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Of Swords and Sons


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#21 Quibby

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Posted 18 April 2012 - 01:53 PM

Mehrin ignored the crowd that had gathered to watch him and Dreyik spar. Instead, he retrieved his leather tankard from his belongings and poured a mugful of water over himself, then drank another. With that done, he finally scanned the crowd. There, in the back, was Rodan. He had obviously caught part of the sparring session, and he was making his way after Dreyik, probably towards breakfast. Shrugging into his chainmail shirt, Mehrin followed after the pair.

Breakfast was a light affair- a little bit of bread and cheese- and Mehrin was grateful for that. He seldom ate large meals during any sort of march, out of a force of habit. People who ate too much moved slower than those who barely ate enough. Mehrin would take any advantage that he could in a fight. Mehrin pursued Dreyik and Rodan, giving both a nod as he sat down with them. The boy offered no reply. Wonder what I did to irritate him? Mehrin thought as he ate, chewing slowly in order to get as much taste out of the food as he could. The bread was still chewable, and the cheese was actually pretty good. Better than military fare, for certain.

The silence and tension was starting to become unbearable. With a deep sigh, Mehrin turned his attention to the boy. "I have all sorts of fun planned for you today, but first, we need to clear the air between us. I did something to irritate you, and now you're acting like I'm the worst person on this road. Let's start with what I did, then we'll discuss how I can fix it."

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#22 Mystica

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Posted 21 April 2012 - 12:35 PM

Rodan chewed his lip. He was starting to feel guilty and Dreyik being all courteous and polite to Mehrin didn't help any. "Well," he started and gulped a few times before daring to continue. And then it all came out in a rush. "You fought dirty yesterday! No hero ever does such dishonorable things in battle. All the stories say so. Dreyik thinks you did him kindly, but I think he wants to keep me from disliking you. My da' told me you were a warrior, a true genuin one. Not like them fools come in to town playing at being some hero from the Horn but when they drank too much the innkeeper tossed them out all by himself so that showed they were no such thing as they claimed. My da's never lied to me! He said you were genuin but no true warrior would do such dishonorable things as you did to Dreyik. And I want to learn but I don't no want to be dishonorable! I know fights are ugly enough without adding that to it. I'm not completely idiotic as some may think!" By the time he stopped to take a breath tears started to run down his cheek to his horror and he slapped his face trying to get rid of them. He couldn't explain with words all the things that had gone through his mind and the brighter mood he'd had earlier all went crashing down again hearing his own voice speak the rambling he's launched at Mehrin. Angry with himself for not being able to say what he meant and anxious of saying more lest he'd start bawling in truth, he pressed his lips shut.

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#23 Quibby

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Posted 21 April 2012 - 08:09 PM

"Oh. That 'honor' thing again..." Shaking his head, Mehrin made a point to ignore the sudden burst of emotion from Rodan. It always came down to honor. Mehrin remembered the stories himself. Stories of Gaidal Cain and his flashing blades, of Jearom, the greatest swordsman who ever lived. Mehrin remembered the stories of their honor in battle, how they fought valiantly and chivalrously. As a child, Mehrin knew to cheer for them in the stories, because their cause was always just and right.

Years of fighting on the front lines had pounded the notion of 'honor' out of Mehrin.

Mehrin took a deep breath, then said, "Look at me, boy, and listen carefully." Mehrin gave Rodan a moment to collect himself as he tried to put what he was thinking into words. Fighting is so much easier than this.

"I can teach you to fight." After a moment's hesitation, Mehrin added, "Probably." Moving along quickly now... "I can help you learn how to stand, how to move, how to swing a sword. What I cannot teach you is when to swing a sword. That is a lesson you have to learn yourself. I also cannot teach you honor." Leaning back against a wagon wheel, Mehrin let those words hang in the air between him and Rodan. "Pay attention, because this is probably the most important lesson I can teach you. 'Honor' is an idea, and that idea is different from person to person." Gesturing to Dreyik, Mehrin continued, "Master Dreyik will have a completely different idea of honor than you will have, and you will have a very different idea of honor than the merchant guard."

A grim smile crossed Mehrin's face for a moment. "As for me, well... I believe that duels are the place where honor belongs, and then only if I am not involved." The next smile to cross Mehrin's face was somewhat sad. "I can't teach you honor because I fight with practicality. In the melee, you don't hesitate, otherwise you die. I've seen men who never had the chance to learn that lesson." Locking his eyes with Rodan's, Mehrin continued. "My methods may not seem honorable, but they are effective. However, if you feel that my actions are wrong, that I am wrong, then learn. Become a better man than me." Quietly, Mehrin added, "It won't be very difficult."

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#24 Mystica

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Posted 22 April 2012 - 11:32 AM

Rodan looked at Mehrin and listened and gradually the muscles in his face and neck relaxed and he heard the pain behind the words as Mehrin explained what he could and could not teach him. He wanted to learn to fight. He wanted to be an honorable man. But Mehrin just said he can only teach him how to fight. Maybe. Whatever that means, he thought sourly. He didn't understand why the man couldn't teach him both. His name alone made grown man stand up straighter, puffing their chest out like he did when his da' inspected him when they went to some noble's house to see if he was properly attired and groomed. He'd seen how the men reacted at the slightest look from Mehrin. There was fear, yes. But there was respect too. Surely they wouldn't respect a dishonorable man? They might be rough and not too highly bred, but then neither were he and his da'. Low born folks could still have high principles, his da' always said and Rodan's seen it more 'n once in his young life.

But Mehrin's voice didn't allow for any discussion on the topic, so Rodan swallowed his objections and nodded. Taking a deep breath, the boy opened his mouth to tell the man he understand but instead what came out was...

"Maybe you can teach me more than you realise."

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#25 Quibby

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Posted 24 April 2012 - 12:09 PM

"If I can teach you to avoid tripping on blades of grass, I will consider that a success," Mehrin said lightly. Then, with an evil grin, Mehrin continued. "Now, as to your work for today, you are going to be riding one of the wagons. I want you to stand at the back of the wagon, facing forward, and continue standing until noon. Every time you fall, you will run laps around the caravan, then start again. Then, at noon, you will be loaded down with weighted packs, and I will expect you to walk at the head of the caravan with me until we stop for the night. I'd enjoy your rest for now. Today will be unpleasant for you..."

