Darline helps Burtrend escape the Port of Sobeck
One may believe that godly events are potentially more informative or important. This is an opinion not based on evidence or fact and can distract a student of history from the purpose of an unbiased view of events. It would also distance you from the complete understanding of the situation that makes this point in Ithmere's history unique.
The sound of the waves lapping against the dock faded as Burtrend walked into Sobeck. The ocean breeze blew through the streets and whipped at his matted, messy hair. They had shackled his wrists and ankles together with only a short chain between them. He chuckled to himself as he thought, How sinister I must look in my dirty, ragged Vitarri robes, towering over these guards surrounding me. Even the city guards, dressed in scale mail and fancy red cloaks, became quiet and stared at him stupidly.
As they walked, he continued to glance at the woman walking behind them. Darline Devonshir, a commoner, but far from ordinary. She was even beautiful, for a Faynecian woman. Her dark curly hair and brown eyes that appeared black. Her skin was darker than most Faynecians, which he attributed to her time at sea. She was the only one that believed I was being sarcastic about setting the ship ablaze. She was the only one that believed anything I said. But why? Why would one of her gods want to save me? That question worked like a thorn in his mind.
The atmosphere slowly became more hostile the further into Sobeck they traveled. The silent stares at the dock were nothing compared to the angry whispers and sneers of disgust in the merchant district. When walking through the poor side of town, however, people no longer whispered amongst themselves. The people's hatred for Vitar boiled over and became directed at him. Curses, threats, and even rotten produce were thrown at him.
"Ahoy!" Darline's voice called loudly from behind him. "You people stop this!"
"Why should we?!" a half-crazed, middle-aged woman asked from the crowd. "He's a Vitarri! Because of their greed and wanting to own the world this war is never ending! I lost my oldest boy, along with my father and half the men in my family because of that war."
"That's right!" an elderly man covered in rags and dirt yelled out. "They treat anyone that isn't a Vitarri the same as garbage, why shouldn't we return the favor?"
"This man," Darline replied calmly, "hasn't done anything against you. You can't blame everything his people did on--"
"He's a Vitarri!" someone bellowed out. "They're all the same!"
The crowd exploded into curses again, this time they included Darline. Watching their hatred turn on such an innocent, kind-hearted person made his temper flare. Why did you speak up on my behalf? I'm a Vitarri! I'm supposed to be your enemy. Even if a god asked you to save me, shouldn't you hate me like everyone else? Splat. A rotten vegetable thrown at his face woke him from his brooding. He looked back at Darline and watched as food flew her direction as well. Something inside him snapped.
"You're right!" Burtrend shouted as loud as he could. "Every Vitarri is the same. They despise anyone that isn't one of them. That's why my Vitarri father murdered my Iddean mother and tried to kill me, his... mistake." The people stared in silent shock. "I grew up on the streets, slept in the sewers, treated worse than a dog, saved only by the mercy of a temple priest. Keep your words and your food. There is nothing you could do that would be worse than what the Vitarri has already done to me."
Everyone, including the guards, stared at him with wide, shocked eyes. It was the look of empathetic worry in Darline's eyes that made his heart burn with shame. He turned his back on her, unable to look at the pain and pity she felt for him. He gestured for the guards to continue. Hushed whispers started to spread through the port city the moment his foot took a step. Well, at least I gave them some entertaining gossip. Their faces seem less murderous now as well.
After only a few minutes more of walking they reached an inn at the edge of the slums where they finally stopped. It was now early afternoon and apparently too early for drinking. The dining area was dark and void of customers. The floor felt sticky with spilled alcohol and filth as they walked across the floor. Only a gruff, portly man sat on a stool behind the bar. He looked Burtrend up and down with a sneer of disgust.
"We need rooms for the night," one of the guards said, placing a pouch of coins on the bar.
"Hmph." The man stared at the pouch before he answered, "No. I don't need that kind of trouble." He uncrossed his arms to point a meaty finger toward Burtrend. "I'll lose all of my customers if I let that thing stay here."
"Why?" Darline's voice was sharp with anger. "He's not Vitarri. Look at his height and his face. Can't you tell? He's obviously Iddean." The words stabbed Burtrend's heart with painful memories. It's strange to hear those words, often used to shame and ostracize, now used to help and defend me.
"But the clothes--"
"Since when does sewn cloth dictate where you were born or what blood runs in your veins?" Darline argued. "Would leathers and furs make him a Mordlok? They are circumstantial only." The man's face flushed with anger at her sarcastic reply. "Besides, they are too filthy for him to keep wearing. I'll buy him some Faynecian clothes to wear after he's had a bath." She chuckled. "Then there shouldn't be a problem any more since, by your standards, he would just be an abnormally tall Faynecian."
"You're quite brash for a woman." He chuckled as he dumped the pouch out on the bar to count the coins. "Fine, he can stay here. You'd best hurry to get those clothes. I'm sending him to the wash basin in the back immediately."
"Thank you." Gratitude and relief sounded in her voice.
