The Last of the Lions
Today was cold. Freezing cold. The kind of cold where you just want to sit around a tavern, drinking and complaining about the cold with your best pals.
Especially that drinking part! The bartender thought gleefully.
Yes. It was definitely cold today. The blizzard outside roared continually, the sound bringing a chill to already freezing bones. Luckily, The Lame Deer tavern was full of men making merry, laughing. Joking. Arm wrestling and good-natured arguing.
And drinking! The bartender reminded himself again.
This particular bartender’s name was Oro and it was a fine day to be a bartender! The tavern regulars were just getting around to one of their favorite drinking songs. There were no real rules on who sung, what they sung when they did, or whether they drink or not for singing. It mostly just involved this group singing as lustily as they could, about anything or nothing, and drinking as much as they could hold.
These were his best patrons by far!
No… Five of them seemed to be missing…
Mitch, Slim, Horcac, Kenny, and Dorm.
Where are they, though? Oro thought to himself. He scanned the room’s tables. There they were, sitting in the far corner. Oro shook his head, sadly. He knew just what those men were discussing.
Taxes have been rising and rising for the past year. There wasn’t any reason for it!
Some had gone to the Town’s aristocrat leaders to inquire about and debate the taxes. Coincidentally, many of those who did were soon found unconscious and bloodied in a ditch.
The last straw for Dorm and his group was when Millar, a friend of theirs, was found dead after an inquiry with the leaders.
And on top of that, last week the chairman of the town council: Himtroph gave a speech to the mining town of Briggs that the ever increasing taxes were being dealt out by the ruling House itself!
It didn’t take long before Dorm and his gang began plotting a scheme of their own.
Oro didn’t like it. Planning an action against the Royal Family? The most worrying part was that they were gaining quite a following when the workers weren’t getting drunk on their drink savings.
Oro’s thoughts were disrupted when the door to the tavern flew open, letting in a blast of icy air. A figure toppled in right behind the swinging door. He scrambled up and with encouragement in the form of long streams of curses from the inhabitants of the tavern, managed to finally close the door.
The cloaked figure slumped against the door for a moment in sheer exhaustion, but as the warmth of the room slowly filled him, he got up and shambled towards the bar. The rowdy inhabitants had forgotten about this stranger the minute he got the door shut and paid him no mind as he made his way through the room, a few even patted him on the back for no real reason except maybe for the joy of life, song
But a five pairs of eyes never left his back as he stepped up to the bar.
“So, stranger, what’ll ya have?” Oro said good-naturedly, though shrewdly examining the cloaked and hooded figure before him. He noted that for seeming a little out of it because of the storm, the man held himself tall. He also noted that the figure wore a slightly large broad sword across his back.
“Brr! Something hot!” The man said, shivering, voice slightly higher pitched than Oro expected from a man his size.
“Hot whiskey sound good then?” He asked, reaching for a pot simmering on the stove.
The man’s shoulders shook, laughing. At first Oro was annoyed, but then the customer flung his hood back revealing a face that couldn’t be older than 17. “Actually, I was thinking more along the lines of some hot cocoa!” The boy laughed.
Oro couldn’t help it, he began chuckling himself. “Well, lad, because of the present crowd, I don’t have any made up right now, but I can fix it up in a jiffy!” He said, revealing a distinct highland accent.
“That would be amazing!” The teen-aged man exclaimed. “Bring me like a whole pitcher and a cup like…” He took a moment to glance around the room. He pointed at some men chugging their beer down out of huge cups. “That big!”
“All rightie, then!” Oro laughed, realizing that the boy was obviously freezing. “You just sit down by that fire there and I’ll have one of me daughters bring it out to ya! That’ll be five coppers.”
The newcomer thanked Oro as he paid him and turned to find his way to the seat when Oro called him back over. “Lad,” He said in a low voice. “If you can play that guitar any good and entertain these people, I’ll give you your money back plus extra!”
Oh! The newcomer had forgotten all about that instrument strapped on his back. He quickly agreed and went to his seat by the fire. There he immediately set to work on retuning his guitar. The cold weather was absolute murder to the strings and it took him a good while to complete it.
He then searched his memory for an appropriate song to warm himself up with. When a fun and easy drinking song popped to his head, he started right away. The room fell deathly quiet for a second, eyes turned to the lad. He carried on, though, knowing how these
audiences react from prior experiences.
As soon as the occupants realized what he was playing, they burst in to follow him. Albeit not very well or on key, but joyfully. When he finished the song, his drink was brought out to him. The crowd dispersed and let him drink a while. The hot cocoa started working instantly as he felt a warmth in his belly spread to the rest of his body.
