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D.T - Thrain and Company: Chapter 2

Thrainand company: Chapter 2

Four leagues away from the Great Elm Gate lay a small ranger village called 'Timber Brook'. Inside the village was made purely of wood, no stone, metals or other materials were used in its constructions or designs. The small village has a famous tavern called 'Woodland Elixir', that is where Thrain sought out his next companion.

As Thrain opened the doors to the tavern all the rangers eyes swiftly moved to him. They knew right away from his entrance that he was not a ranger. Not just the tavern but the entire village disliked anyone who was not a ranger, and though this particular village was in the lands of Evercain there were many more ranger villages like it around all of Grimnar. The Rangers held no particular allegiance to any of the kingdoms, unless they were rewarded to do so for a time. They were like forest mercenaries but they lived by a code.

Part of the ranger code, as Thrain had understood it, was that they would not cause unnecessary trouble while inside the borders of a kingdom: unless those borders stretched into the forest lands. However anything went when it came to the free lands; which had been gradually disappearing as kingdoms slowly expanded their borders over the years. Typically the rangers would persuade other folk who entered their village to turn away and leave; usually this meant forceful persuasion. Thrain was one of the few people allowed into the ranger village, as he came on fair terms and left on good ones.

The tavern had very few patrons at the time, Thrain didn't know if this was uncommon or not. At the center on the ground floor of the tavern sat a dark-haired ranger with a cloak of green shades. Next to her was another girl who looked like a half ranger from what Thrain could tell; if any such thing existed. He knew the dark haired one, Adelin Gorfel: she was an old friend of his who was among the only rangers to aid him in pushing back the Kantor forces from invading through the Great Elm Gate.

He took a seat at the square table with the two girls and Adelin smiled as he did. He noticed for the first time a curved scar on the left side of her face going from the chin to the edge of her eye. Thrain pointed to his face with one finger, as if to mimic her face, and said, "This is new. Good story at least?"

Adelin's smile seemed to grow from the comment as she ran a finger down the scar. Then she said, "Actually its nothing more than this little one throwing a fit, if you can believe it." She put her arm around the young woman's shoulder and gave her a playful shake. The young woman with Adelin, (now that Thrain could see her closer) had long moss green hair, yellow eyes and long sharp nails. She stood up to more appropriately greet him and he could see she was slender and short. And wore a tight mid-drift dark green vest, and tight shorts (of the same color) reaching high up to her thighs.

She was ugly at first sight but Thrain quickly grew accustomed to her appearance. Adelin sat her down and said to her, "Easy there cougar, he's married." The young woman looked down at her feet in embarrassment and Adelin continued. "This here is my young apprentice Lessa. She cannot speak, but she has her ways of communication, so understanding her is not impossible. She's surpassed me in many ways of being a ranger but still has a few things more to master so she is not quite a full-fledged ranger yet."

"That's great and all, but I did come here to seek you out for your help," Thrain said interrupting her before she could go on.

Adelin sat back in her chair and her face became more serious. "You're here because you need me to help you accomplish something having to do with the tower aren't you?"

Thrain sighed lightly and said, "Yes, I am afraid that it is just that."

"You know that messenger hawk I gave you before you left here the last time has not come by for many weeks before a few days ago. I know our letters are short and few between but you had me worried for a time."

"The first knight is always busy, but truth be told since Jesebelle's pregnancy she has been well, more dramatic than usual about our friendship. I had planned to send a short letter out to you explaining the situation but then the tower and the dream happened, and unfortunately my next message to you had to be a request to meet instead of a greeting. You know sometimes I would like to take my wife and venture up to the Targol mountains; leave it all behind in caring hands and be at peace."

Adelin half laughed at the last part and said, "Thrain Eagron, mountain man," she paused a moment in thought before continuing. "I don't know that seems to have a nice theme to it. But the wilds are no place to raise a child, perhaps in older age you and Jesebelle could retire up there, but not just yet."

Thrain glanced around the tavern and asked, "Is there somewhere where we might finish this conversation in private?"

