal, the kind that sharpened to daggers on his command. Vardi sensed the guard’s scrutinizing eyes beaming down on him. He smiled back with a piercing gaze and blew a kiss. The guard spat angrily on the ground.
“I’m sure Hawke was thrilled to know I’d be tagging along too.” Vardi jumped into his leather boots and tightened their clasps, stomping each one into place. He made some final adjustments to his attire, all the while, growing more and more excited at the job Torvin proposed to him.
“Nothin like an ol'family reunion over some ol'fashion violence, eh, Torvin?" he said, exiting his cell with an extra spring in his step. "For the good of the guild, of course.”
There was a clink and a clank as Adam hefted his pack onto his back and took the first step out the door. The air of the street was cool, but not chill, and the business of the day - be it work or be it play - had begun to subside at long last. He took a deep breath in, letting the shade of the city wash over him like a new tide, letting it settle on his mind like the welcome dew of the desert morning.
Adam turned around with a grin as he began to walk down the street, waving up to Amara on her balcony. She was waving back with one of those smiles that leaves a mark on you, and as he turned away for the last time that day to make his way towards the stables his grin broadened, and his step quickened.
He lived a charmed life, and he knew it. To be able to walk so freely and go where he pleased, to work the work he worked, to know the beauty of so many places and to wake up every day looking forward to whatever came - it was a blessing.
Adam gave the local baker a friendly wave as the young man was closing up shop for the evening - in the morning, he sold bread and pastry, in the evenings he sold tea and cakes. He’d inherited the business from his mother when she had decided to retire, and Adam was on good terms with them both - meaning when he was in town, he got the freshest loaves, straight from the oven. The baker waved back, and tossed him roll from the cart he was wheeling back inside.
“Well, thank you!”
“They just get thrown out otherwise, Adam!”
He gave the other man a grin as he bit into it and kept on his way. He had a good feeling that the guild would have found more work by now, and there was only one place that could mean he needed to be.
It took a while, but Adam made his way up to the stables, and was pleased to see some of the other runners already there. As he approached, he gave them a big grin, dusting his hands of the crumbs of the roll he’d finished on his way in.
“Hello, my friends. We have work to do, hm?”
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