Errant Road: Jade's Story

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Errant Road: Jade's Story

Postby Jack Rothwell » July 31st, 2010, 4:07 pm

This is just a backstory i'm writing for Jade, who's a character in Errant Road. I think this belongs in here since it wasn't intended to become a pass-along story. It's set about 3 years before the events that brought her to Tsuiraku Town for those who care.

Feedback is always welcomed.




Errant Road

Jade’s story

Jade blinked awake, she felt a moment’s disorientation as the ‘where, when and how’ she arrived at her current situation took it’s time to catch up with her. Her eyes came into focus staring at wooden slats; she felt the gentle rock on a vehicle in motion and the creak of old wooden wheels turning.
She sat up in the back end of the cart, sleepily rubbing her eyes in the light of the dewy spring morning. The air was cold and crisp, carrying the promise of a new beginning in its freshness.

“Morning Miss”

She craned her neck and saw the old man sitting up front. Jacob his name was, he’d picked her up the previous evening when he’d come across her trudging down a dirt track in the dark. He was a kindly soul who’d had the decency to give her a lift without enquiring too closely about why the young woman was out by herself, alone and in the middle of the night. Whether or not that also showed wisdom Jade couldn’t say. She murmured a ‘good morning’ and clambered over the low wooden side to join him front. She stretched and heard the satisfying crack of vertebrae realigning themselves to a more comfortable position.

“How far until Ester?”

“You picked a good time to wake up Miss. The village is just up ahead.”

He was right, there it was. The first chimneys were cresting over the edge of the shallow incline they rode up. Jade squinted at the approaching mess that passed for civilisation and smiled. She’d made it. Once again, a successful but narrow escape. She patted herself down until she found what she’d been looking for, pulled out her tobacco pouch and began rolling a cigarette. She glanced over at the driver.

“Want one?”

“No thank you. I quit when I was young.”

“Suit yourself.”

“What brings you to Ester miss? If you don’t mind me asking of course.”

Jade shrugged “I was hoping you could give me the answer to that question, Jacob. Where the clean beds are would be a start; employment opportunities would be better.”

“Well there’s plenty of work available for… erm… ladies of low morals.” The driver seemed to catch the implications of what he’d just said and spluttered out the rest of the sentence “and, uh, yes, Maurice! Yes! Maurice who runs the inn over on Lister street is always looking for barmaids.”
Jade cocked an eyebrow and nonchalantly rested her hand on the hilt of the sword she carried. It was a sleek, vicious looking thing free of unnecessary engraving and useless extra weight. Jade would’ve known, she’d built the weapon herself after all.

“How about extra security?” Her reply came out with more of an edge than she’d intended it to. The old man stiffened, and for a split second Jade felt shame, she was scaring an old man. Although to his credit, his reply gave no hint of the fear he obviously felt.

“Aye. He may be needing that. Especially with dangerous folks around these days.” There was no mistaking that implication. Jade turned away from the old coot and let the subject drop. The truth was she had no intention of looking for a security job unless things got desperate. The pay was bad and the job was usually dangerous or deathly boring.

The rest of the journey passed in relative quiet until they pulled into the main street of the town.

‘Gods, what a shithole.’ She thought.

She gathered her meagre possessions from the back of the cart and stepped off onto the damp ground. She turned and tipped at a hand to the driver. He gave a strained smile in return and snapped the reins. Jade watched him drive away for a moment before finally taking a good hard look at the scenery.
Her first impression was right, it usually was, the town (more of a village in fact) had a distinctly run-down feel to it. Most of the houses she could see where one-storey affairs in a state of disrepair, with threadbare roofs and short, white-washed fences with missing panels. Barefoot children ran in circles and bleary eyed adults who looked like farmers milled around on domestic chores. A few gave the young woman glances full of suspicion before continuing on their way. The place spoke of bad harvests and high taxes. Much like a few of the previous towns she’d found herself in over the last few months.
“Nothing like a warm welcome.” She drew herself up and began her exploration.

……………………………………………………………………………………..


It took longer than expected to find the place she was looking for; the town smithy was tucked apologetically into a corner down a narrow street a couple of turns away from the town’s market centre. Although it was early, the cries of merchants plying their trade carried clearly and loudly through the air. It was the rhythmic clink-clink of the Blacksmith’s hammer that led Jade to her destination.

She walked to the entrance, which was almost as wide as the building itself, and for a moment simply stood there watching the man at work. She tried unsuccessfully to battle down a rising feeling of nostalgia. At a glance the place wasn’t so different from her father’s forge: the arrangement of tools hanging from the walls, the same weapons hanging from the racks, some flawless, others unfinished, and above all else the heat from the fire itself. It all came together to conjure up a thousand memories of childhood and education under her father’s eye. It was funny, she reflected, how three short months could feel like a lifetime ago.

The blacksmith looked up and saw Jade lost in her reverie.

“Good morning.”

She came back to reality; her legs carried her into the forge, nodding acknowledgment to the smithy. He looked as if he was approaching middle-age, although the lower half of his face was buried beneath a beard so thick it looked as if it could swallow small animals.

‘Gods, he must feed that thing fertiliser’ out loud she said “A fine forge you have here sir. My names Jade, Jade Ermingard.” She held out a hand; the blacksmith shook it, looking slightly taken back by pleasantries so early in the morning.

“Flint Crosby at your service madam. Are you here for a commission?”

“Not quite. I’m looking for a few days work.”

The blacksmith looked for moment as if he was about to laugh, but when he read the serious expression on the young woman’s face he turned into a look of mere incredulity instead.

“Not a whole lot of female blacksmith's around these parts miss. Do you have any training?”

Jade stared at him for a moment, then walked over to a rack where an unfinished broadsword was hung. She liberated the weapon and held it up; resting the blade on her palm so the weapon was levelly balanced. She held it for a few seconds.

“This sword is half an ounce too heavy on the blade.” She adjusted her grip and peered closer. “There is a small fault that runs diagonally out from the tip and a six inch stretch near the base that needs sharpening.”

She faced his astonished expression with an unabashed grin.

………………………………………………………………………………………….

