Medievia Mudslinger

February 3rd, 2002

Breaking Free - by Chronozen

When you look back on your life, there are certain days where everything went right and you had a wonderful, joyous time. The kind of day that puts a giddy, childish grin on your face every time you think back to it. This was definitely not one of those days.

It had started out innocently enough. I was hauling some fertilizer to Trellor for my friend Piermon. It wasn't a pretty job, I'll admit that, but I owed the guy a few favors. You'll do pretty much anything for a guy who makes a hobby out of making sure you watch your temper and don't die during bar fights.

The ride was going fairly well. I had run into a few little creatures that for some reason were very fond of my fertilizer, but I made short work of them. Then, out of the underbrush to my left, a band of trolls appeared. I don't know if they had been waiting off the road for the next passer-by, or if they had been drawn by the ever so attractive smell of my cargo, but they definitely caught me by surprise.

There is very little in life that is worse than the smell of a troll - especially if there is a group of them and they are insisting on beating you to a pulp. So using my best judgment, I did what any good friend would do. I ditched Piermon's cargo and teleported out of there as fast as I could remember the spell, but not before I took a few good hits, and one of those creatures dented my brand new shield.

So where was I? I looked around, and I was able to answer that question almost instantly. I was lost in the middle of a forest and bleeding from several places. I figured that I could kiss Piermon's cargo goodbye. I'd pay him for his stuff as soon as I started winning a few of those bets that I've placed on the Hero Battles. I should've stuck with betting on the rabbit fights over at the wildlife preserve. At least there I could pick a winner once in a while. But my main objective right now was to not die. Death is not a fun experience. I'm rather afraid of scarabs, and that darned necromancer insists on using them. I should write a complaint letter to Vryce one of these days.

I checked my purse, and noting that I still had a decent amount of gold, I decided that the best way out of this situation was to call for a dragon. After performing the usual ritual and paying off one of those little firelizard creatures, a large bronze dragon came crashing through the trees. He seemed to be a little bit out of breath, and he still had a troll arm in one of his claws. "Good," I thought, hoping that he had decided to eat them all.

I jumped on his back, kicked my heels, which is something that I know dragons hate, and ordered him to fly me to Derah. I wanted to visit this girl that I had met after a bar brawl several years ago. She'd tend to my wounds and mother over me until I was healthy again, plus, she was easy on the eyes. He turned towards the west, and started coasting.

That's when the growling started. At first I thought I was going to get into another one of those mid-air dragon fights. If you've never been in one, be thankful, because being landed on by a dragon tends to knock the wind out of you, permanently. Fortunately, I soon figured out that the horrible noise that I was hearing was coming from my stomach. Was I hungry again already? Eating is such a waste of time, but since I had nothing better to do, I ordered my dragon to land.

I stepped off the beast and rummaged through my bag. All my food had the faint smell of my previous cargo, but after being so close and personal with those trolls, my nose didn't really care. After finishing my ration, and gorging myself on a bag of grapes, I decided to get on with my flight.

Great. My dragon had decided that it had better things to do and left. With the amount of money that I give these things, you'd think they could at least wait for me to finish a meal. Impatient little worms. I flopped over onto the light brown grass and leaned against a fallen tree trunk. There wasn't much to do now. I didn't have enough money to call for another dragon, so I would be stuck hoofing it to the closest city and then begging for a ride from there. I hated walking. If the gods had wanted us to walk, they wouldn't have created horses. I glared evilly at an anthill, and shot a lightning bolt directly into it, roasting all of its inhabitants. I was taught at one time that magic was only to be used for self defense, ridding the world of evil, and helping others. Obviously my teacher never understood the joys of using magic to destroy little, helpless, ant colonies.

The wind picked up, and I heard a rustling from the east. A woman in a brightly colored robe, sandals, and a slightly tarnished tiara darted past me, heading west. I noticed that she was carrying a rather large, leather-bound book, and that she had a nasty cut on her forehead. She seemed rather pretty, but I shrugged it off. People get attacked by creatures all the time in the forest, and it's her fault for being out here if she didn't expect it. Some people are just too naive for their own good.

While my mind turned towards more profound thoughts, such as fate, existence, and that girl in Derah, the bushes in the east started rustling again. Moving faster than I give myself credit for, I jumped to my feet. It had taken me a moment to realize that whatever was chasing that girl would probably have nothing against attempting to eat me in the process.