The warmth of the fire and the hot drink had done its trick. The newcomer sat huddled up in his booth, sleeping.
Of course before that he had played a long slew of songs and had a real great time.
But now it was time to rest.
Dorm and his group had watched him the entire time. Suspicion and distrust etched into their faces. Now, though, the traveler was asleep. They left off keeping a watch on him and resumed their planning.
Dorm spoke up then, debating with another about the size of their force compared to the Grazton Palace Guards’. “We may not have many, now, but once others see how fast are forces are growing, they’ll be encouraged to join our revolt!”
No one had seen any movement, so it was a shock to the five at that table and a few others around when a fist slammed down onto the table top. “What’s this talk of a rebellion, now?”
It was the newcomer.
Dorm rocketed up, hand reaching for his long knife. “Who the Hell are you?!” He growled at the intruder.
The boy twitched his head, moving a bit of dirty blonde hair from his eyes. He hunched over, closer to the assembly as he pulled a pocket watch from his pants pocket. Grinning, he held it up beside his face revealing a crest of a golden dragon in front of a shield.
“I’m Kale Lockey. Envoy of the Royal House of Rastor!”
All four of other the men burst from their seats, gripping their weapons.
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you.” Kale said with an exasperated face.
Dorm loomed over the 17 year old, who wasn’t actually all that tall in the first place. “And why’s that, you little rat?” He growled as he
slowly began drawing his blade.
Rat? Kale thought, is he insinuating that I’m short?! “Because,” Kale started, “One, I could kick all your asses right here. Two, if I don’t report in by the end of the week, you’ll have yourself one heap of a problem here!”
It was a standoff for a moment. Then Kale said “Alright, you have a couple of options here. You can keep on planning your little rebellion. If you choose that, I have the authority to call in a whole army. How does that sound, eh?”
The men seemed to inwardly flinch.
“Or,” Kale continued, grinning confidently and pulling up a chair, “we can sit back down and have a nice little discussion.”
Dorm sat his massive self back into his seat. “And now you’re threatening us?”
Kale leaned his chair bake, wearing an astonished face. “Threatening you? No! What I mean is I want to find out why you would want to rebel and see what I can do to fix the problem.”
Everyone at the table seemed to deflate a bit.
“So, why don’t you guys tell me just what your little issue is?”
Kale strode towards the town treasurer’s office. He remembered last night’s conversation with Dorm and company. He would have started to work then, but he needed sleep and the blizzard was still going strong.
He glanced down at the snow crunching under his feet. “Gah!” he groaned. “If I didn’t have an image to maintain now, I would so deck someone with a snowball!”
Though he was walking, the sword on his back seemed to shake just a little too vigorously at that statement. There was no wind.
Kale grinned just a bit just before he got to the door. He reached for the handle, adopting a businessy look for his face and straightened his belt. He marched through the door, up towards a counter.
An old, friendly looking man sat behind it. The man greeted Kale politely and asked if he could help him.
“Actually, I’d like to see the tax records for this town.”Kale said, glancing around the well furnished office.
Chuckling, the man told him that, well, he couldn’t just give anyone that information. “Right, of course!” Replied Kale pulling out the pocket watch and showing it to the old-timer. “Will this get me the records?”
The old man began laughing quietly to himself. “Son, that there will get you just about anything! Just give me a moment.”
Kale thanked the man and a minute later, he was handed the document. Kale didn’t really have anywhere to go at the time, so he asked if he could stick around for a while till he was done. That man didn’t mind so Kale pulled up a chair and began reading the large paper.
Just as I expected, everything looks perfect. Kale thought.
The old man heard a scraping of metal behind him and turned around. He was a little more than shocked to find the point of a blade against his throat.
“Now,” Began Kale, smiling pleasantly “why don’t you go ahead and give me the real paper?”
Within minutes, Kale, Dorm, Mitch, Slim, Horvac, Kenny and a few others including Oro were huddled around a bar table studying the tax document. Helpless to stop it, Kale burst out into laughter.
After a short couple of moments, he was silenced by the hard stares of his companions. Once back in control of his voice he managed: “Well no wonder you guys were planning a rebellion!” He managed. “You guys are being charged an average of 250 Graztets each month.” He explained as he pointed to the paper. “But for the size of this town, the average tax should be around, um, I’d say 50 give or take.”
At that there was a thunderous exclamation of shock.
“Sooo…” Kale said, doing a few mental figures in his head, “guess where all that extra money is going? And by the way, it’s not to the Royal House!”
Baldric was enjoying his evening.
