Warlock of the Sindorie – Part 1 by razerbug & Binky
Kai woke before dawn on instinct. A novice was expected to have his chores completed before training, and if one wanted breakfast, and the chance to get to the Dojo 15 minutes before the master to practice kicking fireballs at each other with no one to tell you it wasn’t safe (or, more likely, your form was sloppy), you got up that half hour early and grabbed a broom.
Kai woke to find the prayer mats empty… he had wondered how he would sneak away from the Elven women, given that, like the stories of the Fair Ones, they did not seem to sleep. Thankfully they seemed to have decided they wanted privacy from the young monk and left him too it. He liked the Elven women, they felt to him like the loving family that’s raised two kids and kept the market stall going all these years, so comfortable and at ease together were they. This seemed impossible though, how could they have the comfort of love for decades and look but a few years older than Kai?
He slung his staff over his shoulder, with pack attached, and slipped his feet into his bamboo slippers. Almost silently he parted the grasses of the woodland and slipped away, leaving nothing but the note he’d written.
He felt a lump in his throat almost at once; he was leaving Tuakiin, a fellow stranger in a strange land who fought for something beyond self. He was leaving the strange wonderful new men-like folk, the Orcs who were refreshingly straightforward and warriors he dared to think might best even the Grand Masters and Kempo Kai! He was leaving Brond as well, this realisation of loss stung thrice fold… not only had he wanted to look up to the warrior, he had had his trust in the man mocked, and most wounding of all Kai realised the naivety he had demonstrated towards the older fighter, automatically assuming he had wisdom and martial prowess. Now that he thought about that he wondered… a warrior draped in metal and reliant on blades or brute force, vs the speed and grace of one practiced in Shunryu-Kempo, Tiger Style, Sacrificial Lamb Style, Falling Wing Crane Style… to say nothing of Arcane spells and Elemental Ki powers could he have bested him? He was a veteran warrior yes, but his sword technique was primitive compared to Master of Iaido…
Kai chastised himself for thinking about issues of pride and vanity! That he would miss them mattered most. The Elven women maybe more-so, he hadn’t realised it till he had met Father Miguel and heard him chastise Jasmine not for who she attacked, but how she did, that certain powers/beliefs were forbidden in these parts. The Elven women did not seem to judge Kai, in fact they seemed to understand the necessity of meditation, respect to the spirits, and power from one’s own world, not some cosmic book keeper.
By the time Kai stopped wrestling with himself over what it was right to be upset about leaving, he had left it far behind. He was young, light on his feet, and had over a year of bushcraft-by-necessity under his belt, he moved as swiftly through light forest as he did a paved road, which was why he headed to Hommerton as the crow flied and not via the paths they had travelled before, this brought him close to Thundertree and its tyrant lizard occupant (for he would not honour is with the name Dragon), but he was confident he could skirt it unharmed.
A few miles short of the dread town however, the young monk stopped to rest. As he stopped he feared he was being pursued, he heard nothing, saw nothing, felt nothing from the Spirit of Air, but instinct told him something… a Monk trusted his instincts. Still – no threat appeared after a short rest of rations and water, he was perhaps being made jumpy off on his own again after so many weeks.
Having stopped by a river Kai unwrapped his robe and dipped a toe in,
It was icy cold. True he had bathed in winter iceflows of the monisterial mountains in the past, but that didn’t mean he liked it! Instead, Kai took a look around and, satisfied, dropped his lose cotton trousers on the bank. Falling into cat-stance, he moved about in a slow shifting tai-chi kata, being joined by a steady stream of lightly heated water, which washed over him with his movements like a ribbon. He smiled despite himself at how his elemental mastery had progressed. His Masters would be…
Something was wrong! Even as he called upon the spirits of water and fire for his shower, the spirit of life and the spirit of earth cried out!
Kai spun away from his horizontal shower leaving a trail of water behind as he bayed himself to be dry, and took off at a run.
With the spirit of the wind at his back Kai could move! Touching the forest floor once in every 4 steps he surged through the woodland, pulling his robes around him as he went.
