4 Chapter 4: Preparation
As night drew down upon Ralstrog, both Aroyn and Lothær talked about the return of The Fallen. Aroyn confessed that his god was the former ruler of The Fallen, but he has learned that an incredibly powerful being from a different realm has seized control of them from Eirimon. Who, or whatever has taken control of The Fallen plans to overtake the land of Kal, and with this new version of The Fallen can now infect people as if it was a disease rather than a race of demon. Those infected are transformed into a grotesque version of themselves, and they attack as if they have a hive mentality. Lothær tells Aroyn what had happened to his clan when he had refused an mysterious woman.
"Woman? Do you have any information of her, what she looked like, what she was wearing?" Aroyn asked.
"I do not have much, but she had ash colored skin, long black hair, and if i recall… she also had very dim colored red eyes," Lothær replied.
"Hmm, interesting. This woman sounds as if she was a dark elf, but the high elves had killed all of the dark elves in The 100 Years War… what is at work here, two races that were thought to have been extinct, are now back from the dead?" Aroyn said curiously.
Aroyn stood up and went to one of the walls of books, looking through a large shelf of dusty books that had seemed not to have been touched in years. After a few minutes of scouring the shelf, Aroyn's eyes lit up.
"Ah! Here we are! The high mages account of the barren land!" Aroyn said as he pulled a large red and golden book from the shelf, blowing the dust off of the cover.
He opened the book and walked back to the seat he was just in. He flipped page after page for a few minutes, until he got to the end of the book and he red aloud,
"As the final battle drew on, several fire mages took to the towers of the Dark Elf homeland, and as if they had all been speaking with each other, they brought down a mighty flame covering the lands. Killing everything inside and around the land. Upon further inspection, the only thing left were the cellars within a small few houses. This final act had finally brought the dreaded 100 Years War, to an end."
"What is that supposed to give us? If you don't mind my questioning," Lothær said after Aroyn had finished reading.
"It means, that there may be a clue to all of this in the barren land, my friend," Aroyn replied.
"We could travel there within about 2 months, if you would be willing to accompany me?" Aroyn continued.
"Of course, anything to avenge my clan and my brother," Lothær replied.
"Then it's settled, stay here for the night. I will get supplies and companions to accompany us on this journey. Sleep well Lothær, we will start our mission by the week's end," Aroyn said before leaving the room.
After Aroyn left the room Lothær looked around the room for a while before he decided to go to bed.
After leaving, Aroyn went to the lair of Eirimon. Upon entering, Aroyn was greeted by Dalvin.
"How was the meeting? Was he a god's champion or Stälgrim himself?" Dalvin asked while leaning against a wall.
"His name is Lothær, he is not a champion for this era, he is the previous era's champion. Somehow he has thrived since the end of The Fallen," Aroyn replied.
"Interesting, I'm sure Lord Eirimon will like to hear o this news. Let us go speak to him." Dalvin said, entering the altar room.
Aroyn followed Dalvin through the large wooden doors into the altar room he had first talked to Eirimon within. He looked towards the decrepit stone altar as he lifted his right hand, revealing his ebony gauntlet from his sleeve shooting a deep, orange flame towards the center of the altar. Almost immediately, a large green flame shot from the center of the altar, hitting the ceiling and nearly covering the whole room until the flame died down and purple smoke began to emit from the center of the flame and a portal opened. From the portal, a hand reached out and grabbed one of the stone pillars, moments later, Eirimon exited from the portal, much larger than the previous time that Aroyn had seen him.
"Ahh, Aroyn my child. It has been too long, have you found the new champion?" Eirimon called out to Aroyn.
"Master, I have found him. But he is the champion of Stälgrim from the last era. His power was never revoked," Aroyn replied, bowing his head.
"Interesting, this means that Stälgrim has broken the cardinal rule of the gods. No wonder he has been gone from the summit for years. We must discover Stälgrim's location and eradicate him and his peon," Eirimon commanded.
"Yes, master. I will be having him accompany me on a journey to the barren lands, i will try to find any information on Stälgrim for you," Aroyn said.
"I am pleased to find that I have chosen my champion so well, a single loyal servant is better than an army of unreliable cretins." Eirimon cackled
Hearing this, Dalvin winced with jealousy towards Aroyn.
"Master, if i might, would you like me to join them on this journey?" Dalvin asked.
