The Stranger took e-Berry by the hand. They walked to the little stream and undressed, the moon casting mysterious shadows about them.
She watched with curiousity as he unwrapped a small package. Sitting her down in the stream, he sat behind her, and brought forth a bottle of shampoo. He handed her a bar of lilac-scented soap and a soft, cotton washcloth.
She bathed herself, while Stranger washed her hair for her. He took his time, kneading it, massaging her neck and temples, all the while singing to her in the Old Tongue of the Ancients.
May 8th, 2003, 11:36 AM
The lilac soap was heady in its aroma, the washcloth soft as a whisper of rose petals......and her lover's fingers firm, pressing into her scalp, kneading out the day's tensions and fatigue as he washed away the dust of the road. e-Berry worked the soap into a bountiful, foamy lather and washed her body with it. When she was thoroughly covered in the rich lather, and her hair fully washed, Stranger pulled her into the water and laved water over her to rinse her clean.
Then e-berry said, "Your turn, A'maelamin," and he turned and sat, letting her wash not only his hair, but his body also, for he knew she would take pleasure in serving him in this manner.
Cadfael sat under a tree, near their campsite for the night, leaning back, gazing at the star shining brightly just above the horizon, like a diamond in the purpling sky. He hummed softly to himself, recalling a particular woman, long ago.......
May 8th, 2003, 11:52 AM
Cadfael stands, his gaze still on the sky... gazing back across space to time so long ago... "You silly old fool" a voice whispers in his head "It is about time you let her go... and look at the beaty that is before you"
"Don't start..." he sighs into the night..."just leave it... you know I will not be pushed!"
"Then let me feed... it has been a day or two... you can even bring back a young sheep for your human friends" the voice replies... "... but.. do not think I am letting you off so easily."
"I would be worried if you did" he retorts... closing his eyes and letting the change come...
As e-Berry rubs the foam into Stranger long dark lock... she feels a rush of wind and a huge dark form sweeps overhead... "Poor love" she sighs "poor blind loving fool"
May 8th, 2003, 12:09 PM
Stranger, feeling the rush above their heads, opened his eyes and glanced up.
"So he goes to her," he sighed.
"How can he not? Though she will only tear his heart out again," e-berry said, shaking her head. "But do not you understand why he goes....even you, Beloved?"
Stranger reached up to stop her soapy hands, turned to face her, and whispered, "I understand his need.....amin melle anta....."
She drew close and kissed him once, softly. "Let me finish washing you, Beloved."
She pulled him gently down into the water to rinse off all of the soap, then sat back on her haunches, smiling, the dragon's shadow sweeping over the darkening landscape.
Somewhere, a nighthawk shrieked....and an animal howled its agony......
May 8th, 2003, 12:21 PM
"Well, I can tell you, they didn't have no more trouble out of the kobolds after that show", the old soldiar said. He sipped his ale and st it down on the hearth firmly.
Storytelling was thirsty work, and since his tale was a good one the mug was promplty refilled.
"The next week went by like a picnic. Then they got into the hill country, and that's when the trouble began. They's lots of outlaws up there. Ex-soldiers, deserters and jes' plain old mean folks".
May 8th, 2003, 08:49 PM
Stranger and e-Berry rode their mounts up the high pass, leading Cadfeal's mare by the reins. The wind was decidedly stonger and colder this high... although as yet they had not hit the ice and snow.
Stranger's and e-Berry's mounts became skittish as Cadragon swooped down from the heights... until Cad's mind spoke to them.... "Easy my friends... I fed well yesterday, you have nothing to fear from me". He hovered for a second over his own mount, and then dropped into the saddle, instantly becoming human.
"Show off" Stranger said, looking at him with a grin "one day you will get that wrong... and we will have one dead horse on our hands... or a dead Monk!"
"Hehehe... I admit I always cringe when I do that" Cadfaels chuckles... "Anyway... I was right. The Kobold attack was not random." he points towards their direction of travel "Where the pass opens out into a wide valley, we have a line of sentries... very well hidden, almost missed a few of them. They are spaced to regular apart, thay are waiting for someone. Someone knows we are coming... I bet that someone put the Kobolds on our tail!"
"You mean someone back in the City?" Stranger eyes are screwed up in thought "I cannot think of anyone who would take an intrest, I never noticed anyone watching us?"
"Either way.. we have to get past this welcoming party. We cannot afford the time to take the high ridge, neither west nor west... the snow is 6 foot deep anyway. We are going to have to go through them... hopefully not causing too much trouble, we will only end up with them on our backs... unless we take them ALL out" he grins.
"You my friend are much to fond of killing" e-Berry looks at Cad with her eyes clouded "I worry about you"
"That is the job of a soldier my Lady... no man ever won a cause by dying for it, it is our job to make sure they die for theirs" Cadfael looks at her sadly..."I am a product of my times... I will do the job that is demanded"
Stranger continnues to ponder....
May 9th, 2003, 07:27 AM
Stranger pondered Cadís announcement. They couldnít go into this unprepared. There was no hurry and they were now in the high country. This was The Strangerís turf. Most thought of him as a sailor of sorts, but he was a mountain boy, born and bred, and up here Stranger had the edge.
