Errant Road: Jade's Story (part 2)

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Errant Road: Jade's Story (part 2)

Postby Jack Rothwell » August 10th, 2010, 5:43 am

The second half of the story on the way. Feedback will be appriciated, possibly with sexual favours.



Chapter 1

“And wherever I may roam my life is still rewarding
We drink the mead, sow a seed and leave the plates ‘til morning
The brave will rise; heroic deeds will live on past the grave
The wind may blow; their ships will row on everlasting waves…”


Jade looked over the half-empty glass in front of her. Leo was near the table, cutting a tap routine with remarkable precision despite their advanced state of drunkenness. They were back at The Laughing Troll and celebrating hard. The trip back to Ester had passed in a blur brought on by the intoxication of victory. They’d arrived just after midnight and lugged the chests back to the hideouts among inconspicuous looking bundles of cloth and sacks of vegetables from the back of the cart. The gold was now stored safely under heavy lock and key in the Rufus’ room, who afterwards had pressed a sizeable bag of money into Jade’s hand and told her to go and enjoy herself. She didn’t need telling twice. Leo, of course, had accompanied her, promising this time around that her wallet would go untouched. Bernard had tagged along as well, and was currently giving the young blacksmith an education in how to hold her drink.

“It’s about getting the right pace.” He slurred, tipping the remains of his drink down his throat and clinking it down next to half of dozen of its neighbours. “You hit that whisky of yours too hard too early; you’ll be seeing double before the nights half done.”

“I can hold my spirits just fine.” She said, with more conviction with she actually felt.

“Aye. You can, at that.”

She looked back to Leo; the handsome merc appeared as if he was having the time of his life. He’d hijacked one of the serving girls from her rounds and was currently dancing a square with her in the space in front of the low stage in the corner of the inn. The locals laughed uproariously as the band continued their song. Some joined in the dance, although with admittedly less sure-footed movements.

“Another round will raise us up in sweetest harmony
A hearty smoke, a dirty joke will light the spark in me
No mound of earth could hold me down, my spirit still will soar
So take my mass and burn to ash to float forevermore”


The song ended with a round of good humoured applause. Leo released the girl with a theatrical kiss on her hand and made his way back to the table, collapsing into the chair next to hers. He beamed at Jade, who shook her head and took another sip of her drink.

“There he is, twinkle-toes Landau.” Bernard chuckled.

Leo shrugged “Just putting an old talent to good use.”

“If that’s what you’d call it.” Jade murmured sarcastically.

He stood back up in an instant, folded an arm behind his back and held out a hand to her.

“I’d like to show you firsthand.”

“I’ll bet. Sorry footloose, I don’t do dancing.”

“Now that is a lie if I ever heard one. I’m sure a girl like you must’ve waltzed around a room or two.”

“Maybe, a lifetime or two ago.”

“Maybe you’re just afraid of looking clumsy next to the fop?” Leo stood as if he’d hold out the invitation all day. Jade cocked her head as his remark, stared at the long-haired mercenary for a moment or two, then drained her glass and took his hand.

“We’ll see who looks clumsy, you cocky git.”

Of course, no sooner had they arrived at the ‘dance floor’ then the music dropped to a slower tempo. Jade cursed inwardly, wondering if Leo had tipped the musicians to play a slow number if he managed to coax her into dancing. The whisky helped her rally herself however; she allowed him to pull her in a little closer and met his eyes fearlessly. The whisky then made a comment.

“If you try anything funny I’ll knee you in the balls.”

She saw his eyebrows climb up his head and huddle together for comfort; he nodded mutely, getting the message. The song started, and it was indeed a waltz, some old number she’d heard for the first time twenty years ago or more. She dug deep into her memories and found the steps; they presented themselves untarnished by time despite the alcoholic varnish on her brain. They stepped in a tight circle, accompanied by some of the more romantically linked patrons in the bar. Jade turned in Leo’s arms and tried to ignore the smacking noises of a particularly enthusiastic pair behind her.

“I stand corrected, Ms Ermingard.”

“So you bloody should, Mr Landau.”

He dipped her, then hoisted her back up and turned the move into a spin, they stopped at arms length and stepped back to the starting position as the chorus began.
Last edited by Jack Rothwell on August 22nd, 2010, 8:19 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Errant Story: Jade's Story (part 2)

Postby Jack Rothwell » August 11th, 2010, 4:05 pm

Chapter 2

A few hours later the trip made their unsteady way across the quiet town. The three were a little worse for wear as they wove their way down the narrow streets of Ester, the only sound to be heard being made by a lone owl that flitted from tree to tree.

“Hoo-fucking-hoo!” Bernard’s baritone tore through the silence; Jade heard the splashing noise of the wine jug the big man had confiscated spilling onto the grass and bit down a fit of giggles. For all his sage advice earlier in the evening it turned out the ex-sergeant was adept at destroying his equilibrium on short notice. He manoeuvred himself over to the tree where their feathered friend was currently perched and made cooing noises to the puzzled bird. In the meantime Leo had attached himself to the woman’s arm (‘To support myself in my debilitated state’ he’d said), she didn’t mind overly much, the way things had turned around in the last few days she would’ve taken an invasion from the Port Lorrel militia with a smile.

“Not a bad night.”

“One of great excitement and change.” Said Leo, echoing the phrase he’d used earlier.

“Oh, it was exciting alright. My heart was hammering the whole time.” She shrugged, feeling no shame in conceding the information

“What can I say? I’m an excellent dancer.”

“I was talking about the robbery, jackass.”

