Sunday, February 26, 2006

FF RPG Fiction. Tale of Byfree, Part I

Byfree, year 1000 AG

Nenaki woke early, before the sun even started to rise over the eastern mountains, and stretched out his tightly corded limbs. He rose from his sleeping mat and moved to the center of his small room clad only in his loincloth and dark grey fur. He stretched again, eyes closed, seeming to test each muscle individually before sitting on the floor softly and taking up the lotus position. He sat motionless for many minutes focusing his thoughts inward, scanning his chi for signs of flaws. Satisfied, he opened his eyes and stood, moved to a small chest at one end of the room and pulled forth a pair of thick baggy pants made from some light fabric. He pulled them on and wiggled his tail through a specially designed slot at the rear, then tied the top with a woven belt of the same material. He opened his window, letting the chill misty morning air clear his senses. He looked down, toward the ground three stories below him, the night fishermen had already come in, and the morning fishermen would have already gone out for the day, so the street below was empty, but he could still hear the sounds of dockworkers coming from the harbor. With a sudden movement he hopped over the sill and out the window, landing with feline grace in the deserted street below. Stretching and flexing once more he then turned and started jogging up the street away from the waterfront. He approached the edge of town at a quick pace, leaping the six foot high stone barricade with ease, not even slowing his pace as he headed into green fields bejeweled with thousands of dewdrops and shrouded in a white veil of fog. It was mornings like this that he didn't miss the stark grey mountain home of his Kermodei clan as much. He couldn't believe that it had been eight-teen years already since he had been home, it seemed like only yesterday he was just setting off on a life of adventure and treasure hunting. He continued to run east for a while, and then finally started to circle to the south heading up the only accessible route onto a large rocky knoll overlooking the entire valley. From the still foggy woods to the north, to the Highwind pass jutting out of the clouds between two great mountains to the east, to the gleaming waters of the outer sea crowned with tall masts of trading ships, Nenaki could see it all from this vantage point.

He sat on a large smooth boulder on top of the knoll overlooking the valley, watching Byfree awake. Its inhabitants, slow at first, soon began the frantic pace of life in a busy port town. Sailors swarmed over the docks and on the various merchant vessels making ready to weigh anchor and set sail across the Outer Sea to the many exotic islands or even to the strange continent even further west. Nenaki could identify, even from such a great distance, the recently christened Byfree fleet, a trio of high-sided, quad masted ships that were armed to the teeth with ballista and catapults. They had just been supplied by the merchant’s guild in Trovaire to protect the guild members from pirates that seemed to have free run of the Outer Seas coastal waters. It was a sign of how much influence Byfree had gained recently, Nenaki chuckled to himself, Humans, they moved about so fast, never stopping to enjoy the view, they were like the firecrackers brought by merchants from the east: small, loud, and seconds later, gone. Considering Byfree had only been around since Spencer Bingham founded it eight years ago with his merry band of adventurers, Nenaki was surprised that Humans hadn't taken control of the entire world centuries ago. This thought brought to mind recent reports of war in the far north, pretty much every merchant was talking about it, how it would be the war to end all wars, and that they wouldn't be surprised if it affected everyone even as far south as Byfree. Nenaki doubted it, humans always fought, their wars were quick and brutal just like their lives, but the next generation would always strike out in a different direction, more wars would follow, it was just the way with them, wise races knew to just leave them to their own devices and stay out of the way. That's why he liked it in Byfree so much, it was so far removed from the entire world, sticking out into the sea on a little spit of land, and the merchants didn't bring trouble, just the most recent news of it. The only thing that disturbed the peace was the occasional pirate raid, and then again it was always good fun to bash in pirates heads once in a while.

