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The Gryphon's Game: Chapter Ten (Part Two)

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Dec. 19th, 2005 | 06:44 pm
mood: goodgood
music: RENT- La Vie Boheme
posted by: sanitysloss in sklandor

The second half to Chapter Ten. Important stuff in this chapter is mainly Selena's backstory. Working on this chapter has really made me appreciate Selena more as a character, so expect her to play a larger part in chapters to come.

As of this chapter, the story is 162 pages long with 76,505 words (give or take a few). Booya.

With the festival started, many of the tournaments and events were already in full swing. Crowds gathered around makeshift arenas to watch archery competitions, jousting matches, and many other events.

For warriors seeking fame and glory, these events were the best way to begin. One could become quickly noticed by a nobleman seeking a bodyguard or a group of adventurers looking for a skilled archer for their next quest. It was also a well known fact the commanders and captains of the armies were always found at the events, seeking out new recruits.

Captain Selena Kaurris leaned on a fence railing as she watched the match. It was one of the lower ranking tournaments for novices, so she doubted she would find any potential recruit for the Hirykui army, but it was still entertaining.

“Interestin' t' see young warriors fightin', innit,” a voice said at her side. She looked over and smiled as she recognized the minstrel from earlier. Erik grinned as he tilted his head toward the fighters. “See anyone y' like?”

Selena looked back at the warriors. One was a swordsman and the other was a staff fighter. Their movements were awkward and she could see plenty of flaws, but they were young and still had time to polish up their skills. “Not here. I doubt they'll be enterin' the Hirykui army any time soon, but I could see them goin' into other armies. Alek may like the staff fighter, she's not too bad.”

Erik nodded in agreement. “Only the best of the best fer the Hirykui army, eh?”

“Somethin' like that. So, what brings you to these matches?”

“Just takin' a small break from helpin' Marcus.”

“Oh? How is his stand doin'?”

Erik gave a large grin. “Quite well. A little slow in the beginnin', so ah had t' draw some people in with a bit of song an' dance, but ah think they're doin' better now. Y' should stop by later.”

“You'll have to show me how to get there.”

“Of course, yer warriorness. An' yerself? What brings y' t' these matches?”

“Nostalgia perhaps. Like many other warriors, I made my beginnin' in the festival. Began in tournaments like these. Didn't win, but I performed well enough to be accepted into the Kanjadu army.”

“Yer family must have been proud of y'.”

Selena gave a small laugh as she recalled that day, a pained smile crossing her face. “I was expected to be a proper young lady, get married, an' have children an' be a dutiful wife. My younger brother, he was supposed to be the warrior an' carry on my father's legacy. While my brother received formal trainin', I had to spy on them an' learn what I could. Wasn't until later his teacher caught me an' agreed to train me too.
“But anyway, when I was accepted into the army an' my brother wasn't, my parents were... far from pleased. I had two choices: stay at home an' be a proper lady, or leave for the Kanjadu army an' be disowned from the Kaurris family.”

She gave Erik a weak smile and spread out her arms. “I think you can guess which path I choose.”

“But now that yer a captain, certainly they've--”

“No, never did. My father never spoke me to again. Died before anythin' between us could be resolved. My mother is still alive, but refuses to acknowledge my existence. My sisters are proud of me though. I keep in touch when I can.”

Erik placed a hand on her shoulder and gave her a sympathetic smile. “My condolences. It must have been hard for you.”

“I won't lie an' say it was easy. Hurt more than anythin' else in the world. Well, no, I can think of a few other events that hurt, but I won't go into them now. Forgive me for ramblin' on about myself. I'm sure it's borin' to someone like you.”

“Ah didn't mind listenin. Perhaps we could continue this conversation over drinks later?”

Selena looked at him with mild surprise and amusement. She wondered if it was an innocent offer of friendship or if he was looking for more. She decided to accept and see where it would go. “I would enjoy that. Kalrasha knows with the things I have to do this week, drinks are greatly appreciated.”

