BANDITS

A SANTHARIAN SHORT STORY

 
The Frethoni Book of Fables   
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Introduction. As Compendiumist Agran Velion and his assistant/friend Olar travel from the North, Agran will find the road they’ve taken, is going to have a horrible surprise in store for them.
 

he wind dug into the face of the Compendiumist, jagged knives cutting into his cheeks and turning them red and raw. Agran Velion cursed softly, pulling the cloth around his face higher so as to block some of the wind. He had spent the past several weeks in Northern Sarvonia, researching for the Compendium. He loved the work, and the snow was a beautiful thing, and even the freezing cold was interesting, especially when curled by a fire. The beauty would soon wear itself out, the snow just turning into an endless plain of white, the fire no longer being as warm as once thought, and the work, while still fun to do, became an obstacle that had to be conquered so he could return and find something to work on in the south, where it must be warmer.

“I am staying out of the North for a long time, I’m going to find a nice entry to do, and it’ll be in the Rahaz’Dath desert! No cold to bother me there!” Agran announced, waving his hand in pointless gestures.

Olar, Agran’s assistant, smiled from his horse. “And then on our way back you’ll complain of lack of water and the heat, and then wish to find an entry in the North. Which will cause you to want one in the South, and we’ll be stuck in a cycle.”

Agran was the normal size of a human, approximately two peds, although one could give or take a fore, with light brown hair that seemed to never stay neat, no matter how much effort he spent to fix it. Olar was a contrast from Agran, he reached just above a ped and two fores, and he was far less fit. A stomach hung over his belt, while Agran was well fit and well muscled, although most of the muscle came from the work he had done for the Kug’limz in order to negotiate a stay at one of their houses. Olar chose to wear more dashing clothes, red wool with golden dyed silk trimmings, black trousers with silk lining, anything he could afford. Agran dressed himself in simple clothes, a pair of linen trousers and a loose fitting woollen shirt. Although he had no problem with the ‘higher class’ clothes, he found simple ones far better, namely because he wasn’t a top choice for a pick-pocket.

Agran grinned at his assistant and good friend. “Perhaps you are right Olar, I should find a nice medium. I heard Manthria is very nice this time of year.” Olar chuckled, but didn’t reply, choosing to let silence reign again until Agran spoke again, after all, Olar could wait five minutes.

The Shaded Forest

View picture in full size Picture description. Agran and Olar on their travels through Santharia. Image by Seeker.

The five minutes passed, and no one spoke, both men seemed to be content with admiring the scenery. The lands of Vardynn were a beauty to hold, but than, so was much of the world of Caelereth. For half a stral all was silent, save for the sound of the hooves of the horses upon the dirt road and the whistling of the wind. Agran lifted his head, there was a slight creaking, like a bow being drawn. It made no sense, why would he hear a bow? There was nothing around, save for some trees ahead.

Comprehension dawned upon Agran, “Olar! Duck now!” Olar glanced towards him, and for a moment, Agran could believe he had misheard it, it was a false hope. The twang stopped Agran’s heart and nearly burst his eardrums, the arrow sprang from the trees and slammed into Olar’s stomach, it ripped open his gut.

Olar looked towards his friend, than to the woods, as if what happened didn’t register with him, than, with a sick groan he slid off his horse, onto the road. He clenched his side, pain and fear evident in his eyes. Agran yelled, but his voice seemed to fall upon deaf ears, he glanced towards the trees, men dressed in ragged cloths with twisted grins stepped forward, dull rusting blades flashing out. One word caught Agran’s mind: Bandits!

The bandits were a disgusting group. Four large men dressed in torn raggedly clothes with numerous scars crisscrossing their bodies. Their faces were rugged and unshaven, their teeth a sickly yellow. They wore grins like imps, happy to cause such pain upon someone. With laughs they began to walk towards their newest target.

Agran had managed to secure a Centoraurian Cavalry Sabre, which he said would be ‘archived’ and ‘used for reference’ which he meant he planned to keep it as a memento. The weapon now slid from its sheath, and into his hands. Logic was no longer in Agran’s mind, with a roar he spurred his horse forward sword raised. It was a surprise to them, to see a man riding forward, and the archer readied another arrow, but the leader of them, which could be guessed because the fool was mounted upon a horse, grinned, waving off the archer. He drew his own long sword and rode forward to meet Agran.

Agran was not a sword-master, nor a warrior, but he knew the basics, even of the sabre. He had been taught by the Centoraurians while he had worked on the entry for it, so he could more accurately record the information. The sabre flashed forward, the momentum carrying forth blade and smashing it into the flat side of the bandit’s. The shock sent both of the riders back, but Agran recovered first, the closeness of the two combatants took out any hope Agran had of swinging once more with the sabre’s blade. Instead, he smashed the bottom of the hilt into the bandit’s face. The robber screamed, holding his nose, which pumped forth large amounts of blood, Agran pushed him off his horse.

The other bandits, who had until recently been watching, reached for their weapons. The one with a bow, and apparently, any intelligence drew another arrow and lifted his weapon, aiming for man who had just dismounted the bandit leader. Agran saw the archer, a second before he fired, and yanked up the reigns. The horse neighed, and the arrow struck its heart, with snorts, the beast fell to the ground.