The aristocrat sat in his oversized armchair facing the window, looking out onto the town. He sipped a glass of wine, remembering back to when things finally turned his way.
About 50 years ago, there were skirmishes with Krokoa, a small neighboring country over a stretch of land about 20 miles from here. The work in this iron mine exploded.
A weapons factory was assembled as well. To keep order in the town, now flooded with soldiers and workers, Briggs was placed under military government. That was where Baldric’s father came in.
He held a respectable rank but he was kept out of any action on the front, even when the battles began nearing the town. Baldric’s father didn’t appreciate this, but he accepted it and did his duty.
When Krokoa finally gave up on the land, and both sides demobilized their troops, Baldric’s father was left in command of the mining town.
There were no complaints. After all, it made sense. Krokoa left on bitter terms, you never knew when another small scale series of battles might take place. Then there was the economy. With the mine now being run with military discipline, income increased dramatically.
15 years ago, Baldric attained his father’s position. That was also when the mine showed signs of depletion. Iron ore was becoming harder and harder to dig out and it was costing.
Baldric brought the declining economy back to a reasonable level. The town would never be the same, but eventually, a new economical source would develop.
It wasn’t until five years ago that he began raising the taxes.
But he had saved this town economically! Didn’t he deserve some of the wealth?
As he pondered this, there was a knock at the chamber door. One of his servants.
“Visitor, sir. He says he’s an envoy of Rastor…” The servant’s voice carried in with an obvious disdainful doubt.
“Well, show him in,” Baldric sighed, leaning back in his armchair sipping his wine.
The thick wooden door opened and a blonde haired teenager stomped into the room backwards pointing between his and the servant’s eyes with his two fingers in an ‘I’m watching you!’ gesture.
Envoy of Rastor? I’m sure. Baldric thought scathingly watching the boy turn and marched towards him.
Kale reached Baldric and held out his hand. “I’m sure you heard that guy, so let me get straight to the point.” He paused as Baldric took his hand and shook it. “ I’m Kale Lockey. And you’re a greedy ass.”
Baldric leaned back in his chair. “Well I’m sure I don’t know what you-“
“Oh yeah, I’m sure you don’t.” Kale said sitting down in a smaller chair next to the aristocrat and holding out the tax records.
Baldric glanced at the document and sighed. So he’d been found out. His arm reached out for a tasseled rope hanging from the
ceiling. “Well, we can’t have this…” He pulled the rope sharply.
Kale flew from the chair and stood behind it casting a frantic look around the floor. “Tell me that’s not for a trap door!” He cried in alarm.
Baldric blinked at this strange kid. “Uh, no. We haven’t gotten those installed yet, actually.” At the relieved look on Kale’s face he smiled villainously. “Actually, it’s calling in a few more guests!”
Curtains on the surrounding walls were thrown open by rough looking men, swords drawn. They leered at Kale, smirking. Only oe this time. This looked fun.
Kale turned watching the men step out of the entryways. “Oh,” He said “One of those pull ropes.”
Baldric made an unhurried retreat as the men began to close in on Kale. The young envoy watched the man’s departure through the wooden door and heard the distinct click of a lock. “Alright, then… Can’t we just work this out peacefully?” Kale implored the obvious leader of the assembled rogues who carried a spear carelessly over his shoulder.
The tall, black-haired man spat at Kale’s boots. “What?! And miss out on this?” He grinned devilishly, revealing an array of truly rotten teeth. “It’s not often mayor Baldric lets us play with a little runt like yourself!”
It was only years of survival experience that allowed the man to block a sword stroke that would have cleaved his head in two. “Woah, now!” he cried, knocking Kale backwards.
The man began laughing heartily. “Well now… You’re good! Oh-ho ho! This will be fun, boys!”
The surrounding men sneered at the lone kid. Then, a larger of the men, directly behind Kale lunged at him with a hand axe.
“Stay here.” Kale muttered to his blade, driving it into the floor. Using the sword as a base, Kale swung up into the air, pushed backwards and kicked the attacker in the face. This shocked the rest of the surrounding thugs to rush in for the kill.
Still holding himself in the air with the blade’s handle, Kale launched himself at the closest attacker, slamming his fist into his nose. In a blur, Kale ran back to the blade and used it as a step up to bring down two others while falling.
In short succession, all the rest of the men were on the floor moaning, except for the leader, who Kale knocked unconscious with a bash on the head with the sword’s pommel.
Glancing out the window, Kale saw Baldric on the ground floor, rushing across an enclosed courtyard. On the street, outside, a steam carriage was sitting, obviously waiting on the aristocrat. He just had to go through that small building first.
