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Round Robin 1.3: The Saga Continues Again

"Good. All right Daniel, lead on."

The boy nodded as he pulled his coat closer around himself against the cool wind. Bits of the landscape stirred faint memories of the day in his head.

"This way," he said after a moment, and the trio set off.


It was around midday when they reached the rocky edge of the hills. Ground turned from dry grass to stone and pebble, making tracking difficult which meant the three were now relying on Daniel's memory for guidance and even that was starting to falter.

It had been too long. One group of rocks and shrub looked like the next, and none of them looked familiar enough to jog anything in his mind.

Daniel sighed. "It was around here, but... I can't remember."

"Are you sure, Danny?" asked Robin. "Not even a little something?"

He brushed some of his dark hair from his eyes and sighed. "I was just a little kid, and it was years ago. None of this looks familiar."

"Daniel, Robin."

"Yes Marcus?"

"Don't move."

The two froze.

Marcus gaze was glued to something up into the growth higher on the hillside. Very slowly, Daniel turned and tried to take a look for himself.

Hidden among the plantlife there was a man with a bow - no wait, two men... three? No, four. They were well hidden, almost blending in to the surroundings with ease of a practiced hunter, no doubt guarding the entrance they sought.

"Easy now," Marcus called to the archers, "We're not here for trouble."

There was no response from above save one of the guards shifting to a better position.

"A young girl named Samantha told us-"

"Samantha?" one of the men interrupted, his voice radiating concern.

"Quiet Bartel!" another man hissed.

"Samantha is being cared for at Takuro," Marcus called back, "She'll be fine."

Relief washed over the man named Bartel's face.

"However," Marcus continued, "We would like to discuss matters with you, preferably as civilized men, and not as archery targets. My name is Marcus, and these are Robin and Daniel, all friends of Javon. May we approach?"

After several moments, one of the men, apparently the leader, finally stood up and motioned to the others to lower their bows.
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Marcus sighed in relief. Relieved that not everybody was slaughtered by this malevolence, and by not becoming a human pincushion. Jesturing to Daniel, he spoke. "Let me handle this, lad."

Not that he didn't trust the boy, but the recent attacks struck him hard. It was easy to understand. This was his home, and now people he knew here were dead. All that combined with how Daniel blamed himself made the boy less likely to be level-headed.

The sudden crackle of leaves behind the three startled both Daniel and Marcus, making them turn around. Robin too, after the men saw the four hunters behind them, bows knocked and ready but the aim lowered. Whoever the men in green were, they were able to sneak up on her Daniel, and that wasn't an easy thing to do.

"Okay, Elf," one of the hunters grunted. "What the hell are you doing back here now?"

"Corbin," Daniel muttered.

So much for that, Marcus thought.
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The hunter in green backhanded Daniel. "I didn't ask you my name." He growled. "I asked you what the hell you're doing back here."

Daniel glared at him, rubbing his jaw. "You don't recognize me, do you? I'm Daniel Lethe." The man stared at him blankly. "Margaret Lethe's son." Daniel said impatiently. "We came to offer our assistance."

"Everything is taken care of. You can run along home to mommy. We don't need more kids to get in our way."

Daniel's hands clenched at his side. Marcus, seeing that this was about to become a lot more trouble than necessary, stepped forward. "Your name is Corbin?" He asked. "I don't suppose you'd remember me? I used to change your diapers."

The man's green eyes widened, then he began to chuckle. "A great lie, old man. But I don't remember a Marcus when I was little. Anyway, we don't really need any help here. Everything is fine."

"There will be more attacks." Marcus warned him. "You'll need every man you can get."

Corbin shook his head. "Don't worry about us. We've been taking care of this village longer than that boy has been alive." He indicated Daniel.
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"Yes, the char and ash speak well of your skills."

Corbin's eyes narrowed dangerously at Marcus. He started to say something but Bartel cut in. "Corbin, they brought word about Samantha, we should talk with them."

"I am NOT letting some point-eared tainted-"

"He's not the one who burned us out!"

"No, but his kind have done enough!"

The two men continued to argue and as they did, Daniel felt a touch on his arm as Robin moved closer beside him.

"Was he like this when you were here before?" she whispered.

Daniel nodded. "Hates elves. Always has."


Daniel tried to hide his smile. He reached down and quietly took her hand in his as they waited.

By now a third man had approached the row. He cleared his throat and immediately both men stopped arguing and gave him their full attention. Briefly he glared at the two, then turned his gaze towards the patiently waiting trio.

"My name is Aaron Mirro, provisional leader of... of what's left of Javon. Thank you for bringing us good news. We can use some right now. You can stay the night, I'm afraid we don't have much but-"

"Mirro, you can't-"

"Shut up Corbin. I've made my decision. Besides, they can't make things much worse than they are now. Bartel?"


