A Quiet Watch


"I'd like some." Dwynn looked at Linna and wondered what she was doing. {She seems to have so little time for me,} he thought. {Is she just too busy with the quest and the people, or is it that I am not important enough?} He put on a brave face and smiled at her.
As she sat and munched on a piece of way bread, Elwynn gazed thoughtfully at the glowing rocks.
"You know, those red-hot glowing rocks remind me of a story I heard when I was a young elf. They say somewhere in time and space, in a forgotten land filled with time-lost creatures and races, there live an ancient and evil race of beings called the Sleestak. The Sleestak are green, lizard-like creatures with huge black eyes and wide lipless mouths. They live beneath an ancient, cursed temple, and the only light of their caverns is said to be red, glowing rocks. It is said that at night the Sleestak emerge from their tunnels and prey upon helpless beings. They trap them in nets and drag them to their lair, but nobody knows what happens to their victims. They say you can hear the Sleestak coming from the hideous hissing sound they make, like a hundred hungry snakes...it sounds like this... SSSSSSRSSSSSLSRRRRRSSSSSSSSSSSRSSSSS!!! Pretty creepy, huh?"
[Takayoshi T.]
The cautious and alert oriental smirked and laughed a little to himself as he heard Elwynn's story of the so-called Sleestak.
"I still think liches and dracoliches are creepier, although Golems could be just as creepy. Their mindless gait and demeanor, along with their inhuman strength, and their 'cloudkill'. Just deadly," the former assassin commented to the group. "Nevertheless, I will take a golem over a lich or dracolich, any day."
The Royal Bodyguard stopped to think if any else could top the two "liches" in creepiness.
"Come to think of it...slithering trackers, gelatinous cubes, and the assorted jellies, the mindless creatures that live in the dungeons," Takayoshi continued, "but I still rank Liches and Dracoliches up on the top. Their half-rotten corpses moving around on their OWN! No control over undead stuff, and boy are they tough... but that is another story."
That being said the oriental stopped and continued to listen for the orcs' status.
"Well, on that obligatory ghost-story note, we should probably turn in," Linna said, grinning. "Takayoshi, why don't you wake me for the next watch? Ceri and I probably aren't as tired as the rest of you, and those who were injured definitely need their rest." She nodded at Sherwood and smiled at Dwynn, then looked around for DeMorte. ::Should we bring him back?:: she sent to Ceri.
{I just woke up an hour ago!} Dwynn said nothing and just lay around listening to what was happening.
::I don't think so,:: Ceri replied privately. ::I think he needs some time alone.::
Linna nodded, then exclaimed, "Oh! Before I forget..." She scrambled to her feet and began rooting in the wagon, feeling between bags and blankets, though she carefully set aside the box of orchids Dwynn had given her. Finally, she brought out a small jar and brought it and a blanket back with her. "Here you go, Garber," she said, handing the jar to him. "Rub some lotion in morning and evening, and you should start feeling results in a day or two."
"My thanks," he replied, carefully opening it. "My fingers were starting to feel sore." Linna guessed that he was downplaying it, but she didn't comment as she spread her blanket out by one of the heated rocks. Ceri stood nearby, already dozing, and Linna gave her a look of fondness, hoping that tomorrow would be less eventful...and stressful.
The day's activities were wearing on him, despite the healing he had received (not once, but twice, from the wonderful Unicorn!). He yawned, smiling at Elwynn's tale. To Takayoshi he replied, "Aye, you're right there. Against liches and their ilk even a dragon trembles." As Linna dropped Dwynn a blanket in his lap, he smiled, but more to himself this time. He thought, "I wonder if she knows how much he admires her?"
With that thought warming the embers of his mind, he slid into his blanket and, almost immediately, fell asleep.
"Then again. Against a *walking* dragon even a gelatinous cube trembles."
Brea climbed into her sleeping bag, making sure of course that there weren't any snakes inside waiting for her. As she closed her eyes however, to try and sleep, all she found were visions of snakes...hundreds and thousands of snakes. She rolled onto her side, hoping a change of position would clear the images from her mind's eye, but to no avail. No matter which way she turned the snakes remained. Finally she gave up with a sigh. She wanted badly to go for a walk, but doubted anyone would want her going alone. Then again, as she thought about it more and sat staring out at the surrounding trees, she began to wonder how many snakes would be out there. That of course, settled that idea and so instead she sat staring at the flames of the fire...trying desperately not to think about how much the lapping of the flames reminded her of those flicking forked tongues.
