Feb 6, 2012

Tales of Tyria - Chapter 10: Paulina

If you missed it, here's a link to the previous Chapter.
Skoldur was the first to react.  He had stood up and had his bow drawn with an arrow nocked before Naimh had gotten to her feet.  Karthis was still recovering from being staked out and wasn't moving very quickly at all.
Before Skoldur could let loose his arrow at the spider, a voice to their left commanded "Hold!"
Nobody wanted to take their eyes off of the spider, but they looked towards the voice to see who was there.  What they saw was a human woman, probably in her early twenties.  She was standing in the shade of the trees at the edge of the clearing so a detailed look was hard to get.  She was wearing drab, leather armor, had long brown hair tied back in a pony tail and was fairly tanned.  What really stood out was the large bow she was pointing at them.
His aim never wavering from the spider, Skoldur called out "Who are you?"
In a rather dry voice, the stranger said "I could ask the same of you.". Then she followed up by asking "And why are you helping that Charr?  It no doubt deserves to die like all its kind."
At this point, Karthis spoke up.  "If you're going to kill us, I suggest you save your breath and get on with it.  If not, we should all move.  Judging by the position of the sun, a patrol is due to pass by in the next hour or so and they will NOT be happy when they discover I'm free."
"I don't have to kill 'us', Charr.  Only you." said the stranger.
"Actually, it would be 'us'." said Naimh.  "We've rescued him and he's going to help rescue an associate of mine whom I've come all this way to find.  And I think his help is worth more than anything you can offer, so it's three against one if you don't put your bow down."
"Actually, it's three against two" said the stranger.  At that moment, Naimh found herself covered in a sticky web.  She realized, too late, that they had taken their eyes off of the spider.  Naimh didn't want to hurt the poor creature so she conjured a wall of fire between it and her party.  She hoped that it had enough sense not to cross it.
Meanwhile, the stranger and Skoldur had loosed their arrows at each other.  The stranger had fired first and then immediately rolled to the side so Skoldur's arrow missed and thunked harmlessly into a tree.  At the same time, he watched as an arrow streaked towards him, true in its path.  However, instead of puncturing a lung or his heart, it dropped to the ground, leaving a faint, blue shimmer in the air.  He didn't stop to think about it, but Karthis had just returned his favour and saved his life.
At the same time, another blue shimmer flew through the air and struck the stranger in the chest, knocking her to her feet.
Skoldur wasn't about to waste this opportunity.  He dropped his bow, drew his daggers and crossed the distance to their attacker before she could manage to prop herself up on even one elbow.
"Call off the spider" he growled as he put one of his blades to the stranger's throat.
"Alright".  She gave a whistle.  Skoldur realized that he couldn't see the spider due to Naimh's flaming barrier, but he decided to trust the woman.  Keeping a knife on her, he helped her to her feet and brought her over to the others.  The spider also scuttled over, but stayed far enough back so as not to appear too threatening.
"So, who exactly are you?" asked Naimh in as civil a tone as she could muster.
"My name is Paulina.  I am a member of the Shining Blades - the Queen's personal bodyguards."
"You seem a little far from home" commented Karthis.  "Don't your type usually have your hands full sorting out the plots of your nobles?" He added a sneer to the last word making it quite obvious that he thought there was nothing noble about Human lords.
"The Shining Blades exist to protect the Queen, and yes, that often means protecting her from those who pretend to be her friends.  However, we also protect Kryta and so we will operate wherever it is necessary.  Where long forays into wilderness are involved, Queen Jenah often calls on me and Scuttles."
"Scuttles would be the spider then?" asked Skoldur.  Paulina nodded and then flashed a smile at her pet.  Skoldur had never heard of a Spider Spirit being revered by the Norn but decided that there must be one and therefore he should respect Scuttles as he would any other animal.  Still, he secretly found the giant arachnid more than a little disturbing.
"So why are you here?" Naimh asked.
"You, actually" said Paulina.  After appreciating the bewildered expressions that she had predicted to herself, she elaborated.  "You were overhead talking about a Bloodstone when you stopped in Hoelbrak.  The operative that heard you knew that if the Flame Legion had found one, it could prove distrastrous for everyone.  One of our great Heros of old, a Necromancer named Livia, spent many years studying a Bloodstone in the Sparkfly Fens.  She wrote several volumes about the magical potential of these phenomenon and speculated that they could even be related to the elder Dragons.  At any rate, when we learned you were headed towards it, I decided to follow you and gather whatever intelligence I could."
As a way of breaking down some of the tension, she added "Nice work with the bear the other night."
"Alright, that explains why you're here.  But why attack Karthis.  I mean, if you work for the Queen you must know about the truce.  And unless I'm mistaken, you probably heard most of his tale, didn't you?"
Paulina gave Naimh a long stare, then finally said "Yes, I heard his story." Turning to address Karthis, she said "Correct me if I'm wrong, but about three years ago your warband journeyed into the Crystal desert.  There you found an archeological expedition.  You then slew every man, woman and child save one old man who you let live to tell the tale.  Am I right?"
Karthis hesitated for a second and then said "My warband and I did many things that I am now ashamed of.  That attack was one of them, yes.  Our orders were to strike fear into the Humans by making them feel unsafe no matter where they were."
The rage in Paulina's eyes was visible to everyone as she growled out "That old man was my grandfather.  He watched as you murdered my sister, my niece, my nephew and their farther.  Hearing what you did is what made me enlist in the Shining Blade.  I thought it would be my best chance at revenge."
Karthis looked her straight in the eye and said "I am sorry for your loss.  Truly.  I have lost much to the war too.  If you can forgive me, just for a while, I will help you rescue those souls that we can from the slave pit of the Flame Legion.  Do you have it in you to put aside your vengeance to save a dozen or more of your fellow countrymen?"
The sincerity in Karthis' words came as a surprise to Paulina.   She almost felt ashamed of her rashness.  And he was right -- it wouldn't bring her family back, but if she could reunite a dozen other families... It is what Queen Jenah would want her to do.  With a sigh, she said "Alright.  You can live - for now."
With this agreement, Skoldur let her go and introduced himself.  Naimh and Karthis then formally introduced themselves to Paulina.
As they prepared to continue on, they suddenly realized that they had tarried in the open too long.  A loud, Charr voice boomed from the path "Well, well, what have we here?". He was flanked by a dozen Charr, all with rifles leveled and aimed towards them.
The story continues in Chapter 11

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