Adelin led him to a small house at the far end of the village. Inside was little more than a kitchen, bathing room, dining area and a single bedroom. They sat around the dining room table which was small and couldn't fit more than four people at once. "This is my house I own for the times I'm staying in the village," Adelin explained. I don't use it often because I'm usually in the woods but I always keep some supplies here in case. Anyways no one will overhear us here."

Getting straight into it Thrain said, "I am creating a small team to climb to the top the Devil Tower and obtain that wish. You know which one I am talking about right?"

"I'm pretty sure the whole lands know of that wish, but I didn't know you believed in that sort of thing?"

"I don't, only a small part of me believes in it but I'm not too naive about it. Tell me have you been to the base of the tower yet?"

"No. That thing scares me. Truth be told I was reluctant to even come back into the kingdom with that thing around. Why do you ask?"

"If you had then you would know that the lands around the tower are decaying rapidly. And its influence has gradually spread out further and further. It's about a mile of decayed lands a month, by estimation. It sounds surreal I know but it is the truth."

"Actually that sounds very reasonable. All of the animals in the forest have been swiftly migrating away, all in directions away from the tower. That's a big part of the reason I'm afraid of it, if the animals are all ignoring their instincts about the dangers of winter to flee away from something that's already miles between them then it cannot be good.

"Anyways what's so special about this team you're assembling; why not just take your kingdoms greatest knights up there?"

"The problem is the prize waiting at the top of the tower. If it is indeed any wish we want then what's to stop one of the knights from stealing the wish from under us at the best possible moment. I need more than just strong people I need people I know and can trust. If we cannot find a way to destroy the tower from within then we that wish may be our last hope. And it must be made for the good of the kingdom and perhaps the whole lands."

Adelin crooked a smile and asked mischievously, "And how do you know I won't do that same thing?"

Thrain smirked and said, "If I could trust you when many more lives than just my own were relying on you, then I am sure I can trust you now. Besides I like to think that I have a solid judge of character and don't believe you would do something like that; not without tremendous cause at least. And I like to think of us as friends."

Adelin took in a deep breath then let it out slowly and said, "Can I have time to think it over?"

"Of course, but I cannot wait more than a day I will need your answer by tomorrow. Time is not on mine, or anyone else's side."

The next day at high noon Thrain returned to Adelin's small house to seek her answer. Over a small meal she told him that she would go, but under the condition that Lessa also joined them, as she would not part with the young woman so easily. Thrain was partially against it, but Adelin trusted Lessa more than she trusted him; which said a lot and meant to him that Lessa had to be remarkable in some way to earn her trust so greatly.

"Alright," Thrain said. "If you trust her so much then she can join; I'm still lacking in companions anyways. But I want to know who is she and how did you meet?"

Adelin was silent for a time trying to decide where to start. "Well I suppose to start; some years ago I was on my way back down from the mountains when at the heart of the woods I found Lessa. She was unconscious, absolutely naked and starved so thin that her skin looked wrapped tightly around her bones. I thought her dead for a moment until I touched her, to check if she was alive, and she sprung up so fast I couldn't fully dodge the attack. Her nail caught me coming up, and tore through my skin with ease, and that's how I got this scar on my face.

"Anyways the next time she woke up I was more prepared, and had a small fire going with a cooked rabbit sitting near her and me across; weapon at the ready in case she tried to attack me again. She instead took the rabbit and devoured it in few bites. She still wouldn't let me near her but she was also too weak to move far so after a few days of feeding her, and bringing her fresh water, she finally warmed up to me and began following me everywhere I went.

"So I stayed in the woods raising her for the most part as she developed and matured at an incredible rate. When I found her she was no more than five years of age at least, but she swiftly grew to a young woman of fifteen years. Thus far her aging seems to have stabilized but I'm not sure how her growth rate will expand in the coming years.

"In our time together I taught her the ways of the ranger, how to fight, and way's to understand our language. Although she cannot speak them she knows what we're saying. She's like my own daughter if you would."

