Hello everyone, this is Asclepius, with the eighth chapter of a wonderful story from Belladonna Rose, entitled Black Rose Chronicles
Background music by Smartsound
The tall man waved back and immediately turned and launched a volley of arrows at an archery target. Eyes wide Bella was convinced that he was a master at the skill.
“Good Morning Varren. How are you this fine day?”
Turning towards them again he smiled through his rough beard and pulled his bow across his back.
“Good Morning M’lady. I am quite fine this morn….Ahh I see you have found another outlander.”
Looking Bella up and down taking measure of her she felt a bit awkward. Am I really that odd looking.
“Good morn to you Avatar…. Would you be of a mind to use a bow or are you one of those sword swingers?” Laughing at his apparent joke.
“Good Morn Sir. And I can do both.”
Arabella giggled and walked up closer to Varren. Whispering something to him she smiled and then turned back to Belladonna.
“Master Varren. This is Belladonna Rose and she has just recently arrived. I know not what choice in weapon she prefers. Annika is mending her sword as we speak and getting her gear prepared.
I just came to introduce you to her in case she may be of need of your skills.”
“So Mistress Belladonna. You are handy with sword and bow. Very interesting. Very interesting indeed….Would you be of a mind to show your bow skill?”
Handing me a bow he threw some arrows at the ground. Taking the bow, I reached down and pulled an arrow out. Skilfully she settled the arrow at the bow…pulled back the string and took aim.
Letting loose the arrow it flew strong and true. Bullseye!
Taking a deep breath Varren patted her strongly on the back. “Well done. Well done indeed…..Seems that if you can do that I doubt I can teach you much. But if you ever feel the need for more training you can certainly come to me for it.”
Smiling softly, she handed the bow back to him. “Nay nay. Keep it.” He said. “May it fire strong and true for you when you need it to M’lady. And here ….take this quiver of arrows along as well.”
Looking at the man as if in shock she took the quiver and slung it on her shoulder. “Thank you Sir.
I will most certainly put this fine-looking bow to good use.”
Tugging at Belladonna’s sleeve Arabella pulled her away and waved good day to Varren. She was a persistant one for sure.
“Hurry along girl…We have a few others you need to meet.”
After what seemed to be hours of walking about town they finally made it back to the smithy’s tent.
Annika pulled out a nice set of leather armor. The pieces were covered in metal studs all about and seemed to be quite durable. And handing the sword back to Belladonna with serene elegance she was done. “I wish you the best fair Avatar. Tis a long and treacherous road you must now travel. If are of need of my services, please return any time.” With a bow of the head she turned away and went back to work.
Bella thought it was odd. Arabella took her arm and moved her along. “Annika has outfitted many an Avatar and soldier of late. None of which she has seen again. Either they have met an ill fate or are off busy in other parts of the world. Would do her good to see at least one return from their journey.”
Arabella hung her head a bit. For the first time since Bella met her this was the first time she saw sadness on her face. Placing her arm about Arabella’s shoulders she gave he a small hug.
“Fear not M’lady. I will return. One way or another this is not the last you see of me.”
Taking up her new-found belongings she edged her way up the road to the gate. Arabella gave her a map with markings for where she should go. Now it was time to get about the business that was appointed to her. Perhaps she will meet up with her friends on the road soon. What a time that will be telling those tales she thought.
Heading towards the arched gateway the refugees waved and wished her well. This really put her in a much better mood. Stepping through it was almost like the vortex that brought her here in the first place. After a few moments the bright sunlight shone in her face and she looked about. Green grasses. A worn dirt path. Blue skies with a few scattered white clouds. Making her way up the path she stood at a fork. To the left took her near what looked like marshy swamps. No…that is not the way. To the right she could see a billow of grey smoke. That must be it. Pulling her belongings high on her back she started walking.
As she drew closer she could see the burnt fort at the bridge. That is where she had come from withthe wee girl in tow. Solace Bridge. Shaking her head she walked towards the bridge. The smell of burning embers and death was strong on the air. She turned her head away from the sight. She hoped she would never have to go back there again.
Standing in the middle of the bridge she turned her sights to the right…towards the outskirts Arabella talked about. But something caught her eye she had not expected. And a soft warm breeze caressed her face. Closing her eyes she soaked up the fresh smell and the feeling and she smiled. The Sea.
Breaking into a run she flew over the bridge and headed towards the sea …not the encampment. She had to put her eyes on the waters she missed so much. Reaching the edge of the cliff she looked out and took in a deep breath. Filling her lungs with the fresh salty sea air was just what she needed.
Looking up at the sun she judged it was just past midday. Decidedly she sat down on the cliff’s edge and watched the waves crash against the rocks. She had plenty time before nightfall to just soak in all the fresh air and sunlight she could. This was not asking too much to giver herself some time to feel alive again before her tasks took her to who knows where.
Reaching the outskirts small tendrils of smoke could be seen in the distance showing obvious signs of life in the encampment. If it were other than that the smoke would be different. She had seen enough of that kind to last her a lifetime.
Walking through the archway she could see the encampment. Even a few folk meandering along the riverbank fishing. Now things could not be that bad if they had time to fish. Strolling along slowly the sun was reaching the top of the mountain range. Soon it would be dark.
As she approached the edge of the camp a guard stepped out and inquired of her business. Once she introduced herself and showed the letter from Captain Stanley she was ushered to the headquarters. Here nestled inside some stone ruins with a makeshift canopy stretch overhead she was introduced to Captain Kinsey.