I braced myself for the oncoming attack when a decently large gentleman crashed through the trees and came to a complete stop just in front of me, rather shocked at my being here.

"Where is she?" He growled at me.

Taking one look at this guy told me that he wasn't someone that I'd want to meet in a dark alley, or while I'm lost in a forest, or ever. He was wearing a decent set of battle armor that looks like standard issue from some random military group. It must've been a long chase so far because the armor was splattered with mud, dented, and had a smoldering gash on the right shoulder where it looks like he might've been hit by lightning. I chuckled.

"She who?" I asked. I could tell that he was impressed by my witty remark. Either that, or he was considering killing me and continuing in the direction that he had originally chosen. He wasn't a very easy man to read.

"The girl that just came through here! She was carrying a large leather book. You'd have to be an absolute imbecile to have missed her. Which way did she run?" he grunted.

I didn't like the tone of his voice, and that imbecile comment definitely struck the wrong chord with me, so I decided to live up to his accusations.

"A girl you say?"

"Yes!" he shouted right into my face.

"About 5'7" tall, long brown hair, and wearing a tiara?" And very cute, I might add.

"Yes! That's her! Where did she go?"

"Nope, sorry." I answered, acting as confused as I could, "I've never seen anyone that meets that description."

Screaming obscenities that I dare not recall, he pushed me aside and sprinted off to the west, following the path that the girl had taken. Weighing the options in my mind, I ran about twenty feet to the north, then I too dashed to the west. Running as fast as I could, I was planning on passing the soldier, cutting off the girl, hitting on her for a while, and then helping her face her pursuer.

I picked up my pace and the trees started to shoot past me. I dodged through the underbrush and sliced through the occasional low hanging branch with my dagger. I felt as though I was flying, as if I was lighter than air. That was when it hit me. Rather, that is when I hit it, the ground that is. My foot had struck something hard enough to knock my feet out from under me, but soft enough that it said ouch when I tripped over it. I attempted to remove my face from the dirt and stand up when a small explosion struck me in the back, knocking me back down.

A voice behind me shouted "Stay right where you..."

I span around, tripped my foe and raised my dagger to finish off my enemy when... Oh, it's her. I sighed in relief, but I did so all too soon. She waved her hand and produced a sudden blinding flash. Caught off guard and unable to see anything, I grabbed in her direction. My hands landed on something leather and box shaped. It must be the book! I yanked at it as hard as I could and teleported myself to yet another random location.

I started wandering, still unable to see and unable to remember just exactly how to cure my blindness. Many people will tell you that wandering blind is an interesting feeling. All of your other senses become more acute, and you start to be able to figure out your surroundings. But no amount of acute senses could prepare me for the next thing I ran into. A solid stone wall. Falling over yet again knocked some sense into me, and remembering the spell to cure myself, I removed the veil of darkness from my eyes. I leaned up against the wall, which I guessed must have been part of some clan's town, and I dusted off the book. It's leather cover had flowing gold lettering across it and read "The Diary of Zarna". This should be a good read.

I stretched out my legs and leaned back against the stone gray wall. It was cold to the touch, but not uncomfortably so. I laid the diary that I had stolen across my legs and opened it to the first page.

"Day 1 - Life as I know it"

The handwriting on the pages was as precise and intricate as the writing on the cover. Surely this person had be trained in calligraphy, and probably for many years. I continued to read.

"I'm writing in this diary because my mind can no longer handle the thoughts that beat at it each day. The frustration that I am destined to bear. So, my good friend, I will use you as my outlet. My source of comfort and strength. My one last hope before I snap.

"I cant take this life anymore. I cant take the servants doing everything I say. I cant take my father treating me like I'm some little porcelain doll. I need a challenge! I need to struggle! I want to work for my life so that I can look back and say 'yes, I did that.'

"Every time I've tried to ask permission to leave here, I'm met with anger. 'Noble ladies aren't supposed to struggle', 'someone of your position shouldn't want for such problems', and other such idiocies.

"I think that maybe my parents have simply devised this life to torment me. Every day I see different adventurers traveling to and from my father's office. Every moment that I gaze upon them makes me hate this life that I am trapped in.

