Stille looked down the cliff. It was at least a hundred foot tall with a tranquil river beneath. Despite the serenity and familiarity of the scene, the baroness felt a little uneasy. "No..not a baroness anymore, just a priestess", she corrected herself. She had given her instructions to Anna and Sergeant Taylor . Before she left for her destination though , she had one more thing to do. She hiked to the northern barrier of her keep till she was safely out of sight of all prying eyes, and readied herself for what she was about to do.
She glanced around , and when her keen eyes and hearing were satisfied no one was around , she undid a few buttons of her bodice. Four bat wings unfurled from her back as she tested their strength and sturdiness. Despite forgoing makeup and her trusty grey wig, she still felt very insecure about her wings. The hair and youth she could claim as either fashion or longevity magic, but the demonic appendages were something else. Most people that knew her , didn't even realize that she had them and the very few that knew assumed they were vestigial and useless.
"Maybe they are useless.", mused the priestess as she tested their power . She had never learned to fly with them , and that was her regret. Not because she was scared of heights or failure, but because they were proof of her forbidden heritage. Many times over she had proven to herself that she was a half fiend, but there always remained a small doubt that she wasn't. The fact she had never flew with her wings gave herself a small hope that she was merely a tiefling with big wings. Even though her husband did not seem to care, and actually encouraged her to embrace her physical "gifts" , Stille had always held back.
"Oh Halvor. I'm doing this for you , you know. ", she whispered to herself, remembering her recent vision from the Gardens of Koryis. She had not determined if it was merely a hallucination or if she actually visited the lands of the dead, but her conversation with Hida Franksada and his sword the demon scourge Galatea had resonated with her. Her husband had always wanted to see her fly without magic, and she resolved to see it through.
With that she fully stretched all four of her wings. " Ok, big ones are for flight and speed, small ones are for maneuvering. ", the priestess noted to herself. With that she pushed off the cliff, to embrace her destiny.
Although she had a feather fall spell at the ready, the adrenaline of leaping off the precipice was overwhelming. She thought for sure she would dash her face against the rocks below as she beated her wings uselessly. As she plummeted , suddenly she missed the ground, and she glided upwards. The priestess had flown before, but always under the power of a magical spell, so she had some idea how to handle herself. The novelty of flight by her own body was exhilarating though , as her blood seemed to pump wildly through her frame.
"I can't believe I've ignored this for a hundred years. This is amazing. ", she thought as she smiled to herself. She circled around the cliff carefree a few times, when suddenly a wild air current threw her off balanced. She sensed she could regain control, but wasn't experienced to do so in time. The priestess attempted her feather fall spell , but instead crashed into the woods.
Stille laid on the ground painfully, but more happy then she been in a decade. She quickly recovered her wounds with a prayer . Then she stood up , dusting the debris off her and stretched her limbs . "I'm going to need a bit more practice. ", she said with a grin to no one in particular.
"Shouldn't you rest a bit more ...sir? ", asked Jose tentatively .
"I've rested long enough I think. I rested so long, I missed all the action. ", scoffed Sir Rollo as he packed his saddle bags.
"Errr I'm still not sure why you are returning north sir. There is much to do here. The tide of demonic incursions does not seem to be abating. ", noted the younger Husky Knight.
Sir Rollo sighed and nodded , then turned to his student. "You are correct , even with your great victory here in Veb, the battle is never ending. I should be leading our men , but my recent brush with death has shown me that there is a final task I must do. I am old man , Jose. An old bitter lonely man. If a demon's claws doesn't kill me, old age will soon. I have lived and battled longer then most of my comrades , and I have long out lived any regrets and friends . Save of course one. I intend to go north one more time, and say my farewells to my dear friend Ogella. One more journey while my bones can still make it. ", explained the elder knight.
Jose nodded at the sincerity of his mentor. "What of the remaining knights in Grom then? Do you wish us to continue support of the clerics of Koryis? ", he asked.
"Yes and no. We gathered our might so we can slay that summoner Pierre or Loric, or whatever he called himself. Since he is dead, I think our strength is best used if we scatter our forces. The novice knights and squires will continue to aid Father Emilo, while I wish the more seasoned ones to crusade and quest throughout the country side. ", replied Rollo.
Jose nodded once again. "Good journey to you then my lord. I will report to Father Emilo immediately. ", he said with a salute.
