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Hello Everyone Lord Baldrith here with a completely beautiful and sad story by Avatar Acid. This is definately one of my favorites I’ve read to date. This is from the Tales of the Underworld thread linked here:
Also, there is a little surprise in the midst of the story. I will credit it here: Palor Sagittae-Stray Arrows Ballad-Written by Avatar Acid-Sung by Lord Baldrith.
Hope you enjoy this one!
Here is the text:
Stray Arrows – An Untold Tale of the Underworld
This day was as unremarkable in every way as any other day with the sun above, there were no barbarians at the gate, nothing dead was walking the land, and not a storm cloud in the sky or a breeze to speak of.
?Savi!? a little voice cried. So why was it about to change its course? How could an ordinary day, suddenly, tangent into such a divergent path?
?Savi! Savi!? chirped a collective of equally enthusiastic voices.
Perhaps it was an event which occurred on a different day, one of the fifteen thousand nine hundred and seventy-nine days which have now passed during High Circlemaster Savonia?s long life. An event on that day where history transpired that would make it anything but mundane.
Parents were now trailing behind their young ones, who were now beside themselves after catching a glimpse of the Circlemaster walking through the marketplace. Savonia was very young for her famed accomplishments, most notably which is High Circlemaster, thus the knowledge and skill that is attributed to such a rank earns respect from all good citizens of the realm.
The rush of water in a fountain was coming into focus now as Savonia approached the square, she is also now aware of the growing herd she has become shepherd to while walking. Careful not to lead on that she was being pursued by likely thrill seekers, Savonia walked to the fountain and with the greatest nonchalance took a seat on its edge.
?Oh my,? she let a hint of a smile pass by her lips. ?What in the world do we have here,? asked the High Circlemaster wondering which of the children would step forward first, and it certainly did not take long.
An older boy of about thirteen, or so she had guessed, stepped forward and spoke with a commanding voice. ?I want to see some fire magic!? Almost immediately a younger girl stepped out from behind him as she pushed him aside.
?Don?t be such a pleb Davin, fire magic is so stupid,? she exclaimed. ?I want to see you summon a Unicorn!?
?A Unicorn,? he asked in a playful voice and then put his hand to his mouth to chough out a word; ?Stupid!?
The argument continued and others chimed in on their opinion of what they wished to see. Savonia surveyed the gathering quickly then she pointed to a young girl who was held close and quiet by her dismal looking father, everyone was then very quiet as she spoke. ?What is your name,? she asked with an inviting tone. The little girl was obviously shy and her father spoke in her turn.
?Circlemaster Savonia I,? Savonia held up her hand with her index finger directed towards the sky and interrupted the father promptly.
?High,? she said strongly with a slight pause then continued, ?Circlemaster Savonia.? It was clear that the man was not corrected often, by the unpleasant look on his face, as she did so. ?Come now little one, what would you like to see,? she asked again.
The little girl looked up slightly and softly spoke. ?High Circlemaster? I don?t want to see anything; I want to hear a story.?
?I think that is a very good idea,? Savonia said smiling at the young girl. ?There is nothing I like more than a good story. But tell me…? Looking over the crowd slowly, she continues. ?What kind of story should we tell?? Immediately a bustle of activity broke out in the crowd who were vigorously debating what kind of story they wanted to hear from her. ?I have an idea, why don?t we let the Virtues decide which story I should tell,? standing up to command attention from the onlookers, she draws out eight cards from her robe. ?I will select four cards at random, and I will then ask three questions of you which will then decide your story.?
Much to the surprise of everyone Savonia without pause flung the cards out over the top of them, four cards fell to the ground disappearing as they hit. The other four cards hovered above their heads as they all let out sounds of mutual agreement in the display of her minor magic abilities.
?There,? Savonia declared. ?The Virtues have been chosen, Valor, Sacrifice , Honor, and Honesty? We shall now have a small trial, let us all see which Virtue is chosen and which story you will be able to hear,? she said with a degree of mystery. ?Davin, step forward.?
Surprised, the boy stepped forward with no argument and with his demeanour being much more humble. ?High Circlemaster,? he asked inquisitively.
