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EM Fiction The Awakening: Duty

Discussion in 'UO Atlantic' started by EMTiberies, Sep 26, 2012.

  1. EMTiberies

    EMTiberies Journeyman

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    Raymond felt comfortable at the gypsy camp near the Shrine of Compassion in Ilshenar, but he didn't really look like he belonged there, and he knew it. He preferred dark, plain colors, so he stood out amidst the often-gaudy gypsies. But Raymond felt neither need nor pressure to adopt gypsy colors or very many gypsy ways. One of the things they liked about him, actually, was that he didn't try. Many of the gajikane, the gypsy word for non-gypsies, tried too hard to fit in at the camp, which usually made them fit all the worse.

    “Not every girl,” the gypsy women would sometimes say, “can wear a speckled kerchief like it should be worn.” When this was spoken to Raymond, it was usually followed quickly by, “that girl of yours could, if she wanted, ” referring to Melanie, a servant who'd remained in Raymond's service when he'd taken up the life of a freelance warrior, a wandering blade. Raymond was quick to point out that she was just a servant, there to look out for him, and not his “girl.”

    But none of the gypsies ever believed him.

    But, yes, Raymond was comfortable with the gypsies. He'd found a place of sorts, sometimes helping the gypsies fight off the occasional raid from the nearby rat-men, sometimes adventuring around, randomly. He may never look like he fit in here, but if nothing else he felt more comfortable than he had at home of late.

    And the reports that reached him about his home country of Britannia were none to his liking. There were an increasing number of skirmishes between those friendly to Lord Dupre and those friendly to Lady Danica. The city-to-city raids had increased markedly. The people still starved and there was little that could done about it. The Kingdom, clearly, needed a strong hand and virtuous, or it would fracture, but hands both strong and virtuous were in short supply. Points of difference and diversity, to be celebrated in happier times, became points of dissension and disunity.

    Raymond had mixed reactions to the reports of the return of Blackthorn. The rumors that the Blackthorn who had joined Exodus was a doppelganger, not the real person, had the air of credibility, but it was hard to be sure. And even if Blackthorn, the real one, had returned, what could one man do?

    No, home was not an option for Raymond. Not anymore. If Raymond was no gypsy, he wasn't Britannian anymore either. The gypsies of this village were not purse-snatchers or thieves, and compared to other gypsies they were more fixed in place than one would think. They wandered in small groups rather than all together, and they always came home. Like Raymond did.

    When a message arrived bearing the Seal of Chaos, Raymond was apprehensive.

    Lord Raymond:
    We need to meet, very soon. I will be at your camp two days hence, unless you object.
    There is much to discuss, and after discussion much to do.
    -Blackthorn

    While Raymond generally believed the reports that this stranger was actually Blackthorn, the one everyone knew and many had loved, and not the abomination slain years ago, there was still some nagging doubt in his mind. But it wasn't just that doubt that made him apprehensive about Blackthorn's visit. There was something else.

    On the appointed day, there was Blackthorn, in the camp. Blackthorn arrived alone. He purchased a few goods from the gypsies. He seemed to recognize Raymond, not that it was possible to mistake Raymond for a gypsy. Blackthorn still dressed in a simple dark robe and leaned on a staff. He seemed healthy to Raymond. Either the reports of the moongate magic shattering Blackthorn's health had been exaggerated, or he recovered quickly, or both.

    “Greetings, Lord Raymond,” said Blackthorn. His voice lilted, like he was as much singing as talking, but the musical lilt came through a weary, smoky scratch.

    “No longer am I a Lord, Lord Blackthorn.” Raymond gestured for Blackthorn to follow him, and the two men walked to a quiet corner behind the healers' wagon.

    “Oh, surely you are still a Lord, Lord Raymond.....Firstly, if you are not than I am not either, and I rather like being one.” Blackthorn smiled, and something in that smile settled Raymond's doubts about the truth of the doppelganger rumor. Raymond had been there in Britain when Blackthorn, the doppelganger of him rather, attacked Britain. And Raymond could tell the difference.

