The small framed man sit with his back propped to the large tree behind him, his hand laid gently on his blade hilt, his eyes watching the woods in the background of the man sleeping before him. Every once and a while, the small man would steal a glance down to the unshaven and unkept younger counter part strewn out on the ground below him, before grunting and giving a smirk to the stillness. It had been two days since he had went out of his way to save the bastard, and it had been two days of constant complaining from the lad. Scouting parties from the Albarian party were sent after them and due to the little time they made after the relatively grueling first day, they would be on them in a few hours if they chose to stay for very long. But of course, the unshaven man had to rest before he could push on any further, that much he insisted.
His eyes searched the woods before them once more with a longing gaze before he turned them upwards, towards the sky. The day had been fairly cool, unusually so for a midsummer day, and the night promised to be chill. Scattered clouds masked the sky, casting their silhouettes upon the people below, drifting about in the manner of aimless beasts. A hush filled the emptiness by the fading light like a voice waiting to speak.
A very small, earnest fire crackled and popped between the two man, managing to break the silence when a twig gave way. He studied the flame with a mixture of expectation and uneasiness before reaching down to add the larger chunks of deadwood that brought the flames up quickly. He poked at it with a withered old stick before slipping further back against the tree trunk, driven that way by the sudden surge of heat. He sit at the edge of the light, caught between the flame and the growing dark behind him.
His eyes glittered as he looked off into the distance once more, as the flame began to settle the uneasy hush befell their encampment again. The lad wrestled a few words out of his parched lips through his sleep as the fire sparked sharply and the small man brushed at a stray speck of glowing ash that threatened to settle on him. A more distinct pop was heard in the distance as the man's senses strained in to the woods before him. For moments he glared into the darkness, seeming to wrestle with his own mind to stop toying with him or whatever was lurking behind the brush to make a move. Then he heard it. The whistling sound of an arrow brushing through low hanging limbs and leaves, culminating with a audible *thud* as it sunk into the wood of the tree above him.
With a flash he told his tired body to push forward, his robes pulling back to reveal the glinting iron of his blade against the flickering flame, his creased tone matching it's intensity.
He jerked his arm forward to wrestle the part of his robe pinned between the arrow and the tree violently and sent a unbalanced kick the lad's way, growling some inaudible words down to him through the now thick shouts coming from behind their make shift camp. The man rolled over onto his stomach and pushed himself to his feet, bringing two hands to rub drowsily over his eyes as he gave a snarl, a unaware anger sizzling in his blood shot eyes.
"What? For f*ck sakes.. I can't slee.."
He never finished. The small man seemed to launch himself over the fire that separated them, bounding across with frightening swiftness. They both hit the ground and gave a huff from impact, arrows whooshing past and joining the other pair sunk into the base of the tree. The lad gulped roughly and gave a understanding look before he nodded his head and stood, not offering him a hand as he dashed off in the other direction. His jaw tightened in frustration as he quickly rose to his feet, regaining himself before he plunged into the darkness after him. He felt a hot streak race through him as he trudged through the woods. That bastard had gotten them into not only this situation of life or death, but the war in the first place. He had his orders to protect the lad, but it wouldn't be his fault if some Albarian marksman was just *that* good with a bow, now would it?
He could make out the lad's back now as the moonlight shined through the sketchy canopy above them. He tried pushing the matter from his mind for a moment, losing himself in the coolness of the cliffs now to the left of the dwindling pathway the lad had decided to take; but like a frightened child clinging to it's mother, it refused to release it's grip. The burden of taking care of this bastard could be relieved so easily. Something bumped those thoughts out of his mindset quickly enough as he gained on the slowing man, arrows falling lifelessly to the ground about them. The stern features of his father and the commanding aura his placid stare held when he spoke to him rustled through his mind.
He couldn't let him down.
Nearly a year before he had sit before the same man, his posture steady and upright as he avoided his eye contact. That day, he could have easily told the man he didn't want to do it, yet he had and the decision had more repercussions then he had wanted it to. Who knew protecting a noble's son would be as hard as babysitting a child who had a cold. But he would do it anyway. His orders were to keep a safe, yet garnered distance from the lad and protect him should he get himself in any kind of trouble while he spent the week in the nearby town. He had no idea what was waiting for him.
The day was fairly boring for the older man, because the lad was supposed to be going on a week end trip away from the family estates, his father didn't want him to know he had sent his most trusted body guard to watch over him. Because of these pressing needs, he had to stick to the shadows of the pebbled street paved through the woods leading to the nearest town. He had no one's chatter to arouse his interest or anyone to simply help the time pass by quicker as he kept his distance from the man. All he had to comfort him was the sound of the lad's horse ramming his hooves down into the cobbled street and the sound of birds circling overhead.