In the background, Bernard sung something incomprehensible and started watering the tree. Jade extricated herself from the link and began rolling a cigarette. Leo gave a shrug of his own, but kept pace with her.

“I’m serious about the change part.” Leo sounded unlike his usual self, the happy-go-lucky tones fading away “I believe in what Rufus is doing. What we’re doing.”

“Revolutions sound like pipe-dreams to me.” Jade constructed the smoke with practised speed. “Even if we get that second payload there’s no guarantee Rufus could obtain the army with it.”

“Then why are you here?”

“Same reason as yesterday, information. I fulfil my part in this, you point me in the right direction with money in my pocket, and then I go and put this sorry mess to an end.”

“By taking on an army of bandits single-handed?”

“If it comes to that. I’ll make damn sure to spit in that bastard’s eye whatever happens.”

“You’re a cold one.”

She looked at him then. Something about that remark scraped on her nerves in a way nothing else that had passed his lips had.

“I’m a realist” she snapped “And I have a duty to the memory of the people I love. What you’re planning could turn you into something no better than the animal I’m chasing.”

“We know better.”

“And what makes you so sure?”

“Rufus. That man rescued me. He’s trying to rescue all of us.”

Jade hissed a jet of tobacco smoke out the corner of her mouth with an exasperated sigh “Heroics.” Sarcasm dripped.

Bernard had caught back up with them; he clapped Leo companionably on the back and nearly knocked the smaller man over, effectively ending the pair’s debate.

“Come on lovebirds. Time to get home.”

…………………………………………………………………………………………..

Jade bid the pair goodnight, Bernard actually pulled the young woman into a crushing embrace and patted her on the back, telling her she’d ‘done a great job’ and ‘was a great addition to the team’. He clomped in an awkward line to the trapdoor. Leo watched him naked amusement. But a silence descended between them as he turned back to her. Leo shuffled his feet.

“So.”

“So.” She agreed. The argument had stung something in both of them. ‘Nothing like ideologies clashing’ she mused. The angry silence that had walked with them had settled into a kind of vague sadness. Jade caught herself trying to remember how long it had been since she’d had anyone’s company for more than a couple of days. And how long it had been since she’d genuinely laughed. The memories escaped her. Leo nodded, as if to himself.

“See you in the morning.”

“Goodnight Leo.”

She didn’t watch him go.
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Re: Errant Story: Jade's Story (part 2)

Postby Jack Rothwell » August 13th, 2010, 2:43 pm

Chapter 3

The next few days were unremarkable, the elation of success being replaced with a sense of inertia and anticipation for the bigger job to come.
The Silver Hands passed the time a variety of ways. Bernard, after recovering from his raging hangover, had been laying down plans with his Captain for the second delivery which was less than two weeks away. The big Sergeant spent the rest of his time poking around Ester, ‘making arrangements’ as he called it.

Eve had become more tolerable of the other woman since the mission a few days ago. Although she occasionally gave the impression of a caged tiger as Rufus’ orders forced her to keep a low profile around town. She spent most of her time as Jade had first seen her; working on her combat skills in the hideout. She suspected a confrontation sooner or later, but at least now she was reassured that the tomboy intentions were not murderous.

Leo had left the morning after ‘their tiff’ (as the others had labelled it) and headed out to Port Lorrel to fulfil some unseen stage of Rufus grand plan. The scene had replayed itself in her mind numerous times in the days that followed. She found herself analysing the whole thing, thinking about the retorts she could’ve used, the tone they had spoken in. Telling herself that it was just something to eat up the time while they prepared for the inevitable.

Jade was lost in one such cloud of thought as she walked into the hideouts’ kitchen one morning. Rufus was there; sipping from a cup of tea and pouring over the parchments his sergeant had obtained for him. It was surprising how old the captain looked without his armour on, how much frailer, the effect being emphasised by the pair of half-moon spectacles he wore to stare at the columns of figures and maps in front of him. He glanced up at her as she entered.

“Something on your mind, Ms Ermingard?”

She made a non-committal noise drew up a chair next to him. “Just a bit of trepidation, Captain.” ‘When did I start calling him captain?’ “I guess I’m feeling at a loose end.” She continued.

That was true, although it was far from the only thing on her mind. The break had represented the first time since her chase had begun where she’d had the means to follow her quarry but no clear idea where he’d got to. Rufus had made an oath to use all available resources to help her when the job was done. But, in the meantime that left the Blacksmith all tooled-up with no-one to shoot.

“That’s to be expected.” He laid the page he’d been reading on the table, then leaned forward on his elbows; peering over the ancient frames at the young woman.

“Perhaps I need a break.” He stated, pushing himself to his feet. “Since you’re not busy perhaps you could join me.”

Jade followed the Captain through to the main room of the hideout (the one she’d mentally dubbed ‘The Training Room’ from the endless racket Eve made there). Surprise crept across her features as the old man kicked off his boots and meandered over to a rack of wooden swords that stood in a corner. He picked up a pair and made his way over to the blacksmith, offering one of them handle-first.

“I want to see your form.”

She looked at him quizzically, but accepted the training weapon he presented.

“This is a funny way to take a break.”

Rufus went on as if he hadn’t heard, leisurely pacing to the centre of the room “I took a good look at that blade you carry. It’s a fine weapon. Leo tells me you built it yourself?”

“From scratch.” she nodded, not able to keep the pride out of her voice. The sword, in her mind, was the finest thing she’d ever made. A product of months of labour and minuscule attention to detail that cost her more than a single night’s sleep. It had served her admirably on many occasions.

“However, a weapon is only ever as good as its user. In the wrong hands, a thing of beauty could be no more than a glorified toothpick.”

