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 Post subject: Xander's Background, v.2
PostPosted: Tue Dec 27, 2011 10:41 am 
No secrets for me in MW
No secrets for me in MW
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Joined: Wed Jan 13, 2010 4:18 am
Posts: 504
Location: Under many, many rocks
It was about six years ago.

I had entered into a local combat tournament, eager to earn some coin by doing something I enjoy. I didn't win. However, I did place well, and was glad to accept the runner's up reward. Knowing that I had the means to enjoy decent meals for the next fortnight put me in a good mood, and the fight to first blood combat let me walk away relatively pain-free. Being so rewarded for putting on a show and getting a little banged up, I was certain that I had found my preferred form of income. Whether it be from similar tournaments, or from something closer to being a sell-sword, I knew I wanted to be paid for getting into the types of situations I often found myself instigating for fun.

With that fresh and strong in my mind, a man approached me offering me just that; a chance to earn a bunch of gold for defending some old lord and his city. The guy was dressed fully in a near black, and spoke in a calm, soothing tone that hardly fit his conflicted expression. I would learn later that I would have benefited from acknowledging the concern that I felt, but I was too eager to accept his offer without prying. Myself, a couple of guys from the tourney, and a couple that were already following him around all left the city with him.

The lord's town was completely surrounded by tall walls, easily stretching upwards of twenty feet, and seemed to be extremely smooth. Finding a handhold would require a person to make their own, for this amazingly maintained barrier of stone was nearly blemish free. It all seemed to be carved by the same piece of rock too. It was an odd sight sitting alone in the middle of a field with no rocks and few trees, like it was simply plucked from elsewhere and dropped there. Though we were told it was a village, and it was mid-day, there was very little sound escaping the odd defensive line. The place sounded empty. Once inside, we saw why. There was no regular activity that one would expect from a city. Indeed, by first impression, I had assumed we had just entered a ghost town. Perhaps, while the recruiter was out, the enemy had attacked and left no one to greet us.

The place itself was a sight, however. The houses were constructed mostly of stone, and much like the wall, seemed odd in such a flat grassland. They must of brought it from elsewhere, but with a nearby forest, I was curious as to why they would have brought as much stone in as they had used in the place. All the buildings were two-stories and just as cared for as the wall, seemingly quite new or very cared for. To add to the idea of 'perfection', all the buildings were build in orderly rows. There was ten feet between each of the buildings in a row, with about one hundred feet between the rows. All the buildings had a look of individuality to them; they were hardly cookie cutter types, but they didn't really differentiate. They all also seemed to be of about the same size. All two floored, all had both a North-facing entrance and a South-facing entrance, and visually had both entrances appear to be the 'front' of the building.

Later, I counted sixteen rows of twenty-five buildings, all seemingly unoccupied. We were led through this part of town, the dark-clothed recruiter hushing us as we became more interested in finding out what was going on. After we moved through the rows of buildings, the city opened up into a large grassy field. There was nothing at all except a sea of lush green grass up to our ankles, still without the winds to run their fingers through the plants. A cobblestone brick walkway extended only a few paces from the town. Along the sides of the field, pressed and bunched up (and considerably less organized than the previous ones) were more of the houses. I would later find out they were smaller, had less space between them, no discernible rows, and never more than three abroad between wall and field. There was exactly one-hundred houses along the sides of the field, and they both connected neatly to the orderly other houses. Across the grass middle of the field, was a sight exactly the same as we just left; four hundred houses in neat rows, with specific distances. I noted then that the upper floors of the buildings that faced the field all had balconies that faced the grass, while all the other upper floors only had windows.

Exactly one thousand and one buildings. In the middle of the wall on the farthest side of the city was a much larger building. The palace of the lord we were serving was fairly interesting, though that could be because it was the only building about that wasn't similar to all the others. It rose quite higher than the wall did, even sporting a small tower with a window near the top. It was in this end of town we found the reason why the city wasn't completely without sound and life. The six of us met up with the rest of the people hired for the same purpose we were, and it was an army. I would find out later there was a couple thousand of us living in the North end of the town, each one of us stripped of whatever gear we came with and given various tools of war. Apparently the guy in charge wanted our sticks to be reliable.

Given the scale of the preparation, I knew this was going to be more than a few thugs or an angry rival sending a small hit-squad. He was preparing for a decent battle, yet, we were only armed with melee weapons, and there was not a single spellcaster among us. I was concerned for the reason behind this, but at least all the people looked like they wouldn't do poorly wading into the thick of battle. We were told that bows and arrows would be arriving, but not in time for the battle. Some suggested the confiscated items be returned so that we could have some ranged support, but the lord's representative would have none of that. The same guy who brought us here was in charge it seemed, for we never saw the lord. We were told he was keeping safe in his palace, and indeed we did see a figure of a man looking out from his tower much of the time.

