Sneaking Away From The Wolves' Den

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Sneaking Away From The Wolves' Den

Post by Admin on Sat May 26, 2012 6:47 am

A leather boot presses into darkened dirt, sinking into the sloshing mud below the surface of the road. A hood-shadowed head cranes to the side and turns toward the burning sun, eyelids narrowing into a glare as a hand is raised above to protect the face from the light. The surrounding forest offers no protection from the oppressive noon-time sun, for the path is cut too wide for the canopy to shield travelers. Beige robes are blotched brown on the sleeves, wet with sweat. The head turns back toward the ground, the torso turns with it, and the hand drops back to the side. The legs and feet did not stop, operating involuntarily to deliver the body to an uncertain destination. Another step, another opportunity for the earth to swallow the boot. The foot is raised from the murk forcibly, only to plunge back down a short distance away. The muscles aching in protest are ignored by a mind too occupied by frustrating thoughts. The man traveling alone mutters and curses at himself. His name is Eric Caladon, and he is miserable.

"A pawn," he muses aloud but quietly. "A bishop or a knight reduced to a simple pawn, a tool to be used in a simple game." He chuckles under his breath, generating a dry coughing sound that develops into an actual cough. He stops for a moment to catch his breath and reaches into his robes to grab an elaborately decorated blue-glass water flask. Caladon downs the whole of its contents, confident that the engraved enchantments will refill the flask by the time he is next thirsty with so much humidity in the air. He pockets the flask again in his light brown robes, uproots himself from the mud with some difficulty, then continues on.

The enchanted flask, unusual in the world only by its beautiful swirling designs, was a gift to him. A gift given due to politics. He scowls at the thought. Politics, the politics of my father. Now I'm here thanks to politics. He wipes his brow with a damp sleeve. A part of his mind not occupied with the current mental discourse wonders if he is hurting more than helping, as sweat has been stinging his eyes for a long while. I thought I could learn something by coming to this gods-forsaken place. Learn about real politics, power politics. He absentmindedly swats his bare hand ahead of him, disrupting a small cloud of annoying insects. The corners of his lips curl in dark amusement; he'd be smiling if he wasn't breathing heavily through his mouth. Power politics. Throwing your weight around, making bold and obvious moves yet avoiding all of the repercussions. Real, almost tangible power, certainly nothing you'd see back at the Conclave. He breathes through his nose just to smile properly at the thought.

"The Conclave, where you have to operate quietly and carefully," Caladon whispers mockingly to himself, barking the last few words as if they left behind a poor taste. Sneaking around, deceiving your peers, playing tricks on one another in the shadows of the real players. There's no room in the Conclave to make a name for yourself, you have to be born with a name instead. 'Get some experience in the field,' they said. 'Make a name for yourself in the world,' they said, 'Heard there's a need for talent at the Khanrigan embassy,' they said. I thought, 'After a few years in the field, I'll come back and change things,' he mocks. He spits at the ground despite knowing he is at risk of dehydration. "What a fool I was..." Chuckling hoarsely, he corrects himself, "What a fool I am."

He clears his throat and continues his pace. Well, at least I got my wish. I got to experience 'power' politics, right at the end of a metaphorical blade. 'Infiltrate the government,' I was told, 'and find out what guilds the Wolf Throne knows about.' I asked why I was being sent to do such risky work, and the whole situation became very clear. That highborn bastard looked right into my eyes and smiled. 'They would never believe some rank-and-file Conclave agent would make off with that information, Cal-i-dan.' A gnat brushes his lips and sends him into a coughing fit. His legs never stop their purpose. The bastard even mocked my name! 'However, they would believe that some upstart young noble, barely out of his teens, would take the information to prove himself. Then again, it doesn't matter what they believe if you aren't caught.'