********

Two weeks passed with very little variation. Each morning, Mehrin would do his exercises, then he would spar with Dreyik. Rodan would spend the first part of the day standing in the back of a wagon, and the rest of the day training his endurance. Mehrin was actually impressed with the boy's progress in both. His balance had improved markedly, and he was able to manage the long walk with the weight on his shoulders. He never seemed to become stronger at the walking aspect, but that was probably due to the weight increases that Mehrin had been making. At night, it was weapons training. It was here that Rodan's abilities were slower to respond. The boy had figured out how to stand and how to hold the weapon, but his attacks were still clumsy and he could put up no real defense against even the most basic attacks. Still, the boy kept working, and that was all that Mehrin could ask for.

On the twenty-first day of the journey, the caravan was scouted.

Mehrin was providing encouragement to Rodan, mostly in the form of taunts and typical drill-sergeant insults, when he noticed a poor man walking past the caravan. It was not uncommon to see pedestrians on the road, so Mehrin nearly dismissed the man, but he was always incredibly intent on the contents of each wagon he passed. He was also counting the guards, though that was not difficult to do. The three regular guards, Dreyik, and Mehrin. Not the most threatening number of people, Mehrin knew. Soon, the walker was beyond the caravan and disappearing into the distance. When he was out of sight, Mehrin said to Rodan, "Boy, lesson is done for the day. Take off the weights and stay in the middle of the caravan." The boy made as if to protest, but Mehrin swept past him and walked back among the wagons. "We've just been surveyed by a scout of some kind," he told each of the three guards. "Make sure you're ready to fight; I'll bet my life that we will be met by some bandits in the near future."

Dropping further back in the caravan, Mehrin found Dreyik. "Make sure you're ready. We'll be seeing action soon. I want you to stay with the rest of the guards, if it comes to trouble. They could use an extra hand."

Mehrin walked back up the caravan line and hopped into the back of the wagon with his gear. Out of his bag he pulled a leather armband with a sheathed knife attached to one side and a narrow steel plate attached to the other side. He buckled it around his left arm so that both the knife and the plate ran the length of his arm. He then buckled a second knife onto his belt. One lesson he had learned quickly was that one could never have too many knives. Finally, he donned a pair of fingerless gloves. They did not look like much, but the knuckles on each glove were loaded with lead pellets.

It was never a good idea to give Mehrin the chance to prepare for a fight.

True to Mehrin's suspicions, the ambush came an hour later. Five men stood in the road, four near the front, with the fifth standing further away. Mehrin immediately tagged him as the leader. Movement in his peripheral vision suggested at least two more on the sides of the road. Mehrin also assumed at least three more near the back of the caravan. That meant ten total bandits. There was some good fortune to be seen, though. None of the bandits that Mehrin could see were heavily armored, though they all carried swords. The leader had a shield, too. He was also wearing some halfway-decent ring mail.

"I won't waste my breath taunting you, so let's keep this short. Surrender the caravan, and you all walk away from this alive." The bandit leader's voice sounded lazy, like he had given this speech several times. He sounded as if he expected the order to be obeyed.

Mehrin muttered, "Aw, hell..."

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#26 Zander Kinslayer

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Posted 25 April 2012 - 01:37 AM

The past few weeks had gone by uneventful except for training. Get up and spar with Mehrin, Dreyik was beginning to learn a lot from the man. Each day they spared Dreyik was leaving less and less holes in his defenses and could go a little longer then before with Mehrin before he was hit or knocked down. The man certainly knew how to get the best out of people. Dreyik was also extremely impressed even proud of Rodan as well. He was starting to pick up on Master Mehrin's instructions. His strength and balance were improving vastly. His weapons work still were lacking but the boy is still getting a little better then before. Dreyik had always gave encouragement and advice to the boy as often as he could and tried to explain to him about the "honor" of fighting and was glad that Rodan seemed to understand somewhat and the awe he had for Mehrin was being replaced.

As they were marching Dreyik noticed the man walking by the caravan and it seemed that he was very interested in it and its members. Perhaps he was hungry and just wondering if he could grab some food and run but something was tugging at Dreyik's senses. This was confirmed as Mehrin slipped back to the guards and then Dreyik himself and said. "Make sure you're ready. We'll be seeing action soon. I want you to stay with the rest of the guards, if it comes to trouble. They could use an extra hand." An hour or so later Mehrin;s suspicions were confirmed. Surveying around them Dreyik counted ten bandits, they were outnumbered 2 to 1 and were completely surrounded it. 5 at the front 3 behind and 1 to each side. Dreyik walked up to the three guards and spoke to them. "Do nothing until were attacked or Master Mehrin gives the signal. One of you to each side and the other in the center to protect Rodan or assist if needed. If engaged and you take out your opponent head to wear help is needed. "Master Rodan," Dreyik said quietly and much more calmly then he felt, "Stay up there like Master Mehrin told you and be careful." He could see the boys tumult of emotions, fear, excitement, worry and anticipation, But must of all if Dreyik was right was that he though scared wanted to help to be brave like the men. "We could use your help though my boy, if you see anymore that we haven't noticed yet call out and let us know which way as well let us know if one of us falls or gets hurt. Can you help us out Rodan?" He noticed a slight gleam in his eye, he wanted what most all boys wanted around a group of older men...to fit in, to be a part of and if things did go bad though Dreyik was very confident Master Mehrin would no matter what be able to get Rodan to safety.

Dreyik watched as everyone began to take their positions. Mehrin at the front where his 5 opponents waited, the guards one to each side and one in the middle and Dreyik took his usual position at the flank against the last 3. Not an ideal setup but it was the best he could come up with unless Mehrin had another plan. Then one of the bandits spoke, Dreyik assumed it was their leader "I won't waste my breath taunting you, so let's keep this short. Surrender the caravan, and you all walk away from this alive." Dreyik crouched down and rubbed some dirt into his hands and grasped his Bladed Quarterstaff and planted his feet quickly surveying the area around him for things he could use to his advantage. Anticipation was causing his heart to start to beat faster in his chest. This wasn`t his first combat encounter but it was the same thing every time for him. Dreyik slid his foot into some dirt so it would balance there, speaking silently to himself he repeated what he had said before to Rodan, `Staying alive and protecting your comrades is the most important things you can do in battle.`` Against the odds well all`s fair in love and war right...