"Don't thank me. I just can't stand the malicious odor coming from him for another second." Done counting the coins, the innkeeper pocketed them, stood up and started to walk to the door. "I have to open the door and air the room out. When you take him back to the kitchen you can let my wife know what you need." With that he opened the door and left.
Before he knew it, the guards unchained Burtrend and led him to the kitchen. He kept his head down and allowed the guards to argue with the innkeeper's wife until finally a bucket was thrust into his hands. Bucket by bucket he filled the old, rusted tub that the inn used for dishes. The water from the pump was cold and he was exhausted and sore by the time he finally got in it.
It felt so good to be clean again that he tried to ignore the numbness in his fingers and toes caused by the cold water or how raw his skin felt from the hog-hair scouring pad the maids gave him. The towels were rough, scratching his already raw skin. He didn't mind. It ensured that every ounce of filth from the brig and rotten food was scrubbed off. He hadn't been this clean since he left home.
Finally satisfied, he turned to his pile of clothes only to find them gone. With his mind so focused on washing he hadn't noticed his pile of filthy, stained clothes taken away and replaced with clean Faynecian ones. Heh, Darline actually bought me clean clothes. What is wrong with this woman's head? Plain brown and white now adorned his skinny frame. The hem of the heavy workman's pants came up to his shin, and the long tunic barely passed his waist. He decided not to wear the plain vest at all because it didn't even pass below his ribs. He hadn't worn clothes this rough and small on him since his childhood. As ridiculous as this looks, at least it's clean, he thought with a sigh of relief.
Burtrend's pride suffered the snickers from the two guards who escorted him out of the kitchen back to the dining room. He blushed with embarrassment when he caught a soft, humorous smile from Darline at his appearance. In his shame, he refused to speak, but sat in silence while trying his best to ignore the stares and whispers of the customers that slowly wandered in. Eventually the innkeeper brought them each a meat pie. They ate the meal and retired for the night. Despite the worn and dirty mattress, the bed he slept on was a welcome change from the soiled floor of the brig.
In the dark of the night, well before the sun began to glow on the horizon, he woke suddenly and completely. Moments later his door opened quietly, and a person's shadowy form stood framed in the doorway. It moved toward him silently until it stood next to the bed. Shocked, he froze in fear. All he could do was hope that whoever, or whatever, it was wouldn't kill him. He opened his mouth to shout out for help.
A hand shot out of the darkness and covered his mouth while the other pulled the hood back. The shout in his lungs turned into a sigh of relief when the moonlight shine upon Darline's face. Burtrend's relief was quickly supplanted by confusion. Why is she here at this time of night?
"We need to leave, now, before the others wake." Darline whispered softly in his ear while removing her hand from his lips. She quickly unlocked the manacles from around his ankles and wrists and laid them down as quietly as possible.
"Why? What has happened?"
"I will explain later. Right now, I need to get you out of the city." Without any further explanation, she turned and left. It was good that he had nothing to pack or he feared that she would have left him there. Adrenaline caused blood to rush in his ears, set his nerves on edge, and his eyes to search the deep shadows in the hallway. Following as closely as he could, lost in confusion about why Darline was helping him escape, he never noticed that she had stopped abruptly at the bottom of the stairs. They collided, sending her out into the light of the dining area.
The innkeeper had retired for the night and there was no one in the pub sober enough to notice them. Even the serving wench was too occupied with her flirtations. Burtrend nearly jumped out of his skin when the door whipped open with a large bang. Everyone stared in shock at the dark shadow that stood just outside. Darline quickly backed into Burtrend to hide in the dark shadows of the stairway again. He swore he heard her whisper, "Too late."
"Hey!" shouted a drunkard near the door, "Tha' wasn' nice... an' yur lettin' in the cold!"
The shadow, in the shape of a man, needed to bend down to step inside and hunch so that it's black, spiked helm wouldn't stab the ceiling. It wore black medieval armor, a mix of plate mail, ring mail and a large spiked pauldron and bracer on his left arm. It's helm completely masked the face with a large eye-slit that angled like a V.
Its helm turned as it looked over the tables in the dining area. It walked over to the tables near the fireplace where most of the drunkards sat, it's spiked boots thudded heavily on the floor planks. It grabbed the hair of a man passed out on a table and lifted him up near the ceiling to get a good look at the drunkard's face. It was obviously not who he was looking for by the grunt of disgust and the thud of the drunkard falling to the floor.
"HEY!" The drunkard that had spoken before caught the armored giant's attention. "Tha's no' righ', he did nothen to yah!"
As its back turned away from them Darline grabbed Burtrend and rushed as quietly as they could to the kitchen. Burtrend turned just in time to watch the huge stranger in armor slice with a sword that looked 5 feet long. The drunkard's body thudded to the floor. The serving wench's scream signaled an eruption of chaos. Darline grabbed Burtrend and yanked him the rest of the way into the kitchen. The sound of the woman's screaming suddenly cut short and he could only imagine what the armored giant had done to her.
