Because I have an impatient friend, I present to you:
Dominions of Glory: 4 (forgive the shoddiness, it's a first draft)
Baelin was alone when he woke, his body oddly free of sensation. He couldn’t feel his wounds, but he also couldn’t feel anything else. He might as well have been floating in nothingness. But at least he could see and hear. “Forden!” he cried, but the name came out a jumbled mess.
Dilirian walked into the room.
“Forden will be back soon,” Dilirian said. “Just stay in bed. Your stitches need time to set before you go walking about, and your ankle doesn’t look too good either.”
“I hate you,” Baelin said, or tried to, but his tongue got all mixed up and his words came out a slur. He didn’t mean it of course, it was just a bearer of bad news thing.
“I found them,” Forden said gravely as he walked into the room, a sack in his hand.“Looks like you said: devils of some sort.” He pulled one of the leathery bodies from the bag to show Dilirian, and then to Baelin. “I take back what I’ve said in the past, Baelin. You’re no fool for wearing that sword about. I’m glad you had it on you. No, you stay put!” he said as Baelin tried to shift. “You’ll be fine, yet. But you’re going to need a few days before you get back on your feet.” He then turned back to Dilirian. “Where do you reckon they come from? I never heard of the things before and now we’ve had three within walking distance of our village. It rattles my nerves a bit, I will admit.”
“I don’t know,” Dilirian replied. “Mine attacked me up in the mountains. Maybe that’s where they’re from and they’re coming down because winter’s coming.”
The brief image of the cave and the brooding man came to Baelin’s mind, and he tried to tell Fordin about them, but his words came out as little more than barely audible grunts and moans.
Forden looked down at Baelin then back to Dilirian and shook his head. “It’s no colder than normal, and I’ve known plenty who’ve gone up into those mountains over the years, aint never seen anything like that. Got to be something else, I reckon.”
“I suppose I ought to get everyone together, let them know what’s happening. People will need to be prepared,” Forden said. “Harriet will have started enough gossip about it already, I’m sure. It’ll do good to set people straight on what happened. Stay with Baelin, would you? This will probably take a while.”
Three days passed before they let Baelin out of bed. Both his legs hurt like hell, but he wasn’t going to let that keep him cooped up. He limped outside and into the brisk fall air and breathed deep, Dilirian and Forden each to his sides. “I’m not going to fall,” Baelin insisted.
His heart started thumping.
Across the way, Kelly was coming, her long brown hair swaying behind her. She was beautiful. Baelin had had a crush on her for over a year now, but she never gave him any notice other than a glance.
“There’s a plain one,” Dilirian muttered.
Baelin shot him a venomous glance, then turned back to Kelly, wondering how anyone could call her plain. She was perfect. A strong jaw, wide of hip, but not too wide, starting to come into her curves, and with a quick smile and a sharp tongue; the type of woman a man should appreciate.
“It true,” she asked without any preamble when she reached them, “you killed two devils, all by yourself?”
Baelin felt his cheeks go flush and could hear his heart pounding in his head. “I got lucky,” he said bashfully.
“You would have been fine if I’d been there,” Dilirian said putting on another of his arrogant smiles.
Kelly leveled Dilirian with a stare and then turned back to Baelin. “That’s awful brave of you. Like Gorgeth the Warrior, huh? Only this is real. I wish I could have seen. I bet it would have been something. And then I could have cared for your wounds,” she said coyly.
Baelin thought he saw Dilirian roll his eyes and wished for anything that he could have kicked him then. “I would have liked that,” Baelin said, shy as ever. He didn’t know what else to say, and left it at that.
Kelly stood there for another few second in silence before excusing herself and scurrying away.
“That one seems to have taken to your new fame,” Forden commented.
“You don’t think she likes me?”
Forden placed a grandfatherly hand on Baelin’s shoulder. “I think she likes the thought of what you’ve done. But sometimes that leads to the other,” he added hastily, after seeing Baelin noticeably deflate.
“Don’t see why you’d care,” Dilirian said. “She looks like her mother mated with a boar.”
Baelin was about to retort when Forden beat him to it. “I won’t hear that kind of talk about anyone. And you’d do good to remember people deserve better, young man. I don’t know how they raised you in Silverbrook, but here in Shadyridge, we take to respecting everyone. You’ll hold your tongue the next time a thought like that comes into your head. With any luck, maybe someday they’ll stop coming.”
Dilirian looked furious for being scolded, and as if he were about to jump into a tirade, but he noticeably schooled his emotions and gave a polite bow of his head instead. “As you say.”
“Good,” Forden said. “Now, let’s get going. People are expecting us.”
“I thought you already had the meeting,” Baelin said.
“Aye,” Forden said. “But they wanted to hear it from your mouth, too. Folks are skeptical about anything out of the ordinary. And this is about as far from ordinary as things get.”