"So I spent the latter part of the day staring out my window towards the wilderness again. I've overheard some of the maids saying that they think I'm crazy. Well, maybe I am. Maybe if you keep a soul trapped in one place for too long, it starts to drive itself mad."

The day ended with that. This girl was obviously having serious emotional problems. Half of my heart felt bad for her because she was trapped where she didn't want to be. The other half of my heart told the first half to shut up, because she never had to experience the pain of being ripped in half by a dragon, and those darned scarabs. God I hate those scarabs.

Being the inquisitive type that I am, and since I still hadn't the foggiest idea how to get home, I decided to keep reading.

"Day 2 - The first day

"Today was such a wonderful day! I snuck out of my room and followed one of the adventurers that was leaving my father's chambers. I caught him just before he left the gates. I started asking him a million questions at once. I don't think I've ever seen such a strong looking fellow look so confused. I explained my life story to him, and he felt so bad for me that he agreed to show me to his guild! He said that with the amount of writing and oratory that I have taken, magic would come to me easily! I'm so happy! Training starts tomorrow night. I cant wait!"

This seemed hopeful. Resentment and magical powers tend to mix well, and this girl seemed to have both. She might not be dead in the forest yet afterall. The next entry seemed to be dated a year later.

"Day 390 - Long time

"I'm sorry that it's been so long since I've written in you my good friend, but I've been busy. My learning as a lady has taken up my days, and my training as a mage has taken up my nights. I'm getting much better at the mage tasks, and I am now able to cast several spells. I can even call lightning! It's such an amazing feeling, controlling the elements. But yet, there are still things beyond my control. My father has told me that I am to be wed within the month. I don't even know the man, but my father has assured me that my husband to be is wealthy.

"Diary, I am not going to sit here and be wed to someone that I do not know. I have found a world much greater then the one that I am currently in, and now that I have seen it, I can never leave it behind.

"So I have decided to run. I'm going to sneak out in the middle of the night as I have been, and I am going to head towards Riverton. I have heard many great things about that city, and I would like to continue my training there. I am taking you with me, lest I forget what horrors that I am running from. I think that my father knows that something is up, since I was obviously not as happy as I should have been at the prospect of marriage. There are extra guards outside of my room, so getting out will be tricky. Wish me luck!"

That explained the whole situation. The girl had obviously run, been caught by a few of the guards, and now she was being chased. I wondered if she would make it. The man chasing her seemed like a professional, and she had just been practicing magic for a year. I also wondered where the rest of the guards were. Why was only one of them following her?

I was going to find out.

I packed Zarna's diary into my bag. Somehow I was going to have to find her again. I couldn't just sit around and let this story unfold without taking at least a small part in it. Plus, I had a strong desire to 'help' this "damsel in distress." Chivalry was definitely not my style. Chivalrous people ended up dead a whole lot more than the rest of us, and death is still my least favorite part of life.

I stood up and brushed the gray-brown dust off the seat of my pants. Instead of falling back to the ground, the fine dust coated my hands and spread to other parts of my clothing. There was magic for killing people, and magic for putting people to sleep, but I'll be darned if I know of any magic to get yourself clean. Medievia would be a much better smelling place if one could go around casting a cleanse spell on folks.

Getting my mind back on track, I now faced the seemingly impossible task of finding Zarna again. Using my wonderful powers of deduction, I concluded that she was probably somewhere in the forest, not anywhere near here. This didn't leave me with many options. I could possibly enter this town and see if I could find myself a good tracker, someone that could hunt her down for me, or possibly even a dog with a good nose.

Taking another good look at the town, I decided against these options. The wall seemed very large, and the guard towers too unfriendly. If they had wanted visitors, there would be more doors. You can always tell how friendly a place is by the number of entrances. The places you really need to be afraid of are the ones with no entrances at all. Now those are spooky.

I paced back and forth along the tree line. Somehow, I needed to find a way to figure out what direction I should head off in. I took a few leaves of parchment out of my bag. These were the notes that I had taken back when I was in training to be a priest. I still cant believe that I tried that. Healing and helping others? I'd much rather do damage, plus I'm not exactly the most devout person. Some of the sheets were blotched where I had fallen asleep in class and started to drool on the paper. I had to be yelled at many, many times before I finally mastered the art of taking notes and appearing awake, but being completely asleep at the same time.