?We will begin with you young Master Davin,? she said as the boy now looked visibly unnerved. ?You are traveling a long road with your sister, in tow you have a wagon which is full with all your household goods being moved to a new home. You know that this road is known for thievery and criminal activity, and you can now hear someone approaching from behind you at a high pace. Sure enough as they catch up you glimpse a face easily recognizable from the bounty offices in the nearby villages and their Red Cloaks make a loud statement. Do you charge into battle early and bravely in an attempt try and limit the number of foes you face at any given time knowing that you could still very well fall in battle and leave your sister to the barbarians? Or, do you detach the Wagon knowing that you would have enough time to escape but that they would cease and loot all of your family?s possessions,? she cunningly asked the boy; knowing that there is no right answer, but that which the Virtues will summon in every individual.
?Well,? he said pausing briefly. ?I think,? pausing again, he thinks for a moment. ?I would leave the Wagon behind, and save my sister,? he chose to the surprise of some in the crowd, including his sister! ?Everyone knows of the Reds, they fight without honor and it would not be a true contest. I could end up losing both the Wagon and my sister, while if I leave the Wagon I know the dirty Red wretches will stop and I can save that which cannot be replaced, our lives,? he now said with great conviction.
?Very good Davin, your choice shows both maturity and logic,? Savonia said as she raised her hand, she motioned her hand forward and one of the cards fell to the ground disappearing. ?You have chosen Sacrifice.?
?Awww,? was delightfully sighed out by Davin?s sister who started to give him a sisterly hug, no sooner did he protest.
?Get off Mia,? he shot out as everyone let loose a laugh at the sibling public display of affection.
?Yes Mia,? Savonia chimed in. ?Now it is your turn to test the Virtues,? the little girl straightened up and stood tall, ready for her trial. ?Your mother has given you important information about your family, she has not told you whom it is about, only that you should tell no one. The next day she must leave and you are unsure why, your grandmother has come to look after you. Your grandmother asks where your mother has departed to, and what has she told you? Do you honor your mother?s request and tell your grandmother nothing, or do you tell her honestly everything your mother has informed you of??
Promptly and decisively Mia answered. ?I would honor my mother,? said the girl. ?You never know who, or what is listening. Besides, my grandmother tells everyone everything,? she exclaimed as everyone giggled.
Savonia smiled and replied back, ?Well, we don?t wish everyone to know our secrets now do we,? with the wave of her hand another card dropped to the ground then vanished. ?We now have two Virtues left, Sacrifice and Honor, and my next victim is?? she said as she squinted her eyes slightly and pointed at the girl who?s idea it was to have a story told in the first place. ?Step forward and tell me your name.?
?My name is Ashley High Circlemaster,? eagerly she said. ?What should I do,? she asked.
?Only let the Virtues guide you on your path Ashley, listen carefully,? Savonia said as she closed her eyes briefly. ?A very good friend of yours has been taken from you, taken from this world, from the vile forces of darkness of the Underworld. Do you sacrifice the memory of your friend and access into the Underworld by safely living above and sealing all entrances? Or instead, do you choose to honor the memory of your friend, and pursue the darkness knowing that few who enter into the Underworld, ever return,? Savonia asked with a grim tone.
Ashley looked down at her feet for a moment and thought about her choice. She was young, but knew of loss through the death of her mother. If there was any chance to avenge or make right the loss of her, she would take it. ?I would go into the Underworld, and I would make them pay,? the girl answered convincingly.
?Yes, I do believe you would,? Savonia said with a smile. With a wave of her hand the sacrifice card fell to the ground and was no more. ?Only honor remains, and my story to you will be based on that Virtue of Courage and Truth.?
Savonia then sat back down on the edge of the fountain, reached out towards the honor card and it sped into her hand, she tucked it back into her robe. ?How should we begin this story I wonder,? she asked aloud. ?How about,? she paused. ?With great power, comes great responsibility??
Suddenly all of the children smiled and yelled out at once in a long drawn out ?No!?
One of the children then added to that. ?We know that story, and I don?t like spiders!? Saviona was of course expecting such an outcry, so she tried again.
?Oh, ok. How about? There?s a hero, if you look inside your heart-?
?Ew? one of the boys yelled out. ?That isn?t a story, that is a song by a bard only my parents listen to,? he said frustratingly.