The first thing he did was shoe the horses. He set up a base camp, and Cad developed an appreciation for just how well-prepared his old friend was.
Two tents went up, military bivouac tents, large enough to house both themselves and the packs from the mules, yet easily assembled and taken down. He set up a picket line along a rock face. The animals would present nothing but hooves to attacking wolves, and those five were not ones a wolf would want to take a shot to the jaw from.
Cad and e-Berry made a small rock oven for the fire pit while Stranger attended the animals. He trimmed, pared and filed the hooves, coated them down with a gel, then meticulously shoed them, one by one. It was obvious he knew what he was about. He gave e-Berry a hoof pick, showing her how to check and clean Rimíulaís hooves, how to look for tiny cracks and the tender veins inside the hoof base.
These instructions took a very long time, the instructions being punctuated by frequent, and sometimes extended, kisses that had Cad walking around muttering about rabbits again.
Stranger changed his outfit, going from the studded leather to a khaki pants and shirt, The saber was secured to the saddle. Instead he wore a long, black knife in one boot and an eighteen inch Bowie at his back. The riding boots were replaced by what Cad recognized as climbing boots. From then on Stranger walked, the warhorse staying close to e-Berry at all times.
Cad watched him put a headpiece on the bay. It amounted to a fifteen inch long steel cone that had blood-letting grooves down two sides. Cadís butt drew up in a knot thinking about being charged by that vicious-tempered stallion. That could wreck a manís day!
May 9th, 2003, 08:54 AM
The sun climbed high as the trio continued on their way, watchful, ready to meet any sudden threat or unexpected challenge. Cadfael seemed heavy-lidded, as if he were about to doze in the saddle, but e-Berry knew he could snap to in the twinkling of an eye should the need arise.
Stranger's posture was tense, wary.....his eyes scanned the perimeter constantly, his hand occasionally flexing to touch the long Bowie at his back. She knew he was expecting another attack, from one quarter or another, and she herself was sure her bow and sword were both in easy reach.
The tall mesa in the distance created a huge shadow acoss the high valley they rode through. The many little rippling hillocks afforded an enemy many places from which to ambush unwary travelers.....especially an enemy with sorcery involved.
May 9th, 2003, 09:14 AM
Cadfael's elbows ached as he inched his way slowly forward... checking for obejects in his path that would give away his position. The front of his combat gear was damp from contact with the soil. This is the bit I really hate he thinks... crawling around on my belly in the middle of some damned mountains.
One more time he lay still... his eyes riveted on the patch of ground where he knew his target to be. There... just a hint of movement... but he caught it. Just a few more feet... and then he would be in range... it was then he noticed another twitch of movement near the first... Damn!!... two of them!. Now what the hell was he to do... if he took one out... the other was bound to raise the alarm. The last thing he needed was to get into a hand to hand fight.
He lay thinking... Reaching behind his back... he unhooked his crossbow. Not your traditonal one this... made almost entirely of carbon fibre apart from the bow. He fitted a bolt into the slot, the bold fitted with stange flukes along its length to give it silent flight... and extra range. He had never atemted to do what he was about to... and he knew the spell could rebound on the user... it demanded total concentration... and I have to fire a bolt of at the same time!. He inched forward again... bringing the two men in range. One was partly hidden by shrubbery... his dragon enhanced night vision kicking in as the adrenaline began to flow. The other was bang to rights in his sights... here goes nothing
Closing his eyes, he begins to mutter the incantation... the power building up in his brain, at the same time he struggled to aim the crossbow, the power building in him making it hard to keep his hands still.
Finally it was there... fighting for release... he did not have mush time. With an effort he stills his shaking hands, and draws a bede on his target... his mind already locked on the man behind the bush. His finger sorfty puller the trigger... at the same speaking one word aloud... breaking the silence...
The man in front was knocked from his feet by the force of the bolt striking him... Cad's aim was clean and true, taking him in the mouth, the bolt passing from the back of his neck... ensuring the man made no sound when he died. The other man surged to his feet, and died... just like that, he was gone.
Cadfael turned on his back as the after effect of the spell washed over him.. consciousness slipping away... just one final moment to send the mind cry... "Two down here..."
May 9th, 2003, 09:31 AM
Stranger was as nervous as cat. Having Cad out on reconn was driving him batty. HE wanted to be out there. But e-Berry was here, and he couldn't bring himself to leave her.
His eyes scanned the rocks. He stopped every few feet to listen. The horses knew to be quiet. The mules had just learned it.
He carried a shortbow, a thick one with about a hundred pound pull. His arrows had blunted points, designed for knockdown power, rather than penetration.
He came to a bend, raised a hand for e-Berry to halt. Where the hell was Cad?
He caught the message, cursed, and went to e-Berry. Using hand signals, he let her know Cad was in trouble, passed out.
He had no choice. He signalled. Stay here. Take cover. Going after him.
She nodded and began looking for a place to defend. Stranger put on his kalaklava, repelling belt and gloves.