Thrain rubbed his chin and said, "So then that's why you trust her so much. I cannot say I won't be weary of her at times she does give off a dangerous vibe. But she does sound like she has a strong will and perhaps that's what I need more on my team then raw strength."

"What are you planning to do about the rest of your companions? How many people do you have left to find?"

"The king wants me to find ten people I can trust, and now I have six with you two. This endeavor is turning into an obnoxious nightmare. What's that say to you anyways? The fact that with the entire kingdom at my disposal I am struggling so hard just to find ten other people I can trust to climb this tower with."

"It says you're expecting too much of people," Adelin said condescending. "No one in this world is as selfless as you like to believe, that they would risk their life for a chance of something so great only to give it up to another. They will sacrifice their lives to protect their kingdom, homes, and families sure. But why sacrifice your life for a kingdom when you can have your own, if not all of them, so easily in your grasp?

"And that is exactly why you don't turn to grab your best knights and warriors of the kingdom to climb that tower. Because you don't know how they would react at a given opportunity of ultimate power; should it exist."

Thrain scoffed and said, "Some days you're too smart for your own good you know that? But you're right all the same, that's exactly how the situation is for me."

They were silent for a time while Adelin contemplated something quietly to herself. Eventually she said, "I know someone who May join us. He would meet all your prerequisites and he's a good and honest man. However he is very abnormal and doesn't converse with others too frequently."

"And you trust this man? What's his name and where does he come from?"

"I trust him to a point, but he's a simple man, and as I said before good and honest. Anyways his name is Curth, and he comes from the Targol Mountains; before that I cannot say."

"The Targol Mountains are too far away for me to venture to see if I might recruit someone whom I have never met before. I don't have a lot of time left to form this company."

"Well that's the thing he's actually in town now, came in very early this morning and is probably at the tavern now arguing with the bartender. It's pretty common for them to argue actually."

Thrain tapped his index finger on the wooden table repeatedly. He was a little desperate and thinking. With much reluctance he said, "Alright let's go meet this mountain man."

Back inside the Woodland Elixir tavern Thrain could see a large man standing at the end of the tavern arguing over the counter. The large man shouted, "Whatchu mean you can't be giving me anymore til me tabs been paid?" His accent was thick and his voice strong. "I already paid me tab off from the last two months, now dammit I want me drink!"

"You're tab was owed ten pounds of gold and you only paid me in eight pounds," the bartender on the other side of the counter argued.

"Aye but that there gold nugget is pure gold and has more value than dem melted down coins of gold you lot use."

"It's hard enough to account how much you owe this tavern when it's paid in measurements of weight instead of coin value and now you're trying to add in purity of the gold. That's not something I can measure and our deal has always been that your tab of drinks will reach a certain converted weight of gold from cost of coins. If the weight doesn't add up to your tab then you get no drinks go it?"

"Bah whats a couple er pound of gold anyways that stuff can't fill your belly. Can't we just carry over the money owed to the new tab? Cmon Matchle you know I'm always good fer me debts."

Adelin stepped in to interrupt the argument and speak to Curth. After a short word the large man turned to look at Thrain then back to Adelin. They spoke some more then he turned back around an approached Thrain.

Thrain could see more details about the mountain man now that he was facing him and was closer. He looked to be about 8 feet in height and had a very strong build. His orange hair twirled around itself and reached down to his shoulders, his beard (of the same color) was large and bushy. He wore a heavy coat with a bear pelt stitched around it. His pants and boots had wolf pelts stitched onto them as well.

"Whachu be needing of me?" The large man asked.

"Curth I presume?" Thrain responded.

"Aye that be me. But I ask whachu need of me?"

"I'm forming a company of, strong companions. I want to speak to you about possibly joining it."

Curth laughed deep from his throat, a genuine laugh non-mocking. Then he said, "Aye you want me to follow you into battle then you show me yer strength first, come outside." Then Curth without further word stepped past Thrain and went outside.