Dreyik waited for Mehrin`s instruction or to be attacked...may the creator watch over us all especially the boy he thought....
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#27 Mystica

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Posted 30 April 2012 - 12:57 AM

The first week Rodan woke up each morning with every inch of his body feeling broken and stiff as a board. His legs groaned, his armed whined, his back growled and his head cursed. The talk with Mehrin had put the boy's worries to rest, somewhat, and he was back to being the happy-go-lucky kid he'd been before all be it with a bit more trepedation whenever Mehrin showed a hint of a smile. Rodan had learned that smile never meant much good for him. Stand here, run there, carry this, hold that. 't Was a good thing Rodan was an easy going lad, for less tolerant boys might have balked at it. Though Rodan wouldn't want to know what Mehrin would do with balking boys. He wasn't too kind on the ones that did all he told them already. The sword training was particularly painfull to Rodan. More so to his pride than his body, with all the guards looking and Mehrin throwing insult and taunts at him at every turn. Don't you know straight from crooked, boy? Put your feet on the ground! You're no raven! If you wanted to learn to dance, kid, you should have told me. I can always fetch you a nice little dress. On and on the taunts came and on and on Rodan suffered from the sniggers and sometimes outright laughters from the guards. Who by then had learned Mehrin didn't mind them laughing. Probably some fool notion of motivating him. How one's to be motivated through being humiliated, Rodan would never understand. He would learn though, if it killed him, which it probably would.

Then, something wonderful happened. The first day of the second week, his legs, arms and back didn't complain when he woke up. They didn't complain when he stood on the back of the wagon and they merely sighed when he went to pick up the pack he'd be carrying while walking next to Mehrin. His smile returned in full then, chest puffed out and head high he felt the world was his! Oh yeah! Look at him! Not long in to the walk though, his arms would start to groan, his back mumble but his legs kept quiet. There was something fishy about these packs, he thought. They always felt heavier. Probably the non-stop training. But then why didn't his legs complain anymore? The walks were endless, silent and uneventfull, Mehrin not being much of a talker and Dreyik bringing up the rear. So Rodan had hours and hours of time to think about these mysteries. When he'd asked Mehrin how come the packs felt heavier, the man just grunted something about that being normal. Rodan was too happy with his progress to be bothered too much and lumbered on. A damp on his happiness was still the sword training though. He didn't turn quite as red anymore at the laughter of the men and became ever more determined not to let Mehrin's taunts get to him. His face grew ever more determined, eyes focussed, every muscle in his body tense. He would not back down! Stupid way of motivating someone, this was!

One day, a man walked by that Rodan barely noticed. Men walked by regularly, as did wagons, so why would this one be any different? And yet, suddenly Mehrin started giving out instructions, expecting an ambush. Rodan didn't understand what the man had seen that would have him on the alert. So the poor man looked at the wagons. People get curious, don't they? Nevertheless, Rodan didn't fail to notice the immediate tension in their group and had to battle down his nerves as Mehrin gave him his instructions. Stay in the middle with the carts? What had he been training for? Chopping wood? He wanted to help! He saw Dreyik ready the guards, each man walking purposefully and with an air of knowing what they're about, none more so than Mehrin, and Rodan swallowed his fear and started to get the idea of helping out! He'd be damned if he'd let them do this alone. Dreyik came to him and before long Rodan was in charge of making sure the men knew what was happening during the fight. His task was to be the eyes and ears for all of them so the enemy couldn't take them unawares. A long dagger, not quite a sword, lay in the back of the cart and Rodan took it. Dreyik, however, told him to put it down, explaining that if they saw him armed he was more likely to get killed. That didn't make much sense to Rodan though. It seemed to him that if they saw him unarmed, the chances of him ending up with a pointy in his belly seemed much more likely. But, by then he'd learned to do as he was told so he put it down.

The enemy turned out to be rogues, five of them that he could see. Mehrin looked splendid in his outfit and Rodan couldn't help but notice the other guards looked pretty impressive too. They weren't going to let these thugs have their stuff and that was that. The boy felt a sudden surge of affection for each one, forgotten was the times they'd laughed at him during practice.

He'd not let them down!

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#28 Quibby

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Posted 30 April 2012 - 07:20 PM

Mehrin gave the four men nearest to him a calculating look, then turned his back to them, checking on the others. Dreyik and the other three guards were formed in a basic formation, the wagon drivers were pulling out their cudgels, but they appeared to be near the breaking point for nerves. Mehrin also got a better count of the opponents. His guess was off by four. There were three men on each side of the road, coupled with the three to the rear and the five to the front meant a total of fourteen bandits. And standing straight up in the middle of the caravan was Rodan, looking on in fascination. Dammit, boy, if there are archers in this bunch, you're going to be several kinds of dead! Mehrin thought, but he said nothing.

The crunching of gravel alerted Mehrin to the approaching bandits. Turning with forced leisure, Mehrin stared down the four, stopping them just a pace away from him. They were eying him with an unhidden spark of violence in their eyes. All but the one, who was looking at him with a mix of curiosity and fear. That one may just survive this, he thought. "You caught me on a good day," Mehrin said, looking past the four men in front of him towards the leader. "I'm going to give you one chance to walk away." Raising his voice, Mehrin added, "That goes for the rest of you, too. Walk away, and I will let you leave. Any who stay, though, will die."

There was some rustling to Mehrin's sides, and he turned to see that two men had parted from his left side, and one from his right. Back down to eleven. More manageable. The thought was not a hopeful one, though.

Mehrin was preparing himself to be injured.

