Arkh was traveling. The familiar smell of leather and horses surrounded him as he fondled the little bell tucked inside his glove. Who was that woman? He’d never seen a Beastman as beautiful as her.
Arkh jerked up, clutching his leg. It felt as though his wounds had reopened, and he became suddenly aware that he was covered in a thin layer of sweat. The pain faded rapidly, and Arkh looked around, wondering where the horses had gone.
A dream. It had been a dream.
A few feet away, Albin had been scooping up some probing foliage, and paused when Arkh snapped awake. “Alright, lad?”
“Yeah,” Arkh responded. “Just a dream.” He laid back down, and closed his eyes.
Arkh yanked angrily at his crutch, in an effort to break the creeping vines’ grip on it. Things had gone dramatically downhill over the past few days—not that they’d been particularly shiny to begin with—and the stress was beginning to wear on Arkh. His frustration had gotten so unbearable, that, in a moment of fear and anger, he’d used his magic on a Jottun. It had been effective enough, but the secret was out. He knew that now, to the others, he would always be “Arkh: Blood Mage.” If he was very lucky, he might get an “…among other things” thrown onto the end.
He found himself wishing desperately for a break as he matched his strength against the grasping undergrowth. He knew that this was a bad time to have an emotional breakdown, but it was all becoming simply too much.
“Gotcha, lad,” Albin declared, coming up from behind as he swung his shield in a downward arc. The shield’s sharp edge cut the vines like an axe, and Arkh stumbled back with the sudden freedom. He spent a moment regaining his footing, and replacing his crutch.
“Thanks,” he offered, ashamed of his handicap.
“S’nothin’. Jus’ gotta keep movin’.”
Arkh wordlessly resumed his march, struggling to maintain even the slowed pace that Valiraura’s rejection forced them to keep. The journey was hard on his leg, but he didn’t want to bother the others any more; he already felt like a tremendous burden. He winced as the pain came, trying to put as much weight as possible on the cruch, and kept the pace as best he could.
It was some time around midday that his preventative measures were no longer enough. He’d been struggling to navigate a fallen tree, when fire and agony shot through his leg like lignting. He fell, and gripped his leg once his body had met earth.
He couldn’t sleep. It was all he could do to keep quiet about the pain. He writhed in agony as his leg was gnawed at by an invisible toothy maw. He’d given up on having a restful night long ago.
Wait, what? Sleep? In the middle of the day?
Arkh blinked, and noticed Fritz and Goldie standing over him. “I’m starting to think this would be easier if we just carried him,” the blonde-locked woman suggested.
“Nah,” the Elf replied, casually. “I think he’s faking it.”
“Hear that, Arkh,” Goldie said, kneeling down. “Fritz thinks you’re faking it.”
Arkh grunted, struggling to sit up. “I’m pretty sure dying hurts less than this.” He suddenly became aware that his leg was not hurting any more, and recognized the irony of what he’d just said. Goldie scooped a shoulder under his arm, and helped Arkh to his feet.
Arkh stared into the bowl in his lap, poking idly at the cold chunks of potato and leek. Albin had thrown a fit over not being able to actually cook the food, but Nameless had—accurately—pointed out that starting a fire would only attract more attention from the Fey. After the brutal encounter from the day before, none of them wanted another fight.
None of them but Goldie wanted another fight.
None of them but Goldie and Nameless wanted another fight.
None of them but—oh fuck it—it would be smart if they avoided getting in any more fights.
So, they sat in the dark, eating their cold soup. They’d found a large, rocky outcrop, completely devoid of vegetation, and agreed to rest there for the night. The occasional curious vine managed to make its way up to them, but that was a relatively easily solved problem, whenever it happened.
A strange twitch in Arkh’s leg startled him. He looked down to see what might have happened, but the alien, clattering creature behind him shoved him forward as he paused, as if to say ‘keep moving.’ He stood, to continue walking, and felt that his foot was wet with blood, the tight leather sticking to his skin uncomfortably. He hoped that—if he was lucky—he’d die before they carried out their plans for him.
No, not him.
Arkh shook his head, and again. Where was he? He wasn’t walking, he was sitting, staring at a bowl of cold soup. He shook his head again and blinked, trying to clear his head.
Nameless spoke from next to him. “Pretty bad, huh?” Arkh looked up, confused. “The soup,” Nameless said, gesturing towards his bowl.
“Oh,” Arkh said, as clarity returned. “Yeah. It’s pretty bad.” He slid his bowl over to to the massive Beastman. “You can finish mine, if you want. I think I need to sleep.”
Nameless grumbled something in Norscan, shrugged, and poured the bowl’s contents into his own. Arkh smirked a bit as he laid down. “I thought you said it was bad?”
“Food is food, my friend.”
Arkh rolled over, pulling his robes tight around the splint on his leg. It ached a bit, but the pressure would help during the night. He tried to think of his bed in Cliffport, his quiet room, his peaceful life. He tried, but he was too tired. So, he slept instead.