The meeting took place in Delvary’s inn, since the dining area was the only place big enough in Shadyridge to house everyone who’d come. The inn was typical for the area, river stone base up for a few feet, then the rest of the walls and roof where finely cut and planed timber. A painted sign out front highlighted Delvary’s creativity in naming. The sign simply said: Delvary’s Inn and Common House. The script wasn’t even particularly nice, since he’d refused to cough up the money to have someone do it properly. As he often said, it’s not like travelers had another option.
The common room was overflowing. At the sight of Baelin the crowd became a mass of jumbled conversation, combined with all the pointing and whispers you’d expect. Forden and Dilirian had to shove a space wide enough for Baelin to move through without being jostled. There was a stage of sorts, just a few empty crates turned upside down. Baelin looked to Forden, who helped him up.
Thankfully, Forden took the lead, because Baelin didn’t know what to say. “Okay everyone!” he shouted and people quieted down. “Quiet, quiet,” he said and waited for the rest of the noise to die down. “We can’t rightly have everyone just shouting out questions, so let’s stay calm and organized. If you have something to ask, raise a hand and Baelin will call on you.”
A wave of hands rose. Baelin felt his pulse racing. He gulped, looked through the crowd and picked at random. “Gretchen?”
“Did you see any other devils?”
Baelin shook his head and called on Farmer Dan next.
“We don’t all got swords. What do you think we should do if we come cross any?”
Baelin didn’t know. “Grab a club, a pitch fork, anything. They’re quick as lightning. They were on me before I knew they were there.” That brought a bunch of concerned whispers.
He picked Kelly next. “Were you afraid?”
Dilirian rolled his eyes.
“I don’t think so…” Baelin said. “I didn’t have time to be afraid, really. I was just trying to get them off me.”
Kelly’s eyes lit up and Baelin thought he heard Dilirian actually groan.
“Only relevant questions please,” Forden said, after which a most of the crowd snickered and Kelly’s face turned bright red.
Baelin answered a host of questions as best he could, from how the devils moved, to how he thought best to defend against them, and a great many questions he had no answers to, like where the devil’s came from, or if they should get a hunting party together to wipe them out before they became a problem. All in all, he felt he was largely useless, and he got the impression that the important details had been covered while he’d been stuck in bed.
The meeting closed and he thankfully got off the crates that made his little stage, leaning heavily on Forden because both his legs were still tender, and left the inn.
Forden and Dilirian flanked him all the way back to bed, making excuses for him and otherwise keeping him from being bothered.
“They treated me a bit like a hero,” Baelin noted once they were back inside.
“You killed two devils,” Forden said. “None of them can claim as much.”
“I killed one without taking a scratch,” Dilirian said proudly.
“Aye,” Forden said. “But you and that fat head of yours were fully armed and armored.
Baelin was in the middle of working his fields. It’s hard to make a comparison. And as you said, you killed one. Baelin got himself two, no matter the damage he took in the process.”
Dilirian didn’t seem happy about that, but quieted down and shortly excused himself to go “prepare the villagers,” whatever that meant.
“Interesting lad, that Dilirian,” Forden said once Dilirian was surely out of earshot. “It’s probably good he’s here, when all’s said and done. He’s actually been trained with that sword of his, and he’s graceful as a swan, too. If his head wasn’t stuck so far up his ass, I think I could like him.”
Baelin chuckled. “Does seem a bit full of himself.”
“A bit…” Forden said. “He’s like a jester, desperate for attention. All his talk of adventure and excitement… I don’t think that boy’s done a bit of honest work in his life. Which means he’s probably some wealthy merchant’s son.”
“I guessed noble,” Baelin said.
“Ah, couldn’t be a noble,” Forden said. “There’d be all kinds of fuss about him, he wouldn’t be trying to make a name for himself in any way he can.”
Baelin conceded. “So, what do we do now?”
Forden thought on it a minute, pulling up a chair and sitting down next to the bed in the process. “I imagine they’ll decide to have Dilirian lead them up into the mountains on a hunt. He’s been showing anyone who wants to learn how to fight with what they have. He’s actually pretty resourceful, adapting techniques to fit whatever people are deeming weapons.”
“Hmmmm,” Baelin said. “Still has his head up his ass, though.”
Forden agreed and excused himself.
Baelin spent the while until he fell asleep pondering over what he ought to do. It seemed Magic would get its wish to be used, because Baelin was definitely going to need some armor, and he doubted he’d be able to buy any without traveling all the way to Riverspan. He also figured he’d have to see what he could do to make it easier for his sword to cut through the devil’s leathery hide. His sword was already sharp, but even then, it’d had a rough time.
He fell asleep going through the details, and all the while Magic spoke to him in the background, offering up possibilities and suggestions, waiting to be used again.