After a moment of silence, with rage apparent on his face, the leader shouted, "Kill them!" Before the man had finished, though, Mehrin was already moving. With a smooth motion, Mehrin raised his arms parallel to the ground and took the dagger on his left arm in his right hand. Then, with the motion of drawing the dagger, Mehrin drove his right elbow into the face of the man to his right. Allowing his arm to bounce, Mehrin then drove the knife into the throat of the man on his left. When the blade stopped, Mehrin pulled it rapidly from the man's neck in a wide arc, opening the throat of the man directly in front of him. A heavy spurt of blood struck Mehrin from his chest to his face, and the two knifed men collapsed, bleeding their lives into the road.

A silence covered the scene, broken only by the bubbling chokes coming from the two men on the ground. The third man was shaking his head, trying to clear his mind enough to use the sword he held. The curious man was ashen-faced, as if he was about to throw up. Ignoring him, Mehrin threw the dagger aside and reached for his flamberge. The large sword rang against Mehrin's chain mail as he drew it across his back, and a cold smile came to Mehrin's face. With a wild roar, Mehrin feinted forward, then charged to his right, knocking the two survivors to the ground as he ran.

All of this occurred in less than five seconds.

An arrow struck the ground near Mehrin's foot as he charged up the hill, and another bounced off the chain mail on his chest. The men on either side of the road were archers, then. Behind him, Mehrin could hear the sounds of combat; Dreyik and the guards had engaged the bandits, then. He also heard screams of pain. The wagon drivers were being attacked, then. Probably by the other archer; Mehrin had not been shot at from behind again. Not important. Coming up on the archers, Mehrin smiled grimly.

The first arrow struck less than a second later.

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#29 Zander Kinslayer

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Posted 01 May 2012 - 01:04 PM

"You caught me on a good day," "I'm going to give you one chance to walk away." Raising his voice, Mehrin added, "That goes for the rest of you, too. Walk away, and I will let you leave. Any who stay, though, will die." There was no mistaking the confidence and malice in Mehrin`s voice. He was a man that when he spoke he excepted to be obeyed. The three men from the rear began their approach. Dreyik heard commotion from the front of the caravan and knew Mehrin had already engaged. As soon as the men were about 4 feet away, out of range for their short swords but not for Dreyik`s Bladed Quarterstaff he kicked up the dirt from the top of his boot and launched to an attack trying to take advantage of his momentary surprise and reach. Sweeping his Staff low to high looking at the bandit in the center Dreyik switched his grip on the staff and pivoted off his back foot and reversed the swing and drove his blade of his staff into the bandit on the left`s chest and yanked it back out so he kept the other two from his sides and flank. This was something he had tried against Mehrin in sparring but to no avail but he could tell these men were not on Mehrin`s level.

Setting his feet he prepared for the 2 attackers to come to him and prepared a defensive stance as they attacked. Dreyik went threw the motions of defending himself as second nature. Dreyik had been accounted as a pretty good fighter but since he joined with Mehrin he truly learned how to defend himself as it was the best he could do against the seasoned warrior. The assault had been going on for what seemed like a long time but in reality only a few moments. One of the bandits swords had passed though and cut across Dreyik`s left arm drawing blood. Not a major wound but one that would drain him away sooner rather than later. Dreyik knew that he had to get on the offensive or the two would pick away at him and he would die.

Dreyik knew he had to move fast. Dreyik closed a close grip on his blade and as the men attacked he knocked both blades up with his staff and followed that up with a straight kick to the attacker on his left`s nose with all the strength he had and he heard a gross crunching sound and the men`s eyes crossed as he crumbled to the ground. And instinctively he brought his bladed sweeping behind him to block a stab from the other bandit but instead of stabbing the man opened a slice across Dreyik`s back and if not for Dreyik`s leather armor that would have felled him right there. Grimacing in pain Dreyik swung around to face the last of the men.

Feeling the blood flow down both his arm and back Dreyik knew he was almost spent. He circled with the last man and as the circled he seen the archer`s on the sides and Mehrin charging as if possessed at one of them. ``Rodan get down!!` Dreyik roared at the boy and could see him holding what appeared to be a dagger in his hands. Rodan`s eyes were darting everywhere at once and Dreyik heard him cry out Archer`s`` and turned to face him. At that point the last of the three rushed Dreyik and they engaged. Dreyik was getting tired but his heart pounding and adrenaline pumping he fought back the bladed quarterstaff becoming a blur but the last men was good and Dreyik was weakening as each second passed from the loss of blood. ``Dreyik step back!`` he heard Rodan`s voice cry out and instinctively he brought his staff up in an arching motion in front of him he lunged backwards. Then from the corner of his eye he watched a dagger flying through the air in a wobbled motion and the butt end caught the bandit in the shoulder and he swung his head quickly in the direction on which it came, and that was the opening Dreyik needed as he thrust the staff into the man``s throat and pulled it free watching him drop to the ground and Dreyik staggered to one knee he noticed the man he had kicked moving sluggishly on the ground and he drove his elbow into the mans throat as hard as he could, feeling his windpipe break. Dreyik was in pain but he knew he had to continue on...he also knew Rodan had quite possibly saved his life.

He crouched behind the caravan and began to survey the area to see how everyone else had made out, and called out to Rodan..Thanks my boy now get down now!!!!
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#30 Quibby

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Posted 06 May 2012 - 08:10 PM

The arrow cut across Mehrin's left arm, leaving a long line of pain from bicep to wrist. Mehrin forced a smile; it was a painful hit, but not a debilitating one. An arrow through his arm would make combat into an exercise of blinding pain. He had fought under such circumstances before, but such an injury always meant more injuries to follow. Focus!

A pair of archers on a low hill were worse than useless with a melee combatant in their midst. Mehrin stepped into his first swing, an upward sweeping strike that left the unfortunate archer working desperately to hold himself together. He collapsed, his belly opened for the world to see. The second archer managed to get a shot off at Mehrin, striking him in the chest. At close range, the arrowhead managed to pierce skin through the chain mail shirt, but it fell away as Mehrin's next swing separated the man's head from his neck.

