Rudi's Story 08 - Where Rudi Comes Upon a Fork In His Path, and Must Find His Way
“Master Cassius, I believe that sneaking in myself is still the best option. It’s simply a matter of presenting myself as a member after climbing up and over the walls – ”
“Not without me going to observe the fortifications. Why does everyone always want to go together anyways?” Pirec interjected.
“Because it’s not safe. Not with necromantic magic blocking the path to the walls.” Sear interjected. “If we stroll up divided or in small groups, it’s simply a matter of their minions cutting us off, and taking us apart.”
“Why don’t we just lie and say we’re making a delivery or something,” Rudi said, head twisting around as each one spoke. Cassius caught his eye with a haughty stare.
“Because we’re the heroes,” he stated. “In the morning, Sear, Faderean, and myself will parley and give the scoundrel the opportunity to surrender. Like Sear said, with evil tainting these lands, it’s not safe to go alone.”
“And when that doesn’t work?” Sear asked.
“We take his head, as we were hired to do, and vanquish his followers as well.”
The party argued for a short time after that before dispersing, worn down from travelling, exhausted from planning, and frustrated by their lack of options. Nerves had been frayed as they marched towards their charter’s end, but since the palisade came into view, tensions were higher than ever. Rudi walked back to his tent, chewing over the conversation, and especially what Cassius had said.
The ebullition over killing the troll had faded over the intervening days, but Rudi still relished thinking about it. The way he jumped in front of everyone in the wagon, the creature’s roar as he dug the flaming trident into its gut, the earth churning as he braced the weapon and told the others to run… Then, unexpectedly, the troll turned and ran too.
He’d never felt bigger in his life.
Sear still got a chunk ripped out of him, he thought. But at least I stopped the others from being troll bait. And he still made it out ok, minus his complaints about his robes.
Then there was jumping onto Mandarb while Cassius rode past him, and the two of them running the troll down. He’d felt so alive. And it wasn’t just killing a horrible monster like he’d dreamed while stabbing hay bales in New Dawn Valley. They’d killed that giant centipede before, afterall. He thought back further, to what Lessys and Barril had said after everything with Devin. About doing the right thing. He had saved Hydrastis with the tatzlwyrms, then protected the others from the troll. They were both scary, and it would’ve been easier to protect himself. But it felt good, and maybe that was it’s own reward.
Not the whole reward, obviously, but part of one he thought, looking across the camp at his friends as Cassius whetted his sword and Hydrastis tried to train Thlayli. Cassius is only part right, though. We’re not heroes yet. But we will be.
Then he saw Sear and Faderean in the middle of their nightly routine – Faderean setting up their tent and bedrolls with Sear complaining about… something – and thought of their side in the argument that evening. But he’s wrong about the not lying bit. You just gotta have the right reasons.
Which brought him full circle to listening to Sear’s advice about Glod from earlier in the week. Something about killing him first didn’t seem right, especially after Cassius said they were the heroes. He was never more confident in his abilities, and didn’t want to be bullied anymore sure, but without evidence he was pretty sure that attacking him would just make him a villain. And after stealing from his old friends to come adventuring, he thought that killing one of his new ones while actually adventuring would be a hell of a lot worse. Lessys the raven hadn’t seen anything, so it was probably all in his imagination and didn’t want to bring it up to anyone new, but he couldn’t let down his guard.
Well, I can always bring it up with Sear again tomorrow, he thought. He watched as the others turned in, before standing and brushing off his britches and walking back to the center. “Time for first watch already, Hydrastis? Hey, you might know, we’re going to fight the bandits tomorrow… we’ve only really fought animals and stuff so far… Is it hard to kill a person?”