Reinold Sul’athar, the Outcast. (MAIN)
Nearby the Cutthroat’s Abode, Southern On’hino
“It’s all I have left!” the woman pleaded, clutching onto a copper pendant. “No merchant would pay you good coin over this thing, just-“ Her eyes widened as one of the highwaymen surrounding her drew a knife. It was an effective signal to shut up, though it only stifled her whimpering; which was barely audible through the heavy rain.
The knife-wielding man knelt in front of her, and looked her in the eyes. “I don’t think you understand what’s happening.” In a sudden motion, he gripped her hair and yanked it back; exposing her throat. Cold steel met the warmth of the woman’s skin. The man’s voice turned sour. “We’re takin’ everything
. I dun’ care if’s the most precious trinket in your cart, or some worthless scrap. As long as that lard-pot Garethul doesn’t pay for our protection, he’ll see his shipments and carts go disappearin’. What you do
have a say in, love, is whether or not his merchants turn up dead or alive. Are we clear?” As the woman sank to her knees in the mud, she held up the pendant, and cringed as it was swiped.
The other outlaws turned their attention to the horse-drawn cart she had brought along the way. One of them stroked the horse’s mane, before giving a shrill whistle. The cart was cut free, the horse kept in place. The group dragged the cart off the road and into the forest. Only the knife-wielding man and the merchant remained.
“I did what you asked,” she said, “please let me go.”
“Well you did
, but not without giving me a little trouble.” The man grinned, leaning in to look her in the eye. “’haps you should do something for my troubles.” There was a pause, before the woman got up and tried to run before slipping in the mud. The man scambled overtop of her, and pinned her down with a hearty laugh. “Go on, love, I like when they struggle!” He gripped the collar of her shirt, and dragged the knife through the cloth; splitting it in two to reveal her bare back. No sooner had he started to pry further with his barehands than he stopped. Blood gushed down his face, and poured onto the woman as the bandit gave way to a violent spasm; his hands reaching up at the spike through the top of his skull. The woman screamed as she looked over her shoulder to find another man driving the sharp handguard further.
With a sharp twist, the bandit stopped moving, and the stranger ripped his blade free before grabbing it by the handle. Pushing the bandit off of the woman and into the mud, the man planted his blade into the ground. The woman started to crawl away again, before a cloak fell over her body. She paused – wrapping herself up – and looked at the armor adorning her rescuer’s form. It was filthy; grime in some parts, broken chain in others.
“Sir Garethul hired me to investigate matters on this route,
” the man explained, surveying his surroundings. He knelt beside the bandit, and turned the corpse over. “What was in your cart?
“Jewelry,” the woman replied, standing up. She held the cloak tight around her form, and approached the man. “I owe you a debt,” she said, managing a sheepish smile. It was plain to see that her terrors were far from gone; there was no chill in the air strong enough to take credit for her shaking. “What is your name?”
“It won't be hard to track.
” The man stood up and handed the copper pendant to the woman. “I’ll return with your cart. Stay warm.
” With that, he grabbed his sword and strode off in the direction of the other outlaws. Their footprints were well defined in the mud. From what he could tell, there was at least five or six others. The canopy above sheltered his body from the rain as he followed the trail. Rain in On’hino made it difficult for thieves to get away with robbing merchants. Not only because it left tracks for anyone to follow, but because-
A loud crash resounded through the rain. The man grinned, and picked up his pace. It was easy for someone to wreck a cart in the woods when the ground is muck. He climbed up a hill to find a sharp decline ahead. The cart must have fallen down. Peering down, he found the group of bandits circling the cart, trying to pluck their take from the earth. Tightening the grip on his blade, the man walked down the decline and approached the bandits. They were nothing special; all of rather average builds, wearing little armor aside from studded leather.
“I have a message from Sir Garethul,
” he said, gathering their attention. Raising his sword over his head, he threw it at one of the highwaymen. It caught one of them by the throat; the sheer force pulling him to the ground and pinning him in the mud. The rest of them drew their weapons; ranging from crudely-formed swords to axes. The man stopped, and raised his arms in a welcoming gesture. “Is there anything you’d like me to say to him?