Mehrin charged across the road to the other archer, he was struck twice more by arrows, each hitting like a hammer blow, each leaving nothing but a sore spot that promised worlds of pain later. As Mehrin approached the final archer, he took one wild shot that flew wide of its intended target, then dropped the bow and ran. Leave him, not a threat. Mehrin quickly cut the bowstring, then turned back to the remaining men on the road.

Though they looked at him with trepidation, Mehrin could tell that the two were ready for a fight. Let's not disappoint them, then, he thought. Again, Mehrin charged. The more cautious of the two backpedaled, but the other met Mehrin's charge with a downward strike. It met Mehrin's flamberge with a loud ring, and both men stepped back and began to circle. Two men, both in front of me. If they have any knowledge of tactics, the second will fall behind me and-

"Enough!" The shout brought Mehrin and the two bandits out of their circle of death and drew their eyes towards the center of the caravan, to the leader of the gang. "Anybody makes a move towards me, and the boy dies." With a sinking feeling in his chest, Mehrin looked at the man. Looked at Rodan. He was being held by his hair, a dagger pressed against his throat. Mehrin could see a small trace of blood from where he stood. "Lokal, Gerran! Come here." The two surviving bandits walked cautiously towards their leader. As they passed, one swung his sword at Mehrin, who sidestepped far enough to get only a grazing cut across his thigh.

When the two had joined their master, he said, "All right. You two, watch them. Tell me if anyone moves."

"This doesn't have to end badly," Mehrin said, taking a few steps forward. "Look." Holding out his arm, Mehrin dropped the flamberge, which struck the ground with a loud clang. "I've dropped my weapon. Let's talk about this." A few more feet...

"Stop!" Mehrin froze. "That's better. Now, let me tell you how this is going to work."

"Very well," Mehrin replied.

"I am going to take this-" the leader wrenched Rodan's hair, and the boy yelped in pain- "with me, and we are going to leave the road." Nodding at Mehrin, the man continued, "You will take a portion of your goods off the wagons and leave them by the road. Make it a good portion, or you will only find pieces of this boy from here to Fal Dara."

Unconsciously, Mehrin took several steps forward, blind rage overcoming his senses. He had lost his daughter. She had been kidnapped, and as far as Mehrin knew, his daughter was spread from Altara to Fal Dara. I lost her. I'm not going to let this... this bastard do the same thing to someone else! Another pained cry stopped Mehrin in his tracks.

"That's close enough, big man!"

Mehrin eyed the other man, then examined the ground between them. Looking back up, Mehrin met the bandit's eyes and said, "You're right."

"What are you talking about, big man?" the bandit asked, confused.

"I feel that we failed to properly get to know each other," Mehrin replied. "After all, we're supposed to share with you." A quiet thump on the ground caused the man to look down at Mehrin's feet. A coil of leather was on the ground, the last few feet shining in the sunlight. "Pleased to meet you. My name is Mehrin."

The bandit leader looked at Mehrin in confusion, as did one of the two surviving bandits. The third, though, seemed to collapse in on himself. Mehrin could hear the man muttering, "Oh, Light... Light save me..."

After a moment, the leader said, "And what is that supposed to mean?"

"It means," Mehrin replied, "that you were right. I am close enough." With that, Mehrin struck. The bullwhip is rarely convenient for combat, but in the hands of a master, a bullwhip can become a more terrible weapon than a sword. The whip cracked the air in front of the leader's face, drawing a spray of blood. Immediately, the man dropped the dagger and fell to his knees, screaming and clutching the right side of his face, where his eye used to be. A dark part of Mehrin reveled in the sound of men screaming, and a cold smile came to Mehrin's face. With a purposeful stride, Mehrin moved forward. The only bandit that was still a threat was still staring in shock at the screaming man. Again, Mehrin flicked the whip, and it coiled around the man's throat. Immediately stepping back, Mehrin pulled back on the whip, dragging it off the man's neck. The small razors embedded in the woven leather proceeded to tear out the man's throat. The last bandit collapsed to his knees, any trace of fight left in him gone, leaving him as empty as his bladder had become.

With a slow stride, Mehrin approached the boy and the bandit. Lifting Rodan to his feet, he said, "Go find Drayik. Don't look back."

When the boy had gone a few steps, Mehrin knelt next to the still-screaming man. "You could have let this go. You brought this on yourself. Worse, you threatened the boy. Too bad you'll never learn from this." With that, Mehrin drew a knife from his belt and rolled the man on his back. Placing the point of the knife at the base of the man's skull, Mehrin said to the screaming man, "Tell whatever greets you on the other side that Mehrin Deathwatch sends his greetings." It took only one quick push of the dagger, and the man abruptly stopped screaming.

Mehrin stood and moved next to the last survivor. Seizing him by the throat, Mehrin lifted him into the air and glared into his panicky eyes. "As for you. You know who I am. You know what I can do and what I'm willing to do." With an upward push, Mehrin threw the man off to the side of the road. "Find a new job."

For a moment, the only sound that could be heard was running. In the ensuing silence, Mehrin moved his gaze around the road. The three at the back of the caravan had been dispatched handily, it seemed. The two from the front had finally stopped kicking. Mehrin's gaze came to rest on the leader, and another cold smile spread over his face. That had felt good. He only hoped it would feel that good when he finally-

The mental barriers broke down, and the pain overwhelmed him. He had been shot at least six times, and it felt like two had actually pierced skin. The rest made him feel like he had been beaten in the chest and belly with clubs. His left arm was an inferno of pain, and his left leg was trembling from the pain of the cut there. I must look a sight, Mehrin thought. Face and chest covered with some poor bastard's blood, arm and leg bleeding messily. With that, Mehrin limped back to the wagon where he kept his things. Stripping his shirt and trousers, Mehrin sat in his smallclothes and dug aroundt in his bag until he found his medical supplies: a large needle, bandages, thread, and a bottle of triple-distilled brandy. Without looking up, Mehrin called, "Rodan! Next lesson over here. Now you learn how to treat basic injuries."

