Unpleasant News

 A bedraggled, unkempt man in great need of a wash and a wardrobe watched the city gate from the shadows of a nearby building.  Jaim was a quiet man, unemployed and quite lazy, always looking to earn coin for a drink without putting forth much physical effort to do so.   He scratched aimlessly at his dirty head, curious to see why the alarm had sounded minutes ago.  It wasn’t unusual for there to be a disturbance at the gates during these dark times, he knew, but as in any other day, it came in quite handy to know who was coming and going from the city.

It was a single man that caused the stir, he soon noticed.  Despite the rush of support by the guard to the gate, there was no scuffle.  The stranger saluted the captain and rode on by into the city untouched and unopposed, sitting proudly upon his great stallion.   Jaim squinted, trying to get a better look at the man.  He was quite obviously a soldier, most likely a very celebrated one at that.  Even the half-witted Jaim could make out the gleaming red greatsword and realize that it must be of some significance.  Deciding he needed a closer look, he crept around the side of the building he was peeking around and stealthily strolled into a better position at a nearby (currently empty) merchant stall.  Jaim did not like wandering about near the city guard, for they did not have a history of treating drunken sots like him with much respect, or even restraint.

As Jaim got a good look at the rider, something about the man stirred a memory down deep, one that may have been more than a bit damaged by years of alcohol indulgence.  The man, orwarrioractually seemed to be a better description, wore a foreign suit of armor that was scuffed yet still very serviceable.  It was silver in hue, yet it shone gold as the light reflected off of it, displaying an almost magical quality.  The man himself was quite well constructed, although a bit aged one would certainly not doubt his prowess in battle, at least not while he wielded such a weapon and rode on such a warhorse.   But there was one thing about the man that brought Jaim’s fractured memories into coherence clearly, if but for a moment.  The warrior turned and looked in the unkempt mans direction, and they locked eyes for a moment.  As Jaim gazed into the man’s unique pale green eyes, he whispered one word to himself, in shock and awe.

“Steelspine.”

 

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Jarron did not hear the homeless man speak, and did not give the encounter much thought.  He was lost in his own troubles, his own questions about his people and kingdom to worry about a drunk stumbling around just inside the city gates.

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 Jaim hurried through the city’s maze of alleyways as quickly as his impaired old body would let him, half limping and half running the whole way.  It was not far to his master’s home, although the journey did leave him panting and wheezing quite violently.  Jaim stopped short at the door of his master’s guild house, leaning heavily on its doorframe and allowing a coughing fit to consume him momentarily.  He spat green phlegm onto the ground, cursing his health through his labored breathing.

He entered the building, nodding at the two guards posted just inside.  They frowned in disgust at Jaim, but let him pass nonetheless.  He continued up the hallway, ignoring their expressions, intent only on finding his master and earning a bit of coin with his newfound information.  A few hurried turns through the guild house’s well decorated halls and one twisted staircase later, Jaim burst into the study of his master, throwing the heavy wooden door open violently.

The mage Amr Launfel sat up from his book with a start with a look of surprise painted on his peaked face.  It was a look that quickly transformed to one of indignation and anger.

“Jaim, you blundering idiot!  If I so much as smudge a syllable of this bloody spell-”

“But master, I bring you urgent n-news…  Th-there is a man returned t-to the city, Steelspine, sure as I stand here, M-master!”  Jaim stuttered wildly, suddenly no longer worried about his coin, but that his information might be enough to make his master forget about his foolish entrance.  It was a grand study, full of the rarest of spellbooks and librams of great historical significance.  Jaim was rarely allowed to enter, much less to do so unbidden. 

Amr looked thoughtfully at the pathetic old drunk, contemplating that the sad old man may have finally outlived his usefulness.  It was sad really, Amr thought, Jaim really was quite good at being an unsuspected pair of eyes and ears around the city.

“You seem to have started drinking a bit early today, Jaim.  Where did you find the silver this time?  Rob another child on the way to the market?”

“’Tis true, master!  Forgive m-me for intruding, I thought it…important news…”  Jaim was becoming more and more uncomfortable as the moments passed, wishing for a stiff drink and anywhere else to be.

Amr sneered at the old man and rubbed his own bony fingers together, wondering what he would do with this silly old sod.  He arranged his red flowing robe about himself and sighed.  Arching his eyebrows, he decided to entertain Jaims notion for a bit longer.

“So Jarron Steelspine has returned to us has he?  What, pray tell, does our hero look like these days?  Does his gut rest upon his horses head as it hobbles in to rescue our fair city?”

“H-he bears a red, almost glowing greatsword that looks as if it could c-cleave a man in two, and rides a demon warhorse that c-could well have been spawned in the underworld,” Jaim spouted.  Amr opened his mouth and raised a hand, but Jaim kept speaking. “And his eyes, j-just as I saw themyearsago Master, a pale gray, haunting, the kind that bore straight into your soul!”

Amr sat silently for a few long moments.  He considered casting a spell to wrench the sure truth from Jaim, but his last few words had convinced the mage almost entirely. The man was not crazy just yet.  Perhaps Jarron Mirdraeg did return to Kennaret.  It was certainly not a possibility he could ignore.

“Master, if I may-” Jaim began.

“That is enough from you today, drunk.  Be gone from my presence.”  Amr produced a gold coin and flung it at the old man.

Jaim dropped the coin and scrabbled at it on the floor, both in a hurry to go find a drink and be out of the way of the obviously upset mage.  He was quite thankful to escape with his life and a treasure of gold, enough to buy him a week of oblivion in a bottle.

Amr sat quietly for a few moments after Jaims hurried departure.  He was weighing his options, considering this new development.  He fiddled with the folds of his red finely stitched red robe, his eyes furrowed in thought and worry.  The mage stood and paced about near his desk for a bit, searching about with his beady black eyes as if looking for some sort of answer in his room.  He was a very thin man, and always looked as if he were savoring a sour candy.  This time was no different.  Suddenly he roared in anger and cleared his desk of books and trinkets violently.

“He will be visiting the king, undoubtedly,” Amr said to himself. “I suppose I should be there to mediate such a meeting.”  He looked over to his golden ringed magical mirror, fear lightly touching his heart. Master will be livid when he learns of this development,he thought. Amr knew that how he dealt with this situation would greatly affect his future.

                                               

The End

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