Adelin had come up behind Thrain, who was turned to watch Curth go, and said, "You're going to have to beat him in single combat before he will talk with you seriously."

"I didn't come to fight."

"That was his condition on hearing you; if you don't fight he won't even listen to you. And Thrain don't hold back, he's much more powerful than you might think."

Outside in the town square Curth was waiting for Thrain. His bear-pelt coat was removed and sat on the ground off to the side. He now wore a simple brown leather vest and his arms had defining outlines of muscle, his pecs showed through the leather almost the size of a man's torso. He wielded a massive double sided axe made of mithiril; as far as Thrain could see.

The axe itself was as large as Thrain but Curth spun it around him like it was an ash-pole. Left with little other choice Thrain unsheathed his sword, a blue steel longsword with a silver falcon head pommel. The blade was adamantite and weighed practically nothing with incredible resistance and was near indestructible.

They stood twenty yards apart; Thrain turned sideways holding the blade closer to him with both hands. Curth sprinted at Thrain with incredible speed, coming within slashing distance of him and his axe. Instead of making an overhead slash, like he appeared to be prepped for, he stopped suddenly, skidding a little forward in the dirt, and spun around; holding the doubled edges axe outwards.

Thrain's surprise at Curth's speed and tactic's cost him, instead of dodging like he wanted he was forced to turn and meet the swing head on with his blade slashing down full force. The metals clashed in a low pitched ring and Thrain was instantly thrown off his feet and onto his back a few feet away; completely overwhelmed by Curth's raw strength.

Fast on his feet Curth raced after the fallen Thrain, following his spin through with an overhead swing of the axe (intended to cut Thrain down the middle where he lay). At the last possible moment Thrain rolled out of the way of the attack and used his momentum to rise to his feet again. He was lucky he had not been wearing his armor today, with it he lost a lot of speed and against someone as fast and powerful as Curth, the armor would have only gotten in his way.

He quickly rushed to Curth and jabbed the sword at the massive man's throat stopping just as the tip touched the skin. "You fought well but it's over now," Thrain said.

Lightly Curth chuckled then said, "Oh it not be over just yet." Then without any fore warning Curth pulled his head back and grabbed the blade with his free hand. Thrain tried to pull the blade back as he went for it but Curth caught it all the same. Blood began oozing out of his hand and flowing like a waterfall but he held tight.

He half spun the axe in his other hand and brought it up to swing at Thrain. He paused a moment to say, "Yee might wanna run away now." then he swung his massive axe, almost like a punch. The edge of the axe was racing towards Thrain's neck but in a blur of speed he pulled his blade free of Curth's grip (which was lubricated from his blood now) and dodged the axe by diving between his legs.

Coming out behind Curth, Thrain sliced the back of his knee as he went to twist around to face Thrain. He stumbled but didn't fall and Thrain dived into his back and knocked him onto his side. Curth rolled onto his back just in time to see Thrain standing over his neck blade held downward. Swift and powerful Thrain stabbed his blade down deep as it would go.

Just grazing the side of his neck Curth saw the knight's blade sticking but half a foot out of the ground. He would have been dead right then and there if Thrain wanted to kill him. Instead of breathing heavily out of fear Curth laughed and waited for the knight to pull his blade and step back to stand up.

"Oh boyo never have I before been bested. I faced me some tough basters' before but never had a one of em beaten me. I faced knights, magicians, even monsters but always came out on top. But you, hiding those tricks up yer sleeve fer so long, very impressive."

Thrain was still catching his breath when Curth finished talking. He sheathed his sword when it looked like Curth had fully accepted defeat. He wiped the sweat from his brow and said, "You completely caught me off guard too I will admit. I didn't expect you to be so strong or fast, and your skin its think isn't it?"

"Aye most people who haven't seen me fight before don't know what I'm capable of and end up dying in the first couple a moves. None of em ever figured out how tough my skin was though how were you the first to realize it?"