"Lead them to camp, the rest of us will continue watch."

Marcus muttered a quick thanks to Mirro, noting that Corbin's fuming eyes never left Daniel for an instant even as they were lead away.

"You say Samantha is well?" Bartel asked after a few moments.

"Not yet, but soon," answered Marcus. "She's in good hands."

"Most of us thought she was dead. This is good news, there are so few left... I don't supposed you know anything about her brother? He's all she has, you know."

Robin saw Marcus pale at the question. "...No, I'm afraid not," he said carefully. "I'd hoped he was here with you."

Bartel shook his head. "He's not with us. There're many missing, most dead, but if Samantha's still alive, maybe there's hope that Alston survived as well."

* * *

Alston shivered.

He sat on his knees in the tent, his arms tied wide between two poles, his head bowed. His body was a mass of bruises and scabs. There was no fire here, and the winter cold slipped through his ragged clothes, biting into his bones.

He didn't know why he still lived, only that when they found him and Hallah in the woods days after the massacre, the pale-haired leader of these butchers said he was "useful".

He didn't know where Hallah was. They'd been separated since they were caught. He remembered her screaming.

He didn't know what happened to Sammy, but he hoped against hope she was okay.

He did know that Javon was no more. Just burnt husk, dried blood, and bones.

A sound of someone entering made him look up. It was the pale-haired man leading a frightened-

"Hallah!" breathed Alton.
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Marcus and the two youths were led further down the rocky path towards a small outcropping in the hillside. Just surrounding it was a small collection of bushes, nearly lifeless and barren. Corbin approached the hillside and gave Daniel a hateful stare.

And then vanished into the hillside.

As another hunter walked into the hillside, he too disappeared as if the hillside swallowed him up. Robin groaned. “Oh, fantastic.” Her hand immediately went to massage her temple as she begins to feel a throbbing headache sprout. “Another cave.”

Daniel rests a hand on her shoulder, comforting her. She clasps his hand and smiles. “It won’t be that bad this time.”

“This time?” a voice interjected. Bartel was behind the trio and escorted them to the hillside.

Daniel blinked and saw a hazy passage through the stony wall. Another illusion. A simple one too, he thought. Before Robin could say anything, he took a step and vanished without a trace.

She stepped forward and faced the wall. It looked solid enough to her, but she knew it had to be fake. After closing her eyes, she took a deep breath to build up her resolve.

Marcus gave her a quick push through the mountainside illusion.


She spun around and glared at the old man. He strolled into the cave with nary a problem, followed by Bartel. She watched the two pass her and meet up with Daniel and the others. Further down the stone passage, she could see the pale glow of lantern light . What few of Javon’s survivors there were, they were here.
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Hallah's shorn hair and ragged clothing made her appear more as a street waif than the daughter of the richest man in Javon. Her face was tear-streaked and pale, but as she noticed Alston her eyes flashed angrily.

"You! This is all your fault!" She screamed, and slapped his cheek. The sound reverberated through the tiny tent.

Alston stared at her, knowing that she was right. He had nothing to say to defend himself.

She whirled around and huddled against the back of the tent, her legs pressed up to her chest. She was shaking uncontrollably and crying.

"Hallah." He said helplessly.

"Leave me alone!"

"Hallah, I--"

"They took my grandmother's brooch!" She whispered. "They took...everything!" She buried her head in her knees so she wouldn't have to look at him.

"We'll get out of this." He told her gently, even though his heart was racing with fear. What had they done to her? Hallah shouldn't look this defeated! They were still alive, so they could still escape somehow.
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1) (sorry so short, muse not cooporating)

"Will you now?"

Alston turned his head. The blond man had returned, a bemused grin spread across his lips as he lingered at the tent's entrance.

"No," he went on, "I don't believe you'll do anything at all." He knelt down in front of Alston and took his face in his hand, forcing the boy to look at him. "You're still alive because I wish it."

"Why?" Alston growled.

"Because you will help me make several thorns in my side suffer greatly."

"I won't."

The man chuckled, then struck him hard across the face. Alston reeled, but not far, the ropes still holding him fast.

"As if I need your permission," the man sneered. "The fact that you're here is all I need. But as for your friend here..."

He stood up and looked at Hallah who shuddered and curled into a tighter ball, "...she has something you do not. Something more useful... She has magic. Not much, but more than that pathetic brat I used. I can use that."

Hallah shook her head, refusing to look at him. "No..." she whispered, sobbing, "You... Javon, you killed..."

"Not quite, child," he oozed. "Javon was sacrificed for me, and for that, it will be remembered in times to come."