Rollo let out a dry chuckle, and shook his head in amusement. "Boy...ever since I recruited you from that Darokin port a decade ago, I saw nothing but potential in you. You've shown me your courage and might when you helped defeat the demonic incursion in this barony. Sir Jose , as a knight commander of order, I declare you a full fledged knight of the Husky. May your enemies tremble at your fury, and your allies bolstered by your courage. ", the old knight said with his own salute.
SIr Jose was stunned at first but then beside himself with joy. He could only think of shouting in his North Darokin accent, but refrained because he knew his mentor frowned on such outbursts.
Rollo saw this and held out his hand . "A word of caution though. You are now a full representative of our order, and I expect you to behave and act in a manner that will bring us honor. Besides your knightly codes of conduct, I expect your speech, manner of dress, and battle techniques to be representative of your adopted Northern Heritage. ", the old knight cautioned.
Sir Jose was a bit deflated at the criticism towards him but he nodded in agreement. He cherished his homeland , and background, but he was a full Knight of the Husky now. He would honor his mentor's wishes.
Sir Rollo gazed at his former pupils face and read his determination , then he cracked a withered smile. "Excellent, we see eye to eye . Now how about we share a parting drink before I leave. ", ordered the knight commander.
Jose nodded in agreement and proceeded to march to the keep and procure some wine or brandy. "Wait Esay . How about some of that Agave worm juice you are so fond of? ", the old knight said unexpectedly with a smile.
"Hey why so glum ?", asked Raoul as he shouldered the heavy pack . Even though the half giant had renegotiated his contract with the duelist, it just seemed natural for him to carry it.
"Eh? I'm not glum. We killed the demon, we got a big reward from both the clerics of Koryis and from the barony. We saved the day. What's there to be glum about. ", shrugged Martinez.
Raoul stared down the long road. It would be roughly four days to Grom City if there was no complications. Four unbearable days if his employer would continue to sulk and act miserable. "Is it because you didn't get the girl? heh. ", jested the half giant, not realizing how close to home it hit.
Martinez paused, and wasn't sure how to respond. He knew that the incident with the succubus was unavoidable. It would have eventually came to down to only one of them leaving that clearing. Regardless of the outcome , he felt there was a small hope that he could of reformed it or at least shown it a different path. Also, deep down he knew he really didn't have a chance with the baroness. Besides her obvious physical attributes, she possessed a light heart and optimism that the duelist found oddly hypnotic. Despite her protests of her age, he would have liked to know her better . At the height of the siege he thought they started to bond in some odd way . In the end though, she didn't even meet them to say good bye. Anna was in charge of the official farewells and payments. It was his lot in life as a mercenary he guessed. Do your job, get paid, move on.
Raoul saw that his joke did not have the desired effect he wanted. "Look boss, cheer up. We'll find some loose women in Lower Lueders as soon as we get back. Nothing like a night of heavy drinking and soft company to cheer you up. These provincial women are boring anyways. Except maybe Anna, I found her kind of hot. ", teased the half giant to no avail. " How about you kick me? I know you've been wanting to do so for awhile now. It must be infuriating to be always shown up by yours truly. ", baited Raoul .
"Shown up by you? Those elementals must have dropped rocks on your head or something. No one shows up Martinez. Who was responsible for killing the necromancer? Me! Who was responsible for slaying the succubus ? Me ! By myself I might add. ", boasted the duelist.
"I want to add there was no witnesses . For all we know , the necromancer and succubus might have ran away, and you just found a dead farmer in a robe. ", shrugged the half giant with a smile.
Martinez stopped and gazed angrily at his companion as he walked away laughing. The duelist wound up and kicked Raoul from behind in the ass with all the might he could summon. "OWWWW! ", exclaimed the duelist as he clutched his foot.
"What was that? A mosquito or something ?", laughed the half giant, suddenly he held up his hand. The joking pair instantly drew their weapons and waited. Raoul sniffed the air, and suddenly lunged into a bush .
"Jimmy? What are you doing here?", asked the half giant as he held up the young boy by the collar.
"Errr...You guys still need a porter right? ", replied the boy sheepishly.
"Jimmy ...go home. What we do..its not safe. You should know that by now. ", replied Martinez as he sheathed his daggers. Raoul nodded in agreement with his employer.
"Please...let me come with you. I won't be any trouble at all. There's nothing left for me in the barony. I'm too small to be a guard, and no one is currently taking apprentices. I have no parents, and I'm tired of being a burden to my aunt and uncle. I thought I was doomed to be a house servant , until you guys showed up. Please let me apprentice under you guys. ", pleaded the boy.