It was a hard day’s work. A day at the smithy usually was. But Jade was sent on her way with the pleasant jingle of coins filling her purse for the first time in several days. She felt her spirits beginning to lift. A drink was definitely in order.

She made her way over to a tavern she’d spotted on her way into town. The faded sign hanging above the entrance declared the place to be ‘The Laughing Troll’, Jade didn’t care enough to waste time philosophising about whether or not trolls actually laughed and pushed her way inside.

The atmosphere was surprisingly lively despite Ester’s run down exterior. Music drifted from a far corner made by a young man playing a guitar with moderate success. The ballad he played was nearly drowned out by the noise of the working men locals singing along. Jade couldn’t pick out most of the words but the gestures they made told her everything she needed to know. She was pretty sure one of the verses was describing an act that was outlawed for fear of woolly children. She half-laughed, half snorted a “Bloody bumpkins.” And parked herself on a stool at the bar.

The first glass of whisky sent warmth flowing through her body and a pleasant glaze over her brain. Immediately the world felt like a better place to be. She leaned back on the stool and let out a sigh, reflecting on the absurdity her life had fallen into in such a short time.

Here she was; a hundred miles or more from home and locked into a wild goose chase she might never get a chance to end. She only had the vaguest idea of where her quarry had travelled to. Theodore Reks: the man who’d taken her old life away from her, the man whose rag-tag band of bandits had torn through her hometown, along with half the countryside, and left her with nothing but the ashes of her home and the corpses of her family for company. Nothing but flames and the taste of ash. The glass trembled in her hand.

“I need a refill.”

Her drinking had been getting progressively worse over the last few months, that was certain. The girl who could pass an evening on a glass of wine had turned into the woman who was partial to half a bottle of sinus-cleaning spirits every other night or more. In fact, the reason she’d found herself skipping out on the last town had been at least partially down to her growing habit. The alcohol on the evening in question had given her the nerve to attempt a break-in on a local shop. The building had been fitted with a magically triggered alarm which hadn’t deterred her from grabbing an armful of supplies before making an exit. She told herself that she was doing it for the greater, nobler purpose of eradicating her target. The local militia hadn’t seen it that way however, and Jade had barely escaped unscathed by the experience.

………………………………………………………………………………………….


It was another four shots later, and Jade began feeling a definite sense of gravity holding her in place at the bar. The music which had seemed off-key began to sound a lot better than it had some thirty minutes previously. People's voices began to run together, Jade guessed correctly that the hidden message in the cacophony was ‘you are getting drunk’.

She didn’t see the man at first; he must’ve climbed onto the stool next to hers when her head was turned. Jade was barely aware of his presence until he spoke to her.

“By the way you’ve been throwing those shots back you’d think the world was coming to an end.”

Jade snapped her head around to bark a retort and stopped. Maybe it had been the sheer, confident audacity of his delivery, maybe it was the direct stare the man was giving her or maybe it was because even though Jade had started to sail over the seas of drunkenness she couldn’t help noticing the speaker was handsome, very handsome in fact. Even so, she rallied and shifted her features into a frown.

“That’s none of your business, fella.”

He had a predatory, wolfish grin about him which never seemed to shift from his face. He didn’t look like one of the locals. Even in her current state Jade noticed a shortsword hanging from his belt which was mirrored by a revolver hanging from the other side.

‘You’re quite right madam. Please accept my humble apology.” He leaned forward on his stool and made an almost regal bow.

‘He’s either merc who’s been reading poetry or a fop or decided to try red meat’ Jade thought to herself, and stifled a smirk. She wasn’t feeling the least bit of trust for the charming bastard however.

“I prefer apologies that come in a glass.” She shot him a stony look “and what made you think I needed the company?”

Not a flutter, he went right on smiling. “Intuition mainly. You might say I’m good at spotting a kindred spirit.”

She raised an eyebrow. The man gestured to the barmaid, who poured two fresh glasses. He pushed one towards Jade, who took a good hard look the drink before reluctantly picking it up.

“What is it we have in common exactly? Besides a taste for whisky and a poor choice in location, I mean.”

He actually looked serious for a moment, leaning in closer and lowering his voice. Jade made no effort to move out the way, but felt her hand unconsciously dropping off the bar and coming to a rest on her thigh, where a brace of throwing knives was strapped. If the man noticed he gave no sign.

“You’re after something.” His voice was only slightly above a whisper. Jade couldn’t help thinking his change in tone might’ve just been a convenient excuse for him to invade a little more of her personal space. She’d run into a couple of merc types before; although the ones who expressed interest in her usually conveyed their intentions with God-awful one liners or, in one case, a slap to her backside which resulted in the offending hand being pinned to a table with a butter knife. This one, however, at least had the decency to keep his hands in plain sight, whatever his intentions were.

“Everyone’s after something.” She shot back at him.

“True. But not everyone has the means to get it. And I reckon I could help you.”

“That’s an awfully confident line from a man who doesn’t know what I’m after.” She leaned back on the stool and drank half the glass in a single draught. “What’s your name merc? If you’re trying to win my trust that would be a good place to start.”

He straightened up, brushing himself down in an oddly dignified way which seemed as out of place for the clothes he wore as the bow had been.
“Leo Landau, son of Alan, late of Port Lorrel. And might I have the pleasure of knowing your name miss?”

“Jade Ermingard, daughter of whisky, late of another shithole that looked remarkably similar to this one.” On impulse, she reached forward and clinked his glass with her own then finished her drink. Leo matched her gesture, Jade felt a tug of satisfaction as a cough escaped his lips. Then her expression hardened.
“Alright Mr Landau, if you’ve got a proposal then spit it out.”

He actually flinched a little at that one. ‘Good’ she thought ‘I was beginning to believe this one had no nerves to get on.’

“That would best be explained by my employer. By your leave I’ll take you to see him.”