Rufus lunged, all pretence of frailty disappearing in an instant as he closed the gap between them. The move caught Jade off-guard, barely giving her enough time to raise her own sword in a block. The crack of wood on wood sounding like gunfire in the confines of the underground chamber. The Captain drove forward with a rapid whirling series of strikes that put the blacksmith into a half-staggering retreat. She grunted, planted a foot firmly behind her. She caught his blade with her own and jerked it hard to the side, pushing off her back foot and dipping her shoulder to barge the man away from her. At the last second he rolled his body away and stuck a leg out. She couldn’t change direction on such short notice, tripping over the overstretched limb and landing heavily on the stone-laden floor.

Jade gritted her teeth and pushed back to her feet, not wanting to show the deceptive old man’s attack that rattled her. He stood by, swinging his sword in a figure of eight and massaging his shoulder with his free hand.

“Pretty good.” He commented “A good recovery and intelligent manoeuvres in the face of a surprise attack. However, your stance is a little too rigid and your centre of gravity is too high.”

Jade lashed out with her weapon, aiming low at the Captain’s shin, meaning to hobble him. Rufus seemed to read her intentions even before she’d begun the swing, jamming his blade vertically against the ground and putting his weight on it to create an impassable barrier her stroke clacked harmlessly off. She reversed the direction of the blade, brought it round to other side, aiming at his temple. Rufus ducked and snapped his weapon out in a jabbing motion as Jade’s soared over his head. The thick wooden end of the training sword punched into Jade’s ribcage, eliciting a gasp and folding her up. She wrapped an arm across her midriff and hopped backwards a couple of steps. Rufus held his position with the tip of the blade still pointed at her.

“Who was it who taught you?”

“My brothers.” Jade panted, trying to get the air back into her lungs.

“Military men?”

“Solshire militia.”

Jade rallied and tried again, this time focusing her attack on the Captain’s left-side where his eye was absent. He turned side-on to compensate and Jade had the satisfaction of hearing a grunt of effort from the ex-soldier restricted by his reduced vision. She was cautious this time, matching him swing for swing and slowly pushing him towards one of the stone pillars that supported the darkened chamber. Rufus was driven backwards until his shoulder blades pressed against the cold stone. Jade let out an involuntary shout of triumph as she made her final move. A shout which turned abruptly into an ‘urk!’ as Rufus countered. He pushed off the hard surface as she drew her arm back, closed the distance between them to mere inches. He wheeled his arm in a circular motion which trapped Jade’s sword-arm against his ribs. Before she could pull free, he wrapped his other arm around her and wrenched sideways; lifting her clean off her feet and slamming her into the column she’d been sure he’d cornered against only a second before. The remaining air left Jade’s lungs in a rush as the Captain touched his sword to her throat.

“I’d ask you to yield. But something tells me you never would.”

Through narrow slits of vision blurred by aches and pains she saw sweat streaming down the old man face. Victory was his, but it had cost him a lot. He spoke in a coughing wheeze the blacksmith associated with heavy smokers and coal miners.

“You have great potential Jade. That’s why I wanted you here.” He dropped his arm to his side and let the weapon clatter to the ground.

“Thanks. Are you ok?”

“I’m fine. Just not young any more.” He seemed to compose himself, he straightened up. “With a little training you could put that sword of yours to good use.”

“Are you offering to teach me?”

“Teach? No. But if you apply yourself, you might learn a thing or two.”
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Re: Errant Story: Jade's Story (part 2)

Postby Jack Rothwell » August 16th, 2010, 11:39 am

Chapter 4

It was while Jade was getting a harsh education at the hands of The Silver Hands Captain that Leo found himself wandering the streets of Port Lorrel. It been the first time in months the mercenary had shown his face in the bustling town. Tall buildings in all stages of repair created an uneven mishmash that blanketed the cobbled streets in dappled shadow. The streets themselves were alive with people of every description going about their day; richly dressed merchants shouting commands to overburdened manservants, street peddlers shouting adverts for magical cure-alls, shifty figures offering card games only a fool would test his luck on, musicians played off-key, children ran shrieking, parents cursed, people pushed and somewhere a dog leisurely ate a pile of sick. Leo walked through it all, stopping to tip a wink and the edge of his hat to lady of negotiable virtue, who made a teasing cat-call as he passed. He grinned; this was his kind of place.

He didn’t feel the need to hurry to his destination. His assignment from Rufus was a far cry from what the last pulse pounding mission had even. Even so, he’d awoken early in one of the more reputable taverns that the Port had to offer and dressed up in the finest regalia he’d owned, a blue embroidered silk shirt, waist coat and longcoat coupled with dress trousers and the wonderfully tasteless wide brimmed hat complete with an oversized white feather. The ensemble screamed of the complete disregard for function over form that only the wealthy could afford. It was a throwback from his younger days that would play an essential part in the task ahead.

He found the building he’d been looking for some twenty minutes later. An enormous monstrosity nicknamed throughout Port Lorrel as ‘The Money Pit’, more commonly known as Logan, Weatherby and Devive Trading enterprises. It was an elaborately designed building of artistic, curving architecture and carved, ornate statues carrying rolls of parchment and bags of coins to advertise the brisk business going on inside. A tall, marble arch framed the front set of double doors that marked to the entrance to the building. There was a motto engraved into the stone blocks of the arch that Leo murmured under his breath as he approached.

“Money as life; in continual flow.”

He straightened up, preening himself in the reflection of the glass windows before he stepped inside.

…………………………………………………………………………………………..