"That won't be necessary, my child," Eirimon said with little diction, turning his attention back towards Aroyn.
"Now then, what is your plan for this journey, Aroyn?" Eirimon asked.
Aroyn looked up from the cold stone floor to face Eirimon and stood up straight.
"The man said that a woman came to him before his clan was turned into this new Fallen, was a dark elf. But this must be an impossible feat, because the High elves had killed off the dark elves years ago. I had planned to go to the barren land to see if there are any chances of remnants still alive," Aroyn said.
"And if there are?" Eirimon asked.
"Then i will have them taken prisoner and brought here for you to feed on their knowledge," Aroyn replied.
"Good. Now if there is nothing else, i will be returning to The Summit to tell the gods of Stälgrim's treachery," Eirimon said before turning around.
Eirimon lifted his arm slowly, bringing all of the deep purple smoke to the palm of his hand. And lifting his arm, he threw the smoke to the ground, disappearing back from whence he came. Dalvin stood up straight and looked at Aroyn with a misanthropic look, before wishing him luck on his journey and leaving the room. Aroyn then left the hideout for the inn to rest in his own room, next to the one that Lothær was already asleep in.
The next morning, light burst through the windows of Lothær's room, waking him from his deep slumber. He slowly sat up and looked around for a moment before he stood up and got his axe and left the room to go downstairs to the main room of the inn to eat.
" good morning, sir. I hope you found the accommodations worthy of a man of your caliber," the innkeeper said to Lothær with a grin.
"Yes, the bed was very comfortable, thank you," Lothær replied.
"How much for a decent breakfast here?" he asked the innkeeper.
"I have just the thing for you, if you wouldn't mind finding a seat, i'll bring you your food," the innkeeper said before entering the kitchen.
Lothær turned around to find the patrons within the inn all staring at him, whispers echoing throughout the inn about Lothær's size and difference from themselves, calling him a freak of nature, or a beast. Lothær just smiled and went to a table alone and sat and awaited the return of the innkeeper. After several minutes, the innkeeper came from the kitchen with a bronze pushcart, Lothær noticed that it looked as if it were near falling apart. It was at this moment that Lothær had noticed that the inn was also in poor shape, thinking that this innkeeper was probably too poor to afford to keep the inn in better shape. While in thought the innkeeper reached his table with the push cart.
"Here you are sir, a hearty breakfast" the innkeeper said as he raised the dim bronze cloche to reveal a feast of torpeg roast, Feyr eggs, and a hefty serving of Ralstrog potatoes.
"You need not go to this extent to please me sir, i am happy to eat whatever you will serve me" Lothær said
"Nonsense, this is the first occasion that i have had an outsider within my keep in many years. Take this as a token of gratitude for being so kind to my inn," the innkeeper said before placing the many plates in front of Lothær, then leaving back to the kitchen with the pushcart. Lothær sighed and looked at the feast that was laid before him.
"Mind if I join, friend?"
Lothær looked up and saw Aroyn pulling the seat across from him out and sitting in it.
"Of course, Aroyn" Lothær replied with a smile.
"I love torpeg, such a fatty and rich meat. Much harder to get nowadays with the fact that less farmers are willing to deal with the stubborn creatures anymore. It's a childhood favorite of mine, to be honest," Aroyn said as he began setting up a plate for himself.
The two gorged themselves on the breakfast before going into the market area to begin preparing for their journey.
"We have a few necessities that we need to acquire before we can have any reckless spending," Aroyn told Lothær.
"We need a large wagon, at least 2 horses, and basic rations. Do you know how to choose horses Lothær?" Aroyn asked.
"Of course! A cavalry is only as good as its horses," Lothær replied.
"Good, then I will let you handle getting the horses while i handle the rest. The stables are on the south end of the market," Aroyn said, pointing in the direction of the stables.
"We will meet back here at midday, got it?" Aroyn asked Lothær.
"Get the horses, be back by midday. I'll get it done," Lothær replied before heading south through the bustling streets of the market towards the stables.
Aroyn went the opposite direction to the Carpenter's workshop to get the wagon ready. When he reached the shop, he was greeted by the carpenter's son.
"Hey there mister! You here for my papa?" the child asked.
"Yes, is he in his shop right now?" Aroyn replied.
"Yeah, I'll go let him know someone is here for him," the child said as he ran inside.
"Plucky kid, isn't he?" Aroyn thought to himself, smiling.
