REYNNARD V.S. NICODEMUS
A Ring of Truth!
Reynnard woke slowly, painfully. His world was an indistinct blur of aches and colors. Slowly, small things came into focus, the pounding of his head, the queasy feeling in his stomach. After a moment he realized that his nausea was due in part to the jarring motion his body seemed to be experiencing. Half his face was numb from laying on a hard surface for too long, it felt like wood. Straw and the faint odor of horses tickled his nose. Threatening to make him sneeze.
Fuzzily he tried to recall his last conscious memories. A tavern, and a girl… He knew he had been drunk, but had not experienced a hangover like this in years.
Clumsily he tried to push himself upright, only to flail helplessly as heavy iron chains clinked and chafed on his wrists. Chains? ‘So I have been imprisoned…’ He thought sullenly. ‘Was I THAT drunk?’ He groaned aloud as his body was jarred again.
“Keep quite back there.” Growled a harsh, yet familiar voice.
Clarity suddenly flooded his senses and his eyes fluttered open. “Nicodemus?” He rasped.
Nicodemus nodded wearily and flipped the reins of the draft horses idly. “I was wondering if you would remember. It’s been a long time.”
Drawing his strength, Reynnard rolled onto his back and sat up slowly. “Yes it has.” His mouth was dry and his tongue felt like sand. “You drugged me…” He grumbled accusingly.
Nicodemus nodded without looking back. “Aye, I did. I thought it best considering how slippery you are. How are you feeling?”
Reynnard glared at him and looked thoughtfully at his chains. Blinking slowly he tried to focus on them but found he could not. “Terrible. What did you do to me…”
“It’s just the herbs, you will be disoriented and groggy for quite some time. A side effect I’m afraid. But useful for my needs.”
The last part chilled the bard slightly. “Why are you doing this?”
Nicodemus snorted. “You of all people should know the price on your head.”
Nicodemus glanced over his shoulder disapprovingly. “As if you didn’t know. Remember Clarissa?”
A pained look crossed Reynnard’s angular face. “You still don’t blame me for her do you?”
Nicodemus shook his head. “No, what has passed, has passed. Her family on the other hand… Is offering a large sum for you. Alive.”
Reynnard grimaced and spat over the side of the cart, trying vainly to get the foul taste out of his mouth. “And your personal feelings have nothing to do with this?”
Reynnard grinned humorlessly. “Are you a rotten liar.”
Clarissa DeVerdaine rolled acrobatically around the corner and sprang to her feet as two arrows zipped through the space she had stood only a split second before.
“Missed ME!” She taunted gleefully.
A slow clap made her spin on her heel and raise her rapier in a smooth motion.
Reynnard who had been sitting on a crumbling ledge, grinned, not missing a beat, and chuckled quietly. “You.” He proclaimed with a wry grin. “Are insane.”
Clarissa shrugged and sheathed her rapier. “Perhaps.” She glanced around the corner and ducked her head back quickly. They’re not following us. Yet…”
“Good, then we have time for this.” The bard tugged a large, heavy, pouch from the pack at his feet. Opening the pouch he hurled the contents across the hall. Hundreds of tiny caltrops scattered and clinked as they bounced end over end, covering the floor. Reynnard tossed the pouch aside and picked up his pack.
“Shall we?” He asked with a mock flourish.
Clarissa smirked and rolled her eyes. “Where’s Nick and Halagar?”
“I, by the grace of my God, am right here, Lady Clarissa.” Halager groused, walking around the corner opposite the caltrops. “As to our companion, who can say?”
Both adventurers eyed the rough looking priest with surprise. “What happened to you?” The rogue asked, her tone somewhere between surprised and annoyed.
Halager touched his holy symbol reverently. “I was attempting to convert some heathens.” He hefted his bloody mace with a grin. “They disagreed.”
Reynnard groaned and smacked his forehead. “Do you ever tire of that joke?”
The sound of heavy armor clanking made all three look up.
“Persistent, aren’t they?” Clarissa quipped with a grin. “Come on, follow me.” With that she darted back the way Halager had come. The priest and bard both shook their heads and ran to keep up.
Clarissa rounded the corner sharply, nearly bowling over half a dozen startled warriors. Breathless, she grinned wolfishly at them, setting one hand on her hip and arched an eyebrow suggestively. “Excuse me boys… I’m lost. Would you happen to know the way out?”
The warriors looked at her dumbfounded for several moments, then drew their weapons as one.
Clarissa frowned and drew a small crossbow from behind her back. “I guess this means no?” She asked as she fired. The bolt took the lead warrior in the throat, killing him. The rogue laughed and threw the crossbow at her attackers. Running back the way she came.
“I think.” Halager grumbled irritably. “That we are lost.”
Reynnard rolled his eyes skyward. “That is because, my friend, you have a limited perspective on the situation.”
“A limited perspective?”
“Yes, things could always be worse.”
Halager cocked his head and eyeballed the bard. “Clarissa is insane, Nicodemus is missing, we’re lost. And we have a host of mercenaries that want what we’ve got. Could things get any worse?”
At that moment, a portal appeared in the floor at their feet and Nicodemus rose through it to stand before them. “About time I found you two. Where is Lady Clarissa?”
Reynnnard gestured towards the mage for emphasis. “See what did I tell you?”
Halager conceded the point and turned towards the Wizard. “If only we knew, she took off a short while ago and it was all we could do to try and keep up with her.
Nicodemus massaged his temples and groaned slightly. “I see. And a wonderful job you’re doing I might add.”
Reynnard took a step towards the wizard. “Now see here…” He began, only to have his words cut off as Clarissa crashed into him at full speed.
“Company!” She gasped, pointing the way she had come.