Thrain pointed to Curth's hand the one that had been cut, (but was now only dripping blood instead of pouring out) and said, "My blade is strong and sharp enough to cut in half four inch thick steel shields. But you grabbed it with your bare hand and instead of lopping right off it only bled out; in addition you were able to hold onto it and keep me from removing it with ease."

"Very good, yer not only strong but wise too eh. But you should be more careful with those magic bursts you been using, let yer body warm up to it first otherwise it will leave you like that. Or worse."

"You caught onto that huh? Well you gave me no other choice but to use them early on, trust me though should we ever fight again I won't underestimate you a second time."

"Aye you better keep yerself in good shape cause one of em days im gunna want a rematch you hear? For now tho let us celebrate with some elixir. It's all on me too so drink as much as yee like."

Thrain had a good laugh at that then said, "I think you still have an unpaid bar tab to deal with. But yes let's go settle that matter and get onto our business."

Fortunately for Thrain he had enough gold and silver coins on hand to pay off the rest of Curth's tab and order a round of drinks. The 'Elixir' itself was pricey at two silver coins per a mug. He used Adelin's message hawk to send a letter to king Aldon requesting a chest full of gold to be sent over to him at the village right away. Thrain hoped it would not take too long to arrive there as he still had others to find.

Over the round of drinks they talked. Curth chugged down his mug of elixir, slammed it on the table and hollered for more before he said anything. "So you wants me to join yer team eh?"

"Well more accurately I'd like to know who you are before I consider that," Thrain said. "First I'd like to know where you come from."

"Did Adelin not tell ya? I come from the Targol mountains I was born there... I think. Anyways was raised by an old mountain hermit til the age of seven where he passed away, rest his soul. An after that I began traveling around the mountains' fer a few years til that got boring and I went further."

"And you've traveled far?"

"Das right. All around the world in fact. Met lots of new people some fun, some bad, most boring tho."

"Have you ever killed anyone before or fought for one the kingdoms around?"

Curth's other round of drink came up and he chugged that down before answering the questions. "Aye I killed people before, many want a go at Curth the mighty adventurer, but none before had beaten me. Mind you if I can help it I don't kill them unless they be bad people; then I have no problem cuttin em down. As fer the kingdoms, I fight for meself, or for fun, never fought for anyone else before really. Another mug!" he shouted out at the end.

"And how did you know the people you killed were bad?"

"I can just tell if someone is good or bad, they have this... feel to em ya know? Like you, yer a good person I can tell. And strong too; I like that."

"Alright then one last question before we move on, if you had a wish that could give anything you wanted what would it be?"

With little hesitation Curth said, "easy id wish for a fountain with this elixir gushing out of it." His next mug had come by already and right after that he began chugging it down like he never before had a drink in his life.

Thrain was silent for some time after that, thinking to himself. To break the silence Adelin and Curth talked about some of Curth's adventures. And as he was telling his tale of how he wrestled a bear over some giant bass he caught. Thrain cut in saying, "The Company I am forming is made for climbing the top of the Devil Tower, and attaining the promised wish for the good of the kingdom. If you agree to help me and my company reach the top of the tower then the kingdom would pay you a ten-times your weight in gold. However, since you don't seem fond of gold, and instead have a strong desire for this 'elixir', then perhaps instead we could finance your tab here for as long as you live.

"Right now I have a chest filled with gold coming on its way that should be more than enough to cover your drinks here for a month. And if you want I can have it arranged that a chest comes by every month for you to pay for your future drinks; if you so desire?"

Curth scratched his beard in thought. "Aye if you be willin to cover my tab for life then I will help ya climb that tower. Hell I might even get on me knees and suck yer danglies." Then he burst into a massive laughter that spread to Thrain and Adelin.

After drinks Thrain returned to Adelin's home to wait until the gold chest arrived so he could arrange the deal with the tavern manager. As they got into the house Adelin asked, "So what was that magic bursts thing you and Curth were talking about after your fight anyways? I am dying to know."