He smiled at her as he offered his arm to her. His intentions were honest-- he found her to be an interesting person and wanted to know more about her and also hoped he could make her into an ally.

The two left the arena and headed toward Marcus' stand. Those who knew Selena were surprised to see her in the company of a young man and a few called out to her, asking about her companion. She merely waved and winked at them as they passed by.

Marcus was busy organizing merchandise when Erik and Selena arrived. Using a few tables and chairs and a canvas cover from one of the carriages, the farmer and his friends had formed a makeshift stand, their bone-carved necklaces and bracelets proudly displayed for admiring shoppers. A trip to the beach had also produced some seashells, drift wood, and smooth stones for their jewelery making.

The farmer gave a large smile as the minstrel and captain arrived. Selena gave Marcus a firm hand shake while Erik went off to retrieve his lute. “Good to see you again, Marcus. I hope business is goin' well for you?”

The farmer grinned as he picked up a bulging money purse. “Began pretty slowly, but Erik drew some people in with a little bit of song an' dance. Was worried we wouldn't be able t' compete against the other merchants, but looks like we're doin' quite well.”

“I'm glad to hear that,” Selena said as she looked over at Erik. Reunited with his lute, he was already beginning to play songs to draw people toward the stand. Switching between songs and stories, he entertained the growing crowd.

Between a song, Selena motioned for Erik to come over. Grinning widely at him, she drew her sword from her sheath. “Play somethin' fast for me, will ya?”

Hopping onto a chair, Erik gave a low bow as he began to strum out a fast paced song. Selena walked in front of the crowd and began to weave her sword back and forth in the air. The crowd moved back, giving her plenty of space as she began one of her many training routines, her sword mere flashes of light as she flipped and spun around. Erik grinned as he noticed the crowd growing and winked over at Marcus. When she finished her routine, she grinned at the crowd, shouting over the thunderous applause.

“While you're here, don't forget to check out the lovely array of necklaces, bracelets, an' rings at my stand to the left! Buy a present for a loved one back one, or maybe for a new lover tonight,” she said, winking and blowing a kiss to the crowd, pleased to see people had already turned to browse the stand. After taking a short break, the two Aquilas began their show again.

While their act drew plenty of attention for Marcus' stand and was a true blessing for his wallet, it also drew plenty of unwanted attention toward the two Aquilas.

Deneb stalked the streets of Asruli, a long cloak hiding his missing arm. With his followers from the Crimson Claw, they stowed away on a boat and made their way to Asruli. With the wealthy walking along the streets in their silks and diamonds and merchants displaying their goods on open tabletops, it was the perfect opportunity to become rich.

He scouted the stands, a grin spreading across his face when he saw the stand with a large crowd busy watching two performers. With the distraction already set up, he nodded at his men as they began to head toward the table. While his lackeys served as lookouts, Deneb scanned the goods on the table. He frowned as he looked at the homemade necklaces and bracelets. They weren't diamonds or gold, but they were decent and he figured he could convince some poor sap they were carved from dragon or unicorn bones.

He moved into position and prepared to grab a few necklaces when one of his lackeys nudged him. The thief looked over, his eyes narrowed. The lackey simply pointed at the performers.

Deneb looked over at the two performers, his mouth dropping open as he recognized the minstrel. Unable to contain his anger, he drew a dagger and pushed through the crowd. People quickly scrambled from him as he lunged at Erik.

Selena saw a flash of steel and instinctively moved in front of Erik, her sword held defensively in front of her. Behind her, Erik had leapt off the chair and held his lute up as if to swing it. Deneb stopped as the captain stepped in his path. The two looked at each other, both taking a step back as they recognized each other.

The bandit straightened up as he gave the Hirykui captain a cold sneer. “Selena Kaurris, the whore of the Hirykui army. 'Eard y' became captain. Who did y' 'ave t' bed? That bitch Maladria? Or perhaps her daughter?”