Leafing through the notes, I come across one spell that the master had said "can be used to instantly transport yourself to someone's side in an emergency." Convenient. Unfortunately I had drooled away the last two words of the incantation. I sat down, read over the paper a few times, and started the chant. I closed my eyes and focused on Zarna's face like the spell said to. It was so difficult to not be distracted when picturing such a beautiful face. I just about finished the incantation, and I fudged the last two words, hoping it wouldn't make a difference. After a few seconds, I felt the ground beneath me fade away, and then reappear. I opened my eyes and attempted to stand up. This was possibly a very bad choice as I had ended up teleporting myself right onto a tree. I guess this was my real punishment for falling asleep in class.

The sticky evergreen sap hadn't been enough to hold me onto the branch. I was flipped over myself, and started falling to the ground. Grasping at branches as I fell, and trying not to get pine cones stuck in my eyes, I finally grabbed one decent sized branch just before I hit the ground. Dangling about thirty feet above the ground, I took a survey of the area. Just below me, Zarna and her little friend were circling each other.

"Your father is going to have your head for what you did to my guards!" the man shouted.

Zarna raised her hand and a bolt of magic flew towards her enemy, aimed right at his neck. He ducked away easily, but continued to keep his distance from her. I guess that is what happened to the rest of the guards. They probably ended up dead somewhere on the wrong end of her magic.

I started shimmying down the trunk of the tree as quietly as I could. I wasn't about to get caught there since both of them tried to kill me the last time that I had saw them. I wanted to lay low and preserve my life as long as possible.

"Come on Zarna, be reasonable. I really don't want to have to kill you and drag your body back to your father. He hates when I do that"

Zarna, unfazed by this prospect sent another missile at the assailant, and again missed. I don't know how much magic that girl thought she had in her, but she had already started to look a little pale.

"I will not marry some man that I don't even know!" Zarna screamed at her attacker.

I could see the man's shoulders slump forward for a moment before he spoke.

"I was afraid you were going to say that. Youth has such a terrible problem accepting life as it is. All of you want to put your own personal spin on everything that already exists. I'm so sorry that I have to do this. It's a shame that you cant just accept the fact that sometimes with age comes wisdom"

He drew his sword and Zarna her dagger. I guessed that this was as good a time as any to make my appearance. Then I rethought my plan of attack. Maybe this was a good time to make my disappearance. I recited the incantation and promptly vanished from normal sight. Sometimes I just don't give magic enough credit.

The two began circling each other, looking for possible openings where they could strike. I snuck up behind my friend with the attitude problem and gave him a swift boot to the back, knocking him on his face. This was quite startling to all three of us. Zarna was shocked because I appeared out of nowhere (a bad side effect of the spell), the guy on the ground was shocked because his face was now in the dirt where it had previously not been, and I personally was shocked, because my plan had worked and I hadn't died yet.

Zarna, being the quickest of the three of us to react promptly grabbed the guards head and shouted "Sleep!". He jolted as if shocked and then fell silent. For someone that was about to kill us, he had the most peaceful look while unconscious.

"Well, on that wonderful note, I think that I'm going to try and get home" I stated as I nudged the guard a few times with my foot to make sure he was out.

"Wait, you still have my book."

I was so close to keeping it. It was such an intriguing story of personal struggle, I didn't want to part with it.

"The book? What book? I've never seen your book." I opened my mouth too quickly because as I adjusted my bag, the book promptly fell to the ground with a thump. "Oh that book. Yes, I guess I could give it back to you."

"Thank you." she said flatly.

"You know, I read quite a bit of that. Didn't mean to intrude, but what good is a stolen book if it's not used?" She scowled at me. "I'm headed for Derah if you'd like to join me. There's quite a bit there I think you could learn, if you wouldn't mind traveling with a man such as myself."

Zarna looked me over, and whether it was because I didn't look too menacing, or because I had just aided her with her battle, she smiled.

"Sure, I'll follow you there. But no wise stuff, and keep your hands off my book."

So we gathered our things and spent a few moments laughing at the guard, snoring face down in the dirt. All things finally taken care of, we shouldered our bags and ventured off to the west, or was it north... maybe east?

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