Aroyn turned around looking at the market, seeing the families gathering groceries for the week, the children playing and the peddlers all shouting their inventory and what they have available. It was a kind of calm chaos, like a war-zone of smiles Aroyn thought as he took in the view.
"Welcome! I'm told you need something sir?" The carpenter said as he came out of his shop to greet Aroyn.
"Ah, yes I need your best wagon, a large one preferably," Aroyn said.
"I have 2 wagons ready right now if you would like to take a look?" The carpenter replied, gesturing behind him.
"They are around back, if you would follow me, I'll take you to them," the carpenter said as he walked around the back of the shop, with Aroyn in tow.
As they reached the back of the shop, Aroyn saw the two wagons. One was made out of a sturdy oak, the other, a curious looking wood that Aroyn has never seen before.
"What is that dark colored wagon made of there?" Aroyn asked, pointing at the wagon.
"Ah! That there is my pride and joy! She's made out of a very rare wood called 'Stone Oak', a mana ridden oak that is stronger than even the strongest of metals. A lot of care and preparation went into that beauty," the carpenter said smiling as he ran his fingers through his hair.
"How much for such a fine wagon?" Aroyn asked.
"Hmm, that's a difficult question, I was going to bring it to the High King of Kal to try and secure a large sale to give my family the life they deserve, times are hard on us here," the carpenter said sluggishly.
Aroyn turned to the carpenter and lifted his arm around the carpenter's shoulder and said "What would you say if I tested it for you and returned it after my journey? If it can truly handle what you say it can, no harm would come to it and you would have it back in a matter of a few months. Anyways, it just so happens that I happen to be on a mission for High King Thanivald himself! If this wagon turns out to be as good as you say it is, you'd have a very important name behind your invention!" Aroyn told the carpenter with a wide smile.
"Really? If you would do that for me I would greatly appreciate that sir! I can have her ready for you by midday!" The carpenter said excitedly.
"Of course! Take all the time you need, I will return here at midday then, thank you for your service sir," Aroyn said, shaking the carpenter's hand.
"Absolutely sir! No need to thank me, you are the one who is the doorway to my family living a good life sir!" the carpenter said whilst vigorously shaking Aroyn's hand.
Aroyn then left the carpenter's shop to get the rations for their two-month journey, laughing at the carpenter's stupidity to trust a random person so much. He entered the market again in search of the right amount of food, weaving his way through the crowd until he found a large cart selling camping supplies, foods, and ointments. Aroyn turned to the owner and asked
" how much for the entirety of your cart? I am to leave on a three-month journey with one other person in my company,"
"Well, the whole cart? That would have to be around… let's see…" The shopkeeper said rubbing his chin while looking at his cart.
"I'd say about 800 gold pieces," the shopkeeper continued.
"I'd say 800 is quite steep, wouldn't you?" Aroyn replied
"This is my entire stock for the remainder of the month sir, I would need enough to feed my family, that's the lowest I can go," the shop keeper said, putting his hands on his shoulder.
Aroyn leaned in close to the shopkeeper and touched his chest with the fingertip of his ebony gauntlet.
"I am being gracious, don't push me. I'll give you 300, and you'll keep your mouth shut, or ill burn you to a crisp," Aroyn whispered to the shopkeeper.
"Okay, just don't hurt me please," the shopkeeper replied, shaking.
"Thank you for being a level headed businessman" Aroyn said with a grin on his face as he took the cart, putting the sack of gold in the shop keep's hand.
Aroyn then took the cart and left to go to the meeting place that he and Lothær had agreed upon.
"This has been a successful preparation day if I would say so." Aroyn thought to himself while he walked through the crowded streets.
"I wonder if Lothær has been as successful as I have today. I'm sure he has already intimidated that stableman into giving him all of the horses he has, judging by his beastly features" Aroyn continued in thought.
As he got to the agreed upon place to meet, Aroyn put the cart down and began taking inventory. There was plenty of rations and materials to last the two them more than six months. realizing this, Aroyn grinned thinking he had gotten away with a better deal than he had originally thought.
"With that, my job today is done!" Aroyn said as he packed it all in the under area of the cart.
Aroyn had to wait for Lothær to return with the horses at midday, realizing that he still had hours until midday, he decided to lay against the doors of the cart and take a "much needed" rest for all of his work throughout the day. He closed his eyes and folded his arms and laid in wait until midday.