Stories Hub / Sci-Fi & Fantasy / Freedom Pt. 09-10

Freedom Pt. 09-10

by WhimsicalRepertoire 02/14/18

No sex here! Only story.

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Freedom Part 9: Mercy

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Four days had passed since the assault on Villjord. Fires were still spreading around the city in places, their dancing flames yet defying the chill rains of early spring. The dead of Villjord had been tallied in the hundreds. This number would be tolerable for an Imperial city, but was certainly devastating for this remote city on the edge of the world.

Talos paced furiously in a room of an inn, the building now turned into a makeshift hospital to care for the wounded from the assault. He hadn't left this room for two days now, except when he had to. His friend and mentor, Sigismund, occupied the room's only bed. The veteran breathed, but the breaths were shallow. His heart beat, but only just. Both the city's healers and Casiama had told Talos the man would be fine, that he would recover from his wounds. Talos didn't believe them.

His dread spiral only persisted, for he blamed himself. Sigismund had not wanted to be here in Villjord; he had wanted to go elsewhere as soon as he had learned of Tatiana's gift, long before the attack had occurred. Yet, he had stayed, just for Talos' sake. Silvia had fallen shortly after, rushing forward to help Sigismund when he fell defending his flank. Tatiana would have fallen too, had she not fled at the first sign of trouble. Two friends gone in an afternoon due to his hubris.

Oddly enough, Tatiana was the one who had visited Talos the most after the battle. More than Vex, more than Markus, and even more than his own love Casiama. He couldn't provide much decent conversation for the girl dressed in black, yet she attempted it countlessly. She had never known loss like he had, but she had certainly read of it. She had read of heroes bouncing back from their losses, of their friends comforting them in their times of need. She did her best in that regard; yet, their conversations always returned to the creeping darkness. They spoke of things that no strangers should ever utter to one another, and they spoke openly for hours at a time. Talos never thanked her for the efforts to support him, but he did appreciate them nonetheless.

Talos was a brittle man at this point, whether he knew it or not. He was a man who had assembled a mercenary company as a mere boy of sixteen, a man who had slain so many foes in his thirty-three years. Yet here he was, pacing around a room worriedly expecting his friend of seventeen of those years to die at any moment. Just like those few who had come before. He wouldn't allow another to die on his watch. Not because of him.

He ached for a simpler time, his own life but just a year ago. A wanderer never had to deal with these feelings. A wanderer couldn't waste his time feeling remorse for the dead. A wanderer gets past it, as if its just another confirmation of the world's twisted reality. That a man's life is mere chaff to separate from the wheat. A wanderer had known this before last year. It just hadn't stung him yet.

The door opened, and Talos glanced in its direction. Casiama stepped through, softly closing the door behind her. She held a strong gaze for his sake.

"Talos..."

He turned away from her, as if the action was required to hide his thoughts from her. She stepped towards him, placing an infuriating hand on his shoulder.

"He'll be okay," she said calmly. He again didn't believe her. "We're having supper just down the street. Join us."

He shook his head, shrugging his lover's hand from his shoulder.

"Please? For me?" Casiama frowned.

Hatred would get him through his misery, he knew. When one's spiteful, their mind hides their fear behind an overriding need for vengeance. A solemn promise to one's self that the simple act will make it all better in the end. Adrenaline demands it, your soul aches for it. He pondered how he could retribute this misery when the enemy had all but fled, then thought of a girl dressed in black.

"Fine," he grunted.

Talos glanced at his fallen comrade one more time before leaving the room with Casiama. He trundled slowly down the street with her, as if avoiding his destination for as long as possible, yet the pair made it to the tavern eventually. All without sharing a word.

They found Vex, Markus, and Tatiana around a table in a corner of the quiet tavern hall, sharing a meal of fish and bread. Markus, grinning, glanced his way when he entered. His grin fell away, as did his gaze.

Does he blame me for Silvia's death? Is he afraid of me?

Do I care either way?

"'Sup," Talos greeted gruffly, finding a chair next to the sorceress in black. His choice of seat forced Casiama to the other side of the table, not that the man was particularly cognizant of such things at the moment. He received nods from his friends from Imperia, while Tatiana was the only one to greet him in return.

