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The Tale of Thunder - Chapter Two (Beyond Kara-Tur - Part Two: Swift Departure)

Thunder Kayowen(Ryan Goodrich)
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It was some time after the Eleint Feast had begun that Killian showed up at the common grounds hand-in-hand with Seraphina. A large fire had been constructed in the middle of the grounds to provide light since the sun was quickly sinking in the horizon. Tables had been put together around the fire some-odd twenty feet away to provide room for dancing. It was a strange tradition in Valdaire, but they always had dancing after the Eleint Feast as well as Highharvestide Feast. Since Highharvestide marked the time for journey and it was always traditional for travelers and townsfolk who planned on traveling this time of year to leave the day after Highharvestide, the dancing was meant for family members and loved ones to bid farewell to the travelers. Although Midsummer was normally the holiday for feasting, music, and love, Valdaire always celebrated Highharvestide in a similar fashion.

The music had already begun when Killian and Seraphina entered the common grounds. Several dozen pairs of people, many of them adults, a few of them children, were already dancing gaily to the music.

As Killian looked about his eyes ran across Kira and Laura Addara flirting with a group of boys surrounding them, the boys apparently wanting a dance or two with one of the two pretty girls. He saw his father sitting at a table next to Davron Entaro and his wife Lilly. The plump innkeeper still was eating from a massive plate of food.

Arden came walking up to Killian and Seraphina, holding a honey cake in each hand. "Hey there, you two love birds. Hungry?" He offered one of his honey cakes.

"I'm starved," Killian took the honey cake and took a bite out of it. "Oh. Sorry, Sera. Want some?"

"No, that's okay," she shook her head, surveying the common grounds.

Several people caught Killian's eye. Three people were just entering the common grounds. One man was covered in a full suit of plate armor, a shield slung across his back and a sword hanging at his side. The man had his helmet off, so Killian could see his face even in the dim light. His long black hair was drawn back into a pony tail that came down to his shoulders, his dark eyes scanning the crowds.

An elf stood next to him, the first fully-grown elf he had ever seen before, and Killian had to admit he was impressed. The elf was slender, yet fairly muscular. As he followed the armored man, he moved with a grace that made Killian gap. The elf's skin was a coppery tone with long brown hair drawn back in a pony tail that extended well past his shoulders. Covering his body was a strange chain armor with some sort of metal shaped like leaves layered on top of each other. The elf carried a long stick which narrowed at either ends, a longbow Killian guessed.

Accompanying the two was Ethanial, the halfling Killian had spoken with a while ago.

"Killian?" Seraphina noticed his staring. "What's wrong?"

The three adventurers had spotted him and were headed straight for him. Seraphina and Arden had apparently spotted the three approaching men as well and looked about nervously. Killian held his ground with a calm confidence he did not feel. Seraphina gripped his hand tightly and leaned against his arm nervously. Arden took as step back and looked at Killian, but held his ground as well.

The man in armor stopped several paces away from Killian, the elf and halfling stopping next to him. The man's eyes passed over Arden and Seraphina before passing over Killian.

"Killian Tallis, I presume?" the man asked.

"Aye," Killian answered, his voice wavering slightly.

"I am Thunder Kayowen, paladin of Tempus, the God of Battles. These are my comrades-in-arms, Ethanial Leagallow and Faelar Eveningfall." Killian knew the halfling's name was Ethanial, so he assumed Faelar was the elf's name. "We travel the lands in search of adventure as well as evil. Many of the women in this village tell me you two are the only elven lads in Valdaire," Killian noted the man in armor had said "women" and not villagefolk. If there was anyone who paid more attention to them, it was the women.

"We're the only elves in the village, excluding my parents, is that's what you mean," Thunder glanced at Arden, getting to add a quick, "Sir."

"Arden Albrekiir?"

"Aye... uh.. well.. Arden. Yes, that's my name," Arden seemed nervous about having a paladin focus his attention on him.

"Your father is a ranger, is he not?"

"Uhh... yes?"

"Your father has taught you to use a bow, has he not?"

"'Course he has! He taught both me and Killian to use one. We kin both hit bull's eyes at a hundred paces on a moving horse... Sir."

"Thunder," the elf said, staring into the darkness surrounding the common grounds.

"What?" Thunder looked at Faelar.

"You know how I said we had an hour? Looks like our friends wand to get things started early."

Killian looked into the darkness of the night. Due to his vision, he could see farther into the dark than many humans ever would be able to. A dozen or so dark shapes could be seen moving towards the common grounds.

"Ever shot at a living person before, boy?" Faelar shot a glance at Arden who was slowly backing away from them.

"No," Arden's eyes never left the approaching cloaked beings. "Why?"

"Looks like you'll get some practice then," Faelar tossed Arden his bow and quiver.

"I... but... what?" Arden said incredulously.

"Get that bow strung now and start firing!" Ethanial yelled as the forms began to sprint for them.

"Dance with steal, Nightcloaks!" Thunder roared, his sword and shield out. "For Tempus!"