Her eyes narrowed and she gave him a cold smile as she raised her sword. Erik stepped in, ready to help her, but Selena motioned for him to stay back.

They had once served together in the Hirykui army. Upon meeting each other, he made it very clear he believed women had no place in the army except as bed partners and did everything he could to make her life miserable. She ignored him and rejected his advances.

When the position of captain opened up, both Selena and Deneb went for the position. The two ended up fighting against each other, where Deneb was defeated.
Infuriated by his loss, he broke into her sleeping quarters that night and tried to rape her. She had fought back and broke his hand and his nose and would have done more had the other soldiers not dragged her off of him. Shortly after, he was expelled from the army.

Even after so many years, Deneb was still bitter toward her. Not only because she had consistently turned his advances down, but because she had defeated him in front of the army and had him expelled from the army, an expulsion that would ultimately lead to the end of his career as a warrior. While he only had himself to blame, he swore one day he would humiliate the Aquila woman as she had humiliated him.

Now, in front of a watching crowd, it would be the perfect opportunity. Deneb spat on the ground as he gave a few experimental slashes with his dagger. From inside the crowd, Deneb's lackeys shouted out words of encouragement to their leader as a few people began to voice their opinions.

But before the fight could progress, whistle blasts pierced the air as Aquila guards broke through the crowd and waved people away. One guard, presumably the leader as the plume on his helm was larger than the others, marched up to Deneb and Selena, giving both of them condescending looks. “Ahem! Such uncivilized brawling will not be allowed. Please turn over your weapons now.”

“Ah' if ah refuse?” Deneb snarled. Selena said nothing, but sheathed her sword.

The guard sneered. “Then you'll be hauled off to prison for disrupting the peace.”

“Captain Dalsher? What is the hold up?” The voice of the Aquila ruler pierced the air. Erik started at the sound of Tonari's voice and quickly looked for the source of it. Blocked by the large crowd was the royal palanquin, the curtain thrown aside as Tonari looked out, her eyes narrowed and an angry expression on her face. Erik paled and took a step back, seeking an opportunity to escape.

The guard that had addressed Deneb and Selena quickly turned to face his ruler, throwing a hasty salute as the townspeople quickly dropped to their knees to bow to their ruler. “Forgive me, your highness, but these...” he waved toward Deneb and Selena, “... commoners were fighting and this crowd formed to watch them. Typical of commoners, I assure you this will not happen again.”

Tonari motioned for her guards to set down the palanquin and help her out. The crowd parted as she walked through, stopping to look at the two offenders. Selena gave the Aquila woman a formal salute before dropping down to one knee. Behind her, Erik quickly dropped down and adverted his gaze, hoping she would overlook him. Deneb had to be forced down by the guards.

“You, stand up. What is your name?” Selena stood up at the order of the Aquila ruler. While she disliked the Aquila ruler, she knew her place.

“Captain Selena Kaurris of the Hirykui army, your highness.”

Tonari looked her up and down as a small smile crept across her lips. “An Aquila, are you not?”

“Yes, your highness.”

“I thought so. Any relation toward the Kaurris family?”

“Captain Bordain Kaurris of the Aquila army was my father,” Selena replied, sneaking a glance at Captain Dalsher. The guard flushed red and turned away.

Tonari nodded appreciatively. She was familiar with the Kaurris family, knowing they had been a long time supporter of the Aquila family and still was. “I see. And you, what is your name?”

“What does it matter to you?” Deneb snarled.

Captain Dalsher walked forward and glowered at the thief. “You are in the presence of Maila Tonari, ruler of the Aquila tribe. Mind your manners, peasant.”

Deneb leered at her, looking her up and down with a lewd sneer on his face. The other guards looked at him, ready to dispatch him if their ruler so commanded. Such open rudeness was never tolerated, especially toward Maila Tonari.