She couldn’t help notice an edge of sarcasm to that reply. She felt a flare of suspicion rise up but kept her face straight. If Leo, wasn’t what he appeared (and he almost certainly wasn’t) then there was a slim chance he could’ve been a lawman playing a ruse to draw her away from the crowd and arrest her with a minimum of fuss. Admittedly it was unlikely, out in backwater villages like Ester and its surrounding locales subterfuge was virtually unheard of. And besides that, she was hardly a hardened criminal in the eyes of the law. A criminal, yes, but not a hardened one.

‘Ok then, lets see where this goes.’ She nodded “Lead on, Leo.”

“Marvellous.” The jovial tone had crept back “Just let me beg your indulgence for another minute Jade. I need to pay a visit to the outhouse.”
He got up and headed to the exit, brushing past her as she went.

It was only ten seconds. But it was a period of time Jade would come to curse repeatedly in times to come. Leo Landau walked to the exit and disappeared. The whisky was probably the reason it took just a little longer for the alarm bell to start ringing in her head. Her hands flew to her pockets and enlightenment dawned.

“You fucking-“

She raced out the door after him. The bastard had stolen her wallet.




Chapter 2 on the way...
Last edited by Jack Rothwell on August 5th, 2010, 8:24 am, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Errant Road: Jade's Story

Postby Jack Rothwell » August 1st, 2010, 7:09 pm

Chapter 2

She burst into the street, sending a drunk sprawling and ignoring his annoyed cry. She snapped her head from left to right and saw, just in time, the tail end of Leo’s longcoat disappearing round a corner. She took off, adrenalin and rage working against the alcohol in her system. She rounded the corner and got a clear view of him crossing the empty street, heading to a narrow alley between two rows of houses. Her hand instinctively went for a weapon but she resisted the urge. He was too far away for a throwing knife and there were too many people within earshot for the revolver. She redoubled her speed, hitting the alley at a dead run.

Which was completely empty.

She skidded to a halt and looked around frantically, wondering where the thief could’ve gotten to. The answer struck her at the same time the feet did. Leo swung down from the window sills he’d jammed himself between and planted a double kick to the centre of her back. Jade let out a cry as she went sprawling, more from angry surprise than pain. She wheeled around just in time to see the cocky bastard shoot her a grin before taking off again. She snarled and resumed the chase.

He might’ve been agile, but Jade had been doing most of her travelling on foot for months and had built up a serious reserve of stamina. It took her a couple of minutes to catch back up with the foppish looking mercenary. This time she didn’t hesitate, she slowed her pace long enough to draw a knife and send it whistling in his direction. Her accuracy was definitely off, but even so the projectile cut close enough to tear a line through the sleeve of the man’s coat. He made a surprised yell and changed direction. Jade gave a last burst and grabbed him just as he entered another alley. He span to face her and struck out an elbow. Jade got an arm up and deflected the strike just as their momentum carried them to the earth. She landed on top, drawing back her free first to punch him in the jaw, not quite getting everything she had behind the blow but giving it enough force to snap Leo’s head to one side. Jade’s hand went to her belt to grab the gun. He was dazed, but seized her wrist before she was able to grip the handle, planted a hand under her ribcage and threw her off him. Jade hit the ground shoulder first and rolled back to her feet at the same time Leo scrambled frantically back to his. He froze in position, and held up the palms of his hands as the revolver finally cleared leather.

“Ok! Ok! Enough! Stop!”

Jade’s arm snapped out rigid in front of her, the snarl was still in place.

“Wallet. Now.”

He moved slowly, never taking his eyes off the gun pointed at him. His hand went into a pocket and came out clutching the wallet. She leaned in briefly and snatched it back from him as he held it out.

……………………………………………………………………………………….

A sound punctuated the following silence as Jade glared at the would-be thief. The slow sound of a single pair of hands clapping. Jade turned sharply in the direction of the sound. Shadows shifted at the edge of a light cast by an overhead lamp and a figure stepped into view.

He was a man who looked well into his fifties, but his build was that of a warrior who’d only just past the peak of his physical fitness. He wore a suit of old, but well maintained, armour, strapped tight to avoid making unnecessary noise as he moved. His hair was greying, but still long and thick enough to gather and tie at the back of his head. His face seemed built to convey intimidation; it was a landscape of harsh lines, with an ugly scar running from his forehead to his cheek, punctuated by an eye patch in the middle. He stood there in the lamplight bringing his hands together like theatre goers at the end of a particularly good scene. Jade felt a distinct sinking feeling. Leo spoke out the corner of his mouth; as if loud conversation would cause the gun to go off.

“You were right sir. This one caught on quick.”

“It is well.” His voice had only the smallest quaver to it, and was considerably deeper than that of the younger man. Jade started sidestepping to get Leo between her and the newcomer and present a smaller target.

“No need for that, Jade. We don’t mean you any harm.”

“You could’ve fooled me. This prick tried to leave me without a coin in my pocket.”

She blinked “And how do you know my name anyway?”

The old man shrugged, he leaned back against the post which illuminated the alley. “We’ve had an eye on you for a couple of weeks Jade. Not directly of course, at least until a couple of days ago. But it always pays to have a few spare eyes and ears among your neighbours.”

“You’ve been following me?”

“Observing, to be accurate. Although Leo has paid a particularly close watch over you recently.”

She shot him a withering stare. Leo gave a strained smile and kept his palms up. “No harm intended. Besides, you didn’t lose anything, if anything you’re one glass of whisky up tonight.”

“You. Shut up. So I take you’re Leo’s ‘employer’ then?”

“My name is Rufus Lamenter. And yes, I’m Leo’s employer.”

She looked back at Leo “And what was all that talk about helping me?”

“That was a genuine offer I told Leo to pass along to you.” He fixed his one good eye on her. “I know about Reks, I know what he took from you and I know what you’re trying to accomplish.”

She couldn’t disguise the surprise on the face. Rufus pressed home with his speech.

“You’re trying to find him and I presume when you do you’ll satisfy your anger by butchering him horribly, yes? Of course, in order to do that you’d have to find him first. And even if you succeed in that task he has a hundred bandits watching his back, armed with guns, swords, magic and Gods know whatever else they’ve stolen.”

Jade said nothing. It was hard to argue with the truth.

“And to top it all off, you’re living hand to mouth and engaging in acts of petty theft just to fund your travels. Face it Jade, you need help.”