?Ohh, alright then, let me try one last time,? she said playfully. ?There was an ominous night sky above the heads of four young travellers, or maybe they simply thought it was menacing because they knew what was about to take place, where they were about to go,? said Savonia as her voice deepened. ?There was Karmin the bard, who was making notes in his journal on the markings strewn across a rocky face. Harcrow, a strong paladin is preparing himself for the upcoming ordeal. I was there too much as you see me now, consulting the moons and stars. Lastly, our leader? A fortified and very skilled warrior, yet at the same time reserved and tactful.? By now a hushed whisper of chatter had swept over the crowd at the mention of Savonia herself in this story, they wondered, was this a true story?
?The moons were both full circle in the correct position, you see, you just can?t stroll up to and into the Underworld. No you must speak to the Universe first, understand it, breath it,? she said with a sigh. ?Live it. ?It is time to speak the words,? I said, ready to open the way into the shadow. ?Everyone took a step back, and there was a great shaking of the earth as I spoke the words ?IN VAS ORT POR YLEM,? Savonia said with a deep voice. ?The dust cleared, the way was now open for us, and just as we started to collect ourselves and make our way in the most unexpected thing took place. ?Rain from the great Ring,? the High Circlemaster shouted with an astounded look on her face.
Again all seemingly at the same time the crowd huffed out sounds of amazement at news of the Ring Rain. Rain from the great Ring in the sky does not fall frequently, perhaps once a year, and is greatly celebrated when it does. For with the Ring Rain comes high fertility and long lasting regeneration to the lands for all.
?The Ring Rain brought a smile to our faces, but there was also a very surprising glow coming from deep within the opening into the Underworld shadows,? she said observing the look of wonder expressed by the group. ?You see for when the Ring Rain is falling on the earth, something causes her underbelly to become alive. Not alive like you or I but alive with action none the less, the wonderful glow seemed to pierce the shadow and drive it back.
We entered and drove deeper into the earth.
?What beauty,? said the bard Karmin with a half grin.
?I don?t know about that,? Harcrow grumbled. ?It still feels like we?re crawling into mother earth?s arse,? Savonia imitated with a thick northern accent and wide smile. Listeners in the town square seemed to grow every minute Savonia was there, and all were now laughing out loud at Harcrow?s commentary.
?The spaces got bigger, the glow from the Ring Rain got brighter, and we made our way through several large caverns before happening upon the most wonderful stream running through the rocks. The stream was glowing brighter than the other parts of the Underworld, a shade of blue and green almost magical in nature I had never seen before.
?Let?s follow this river, down over that small bluff,? our leader said with a sense of determination.
?We came now to the edge of a small cliff; a waterfall flings itself over the ledge and batters the pool beneath. The Underworld seemed to open up right before our eyes,? she said as she made a big wide motion with her arms. ?So magical was the glow of the blue-green water now scattered across the banks of the stream as it runs into the distance. Across the smooth flowstone you could see mushrooms and outcroppings of crystal, the columns reached high into the cavern where you could even see the glow on the jagged stalactites. It was astonishing, the Ring Rain had made such a dark evil place where only shadows come to live, very beautiful. It also gave us the advantage of long sight in a place where it shouldn?t have been possible to see so far.
?There, I see them,? our leader pushed out in a disgusting tone. ?Savonia, reach out, tell me what you can see quickly,? he commanded.
I knelt down with haste, closed my eyes and concentrated. The distance was far, but I have been able to see further in my mind?s eye before. I put one hand now into the stream and one onto the ground, slowly it began to focus.? Which she reproduced for the onlookers, putting one hand in the fountain then the other hand on the edge, closing her eyes.
?There,? I said, lifting my hand out of the water pointing to an area slightly above the flat area that stretched out before us. ?archers, and a group of spearmen? They are waiting for us.? It seemed that our prey was expecting company. Then a shiver ran down my spine? ?He is here,? I softly whispered. ?There, with a small force? I pointed my finger to a group of blended figures in the distance.?
?Ok,? our leader said, as if a great weight had been lifted from his shoulders. Putting his hand on my shoulder softly, he brought me out of my concentration. I stood up and took a deep breath looking back out over the huge Underworld cavern. ?Harcrow, Savonia, Karmin, deal with the archers and spearmen. I will surprise him then deal with him alone; his minions are no match for me. Do not attack until I have their attention.?
?Yes, sir,? said Harcrow in his deep brutish voice.