Alan Smithers, the pale, slightly built man behind the broad oaken desk that dominated the reception area of LWD enterprises looked up at the richly dressed young aristocrat who sauntered through the entrance. Alan’s nostrils flared as if the breeze that followed him in from outside carried the smell of money. He put on his best ‘customer service’ smile as the prospective patron approach, hurriedly shuffling and discarding the paperwork he’d been organising.

“Good morning sir. How can I assist you?”

The fop stopped in front of the desk, putting his weight on a single hip and surveying the impressive room before he replied. He turned and favoured Alan with a dazzling smile.

“That is an excellent question, my good man. But first allow me to introduce myself; my name is Martin Dashwood. I represent the interests of a wealthy group of men who, in recent months, have become most interested in a certain project your employers are involved in.”

Alan tried not to show the impact the man’s words had on him as his mind turned a cartwheel and whooped for joy.

‘Logan’s Riff! Good Gods! Another investor!’

“My clients have high hopes of conducting a mutually beneficial business venture regarding your town in the making.” The lilting tone in his voice was music to Alan’s ears. “Perhaps you could pass a message onto the concerned parties?”

“Yes! Immediately Mr Dashwood. Please, take a chair and someone will be down shortly.”
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Re: Errant Story: Jade's Story (part 2)

Postby Graybeard » August 18th, 2010, 8:38 am

This continues to look very good, and I'm looking forward to seeing more of it. One thing: would you mind if I wore my moderator's hat and changed the thread title to "Errant Road: Jade's Story (part 2)"? That makes it consistent with part one, and should aid in navigation as this forum fills up (as I hope it will).
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Re: Errant Story: Jade's Story (part 2)

Postby Jack Rothwell » August 18th, 2010, 4:51 pm

You and me both Greybeard, I'm trying to nag hours into writing a backstory for Gault but i don't know if he has the desire or the internet time to do it. Hopefully if we can encourage people to start reading and replying it'll motivate them to put together their own stories, even if they're only short ones (like this was SUPPOSED to be). Thanks again for the feedback.


Chapter 5

Fifteen minutes later. Leo was sitting on a plump, leather-covered sofa in an expensive-looking oblong office with a glass of port in one hand and a smoking cigar in the other.

‘If only every job where this comfortable.’ He thought.

Amadeus Logan was an imposing man, standing well over six feet tall with a girth augmented by a telling amount of muscle behind the plumpness of good living. From the research Leo had conducted prior to the meeting he’d uncovered the man’s military roots. In fact he’d been serving in the Port Lorrel militia at the same time as Captain Rufus (albeit in different divisions). The man was high-born, entering at officer class following a furious education from the finest military minds his father’s gold could buy. After some twenty years in the service he’d turned his impressive mind to the trade community with remarkable success, establishing LWD enterprises and becoming the lead trade organisation in the Port in under a decade and attaining considerable pull in the cities council as a result. Leo hadn’t unearthed any concrete proof; but there was definitely evidence to suggest that Logan had been one of the voices on that council who had called for Rufus expulsion. Whether that may have been from a military grudge or a business motive Leo could only speculate, but it did cast an interesting light on what his Captain’s motivations were for targeting Logan’s company.

As Amadeus made his way into the office and parked himself in a high-backed leather chair on the other side of the desk Leo faced he gained an insight as to why the man commanded the respect he did. His aging face was not of a soft, greedy merchant but of a hardened military man seemingly out of place in the splendour he was surrounded by. He grunted a gruff introduction, Leo shift in his seat, suddenly feeling uncomfortable.

“Mr Dashwood I presume?”

Leo nodded and murmured he was indeed Martin Dashwood, hoping the nervous jiggle of his leg wouldn’t declare otherwise.

“Well boy, you have my ear. What is it you wish to discuss?”

The young mercenary composed himself and gave an answer.

“My employers have vested interest in Logan’s Riff sir.” He kept his tone respectful, even if it cut zero ice with the intimidating man it paid to veer on the side of politeness.

“They wish to set up a couple of trading posts within your town. They will provide adequate compensation for use of the land, of course.”

“Of course.” He echoed, reaching to a crystal decanter and pouring himself a generous measure of the burgundy liquid within. “Of course, your employers might also be aware of the trouble we’ve had in its construction.”

Leo, fortunately, had been prepared for this possible direction in the conversation.

“Bandits I believe, sir. My employers extend their sympathies to our plight. They too have lost valuable revenue at the hands of these marauders. Which is why they are also prepared to provide additional security to aid further excursions to Logan’s Riff.”

“Is that so?” He raised a bushy eyebrow with more of a touch of cynicism in his expression. “As much as I appreciate the offer, Mr Dashwood, our resources have the means to quell the ruffians should another attempt be made on us.”

Leo cursed inwardly, but pressed the issue.

“My Lord.” He touched the edge of hat. “We, above all, respect the power and reach that your organisation has and would never seek to substitute it. However, my employers have stressed to me the importance of seeing that you enjoy the protection we can provide as extra insurance, and thereby ensure the future success for both our enterprises.”

Amadeus set his glass down on the table, the clink sounding remarkably loud in the quiet of the office.

“Who is it that you work for, Mr Dashwood? As much as I welcome additional investment and protection I welcome knowledge of who I’m doing business with much more.”

This was the big question, the one the success of Leo’s con hung on. He mentally drew himself up and gave the answer he’d rehearsed in the mirror a dozen times that morning.

“I represent the interests of the Grohl trading company of Saus; we are a growing organisation enjoying a period of success much like this company enjoyed when it surpassed the Oriel company ten years ago.”