“Usually when help is given it’s exchanged for something. And I don’t see what kind of help a pair of pickpockets could provide.”

Rufus chuckled; it was a surprising throaty, cheerful sound. Jade felt just a fraction of her guard drop.

“You’re right! Yes, a couple of pickpockets would be no use to you at all, But that is not what we are Jade. We’re a group of thieves, that’s true, but, like you, we have a purpose.” He walked a little closer until he stood next to Leo, showing no concern for the barrel that was now only a few degrees from possibly blowing a hole in his chest. He placed a reassuring hand on his subordinates shoulder.

“People like Reks have had it their own way for too long because of the country we live in. He’s rallied the worst it has to offer by recruiting from the poorest, the angriest and the most desperate. Our goal is to bring some balance to this state of affairs.”

“By stealing people’s wallets?”

“That was a test actually.” Leo blurted it out; Rufus looked at him with mild irritation.

“We don’t make a habit of stealing from poor traveller’s, Jade. As Leo said that was an exercise to see if you had what it took to join us.”

“And why in the seven hells would I want to do that?”

“I can give you three reasons. Firstly, our organisation makes a habit of stealing from the richest people we can find, whenever we find them, and partaking in that would make you a wealthy woman indeed. Secondly, with funding, me and mine can get the means to find out where your quarry has hidden himself and, thirdly, we’d be able to give you the means to get to him and kill him.”

Jade considered the offer, if the old geezer was telling the truth if certainly sounded like a dream opportunity. But if an offer seemed too good to be true, it often was.

“What do you want in exchange for all this help?”

“Simply your willing cooperation in helping us achieving our goal.”

Jade took a moment just to cast her eyes over the two men facing her, silently weighing up the possibilities the future could hold. She made a decision.

“One condition.”

“Name it.”

“If you and yours ever pull a trick on me like that business with the wallet again. We’re done.”

Rufus nodded “Agreed.”

“And don’t expect me to stick around if things go cockeyed either.”

The creases in Rufus’ face deepened as his lips pulled back into a smile. “If that happens young lady, none of us will be sticking around to see how it turns out.”

He held out a hand.
Last edited by Jack Rothwell on August 3rd, 2010, 10:02 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Errant Road: Jade's Story

Postby Graybeard » August 3rd, 2010, 8:35 am

This is nice work. One gets a good sense of what Jade's life is like, and the characters are believable. Two suggestions to improve readability: One, add blank lines between paragraphs. Two, individual entries could be a bit shorter. You might break the "chapters" into smaller pieces and post more often. But keep on keeping on! I'm looking forward to reading more of this.

Any ideas on how we get more participants?
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Re: Errant Road: Jade's Story

Postby Jack Rothwell » August 3rd, 2010, 10:22 am

You mean more paticipants in the fan-fic section? I guess if we encouraged people to write a backstory to their characters as part of the Errant Road series and encourage giving feedback on peoples work. In fact, i reckon a series of 'Errand Road- Origins' stories would be a nice way of filling out the saga, plus it would be a good way of really seeing what people's characters are like as individuals.


Chapter 3

It was a short walk to the hideout that the thieves (‘with delusions of grandeur’ Jade thought to herself) called home. A one floor house on the Eastern edge of town. At a glance the building appeared to be in the same condition of it’s neighbours. It was only when Jade got up close that she noticed the subtle differences; the way the door was chained with a padlock so thick a hacksaw wouldn’t break it, the way the windows had barely detectable cords hanging from the top of the part that opened that would be pulled taunt if the window was opened. Jade turned to Leo and gave a questioning look. For all the recent violence between the two of them, he’d regained his sure-footed swagger remarkably quick.

“What you’re looking at is a cunningly disguised trap for would-be visitors to our little establishment. If someone tried to break in the window by sliding it up that line would be pulled.”

“What’s it attached to?”

“The trigger of a sawed off shotgun.”

Jade winced. It was brutal, but damn, that was clever.

Rufus detached himself from the pair and started rummaging through his pockets for a key. Leo cocked his head at the mercenary, rubbing the side of his face.

“That’s a hell of a right you’ve got, Miss Ermingard.”

“I don’t owe you an apology. You kicked me in the back!”

“And believe me that was regrettable. If we could’ve got a measure of you any other way we would’ve.” His touched his swelling jaw again “Are we even?”

She met his eyes “I’ll let you know.”

The lock came free with a squeak that produced a shudder in the old man. Rufus opened the door and stepped inside. Jade and Leo held their stare for a second, then followed suit.

It was dark inside the building, Rufus moved ahead of the pair grunting and cursing, complaining about ‘who’d moved the damn matches’. Leo stood with his arms crossed, grinning at his employer. Jade immediately caught a sense of affection from him towards the old man. He reached into his breast pocket and pulled out something small, there was striking noise and a flame illuminated the gloom.

Rufus wheeled around to see Leo, grinning and holding a lit match. He took it off the younger man with a sharp look and used it to light a lamp resting a nearby table. He jerked his head for Jade to follow him.

Rufus walked into the middle of what passed for the main sitting room of the borderline hovel. He crouched and pulled back a rug to reveal a thick wooden trapdoor that looked out of place in it’s newness. He set the lamp to one side and rapped his knuckles on the lid. Jade counted four knocks, then two, a pause, and two again. She heard the sound of a long bolt being pulled back, finding herself wondering, not for the first time, exactly what she’d gotten herself into. The trapdoor opened, Rufus stepped onto a short ladder beneath and turned to Jade.

“Welcome home.” He began climbing down.
Last edited by Jack Rothwell on August 3rd, 2010, 3:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Errant Road: Jade's Story

Postby Jack Rothwell » August 3rd, 2010, 12:59 pm

Chapter 3 (cont.)

It was her first major lesson in just how deceiving appearances can be. The basement under the run down house resembled a small barracks. At the bottom of the ladder the room opened out into a wide area supported by stone pillars in the centre of the clearing and placed intermittently in the walls. Wooden panels punctuated the gaps between the pillars on the walls, giving the place a warm, homey feel that Jade wouldn’t have thought was possible. Of course, the effect would’ve been more smoothing were it not for the weapons and armour that hung from hooks and sat in open cupboards that lined the walls. Training dummies hung from chains and wooden posts at the end of the room, and small corridors led off into darkened rooms on either side.

