Re: Eclipse

  • Markshire PCs:

Sun-Ok was so surprised she almost stumbled down the small steps at the tavern’s door. She cursed him briefly under her breath, recalling in a flash the many times back in the Kingdom that she had had to abandon or stand up the more persistent of her would-be human suitors, only later politely and gently inventing some plausible and deflecting excuse. She knew she was not the most attractive woman around, but she was never the one stood up: what was wrong with this land?

Then, remembering the nature of the place they had just left, Sun-Ok patted her coin pouch. Reassured, she glanced about, unable to spot any tracks in the trampled snow of the street. “Drat that man—that boy—and Bognar and his ceaseless slushy rambling, too,” she thought.

She was just considering that she had not even learned his name—and storing away in her brain a reminder to look into ways to move across snow without leaving tracks—when he reappeared, right in front of her, leaning against the barracks across the street. And that sudden reappearance, the outline of his white clothes now clear against the gray stone wall behind him, is what threatened to throw her calm life again into chaos. Was it possible? A Serpent? Here? But a human? How? Her mind raced, but her tongue lay stunned. He laughed, not kindly, and merely turned toward the gate.

What else could she do? She followed.

Silently, they moved through the woods. They did not speak as they let arrows fly at some prowling cats, and he just observed as she stooped to skin them, the familiar activity bringing her mind no peace. They spotted a small troop of orcs, who did not see them in the shadows of the forest. He nodded toward them, and she approached, dispatching them quickly with her rapier as he watched. It had happened without comment, without discussion—she was no longer Sun-Ok, seeking to provide company and comfort to a lonely, pained new acquaintance. She was now Sun-Ok, prospective pupil perhaps, being evaluated certainly. Her mind raced with the possibilities, as well as the confusions.

Neither bothered to search the orcs’ bodies, and they moved on. To, of all places, the one-eye camp. Where she hesitated, however briefly, and he of course noticed. “Nervous?” he asked with just a hint of a sneer. “Just stay hidden, watch, and don’t move around much—you’re loud.”

She bridled at the criticism, but said nothing—he had tacitly accepted the teacher’s role, at least for the moment, and she would make the most of it, regardless of her reservations. And so she watched, silently, from the shadows, as he shot arrow after arrow into one one-eye after another, sometimes dazing them with a mysterious wave of his hand, sometimes vanishing back into the shadows as they spotted him, never engaging more than one at a time.

It was impressive—not for the bowmanship, which was faster but only a bit more accurate than her own, but for the tactical mastery and for the ability to hide when spotted. It was clearly the Serpent’s way, even if how he had come to that path remained a mystery. And he was extraordinarily stealthy—she could not see him either when he was hiding, though she could sometimes, rarely, hear him. One time, after he concealed himself between arrow shots, she intentionally stumbled into him, to see if she was tracking his small movements at all. He responded to her mumbled apology only with a hissed order to stay quiet.

When the camp itself was cleared they entered the caves. He showed her how to better lure a single one-eye down a passage, out of sight and hearing of the others, then watched as her rapier did its work. He was visibly surprised, just once—when she used the wondrous rapier Durok had made her to bring a one-eye to its knees, then dispatching it, her head turned away, with a vicious stroke up into the underside of its jaw that left her covered in blood but unfazed. “Eclipse,” she said softly as the blow landed, using the Ancient word, for so she had named the rapier. He said nothing, however, until they stood at the rope leading down to the lair of the ice-snakes.

“You know what lies below?”

She tilted her head, curious again about the dream-image of the baby ice-snakes, about whether she was about to learn some great truth from them and from this puzzling human. But she just nodded.