Without a second thought; made easy since he didn’t have much of a first, Kale rushed to the window, picking up a dropped hand axe along the way, and leapt out into open space.
“Oi! Baldric!”Came Kale’s shout… Following the hand axe which lodged itself into the door, less than an inch from Baldrics face.
Baldric fell almost into a feint and slid down the door his head resting on it.
Kale on the other hand, was still in the air, now fully realizing that he had just jumped from a third story window.
“Aww, shi-“ Kale’s drawn out curse was never finished because he had to concentrate on rolling once he slammed into the ground to avoid dying.
A hand gripped the still in shock Baldric and twisted him around. “Hello, Sir Baldric!”
The last thing Baldric remembered seeing was a fist slamming into his nose.
“No, no, no! Seriously, don’t assault him, alright!?” Kale responded, rather frantically to a joke from Oro, the bartender.
The large man (all the men in the mining town, Briggs seem to dwarf average men) simply slapped Kale’s back and handed him his guitar with a wink.
A few thin clouds blew quickly by over head. The frosted ground crunched under any step one could make. A fog of mist filled the streets today. Not because of the weather, but because nearly everyone in the town had come out and see the young envoy off and the buzz of conversation spawned such a cloud that it was almost hard to see further than 15 feet away.
Of course it was cold. Kale had to retune his instrument five times in between songs with the people of Briggs this morning. He’d be lucky if a string didn’t snap.
“No! Seriously!” Kale repeated.
Dorm dropped his massive hand onto the boy’s shoulder, nearly knocking him down. “Don’t worry, we’re angry with him, but we’re not savages.” His deep voice cutting through the fog.
Only somewhat reassured, Kale managed a grin. “Well, alright then. I’ll take your word for it!”
He took a few backwards steps away, breathe clogging his view. “Okay, well, there will be a escort of soldiers to take Baldric for a military trial within the week, so you don’t have to worry about taking care of him much longer. Hmm, you’ll also need to set up an election process for a mayor…” There he trailed off, losing his train of thought. He hated all this official business crap.
Oro took a step towards him. “Come now, why don’t you stay a little longer? You can have free board!”
The boy let out a short, grateful laugh. “Sorry, but I need to head on out before my luck catches up with me! Look! It’s already started!” He chuckled, lifting his right leg which was bound to a light splint.
He hadn’t escaped his three-story leap completely unscathed.
“Well you just be careful, alright?” Oro relented, shrugging his shoulders. “The weather this time of year can change on a whim.”
“I’ll keep that in mind!” Kale then pulled at the heavy cloak he had received as a gift. “Heck! I’m not even that cold right now, so I think I’ll be fine.”
With that, he waved to the populous of the mining town and set off down the main road, towards the surrounding forest.
A great cheer from behind him caused Kale to turn around. He waved once more and set off again. “I might like to live there someday…”
Kale reflected, in a murmur. A chinking sound from the sword on his back alerted him just in time to look at the tree as he walked into it.
At least he was out of sight of the town…
Deeper into the forest, the cluster of trees allowed the snow to form in great drifts. For some lucky reason, though, besides a thin coating, the road itself was relatively clear. Kale marveled at this as he walked; only a slight limp from his hurt ankle impaired his pace.
Often, he had to gaze upwards at the top of these drifts.
A little further down the path, the space between the trees decreased, leaving him in a small clearing.
Kale glanced around hopefully, looking to find some kind of wild life. Strangely though, there was none to be found.
“It’s not like I’m some kind of giant walking through here…” Kale muttered under his breath, disappointed, “Animals usually don’t mind me much…”
He sighed and picked up his pace only slightly.
The gaps in the trees gave birth to a clear view of the skies. While the sun still shone down brightly, dark, worrying clouds were racing across the sky.
“Damn, I hope I don’t have to try and survive another blizzard!” He groaned, shivering at the thought.
As he reached the center of the clearing, a loud chink emitting from his blade brought him forcibly back to reality.
There was an explosion of snow on both sides of the road.
In a blur of motion, Kale’s sword was out and holding back a viciously swung spear.
Arms straining, knees bent, Kale stared into the face of his attacker.
The rogue leader grinned wickedly as his fellows closed in. “I don’t think we properly ever introduced ourselves!”
Steadying his breathing, he replied: “Oh, in that case, I’m Kale Lockey. Last name-bearer of the clan. Ever heard of them?”
The rogue put on extra pressure with his spear, holding Kale there for the moment. His smile widened, revealing many more of his rotten teeth than Kale would have preferred to see. “Oh, aye! I’ve heard of the Lockeys! They drove my clan out of power in this land one thousand years ago!”