We were required to only take the houses on our side of town, apparently the guy wanted all his protectors nearby to feel safe enough to get sleep. Stupid man. That night, our opposition moved in and occupied the opposite side of town without anyone noticing. There was to be battle inside the city, and it was to happen on the grass field. Our lord's Representative suggested that token forces refrain from fighting today, so that we can protect the palace from any stray enemies that use the chaos of battle to slip through the city and make their way to kill the lord, which was their objective. Some did, but I went out to the grass.

Our foes too lacked any means of a ranged attack save the throwing of weapons that were best left not thrown. Shields, axes, hammers, and blades formed ranks, as did spears and a few two handed weapons like the Long Sword I had taken. We had fairly even numbers to match our foes with, and we did do bloody battle. Of our two thousand, half died that day, with similar casualties and survivors mirroring us before both sides retreated.

That night, they had thrown a nightly raid at us before we could organize the very same thing. They pushed us right to the band of empty land directly in front of the palace, and pressed us. We were being beaten, as our defenders were outnumbered at that point, but then the slower-to-react people poured from their houses and flanked the opposition. It was a sound victory.

The next few days were very tiring. Though they had hoped to slay the lord that night with an organized assault, their true blow against us came from what we didn't see. Many of their number broke from the group before they reached the palace, hiding in the buildings on our side of town, waiting for the cover of night to sneak about and try to assassinate our forces or make a run for the lord. Then, when the sun came out, they stuck to the shadows, dressed head to toe in black. We had to route through all the houses, check all the rooms, overturn beds, open armoires and the like. We operated in teams so the sneaks would have a harder time getting the jump on the searchers, in hopes to cut our casualty count. Then, of course, with all our forces spread out checking houses and shadows, they made another organized attack.

By the end of that day, we only had about one hundred left, though by as far as we could tell, we weren't doing much worse than the enemy at that point. And that's when things changed.

Everyone left was given a bow and a stocked quiver, and we were given a painting of the enemy lord who was reported to be residing in the South end of town. We were tasked with not only defending our old man, but slaying his known enemy as well, obviously before he retreated. "This is coming down to a numbers game," the representative said, "so we need a set-up that will give us an advantage, instead of just defending or attacking. We need archers on the balconies to control the field, and guys blocking movement through the side buildings. We can't have sneaks working their way through the sides, and we need to deter direct attacks. We will hold these spots and run supplies out to the needed areas, rather than having everyone come back here all the time. Once we have a functioning defense, we can press the attack, using the side areas."

We set in, blocked the inflow of sneaks, and killed the remaining few who had eluded us from earlier. A small group walked across the field, in the idea that they could draw a reaction, lead them back to the balconies, and rain arrows down on the unprepared opponents. That's when we found out they had bows too.

Progress was slow after that. Very slow. I was assigned to defend the area where the small clustered buildings joined up with the opponent's part of the town. Thing was, most of their lot were just standing in their windows, ready to kill anything that walked down an alley or used the single door that lay directly ahead of them. Even if we managed to get into an occupied house, our warriors found themselves against competent swordsmen eager to exploit the advantage of standing atop a staircase. A favoured tactic from them was to salvage some of the wood from objects in the houses, and board up the door facing us. That way they could retreat and resupply with ease, and would have the leisure of leaning out from their window to remove anyone who was trying to pry the boards off. We countered by occupying the houses around them and having our archers wait for them to make said supply runs. They began doing the same to us.

Of course, we had to move in fronts, rather than just move forward as we could, else waiting archers could mistake a retreat for an attack and kill their own guy. And there were still hiders. With only a couple hundred guys spread out over a thousand buildings, many had no one in them. Which made taking them quite easy. Unfortunately, it also meant holding them wasn't happening too much either. There was a lot of back and forth for many, many days, and I was getting sick of it. There wasn't very much combat anymore, just archery and positions, and I was ready to get my pay and ditch. Many others were ready to join me when the representative gently reminded us the enemy held the only exit.

I broke the rules. I left my post and walked into the palace, and right up to the lord. I had been asking to hold an audience with him each day for a couple weeks at that point, as I had wanted to end this shot-for-shot game of magical chairs. I wanted to suggest something to him, an idea that could give us enough advantage to win. The request was always shot down, and eventually ignored. Until I barged in, I didn't even know what the guy looked like!

And there he was, on his chair, clearly expecting someone. He was the guy in the painting, the guy we were told to kill! The smirk on his face from seeing my confusion was infuriating! I was about to demand answers, but the old man cut me off and spilled everything without hesitation.