?Aye, and don?t go easy on them now,? yelled Karmin as he collected his things and made ready his bow and arrows.
?Myself, I simply wished him luck and advised caution. It was no ordinary man he sought out after all? ?May the Virtues be with you friends,? he said to us before we turned to walk. Drawing his swords, he then made a fast pace towards the enemy he has relentlessly pursued across the lands and into the very depths of the earth.? She paused now and had a sip of the fresh mountain water from the fountain, noticeably; everyone was hanging on her every word at this point.
?It wasn?t long at all, though it seemed like it took the three of us ages to catch up to the enemy group. We hid from any chance of their sight catching us and waited.?
?We can see him from here,? shot Harcrow promptly.?
?Wait for his signal,? cautioned Karmin as he made ready two arrows on his bow.?
?Seconds after that, he began running towards the enemy?s encampment without an ounce of fear in him.? ?Well that must be it,? I said half in a laugh.
?Harcrow looked up at the enemy formation keeping watch,? ?Yeah, that?s it, wait till their attention draws? replied Harcrow with a sense of urgency now in his being. I looked back and I saw our leader bear down on his enemy, they had seen him now sprinting towards them and leapt up in surprise. He was quite correct, they were no match for his trained hand in battle as he cut through them very quickly,? she continued.
?He came to the first two men still in a dash, bending slightly he reached forward with his right arm and sword and took one of their legs off as he swept by. Keeping the forward motion he brought the same sword up to parry the second man?s strike, and then buried his second sword deep into the soldier?s chest. Kicking aside the third to expose his stance and finish him off he turned to face the fourth but as he did, he suffered a strike from behind. Yelling out in pain, he dodged yet another attack from the front turning with a quick slash fatally dealing with his foe behind followed by a thrust with the other hand into the chest of the enemy he just dodged. The fighting now drew the attention of the group close to us, Harcrow charged,? Savonia exclaimed.
?Karmin let loose his arrows, each finding a spearman as a target quickly, and no sooner did he have another arrow ready to fly. There was only a small group of archers, I summoned the power of the Ether and brought the cave down on top of them with a huge roar. The next roar came out of Harcrow as his hammer swung through the air lifting one of the spearmen up and sending him crashing down onto two others. The battle was over before it ever really began?.
?Now, turning back to see our leader, there were but three men left standing,? she yelled with excitement to the gathered group of listeners. ?They proved to be as equally unmatched as the rest; one man charged with a spear, our Leader crossed his swords and parried downwards,? she said as she crossed her arms and demonstrated. ?On the way back up, both swords parted quickly from opposite directions and found his foe?s neck. Then quickly he threw one of his swords into the solder now running towards him putting an end to him and leaving but two men left on the battlefield??
Savonia?s demeanour changed. ?However there was something that none of us could see. Hidden away, around the corner into the shadows was another small group of archers. Before any of us could react, a flurry of arrows spring into the air from their bowstrings and sailed towards our hero. I began to channel this to him very quickly. The archers were free firing now, our leader saw the arrows from my mind and rolled out of the way and back on his feet balancing himself with his arms out and then it happened. One stray arrow reached is wrist and he lost all control of his arm, his sword dropping to the ground with a clang, and he fell to his knees. Looking up grimly at the evil staring back at him and smiling, he felt another sharp pain?? she said visibly saddened.
?Another arrow had struck him through the back. Furious, I used every ounce of strength in me to summon onto them fiery hell, the flames burned them to ash in seconds. But it was too late, as our hero fell, the foe he sought to destroy simply turned and walked away knowing that he did not need to fight,? she stated cheerlessly as she sat down.
?Harcrow, Karmin, and I rushed to his side to dress his wounds. We did manage to get him out of the Underworld but he passed from this life shortly after, looking up at the twilight sky and twin moons, with the Ring Rain falling down onto his face,? she softly said and stopped talking.
?High Circlemaster Savonia, that wasn?t a very happy ending,? one of the children said gloomily.
?No it was not,? she answered back. ?Nor are most true stories about great heroism my young friends, take notice of this lesson.?
?Yes High Circlemaster,? said most of them, followed by a collective thanks as she stood up.
?May the Virtues take care of you all,? she said smiling as she turned and started to make her way back out of town to wherever it is she calls home.