Ethanial suddenly had his crossbow out, a bolt already flying from it to embed itself in one of the nightcloak's throats. The being staggered before falling. Faelar stepped up alongside Thunder, a rapier in his grasp. Arden was frantically attempting to string the elven longbow up, but to no avail. Because of its elven design and resistance Arden was not used to dealing with, he was having a hard time working with the bow.

The dark forms finally reached the edge of the firelight. Each being had a black cloak on with a hood pulled up to mask their dark faces. Each one carried a sword, while some carried two daggers, the blades all made of a dark gray metal.

Thunder charged to meet the black cloaked beings. His shoulder rammed into one, sending him flying back. His sword leapt up to block an attack by another nightcloak. Ethanial's crossbow loosed another bolt, taking another target in the chest. Arden finally had the bow stringed up and was trying to nock an arrow on it, hands shaking violently from fear.

Killian suddenly realized how close Seraphina and he were to the onslaught and that they were both unarmed. The townsfolk around them were all shouting in panic as more of the darkly cloaked figures burst from the darkness all around them. Killian pulled Seraphina's hand and broke into a run.

"Come on! We've got to get out of here!" he shouted to her as they both hurried through the crowds of people.

Killian spotted an opening through the nightcloaks and ran through it, Seraphina hurrying along behind. The two hurried into the night. As they ran, Killian noticed three nightcloaks leave the common grounds chasing after them. As he looked around for an avenue of escape, he noticed a barn further down the street they were now on that they could hide in. They both hurried into the barn. In one corner of he barn was a large mound of hay. Along either walls were hoes, sickles, shovels, and other such farming equipment.

"Hide in the hay!" Killian hissed at Seraphina.



Killian hurried up to the equipment racks and grabbed one tool that consisted of a staff with a spoke on the top of it, meant for making holes in the ground to put seeds in. Killian then ran up to the side of the barn entrance and waited quietly. In the moonlight, he saw three shadows appear outside the barn entrance, slowly moving towards it.

Killian was not entirely used to using a staff with a weighted end, but Arden's father had taught him enough of staves that he could beat most f the men in the village. Gripping the staff tightly, he waited. The three forms slowly moved towards the barn. As soon as the one closest to Killian had stepped into the barn, Killian swung his staff. There was a loud crack as the staff hit the nightcloak's face, sending him flying backwards into a crumpled heap upon the ground.

The other two moved quick as vipers, attacking with their dark swords. Killian desperately spun his staff, knocking their attacks aside. He then stabbed with the spiked end of his weapon at one of the nightcloaks. The nightcloak clumsily parried the attack. They were apparently not very skilled at fighting against staves. Killian spun around, the other staff end threatening to hit the other nightcloak. The darkly cloaked man brought his sword up to block the attack only to cut off a section of Killian's staff.

Killian quickly stabbed at the nightcloak with the blunt end of his staff. The nightcloak staggered back a step, a hand over his face where Killian had hit him. Killian leapt back from the other nightcloak's attack, crashing into the barn wall behind him. The nightcloak then swung with his sword as if to take off Killian's head. He ducked low, hearing the dull think as the nightcloak's sword embedded itself deep in the barn wall. Swinging up with his staff, he heard a snap, alerting him that he'd broken the nightcloak's arm. He then swung his staff low, cracking against the nightcloak's leg. The nightcloak staggered back a few steps before hurrying out of the barn limping on one foot. Killian slowly stood, realizing he had beaten them, for the other two nightcloaks had disappeared as well. As soon as he realized that, his legs gave out from under him. Crashing to the ground, the full magnitude of what he'd done hit him as did the ground beneath him.

He had beaten three nightcloaks. He'd never raised a hand to anyone before, much less attacked someone. The only times he'd ever used a staff was when he practiced with Arden. His stomach hurt so much he felt like heaving.

"Killian!" Seraphina shouted, emerging from the pile of hay in the corner of the barn's interior.

She hurried up to him. "Are you all right?" She looked him over for wounds.

"I..." Killian's mouth was dry.

Suddenly, a familiar person appeared in the entrance to the barn. It was hard to believe someone in plate armor could move so quietly. The paladin hurried up to the two.

"What happened?" Thunder demanded.

"Three nightcloaks chased us," Killian said hoarsely. "I fought them and they ran away."

"Fool boy!" Thunder snarled, laying a hand on Killian's head. Killian gasped as a freezing sensation filled his body from head to foot. Thunder lifted his hand from Killian's head, the sensation leaving him with a slight tingling feeling. "Be thankful none of the nightcloaks' blades nicked you. You'd have died before I could have reached you in time."

"Is... the common grounds?" Killian stammered.

"Almost everyone there is fine," Thunder said, offering him a hand up. "Several people received broken arms or legs from attacking several nightcloaks. And unfortunately, several other people were not as lucky."

Killian took the offered hand and stood.

"Come," Thunder said. "You will be safer in the common grounds with the others." Thunder set a good pace as they headed back for the common grounds. Killian and Seraphina had to run to keep up. When they reached the common grounds, Killian stopped in his tracks. Several dozen people lay on the ground, some with slings and leg splinters, others with bloody wounds. Among the wounded was his father, Erik.

"Father!" Killian shouted, racing up to Erik's prone form.