Darline looked around for a moment before taking a cloth covered in grease and lit it from the orange embers of the oven's cooking fire. She took the burning rag and threw it at a wooden crate full of bottles of alcohol packed with straw. Grabbing Burtrend again, she rushed to the rear exit and out into the back alley. Darline pulled something from one of the pouches hanging from her belt and threw it into the open doorway towards the growing flames inside. They only managed a few steps before a large explosion forced them to the ground. Their ears ringing, they picked themselves up and rushed down the alley, only to find that it did not enter out onto the main street.
"What is going on?" Burtrend said breathlessly as they stared at the brick wall. "You started the inn on fire! No... you blew it up! You are going to kill them!"
"Actually, I might have saved some lives. I am sure the men downstairs were all dead before the explosion. For anyone sleeping upstairs, the explosion would have woken them up, giving them a chance to escape the man in black armor. That man was looking for you and came to claim your head. He will be checking our rooms right now and the fire is to kill him. Hopefully, if there are more people looking for you, they will assume that you burned in the fire." he couldn't argue her logic. Backtracking a short distance, they found another alley before they slipped out into a side street.
"Where are the city guards?" Burtrend's voice was loud in the stillness of the night. "Shouldn't someone notice the fire by now?" Instead of the chaos a fire normally brings to a city, the deep silence made their soft footfalls echo through the empty streets.
"Perhaps they were either killed or paid off," she answered, "bribed to stay away from the inn and the streets around it in case there was screaming. But you are right, I expected someone to notice the fire before it spreads to the buildings around it. That might be too late by now, though."
As if in answer to their concerns a warning bell rang out from the center of the port. Distant voices calling out, "Fire!" were barely audible to them as they hurried faster. Finally, the street they were on opened onto a broad road. They paused for a moment to catch their breath and looked back to see the tendrils of fire snake into the sky. Darline turned her face from it in shame. After letting out a big sigh, she grabbed Burtrend and started to run down the main road. Before long the gate came into view.
He wasn't even sure he could call it a gate. It stood as a simple stone arch framing the farmland to the north and acted as nothing but a landmark for the edge of the city. He also wasn't sure what running was going to accomplish other than make them look suspicious to anyone who might be watching from the windows. What would be more suspicious than two people running away from a fire that might consume half the city?
When they finally reached the archway, Darline forced him to hide behind it to regain their breath again. The pail light of dawn had barely started to brighten the horizon. The shouts of "Fire!" had built up strength and echoed loudly in the chill air. Sneaking a glance around the gate Burtrend could see the fire growing in strength as it fed on more buildings. He never meant for such destruction to happen, and if they found out he was still alive, it would all be blamed on him. In Vitar he would be greeted as a hero, here he would likely be killed on site.
"Why did you save me this time?" he asked when his breath finally returned.
"Same as before, I received a vision from one of my gods."
"There's a problem with that answer. There's no reason they should want me, of all people, to stay alive."
Darline ignored him for a moment, looking up at the last of the stars in the twilit sky. By the questioning expression on her face, it looked as though she was searching for an answer, so he remained quiet as well.
"We should move on," Darline whispered so quietly he could barely hear her, "But before we do, I need to tell you something." She paused for a moment, causing Burtrend to strain his ears and his nerves. "I worship two different gods. Jorack, our god of war, asked me to save you while we were at sea. Now he wants to kill you, but Areyanna, our goddess of wisdom, asked me save you from him this time."
"So why save me?" He was beginning to feel the question was futile.
"First, I believe it always best to obey wisdom before war. That man, the one in black armor sent by Jorack to kill you, he would have killed me too because I saved you earlier. I'm supposed to escort you until we reach the Fayneland borders. Areyanna didn't tell me why. Do you know?"
"It seems," he answered slowly, "That Areyanna wants me to continue my journey." I wonder why one of her gods wants me to keep going? "Against what others believe, I am not a spy for my people. I am scholar, traveling to the far northeast of here to study a culture of people and technology that we recently discovered."
"There are rumors of people with wings if you travel far enough." Curiosity and intrigue lit her face. "I always believed that it was the crazed ramblings of sun-struck seamen."
"It isn't crazed ramblings or rumor. It's true." Burtrend let out a sigh, saying nothing more about it. "We should honor your decision and the wisdom of your goddess to save me then. Let's get going."
Darline nodded before she led him on a meandering path through wide, open alleyways created by peasant homes clustered around the road. Burtrend kept looking behind him, making sure no one had followed. The sensation that they were being watched became worse the further they traveled, but Burtrend blamed it on paranoia caused by the earlier events.
They were almost out onto the open fields, only a few more buildings to go, when a club appeared out of the shadow of a house and smashed into Darline's head. Burtrend watched in shock as Darline fell to the ground. A short, burly man stepped out from around the corner of the house and approached him. Burtrend turned to flee, but he couldn't move fast enough. Another, taller man had been waiting right behind him. A moment later pain erupted at the back of his head and everything went black.