Jade’s attention was pulled away from her observations by the figure that had opened the trapdoor for them. It was a woman, that much was clear, but the figure hadn’t stopped to look back at them as she moved to the end of the open room, making a beeline for the training dummies.

Rufus was still in front. He called out to her.

“Good evening Eve.”

The figure raised an arm and fluttered a hand in greeting. She increased the speed of her walk until it reached a slow jog, then drew one of the shortswords from the criss-cross holster at her back (‘Good leather, strong thick stitches, adjustable angle for the sheathes. Probably cost a pretty penny’ Jade thought) and struck in one flowing movement. The wooden dummy rocked wildly to the side, a new blade mark across its ribs.

Leo leaned in and whispered conspiringly “A little off the broken track, that one. You might do well to keep your distance; she’s in one of her moods again.”

The figure snapped the dummy from side to side a few more times. Jade observed how much force the other girl put into her swings, as if the block of wood she was hacking had personally offended her. Finally, the figure stopped her assault and turned around. She eyed Jade up and down.

“Who’s the new gal?” Her voice had a harsh edge to it, although the face it came from was surprisingly young and delicately featured. Her hair was cut short and greased back to jagged points, presumably to create an intimidating effect. She was shorter than Jade but only by an inch or two (and Jade was tall for a woman). The look on the younger woman’s face as she looked at Jade seemed to suggest than Rufus and Leo had turned up with a bucket of cat sick instead of a new addition. Jade tensed, there WAS such a thing as dislike at first sight.

“Jade.” She made no effort to sugar coat her tone. Jade found, due to bitter experience, that being civil with uncivil people rarely earned you their respect. Eve’s eyes twitched in a way that suggested something unpleasant was floating past her mind. She put on a smile that suggested the possibility of fangs.

“Welcome to the team.”

Rufus interjected himself between the two women and directed Eve back to her practise. Leo watched the whole thing with a look of long suffering resignation, he looked back at Jade.

“Well, now would be the best time as any to give you the grand tour.”

Jade shrugged “Why not?"

……………………………………………………………………………………….

There wasn’t a great amount to see, admittedly. Leo led her round, showing her around the small rooms that amounted to the rest of the headquarters of ‘The Silver Hands’.

“It’s not a particularly flashy name, I know.” Leo had defended

“It’s hardly ingenious.”

“But it fits. Function over form as Rufus says. Silver hands, silver in hand.”

The main room they’d entered had been the training and operations room, Leo had explained. The passage to the left had lead to a pair of fairly spacious bedrooms, enough to accommodate half a dozen people.

“Of course, if you get cold at night. I suppose I could put up with you sharing.”

Jade had punched Leo in the arm at that point and told him she’d be sleeping in house upstairs thank-you-very-much. He’d kept his gigolo comments to himself after that. The other rooms were a kitchen and a dining area. Jade supposed the place reflected the personality of its leader. It was well-equipped but somehow minimalist. The design of a military mind. After the tour, she’d had a brief conversation with Rufus about what tomorrow entailed.

“The day’s your own. Just report back here in the evening. We’ll head out then.”

She still had one last question to ask and she put it to him directly.

“Why do this, Rufus?

It seemed we went silent for a long time, as if building his answer down to the smallest detail before replying.

“Because the world isn’t a fair place, Jade. Eight years ago I was removed from my position as a Military Captain because of internal squabbling and political issues. I was cut adrift and reduced to sub-sustaining on a mercenaries wages while I watched the countryside being torn to shreds by the people I used to fight.”

Jade needed no explanation as to what that was like. Hadn’t she experienced it firsthand?

“What were doing here is building a war chest. We take from the most over privileged people who enjoy their comforts at the expense of the working man and use the money they provide to build an army of our own.”

“And then what?”

“We free the country. Free it from men like your general Theo, and free it from a parasitic controlling class who believe in personal gain over the common good.”

Jade had to admit, Rufus knew how to spin a good speech. The man had sounded like a revolutionary, impassioned with his beliefs. It wasn’t hard to see how the man had acquired a following.

She’d retired back upstairs then. Walking around until she found an empty bedroom tucked away in a corner. She closed the door behind her, thought of Leo, then jammed a makeshift wedge under the frame.

“Still don’t trust him.” She murmured.

She went to sleep and dreamed the dreams of the anxious, but hopeful.
Last edited by Jack Rothwell on August 4th, 2010, 6:23 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Errant Road: Jade's Story

Postby Jack Rothwell » August 4th, 2010, 6:19 am

Chapter 4

Jade woke early, filled with nervous anticipation for the coming day. She left the bedroom and crossed the house, pausing briefly at the trapdoor, then carrying on to the front. She gave a mental shrug, Rufus had told her he didn’t need her help until sundown anyway. And in the meantime…

“Breakfast.” She opened the door and headed out into Ester.

…………………………………………………………………………………………..

Leo was up some thirty minutes later, woken by the sound of steel striking wood which announced that Eve was awake and going through her morning exercises. He grumbled and pulled himself to the edge of the bed, stifling a wince from the throb of his jaw. He pick up a mirror placed on a table next to his bed (Rufus often told him he was vain bastard) and took a good look at the damage. The purple colouring of the bruise was showing through beautifully.

“Guess I won’t be charming anyone for a day or two.”

Leo smiled to himself; his impression of the new girl had been on an upward spiral since he’d first lain eyes on her a few days ago. The no-nonsense way she conducted herself had made for entertaining watching. Not to mention the woman’s ability to drink spirits like tap water and swing a punch like a prize-fighter. He got dressed and made his way into the training room.

“Morning Eve.”

A grunt of acknowledgment, it was as much as he’d expected.

“Hard at work?”