WARNING: HAS BEEN KNOWN TO BITE

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#31 Mystica

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Posted 12 May 2012 - 01:29 AM

Rodan stood bewildered in the middle of the group, watching in horror as more and more bandits appeared to the side and the rear of their wagons. The wagon drivers were swallowing deeply and repeatedly, clutching cudgels while trying to look menacing but Rodan couldn't help think that they looked scared. He didn't blame them. They were clearly outnumbered. By a fair bit. Dreyik and the guards stood with their backs to him, encircling part of the rear and sides, but it was obvious that they wouldn't be able to see all of the bandits. The importance of the task given to him by Dreyik rose in the boy's mind and he gulped. He wouldn't let them down! But, Light, he didn't want to die either. Shame filled him for that thought but it wouldn't go away. Vaguely he heard Mehrin's voice, as though a mist had formed in his ears. The same mist that was forming in front of his eyes. He looked up. Clear sky. Where did that mist come from? He rubbed his eyes and looked in puzzlement at the dampness that glittered at the back of his hands when they came away from them. Definately mist, he thought. And then it began.

They came from all sides with archers to the sides. Rodan tried to look everywhere at once, shouting directions and alarms to the guards. He ignored Mehrin, who seemed to be quite capable of taking care of himself without any help. Though the boy did wonder how the man kept his feet under him with all them arrows using him for a pin cushion. A scream to his left made him swirl around in time to see one of the wagon drivers topple from his seat, blood spurting from one of the main arteries in his neck. The bandit looked at Rodan, a grin on his face when he saw himself confronting such easy a target. The grin froze suddenly and the head of one of the guards emerged behind the bandit as he slowely collapsed. "Stay in the midde, Master Rodan" the guard said while turning and already choosing another target to engage. Rodan remembered his task and turned just in time to see Dreyik engaged in close combat while one of the bandits was sneaking up on him. "Dreyik, step back!" He flung the knife that had found its way back in to his hand towards the foe. It wobbled as it flew and lodged itself in the man's shoulder. Dreyik's reaction was instant and the danger was gone.

Rodan made the rooky mistake. He sighed in relief while battle was still going. Any warrior will tell you, it ain't over till it's over. A sudden jolt of pain shot through his head as hir hair was being manhandled and his head jerked back, the razorsharp edge of a knife pressed against his throat.

"Enough!" the man holding him shouted and there was silence. Nobody moved anymore, except for men dying who were beyond obedience. Rodan looked at Mehrin who stood very still, horrified at the prospect of dying and morbidly fascinated at Mehrin's expression all at the same time. He found himeself hoping the man would show some of his non-so-honorable talents. Stupid thing to think of of course. Mehrin was too far away and the blade in the badit leader's hand was right there. He only need draw it slightly to end Rodan's life. Rodan's eyes opened in unbelieving horror as the two of them started bartering. Bartering! Hello! Knife at my throat! He wanted to shout at Mehrin, but any move his face would make would embed the knife in his flesh and he liked it as it is, thank you very much. So he tried to shot his thoughts at Mehrin through his eyes. Little did he know that his valiant effort only resulted in him looking terrified.

Mehrin moved closer but not close enough. Suddenly a woosh flashed by Rodan's head and the knife was gone. He raised a trembling hand to his throat, to make sure it was still there and looked around at the bandit leader, trashing at the floor. What the... A second woosh sounded and the scream of another man filled the air. The horror in the boy's eyes were now of a different nature. He looked at the man clutching his nack, from which blood was pooring out of numerous wounds. What kind of a whip was that?

Rodan sank through his legs and sat numb on the ground. A few moments later Mehrin was pulling him to his feet and told him to find Dreyik and not to look back. Fool thing to say to a boy, really. They're bound to do exactly what you tell them not to. And so as he moved towards the back of their, now disarrayed, group, he couldn't stop himself from looking back. Just in time to see Mehrin kill the trashing man with a thrust through his throat. He stood frozen. His body turned towards the back, his head locked towards Mehrin, and that's how Dreyik found him.

"Are you alright, boy?" Dreyik asked worried and proceed to prod the boy all over, looking for any wounds. Sighing in relief when he didn't find any.

"He... he killed him." Rodan's voice was flat. Deprived of any emotion. "He just killed him."

"Well of course he killed him," Dreyik replied. "What do you expect he'd do in a situation like this? Ask them for tea?"

"But he was down. Beaten. Defeated. He just... put his knife in him and killed him."

Dreyik surveyed the scene and quickly understood what the boy had seen. Putting his arm around Rodan he gently dislodged the boy from his frozen position. "Rodan, the man was wounded beyond any hope of healing. What Mehrin did was a kindness. He could have left him suffering for a long time and death would still have come. Yes, he killed him. But he also ended his pain."

Suddenly Mehrin's voice rang over the grounds. "Rodan! Next lesson over here. Now you learn how to treat basic injuries."

Rodan looked at Dreyik who nodded encouragingly. With a sigh the boy set off to see what his teacher had in store for him.

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#32 Quibby

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Posted 31 May 2012 - 07:46 AM

The village was in Andor. Mehrin remembered it well. Faces he recalled from nights in the tavern walked past him as he stood, though none seemed to notice him. There had been no major change to the place. "Remember this?"

The smoothness of the voice was well-known to Mehrin, who turned to find his brother watching him. Ayrik Drayven stood with his arms crossed across his chest, clad in rich clothes of silk, a look of amusement on a face that looked too much like Mehrin's for comfort. It was the lack of surprise at seeing him, however, that told Mehrin that he was dreaming. "This village is probably the most important thing to happen to you in recent times, is it not? You fled here to lick your wounds, both physical and mental, after Tanchico. It was here that you forged that over-sized sword of yours. Always seemed like some sort of compensation to me, but if it makes you feel better, who am I to judge?" Mehrin's brow furrowed. There was something... something not right about the dream, but he could not say what. "You also had a nice, cathartic talk with that boy here, did you not? What was his name again?"

"I don't know," Mehrin replied, unable to keep the hate out of his voice. It was only a dream, but what right did his mind have to wear this bastard's face?

The spectre of his brother blinked at that, take off-guard. Immediately, Mehrin felt his mind beginning to revolt, felt the familiar tension of something being wrong. However, the brief moment passed, and Ayrik began to speak again. "Of course you do not remember. Why should the name of another child matter to you? After all, you did not shed a tear when that bandit, well..."