His attempt to butter up the big man by bringing up his past accomplishments paid some dividends. The man seemed to grow a little in his chair, it was subtle, but a definite sign of pride was shown. Leo felt his confidence rising.

“We, like yourselves, understand the importance of making the most of opportunities when they are presented. If you give us this chance sir, I promise you a tenfold return for your generosity. I swear this on my father’s name.”

If it was one thing Rufus had taught him it was that men with money and power invariably desire more money and power. And although Logan was a veteran of negotiation he couldn’t disguise the touch of greed that had settled in his eyes. Leo fought back a smile.

“Have another drink, Mr Dashwood.” He said.

…………………………………………………………………………………………


A few minutes after the merchant left Logan to his own devices there was a rapping noise. It came seemingly from the wall behind Logan’s desk. He didn’t turn to look around.

“Come in.”

There was an audible click and a section of the wall moved backwards as if in an invisible frame. It slid to the side with faint scraping noise, revealing a concealed passageway built into the wall. A figure stepped into view.

“What did you make of him?”

The figure stepped further into the room; he was a man of average height and build, although there was a tautness to him which suggested there wasn’t a whole lot of fat beneath the clothes he wore. He dressed in shades of black and grey, the general vagueness of his appearance was enhanced by the lower half of his face being obscured by a bandanna. In fact, the only distinguishing features he had to be seen were the pair of shockingly blue eyes that peered out under a mop of dark hair, eerily mesmerising if stared at too long. He replied to Logan’s question in surprisingly gentle tones half-muffled by the makeshift mask he wore.

“A harmless fop with more money than sense.”

“Are you so sure?” Logan swilled the dregs of his drink in a circular motion. “The appearance of harmlessness in a cutthroat business such as this is suspicious in itself.”

The clinked the glass back on the desk and made a pyramid with his fingers across his gut, as was his habit when he was thinking deeply about something.

“I want him followed.”

The other man nodded once and turned to leave.

“One more thing.” Logan’s voice called him back “If you do find anything out of the ordinary about Mr Dashwood make sure you report back to me before taking the appropriate action, is that understood?”

“Yes sir.”

Amadeus was left alone; a slow smile crept across his face.

“Making the most of opportunities when they are presented.” He whispered.
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Re: Errant Story: Jade's Story (part 2)

Postby Jack Rothwell » August 20th, 2010, 8:19 am

Chapter 6

It was the dream again, that damnable memory that had come to Jade a dozen times or more since the day she left Solshire behind. The details where a little different every time but it always started the same way. Jade was swinging a hammer against an antique suit of armour; a commission brought in that morning to the Ermingard’s forge. She wiped a trickle of sweat from her forehead and looked over to her father. The old man was sitting on a stool polishing the pieces of the rifle he was working on, he smiled at her.

“Any trouble?”

“No. But this thing’s not going to be good for anything except ceremonial wear even if I can make a replacement plate for the collar.”

He chuckled “It doesn’t matter. Morris retired from active service two years ago. His wife just wanted him looking dashing for the parades.”

“It’ll take a lot more than a fixed up suit of armour.”

“True. But we must do the best we can, young lady.”

She shrugged and went back to work. An intermittent amount of time went by, maybe an hour, maybe five minutes, what does time mean in a dream? It was always the sound that reached her first. The heavy rhythm of horses, far off, but growing in volume at a speed that declared the riders were coming into town fast, and that there was a lot of them. A look passed between father and daughter. Jade stripped off her blacksmith gear and stepped outside.

The forge presented a broad view of the main road that ran through Solshire. As Jade walked into the sunshine she saw people coming out of the nearby houses, all staring to the west.

She looked.

There were hundreds of them.

A huge dust cloud marked the progress of the riders bearing down on the town. Underneath the noise of galloping hooves Jade could make out the whoops and war cries of the approaching bandits. If there was any doubt that they where anything but it was dispelled by the crack of gunfire and the blades picked out by the light as they wove them in the air.

Jade wheeled on her heels and dashed back inside the forge. The old man read the look on her face and immediately started for a locked cabinet on the wall.

“Find the militia.” He shouted “I’ll find some of the local lads and try to keep them busy.”

“There’s too many!”

“We don’t have a choice Jade!” He pulled open the cabinet and snatched up a rifle. Jade, despite herself, had picked up her sword and revolver. The old man turned back to her. “You can run a lot faster than an old man, now go!”

Jade swore loudly and broke into a flat out sprint. She branched off from the main street just as the front runners of the mob entered the town. More gun fire.

The run to the militia’s headquarters always seem to last a thousand years. Even on the day it had happened Jade had felt like she was running uphill the entire way. The mind-numbing panic that was threatening to seize her mind made coherent thought almost impossible. Her awareness was of the dirt tracks, her aching legs and burning lungs. She hit the iron gates of the compound at speed, wrenching them open without ceremony.

Some of the guards were already getting tooled up for action. If the circumstances hadn’t been so desperate she would’ve felt relief. She took a deep breath.

“Bandits in town.” She waved her hand back towards the main street and her heart sank further, she squinted, a thin plume of smoke had started to rise from one of the buildings on the edge of the invasion.

No more information was required. They piled out, hastily strapping on the remaining plates to armour that would be useless to protect them, chambering rounds into guns that wouldn’t have enough ammo to stop the attackers. Jade didn’t want to, but stopped a second to catch her breath, knowing the futility of trying to fight when exhausted. A strong hand clasped her arm, she looked up.

Alex, her brother, stood next to her. His usual cheery demeanour replaced with a stony mask.

“Come on.”