Agran untangled himself, and thanked whichever of the Twelve that had saved him, that the animal had given its life for him (however unwillingly), blade in hand, he stepped forward. A particularly fat bandit ran, screaming at the top of his lungs and bearing a crude iron axe. When he swung, the axe blade was caught on the flat side of the sabre, with a simple yank of the blade, the fat bandit fell forward, and his head used as a target for the sabre, another bandit stepped forward, waving a (no doubt stolen) sword. If there was one thing that could be said about bandits, it was that most couldn’t handle a sword, after all, what is a bandit if not a man who has given up hard work and chosen to rob?

For several moments the two men met each other blade for blade, and ended up with both swords pressing against each other, a deadlock. Slowly the sabre began to slide. Agran wasn’t strong enough. Yet an idea struck him: He shifted his body, he was in full view of the archer now. With the bow fully drawn, Agran forced himself to the side, so he was in front of the bandit he was pressing his sword against, the archer followed his movements, and fired. The arrow spurted through the chest of the bandit, who dropped to his knees, sword still in his hands. The archer, tossed his bow aside, gripping his short sword and approached Agran, who was now on his own knees, exhausted.

Agran looked up, towards his soon-to-be-killer. “I’m going to run you through boy!” The man raised his blade, and Agran closed his eyes, he couldn’t face death like this. He heard a scream, and opened his eyes, a blade was sticking out of the chest of the bandit, Agran grinned, Olar mus…he looked to the side, Olar was still on the ground. Above him, the body of the bow wielding bandit was shoved to the side, and the wrecked face of the bandit leader snarled at him. “I will kill you myself,” and lunged at Agran.

For several agonizing moments, the bandit pounded his fists into Agran. Agran winced as blows struck him again and again, he was scared beyond any other time in his life. Slowly though, he felt his fear fade, this man had ordered his friend’s death, was responsible for Olar and who knows how many other innocent travellers’ murders. Agran felt fear leave him, and with a roar tried to lift the bandit off of him, unfortunately, while the other bandits were no doubt weak fools, this man had kept his position as their boss by being the only one that could truly handle himself in a fight. Agran groaned, his arms were shaking and the bandit was still upon him, laughing, the Compendiumist snarled, smashing his knee into the other man’s groin. The bandit squealed, rolling offAgran and onto the ground.

Agran stood up, shaking form the beating he had just received. For several moments he was too stunned to move, but the bandit (amid much cursing) slowly standing forced him back into action. Agran grasped the sabre that had been knocked aside, [/blue] and slammed it into the bandits stomach, the eyes of the man looked towards Agran, and than to the blade sticking out of his gut. Agran twisted the blade, head down, and felt a thick liquid splatter over him.

The sunlight streamed into the study, lighting the thick parchment Agran scribbled upon. It had been over a month, and Olar’s death still haunted him. After Agran had killed the bandit, he had struggled to help his friend, he was already dead, he had bled out, the arrow had opened up his stomach. The funeral was unbearable, he had left in the middle of it, no matter what he had been told, even by Olar’s parents, Agran somehow knew it was his fault that Olar died. Even Olar’s mother had told him that he had done nothing wrong. ‘Bless that woman’ Agran had thought, she had been traumatized by the event, and still she told him he had done everything right and was concerned he hadn’t been harmed by the bandits.

He had told few he had killed them. The horror of seeing the light leave their eyes, of knowing death waited for them, it was a disgusting thing. But, he held no regrets, would’ve killed them all again, a dozen times over, seen that look in their eyes just to have his friend back. He had been told constantly that this was the risk Compendiumist and their assistants took, that many had lost a dozen assistants. That was why the pay was good to be an assistant.

A shadow fell over him, and Agran looked up, over him was a man near his age, well, a boy than, or man, depending on one’s perspective. He was a bit taller than Agran, with golden hair a hawk-like face. “What is it?” Agran snapped, although he believed he knew what the boy wanted.

“I’m Felix, Sir, I’m looking for employment as a Compendiumist’s assistant.”

Despite his loathing to get another assistant, Agran was never one to wave away just for personal reasons. “How do you qualify?”

“I can read and write, Sir, I’m knowledgeable about the world, I always want to learn, mother says I was too curious for my own good, and I’ll do any research.”

Agran smiled, it wasn’t cheerful. “What makes you so devoted to research?”

“Pay, Sir, mom’s been sick, and my little brother always got to be watched. Dad’s left, trying to find a cure for mom, and my brother, he works constantly. I need a job like this.”

“So in other words, you’re desperate and you need money to support your family,” Agran thought. Desperate people were always the best workers he had learned a while back, they had nothing to lose and everything to gain. “Aright you’re hired; you can stay as my assistant as long as you can handle the work. And they’ll be lots of that.”

Felix grinned, “Thanks, Sir - you won’t regret this!”

“Report here tomorrow at dawn, if I don’t answer the door, come around back, a window will be open slightly. Find a way to get in, and start fixing breakfast, no noise either, I don’t want to be woken.” Felix nodded; even the task of sneaking into the house didn’t seemed to bother him.

“Yes, Sir, thank you! I’ll…just leave you to your work then.” Felix said, although it took him a dozen thanks to leave.

‘He’ll be hard to get rid of’ thought Agran. Since Olar’s death, he had had three assistants, each one had quit from the massive amount of work they had been given, especially the useless bits. Agran however, was going to find that Felix was not going to leave as easy as he thought.


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