Along The Tamaland Isle
Tal awoke with a splitting headache as the morning sun filled the room. The sounds of horses and men moving about the compound rang in his head like a drum from the open window to the east. Tal tried to raise himself up from the bed to look about, but the world began to spin so he chose wisely to lay back down.
A cool, damp cloth was laid across his forehead; the coolness taking some of the bit away from his headache. “Sire?” came a gentle voice. Tal opened his eyes and tried to focus on the source of the voice. Again the world began to spin before he could determine its origin. “Rest then”, the gentle voice said as Tal felt a small weight lift from the bed. He drifted off to sleep.
Tals sleep was filled with odd, haunting, visions of ocs, hundreds of orcs all hunting him down. He ran with all his strength, but each footstep was an age in coming. The air seemed as thick as tree sap, not letting him pass or letting him flee. Always the ocs were upon him; their wicked curved blades and black arrows seemed as instant death had arrived. Tal awoke.
The sheets were soaked with sweat, but smelled of sweet herbs. Tal tried to kick back the large bear skin cover that held him confined to the bed, but he was yet too weak as his muscles cried out in pain at each movement. His head no longer beat like a drum, though it still rang out loud if he moved his head too quickly. Looking about the room Tal tried to recall where he was. Nothing in the place looked known to him except for his clothes that lay across a large chair near the bed. It was then that Tal realized he was naked. It was also then that a young girl entered the room.
“Sire, you must not move about so”, she said as she walked to the foot of the bed. Her gentle sweet voice sang familiar in his mind as if from a memory long forgotten. “Your wounds are not yet begun to heal and the blow to your head must surely still ache”, the young girl went on as she walked to the side of the bed. In her hands she carried a small white basin filled with cool water. She took the cloth from Tals forehead and rinsed it again in the basin, then placed it once more upon his head.
“Your fever has gone down. Soon you may eat some soup, but first you must be able to sit aright” she said softly.
“What is your name?” Tal asked, his voice sounding weaker than ever he had heard it before. If he had not known he had spoken he would have not believed it was he.
The girl gave him a sideways glance and smiled. “My name is Corin” she replied. “Since you now know my name, pray tell me Sire what is yours?” The question was stated so gently, yet there was firmness in the request that Tal replied without even a thought.
“You must rest more Sir Tal. When the mornings cock crows we will see if you are ready to eat.” With that she turned and walked from the room, closing the door quietly behind her. Yet Tal was too restless to sleep. His mind began now to function and he tried to recall the last few days.
He had been gone for some time from these lands, gone on quests to lands far away. He remembered how good it felt to ride through the woodlands and forests he knew. On that day……. How many days ago was it Tal wondered. One day he decided to visit some friends in the village of Cove. Since Roe had become his new home the trip would not be a long one and if he left early he would get there before nightfall.
As he neared Cove he could see though the trees the houses and shops that had grown up outside the walled village. Cove had become a comfortable, settled place set amongst the wild mountains once ruled by the orcs. The trees of the forest fell away to the clearings made for the new settlers and Tal road by looking to hear a greeting or two. Then Tal noticed something odd. For no one was there to greet him, or anyone else. The houses and shops seemed empty. The normal hustle and bustle of a late day’s business was nowhere to be seen,
The hair on the back of his neck began to rise. Cautiously Tal slowed his horses pace and began to peer into the windows of the shops. There was nothing.
Tal could smell them before he saw them. Orcs! Orc scouts and archers seemed to pop up out of thin air. Before Tal could turn from the middle of the street orc arrows were shattering against his shield. One arrow pierced his thigh as another struck the forequarter of his horse. Between him and the gates to Cove proper there appeared a dozen more archers and as Tal swung his steed back to the woods he made out several orc mages. So that was why they had remained undetected. The orcs must have learned some new tricks since last Tal fought them near Cove.
The air became heavy with orc arrows as Tal urged his ride forward to the safety of the deep woods. Several orcs ventured near to take battle with Tal, but those he swiftly taught the foolishness of their venture. His sword gleamed white with rage as it sliced through the thin chain mail the orcs wore. Again and again the sword was swung as if in control of its own actions. Tals mind was not on the sword, but on the woods. His eyes searched to the tree line for signs of more orcs in hiding. If they waited there to cut him off he was surely doomed.
Another arrow found its way through the links in his armor and sliced deep into Tals side. The sharp pain caused blackness to close about, but he shook it off biting his tongue to keep his focus. He could taste the warm salty blood as his teeth sunk into his tongue, but this pain kept him conscious.
Tal knew his luck was up as a new swarm of arrows hit his helm and shield, this time from the front. Ahead indeed were more orcs, scouts, archers and mages. He was cut off. Tal was now only yards away from the woods when he looked for a way to breach the orcs barrier in front of him. He did not see the ettin emerge from the trees until its great club was well on its way to Tal. The blow struck him on the left side, numbing his sword arm instantly and throwing him from his horse in an instant.
Again the great club came down as Tal lay upon the ground. With what strength he had left Tal rolled to his left, the blows glancing off his helm. His left side screamed with pain, his arm and shoulder already broken from the first blow. As the blow to his head began to take its toll Tal whispered to his God for forgiveness for he knew he would now surely die.
As the light faded and the sounds dimmed Tal did not hear the sound of ranger horns clear upon the air.