She nodded, forcing her legs to get moving again. She hung on to her sibling for the first fifty yards, stretching out the stitch that had settled into her ribcage from the sudden sprint and then she was flying again. Her hand pulling out the revolver she’d only ever used in the direst of circumstances.

Well this would certainly qualify.

The gunfire and the crash of steel on steel were at an almost deafening pitch by the time they reached the main street. Smoke billowed from the homes that were already half-burned the ground. Captain Lato called a halt and barked an order. The twenty strong unit formed ranks and fired a volley, men screamed and fell from the horses.

The scenes that followed were almost a tableaux; a series of stylised images imprinted in her mind in a fixed sequence. There was the sight of a bullet fired from her gun disappearing into a bandit’s eye. The horse rearing and throwing the dead body to the ground. The militia’s second volley twinned with the bandit’s return fire that killed five of the brave soldiers in their tracks. Jade running back to the blacksmith’s with her heart in her mouth as popping noises sounded from within.

There father was still there. He held the smoking barrel of his rifle in his hand. He lay slumped against a workbench, his white shirt now a red ruin. Jade didn’t remember moving to him, she was just at the doorway one moment and at his side the next. He looked up at her and smiled weakly, his eyelids fluttered. He didn’t say anything, maybe he couldn’t, he was lungshot after all. He reached up and clasped her hand for a moment, just a tiny amount of pressure, then let go.

For a moment Jade just knelt there, the clamour of the battle outside dropping to a low drone. She heard a noise that sounded like an animal in pain, a keening wail that started quietly and began to climb in volume. As it got louder she realised the noise was coming from her own throat. There were no words to articulate it. It climbed and climbed until she was sure the rawness of it would cause her chest to burst, she clasped her hands to the side of her head and rent her hair. She punched the ground, bloodying her knuckles.

It was the flames that brought her back to reality; the smash of breaking bottles at the doorway turning the wood into a bonfire in a matter of seconds. Jade stared at the approaching inferno for a moment as if she didn’t recognise what it was. Sanity gained the upper hand; she stood up, wiped the tears from her cheeks and ran.
Last edited by Jack Rothwell on August 22nd, 2010, 8:11 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Errant Story: Jade's Story (part 2)

Postby Jack Rothwell » August 22nd, 2010, 4:57 am

Chapter 6 (cont.)

The back door flew open with a rusty squeak. Jade bowled out into the narrow alley behind the blacksmiths coughing from the smoke she’d inhaled. A man, babbling with terror, pushed past her in a half-stumbling run followed by a screaming bandit some twenty feet behind him. Jade saw the mace in his hand and her mind shut down again, leaving a pair of hands that did the work on automatic. She drew her sword just as the bandit finished closing the gap and thrust it directly towards the man, who was running too fast in an alley too narrow to bank out the path of the blade. His war cry turned into an agonised squeal as he impaled himself on the blacksmith’s weapon. Crimson shot out of his chest in repulsive spurts.

Another volley sounded across the town, this one much quieter than the previous fusillades. Jade thoughts were torn back to the militia, and her brothers, still fighting the main invading force. At that moment the idea took root that her siblings were dead, but sheer force of denial masked it temporarily and gave her the strength to push on.

She burst into the main street, narrowly avoiding a collision with a riderless horse that pulled a screaming citizen lassoed to its saddle. She stared. Everything was burning. The shops and houses she’d spent half her childhood in and around were now obscured by heat and smoke as if the whole town had been turned into a forge. She could dimly pick out wails of anguish from the people still left alive. The militia were still there; scattered in a semi-circle from the location they’d made their last stand. All dead, her brothers Alex, David and Jack, staring sightlessly up at the clear blue sky of a cloudless winter morning.

The bloodied sword she carried dropped from her suddenly nerveless fingers, the strength left her legs and deposited her on the road. A yell of triumph roared across the town. She turned her head which felt full of lead and saw him; the leader, Theodore Reks, easy to pick out from the mob by the finery he wore. He sat on a monster of a black steed, shooting his firearm into the air with a look of elation across his grizzled features. Jade’s gun seemed to rise up of its own accord, the adrenalin in her veins making the process feel like she was moving through water. Through the grief she felt she never saw the bandit on the opposite side who’d spotted her levelling the revolver at his boss. Pain exploded in her shoulder as the bullet struck her.

Jade screamed and sat up, the dream melted before her eyes as the blanket she’d been sleeping under fell away. The room swan into view; the meagre chamber in the Silver Hands safe house. It was still dark but a thin stream of moonlight crept in from behind the tattered curtains and gave shape to the sparsely furnished room. Jade remained still for a moment, it dawned on her that she’d clamped a hand instinctively over the shoulder where the bullet had struck her. She pried the tightly pressing fingers away with some effort and concentrated on getting her heart rate back to normal.

“Gods damn you. Leave me alone.” She whispered. It was useless to resist. The memory replayed itself to the finish. The aftermath of the sudden invasion had passed in dazed unreality. Jade remembered how she’d staggered across a town half-destroyed as the last of Theo’s bandits had made their escape. She’d called out through choking clouds of ash for survivors, called out for the town doctor as a red river had run down her arm.

The horror of her loss had even overwhelmed the pain of one of the nurses from the surgery who had, mercifully, survived digging the slug out her shoulder. She’d sat, mute, as the fires died out, unable to take her eyes off the places her family had died.

The town had been finished by the savagery of Theo’s army. The majority of the citizens who had been fortunate enough to still have their lives had buried their dead and left the town for Lorrel the next day. Jade had gone in the opposite direction, the direction the low-life bastards had appeared from to take her home away from her.