The girl stopped and looked at him levelly. Eve might not have been the friendliest person in the world, but at least one thing Leo could rely on was her loyalty to the group. She wasn’t overt about it, but she looked up at Rufus as a father figure. As far as Leo went, he got the impression Eve actually thought well of him, she had a hell of a way of expressing it though.

“There’s nothing to do until Bernard gets back.” She indicated the dummy next to hers “Maybe you should do the same.”

“Eve, darling, you know I’m a lover, not a fighter.”

“You’re a bloody scrawny git. That’s what you are.” She turned back and started hitting the blocks again. Leo sighed and headed into the kitchen.

Rufus was there sitting, cross-legged on a cushion in front of a low table that marked the centre of the room. Leo’s stomach growled as he saw the eggs and toast on the Captain’s plate. Rufus looked up as he entered.

“The stoves still on. Eggs are next to it.”

Leo shook his head, not bothering to ask how he’d known. Rufus seemed to know his team’s minds better than they did on occasion. He supposed that ability came with spending three decades in the military, working alongside soldiers with a cause.

No further conversation was exchanged until a few minutes later. Leo sat down with his plate just as the old man was mopping up his with a remaining corner of toast.

“Bernard’ll be back this evening, if I’m any judge.” The captain wiped the corner of his mouth with an old handkerchief from his pocket. “He’ll have the info and we can plan our actions from there.”

Leo knew better than to question the certainty in Rufus’ voice. Bernard Garland had been with Rufus for twenty years, twelve of those serving as his right hand man. If Rufus said he’d get the information, he’d get the information.

He’d already explained the initial stages of the plan to Leo and Eve. Bernard would snoop around the more fancy trade caravans coming out of Port Lorrel, using subterfuge, coercing and bribery to obtain their travel schedules. He’d left three days ago to complete his part of the mission. After he returned it would simply be a question of taking their new found knowledge and using it to be in the right place at the right time. After that…

Leo’s train of thought was interrupted by Eve stomping her way into the kitchen.

“I’m heading out.” She announced

“Keep a low profile.”

She nodded at the Captain, barked a 'sir' and made her exit.

Rufus stood up and made his way over to the sink. Leo had never really gotten over the sight of a military hero doing such domestic chores, even after being exposed to it every day for the last four years. The Captain didn’t look up from his plate washing.

“You might want to keep an eye on her.”

“Who?”

“Eve. She left to have a look at our new addition. The other one left about an hour ago”

Leo was already standing up and brushing himself off. “You think they’ll be trouble?”

“Probably nothing serious. Unless those two really start rubbing each other the wrong way. You have to understand Eve, Leo, that girl needs a period of adjustment.”

Leo touched his hand to his forehead and headed back to his room to prepare for what he knew in his heart was going to be a long day.
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Re: Errant Road: Jade's Story

Postby Jack Rothwell » August 4th, 2010, 1:59 pm

Chapter 5

Jade swung the hammer at the breastplate that rested on a bench in the blacksmith’s forge. She’d returned shortly after getting something to eat, her reasoning being another days work meant extra coin in her pocket there and then. And beside that was the matter of her giving her word to the blacksmith she’d help him out another day. Flint had shown himself to be a generous hearted man, even giving her time to work on her own equipment when business became slow. She struck the armour to a rhythm drilled into her since first time she’d been given a hammer to hold. It was a basic, but soothing kind of music that freed up the complications of her thoughts and arranged them into neat little piles for detached examination.

Flint sat in the corner at a small table, scratching some kind of design with a quill onto a large roll of parchment. He occasionally broke off from his task to glance in the direction of his temporary assistant, seemingly lost in some train of thought.

“How long have you been an apprentice miss?”

Jade replied, keeping up the rhythm. “Since I was eight. I worked in my fathers forge.”

“Seems like a pretty dangerous place for a young girl.”

“My father didn’t think so. He told me the sooner I faced an adversity the sooner it would be conquered.”

“And he was not wrong; you are a credit to him. Please give him my regards.”

Jade’s rhythm slowed “I would if I could sir. But he passed away three months ago.”

The blacksmith made an embarrassed noise and swore an apology for his inadvertent insensitivity. Jade nodded acceptance and returned to her task,

…………………………………………………………………………………………

In the cover of a chimney on the roof of a house across the street a figure watched the whole scene. Tilting her head toward the two blacksmiths and straining to hear the conversation as it unfolded. Eve listened with the blank look on her face of someone completely focused. If there was something to find out about this new woman she’d find it, that was for certain.

“Be smart and don’t give me an excuse.” She muttered.

A few minutes later she picked up the sounds of tiles scraping behind her. She turned and saw Leo acrobatically hauling himself up the roof to join her.

“Those moves of yours belong in a circus.”

“Maybe I was born in one.” Leo drew level with Eve and then placed his back to the reverse side of the brick stack to avoid being seen. He pulled out a roll-up and lit it; the smoke rose and mingled with the belching pot above it. Eve kept her eyes on the pair below.

“I don’t trust her.”

“You never trust any new people.”

“I was right about the last one.”

“He was a moron who got his head blown off for starting trouble with the militia from three towns over. He wouldn’t have been good enough for this job anyway. From what I’ve seen, she is.”

Eve reached back and began toying with the handle of the shortsword strapped to her left side. Leo swore he could feel resentment coming off the young woman in waves.

“Well, she’d just better be.”

…………………………………………………………………………………………


Jade didn’t see them right away; indeed, Eve had been sitting there for almost two hours before a glint coming from the rooftop made her look up.
It was flash of something metallic where it should not be, she identified that fact immediately. She broke off from the sharpening she was doing and wiped her brow, narrowing her eyes as she did it to see if anything was hiding in the shadow. It was difficult to make out at first, but there it was, a crouched figure in the shade of the chimney.

“Eve.” She had to hand it to her, the girl was good. Without the clue she’d been given she could’ve worked all day and not noticed. She put blade she was fixing down and started taking off her work gloves.

“I’m just heading out for a smoke boss.”

Flint waved her away. “Take your time. Things won’t pick up for at least another hour.”

“I will.”

Jade forced herself to walk at a normal pace and kept her gaze straight ahead; not wanting to let her observer know the jig was up. She crossed the street to a bench nearby the house from where they watched and began methodically rolling a smoke.