[Takayoshi T.]
The oriental nodded in confirmation to Linna's reply, as he saw his comrades settling down to sleep, except for Breannyn.
"I wonder what's wrong with her," the ninja thought to himself, "she looks worried, possibly scared. Hmmm, I might as well see."
The ninja got up and walked over to where Brea was sitting and staring at the fire- heated rocks. "Something bugging ya, squirt," the ninja smiled and sat down. "Now, don't tell that Elwynn's story got you spooked. Look if it makes you feel better, believe me, I will kill anything that comes within 30 feet of this camp." Still smiling.
"If you want you could tell old," he stopped and chuckled at the word 'old', but continued, "As I said you can tell me what's wrong. Maybe I could help."
Brea turned to Tak and tried to blink away the spots in her eyes from staring into the fire. "Pardon?" Then realizing how obvious her actions must have been she blushed slightly and turned back to the fire. "Oh...um...it ain't s'much 'er story...I've..." She hesitated a moment and shrugged, trying to make her discomfort seem trivial. "I've just got...a...small problem wi' snakes." She shuddered, unable to control the reaction even the slightest bit.
She glanced over at her smiling companion a moment, then turned back to the fire again. "I...um...fell into a nest when I was a small lass," she explained somewhat reluctantly as she picked a bit of dried grass from the ground and tossed into the fire. "I s'pose tha's why I'm so...um...both'red by em." She brushed her hair back behind her ear and glanced around the camp for a moment before turning back to Tak with a faint smile. "Ye mind terribly if I stay up and keep watch wi' ye? I'm not really all tha' tired jus' yet, anyways."
[Takayoshi T.]
"Need not say more, I think I understand," the oriental replied, "and of course I don't mind you helping me out with the watch. As Master Ikashi used to say 'Two heads are better than one'....Hmm, he actually said that."
The ninja stopped to think for a moment," Maybe he did, maybe be he didn't, but anyway another set of ears and eyes wouldn't hurt."
He stopped and tried to listen for the orcs, but heard nothing.
"I guess, they're sleeping now, unfortunately it's not the 'Big Sleep.'" He chuckled and turned back to Brea.
"I guess tonight is going to be uneventful. Bummer, I wanted to get some practice in, oh well can't have everything, huh? By the way, can you keep an eye out for them?" He pointed to the group in general, and continued, "It's because I am going to do a patrol around the camp. Scream if ya need me, OK?"
He then got up and disappeared in the darkness...
Brea blinked, then chuckled softly. "Scream?" She glanced over the sleeping group then turned back to Tak with a grin. "If any snakes attack...believe me... I'll be doin' jus' that. Truly though, I'll yell fer ye if anythin' 'appens." As she watched him disappear then, she looked around the camp a second time and realized DeMorte was missing.
He continued to play his ocarina for a bit before he finally placed it to the side. He wasn't sure why, but he didn't really want to play without someone there. And what was more, the person he wished to play for was not at present time wearing the guise of a human.
In all his many battles and the people he had come across, the warrior priest had never had anyone truly ask him of himself before, nor did he ever truly open up to anyone as well. A man of secrets hidden well behind a mask of smiles. And in some ways, he had become captured within a prison without walls.
And yet, here he was, talking to someone he had barely known more than a few days... telling her his darkest secrets. He breathed in and smiled softly. He then reached down and retrieved his mask and placed it upon his face once more. He was not tired, but he knew he needed sleep. As well he also would be tested in horrid ways as would the others, but he now had strength to try. He would help Ceri to break free of her curse, or die trying.
As he traveled along the path, he heard... footsteps?
[Takayoshi T.]
Once the oriental was enveloped by the darkness, the ninja disappeared.
"I love this ring of invisibility," the ninja smiled at his thought.
He looked up toward the plain and saw very little movement.
"Ya, I was right, the little buggers are sleeping," the invisible assassin thought, "then no need to be very quiet."
His faint footsteps then could be heard.