In the dark, Jade put her face in the palms of her hands and cried.
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Re: Errant Road: Jade's Story (part 2)

Postby Jack Rothwell » August 24th, 2010, 3:54 pm

Chapter 7

She slept fitfully for the remainder of the night, a black, dreamless sleep reflective of how emotionally drained she felt.

Bernard greeted her the next day as she came downstairs for breakfast with a look of concern on his broad face. Jade felt something soften in her as he walked up. Over the last week she’d come to appreciate the oversized sergeant, he had a gift for putting people at their ease. It was no wonder the Captain used him as he did. On the one occasion she’d accompanied him around Ester she’d seen him work his gruff amiability on the local low-lives and businessmen (sometimes one and the same) with diplomacy, anecdotes and sheer good will.

“Is everything ok, Jade?”

“Yes.” She waved a hand as if to dismiss the cloud she was under “Just some bad dreams, nothing breakfast can’t fix.”

“Already on the way.” He clapped a shovel sized hand on her shoulder. “Come lass, bacons-a-frying.”

She’d found herself grown used to the hideout by now; falling into a daily routine without even thinking about it. It was something about Rufus, the regimented way the man conducted himself seemed to invariably rub off on the people around him. The Captain had continued his tutelage with the blacksmith as the days had passed and she’d surprised herself at how quickly she’d adapted to his teachings. A part of that come from the man’s own reasoning for the validity of sword-fighting in a world where the dangerous carried guns. One of the most poignant memories imprinted in her mind from the last week had been a tirade Rufus had launched into prior to the commencement of a particularly tough lesson.

“The problem with firearms is they run out of bullets.” Those rifles in particular can jam and leave you holding ten pounds of expensive firewood. And what happens if your opponent is too close? What then? Aim and fire as he cuts your head off? Ha!”

“Well, they certainly help.” She’d interjected.

“Aye, they do. But there’s a glory to be had in looking your foe directly in the eye.” His eyes had glazed over a little then, Jade could almost hear the old battles replaying in his head. “Melee at its best is an art form. It’s wits and reflexes and timing and thinking ahead. Always thinking a move ahead.”

Today was different however, Jade had known it would be the second she walked into the dining room and saw Eve parked by a corner with her arms crossed. She waited, patiently, as Jade finished her breakfast before sitting down next to the woman and locking eyes with her.

“You owe me a demonstration.” She said simply. Jade nodded, she’d known this was coming. The girl had been acting progressively cagier around the merc over the last couple of days. If Jade had learned anything about the younger woman it was that once she had a conviction to do something she wouldn’t stop until it was done. She suspected Eve had only waited as long as she did out of respect for the captain’s schedule.

Eve went to the rack and retrieved her weapon of choice or weapons as was the case. The short-haired girl favoured a pair of short swords which complemented her relentless style. Bernard had compared training with her to being attacked by a swarm of bees, so Jade had no illusions about the girl being a pushover. The blacksmith retrieved her own wooden weapon; she’d taken time in the week to build a sword that was the same shape and length as the longer blade she preferred. She weighed up her chances as they moved into position, noticing out her eye that Bernard and Rufus were now watching the scene with expressions of interest written across their faces.

“Just one question, Eve.”

The girl raised an eyebrow. “Yes?”

“What’s this in aid of?”

“I’ve got to know. That’s all there is to it.”

That was all the explanation Jade was getting apparently. The girl twirled her wooden blades and dropped into a duelling stance, Jade raised her weapon.

They moved. Eve came in as Bernard had described; throwing rapid strikes at the nearest available target, Jade deflected and stepped backward to keep the girl at arm’s length. She struck back, her height giving her the leverage advantage to deliver an overhead swing that forced the young woman to kneel and raise both her weapons in cross-shape to parry. The two locked weapons for a few seconds and broke apart.

Eve’s face had locked into a snarl of concentration, surprisingly showing caution in engaging the blacksmith. She feigned left, then came at running crouch from the right side, swinging both her blades in a hooking motion, Jade grunted and used the barrier block Rufus had shown her, feeling the shock run down her arms at the strength of the swing. She held steady, but Eve stumbled slightly as they broke apart. Jade saw her chance, she twisted her arms and snapped the blade horizontally, managing to strike the back of Eve’s thigh as she passed. She cursed loudly and wheeled around to face her again.

Jade couldn’t resist a verbal dig “I think that’s one to nothing princess.”

Eve gritted her teeth and darted forward, Jade hopped backwards, narrowly avoiding a scissoring attack and rolling defensively to the left to save her head from the strike that followed. The girl was quicker than a hiccup, and incensed, to make it worse. She struck out at Eve legs, trying to make her lose her balance. The dark haired merc shot her arms out and trapped the blacksmiths swing with the pair of shortswords, and then rolled inwards as Jade pulled free to deliver a thump with the hilt of one to Jade’s forearm before she got out of range. Jade bit down on a cry and silently wished she’d kept her mouth shut.

“That’s even score, buttercup.”



OOC Fight! Fight! Fight! Last training session I promise. No clothing will be ripped in the following bitch fight I'm sad to say./OOC
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Re: Errant Road: Jade's Story (part 2)

Postby Jack Rothwell » September 1st, 2010, 4:47 am

Chapter 7 (cont.)

The battle continued, the two women jockeying for position within the confines of the basement room. The intensity climbed, the yells of effort grew louder and the swings grew harder. Eve might not have been as skilful as the Captain was with a blade, but she possessed a mad energy that bordered on possessed. Fatigue began to rear its head.