By now the sun was rising, its rays streaming through the pass and lighting up distant waves, the valley was still in shadow, but not for long. Nenaki had observed this process every morning without fail for nearly six years, the power of the sun still amazed him. Many of the Ronso in his Clan thought it odd that he was devoted to Ignus, Lord of the Sun, but Nenaki was always quick to point out that very little life could flourish without the power of the suns golden light, and indeed as he sat and watched it appeared as though a whole new world was awakened when the sun crested the mountains casting its light in fullness over the valley. His forehead horn was the very first thing to feel the warmth, then the sun, as it rose, warmed his fur and then the rocky knoll and then the entire valley. The fog burned away quickly revealing the thin line of a stream winding through the lush valley like a glittering jeweled necklace on the throat of the goddess Naos. Nenaki sat back to enjoy the show as a group of majestic griffins circled high in the sky over the valley, warming their wings in the suns light before heading out over the sea to fish. Other animals were stirring on the ground as well, but Nenaki's gaze was drawn to the trail leading from the Highwind pass, he saw something that was not a regular morning occurrence. It appeared to be some sort of rider, moving very fast toward Byfree, too fast, it was something he had to investigate. His mornings peace gone he started down the knoll with a fast loping stride. Jumping from boulder to rocky outcropping to boulder again Nenaki seemed to glide like a bird, the distance between some spots was just too great to be leapt naturally and he landed so effortlessly never pausing for a rest. Now the rider was much closer and Nenaki stopped to observe for a moment, it was a fluffy white Moogle in the saddle, or kind of in the saddle. It was riding a golden feathered chocobo which was moving so fast it appeared that it was all the Moogle could to hang on to the saddle horn, it had it's small leathery wings outspread and the rush of wind gave it some lift it could never hope to achieve on its own and its feet trailed in the air behind it. Nenaki started running again, parallel to the road the Moogle and chocobo were on, he was a little ahead of them but they were gaining fast. The Moogle hadn't noticed him, its eyes were squinted even behind a pair of protective goggles and it was focused fully on its destination, the chocobo was wearing blinders and so hadn't noticed him yet either. Nenaki angled toward the road as the pair passed, moving to within shouting range, the chocobo heard his approach and turned its head to get a look, seeing the Ronso it 'warked' in surprise and skidded off the road turning to face him, beak open and crest raised. The Moogle was nearly dumped off at this but quickly grabbed the reigns and reasserted control over his mount, looking curiously at Nenaki.

"You are Nenaki Kermodei, kupo?" It chirped cheerfully.

Nenaki looked over the Moogle surprised that it had known his name, then he noticed the Messenger Guilds emblem on one of the saddlebags. "This is Nenaki Kermodei you speak to." He said.

"Excellent! I have a letter for you, I do." It said rummaging through its saddlebags until it procured a rolled parchment sealed with white wax, and handed it to Nenaki.

Nenaki took it, inspected the seal, a bear’s paw in the mist, and thanked the Moogle. "I am grateful."

The Moogle smiled brightly, stood on his saddle and bowed low. "It was my pleasure, kupo!" He said, then he chirped to the chocobo who responded with a low warble and they headed off again toward the town. Nenaki watched them leave for a moment and then looked at the scroll in his hand, something was wrong.

It was midmorning when Nenaki made his way over to Spencer’s place, grim faced. Spencer had been his closest friend ever since he left his clans holdings to set off on a life of adventure. He was practical, for a human, and very charismatic, they had faced many obstacles on their journeys that would have caused lesser men to turn in defeat, but Spencer would just rally the group and lead the charge. When friends were lostSpencer did not resign himself to grief and despair, he struck out anew to honour their memory. Now at the ripe age of 49 years, he spent most of his time overseeing his town and telling grand tales of past glory in his favorite pub, his life as an adventurer was behind him. It made what Nenaki had to tell him all that much harder.

Spencer was not at home, so Nenaki tried the next place on his list, The Plump Quail Inn. Sure enough Spencer was there, leaning on the bar and waxing poetic on the glories and travesties of war. When Nenaki entered Spencer turned and looked at him, his face dropped, he shook his head and stomped his foot.

"Bloody heck. Look at your braids man, don't tell me you are going too?" He said, gesturing to the thick silvery braids falling over Nenaki's shoulders. "First my armada and now my best friend."

Nenaki looked slightly puzzled.

"The messenger came from the Merchants Guild with orders for my new fleet to sail back and join up with the United Almekian Navy, the war with the Krueganian Empire is taking its toll even here." Spencer explained.

Nenaki nodded. "Word came from Kermodei Clan High Chief, I too am called home to join in fighting, all Great Clans have bargained with Human Lords, we aid Almekians too. I must leave now, not much time to make the trip before the first war drums sound."

He clasped Spencer’s arm. "I will be back, this is a promise, ok?"

"Ok, but you have to tell this old man all about it when you return." He replied, raising his fist in a traditional Ronso pre-battle salute.

"Indeed. Glory in battle through the destruction of our enemies." He said, turning and leaving the inn to collect his belongings.

Spencer watched him leave sadly, wishing to be able to join the fight, but knowing he would never be able to keep up nor be accepted by the majority of Nenaki's people. He ordered up and downed a shot of whiskey in a silent salute to his friend. Krueganian bastards, he thought.

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