“Ah..welcome welcome Outlander. Good to have you in camp. Hope you are up for some nasty work here. Between the undead, bandits and Ebon Cult clan we are up to our neck in it.”
Smiling softly at the Captain , Bella thought to herself this was someone she could respect. Hard knocked life and ready for anything. She saluted the Captain and handed her the note from Stanley.
“Of course..hopefully he is more successful with getting help out this way than I. Seems most of my couriers disappear. Nary a one has returned. Not sure what to make of it. Either killed or took off for other parts of the world.” She continued to comment as she read the message.
She looked up from the paper at Bella and then tucked the missive away in her vest. She seemed to take stock in Bella’s appearance. Clearing her throat she took Bella by the arm and lead her to the edge of the ruins. Pointing out the different aspects and people of the camp.
As Kinsey pointed to the various people in the camp she explained each one’s role. Most were just a few folk who haven’t managed to move on to better parts. Others were of her own troops who are doing what they can to help those who do come in for help. She motioned towards the vastness of the area explaining a bit more about the bandits. Pointing to the far side she talked about the ruined town across the river and how Ebon Cultists had taken up residence there. And of course, all the undead throughout. She even mentioned a farm near the coastline where Farmer Filmore refused to leave his land regardless of what was happening in the rest of the world. She made mention of an alchemist who has a shack near the old cemetery and that he has been most helpful with ailments and such of those who find their way in.
“So Outlander. That is that. This is what we are here for I suppose one could say. Helping those who cannot help themselves. Since you are here by Arabella’s advice I would recommend talking to everyone in camp and seeing what they need help with. Report back to me anything that might be useful. Look out for my scouts throughout and bring back any info you can. That is if you are of a mind to help out for a spell.”
“Aye Captain. I will spend sometime here in the camp and help where I can. As you might be able to tell I am still trying to get my legs about me. Being a ship’s captain for so long its most odd for me to have so much solid ground under me. But I will do my best to aid these poor folks.”
Kinsey reared back her head in a laugh and slapped Bella on the back. “Good good. Knew you would help. Glad to have you here.” She reached into her pocket and pulled out a few coins and handed them to Bella. “Here take this and get yourself geared up. I know those in Soltown tried well to outfit you but see if you can find something more suitable.” Winking at Bella she turned and walked back to her makeshift desk of planks and barrels.
Bella walked into the camp and talked to each person there. She felt a bit sorry for every one of them. Each had their own tasks and reasons for being there. The sad couple sitting at the bonfire told of their daughter’s stolen portrait and bade her find and bring it back. A guard asked for any heirlooms that were stolen off the dead to be returned. One of the guards asked her to retrieve some items for him in return he would teach her how to make arrows. Even some children dancing about a firepit singing a horrible song about Bloody Bones peaked her interest. After talking to them she thought she would have to check this out as well.
Getting a few extra food stuffs, she set out to explore and do what she could to help.
With a mental note of her tasks at hand she went out and across the eastern rope bridge from the camp. Nodding to the guards on both sides of the bridge she made her way down the path. In the distance she saw some shiny material among the rocks. Pulling her small pickaxe from her pack she started collecting the orange colored ore. “This should be enough. “. Taking some small branches and her blanket she managed to make a travois. This will be much easier to move things. Seeing some trees, she chopped one down and spent a bit of time making it easier to load. With the better part of the day gone she headed back to camp to turn in the ore and wood.
Sitting down at the center campfire she looked across at that couple. That sat in silence the entire time…not even talking to one another. An errant sniffle came from the lady but that was it. Bella thought to herself to be so forlorn at your losses that you can’t even take care of personal things was a place she never wanted to be.
The cooking merchant lady came over and handed Bella a steaming bowl of food. Bella smiled and thanked her for the food and pointed to the couple. The haggard looking lady knelt close and whispered into her ear. “Best to just leave them be. Since their daughter’s painting was stolen when they reached camp they just sit there wallowing in sadness.” Sniffing and wiping her nose on her sleeve she continued. “They lost their daughter at Solace Bridge and the only thing they had left of her was that painting. I ‘spect they be sitting here til their last days unless someone finds that painting.” She softly patted Bella on the shoulder and walked away.
Well that seems to be the next and most important errand she will tackle in the morning. Pulling out her pack she unfurled her bedroll near the fire and climbed inside. Sleep was what she needed now.
The night sounds were strange. Howling of wolves in the distance. Moans of the encroaching undead around the edges of the camp. Guards clambering from point to point to keep that enemy at bay. Coughing and snoring. And then an errant cricket from time to time. But it was enough to lull her to sleep.
After what seemed like no time at all Bella was awoken by being poked in the side with a stick. As she rolled over to see who was assaulting her in her sleep her eyes opened to the dirty face of a child.
Grumbling she rolled back over. Poke. Poke. Poke. Quickly she rolled over out of her bedroll and grabbed the stick….broke it in half and tossed it away.
“HEY..that was my best sword you broke.” Snarling something under her breath the child squatted down next to Bella. “You be going out into the countryside today? If so you best be bringing me that Bloody Bones book back with ya. Me and mine needs that book.” Bella perked an eyebrow up at the child. She and hers needs a good swat on the bottom is what they need. “If I can find it I will bring it. In the mean time you and yours make yourselves useful in camp. Gather firewood and such. Don’t be a pain in the backside of Cap’n Kinsey.” The child jumped up and looked aghast. Stuck her tongue out at Bella and ran off. Laughing to herself Bella gathered up her bedding and prepared to get ready for another day’s adventure.