"Hello, Talos. Glad to see you out of that room," she said with a smile, passing a plate of fish his way. "We were just discussing our next destinations. Once things have calmed down here."

"Mm," Talos grumbled, stabbing one of the fishes with a table knife, and bringing it to his own plate. He didn't make another move to skin or eat it, but glanced over the party instead. "So, what have you all decided on?"

Markus and Vex shared a soft smile. Vex shook her head, answering first with a rare calm. "Imperia. Going to reopen my oddity shop, like I had in Catriona."

Talos feigned a smirk. "Nice." He glanced towards Markus, nodding again.

"I, er - well, I was gonna join Vexima there. Never know when someone wit' an oddity shop will need... muscle, I s'pose."

"Mm."

Talos understood their conversation of a better future all too well. In his old mercenary days it was more of the same. Before and after combat, always the same. Speaking to your comrades on where you will retire, if you survive the coming days. Speaking of the whore in whichever backwater Imperial town would receive your newly-found wealth.

Men and women alike dream of stability, whether or not they admitted to it, and Imperia was the city of unshakable foundations. Talos should have felt happy for them that they even had a plan for their upcoming life. He hadn't yet thought of one for himself, although one had been decided for him months ago.

"Catriona for us," Casiama smiled, nodding as if on cue. Talos was on a knife's edge whether or not he would accept such an arrangement. He could not seal his revenge from Catriona. He could only hide; a lucky-enough warrior who could live out the rest of his days in safety.

No. He would not accept. Talos spoke before thinking.

"I'm of a mind to ignore my inner cowardice, and remain here to hunt down the remaining reavers."

Talos skinned the fish on his plate in the following silence, not risking a glance to any other member of the table. No one spoke for a good minute, until Markus cleared his throat.

"I'm not bein' a coward, cap'n."

"Not sayin' you are," he shrugged.

"You... sure as fuck are."

Talos shrugged again, slicing part of the fish on his plate and bringing the morsel to his mouth. He raised his sight to Markus as he chewed, a smirk present on his face. Another silence. Markus couldn't hold eye contact, and glanced away.

"H-how do you plan on finding them, Talos?" Tatiana asked nervously. "They could be a hundred miles from here. Now."

Talos looked to his left, towards her, only for his gaze to be rebuked by her falling sight and a nervous smile. He knew exactly how he planned on finding the reavers, and wondered if Tatiana had thought of the same solution.

"No idea," he grumbled. She nodded quickly, devouring what was left on her plate as the table fell to silence once more. Tatiana quickly rose from her seat, and her cat lept from the table a moment later.

"Well. I'll see you all tomorrow," she bowed, wiping her mouth with a napkin, then hastily walked towards the nearest exit.

-

Tatiana quickly shut the door behind Dusk, exhaling sharply as her boots met the cobblestone street. She only gave herself a moment to catch her breath before she started walking down the quiet roads of a city still on edge.

And everyone was still on edge. She was, maybe most of all. She had just met these people, these... strange people, yet felt oddly connected to them. She even felt the pangs of sadness for the scary-looking older fellow Sigismund, although she did not know him at all. She certainly felt the loss of their healer, Silvia.

Tatiana heard the door open behind her, freezing her in place. But she did not turn towards it.

"Wait up, Tatiana," a man commanded behind her.

Talos. She did not want to speak to him just now. Would it be strange if she teleported away, just then?

Tatiana instead turned to face him with a manufactured half-smile on her lips. "Hello, Talos."

He stepped towards her, his green eyes piercing straight through her lie. Tatiana pouted instead. "Tell me how capable you are," Talos said coldly, "Can you teleport another? And not yourself?"

This was not the question she expected Talos to ask. Yet, Tatiana had done what he said many times, mostly when assisting fellow sorceresses from the College of Redstone to travel to distant locales.

So Tatiana nodded, hiding her trembling hands behind her back. Her eyes darted away from him.

"And the destination. Does it have to be a place? Or can it be a thing?" Talos asked coldly once again. His hand was planted on the glowing sword at his belt, and his eyes firmly on Tatiana. Her breaths hurried as his footsteps neared.

"Both are the same, Talos," Tatiana answered hastily, wincing when she realized her words had sounded snooty. She hadn't intended them to. It wasn't his fault he didn't understand how teleportation worked.

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