An uneasy silence settled on the road.
"You realize, demon hunting isn't like blacksmithing or farming. There's no apprentice ship program involved. It's just people with specific skill sets that set out to battle summoned or displaced lower plane outsiders. Which I might note, there are many varieties of. The pays is sub standard compared to a proper adventurer, and the danger is twice as high. " ,cautioned Martinez finally.
"I'll learn whatever skills that I need to. I don't care about danger, I've fought before , you've seen me. Just give me a chance. Look I have two badges each represents my bravery. ", replied the boy scrambling to convince the pair.
The duelist did not want to hurt the boy's feelings, but had no intention of bringing him into danger. He thought of the best way to deflate his ambitions and dreams. It was hard considering all that Jimmy had done and contributed during the Battle of Veb.
"I say we give him a shot. He's earned it. ", said Raoul much to the surprise of both Martinez and Jimmy. "If we throw him back to town, he's just gonna follow us anyways, like he's done a half dozen times already. ", the half giant said with a shrug.
Martinez looked at the half giant and then cracked a smile, "This is just a ploy to get out of carrying my bags isn't it? ", he laughed.
"I've been found out. ", snorted the half giant, as he placed his heavy pack on Jimmy's back. The boy shifted uncomfortably from the weight but smiled .
"I will do my best, no... twice my best. You won't regret it. ", Jimmy said happily as he gladly accepted the heavy burden.
"Let's make double time out of this hell hole, before the baroness gets wind of this. Last thing I want is a crazed blue hair harpy on our backs. ", warned Martinez at his two employees.
"Actually Anna is officially the baroness now. ", replied a familiar feminine voice . The lady Stille stepped out from the woods , blue hair and youthful appearance for all to see. The priestess was wearing her dark breast plate and her fashionable black traveling dress, with a sword and satchel at her side . Martinez noted that she was covered in small leaves and dust, and wondered if she had fallen off a horse recently.
The demon hunters remained silent , trying to come up with an explanation that would explain why they were dragging the young boy into perilous danger.
Stille ignored their discomfort and continued her explanation. "Anna and Sergeant Taylor have shown me they are more then capable of handling the barony, especially after their actions in the recent crisis. Despite their protests, I shall temporarily leave my barony in their hands. Jimmy has my blessings to leave as well, he has shown me his strength as well. I left home on my first adventure when I was was younger and less prepared then him, I have full confidence that he will make everyone proud. ", stated the priestess.
"You are leaving your barony? What brought this about baro...err priestess? ", asked Raoul.
"Someone recently told me that there is a shortage of "good guys" in the world. With the continued conflict down south, and our nation's resources stretched to the limit, there is a distinct need for people to make a difference in the world. Too long have I ignored the troubles of the outside world and shut myself away in my tranquil village. I have resolved to take a more proactive approach to make this world a better place , or at least attempt to. ", explained Stille.
Martinez raised an eyebrow. "Oh really? What do you plan on doing? ", he asked with a grin.
"Oh...I don't know . I'm sure some adventuring group or perhaps demon hunting party will require the services of an experienced healer. ", she replied. "Do you happen to know any ?", she teased with a mischevious grin.
Martinez playfully shrugged in return. "I can think...", he began but was interrupted by a jabbering cacophony.
" NORTH DAROKIN REPRESENT! *HIC* Que viva la Daro Raza! ", shouted a clearly inebriated knight on a large fierce looking green dog.
"AMIGOS! ESAYS! *HIC* Guess who's a full *HIC* member of the Order of the Husky now? ", slurred Jose as he gripped a bottle in one hand and the reigns of his unamused riding dog with another.
"Dear lord, is Sir Rollo that desperate ? ", joked Martinez. "Congratulations! ", the duelist added uncomfortably when he saw his jest did not register on his drunken friend's face.
"YAY ME! *HIC* Anyways, I was given orders to freelance now. You know quest, crusade, adventurer *HIC*...whatever you guys call it. Any chance I can hang with you guys? *HIC* ", asked the knight as he threw Martinez his bottle of Agave worm spirits.
The duelist deftly caught the bottle and took a swig. Then looked at his suddenly large group of companions . No he corrected himself , his large group of friends. These were people he had fought, bled , and triumphed with in the last few days. Bonds forged in battle were not so easy to ignore or break. " I think we can let you hang around for at least the next little while. We're teaching young Jimmez here how to be a demon hunter, and I guess we need a "What not to do" example. ", laughted Martinez.