His father had a cut that extended from his right shoulder nearly to the middle of his chest. His wound was starting to turn dark blue and his forehead felt like it was on fire. His eyes looked like glass as he turned and looked at Killian.

"Alysan?" Erik looked up at him.

"No, father. It's me, Killian," Killian said, nearly on the verge of tears from seeing his father in this condition.

"I am sorry," Erik shook his head. "I couldn't leave him. His mother was already dead. Nightcloaks were coming. And... Light!" Erik shouted, staring into the sky as his back arched.

The village cleric, Ter Andreal, looked up from a person he was healing and cursed. He leapt over the other people laying on the ground and laid his hands on Erik's wound. Ter's eyes closed as he concentrated.

After a moment, Erik's back stopped arching and he was in a deep slumber.

"I am not sure this will heal entirely," Ter said, breathing heavily. "The wound is deep and he is starting to look worse."

"Killian," Thunder said from behind him.

Killian stood and slowly turned.

"This attack was not meant to harm any of the villagepeople in Valdaire," Thunder said. "They were after someone in specific."

"Me?" Killian gasped.

"I cannot be sure," Thunder said. "But from their tactics, they were after either you, Arden, or Seraphina."

"What are we supposed to do?" Killian looked about, afraid that more nightcloaks might spring forth from the surrounding darkness. "Will the nightcloaks ever come back?"

"If you three stay here they surely will," Thunder said coolly. "And the next time they will come in full force with their troops of gnolls if need be. And they will kill anyone who stands in their way. As to what you should do, you should all leave as soon as possible, before sunrise at the latest."

"Where shall we go?"

"As to that, I am not certain. But if you wish, you may join my companions and I. We could use the extra help in the adventures we may go on in the future. And since we are always traveling, it will be hard for any followers of the Dark Mistress to track us."

"Sher? What does she have to do with this?"

"Be silent, boy!" Thunder hissed. "Saying the Lady of the Dark's name will only draw her attention to you."

"But in the tales, they say she is imprisoned inside a mountain under the High Ice in Anauroch."

"That does not mean she cannot sense where you are when you say her name," Thunder said. "Go and get what things you need. My companions and I will leave in one hour. You do have a horse and saddle, don't you?"

"We do have a horse, but I am not sure about the saddle. I will have to look around to find one."

"Good," Thunder said grimly. "Steal one if you have to. Your elf friend has already gone to get ready. I must tell Seraphina now."

Thunder strode off in search of the innkeeper's daughter.

Killian looked down at his father who was fast asleep. "I will return home some day, father."

Killian then hurried off for his house.


Killian rode up to Thunder and his companions. Thunder rode a strange red horse with a blue star on its forehead. Faelar rode on a white stallion and Ethanial rode on a small brown pony. Killian was on Alimnight, and had managed to find a saddle in his house without having to steal one. Before he left, he had made sure he left a note for his father telling him he'd left. He had packed several pairs of clothes as well as some food. He had his own bow with him as well as his father's swords. Erik had always left them hanging over the mantle on the fireplace. The two swords had long narrow blades that could be connected together to look like one sword when in the one scabbard they both fit in.

Erik had told Killian he had once used them many years ago, but never had touched them since then. What Erik had never told him was what the strange markings on either sides of each blade, handle, and the scabbard meant. The symbol was gold colored shaped into a hollow circle with one solid line through the center that had two more lines emerge from its sides to curve around slightly.

Both swords were fairly heavy, but he could not leave one behind since the scabbard was made for both swords and would be too large for just one. The blades were nearly three feet long and the handles were long enough to grip with both hands. Since his father would never have need of the swords, Killian thought they would serve him more use. The only problem was he had never used a sword before, so he hoped that Thunder, Faelar, or Ethanial could show him how to use them.

When Killian arrived at the inn, Arden was already there with Thunder, Faelar, and Ethanial. Arden gripped his bow tightly as he looked around from atop his father's horse, Ander. Apparently, Arden was glad to have his own bow rather than Faelar's.

"When the girl gets here we leave," Thunder told him before returning to his vigilance of their surroundings.

After a few minutes of waiting, Seraphina showed up on a horse that most likely had either been her fathers or was a traveler's mount. Sera was dressed in a brown dress with divided skirts for riding. She looked somewhat nervous about taking someone's horse without asking.

"We must hurry before the nightcloaks mount another attack," Thunder said. "If we go at a good pace northwestward, we should reach the main highway that will take us north through the Earthfast Mountains to Dragon Falls. From there we head west to Raven's Bluff. Should any of you get separated on the way there, head for the inn in Raven's Bluff called the Cracked Tankard and wait for the rest of us there. Understood?"

Killian nodded, as did Sera and Arden.

"Very well. We ride!" Thunder shouted, kicking his mount to a gallop.

Killian dug his heals into Alimnight's ribs as he followed Thunder closely.

As they rode along the pathway to the main highway, Killian wondered if he would ever see Valdaire again.


The Tale of Thunder: Chapter 2 - Beyond Kara-Tur - Part 2 Swift Departure © Thunder Kayowen(Ryan Goodrich)

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