"Nothing over here..." Takayoshi thought to himself as he suddenly saw a figure, walking toward the camp.
"I wonder who that is," he thought as his well trained night-visioned eyes studied the figure, "I must not cause alarm to the others."
The invisible ninja got up and walked, this time like the wind, silent and unseen.
"Must get a better look," he mentally commented to himself, as he maneuvered in front of the figure. Which started to be the figure of a man?
"What is a man doing out here in the middle of the night," the oriental thought.
"He looks more like DeMorte, that explains the reason why I thought the group somehow seemed smaller," Takayoshi finally concluded.
"I should just leave him alone," the ninja added, "I know how he feels, I know what it is like to be alone and solitary. Believe me, I have, and in some ways I am still there. The best thing for him to do is to ask for help...Just like what Master Ikashi did for me. Taught me the ways of kung fu and the secret to a balanced body...the chi. I feel your sorrow and pain, DeMorte, ever since my parents were brutally murdered by some Chinianese mercenaries, I felt the solitariness, isolation, however, I have Anger and Hatred in me as well...I guess we all have our little demons inside us."
The ninja mentally concluded as he saw the masked DeMorte approaching his invisible position.
The wind carried with it the heartbeat of another as he neared the area where his hearing had led him. Though many senses were lost to him, sight and hearing were not. He had learned to adjust to this way of life for whatever reasons he had to. But that was not what was on his mind as of yet.
He carefully listened to the wind and closed his eyes. He cleared his thoughts and moves freely as the wind led him by his hearing. He stopped slightly and let loose a smile as the wind caught the heartbeat once more. 'The ninja carries a much more noble heart than he realizes,' he thought to himself. 'He knows it not as of yet, but there are more things to his life than he may know.'
His smile grew broader as he let the wind move his face upward by the sounds it led him to. He opened his eyes and looked upwards to where the heartbeat came from. He nodded towards the invisible onlooker and then turned back towards the camp. "We had best rest. I fear the travels ahead of us may be taxing. I shall meet thee there." And then he walked off...with a new smile on his face.
[Takayoshi T.]
"I guess I must be losing my touch," the invisible killer thought to himself as he saw DeMorte look in his direction, "Luckily, for you dear friend, you are not an orc, but how could he sense my presence."
The ninja stopped and thought for a while, "...I have heard stories of kung fu masters, whose senses are so good and keen that they can actually hear there opponent's heartbeat! Yet, he seems to have that ability without any martial arts training!"
An invisible smile of respect and slight disbelief came across the ex-ninja clansman's face, yet he kept his composure quite well, as he saw the masked figure slip into the darkness, and once again the ninja was alone in the blackness.
Brea was methodically carving in the dirt with a stick when DeMorte walked back into camp. She glanced up a moment and gave him a friendly smile before returning to her drawing. She moved the stick with practiced strokes in the faint light of the moon. She could only barely make out the darker lines gouged into the earth, but she knew the image without seeing it...she'd drawn it so many times.
One hand reached up to touch her chest and the small pendant she wore beneath her shirt. Her mother had given her the charm as a parting gift when her father had taken her away to live with him. 'Just as this knot always returns to its beginning,' her mother had told her, 'we'll find each other again...always.' Brea smiled, remembering the uncanny way her mother had of showing up...no matter where she and her father had gone...her mother had always found her...just when she needed her most. Sometimes she wondered if the charm was more than what she knew it to be.
She retraced the lines with the stick, making the image deeper in the earth. Her mother had taught her the images as a child, drawn into the earth for protection when they camped at night. She'd drawn the knot and the small runes of protection so many times during her travels, it was now more out of habit than superstition. Still, she'd begun to forget them since she'd been on her own. She wasn't sure why tonight of all nights she'd remembered.
[Later That Night]
"I guess it's time for Linna's watch," thought Takayoshi as he headed back to camp after his last patrol, to rest up for the coming morning...
She looked up again when Tak returned, and put away the small stick. "Well, now that we're all back," she whispered with a light smile, "I think I'll hit the sack." Which is exactly what she did next...making sure some snakes hadn't crawled into her sleeping bag while she wasn't looking. "G'night." She gave the two men another smile, then lay down and quickly drifted off to sleep.

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