"Weird thing to ask me now isn't it?" Thrain asked. Adelin just shrugged but he answered anyways. "The magic bursts, as Curth put them, is a way for a non-magician to tap into their latent magic abilities and use it to greatly enhance their speed, strength, well all physical attributes really, to unparalleled heights. But if you don't warm you're body up by letting the magic in you flow naturally as you call upon it then you will burn yourself out fast."

"Wow, that sounds epic. I wouldn't mind learning about it, where did you first learn it?"

"From my father, before he died." Thrain said solemn. "It's very dangerous and I'm not really sure how to teach it to anyone else. Right now though I am tired and shall be going to sleep."

"Alright but just one more question before you sleep," Adelin insisted.

"Please just make it fast then," Thrain said irritated.

"Are you sure you don't want to think about Curth joining us more? I mean I do trust him greatly and think he would be invaluable to your cause, but usually you would contemplate something like this for days."

"That's simple, it's because time is the one thing I don't have. I have little over a week left to find four others to join the company now; and Curth is a humble, strong and straight forward man. In my current situation I can't possibly ask for more. Plus he warmed up on me."

The small chest of gold Thrain sent for arrived by sunset guarded by a few knights (they had to ride day and night to get from the capitol to there so fast). Thrain took the chest of gold to the tavern owner, Tara, to discuss the business proposition with her.

While waiting for him to return, Curth and Adelin traded war stories. They were talking for a couple hours at least before Thrain came back. "I paid off your tab with Tara and just paid for about a month's worth of drinks for you with that chest." Thrain said. "But pay attention to how much you consume cause they might try and cheat you out of several drinks near the end of the month.

"Also I arranged for a chest just like that to be brought to you here at the first of every month. The guards won't stay more than a day. So if you miss it it goes back to the kingdom treasury."

"Wonderful! Then you gots yourself a new companion fer your trip to the tower," Curth said.

"Good. Then I must be off, Adelin a word outside before I go?"

Adelin went outside and walked with Thrain to his horse. "That was a nice thing you did for Curth," She said.

"We need his help climbing the tower. Besides I only paid Tara that single chest of gold. There won't be more coming unless I say so."

"So you lied to him then."

"We can work something out later if the payment isn't adequate for him. Right now I don't have time to barter. And for what I'm asking all the gold I gave him now is a fair offer. Now then I wanted to tell you that we should meet up at the tower base, near the entrance, in eight days from tonight. If you get there before us then just camp out and wait; we shouldn't be far behind."

Thrain rode his horse hard all night, racing to the capitol city. When he got there dawn was approaching and he sent his horse to the stables to rest. And found his way to Veera's room inside the castle.

It took a few hard pounds at her door for her to get up and open it. She was stark naked the aroma carrying from her room smelled heavily of sweat and Special scented candles, Thrain could only imagine what sort of mess it was like in there.

"Sir Thrain, what are you doing here at this hour?" Veera asked drowsy.

"Grand magister Cambren requested that I take you along with me inside the Devil Tower, and after much contemplation I have agreed to this. We leave at dawn in a weeks' time, make whatever arrangements you need to before then, and tell no one besides Cambren or the king directly about this. Oh and don't pack too heavy, you must only bring what you can carry on your back."

Then he turned and left, and as he went Veera gradually woke up further and became aware she was standing naked in front of the first knight that entire time.

Leaving the magisters corridors Thrain went straight to the Prince's room to find him. Rugal, fortunately, was already waking up when Thrain came by. "Thrain," Rugal said in surprise. "Welcome back, were you successful in finding the others?"

"No I'm still shy of three more people and I'm out of sources that I can contact in such limited time. That's why I'm here, I need you and Garren to help me seek out a few more companions before the week is out. Strong people that you know as well as yourself and you could trust with your life even in the most dire of situations.

"I will be verifying their worth when they meet me so be prepared; and tell Garren he is to join you. Remember this all must remain secret to only the other members of the team and those you find to join. For now I shall retire to my room, I have had a long and endearing ride."

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