Tonari in turn merely hid a smile. If he wished to feast upon her beauty, then she would let him. Those that were the most obvious in their desires were always the most easy to control.

Captain Dalsher cuffed Deneb on the head. “The lady has asked for your name and you will provide it.”

The thief rubbed his head and glared at the guard, but finally surrendered his name. “Deneb.”

She said nothing, but made a dismissive sound. It was a common and crude name for such a crude man. Turning to face Selena once more, she gave a small smile. “I presume this disturbance will not happen again?”

Selena shook her head as she gave a respectful bow. “No, your highness, it will not.”

“Good, then I will be...” her sentence trailed off as she noticed the person kneeling behind Selena. She stared at the kneeling form, a curious expression crossing her face. Walking around the captain, she stopped to look down at Erik. “Rise.”

Erik slowly stood up and faced his sister. Much to the surprise of everyone, Tonari recoiled. Despite the years that had passed and the physical changes, it was impossible for Tonari to not recognize her own kin. Regaining her composure, she stared at him, noting his simple clothing and lute, before turning around and walking away, motioning for her guards to follow.

“Milady?” Captain Dalsher asked, bewildered by the sudden change in the ruler. “But what about-”

“You heard the captain. It will not happen again,” Tonari was helped back into the palanquin as the guards lifted it up. “Back to the castle now.”

The crowd quickly parted as the Aquila ruler went on her way. With the fight over before it started, people left to finish their shopping and exploration of the festival. Deneb watched Tonari leave before turning back to Selena. “Don't think ah've fergotten about y'. We're goin' t' settle this right 'ere, right now.”

“No, y' won't.”

A heavy hand clamped down at Deneb's shoulder and he looked up at Marcus. The farmer had silently observed everything, knowing better than to get involved. Whatever feud existed between the thief and bandit was best left between them. But now he decided it was best to end things. “Ah kindly ask y' t' leave mah friend alone an' move on.”

Deneb pulled his shoulder away and backed up, knowing better than to pick a fight with a much larger man. He cast a final smirk at the Hirykui captain as he spat on her boot, then he turned and motioned for his gang to follow as he swaggered off.

Selena winkled her nose in disgust as she scraped the glob of spit off with her boot heel. “Geh. Damned bastard hasn't changed a bit. Suppose I'll be watchin' my back a bit more carefully. Hey, Erik, you okay?”

She knows I'm here. Kalrasha above, she knows I'm here, was all Erik could think of. She knows I'm here she knows I'm here she knows I'm here she-

Marcus' hand on the side of his head brought him out of his daze. Shaking his head, he looked at Selena and Marcus, who were looking at him with worry. Selena picked up his lute, which had slipped out of his hands and gently dusted it off before handing it back to him.

“Maybe y' should lie down. We can take y' t' the carriages an' y' can stretch out there...” Erik vaguely heard Marcus saying as the two began to move him. Erik shook his head and gently pushed their hands away.

“Ah have t' go now... ah can't stay here anymore,” he mumbled. While he would have loved to remain with the farmer and his family and friends, he knew his presence would only result in their destruction. Not only did Tonari know of his presence, but Deneb also.

Selena reached out and placed a comforting hand on his shoulder. She had seen the venomous way Deneb had looked at Erik before turning his attention toward her as well as the surprised look on Tonari's face when the two faced each other. “I do not know about your past, but know I am here if you need me. Besides, you owe me a drink, remember?”

“Y' are a good man, Erik. If yer ever need a place t' stay an' a bowl of soup, seek out my family an' friends,” Marcus also said as he gave Erik a pat on the back.

Erik looked at the both of them and bowed appreciatively. “Thank y', my friends, ah will not ferget yer offers. But now, ah must go. Farewell an' may Kalrasha protect the both of y'.”

And with that, he turned around, leaving before he could hear their goodbyes, and disappeared into the crowd.

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