Kai saw the target of the distress after a few minutes, a deer as white as shinning snow, a noose tight round one leg, attacked by 4 beasts that stood on legs of men, wolf and bear alike. Sliding to a halt on the edge of a ridge just above the strange attackers Kai observed…
Which is to say that is what he was going for, as he slid right off the ridge and dropped into the middle of the confrontation. Thankfully, if a lifetime of Martial Arts training had taught him nothing, it was how to make everything look like you meant to do that! He snapped around in Tiger Stance, putting himself between the doe and the beast creature – even now he could sense a sick tasting Arcane taint off of them.
With a growl the first beastman surged toward the young man even while the other beasts were stunned by his ‘dropping by’. The distance however gave Kai a chance to snap off a roundhouse kick with his right and flash a bolt of fire at the hairy beast. The result was immediate. Fire and hair mix too well.
The burning wolfman beat out the flames with an intelligence defining these things as more than monsters. As he did he shouted “What are you doing boy? We have no quarrel with you – why do you fight?”
Kai landed in a low mantis stance.
“I fight for many things” he stated proudly.
“Friends” he announced delivering a side-thrust kick under the beak of one wolfman,
“Family” he replied leaping 360 backward and lashing out at the werebears behind him with fiery arcs from his hands and feet as he channelled the spirit of fire to aid him.
“Balance!” he shouted hammering a flaming fist into the muzzle of another werebear.
He landed in time to take a tackle from the first wolfman who scratched great crimson gashes in the youth and tossed him aside.
Bleeding and panting Kai pulled himself to his feet… two of the animal-men were backing off in the wake of the fire he yet wreathed around himself, he might make this…
“Where I come from the question is not ‘why do we fight’… it is ‘what is worth fighting for!’ " Kai boomed. The beast men backed away.
Then the figure on the hill showed up. Kai could barely see him through the heat haze of the elemental fire he was swinging around himself like a Wing Lam chain whip.
The shadowy figure made a gesture, Kai felt the surge of arcane magic, as someone sensitive to it he felt it shatter his focus and disrupt his Ki power. He could bring nothing to bare in time, and felt a draining force hit like the banshee’s wail!
As he felt unconsciousness take him a part of Kai’s soul cried out to the Spirit of Life and the spirits of the forest, but the fel magics were too much, Kai slipped away under the unknown sorcerer’s touch
Rima and Vani, relaxed and replete from their meditation and the berries they’d picked as they’d strolled under the stars together, eased their way through the trees, back to where they’d left Kai sleeping. The young lad had seemed so tense and unfocussed the previous day that the women had felt compelled to draw him aside from the rest of the group to help him to find solace. As they completed their ritual, they were both encouraged to find he’d drifted into a seemingly relaxed sleep, shedding even more years from that already youthful face. As they’d slipped silently off into the trees, they’d smiled fondly at the sleeping figure, so reminiscent of others they knew.
As they parted the bushes on their return they knew at once that all was not as they’d left it. A stillness was upon the air, despite the tendrils of dawn pushing through the forest. Their eyes raked the bank where they’d made their camp, but not a sign of Kai could they see. Rima felt a wave of worry hit. She moved her fingers in a silent gesture to Vani, before beginning a systematic search of the area. Vani followed her lead, establishing quickly that there was no sign of struggle or interlopers where they’d so recently felt so safe. When they reached the place they’d left their possessions Rima spotted a rolled piece of parchment sticking out of her bag that hadn’t been there earlier. She grabbed and unrolled it, scanning the words as swiftly as she could manage. With a sad sigh she dropped to her knees, holding the note out to Vani in sagging fingers.
“He’s gone!” Rima murmured sadly, as Vani draped an arm round her shoulder.
“It sounds like he intends to return.” Vani reassured.
“But what if he needs help or gets involved with those who would take advantage of his trusting nature? What then!” Rima half sobbed. “He’s been so agitated since the Nothic got in his head.”