He leaned closer, and as he did, Hallah threw up her hands and with power born of desperation, unleashed a tongue of flame which seemed to bend around him and dissipate as he lunged forward and caught her wrists. Beneath his robes, a glowing pulse of purple light flared.

"Bad choice girl," he remarked. And then Hallah began to scream as the skin around his touch began to blister.
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He couldn't stand it... hearing her shriek in terror, seeing her face twisted in agony. Alston lunged forward even restrained by the rope that bound him. "Son of a bitch!" he spat out. He continued to force himself, to free himself. If there was some way he could reach out and strangle the blonde man, he would.

Her skin continued to blister, the redness travelling up her arms. The man grinned as Hallah's skin began to darken and smoke around his touch. He began to chuckle as her screams became as muffled sobs.

He tossed her limp form aside and looked at his red-stained hands. He reveled at her misery, her arms bloody and charred from his touch. So pleased he was that he didn’t notice the arm that lunged out for him.

Alston snatched at the blond man’s tunic, a handful of green wool in his grasp. The man didn’t budge as the youth pulled at him. Shocked though, the blond man was. Shocked at the impudence the boy displayed.

Enraged, he raised his hand towards the boy... struck back by an invisible force.

Rising to his feet from the cold dirt floor, Balthus spun around and stepped towards the tent flap. He looked back at the two. Almost useless. Both of them. His eyes fell upon the curled up frame of the girl. He smiled as his gaze wandered across her form, taking all of her curves and youth into his mind.


He exited the tent and turned to one of the guards on duty.

“Kill the boy.”
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Alston's blood went cold when he heard those words. He desperately wanted to check on Hallah, but now he had his own problems.

Dazed by that invisible blow, his mind wasn't clear. He had promised Hallah that escape was never impossible, but now he wasn't so sure. He might die in this tent, and Hallah would certainly face worse. He'd seen how that man had looked at her, and he was still bound himself.

They wouldn't have left him in a tent that had weapons, he was fairly certain about that. Even were it possible, he couldn't run and leave Hallah behind.

Two guards approached him, both with swords. What could he protect himself with? He crawled over to Hallah, keeping his eye on the guards. They were in no hurry. They had all the time in the world.

"Hallah." He whispered. "I'm sorry." He was only sixteen, and he was trying not to be a coward, but his body was shaking with fear.
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Rough hands grabbed his arms and drug him outside. Hallah still hadn't moved.

He wanted to fight, but he was so cold, so weak with fatigue and shock his struggles were useless. His mind in a hopeless haze, he let himself be dragged to the cliff near the encampment's edge. He thought he heard the men say they'd just toss the body over when they were finished so there'd be no festering corpse near camp.

One of them forced him to his knees and roughly pinned his arms behind him as the other drew his sword.

Alston raised his head and met the eyes of his executioner and told himself that soon he'd be joining those who'd died in Javon.

The arrow appears as if by magic, piercing the swordsman's throat. His eyes went wide as he dropped his weapon and clutched madly at his throat, making a horrible gurgling sound as blood flowed freely down his tunic. The other guard shoved Alston to the ground and drew his own blade a a second less-precise arrow thudded into his back.

He spun around, staggering, and tried to reach cover. As he did, a figure enshrouded in a grey-green hooded cloak from the treeline and charge at him full speed sword drawn.

The guard's cry of "Intruder!" was cut short, and there was blood. Lots of blood Alston would remember later, but at that moment, his survival instinct took over. He scrambled up and started to run for the trees and away from the fight and didn't look back.

Alston plunged deeper into the dark canopy of trees, not knowing where he was going or even caring. The thin layer of snow crunched under his feet as he charged on and it was only when the uneven ground sent him sprawling did he stop to catch his breath.

He didn't feel cold anymore, only numb. Where was he? Did it matter which direction he went any more? Should he go back for Hallah or try to find help? But where would he find help? Were the guards going to come after him? Was there someplace to hide? Thoughts buzzed through his head like frantic gnats.

Behind him, he started to hear the sounds of searchers. They were coming for him. Quickly he struggled to his feet and headed off in a quick jog looking around for a solid treebranch or something he could use as a weapon.

Suddenly, a gloved hand clamped over his mouth and dragged him into the shadow of a large oak. He tried to pull away, but he was still too spent to put up much of a fight.

"Shhh," a voice hissed in his ear.

Alston stopped struggling. This wasn't behavior of a guard. He nodded to show he understood.

"Good," the voice whispered. It was female, but unfamiliar. The grip released.

Alston turned to see a figure in dark leather armor and a grey-green hooded cloak obscuring their shape, almost hiding plenty of blades beneath.
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