A few miles north of the royal winery a gentle wind played through the trees, rustling their leaves gently to make a somewhat continuous and pleasant noise. Spring had truly come to Osterra, and the lone traveler who wound his ways between the trees was appreciating it greatly. His bare feet moving steadily and with care not to step on anything to sharp, Kailos pondered the events of the past few days. It had been a good turn out for the fledgling kingdoms first tournament and, while he himself had not competed, he felt it had been beneficial to have made the time to return to what he now referred to as the south country. There were many great warriors among the ranks of portal walkers, and he had been impressed by the skills shown by the healers and arcane trainers as well. He himself had been assigned to train some of the newer members of their growing number as scouts under the direction of Quartermaster Randy, and had enjoyed the task greatly. Looking up at the clear sky with the sunshine caressing his face, he sighed deeply. It was all going so well so far, so why did he feel as if it wasn't going to stay that way?
Pausing for a moment beneath the branches of a particularly large oak, the wanderer removed his pack and leaned his new halberd against it's rough bark. Sitting down, he grabbed his water skin and drank deeply. Perhaps the orcs attacking again was what was bothering him. He had been shaken by seeing the creatures again, though he made sure not to tell the others that. Gareyth would probably tell him to be brave and that the Lords of Light would protect him, Xoticua would probably talk more of Tharos' hunger and try and convert him, perhaps Randy would analyze the strategy of the orc raiders and comment on their lack of coordination. The new friends he had made would also have had their own comforts or jests, but in his heart Kailos felt something that he hadn't felt yet in this strange new world. Perhaps fear was the word? Though something about it felt like more than that. He shook himself and splashed some of the water over his sweaty face. Perhaps when next he returned to Nova Regnus he would speak with Meren about it, or Lotharien. The healers had been a great help in tending to the injured during the tourney as well as the one named Grissan who had seemingly been possessed. While that last experience had been vexing, Kailos still smiled at the thought of the enigmatic fighter. It was tragic what had happened to him, yet he seemed eager to find a way to redeem himself and heal his mind for that matter.
A rustle in the bushes brought Kailos' attention back to the present, and a few yards away a deer sprinted off deeper into the wood. The warrior was surprised to find himself already standing, his shortsword in hand and his body posed to strike. Taking a moment to see if anything else was near, he relaxed and sat back down with the blade still in hand. He deftly ran his finger along the side of the blade as his thoughts returned to his journey. Caenric, the most knowledgeable of all his fellows on the matter of the portals had told him much that had him worried as well. While he had been in the Northern Barrens, Kailos had spent much time with the tribesmen of the Ka-Nar-Sey as well as a handful of members from other villages in the vast area beyond the mountains they called The Sky Reaches. He had told them of his being a traveler from another world through a portal of which he knew little, and they had responded by telling him of rumors that two of the tribes, one to the east by a vast sea and one further north in another, smaller range of mountains that had caves going deep into the ground. These tribes were supposedly built around and worshipped portals, each for different reasons but with the same result: the sacrifice of animals, treasure, and even other sentient creatures via throwing them into the portal. Caenric had some theories as to what that all meant, none of them good, so Kailos had decided he would make his way back to northland and see for himself if these rumors were true. While his fellows on the council and of the kingdom seemed to be decent folks, they seemed far more interested in their own varied interests than what was going on outside of Nova Regnus. Perhaps he was being cynical about the council, but either way he still felt a need to protect the tribesmen who had offered their hospitality to a stranger in strange land.
Kailos once again shook his head trying to clear his mind. So much had happened in such a short time. He wasn't even sure who he was if the truth were to be told. While some had retained their memories or regained them from their lives before traveling through the portal, he still remained a mystery to himself. Only his name and a desire to protect those he held close were what he seemed to maintain, and even those two things became blurred at times. Even some who had lost their powers, such as Geth the Necromancer or Grayson the Cleric, seemed to have such confidence in who they were. Kailos smiled at the thought of Gareyth's face when first meeting Geth. Two more opposite warriors could not be found in this world, and he enjoyed the humor in them fighting for the same cause side by side. Closing his eyes and leaning his head back against the oak, he took a breathe and calmed his mind.
The word rang out with the clear, authoritative power of someone or something that was used to being in complete control. Kailos eyes flew open and he made to leap yet again into a defensive pose, only to find his body was not responding to his own minds commands. His eyes seemed to be the only thing he could move, and he looked wildly around to see who had spoken. The wood was empty, and completely silent. No breeze, no deer, no birds or rustling branches. His heart raced and he felt his whole body tense as if every muscle in his body contracted at once. Sweat began to trickle down his face and the hand which he had been playing along the edge of the blade stung has it sliced deeply into his hand. The whole ordeal was over in a moment, and as soon as the tension left Kailos rolled onto his side and vomited. It was a full ten minutes before he pushed himself back up onto his knees, his heart still racing. His hand was throbbing and he crawled to his pack and rummaged through for some cloth to wrap it in. Glancing back through watering eyes at the spot he had regurgitated, and was horrified to see a puddle of bial as black as obsidian. Grabbing his waterskin he poured some into his mouth and spat it back out to clear the putrid taste that was overwhelming his sense of taste. What was this?
Falling back off his knees the warrior sat, his bleeding hand wrapped in a now blood soaked cloth, panting like a cornered animal. Should he go back to the winery? It was only a days journey to return and perhaps some of the healers were still their. He could see if perhaps one of the weapons the orcs had attacked with had been poisoned, as he had received a light wound to his leg just the evening prior during the ritual to discover more about the orbs. Another few minutes passed, agonizingly slow as if time had slowed to a crawl. Something told him the others would not react well to this. There was enough possessions and strange happenings already and Kailos had a strong suspicion that there would be consequences he wouldn't like if he went back so soon talking of obsidian vomit and voices coming from thin air. It was another weeks journey to make it to the pass through the Sky Reaches, and another four days to make it to where the Ka-Nar-Sey were located. Maybe he could find some sort of transportation that would expedite this process, and he could talk to the druidess who lived with the tribe. Yes, that was what he should do.
Standing, he took the cloth off his hand for a moment to see if it needed to be replaced. His hand showed no signs of being cut. Startled, he examined what he had seen as a bloody bandage just a moment earlier to see it showed no signs of having even a light nosebleed let along a gushing wound soaked into it. Looking over to where he had vomited, the bial was also gone. The cold, disturbing feeling he had yet to fully understand once again pushed through his chest like an unwanted wind of a winter storm. He shivered, and quickly began gathering his things. Taking the time to throw his boots back on, Kailos resettled his pack on his shoulders and began walking briskly north. He didn't know what was happening to him, but whatever it was he needed to find someone who did.
To be continued...