“I’m sure he’ll be fine…” Vani stated confidently, but at the baleful look in her partner’s eyes added, “…but as I need to go perform a beast summoning ritual anyway, how about I track him down and keep an eye on him for a bit…from a discrete distance…just to ensure he’s ok?”
“Would you?” Rima breathed more brightly. “Just to make sure!”
“Of course!” Vani confirmed with a kiss to Rima’s cheek.
The Elves swiftly collected their things together and wished each other a loving, but temporary farewell. Rima headed through the trees back towards the rest of the group, Kai’s note tucked in her lute case. Vani carefully studied the marks left by Kai’s shoes on the bank until after a few minutes she was certain she knew which direction he’d taken and that she’d be able to follow any traces he left. Plunging through the trees she headed deeper into the forest and wondered how long it would take to catch up with him.
After an hour, Vani found she was getting into a rhythm. Kai wasn’t too tricky to follow, he didn’t seem to be trying to cover his tracks, which meant she could move at a swift pace. He’d not had much of a head start by her estimation, so she should have him in sight before the end of the day. As she moved she reflected on Rima’s fondness for Kai. It was a trait of her partner to feel protective of smart kids. She was the same around Vani’s little brother. She smiled as she thought about their time at Queline’s farmstead and the curious young Halfling boy who stared at them so intently. Yes – Rima would be worrying about him too if she spent much more time in Fandolin. Vani felt the warm glow of pride and love for her soulmate burn brighter and upped her pace.
A bit short of the abandoned village of Thundertree, Vani glimpsed a figure she recognised in the distance. Not wanting to impose her presence on him if he wanted to be alone, or to surprise him, she slowed her pace and slinked through the trees as silently as she could manage. As she got closer she saw he was taking a moment to eat, until something seemed to give him pause. He must have dismissed whatever it was as irrelevant, moving instead to bathe, albeit in his unique fashion. His calm lasted for little more than a few minutes, and then in an instant he’d dashed off at a speed Vani could only gasp at. Picking up her pace she ran in the same direction he’d disappeared in. As she ran, she heard shouting and altered her direction to follow the sounds.
Her approach seemed to be along a slope below a ridge. As she neared the sounds she saw the shapes of figures fighting ahead of her. She recognised one voice as Kai’s, but others sounded more like growls. Getting closer she spied a snow white deer with rope round it’s foot and Kai surrounding himself with fire as some misshapen figures backed slightly away. Grabbing her bow she shot at the rope, releasing the deer from the trap.
As Vani stowed the bow and drew her sword she saw the figure of the deer shimmer and begin to morph. Her focus switched back to Kai with dismay as suddenly the fire around him dissipated and he crumpled to the ground. Leaping from the tree line she drove her silver sword down into the spine of a half-wolf man dropping him to the ground. Now alert to her presence, the were-creatures rounded on her. She speedily focused her hunters instincts on the nearest creature, dodging it’s swiping claws and sinking her blade deep into it’s thigh. Behind her attackers, the deer had finished it’s transformation and Vani grinned as she recognised the white clad Elf muttering to herself in it’s place. As Vani made another lunge for her attacker, a bolt of lightning hit the ridge above them. Vani couldn’t tell if it had hit anyone or anything, but the creatures around her seemed to lose motivation, backing away. She hacked again at the creature in front of her, severing a paw and eliciting a dreadful wail. This seemed to decide them – the were-creatures who were still able to move bolted from the clearing into the forest.
Quelling her natural desire to try to run them down, Vani raced to the fallen Kai, trying desperately to discern any sign of life. He felt unnaturally cold to her touch, but other than some scratches, he had no visible injuries. She started her healing chant, channelling magic into him, only to find the other Elf doubling her efforts with her own skills. The bleeding scratches healed first and fast, but Kai still did not rouse. As Vani continued her chant, the other Elf changed hers, weaving in elements that sounded like they were for dispelling arcane magic. After a moment, they heard him take short breath, returning some colour to his face and soon afterwards his eyes flickered slowly open.
“Thank you Tirnim!” Vani whispered appreciatively to the Elf woman, as Kai drifted off into a deep, restful sleep.