Slowly after a good part of the day's trip down the winding path, they could begin to see the narrow path ending into a valley before them. At the right side, a battered old plank stood with a evident arrow carved pointing north. The words across the center had long since worn off and several indigenous plants had wrapped around themselves around it and found there home where words once rested. The town was minutes away. Through the shadows of the trees, his eyes finally fell on the young lad. From his posture on the settle of the horse, he could tell he held himself like most of the other red heads he had the esteemed pleasure of meeting while on living on those estates. Like something was up there arse.
As much as he felt the Rothman family was snooty, he had always saw Trent as someone he could relate to. Though he was aging and his face grew to show it every day, the man was still a formidable opponent with a sword. When had first signed on to protect the family, the man was still just on the outskirts of his prime. At first, when he saw the parchment hung in the local board he had smirked and laughed that he protect a noble who had never even wielded a blade. Instead, he had laughed at the thought of himself protecting a family that had already boasted a warrior of his magnitude. For that, the noble man who he would normally distaste, was given his respect.
The town was a simple one. The pebbled road ended into a dusted pathway of the small town, a few ramshackle buildings hanging to the north and a large chapel sit further up the hill. The town wasn't much to look out, other then the brothel who lustfully eyed the man who glided through the crowd a top his white maned horse. He joined the crowd as well as he placed his eyes on the figures' back, it's path seeming to be ending at the brothel before them. He gave a muttered laugh before he turned towards the tavern, pushing past the swinging doors.
No one even seemed to give him much of a second thought as he settled down into a chair in the far corner, pulling his hat down over his face as his eyes slowly drifted closed.
A large crash awoke the slumbering figure as he pulled the hat back up to rest more firmly on his head. He played it easy as his eyes lazily drifted over the tassel before him. A large robust man stood over a much smaller man, blond hair sprinkling the thick leather clothes he wore. When he spoke, he could easily make out the accent of the highlands in Eastern Albar. The bastards were as easy to make out as a salkamarian noble who played with cups more then swords. He paid little attention to the fighting then as he pulled a pipe free from his belt and slipped it between his lips, digging a hand down his collar to retrieve the necklace and the flint hung around it.
With a few snaps, the pipe lit and his lungs were filled with the pleasant filling of sibanac. The Albarian group before him seemed to pay him little heed other then a few glances his way, his presence almost entirely concealed by the little light that came fluttered his way from the dimly lit tavern. His eyes followed the Albarian's stare as the doors began to swing and the red headed lad peered through, his hair slightly disheveled and a grin pried over his lips. He never gave a glance his way as he stepped forward, sinking to sit along the bar, calling for a beer as the bartender slid him a full glass of a thick blackened liquid. He brought it to his lips and seemed to snarl in distaste as he gave it a brief sniff before downing it in a gulp. He stood as he slammed the goblet down and brushed the back of his hand across his mouth, wiping away any remnants of the liquid as he stepped forward.
Only then did he take note of the rest of the tavern, a man with long stockings sit upon a stool seemingly taller then the room and blew down into a small lute, his fingers moving over the holes carved into the instrument with practiced enthusiasm. The red head lad now stood before a barmaid, her bustier seemingly too tight for her own good as she gave a cheeky laugh to whatever he whispered down to her. With a flash, the Albarian man was to his feet and was rounding the table to the red headed youth.
Drethek groaned lightly, sucking in a deep in take of the sibanac smoke down before standing to his feet and replacing his foot with the pipe on the table beside him. He watched the two wearily from a distance, his hand strumming along his leather bounded hilt. The expressions worn upon the Albarian man's face was one of gruff and impatient anger. Suddenly, from his distance from the conflict, with seemingly no warning, the man cocked his fist and sent the much larger, yet duty bound Julius to the ground. Drethek growled angrily to himself as he brought himself forward and gripped the Albarian man's collar and ripped him upwards, pulling him off the young lad. His eyes sizzled with a certain tone of fierceness as they registered his new foe, the small framed man before him.
His shoulders seem to sag in relief as the man's expression calmed and opened his mouth in the same Albarian tone.
"Just make sure your friend here doesn't come back around here again."
He had followed his duties and the lad down the moon lit cobbled street to the left of the tavern, keeping his distance still. Even so, from the faint light and the squinted view he could make out splotches of blood against his egg shell white shirt. He assumed a sheltered role in the shadows to the side of a building as he turned his attention back to the tavern. The Albarian man before had stumbled from the tavern, hollering a few inaudible words back to his comrades as he uneasily stepped forward. He came to a stop not too far from the tavern, a faint zip being heard as he leaned his head forward against the tree before him. Drethek gave a cold shiver against the pale night air, his eyes quickly flashing to the darting figure making his emergence to his left.
The Albarian man fell down the ground with a shrill shout that could be heard even over the still loud commotion within the small tavern. Julius' figure laid over the man, his fist ringing down into the man's face with a few loud, sickening thuds. Drethek unsheathed his blade and stepped from the shadows, his eyes on the Albarian dogs that rushed from the tavern.
And so it began.