A bright blue sky swept the horizon of all clouds as the last shades of darkness receded into what crevasse and holes it could find. The shrill cry of a hawk split the silence as far overhead it sailed forth in its never ending hunt. Tal stood alone upon a small, rocky prominence viewing the horizon with weary eyes. There on the eastern most top of the Mountains of Avarice came a new dawn, a new morning, and a new chance at life’s gift. This was a Sunday’s sun that rose ever higher from the horizon, a day of rest. The air was crisp, cool, with a small breeze carrying the scent of pine and holly berry up from the valley below.
Out to the east Tal could see the mists fading from the harbor town of Roe as his thoughts turned to Arcana and the Knights of Andal. Much had changed since the guild moved from Isen to take new root in Vesper. The needs and problems of Vesper were much different than those of Isen. All his life and experience with the guild had been in that old castle and tower of KOS. The battles, the adventures, the friends lost and friends gain had all been done in the backdrop of those lands. Now everything had changed. Tal turned and looked south, hoping for a glimpse of the City of Honor. One glint of its spires Tal knew would pull him back. But there was so sign, no sighting, Isen was much too far to the south he knew. “Perhaps it is best” Tal sighed as he took seat upon a large rock.
A long forgotten part of Tal’s spirit now tugged at the edges of mind as his thoughts turned inward. Deep within his memories the lone wolf cried as his heart stirred. He liked it alone upon that mountains edge. The lone wolfs cries became stronger, clearer in his mind. The cry of the hawk brought Tal back from his thoughts. “No” shouted Tal to the wind. “I cannot return to that way of life” he went on to no one. Still the sound of the lone wolf lingered in his mind. He knew he had been spending less and less time with the guild, seeming to be elsewhere when they gathered. “Why?” he wondered. Perhaps here upon the mountain top an answer would arrive.
Tal tried to list off in his mind those things that now troubled him deeply. Jalars return most of all stirred painful memories. He had thought his brother slain, slain by his own hands. Once before Jalar had tried to take the Book of Destiny from the Knights of Andal, and may have succeeded if not for the quick actions of Sir Robert to prevent it. Then Lord Breti led the guild as he ordered the capture of Tal’s brother. But Jalar would not be captured and in the end it was Tal who was to be his brothers’ slayer. In that act Tal knew his own downfall had started, started within himself. Doubts about Justice, Sacrifice, and Honor all filled the waking hours long after the deed was done. Those about him cheered and called his deed just and good. The Book was to be protected and he had sworn an oath to that, but now at what cost?
For many months after ale and wine were his constant companions to the point that his friends in the guild took him bodily to a small home outside Isen and let no ale, wine or vice near. There he tormented and cried for death, for release from the world. His friends, Galaphile, Flick, and others, would not let it be so, thus slowly sanity came back into his mind. These memories held for Tal the conflicts between the lone wolf and the guild. The act of these friends tightened the bonds between them and for Tal the bonds with the guild, though at times they seemed more of chains. Once he acted as his will and heart dictated now honor and sworn oaths bound him, guiding his actions for the good of all, but it had its toll.
Then, as changes in the lands where shaking and causing changes in the Knights of Andal, as Arcana was moving the guild to Riverrun, Jalar made his presence known. He was not dead and the Book of Destiny was again in peril. This shock alone staggered Tal, and then a more sinister blow was yet to land. Small details of the guilds plans for Vesper began to leak out and thrice Jalar was there to interfere with the plans of KOS. Always from behind the scenes, never directly, Jalar acted. Before long Tal began to see a link between him and the leaks. When deep in thought he began to sense a link with his brother mind, to see images and thoughts he knew were not his own. This he revealed to Arcana and the guild, but his timing was badly done for much had been discussed and planned about the moving of the Book of Destiny. So Arcana had no choice but to ban all others from revealing to Tal the guilds plans. He was sent upon patrols and away from the guild often. In some way this appealed to him and made his heart lighter, yet he knew not completely why.
These thoughts of Arcana brought forth the image of Arlin. Though his judgment told him better he could not help but shiver at the thought of those two together. Arcana had always been a bit wild in her choices of partners, but never Tal thought to this degree. Arcana’s personal choices had often led to disaster for her and those close to her. Especially for her own daughter Tal thought. Yet all accepted her as leader of KOS, even after Sir Robert had resigned and left the guild. “Is this wise?” Tal asked the sky, knowing no answer would reply.
“What does your heart say?” a voice in answer replied. “My heart?” Tal started, then jumped up turning to see who asked the question. There stood an elf maiden clad all in white with gold trim upon her sleeves. The brightness of her garments brought Tals arm up to shield his eyes as he asked “Who may you be elf lady?” She spoke softly. “No, I guess you would not remember”, she replied. “You were just a small child last we spoke. Think back Tal. Do you remember nothing?”
Tal thought a moment as soon bits of memory, as if trying to recall a dream, began to come forth. He was on the small porch of his families’ home, a small child watching his fathers’ grave face as he talked to an elfin lady. She turned, looking at the small child playing there, the words she spoke he began to hear. As a hammer strikes a forge ringing cries of hate broke the spell, casting the memories to the corners of his mind. With a jerk Tal raised his head to look again into the elf ladies eyes. Deep green eyes as depthless as the ocean looked back at Tal. “He is gone.” she replied to the unasked question. “Your brother no longer sees into your mind. May that bring some peace to you my son?”
Knights of Andal