The scene replays in his mind in vivid detail. The ambassador sat on a raised throne, looking down at him like a lord at a knave. Skylights were made to illuminate the ambassador's armored lap and the dais below, just so he could sit back in the shadows though none could ignore his presence. "You expect me to throw myself at the dogs!?" Caladon yelled. "I won't! I refuse this 'assignment'." The ambassador laid further back. the contours of his aged, shadowed face showed that the situation must seem amusing. With a small raise and twitch of the hand, two inquisitors moved toward Caladon from either side of the throne. "Yes, actually, I do expect you to throw yourself at the dogs." Caladon stepped back as the inquisitors stepped nearer. "Pity, really. I'll have to write home. 'Another promising youth, cut down in his prime, too eager for a fool.'" The closest inquisitor reached out toward him, ready to convict him, "We find you guilty of-"

"And then I damned myself," Caladon says with a fading voice. 'Fine!' I screamed. 'I accept! I accept!' The inquisitors stood down, and the old bastard leaned into the sun for the first time. Every part of me wanted to claw that smirk off of his face. 'Excellent, Cal-i-dan.' I must have looked like I wanted to claw his face off, too. 'Oh? Have I gotten your name wrong?' The son-of-a-whore was just mocking me, and I could do nothing but hate him with everything I am. Then he leaned back into the shadows, the light still glinting in his eyes. 'You have my apologies. Perhaps I'll remember your name when you return. Maybe it'll be a name worth remembering then.' I couldn't believe I had come all the way to the damned Impereich for this, to be treated like this, unable to defend myself. We lingered in silence for a while before he waved me off. 'What are you waiting for? You have an assignment to take care of.'

He began to speak again, but another coughing fit took him. He retrieved his flask and drank the little sip of water inside. He fastened the cap back on and took a moment to appreciate the wispy carvings on the container. He stowed it again and went back to his thoughts. And here I am, wandering a road I was never meant to walk. I realized it after I handed the information to a contact for the embassy, realized that I wasn't meant to make it back. He smiled as he mentally laughed. Real power politics. Someone steals information from the Throne, the Throne knows its the embassy, knows that the embassy knows that it knows, everyone knows, it's so damned obvious. The embassy appears not to know, though, and for the sake of peace, both sides do nothing to one another. The Impereich knows more about the local guilds than it lets on, and an agent of the Conclave breaks the law to find out. Both sides are guilty, and know that they are guilty, but both sides allow the other to feign innocence. Yet, for every side to be satisfied, there needs to be one. Simple. Sacrificial. Pawn.

Eric Caladon's legs continue to move him toward some hopeless safety. He glances at the trees, slowing for a moment to focus but unable to perceive anything in the thick foliage. He takes care to inspect the forest on his other side as well. He then resigns himself and looks forward as he regains his pace. His boots slosh the mud ahead loudly. I was lucky there was a rain so recently, the roads are so terrible no one else is willing to travel on them. I was lucky to escape the city with my life. Heh, I was lucky to find any information worth gathering at all. He looks back to the woods, searching for anything out of place, before looking ahead again. The tone in his head becomes nervous, and a bead of sweat forms on his skin unprovoked by the heat. They say the Impereich has men that can move faster in the forests than on the roads. Men-wolves that will track any man down, no matter how fast or how clever. They close in for the kill, snatch their target away never to be seen again, devoured in some dark place where no one will ever see the corpse. I've been lucky so far, but I fear my luck's about to run out.

Caladon glances nervously to his side again and almost loses balance as he is yanked awkwardly forward then back, his right foot anchored to the mud behind him. "Damn my damn thoughts," he curses loudly and crouches down. A spell forms in his mind, and he concentrates on it. He palms a metal rod in his robes with his left hand, one rod of many he brought with him that has weighed his weary form for so long. Caladon wills the invisible mana around him to respond to his power as a mage and force it into the model of the spell he has in his mind. The mana resists and he channels the resulting feedback into the metal rod. He can feel his hands tingling with raw power; the spell is prepared, waiting for him to release it. Secondary-Source Earth Magic, basic removal spell, he recites in his head. The spell is so simple, it requires only concentration and a single spell-word.

He crouches further down, nudging his stuck ankle with his right hand, pressing the spell into the surrounding mud.

"Graol."
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