She listened in the relative quiet of the neighbourhood. Two minutes passed, then three, then four, there was a sound so quiet it wouldn’t have been heard by anyone not expecting to hear it; a light brushing of tile, the faint pitter-patter of flakes of mortar falling on a lawn. A few seconds later came the soft padding of a walker trying damned hard not to be heard. Jade breathed out a lungful of smoke.

“Did you find what you were looking for?”

The footsteps stopped. Jade resisted the urge to turn around.

“I saw a blacksmith hard at work.”

“Is that a yes?”

Eve walked into view and stood not five feet from Jade, eyeing her with a kind of cool contempt. She let her gaze fall upon the long sword that rested at Jade’s side.

“You any good with that thing?”

Jade smiled at her. “Good enough.”

“Would you show me?”

It was at that point Jade realised that the pair weren’t alone; she turned in her seat as she heard Leo verbally interject himself between them.

“Hang on! Eve, don't you remember what Rufus said about keeping a low profile?” There was an edge of tension to his voice that Jade hadn’t heard before. She guessed that Eve’s behaviour might be something beyond his control.

Eve looked sharply at her team mate, her blank expression slid into a scowl. Jade pretended not to notice, leaning forward in the seat and crushing the smoking stub of the cigarette under her boot. She stood up and brushed down her shirt. The two women were now only standing a few feet apart.

“I have to get back to work.”

The younger woman seemed to regain a measure of control; her tone was level in her reply. “Later then.”

“Later.” Jade agreed, turning on her heel and heading back to the blacksmiths.
Last edited by Jack Rothwell on August 5th, 2010, 9:07 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Errant Road: Jade's Story

Postby Jack Rothwell » August 5th, 2010, 8:13 am

Chapter 6

It had taken a considerable length of time for Leo to talk Eve out of paying another visit to their new recruit after they’d left the street outside her workplace. Eve was muttering to herself. It was a phase, it usually was with Eve. Leo walked alongside her as they made their way through the central market. He nudged her ribs with his elbow.

“Piss off.”

“Lighten up shorty. You’re just making yourself mad.”

Eve tilted her head back and dangled her arms to her sides, giving her the impression of a sulky teenager.

“I don’t see why we need her.”

“Of course you do. Five agents cover all bases for the majority of jobs. Besides, wouldn’t you want an extra gun backing you up?”

“Might wind up a gun at the back of me.”

“It won’t. Look, get yourself back to the hideout or go and find something useful to do. If Rufus trusts her, it won’t do any good to go against him.”
That seemed to get through to her in a way nothing else he said had. Eve nodded affirmation and started back; she got a dozen feet from Leo and looked back over her shoulder.

“What about you Leo? Do you trust her?”

Leo folded his arms and stood squarely as he made his reply. “I trust our leader’s judgement. And I trust a woman who didn’t shoot me when she had the chance.”

The tiniest tick of amusement crossed Eve’s face.

“You’re going soft.”

By the time Leo had thought of a good comeback the woman was long gone.

.....................................................................

Several miles from Ester, a horse thundered down a broken road. It was an enormous thing; built for pulling war machines the rider had been assured. Dust flew and swirled in its back trail, creating huge clouds which looked as if they’d never settle.

On top of the giant beast rode a man almost as impressive. Not quite tall enough to be considered a true giant, but the girth of him more than made it for it. The light glinted off a spiked mace strapped to his back that looked as if it were designed for hunting bears. Even his face had a grizzly appearance; wide- staring eyes and a bulbous nose, the rest covered by a thick beard. He rode straight, his eyes fixed on the horizon as the sun bent to kiss it.

His expedition had been a successful one, as the Captain had predicted. Even the hours of constant riding had done little to remove the toothy grin that had settled onto his face. He felt a change in the air, the opening moves of a revolution starting out of sight and mind of their enemies. Soon, very soon, the change would come.

“Nearly there.”

Bernard rode on to Ester.

…………………………………………………………………………………………


Jade finished just before sundown. She’d murmured her goodbyes to Flint. The man had come forward with an offer of a regular job that Jade had declined as politely as she dared. Something in her softened as she looked at the touch of disappointment in the man’s face. She alluded to other commitments, made her apologies and left without a backward glance.

She made her way across the town as the streets were beginning to clear in preparations for the evening’s activities, lost in her thoughts. She tried to visualise every outcome for the task ahead, but she knew it was a fallible exercise.

“Even when you drop a coin it sometimes lands on its edge.” It was her father’s voice in her head “Sometimes it might not come down at all. You can’t predict everything my love; it’s futile to try to.”

Her old man had had a point, if the current circumstances of her life were any evidence.

Jade turned down a narrow alley that led to the back of the hideout.

Leo dropped to the ground in front of her.

Taken by surprise, she couldn’t stop a loud, girly shriek escaping. She clamped a hand over her mouth but it was far too late. Leo was doubled up, shaking with laughter. Jade stormed over and shoved him, cheeks burning with embarrassment, Leo went over easily, he seemed to had lost all the strength in his legs.

“S-s-sorry Jade. I couldn’t resist.”

“You’re a complete bastard. Remind me why I’ve agreed to this again?”

He managed to compose himself, but made to effort to push himself back to his feet.

“Because your life is in dire need of great excitement and change.” He held out a hand from his prone position. “And many hands make light work as they say.”

“I guess we’ll see won’t we? And get your damned-self back to your feet. I’m not helping you after that.”

He made an elaborate looking kick-flip back to his feet in an obvious attempt to impress her. Jade rolled her eyes and pressed onwards. It was going to be a long evening.
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Re: Errant Road: Jade's Story

Postby Jack Rothwell » August 5th, 2010, 4:40 pm

Anyone who takes the time to read and reply to this will have earned themselves a season ticket for me checking out their work btw. ;)


Chapter 7

It was Rufus who came to answer their knock this time. He ushered the pair inside and directed them to the dining room. A long table rested in the centre lined by half a dozen sturdy oaken chairs. Two were already occupied. The young malcontent sat in one, twirling a knife across the woodwork in front of her, the other one was occupied by a mountain of a man who looked up as she entered and flashed a genuine smile. He rose to his feet to meet her.