Everyone looked in the direction the rogue pointed to see five heavily armored warriors running in their direction.
Halager grabbed his fallen companions by the arms and hauled them roughly to their feet. “No time to rest now, lets go.”
As one, the three of them stumbled away from their assailants. Only Nicodemus stood fast.
“Come on!” Clarrisa shouted, grabbing the wizard by the arm.
“No, I am tired of running.” Nicodemus stated, patting the thief’s hand. “Besides, I’ve had it with their rudeness.”
Squaring his shoulders he crossed his arms and stood in the path of the charging warriors as if to block their way. At the last moment he made a casual gesture and the five warriors. A split second later the warriors crashed to a halt, almost at Nicodemus’s feet, as if they had hit a solid wall. Which in effect, they had. “It’s so hard to find quality mercenaries these days.” He muttered as he patted the invisible wall of force. “Halager, will you do the honors?”
The priest nodded and touched his holy symbol, muttering a brief prayer. Immediately the cube began filling with water. The men inside screamed and clawed, but to no avail. Within moments their lifeless bodies sank to the floor.
Reynnard looked slightly uncomfortable. “A bit much, don’t you think?”
“With any luck the dolts will think it is some sort of gelatinous cube and waste their efforts trying to kill it.” Nicodemus replied with a shrug. “Well, enough wasting time.” He turned and bowed to Clarrisa. “This way if you would, mi’lady.”
Clarissa brushed past the mage without a second glance. “I grow weary of this keep. We have what we came for. Let us leave this place, now.”
Halager looked down at the two arrows in his chest with numb shock. Slowly he looked questioningly to the bard and tried to speak, but only blood came out.
Reynnard grabbed his dying friend and pulled him out of the line of fire as several more arrows flew past. “Nicodemus! Do something!”
The wizard was already occupied with avoiding the claws of a vicious gargoyle looking beast. Nicodemus growled as he grappled with the bizarre construct, though half his size, it took all the wizards strength to keep the slashing claws at bay. A sharp crack made everyone jump, and the beast fell limply across Nicodemus’s chest. Panting, Clarissa dropped her impromptu club, the shattered haft of a fallen warriors spear, and leaned heavily against the wall.
“Thank you, Lady.” Nicodemus gasped, pushing the heavy corpse off him and rising unsteadily to his feet. “You’re wounded. Let me…”
“Don’t thank me.” She waved him away. “Help Halager…”
The wizard turned to see the dying priest laying on his back. The two arrows moving in small circles as his chest rose and fell unsteadily. Bloody bubbles were streaming from the corners of his mouth. The bard met his eyes and shook his head once. Nicodemus knelt by his dying friend’s side and fumbled at his belt for a small vial. Popping the cork off, he tried to force the life saving liquid down the priests throat. “Come on…” He muttered. But it was too late. Halager let out one final cough and lay still.
“Is he…” Clarissa started to say, only to realize the truth as Nicodemus gently closed the dead priests eyes.
Reynnard sat back against the wall, a far away look in his eyes and his hands covered in his friend’s blood. “This was a bad idea.”
Nicodemus stood slowly. “I’m sorry.” He muttered quietly. “We are getting out of here. Now.”
“You don’t have the strength for another spell for all of us.” Clarissa warned, a distant look in her eyes.
“I can save two of us…” He replied wearily, avoiding looking at the bard, and started chanting.
The thief shook her head, not believing he would suggest such a thing. “We all go, or nobody goes.”
Reynnard pushed himself slowly to his feet. “Nicodemus…”
The mage pushed the bard away. “If there were any other way, I would do it. You both know this. But there is no other way.”
Reynnard fished the ring out of his pocket and held it up. “I know. Here, this is what we came for.” He held it out to Clarissa and dropped it in her hand, his fingertips lightly brushing her palm. “Take it and go. Enough people have died today. No sense all of us dying for nothing.”
Clarissa stared at the simple band, carved to look like intertwining ivy leaves and nodded, tears in her eyes and hugged the bard. “Thank you.”
Nicodemus finished chanting and a shimmering portal appeared. He turned back to Clarissa and frowned. A faint pang of jealousy stabbing his heart. “We don’t have much time. We have to go now.”
Reynnard tried to push the thief away but she only hugged him tighter. “I’m sorry…” She whispered.
Reynnard tried to tell her it was alright, that it wasn’t her fault, these things happened. But before he answer he found himself spun and shoved bodily towards the portal. He collided hard with the mage and both fell in an awkward tumble of limbs, through the portal. The last thing Reynnard saw was Clarissa waving farewell before the portal closed.
“That’s not the truth and you know it.” Nicodemus interrupted angrily. “She would never have…”
Reynnard laughed mockingly. “Wouldn’t she? What did she have to look forward to? A loveless marriage arranged by her family? A life as a whore to some petty lord so both families could increase their holdings? She made her choice.”
Nicodemus blinked away the tears in his eyes. “It would never have been like that. I…” He let his words trail off, unable to speak anymore.
Unnoticed, a cloaked figure slipped onto the back of the cart. Slender feminine hands reached out and deftly picked the locks on the heavy manacles. Reynnard rubbed his wrists and kissed his rescuer for several long moments.
Behind them Nicodemus sighed. “I loved her. From the first time I saw her…”
A faint blue glow enveloped the pair and they vanished, the manacles falling to the floorboards with a heavy clank.
“When she died…” Nicodemus faltered, at a loss. Glancing over his shoulder he saw the empty chains and sighed. A faint glitter in the hay caught his attention. Pulling the horses to a halt he stepped back into the cart and scooped up the item that had caught his attention. It was a simple platinum band, carved to look like intertwining ivy leaves. He turned it over in his hand numbly and dropped it into his pocket.
By: Jason Haley