With that pleasant sentiment, he swung his weapon around, sending Kale away, his boots skidding on the frosted ground.
“Ah!” Exclaimed Kale with an excited grin. He swung around, smashing the hilt of his blade into the skull of a rather large and fat thug advancing upon him from behind. The brute crashed to the ground, causing the earth to shudder. “You’re a Kento! You do have their crooked nose!”
“Too True!” Shouted the adversary. “Sowmin Kento! It will be an honor and a pleasure to kill the last bearer of that damned name!”
Sowmin rushed Kale, swinging the blade-tipped spear at his head.
The spear stopped dead, held at bay by Kale’s sword, which he held with only one hand on the grip.
“I realized something,” Kale said, easily holding this position, despite the force exerted from the opposing end. “That, in the excitement, I didn’t quite finish the introductions.”
In response to the confused expression from Sowmin, Kale tapped his broadsword, a smile playing on his face.
“This here,” he started, tapping the blade again “is Gregor.”
As Kale finished, a force exploded outward from him, or rather the sword. Sowmin was pushed away a good five feet.
Most of the others surrounding Kale were too stunned by this to move.
“Was that…”one of the men stammered, “Magic?”
“This kid can do that?”
“Rush him!” another shouted and five of the braver surged forward.
The first to get within Kale’s reach found a boot in his face. As he fell backwards, Kale continued that leg’s motion, bringing it towards the ground swiftly and hooking it around the back of the next goon’s leg.
The man fell and Kale dropped with him, slamming his other leg onto his chest.
Kale slashed the front of another’s ankles with his blade and stood back up, breathing a little heavy.
The rest of the men were eyeing him with a nervous air. Where was Sowmin?
Kale leapt to the side just to avoid being speared in the back.
His right side under his arm was bleeding though. Kale chuckled nervously to his attacker.
“Looks like you got me there.” Kale stated redundantly.
Sowmin pointed his spear at the Lockey and grinned.
Kale spat to his right side and glared at Sowmin seriously. The spear was suddenly struck by a powerful blow, knocking it downward. Then again, knocking it skyward.
Sowmin stared at the attacking Kale with an odd expression. He managed to keep a grip on his weapon until the third blow sent it to the side, flying into a tree.
Sowmin’s expression didn’t change as a part of his ear was chipped away or even when his leg was slashed shallowly, forcing him to his knees.
What just happened? His eyes seemed to ask.
Kale drove the blade into the ground right in front of his ambusher and leaned on it, over the man, a pleasant, dangerous grin playing over his expression.
“Now see hear, Kento.” Kale said, pointing at the injury on his torso “That’s a pain, but not too much of a problem. But you’re an ass.”
He punched the man in the nose, breaking it for what looked like the fifth time in his life. Kale pulled the stunned Sowmin back up by his dirty collar. Kale now pointed up to the sky. Clouds were now heavy and the air was thick with a oppressive chill.
“That there is a problem.” Kale dropped Sowmin and slammed his fist into the face of one of Sowmin’s men, dumb enough to think he could get the drop on Kale. The man was out cold before he hit the ground.
Kale pulled Sowmin back up by the collar. “You’re also pathetic. You’ve wasted valuable time for me. I might not get to the next town down the road before the next blizzard hits. Now, I’ve left you all intact so pick yourselves up and crawl back down into whatever hole you crawled out of.” There Kale picked up the spaced leader and slapped him once or twice until he stood on his own.
Kale then led him over to his men and motioned carrying them back.
When Sowmin seemed to wake up enough to stare indignantly at Kale for all this, Kale walked off down the road.
“Don’t look so down and outs!” Kale called out over his shoulder. “With any luck, I’ll die in this blizzard!”
With that, he let out a sharp bark of laughter at his own joke and sheathed his sword, Gregor, and waved a hand over his shoulder.
Kale grinned grimly as a gust of wind seemed to blow right through his thick cloak.
Sowmin was carrying one of his men when he turned again to glare at the retreating figure in the distance. He glanced up at the sky and then back at the lone cloaked figure. He continued onward with a smug grin.
I Reject Your Reality and Substitute in My Own!
OwO you know i havent even got to reading this again from where i stopped ._.
READ IT KOKO-CHAN!
lol I think it's funny how this group's basically a mini TDDUP >w<
The two groups should be affiliates XD
Its funny how LoL here kinda just became a conference room
That works perfectly ^___^
Not only is my story decent, but it's helpful too!
I KOMMANDETH THEE!
I Reject Your Reality and Substitute in My Own!