    “And secondly?” queried Raymond.

    “And secondly, I never understood Lordship to be the kind of thing one can give up. Lordship can come from birth, In which case one cannot change one's birth. One can merely ignore it. Or Lordship can come from character.”

    “Surely a man can change his character.”

    “Most men, aye. But not Lords. Not true Lords. Not those who are Lords in their hearts more than in their blood.”

    Raymond nodded, after a pause.

    It was twilight. Twilight was a sacred time to gypsies. The gypsies were caught between the settled life and the life of the wanderer. They never wandered without staying for awhile, and they never stayed for long without wandering away, even if only to return. Twilight, likewise, was between states, between night and day. The sun had set, but the light lingered. The dying sunlight bathed Blackthorn, somehow his dark-colored robe caught the light the way a gold-colored robe would.

    “I have a request to make, Lord Raymond,” Blackthorn said after awhile.

    “What is it.” Raymond's voice was quiet. Somehow he knew what was coming, at least in broad strokes.

    “You are aware of the struggles over leadership of the Knights of the Crux Ansata, yes?”

    “I am my Lord.”

    “I have almost made up my mind on those struggles. It has been a difficult matter but I think I have made up my mind. The private war between Lord Dupre and Lady Danica must end. But more must yet be done. There must be something else, another group, besides the Crux Ansata; not instead of, but in addition to. There must be another order, another war band, but one that will answer to me and only to me. A....A watch. I'm still thinking of what to call it. But I will need it for what must be done.”

    “Surely you have, or can find, household guards. And the old Chaos Guard would rally around you, I am certain.”

    “Oh, no no no, Lord Raymond.” Blackthorn wasn't laughing but somehow his voice sounded like he was. “I don't mean a watch for me. I mean a watch for the Kingdom; like a city watch but for everywhere. Even without leadership crises, surely the Knights of the Crux Ansata cannot be expected to do everything or be everywhere. The watch would have to be run by someone whose judgment I trusted, by one who was both common and noble.”

    “Is this where I say 'someone like me,' or where you say 'someone like you?'”

    “I suppose it is.”

    “Damn you, Lord Blackthorn. Damn you to the Abyss.” Raymond became animated. “I was happy here. I had left home behind. Like I told Lord Dupre after Lady Danica's trial, 'I live, I love, I slay, and I am content.' I knew you would do this. I looked forward not to your coming because I knew you would spoil things. I am no longer a man of duty, regardless of what you might say.”

    “Listen to me, Lord Raymond.” Blackthorn grasped Raymond lightly by the shoulders, and looked directly into his eyes. “Two brothers taught me that one cannot run away from one's duty. And now I seek to teach you the same lesson. This life, the life of a wandering blade in this wild, untamed land, fighting off rat-men for gypsies, fighting monsters at random....It is a noble life. I respect those who do it. Without them the evils of this world would have overrun us long, long ago. My philosophy of Chaos is about nothing if not respecting how people choose to do Good, and recognizing that even the wicked have their place, even as they must be fought.”

    Blackthorn continued. “But it is not your life, Lord Raymond. It is a fine life for someone else, but not for you.”

    “No My Lord, I suppose it's not.”

    “You were born for what I ask of you. You were raised to it. A man at once of the people and not of the people, of the Nobility but not of the Nobility. A man who still knows what death is, even though he doesn't have to remember. And you must start this soon. There are things that must soon be done if the Kingdom is to take its first, halting steps toward unity.”

    Raymond caught sight of Melanie nearby. Her youth was less obvious among the gypsies, who seemed perpetually young, than it had been at home. Raymond smiled at her; doubtlessly she was concerned at seeing him so agitated. She smiled back.

    “Tell me what I must do,” sighed Raymond. “Where do we begin.”