Mehrin felt a tug at his sleeve. Turning, he was met with the gruesome sight of a young teenager, his head split nearly in half. The expression on his barely-readable face screamed of betrayal and agony. "Why did you let this happen? Why did I have to die?" The boy was crying, Mehrin suddenly realized, weeping tears of blood which mingled with the blood, bone fragments, and brain matter slowly oozing from his head.

The sight of the boy did not revolt Mehrin as much as it should have. "I have nothing to feel guilty for here," he said. "He made his decision, and he paid the price for it. His death is not my fault."

Again, Ayrik blinked. This time, the spectre's recovery was much faster. "No, but what about her?"

Behind Ayrik, Drea appeared, then approached him in a slow, seductive walk. "I can see what you saw in her, brother. Beautiful, deadly, a fighter." The image of Drea was replaced with another. This time, she was being restrained by several men. Mehrin could see that some were bleeding from minor wounds. He could also see her face quite clearly. Her eyes were blackened and swollen, her nose broken. A split in her lip oozed blood down across her chin. She looked terrible, but through all of it, he could see a look of resignation and helplessness that sent daggers into his heart. "Yes, she was a fighter. She fought me the every time I had her, and she fought me as I incinerated her from the toes up." Ayrik's face took on a look of mock horror. "You knew that I would find her eventually. Where were you to protect her? Where were you to save her?"

With a yell, Mehrin hurled himself forward, seizing the spectre by the throat. "You bastard. You... you..." Mehrin felt his throat tighten. He also felt his fist tighten. If his throat would not allow him to speak, then he would have to let his fists do the talking. As the first blow came, the spectre managed to gasp, "Enough!"

Everything went black.


The first thing that Mehrin noticed as he bolted awake was the dampness on his cheeks. He had been crying. It had been many years since he had cried, the night that he had finally broken down at Anya's grave. It seems that I can still feel after all, he thought.

************

Mehrin circled the clearing opposite Rodan, a training sword held in his right hand. "Your footwork is improving quite a bit, boy. Well-done." The compliment given, Mehrin approached slowly, then struck with an even slower swing at Rodan's head. The boy responded correctly, angling his blade and deflecting the blow high. He had tried blocking it the first couple times that Mehrin had actually worked the sword with him, and he had been knocked to the ground, stunned, each time. Mehrin turned the strike into a downward swing at the boy's head. Again, he responded correctly, blocking the downward strike with a cross-held blade, his off-hand against the blade to help with the downward strike. "Good." Mehrin continued on the offensive, delivering slow strikes at various parts of Rodan's body, and watching him deflect or block each one. As they worked, Mehrin began to speed up, delivering each attack sooner after the one before and striking faster than before. To his credit, Rodan continued to be excellent on the defensive. After another fifteen minutes, Mehrin said, "Switch."

Immediately, Rodan threw himself at Mehrin, executing a sloppy swing like he was trying to beat Mehrin with a stick. Mehrin responded by hooking the strike up high, then booted Rodan to the ground. "Terrible. Don't swing a sword like that. You're more likely to jar it out of your hands than to cause injury. Control the attacks." Dusting himself off, Rodan rose and began circling, this time with a more calculating look on his face.

Mehrin allowed his mind to drift, blocking attacks unconsciously. There was something different about the boy. After the attack on the caravan three weeks ago, he had been quiet, almost brooding. Several times, Mehrin had nearly asked the boy what was going on in his head, but he never asked. The boy had to deal with his own troubles. Mehrin though it might have something to do with the lesson on battlefield medicine. He could remember the boy's face when he poured the brandy into the wound on Mehrin's leg, the flinching wince when Mehrin had growled at the burning alcohol. Mehrin had not allowed Rodan to do any stitching, though he had seen a similar wince every time the needle had pierced his skin. If it was something like that, then there was no reason why he should not ask about the boy's reservation.

"Rodan," he said, deflecting a strike meant for his leg, "you've been quiet these last few weeks. What's on your mind?"

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#33 Mystica

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Posted 03 June 2012 - 02:03 AM

Rodan felt himself become better with every training he went through under Mehrin's instructions. The warrior's taunts had become less and less until they had vanished all together. At first Rodan hadn't noticed but ever since the incident on the road the boy had grown more attentive and alert. The first few weeks he jumped at every noise he heard then only when they met someone along their travel until finally he kept his alertness but without the jumping. He had taken to observing Mehrin's behavior and pretty soon noticed subtle changes in the man's posture and body language depending on the situation they came across. A hand on the pummel of his sword, flipping the cloak he sometimes wore back to free his path to draw, a shake of the arms to make sure the daggers hidden in the sleeves were in position. Rodan started paying attention to which sounds brought what response to the man. Pretty soon he was able to distinguish them himself, all be it not as soon as Mehrin and he wasn't always right either.

The incident at the road hadn't killed Rodan, but it killed his boyish innocence. To see a man being murdered in front of him would do that to a child. He had been forced to grow up right then and there, no more shortcuts. That became evident in his training sessions as well. Mehrin would push him ever further, demanding him to improve or get hurt. The man was ruthless in his training but Rodan no longer held it against him. He finally understood that unless he became better, he'd end up dead someday. And so Rodan began to appreciate the bruises and the shallow cuts he received from his mentor. He began to welcome the pain that never failed to accompany him while he slept. The boy receided and the beginning of a man started to emerge. What was left of their guards noticed it too, they began to treat him more as an equal and less as a child. They greeted him with respect, greatful as his warnings had saved not a few of them during the battle and they respected the fact that the boy had stood his ground and didn't freeze. If only they knew how scared he had been. How much he had wanted to hide and that only his pride had stopped him. But by then Rodan understood that a man's reputation wasn't for children's stories. It helped him survive. He supposed that's why so many crossed the line, pushing their reputation beyond the acceptable. The lines of what was and what wasn't decent blurring along the way. He had to make sure he never crossed that line. Honour was still important to him, though it had been seasoned by blood and terror now. He would do what needed done, but he prayed to the Light he'd never cross that line. The Creator grant him the wisdom to know the difference and the strength to make the right choice.