“Jade Ermingard I presume?”

She took the hand, it swallowed hers almost completely. However, his shake was a gentle as a lamb.

“That’s right, and who are you?”

“Bernard Garland.” The man snapped to a mock attention. Jade couldn’t repress a small grin. There was something instantly likeable about this one. He continued “Captain Rufus’ second in command. Reporting for duty as per my given orders.”

Rufus walked past and clapped a hand on the back of his oversized subordinate. He made his way to the chair at the head of the table and sat down, motioning for the others to do the same. Bernard positioned himself to the right of the commander, waiting for them to take a seat before making his report. He rattled if off with efficiency befitting of a military man.

“Well, I have good news that’s for sure.”

“I didn’t doubt it, Sergeant.”

“ I’ve spend the last two days having talks with a few friends of ours in Port Lorrel. Really good friends who have keys that open a lot of doors.”
Rufus leaned forward, interest written all over his face.

“A few personal cabinets in rich men’s homes to be exact. And in those cabinets were papers containing some very valuable information. It seems a particularly powerful organisation of merchants based in Port Lorrel is making a plan to move a big chunk of their assents out here.”

“Whereabouts?”

“A highway town in the making. It’s apparently to be named Logan’s Riff after the man who came up with the idea. The construction of it has been going on for months; it’s about twenty miles north from Ester.”

“A trade location?”

“A huge one. The position puts it within half a mile of three lucrative trade routes. The word is they’re already pulling in some interest from the surrounding towns.”

“What exact kind of ‘assets’ are we talking about?”

Bernard showed that broad grin again. “The best kind. Big chests of gold to pay off the contractors for work done and work ongoing.”

Rufus leaned back on his chair and let out a single ‘ha!’ of triumph. He rocked back onto four legs and gestured at his agent to continue.
“There’s a small one heading out this evening. I managed to get a look at it yesterday. They’re using a plain wagon and accompanying it with a couple of the carts for transporting the timber.”

“Trying to make it inconspicuous.” Rufus wasn’t asking a question.

“They’re due to set off in a couple of hours. If we move now we’ll be able to meet them before they even get halfway.”

“What about the rest?”

“The lion’s share of the payment will be sent out in two weeks, and guaranteed to be under heavy guard when it goes.”

Rufus placed his hand under his chin and scratched a thumb at the unkempt stubble beneath. “How many escorts for that one? Your estimation, Sergeant.”

“A dozen soldiers, maybe as many as fifteen.”

The corner of the old man’s mouth pulled up as if something had just occurred to him.

“That’s superb work, as ever, Bernard.” He abruptly stood up and started to make his way out of the room, calling back to the assembled mercenaries.

“Be ready to leave in ten minutes. We have a wagon to catch.”
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Re: Errant Road: Jade's Story

Postby Jack Rothwell » August 6th, 2010, 2:31 pm

Chapter 8

Darkness had covered Ester in its blanket as the Silver Hands made their way across town, heading to the stables that lay on the outskirts of the village. The streets were beginning to come back to life as the people settled in for another night of revelry and relaxation.

Rufus led the way, accompanied by his right hand man. The two locked in an in-depth conversation about tactics for the up-coming ‘job’. Eve trailed at the back of the group. Jade noticed that if anything she seemed wound up tighter than she had been at their confrontation earlier in the day. She caught herself wondering if Eve was crazy enough to slip one of the swords she carried between her ribs in the middle of the job but dismissed the idea. She taken enough of a measure of Rufus to realise the seriousness of how he took his plans. It was highly unlikely he’d taken the girl on board if she’d be a liability when he needed her most. That didn’t change the fact that things would have to be settled between them if they were ever going to function in a team. If they couldn’t, then Jade was better off taking the pay from the first job they did and making travel plans to a new destination.

“I’ll kick her ass afterwards.”

“What?” Leo had been walking next to her, but she’d muttered to low for him to hear.

“Nothing.”

………………………………………………………………………………………….


The stable was a small scale affair that Jade had come to expect from the backwater town. It was a rickety looking thing that conveyed the possibility of termites and tumbleweed business. Bernard took the lead, palming a handful of coins into the hand of a sleepy stable boy with a warm word of thanks. He walked over to the oversized horse that Jade had correctly identified as his as soon as she'd lain eyes on it. He pushed up on the stirrup and swung his leg over, the animal made a whinny of complaint.

Rufus branched off to the end of the stable, gesturing for Eve to help him as grabbed a pair of reins and began leading a pair of horses outside. Eve jogged over to a barn near the main stable and yanked the door open, revealing a simple wooden cart not unlike the one Jade had ridden into town on. Leo led her to pair of mares; she jerked her head towards the cart with a questioning look.

“It’s for the chests.” He stated “If Bernard is on the money with his report then were going to need something to transport them on.”

“…and using their own carts would be a dumb idea because they know what their own carts look like. I get it.”

“You’re more than just a pretty face.”

“Knock it off.” She didn’t quite sound as serious that time. Jade could’ve sworn she saw just a touch of triumph surfacing on Leo’s face. She made a sudden resolution to continue giving him Hell until he started acting as if all the screws were tight in his head.

“Gods no, Rufus! Not this again!”

It was Eve's harsh tones cutting across the night air. Jade looked over and saw her locked into an argument with Rufus. At least, she was arguing, Rufus merely stood calmly with his arms folded across his chest.

“Eve. You’re the best person for the role. It works like a charm every time.”

“I look bloody stupid every time!” she pointed a finger at Jade “Why can’t she do it?”

“Because you’re the innocent looking one.”

Eve made an irritated noise, but clambered aboard the cart. Jade found herself recalling a dozen arguments she’d had with her parents during her teenage years. The girl sat down and sank a hand under the chin as Rufus climbed alongside her and took up the reins.

“What in the name of Luminosa was that about?”

“Rufus’ cunning plan. All will become clear soon.”

“I can’t wait.” Leo and Jade gigged their mounts and followed the Captain into the night.
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