As the bandits charged towards him, the man curled his hand into a fist and struck the first one to come in the jaw; a snapping noise in reward to the blow. Before the foe could stagger back, the man pulled him to take the business end of an axe in motion. The force behind the blow sent both the man and his meatshield back, but he remained balanced. However, he grimaced as the bandit he held vomited a torrent of warm blood into his mail.
” he muttered before throwing the body to the ground; liberating a blade free from its dead owner’s clutch. As the axe-wielding outlaw readied an overhead swing to cut the man in half, the man leaned in and jammed his shoulder into the opponent’s core. His strength was enough to lift the cutthroat off of his feet.
The bandit tried to pry the man off of him, before he was slammed into a tree; impaled on a broken branch. The man stepped back before hot pain dragged like a nail through his side. Recoiling and turning around, he narrowly caught the next swing of another attacker with his steel. With one hand free, the man grabbed his assailant by the back of the head, and pulled his face into the back of his blade; eliciting a pained scream that made the last two step back. The scream only stopped as the man grunted and pulled even harder; pushing the metal past the skull.
There was a deadly silence, aside from the thud
of a fresh-made corpse falling to the ground. The man stared at the two remaining outlaws. As one sank to his knees and dropped his weapon, the other turned and ran.
“W-we were just doing what was needed to get by,” the last criminal said, “we did what we were told.”
“I believe you.
” The man approached him, and smiled. “Offer your hand.
The criminal hesitated, before lifting his hand. With a single motion, the man released an agonized scream from the criminal. They both stared at the severed hand on the ground; an occasional twitch still coming from the fingers.
“Find your friend,
” the man said, “and kill him. Then let everyone else know what happens to anyone who so much as points a sharp stick at Sir Garethul’s employs.
” Dropping the sword, he walked over and ripped his own blade free from its flesh scabbard. “If they don’t believe you, show them the bodies.
” With that, he left the remaining outlaw in the blood-saturated mud.
“If I didn’t know any better, I would say you’re lying,” Garethul said as he and the man walked through the streets of Perona. The amount of years the businessman had spent in the harbor-city had left him adept at weaving through the busy streets, despite his portly figure. The cries of vendors from their stalls fell deaf on his ears. “But I do
know better, Reinold Sul’athar. Do you think we’ll hear anything more concerning my carts being stopped in the Abode?”
“Your carts will remain untouched, at least until the Frost sets in.
” Reinold held his side, as if his hand would soothe the pain of his bandaged wound. “I’m certain that another pack will take their place, eventually.
“Well I’d rather pay you to kill them off every now and then, over being extorted.” Garethul chuckled, and patted Reinold’s shoulder. “I’ve seen to it that the information you requested is waiting for you on my ship, along with a little ‘bonus’ for saving me the trouble of another dead worker.”
“Trust me, you’ll like it.” Garethul stopped in front of a store; the building itself dwarfing the houses that filled Perona. He turned towards Reinold, with a grin as wide enough to catch the wind. “It’s funny, what you’re doing. You have always been so… well, serious. I’m having a hard time, believing that you’d suddenly buy into all this shite about underground treasures.”
Reinold gave Garethul a look – one that quickly sent the flashing whites into hiding. But, he simply shrugged. “It could be that there’s nothing to this,
” he admitted. “To believe now, that there’s more treasure than you or I could haul out in our lifetime; it is foolish.
” The Templar flicked his gaze to the docks. Standing there was a hooded figure – waiting on him.
Reinold began to walk towards the figure. “It is not my choice.
” He said nothing as he approached the figure. Rather, he sported his statement by the look of confusion on his face. From within the figure’s hood, a beard split into a grin.
“If they were going to find me out, they would have done it by now.
” Holden gestured towards the Sea Tigers, who kept watch over the streets. There was a period of silence, before the Exile spoke again, his tone more stern. “We had a deal. Nothing stupid.
“It’s not my first time working for Garethul,
” Reinold said, “and we had nothing else to go on.
“Then you should have brought me.
“Brought you? You?
” The Templar snorted. “We wouldn’t have half a hair’s chance at leaving.
” Shaking his head, he walked past Holden, and toward Garethul’s ship; a modest schooner, in the presence of its neighboring warships.