They were training again, as they did every day, and Mehrin complimented him on his defensive techniques. Pretty soon the warrior switched to offensive, which was not Rodan's strong point. They had been training on defense hard but hadn't focussed on offense much yet. Rodan's mind drifted off to when he had nursed Mehrin's wounds. It wasn't the wounds he nursed that bothered him, he'd seen blood before. No, it was the many scars on the man's body that had given him pauze. How did he survive all that without crossing that line?

"Rodan," Mehrin said, "you've been quiet these last few weeks. What's on your mind?"

Rodan put the tip of his sword on the ground and rested his hands on the pommel. He looked Mehrin straight in the eyes, no longer flinching at the sight of the hardness in them.

"How do you determine whether a fight is worth fighting?" He asked straight forward. Gone was the tone of a boy in agony, puzzlement, confusion. That tone indicated a desire to learn accompanied with an acceptance that what he might learn may not be to his liking. The first lesson Mehrin had taught him.

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#34 Quibby

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Posted 05 June 2012 - 03:00 AM

Blinking in surprise, Mehrin lowered his weapon and looked at the young man. The men that he had trained in the past had never asked such a question. Instead, they always seemed hungry for more training, more power. The boy had grown up over the past couple of weeks. Still considering the question, Mehrin blocked a sudden attack, then swung low and cut Rodan's legs from underneath him, causing him to fall on his rear. Nodding at a job well done, Mehrin sat on the ground opposite him.

"That is a very difficult question to answer. In my opinion, you should know how to use a weapon, Rodan, but only use it as a last resort. Your father seems to be grooming you to take over for him, and you will not need a sharp sword as much as a sharp mind, if you choose to follow that path." Mehrin took a deep breath, racking his mind in search of a good answer to the boy's question. A thought seemed to come out ahead of the rest, and Mehrin chose to use it.

"Among fighters, there are several groups," he began, trying to gather his thoughts properly. "By far, the largest group is the dead men. These are the front-line soldiers who only exist to try to collapse the other line of dead men. They are also men like the bandits we dealt with three weeks ago. They are thrown into battle to fight and to die. The thing about the dead men is that the rest of the groups tend to rise from them.

"Rarely, a man or woman comes through the fight. These men learn to survive in the melee on the front lines. These men are veterans. They are hard to kill and hard in their souls. They form friendships with the dead men on occasion, but they accept that they will probably die in the next melee." Mehrin thought back to his time. Part of him longed for the simple days of being an old hand in the vanguard of the line. A brief, cold smile crossed his face, pulling the scar across his left eye grotesquely.

"Sometimes, these veterans become something more. On occasion, they rise above everybody, but remember their roots. They defend those who can't defend themselves well. These are the men who run into burning buildings to save people, or who stand in a narrow gap, fighting off hordes as those behind him flee. These men are true heroes. The problem with being a hero is that you often die to protect others.

"Then there are people like me," Mehrin said, realizing the truth of it as he spoke. "I fight and kill because somebody challenges me or those with me, and it leaves a mark on everything I touch. More often than not, those close to me pay the price for what I am. They end up dead-" Kuro, Ana, Anya... "-or they end up having their lives utterly destroyed." Drea, Renalie... "People like me are a mixed blessing. I could personally defend this caravan alone, and probably be better at it than the guards. However, people like me draw violence. All you have to do is remember those cart drivers who died. People like me are cold-blooded killers, and we solve all of our conflicts with unrestrained violence, even at the expense of those who look to us for defense."

By the end of his statement, Mehrin's throat was tense. And I want to find my daughter. I'm a damned monster, and if I have her close to me, there will always be an Ayrik who will use her to try to destroy me. There was a burning in his eyes that he fought to suppress. But if you do right by her, maybe you can be forgiven. The thought was... it was ridiculous. I destroy everything. She would be better off dead than with me. Mehrin shook his head, trying to clear away the thoughts.. You don't have to keep her with you. You can do right by her and send her to live with somebody who will take care of her. Somewhere where nobody will find her. Almost immediately, an accusative thought rose, unbidden, from the back of Mehrin's mind. Death would be kinder.

Enough! Mehrin struggled back to the real world, realizing that his Rodan was still watching him. "A man chooses to fight based on where he falls in those groups. As I said before, try to be part of a different group and rely on weapons only as a last resort. You will be a better man for it." Much better than me.

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#35 Mystica

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Posted 18 June 2012 - 10:30 PM

Rodan listened carefully and nodded a few times. He didn't fail to hear the bitterness in Mehrin's voice as he spoke of the group he belonged to. It seemed to the boy that the man wasn't entirely honest with himself but on the other hand, he remembered his face, his smile and the eagerness in his eyes when those bandits showed up. Perhaps there was more truth in it after all. It was hard to think of this man as a stone hard killer. From everything Rodan had learned to date, stone hard killers don't went about protecting others. Especially strangers. And for what? A wagonload of goods? Something didn't quite add up but Rodan couldn't put his finger on it.

"You gave those bandits a choice to leave," Rodan muttered to himself, unaware that he spoke loudly enough to be heard, "they choose to fight instead as they choose to attack us in the first place. How does that become your responsibility. You could defend this caravan alone, but without you we'd all be dead right now. They didn't look like the sort that would be merciful to me. So what are you supposed to do? Stand aside and watch? Wouldn't that be the greater evil?" Simple folks get killed daily, his father had told him. It was one of the reasons Rodan had always wanted to be a hero. Heroes weren't simple folk. Heroes protected simple folk.

He looked at Mehrin for a while. The man stared at him hard. He was the only hero he'd ever met and the first thing he'd done was crush his childhood dreams.

"When did you become responsible for the actions of others?" Rodan asked. "Your responsibility, as you took it, was to take us safely to our destination and to teach me how to fight. I don't remember my father saying that you were responsible for everyone we met on the roads. Those thugs had a choice, they made it. We paid for it, but simple folks always pay for the choices of others more often than for their own. Do you think they would have left us alone if you hadn't been here?"

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