"There was no other lord. I staged this whole thing, because some things in this world need blood. Lots of blood. I'm getting paid a lot of coin to stage this little event. This entire city is build above a massive tomb, and the fallen are being used for something wicked."

He was deathly silent, making no noticeable sound whatsoever. What should have echoed off the marble floor remained mute: the representative had somehow beat me to the throne room, and was standing silent in a shadow by the door. He was upon me in a flash, a dagger finding my backside. I fell to the ground, bleeding profusely. I twisted back to get a look at my attacker, who dropped his hood to reveal not the grizzled old guy who picked me up, but a clearly younger form of the same man. His smile was the last thing I saw before I blacked out.

I woke up, laying in the dusty ground just outside the palace. I got my bearings, found myself somehow unharmed, and a throng of enemies pushing against our remaining defense. It was bad. We were getting hacked apart. Apparently, my disappearance caused a couple people from my post to come look for me, completely weakening our defense just as they prepared an attack force. Remembering the events from inside the palace, I decided I wanted out. Screw the guys I had gotten to know the last couple of months, if I stayed I'd just be dead too. I bolted to the opposite side's cluster of side houses, climbed out a window, wiggled myself onto a roof and took a running jump at the wall. I clutched the edge frantically and made my way out, taking one last look to see the battle finally coming to a close. That is what I wanted, after all, but I felt required to inform some authority about the sinister ritual that the lord mentioned.

After a week's travel on foot, the town I was recruited in finally dotted the horizon. Excited, I hurried there as fast as my worn out body could manage. I jumped down a boulder a little larger than myself on the way there, and froze. I -felt- him. The representative. He was standing in the shadow of the boulder cast from the setting sun! I whirled around instantly, my left arm catching his wrist that was coming down to stab me with a reverse-held dagger, my right arm squeezing the man's elbow to prevent his other dagger stab.

He smiled at me while the black in his eye swirled around, roaming across the entire surface without a definite form.
"Nice reaction time."
I heard a faint whine, but it wasn't from a living being. I looked down to his weapons; the one in his right hand had a green jewel in the bottom of the blade that lit up, while his left dagger had a deep red gem that was shining. Weapon now nearly dripping with poison, his scrawny arms suddenly were able to overpower my own. I was worried, but not afraid. For reasons beyond me, my stamina returned, and my strength jumped to max much faster than it has since. I stopped his advance, but it only served to make him chuckle.

The chuckle quickly turned to dry heaves. That was when I found I could use Ki. I saw a wiggle from the very deep green of his shirt, and a blade suddenly shot out from the middle of his chest! It was long enough to skewer me, that was plain to see, and the blade was already covered in gore. I had no idea what was going on, but I shut my eyes and expected death. There wasn't even pain! I opened my eyes to see the blade stopped a hair before hitting me, and the gore was his own! The offending weapon slowly retracted back into whatever was storing it previously, accompanied by the ragged breathing of my foe and the panicked shallow breaths of myself. Still I pressed against his limbs, trying to win the battle of might with the clearly enchanted strength of my foe.

"Still getting used to being able to do things like that, ugh... but there is no reason to fight this, I will kill you. I am the hand of death!"

A gurgling sound came from his throat, and he spat a sticky, ink like substance right at my eyes. I managed to shut them before the goo hit, but the substance was very strong, and prevented me from seeing. It burned, too. I panicked and let go of the man to try to claw off the stuff from my face. Hell, if he could conjure blades from his body, I really needed to not be so close to the guy when I couldn't see, or so I reasoned then. No sooner did I release him did he kick me in the gut, driving me to the ground on my back. I opened my eyes after removing the tar, just in time to see him place both his daggers into my organs. The burning pain and poison made his words seem uninteresting, but I remember them now, even though I thought I wasn't listening.

"Humans. Content to do things in excess rather than take the time to fine tune a ritual. Quite the shame, really. Were they not so lazy and greedy, they could have done that ritual with fewer than one tenth of what they used. Even what they did use was more than required for their pathetic excuse of the rite. I wonder, are you the other side of the coin, caused by their failure? Are you the spill-over of their excess? Are you the same, or the opposite? Or just something else entirely, and me meeting you is a hilarious coincidence? Either way, I expect I will see you again sometime. Forget where the city was, but remember me. Maybe next time you will be strong enough to join me, or stand up to me."

I passed out after that, and again awoke with no signs the man ever attacked me. I've not been up to much since then besides practicing my Ki and trying to find ways to use my full strength when needed, rather than just hope it will happen on its own. I tried a variety of regular jobs, but I was too thrown from the event. I got in a bar fight a while back, and even though I have that association from the city to taint my once favourite past-time, it still brought me out of my rut. I've decided to get back to my life of six years ago, getting into fights for fun and for profit both, always leery of the return of that shadow with daggers.


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