The ‘score’ was now tied at three apiece when the younger woman switched tactics. She came in low, throwing caution to the wind and aiming a series of strikes at the blacksmiths legs. As Jade parried the onslaught Eve suddenly pushed off the ground and leaped into a flying tackle that sent both women crashing to the ground. One of Eve’s weapons went skidding as she clamped a hand around her opponent’s throat. Jade gritted her teeth and seized Eve by a handful of hair, yanking hard to one side to get her to release her windpipe. Jade kicked with her legs as Eve’s grip loosened and rolled on top of the scrambling brawl the fight had degenerated into. Their struggles took them to a pillar where they finally broke apart, both hurrying to retrieve their weapons to finish what they’d started.

In all probability, the fight would’ve continued until one of the combatants was either unconscious or injured. In the end, it was the banging on the trapdoor entrance that brought The Silver Hands out of combat and spectatorship and onto more pressing matters.

It was Leo, looking decidedly unlike his usual cheery self. The expression on his face was enough to get even Eve to stop her borderline homicidal actions and pay attention.

“I think we may be in trouble.” He said.

A few minutes later the reunited group was parked around a table as Leo relayed what he knew.

“The meeting went fine. Logan agreed to my terms. Our supplies are booked to go in a week with the main shipment as we planned.”

“So what went wrong?” The Captain studied the younger man intensely.

“Someone was keeping on eye on me while I was in the Port. I think it may have been at the behest of our new ‘business partner’.”

“Slow it down Leo, start from the beginning.”

The merc took a deep breath.



Chapter 8

The richly dressed Merchant who called himself Martin Dashwood made his way back to the tavern where his lodgings lay. He walked with the swagger of the successful, the ornate cane he carried cutting a rhythmical tap on the cobbled streets. The meeting had gone well as he’d hoped and now The Silver Hands were free to move forward to the final stage of Rufus’ plan; an underhanded scheme of planting several members of the group in the convoy ahead of time. He also knew that Bernard had been exchanging information and money from the first convoy they’d captured to obtain some special ‘commission’ to aid them to that end. Although he’d kept tight-lipped about what it was.

“Don’t want to spoil the surprise.” The sergeant had chuckled.

Once everything was in place, it would be a simple matter of waiting for the right moment to spring. Thanks to Logan he knew had approximates of what they’d be up against. It was nothing they couldn’t handle with the element of surprise.

He entered ‘The Prosperous Trader’ in full saunter, tipping a wave to the landlord and climbing up the narrow flight of stairs that led to the princely room he’d spent the last couple of days in. He was thinking fondly of the bottle of fine wine he’d had sent up as he marched into the room; cloak in hand to throw on the oversized bed.

And stopped.

One thing Leo had learned during years of disreputable behaviour was a sense of when things were starting to roll downhill. Something had changed in the bedroom, the certainty of it settled into his bones. For a second he merely stood where he was, scanning the chamber for the source of his unease. The bed was freshly made and the surfaces all dusted. That was nothing out of the ordinary for an upmarket establishment that cared for the comfort of its patrons. His gaze roamed the area until it fixed on the narrow window. He stiffened, it was ajar.

The merc’s hand went into a pocket and came out holding a thin-stiletto dagger he’d concealed for the unexpected. He carefully picked his way across the chamber and stared at the pane of glass in front of him. There it was, half a thumbprint smeared across the outside of the window.

Leo let loose a stream of obscenities and began searching the rest of the room.


…………………………………………………………………………………………..

“What did you find?”

The heavily bearded sergeant settled into his traditional thinking position with a furrowed brow. The young merc broke off his narrative to reply.

“Very little. Whoever it was they knew how to cover their tracks, if I hadn’t noticed that one fingerprint I wouldn’t have known anything was wrong."

…………………………………………………………………………………………..

The gold Rufus had given him was still there, even the spare clothes he’d brought along remained on the coat hangers he’d left them on. The only other clue was a thin line in the dust on the floorboards that led to the small chest under his bed; the chest that contained the weapons he’d brought in case of trouble.

Leo’s heart sank, either a cleaning maid had developed an acrobatic and thorough method of cleaning or he was under investigation. And given the timing of the intrusion there was no prize for guessing who the interested parties were. He sat down on the plush bed, cradled his face in his hands and tried to think.

The only sensible course of action he could come up with was to stay at his lodgings until the following morning. The reasoning being it would’ve looked suspicious if ‘Martin Dashwood’ had made a hasty exit with a day’s rent still paid for. It was better to feign ignorance of an investigation that had no concrete evidence against him (at least none that he’d brought with him). If potential enemies thought him unaware of their plans it could present an opportunity to catch them unaware later on.

The following morning Leo Landau took his leave of the tavern and made his way to the stables, fighting the urge to look over his shoulder every step of the way. He took his time; mounting his horse and leading it in a slow trot towards the gates at the main entrance of the port city.

It wasn’t until Lorrel was a vague smudge on the horizon behind him that he gigged the animal a flat-out run. Leo sat rigidly on his saddle, feeling storm clouds beginning to gather.

………………………………………………………………………………………….

Silence filled the room following Leo’s narrative. Jade glanced round the table and saw a multitude of looks she didn’t care for a one bit, least of all the Captain’s, who had locked his gaze on the middle-distance and seemed to be muttering something under his breath. Bernard broke the quiet.

“So what now, Captain?”

Rufus seemed to return to the here and now. He straightened up in his chair, took a sip of his drink and addressed the room at large.

“Leo, I need you, Jade and Eve to keep an eye out around town for the next few days. I’ll need some time to think.”

Leo spoke somewhat hesitantly “What shall we do if we run into spies?”

“Deal with them.” Was the Captain’s gruff reply.
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